Productivity Today

“No Brainer” Techniques for Time Management

December 10th, 2013 · No Comments

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher, claimed, “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.” That can be pretty scary, if you manage to actually find the time to reflect on the meaning.

There is no question that everyone has too much to keep track of, and much of that stays in your head. One solution is to be sure that you always write down everything. It clears your mind, ensures that you will not overlook tasks or deadlines, and allows you to prioritize. However, do not create long ToDo lists. Instead, if you are a “paper” person, write down one thing only on a sheet of paper, and place that in a Daily Action filing system.

Since you do not always have a full sheet of paper handy, I recommend to my clients that they carry index cards with them at all times. These cards are both sturdier and less expensive than stick-on notes. Any time a thought comes into your head, jot it down on the index card. Remember, only record one item per card.

I call these index cards “No Brainer” cards. Nothing is ever overlooked because you have taken it out of your mind and placed it into an Action file. Your brain is freed to focus on current activities.

Alternatively, for those who have really switched to all-digital, make sure you record the activity in a task folder of your choice.  Give it a date with a reminder, so that you do not fall back into the “endless list” mindset.

What you do want to avoid is mixing the two, paper and electronic.  When that happens, you do not have ONE system.  Since neither one is complete, it is easy to skip over an item even though it was technically written down.

Regardless of which one you choose, you are now free to enjoy being present in the moment and not nagged by worries over what has been forgotten or needs to be done sometime soon.

→ No CommentsTags: Personal Productivity · Task Management · Time Management

Time Management for Thanksgiving

November 19th, 2013 · No Comments

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it is a good time to assess your life. If you would like to be better organized, decrease stress, and improve time management skills, begin to set goals now for 2007.

To determine what you might need to, or want to, change, consider your attitude as you approach the coming week. You know there are built-in stressors, such as:

Traveling: crowded highways, packed airports, flight delays.

Entertaining: cleaning, shopping, cooking, cleaning again.

Whether or not you can relax in spite of these has a tie-in with your everyday life.

  • Did you leave with piles of work undone?
  • Were you working until the last minute?
  • Did you bring work with you for the weekend?

If you are not completely relaxed and looking forward to the upcoming festivities, begin to map out some goals you could set so that next year is different. Remember that goals are not the same as resolutions. Goals are measureable and scheduled. Write down your objectives and then start putting them on your calendar. It is not to soon to plan for the upcoming year.

I wish you a relaxed and memorable holiday week. Š

→ No CommentsTags: Organizing Tips · Work Life Balance

Space Management Improves Time Management

October 22nd, 2013 · 2 Comments

One simple technique to improve time management processes is to locate items where you will use them. Doesn’t that sound simple? Yet how often to you forget to do this? And how often does this add stress to your life?

The importance of this system begins to manifest itself from early childhood. Parents complain about children’s toys being scattered around the house. The reality is that the toys will be wherever the main action is in the house, regardless of how neatly a distant playroom may be set up. A better time management and space management system would be to arrange a location for the toys where they will actually be used rather than constantly returning them to the out-of-the-way spot that the child does not play in.

Adults work on the same principal. Have you ever spent time hunting for your keys because they weren’t where you could grab them on your way out the door?  As I prepare to move to a new house, this is one of the key factors in getting set up quickly and efficiently.

The same situation applies in the office. What materials do you use on a daily basis? Keep those close to you. What do you use on a weekly basis? –On a monthly basis? The more frequently you use something, the closer you want it to be. Every time you get up to find the 3-hole punch you are sharing with your group, you are taking valuable minutes and also creating an interruption, both for yourself and those around you.

No one has extra minutes, or hours, to spend unnecessary time on “traveling” to a designated spot when that area could be positioned in the vicinity of where you would most likely use something. Make sure your workspace and your home are designed so that you can easily reach what you need frequently. It is worth the effort to group items according to their use. Save time now and eliminate some of the stress brought on by having too much to do. Simple space management skills will improve time management processes.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Organizing Tips

Stepping Back in Time

October 1st, 2013 · No Comments

So many people reminisce about the “good old days.” Those good old days might only be a few decades ago. Could it be that we wax nostalgic because everything was simpler? You didn’t see homes drowning in material possessions, and most people actually stayed away from business activities on the weekends. People 50 years ago probably were not better time managers but the sense of urgency and overload was muted because information traveled at a slower pace and didn’t follow you into restaurants and on vacations.

