Category Archives: Productivity

4 Tips to Trap Your Inner Pack Rat

A while ago, I got a new desk for my office. I figured that making room for new furniture was a good opportunity, to not only clean out my desk, but to go through everything in my office.

It seems I am more of a pack rat than I realized. I found documents going back 8+ years. The office was passed overdue for a cleaning.

Are you a pack rat; either at work or at home? Here’s some tips to help break the hoarding habit.

1) Take Inventory

Take a tour of the space you are organizing and take inventory all of your stuff. Look in cabinets, closets, bookshelves, storage containers, the garage, etc. Do you have things you haven’t used in a year or more? Ask yourself, will I use that item again? If the answer is maybe, get rid of it. Call The Salvation Army, recycle it or pass it on to someone who can use it.

2) Share your information

I save books and magazines long after I’ve read them. I find one article I’d like to reference in the future and I hang onto the whole magazine.

If you’re like that, tear out the article, recipe, instructions, etc. and file it in an organized system. I’m going one step further by scanning any such material and storing it electronically, which eliminates the paper altogether.

Recycle those that you don’t plan on reading or using again. Donate them to a local charity, a school, hospital or retirement home, where others can enjoy and learn from your books.

3) Don’t become the Pickle-Jar Guy

Do you know someone who has a garage filled with empty jars because they are going to use them someday? Empty containers make great storage, but how many do you need? If you have more than five or six empty containers stuck in a cabinet or closet collecting dust, add it to the recycling.

4) Ask the key question

‘Is my life going to change if I get rid of this thing?’ Almost always, the answer is, ‘No’. Marie Kondo has created this idea, if an object no longer “sparks joy” for us, it should be discarded. While I have a problem with the idea that our possessions should spark joy, the basic principle is a good one. Why do we hang on to things? Is it nostalgia, fear of offending family or friends, or some other reason. If you’re not using it, and it’s taking up space, get rid of it.

5) Look for the best was to rearrange the space 

After all your clutter and junk is out the door and you have a better idea of what will be left in your space, look around and rethink your layout. Maybe there’s a better way to configure the room, especially if you make good use of wall space. One good rule of thumb is, the more you use something, the closer it should be to you. Lastly, consider how you want to come off to others in the room. For example, a more open layout can give the impression of having earned more space and, therefore, power; or positioning a desk so it’s not between you and clients can seem more inviting.

6) Review weekly

You’ve got your space cleared and reorganized, it needs to be maintained. When you declutter every week, you ensure your space does not fall back to its previous state. Not only is this good for the space but it is great for your mind as well. Having a weekly declutter process will develop a sense of achievement as you maintain a clean and efficient workspace.

The A-B-C’s of Personal Knowledge Management

The key question in filing or storing material is not, “Where do I put it?” but rather, “Where do I find it?”

You can have the most sophisticated storage systems available, but if you don’t know where to find what’s inside, you’re no better off than having stacks of stuff all over the place.

One of the most useful ideas within GTD is the simplification of the personal filing system. How do you file your own reference materials?

Filing cabinet GTD

Two parameters drive the system:

  1. It must be easy to file materials otherwise you won’t
  2. It must be easy to retrieve materials, or you won’t trust the system.

Having used all sorts of elaborate, cross-referenced, index-card, electronic, with filing cabinets, bankers-boxes and card-box systems, I can tell you, they don’t work. There is nothing simpler than alphabetical order.

This is the beauty of the alphabet: categorize what you have in your hand, put it in a file folder, label it and file it under the first letter of the label. All in order and quick to retrieve. When you need something, you will find it in one of a couple of places.

For example, my gas bill will be under G for Gas or D for Direct Energy, my supplier. A more complicated system might have the gas bill filed under Bills>>Home>>Utilities>>Gas. More difficult to recall, and difficult to set-up. You have to know the rules and categories ahead of time and have some way of keeping track of them.

Electronic file systems sort alphabetically by default, so applying the system to your electronic documents should not require too much brain power.

You can download a free pdf from Davidco, with David Allen’s thoughts and ideas on General Reference Filing.

There’s More to Productivity Than Time Management

What does it mean to be productive? That’s the question Dustin Wax asks in his Lifehack.org post, There’s More to Productivity Than Time Management – Lifehack.org.He suggests the typical answer might be, “Getting the most done in the least possible time.”

Once upon at time, efficiency experts and time-management consultants would have been brought into the workplace with one goal in mind: getting the most work possible out of employees. It was a matter of a good “bottom line”.

However, productivity goes far beyond time management. Dustin goes on to say,

Here’s a different take on what productivity is: You’re being productive when your work is entirely satisfying and fulfilling.

He touches on some of the qualities that define “entirely satisfying and fulfilling.” 

