Tag Archives: tips

10 Time Management Tips

English: Gentaur schedule
English: Gentaur schedule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February is Time Management Month. This is the month to put all those New Year’s resolutions that you made in January start to fall apart. Don’t let it happen! Instead plan wisely and soon you will see how easy it is to stick to your goals.

According to a survey done by Greenfield Online, “If given an extra two hours each day, US repondents would spent that time at home with family.”

What would you do with two extra hours per day? Good management of your time can help free up extra hours. Here are ten tips to help you best manage your time.

1) Always Look Ahead

It is human nature to want to live in the past: to savour accomplishments or to wallow in defeats. However, you will not effectively move forward if you are constantly looking backwards.

There is a law of diminishing returns at work here. Take encouragement or learn a lesson from your past experience and use it to move on to new challenges and opportunities.

2) Consolidate Similar Tasks

Much time is lost in the starting, stopping and changing of different levels or types of activity. Save timeby grouping similar tasks together. Make all your outgoing phone calls at the same time. Organize your errands into a single run. Reply to e-mail once during the day. This is a more efficient use of your time.

3) Count on Interruptions

No matter how well you organize your schedule, there will be times when interruptions get in the way. Here are a couple of things you can do to minimize the effect of interruptions:

  • Buffer your schedule. If you know a project will take 2 hours, add another 30 minutes to buffer for time lost to interruptions.
  • Identify periods of interruptions. If get more interruptions Monday mornings than Wednesday afternoons, plan high-concentration activities for Wednesday afternoon.

4) De-clutter you schedule

If you find you are racing from one place to another, with little time to breathe, your schedule is too full. It’s time to prune.

If you’re involved in too many activities, eliminate those that are not important. Organize and schedule your errands. Consolidate them into a single run. This will free up time in your day.

5) Plan your phone calls

Time spent on a phone call can easily get out of hand if you don’t have a plan in place. Make notes of what you want to say before you make your call. List all the information you need to obtain. It will keep you on track in your conversation and eliminate follow-up calls for missed information.

6) Set routine and stick to it

Crises will arise and interruptions will occur, but it will be a lot easier to get things back on track if you have a routine in place.

7) Set Time Limits on Tasks

There are certain types of tasks, reading e-mail for example, that can occupy all your time if you allow it. Most tasks fall victim to Parkinson’s Law, expanding to fit available time. Get into the habit of scheduling fixed time slots for your tasks. Once you reach the end of the time limit, stop what you’re doing and head to the next task or appointment.

Once you’ve spent some time with this system, you can refine the way it works. You will know which tasks will fit in the half-hour before meeting starts and which tasks are better suited to a full afternoon.

8) Simplify

If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have the time to do that,” I’m too busy right now,” or “I’m too tired to get that done,” you may need to simplify your life. Don’t let the stresses of life control you. You need to take control of your life.

9) Take a break

It may seem counter-intuitive to getting things done, but it is important to feel energetic. If you’re not eating properly, or your muscles are tight from too much time in one position, or your stress level is rising, your productivity will decrease. Take a break.

Take a few minutes for lunch—away from your desk. Take a 10 minute nap or a short walk to relieve stress. When you return to your work, you’ll have energy to tackle the job.

10) Write things down

Unless you have very little to do or the tasks you have are highly repetitive, you cannot depend on your brain to recall everything that needs doing. The things that are most immediate are going to push away things in the background —often the most important. By writing things down you free up you brain to analyse the information and make productive decisions.

How to Write the Annual Christmas Holiday Letter

Regardless of what you think of them, family Christmas letters have become a part of our culture. Here are some tips on how to write Christmas letters the recipients will enjoy.

1. Start off on a positive note.

It’s a trend you can count on. The bulk of holiday letters begin with a sentence like this: “I can’t believe the year has come and gone so quickly!” Look for something more original and positive to start the letter.

Try openers like, “One of the blessings of this time of year is the chance it gives me to connect with you, my friends and family.” or “We’ve had a happy, busy year here in the Smith household!” Even a stock “Holiday greetings from the Young family!” is a better opener than the traditional plaintive cry about the passage of time.