I recently went back to to New York for time management training and consultations with a city agency.  This was an opportunity to also get back on my home turf.  We lived in Manhasset on Long Island, just two towns outside of Queens. The house I lived in from 8th grade on throught college is still owned by my stepfather. He had finally conceded and put in two window air conditioners. However they were never turned on while I was there. Although the temperature didn’t go above 90 degrees, the humidity was pretty high. For him that is bearable, versus the cost of electricity for running them. It’s not a question of money, but training instilled from early childhood to spend only for what you must have. He figures I’m living in Phoenix so I should be able to handle the heat. Of course, in Phoenix there are sometimes only a few minutes a day that we are not climate-controlled.

The second stepping back in time that I noticed was how many businesses in this little but very upscale town have been around for more than 50 years. With small companies swallowed up by bigger companies, which in turn are swallowed up by the biggest companies, it is comforting to see familiar names on the stores along the main street. They may have changed ownership, but the facades still sport those names, none of which are a chain. I felt really good every time I could point out that this store or that store has been here all along. There is a continuity. I can “go home” and find that many things remain the same. On the other hand, I miss the stores that have changed along the way. I want them to be there for me.

What is missing today? I think we still want roots and a sense of belonging over time–things that we often fail to establish with our mobile and increasingly isolated society. I also see how many of my clients want to and need to escape from the relentless demands on their time. There is so much going on now that it’s tough to stay current and still take a break. Oh, for the “good old days”….or at least the occasional trip back in time.

→ No CommentsTags: Changing Times

Productivity and Work-Related Stress

September 10th, 2013 · No Comments

The Cost of Job Stress

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Organizing for Travel

August 20th, 2013 · No Comments

Packing for a trip should get easier the more often you do it. If you want to be very organized when traveling, you can even use checklists for each trip. Yet I find that the more organized I am, the more I pack because I’m trying to envision every possibility. How many times do you wish you had brought along something additional?

This happened in packing for my Las Vegas trip this week. The temperature was averaging 107 degrees, and I was not doing any presenting of time management seminars to groups. It was strictly an informal trip with any need for business attire. How simple is that for packing? “Small” outfits for torrid desert temperatures seemed fitting. That was fine until I stepped into our hotel. I think we had the coldest hotel in town. The dining areas were really frigid, especially the buffet. It must have been geared to ensure that there was no lingering.

That first evening I was scouting out the junk souvenir shops wondering if they had a cheap sweatshirt. I certainly didn’t need another one and didn’t want to invest much in it but was rethinking the way I had packed, wishing I had jeans and sweaters despite the 107 degrees.

With almost every indoor venue being climate-controlled, it has become so much more difficult to pack for traveling–or even to just go out for dinner. While the outside temperature may not vary much, that switch from indoors to outdoors makes it hard to know what to bring along. This can occur in any season.

One definition of being organized is being ready for any opportunity. Adapting this definition to replace “opportunity” with “situation” can certainly lead to more packing. Who is actually more organized–the one with the small duffel bag or the larger suitcase?

For a successful vacation escape from the office routine, use the same productive, organized office concepts to get ready.

→ No CommentsTags: Organizing Tips · Personal Productivity

"A Stitch in Time…."

August 6th, 2013 · No Comments

The old saying was, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Recently I did something on two separate occasions with regard to shopping expeditions that would validate this statement. From a time management point of view, I had meant to save time but instead ended up turning an extra five minutes into additional trips consuming more than an hour each.  If only I had budgeted my time differently, what a savings it would have been!

The issue was trying on clothes, deciding which to purchase, heading for the cash register, and being sidetracked by another item–impulse buying. I would add that new item to my soon-to-be purchases. Instead of going back and trying this new piece on, I decided it should be fine. I really didn’t want to spend the time returning to the dressing room and trying on one more thing–another five minutes. I continued to the cash register, paid for everything, and then after I got home found that there were problems with the last items that I couldn’t have noticed without actually trying them on.

Each time I had to find another day to head back to the store and return the last pieces I had chosen and not tried on because I didn’t want to take the time–five minutes versus the hour that needed to be scheduled to get to the store again.