  • You grow as a person.
  • You enjoy the company of others.
  • You are proud of what you’ve completed.
  • You feel confident about your abilities.
  • You look forward to undertaking the same or similar projects in the future.
  • You help others.
  • You receive the acclaim of your peers.

Click here to read the entire post

Oprah’s three questions for running effective meetings

Meetings, meetings, meetings! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

It’s estimated that on any given day in the USA, there are 11,000,000 formal meetings held. That works out to well over 200 million meetings per month. Around half of those meetings are 30 to 90 minutes in length.

Another statistic says, during the meeting, nine out of 10 people will daydream, and 73 percent of people will work on other things. That’s a lot of unproductive meeting time.

There are many ways to make meetings productive. Reportedly,
Oprah Winfrey kicks off every meeting with the same three questions to get everyone engaged and to set clear goals:

What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?

High performers seek out clarity; they don’t sit around waiting for things to become clear. A report in the journal “Current Directions in Psychological Science” provides a formula of sorts for what should happen before, during, and after meetings.

After examining nearly 200 studies, the research team found that essentially, productive meetings come down to being clear about your reasons for meeting, while stripping out what’s unimportant to focus on what is important.

Meetings should not include agenda item like “information,” “recap,” ” review,”or “discussion.” Productive meetings often have one-sentence agendas like, “Determine the product launch date” or “Select software developer for database redesign.”

Effective meetings result in decisions: who is going to do what, and when? Clear decisions made efficiently.

At your next meeting, ask Oprah’s three questions. It works for her, it should work for you.

8 Time-Saving Tips

  1. Use the “standby” or “hibernate” feature on your PC instead of shutting it down when you step away for a short time. You’ll be able to resume your work much faster than from a cold start.
  2. Find urgent computer files faster by starting file names with numbers. That ensures that they will be at the top of your list of files.
  3. Cut down on steps. Instead of jumping up every time you have work to deliver, stow it in an expandable file with slots organized by department. Then, take one stroll through the office to deliver everything.
  4. Take a “personal errand day.” For personal errands you can’t schedule on Saturday or Sunday, take a day off to take care of them all. That’s less disruptive than rushing from the office and back several times.
  5. Become a hero to staff members who know only the basic functions of your voice-mail system and other devices, by learning the shortcuts and most useful and underused features; then teaching them.
  6. Create checklists for common tasks, such as preparing your boss for a business trip. You’ll run through the preparations faster and will be less likely to forget a step, even when you don’t look at the list.
  7. Take a short break. Carve out 15 to 30 minutes at lunch for something you enjoy, such as walking, reading or photography. You’ll return to work with more energy.
  8. Anticipate wardrobe emergencies by packing quick-change options. Keep one full outfit ready in your closet for those mornings when you discover a missing button or other hassle. Tuck stockings or a neutral tie in the back of a desk drawer so you can change quickly, instead of trying to stop a run or clean a stain.

How to Manage the Rush Jobs

It’s 3:00 in the afternoon and your boss calls from the road and says, “Drop everything, I need this report in an hour.”

Fifteen minutes later another manager comes by looking for last-minute help with a PowerPointpresentation.

Meanwhile, you’ve skipped lunch, a courier is waiting on a delivery from you and the intern is hovering, looking for approval on the next step.

When urgent requests come in from various sources and you’re already pressed for time, how do you handle them?

Here’s four tips:

  1. Show how much is on your plate. Create a chart that shows the projects you are handling and the time required to complete them. It can be as complex as a Gantt chart or as simple as a pie chart.Another approach would be a two-column to-do list. Column one is tasks you’ve been asked to complete, column two is the task as you’re taking the action steps, scheduling them into your day.

    You then have a visual representation showing the trade-offs required to accommodate the demand for a rush job.

  2. Suggest work that can be traded-off. Conventional advice suggests placing the decision of priority back on the one requesting the rush job. “Here’s what I’m working on, you decide what is a priority for me.” That puts control of your workflow in somebody else’s hands.Instead, you make the suggestion as to what should be deferred to accommodate the job.  ”I suggest we move the deadline for the widget report to Wednesday. That way, I can complete your presentation today.”
  3. Point out any issues that might interfere with finishing a rush job. If you know you’re going to need information from Nancy and she’s in a meeting at a client’s office, let the requester know. This way you’re not left holding responsibility for not completing the task.

  4. Have a chart of common task times. Often, the boss will not know how long it took you to complete the rush job. You’re there until midnight, the boss went home at 5:00.

    Put together a list of tasks you commonly complete along with the time it takes to finish.For example: typing a 40-slide PowerPoint presentation: two hours, provided all the material is complete.The boss then has some idea what kind of time commitment  the request represents.

The boss, being the boss, may still go ahead and expect the rush job to be completed. However, this four-part strategy will help you gain control over those rush jobs.