2 Be yourself. Write in your own voice.

Too often, holiday letters show symptoms of “writer-itis”: big words, inflated sentences, piled-up adjectives. Friends and neighbors don’t want to hear from Edward Bulwer Lytton, they want to hear from you. Use your own voice, and write as you speak. You’ll bring a breath of fresh air–and a happy echo of your own personality–to your letter.

This is the cardinal rule of holiday letter writing. Write like you speak. Your letter should sound like you wrote it, not like it was penned by your seventh grade English teacher.

3 Don’t exaggerate or brag.

If something good happened to you and your family, announce it, but keep it low-key. Readers don’t enjoy gloating. Remember when you played sports in school and had to shake hands with the losing team after winning a great victory? Keep that image in mind while announcing your latest victories.

4 Be creative.

Your Christmas letter doesn’t have to be a long narrative of everything that happened to your family this year. Be creative. Use bullet points, create a puzzle, or turn it into a multiple-choice quiz. Ask each family member for a list of five things they would like to share about themselves in this year’s familyChristmas letter. You may be surprised by what they choose, but their choices will add personality to your letter.

5 Add colour.

Holiday letters are easier and more fun to read when you spice them up with family photos, Christmasclip art, or other images (such as scanned children’s artwork). People love to see photos. Make sure you include pics of the adults and not just kids.

6 Have fun.

Remember that the goal of your annual Christmas letter should be to entertain and inform the recipients. If you don’t have fun writing it, your recipients probably won’t enjoy reading it.

7 Read it out loud.

Have you succeeded in writing an informative, entertaining holiday letter? Read it out loud, or have someone else read it to you. If it doesn’t sound right, go back and revise it.

8 Personalize the letter.

Before sending the letter, personalize each one with a couple of handwritten lines at the bottom of each letter. This adds a personal touch leaving your readers feeling good.

How to Start and Keep a Journal

I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t start keeping a journal until later in my life. I had regarded writing in a diary as being too self-absorbed. However, once I overcame the perception and got started, I quickly discovered the benefit and pleasure that came from keeping a journal.

However, it’s not always easy to keep a journal. We tend to side-track the process with self-imposed limits. We feel we don’t write well enough; our lives aren’t exciting or glamorous enough to document; and so on.

The thing is, there are no rules or limits on how to keep a journal. Here are some tips that can help you get started and get the most out of keeping a journal.

  • Write the date at the top of the page.
  • Include the time, location and weather for each day’s entry.
  • Leave space at the top, so you can go back and give the entry a title, once you’re finished.
  • Find the format that suits you best: loose-leaf binder, cheap notebook, Moleskine, leather-bound diary, all can work.
  • Find the time that works best for you: first thing in the morning, last thing at night.
  • Find the place that works best for you: the quiet of your bedroom, in a public coffee shop and so on.
  • Find the writing tool you are most comfortable with: a pen, pencil, marker, coloured pencils or other writing instrument.
  • Don’t be concerned with grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Write so that you get your thoughts out as quickly as possible.
  • Write as often as you can. However, don’t pressure yourself to write daily. The more often you do write, the better you will become.
  • Draw, sketch, doodle instead of writing.
  • Use lists to kick-start your writing. “The 5 best things about today were…”
  • Keep special mementos in your journal: event tickets, photographs, flower petals, etc.
  • Let your feelings out. You can keep a journal which merely records the events of your life. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can add to its benefit by recording how you felt about what was going on.
  • Talk about a significant moment in the day
  • Write from your heart for yourself. This is a place to be honest with yourself. Write about the way you feel, not the way you think you should feel.
  • Although you should write for yourself, if you feel like you need an audience – Pretend you’re writing a letter or note to a trusted family member or friend.
  • Enjoy your journaling! Keeping a journal should not be a grim chore. If you see it that way, you’re not likely to keep it up for too long. Approach it in the spirit of creative play; an enjoyable, quiet-time gift to yourself.