On top of this, I am not a shopper, contrary to the female image. Shopping chores rank at the bottom of my favorite things. I definitely qualify as a “kamikazee shopper” for the most part. I have my list, I head straight to those places, and I’m out as fast as I can. That may be part of the reason I didn’t want to take the time to try things on twice. Yet what a time savings that would have turned out to be!

As a productivity consultant who also provides time management training and seminars, I started thinking about how many things we do every week that have the same result, both at work and in our personal lives–for instance, ignoring a small drip in the ceiling when it rains and then ending up with a flooded room and major bills. It’s tough too fit everything in we want to do. Organizing and prioritizing our daily routines do help with this.

Can you think of anything you neglected that would have taken a few minutes at first but then turned into a major project? What can you do now that will only take a short while and save you more time later?

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Home Office–The Right Choice for You?

July 23rd, 2013 · No Comments

Those of us who commute every day are sometimes envious of the person who can walk into the next room at home and get right to work with no wasted time.  At this point, about 10% of the workforce (13.4 million people) work from home at least part of the time.

Some of the reasons we keep shifting in that direction include responding to requests for better work/life balance and providing employees with flexible options.  You may think working at home is a great time management decision.  However, aside from the social aspects of an office, there are multiple factors that can limit home productivity.  In a study of 24,000 people representing 95 countries, these were the biggest obstacles:

  • 59% – Children or family requiring attention
  • 43% – Hard to concentrate on work problems
  • 39% – Family or pets interfering with work calls
  • 32% – Lack of ability to use office equipment
  • 28% – Household noises like dishwashers
  • 26% – Unreliable internet connection
  • 21% – No proper work surface
  • 22% – Television on

If given a choice, before you make the move to work more from home, consider your specific situation.  How will your office be organized?  Yes, it’s great to avoid commuting hours, but if you waste time because of some of the above obstacles, it may not be the best choice.

For more details or to see how these factors break down by country, view the infographic from



→ No CommentsTags: Office Productivity

The Office Germ-Fest

July 9th, 2013 · No Comments

To be your most productive and efficient at work, you need to stay healthy. You know that it is good to be careful around sick colleagues, but how careful are you about some of your office areas? It is helpful to be aware of those germ-laden breeding grounds that are hiding in plain sight. Otherwise it does not matter how much time management training and office organizing skills you possess, if you keep succumbing to that office germ.

The editors of Best Choice Reviews chose to explore the sanitary conditions in a typical office. To evaluate, the researchers measured ATP levels. ATP is found in all animal, vegetable, backteria, yeast and mold cells. The higher the level, the more likely that an area is a breeding ground. An ATP count of 100 suggests the need for a good scrubbing. Over 300 is officially dirty and high-risk.

Here are a few of the areas that showed ATP levels of more than 300.

  • 75% of break room faucet handles
  • 48% of microwave door handles
  • 27% of keyboards
  • 26% of refigerator doors
  • 23% of water fountain buttons
  • 21% of vending machine buttons

The average person touches 300 surfaces every 30 minutes.  If you want to stay healthy and productive, keep that hand sanitizer readily available, and frequently use disinfectant wipes to clean off your desk area!

For more information on keeping your office spaces clean, check out the infographic from Best Choice Reviews.

→ No CommentsTags: Office Productivity · Personal Productivity

Being Productive while Children Are at Practice

June 26th, 2013 · No Comments

If you are still at the stage where you shuttle children from one after-school or summer activity to another, you recognize how much empty space there is for you while waiting.  There is often no time to return home to get something done, so you simply sit and wait.

There are ways to productively use that time so that you do not feel a backlog of work when you finally get home.  The Full-Time Nanny website offers ten ways to fill those blocks of minutes.  These include:

1.  Exercise–Go for a 30-minute walk or jog.

2.  Errands–Quick stops at the drugstore or cleaners.

3.  News–Buy a newspaper or catch up with your eReader.

4.  Reading–Enjoy that new bestseller.

5.  Hobby–Photo sorting, scrapbooking, or knitting are transportable.

6.  Mind Skills–Crosswords, Sudoku, or video games can be challenging.

7.  Meditate–Calm your mind and lower stress.

8.  Sibling Time–Go over homework or reinforce skills with another child.

9.  Phone Conversations–Catch up with a friend.

10.  Journal–Jot down daily entries, or draft a story.

As you model good time management skills, it is good to also help your children learn to organize.  Read our article on teaching organization skills to your children.

→ No CommentsTags: Time Management