Manage Your Paper With a RAFT

Ruthless paperwork is the route to a clean desk. It’s a problem of small-scale decision-making, every piece of paper requires a decision and a final destination. Too often, papers fall prey to the procrastination syndrome: I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Ideally, mail and paperwork should be attended to for a few minutes every day. If the amount is small, three times a week may do. You don’t want papers to build up to the point where you look at it and you get discouraged. The easiest way to avoid that is to keep up to date.

Files can be kept in open piles on a desk or in folders, according to your style. If a clean visual environment is important to you, use boxes and folders as you RAFT. If you prefer a look of activity and busyness, paper piles may be the answer.

If you do keep stuff, keep it in a way so that it doesn’t jam up your life and you can find it again.

Use the RAFT template: refer it, act on it, file it or toss it.

  • Refer it to the correct person, if you’re not the one to handle it.
  • Act on it immediately. Items that can be dealt with easily, do now; David Allen’s two-minute rule.
  • File it, if necessary. Eighty percent of filed papers are never looked at again. Make sure you really need it before you keep it.
  • Toss out anything you no longer need. Don’t keep routine memos or anything that gives you information you already know or have. Record meeting information on your calendar, then toss the memo. We you receive document revisions, toss the orginals.
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Stress Management Techniques

Living is inherently stressful, but how we manage it will determine the number and severity of the stress related symptoms we experience. Many people don’t recognize the symptoms or choose to ignore them. Stress related symptoms can be broken down into four major categories. These include:

A. Emotional

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Depression

B. Congnitive

C. Physical

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Change in appetite
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Weight change
  • Decreased sexual interest

D. Behavioral

  • Increased substance (i.e., alcohol, drug) use
  • Social isolation
  • Conflict with others

These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and you need to pay attention to them. Symptoms that are ignored ultimately lead to much more serious health problems. To reduce both stress related symptoms and the chances of developing these serious stress related disorders, try the following strategies.

Coping Strategies:

Deep Breathing – When you are under stress, you tend to breathe both more quickly and more shallow. Taking slow deep breaths will induce the relaxation response. Breathe in and out to the count of four or five and you will begin to feel a sense of relaxation fill your mind and your body.

Other Relaxation Techniques – These include progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, deep muscle relaxation, imagery training, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis.

Develop a Calm Focus – Focus on something in your environment that is pleasant, beautiful, or calming. This could be something visual such as a painting, tree, or flower or it could be something that stimulates your other senses such as a pleasant smell or taste. Experience fully whatever it is you are focusing on.

Focus on the Positive – A lot of stress is created by focusing on the negative in the world around you or in your own life. Train yourself to look for the positive. For example, take inventory each day of what went right, rather than focusing on the problems you had or mistakes you made.

Reduce or Eliminate Stimulants – Two of the most commonly used stimulants are caffeine and nicotine. If stress is an issue for you, then reducing or eliminating these substances from your body will go a long way toward reducing your stress level.

Be Realistic – Lots of stress comes from trying to control events or people you can’t control, or by not controlling those things within your control. If the stressor is under your control, develop a plan to overcome it. If it is not, learn to accept it rather than experience the frustration comes from trying to change it.

Positive Affirmations – What we say to ourselves has an impact on our stress levels and our perception of being able to cope. Change those aspects self-talk based on fear or anxiety rather than fact. Replace them with realistic self-statements and practice daily positive affirmations.

Live in the Now – Much of our stress is created by living in the past or worrying about the future. Develop a ”one-day-at-a-time” mind set, since you can only really control the present anyway.

Keep a Journal – Instead bottling up your feelings and thoughts express them in a journal, which will provide a sense of relief and could serve as the first step in a more problem-solving process to resolving underlying issues.

Laugh – Laughter is considered one of the best medicines for stress. Seek out humorous books, TV shows, movies or life situations that will bring humor into your life. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and your mistakes.

Get Support – One of the best ways to combat stress is to develop and rely on a support system. Whether family, relatives or friends, talking to any of these people is a great way to minimize stress.

Health Eating – Although most people today realize that our diet has a big impact on our physical health, fewer people are aware of how much it affects our resistance to stress. Eating a healthy and well balanced diet is like giving ourselves an immunity to stress.

Manage Your Time – A major source of stress for many people is being over-committed limiting the time available for rest and relaxation. Develop a reasonable schedule, which includes both productive activity and fun or relaxing activities, can significantly reduce stress.

Be Physically Active – Exercise and other physical activity can both significantly reduce stress and prevent the negative effects of stress. Exercise releases endorphins into your blood stream, which produces a natural ”high” that leaves you calmer and less stressed.

Find Solitude – Time on your own is an important strategy to manage your stress. This is particularly true if your day is filled with a lot of contact with other people.

Confront Rather Than Ignore – As a short-term solution to stress, many people simply try to ignore life problems. Unfortunately, problems you ignore tend to get worse over time Problem-solving is a skill that develops with practice, so refine your skill.

Take Control – Learn to express your feelings, values, and beliefs openly and honestly, in a way that respects the rights of others. This particularly applies if you have difficulties saying no to other people and become overwhelmed with tasks that you don’t really want to take on.

Slow Down – As society’s pace continues to increase, step back and slow down the pace of your life.  Slowing down can actually increase our performance and enjoyment of the work we do.

Spirituality – Developing a spiritual life can help reduce stress in a number of ways. Spirituality can help you deal with some of the more existential questions about life. As well, prayer or meditation can have a relaxing effect on the body.