Journals can be effective tools in helping one get organised, in the creative process, or in developing a new habit or skill. However, keeping a journal is a habit in and of itself and can be developed.

Sample Voice Mail Templates

Voice mail is one of the most frustrating aspects of telephone communication; just below navigating automated phone menus. If voice mail is used properly, it can be a highly effective tool. The trick is to ensure your messages clearly communicate all the information need, but no more.

Here are some tips for leaving good voice mail messages along with half a dozen temples you can customize for your own use.

  • Write down your voice-mail message before you start. It is easier to read from the page than to try and ad lib.
  • Have custom greetings for different circumstances: in meetings, on vacation, business travel, etc. Update your greeting when appropriate.
  • Remeber to be professional. You can never be sure who will be calling you. Leave the humourous messages for your home phone.
  • Tips for leaving a good out-of-office message

Basic message – limited detail

Hello!  You have reached the voice mail of <name>. Please leave a message after the tone, and I’ll contact you. To return to the receptionist, press <number> at anytime.

Basic message – detailed

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing. Today is, I am in the office, but I’m either on my phone or away from my desk. Your call is important to me. If you wish, leave a message and I will call you back at my first opportunity. If you need immediate assistance, press to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

Hello, this is <your name> of <company or department name>. I’m not available to take your call, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you would like to speak with my assistant, please dial <number>.

In meetings

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of <name>. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing <key combination>. Today is <day of week>, <date> I am in the office, but will be in meetings all day. Your call is important to me. If you wish, leave a message and I will call you back at my first opportunity. If you need immediate assistance, press <number> to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

Out of office on business

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of <name>. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing <key combination>. Today is <day of week>, <date> I am out of the office on business. If you wish, you can contact me via my cell phone <number> or by e-mail. If you need immediate assistance, press <number> to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

Vacation message

Hello, you’ve reached the voice mailbox of <name>. Please note, you can bypass this message at any time by pressing <key combination>. I am out of the office on vacation until <date>. If you need immediate assistance, press <number> to have your call redirected by the receptionist.

10 ways to improve your public speaking

According to The Book of Lists, the fear of public speaking ranks number one in the minds of the majority of people. Far above the fear of death and disease comes the fear of standing in front of a crowd. I was a member of Toastmasters for a number of years. I enjoyed the applause and after effects of successful speeches, but I hated the nerves and stress that went with the delivery.

It goes without saying, great content can be ruined by poor delivery. (Okay, I said it.) It is equally true that no amount of great technique will rescue bad content. You need to develop both skill-sets to deliver strong presentations.

Here are some simple tips that can improve your delivery:

  1. Develop a deeper voice – Listen to a news anchor and practice speaking in the same way. A deeper voice carries more authority. Find some exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. A quick solution: take three of four deep breathes before standing to speak. It will relax your vocal cords and your voice will be deeper.
  2. Slow down – We tend to speak quickly when we are nervous. If you speak too quickly, people will see you as nervous and perhaps even unsure of the topic. Find a comfortable pace and practice. Be careful that you’re not too slow.
  3. Give your voice some life –  gave us the definitive monotone presentation style in . You want to avoid that example. Speak louder and softer; speak higher and lower; speed up and slow down. None of these need to be carried to extremes, but variety helps you hold the listener’s attention.
  4. Speak clearly, don’t mumble. When speaking in public, you need to exaggerate the way you enunciate words. What sounds clear to your ears, is muddy 30 feet into the room.
  5. Use appropriate volume – Match your volume to the setting. You will need less volume when speaking to a small group in a boardroom and more volume when speaking to a large group in an auditorium.
  6. Pronounce your words correctly – If you aren’t sure how to say a word, don’t use it. Be especially careful with proper nouns. You’ll turn off the audience quickly if you mispronounce the name of their town in your introduction.
  7. Use the correct words – There’s nothing that destroys your credibility as a speaker like a misused vocabulary. If you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, look it up. If you can’t look it up, leave it out.
  8. Look at people – I’ve seen speakers stare at their notes, at the back wall, at the floor, anywhere but at those sitting in the room. Make eye contact with your listeners. Don’t stare at one person, but let your eyes work the room. Make eye contact for one point, then move on to another person for the next point. You’ll look like you’re trying to connect with the audience.
  9. Gesture – with your arms, your face and perhaps your whole body. Unlock your iron grip on the lectern and move your hands and arms to emphasize what you’re saying. Let your face get into the speech: smile, frown, open your eyes wide. You’ll do a better job of communicating your passion for the topic.
  10. Step away from the lectern – or, if you’re well prepared and don’t need notes, get rid of it altogether. The lectern can be a large barrier between you and your audience. If you need it for your notes, step from side to side periodically. (Not so much that the listeners get sea sick.) The best presentation you can give is the one you know so well, you don’t need any props to hold you up. It’s just you and the audience.