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Time-Saving Tools for Busy Lives

Amazing, isn’t it? Every day, you’re given 24 hours. Some days, you feel like you’ve lived every hour. Other days, the time seems to slip through your fingers like grains of sand.

Even though time can’t be pinned down, we live in a society that tries to do just that. Schedules, timetables and deadlines are the framework of modern life. But being organized doesn’t necessarily mean living by a lot of rigid rules. It means making choices—your choices—about what’s important to you and then arranging your time and space to focus on those choices.

Take a moment to reflect on the pace of your life. Does it feel like you are rushing from task to task and worrying about how you will ever get everything done? When you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s time to pick up your organizational tools and create some time and space in your own life. Here are five easy tools to get you started.

Make it easy for employers to see what you can do for them by going a couple of steps further:

The daily planner

Many busy people find that they cannot get along without the help of their daily planner. A useful daily planner:

  • is both a calendar and a notebook
  • should be small enough to carry with you
  • should be big enough to hold your to-do list, appointments and plans
  • has a section for phone numbers and addresses
  • doesn’t have to be expensive—you can find one for around $10.

The daily planner helps prevent the urge to leave notes all over the place and keeps all your vital information together. By glancing at your daily planner each evening, you can plan the following day. You could also write out your goals in your daily planner at the beginning of each month to help you stay in touch with what’s most important to you.

The to-do list

Time management experts say that list-making is one of the most useful kinds of tools because it helps you visualize your plans. Once you have made your list, try to sort the tasks according to how important each one is. You can assign ratings or underline the most important items on your list. If you manage to get only those things done, you have still made the best use of the time available to you.

The done list

Reward yourself for all your hard work. At the end of each day, take a moment to write out or just think about your “done” list. Include all of the items on your to-do list that you’ve completed as well as other important things you did. If you’re a worrier, your done list can show you how much you have actually accomplished.

A place for everything

This well-known saying has been around a long time because it’s true: A place for everything and everything in its place. When you think of all the time spent frantically hunting for your keys or your wallet or the bill that needs to be paid today, it really makes sense to organize your living space. This may take some effort at first, but putting things in their proper place can become a habit before you know it. Try telling yourself: don’t put it down—put it away. This simple rule works wonders.

Escape from the phone and TV

This may be the hardest thing to do, but it can make a big difference in the time you have to spend on more important things. You can start by keeping track of the time you spend in one week in front of the television—the number of hours may surprise you. When you think of how much time in a month or even a year is spent watching TV, you may decide it’s time to make some changes. You might decide to turn off the TV while you’re eating dinner. Or you may choose to make certain days of the week TV-free. The extra time can be spent with friends or on hobbies or maybe taking a course at a local college.

The same strategies can be used for deciding when to use the phone and when not to. You can choose to take calls when you have the time to talk. If you don’t have an answering machine, you can unplug your phone or turn down the ringer when you don’t want to take calls.

Making time, saving energy

Take some time to find out which time-saving tools are right for you. You can sometimes make very simple changes in your life and discover that you had much more time available than you thought. Then, you can effectively use the time you do have to accomplish what’s most important to you.

From ALIS

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How to Manage Work Life Balance

Take this Work/Life Balance quiz from the Canadian Mental Health Association. It will open in a new window. Once you have your results, come back here for some tips to help you manage the balance between work and life.

In Life

  • Decide what is important. If you do not have a clear sense of your personal values, goals and priorities, you will not be able to determine which activities are important to furthering your life plan.
  • Eliminate the unnecessary. Once you have a clear picture of your life plan, drop those things that do not move your goals forward. Learn to say no!
  • Protect Your Goals and Priorities. Everyone will have an opinion as to how you should be living your life. Listening to opinions is fine, being dictated to is not. Live the life you want, not the one your parents or best friends or anyone else thinks you should be living.
  • Don’t go it alone. Get the support of family and friends. Give your partner permission to remind you when things seem to be getting out of balance. Better yet, your partner should be involved in developing your life plan.

At Work

  • Schedule brief breaks for yourself throughout the day. Your productivity and effectiveness will increase if you take short breaks every couple of hours. You will get more accomplished.
  • At the end of each day, set your priorities for the following day. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available.
  • Only respond to email once or twice a day. Then, shut off your email program to avoid being distracted as messages come in.
  • Make a distinction between work and the rest of your life. Protect your private time by turning off electronic communications.   Don’t be available 24/7.
  • Address concerns about deadlines and deliverables early. As soon as you see that a deadline is unrealistic, communicate your concern to your employer – don’t wait until the deadline passes.
  • Take all of your allotted vacation time. Taking vacation allows you to come back to work refreshed and more productive.
  • Learn to say no!

At Home

  • Create a buffer between work and home. After work, take a brief walk, do a crossword puzzle, or listen to some music before beginning the evening’s routine.
  • Decide what chores can be shared or let go. Determine which household chores are critical and which can be done by someone else.  Let the rest go.
  • Exercise. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time, you’ll feel more energized and refreshed.
  • Create and implement a household budget. Start by setting aside some money from each pay cheque for the future.
  • Make healthy food choices. Healthy eating will gives you and your family more energy.
  • Pursue a hobby. Either with friends or family or for some quality time on your own.
  • Learn to say no!

In Your Community

  • Make choices. Social, community and volunteer obligations pull us in many directions. Choose the ones that are most fulfilling and learn to say ‘no’ to the rest.
  • Manage expectations. Be clear at the outset about how much time or support you can contribute to community organizations or your children’s school events.
  • Learn to say no!
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