In one sense these are all instant fixes. You could start using these techniques in a speech you have to give ten minutes from now. However, they’re not quick fixes. Any presenter gets better through practice. Make these tips part of your preparation process and people are going to want to listen to you speak.

10 Tips to Help Keep Your Desk Clean

This is one of the more popular posts at Ian’s Messy Desk. I’m reposting with some update information.

How much stuff do you have sitting on your desk or in your work area? A while back, Coopers & Lybrand (nowPrice Waterhouse Coopers) released data from a poll on personal organization. One statistic found that, “The average desk worker has 36 hours worth of work on their desk and wastes up to 3 hours a week just “looking” for STUFF!” Finding stuff on my messy desk bears out that statistic. Being disorganized is responsible for a lot of wasted time.

While there is a challenge in the initial cleaning of the messy desk, the regular maintenance often poses the bigger challenge. Here are some tips to help keep the desk clean:

  1. Sort your mail and toss junk as it arrives. Even with an in-basket, you need to process your mail dailyto avoid accumulating a stack of paper. Sort where you have places to put each category of mail: 1) garbage, 2) recycling, 3) bills, 4) etc.
  2. Get rid of sticky notes and scraps of paper. Round them all up and transfer their information tosomething a little more permanent, efficient, and user-friendly. Get a single notebook and use it torecord notes, phone numbers, web addresses, ideas, to-dos, etc.
  3. Create a list or binder of regularly referenced material, such as phone numbers, and keep it accessible in a desk drawer.
  4. Schedule filing time at least once per week. To be more productive, allocate 15 minutes each week. Initially it may take you longer to catch up if you have a large pile, but 15 minutes is manageable. We all can find this much time in our schedules.
  5. Add dated or calendar items to a tickler file system or a diary as soon as they arrive. anything you need reminded of on some future date goes into your tickler file. Every morning, pull out the folder for the day and place the contents into your inbox. Then it is right at hand when you need it.
  6. When you stop working on something, put it away until the next time you need it. Don’t leave half-completed projects sitting on your desktop.
  7. Keep nothing on your desk unless you absolutely need them. If you aren’t joining sheets of paper with tape, move the dispenser off the desk. If you want personal photos in the office, have only one on thedesk or better yet, hang them on the wall.
  8. Keep a reading folder for material you need to read. Put non–urgent “to read” items in file folder; use multiple folders if you have different to-read categories. As you receive new items, place them in the front of the folder. If the folder gets too full, toss the old stuff without looking at it. That way you always have current stuff that might go back a month or two. Schedule regular reading time to clear the material.
  9. Create a “waiting for” or pending file to hold items dependent on outside action. This is not the same as a tickler file. This is for actions waiting on an external response. I.e., you’re waiting on quotes before you can go ahead a get the office repaintied.
  10. Create a weekly appointment to clean your desk and this includes dusting or polishing. You might be less inclined to mess up a shiny desk. 

It doesn’t take much “neglect” for your workspace to fill up with things that eat at your productivity. A few simple and regular good habits can free up a bunch of extra time for getting things done.