Shopping for a New Planner or Calendar

Now is the time that people begin to shop around for a new calendar or planner. The key to getting the right planner is to think about what your personal needs are.

For years, I’ve bought planners with a sectioned area for day-to-day, and used these pages as scrap paper. What I always used was the 2-page month calendar and that was all I needed to purchase.

Using the wrong calendar is like wearing the wrong size shoes. So gear your organization to what fits you, whether you are a techie person who likes using your phone and online calendars or a pen and paper organizer.

No matter which you choose, always remember to fill it with things that are only important to you. After all, this is your agenda. Using the right calendar will make you more efficient, organized and productive!

Some suggestions for planners:

An Office Makeover to Boost Productivity

Veggettes office before organizing

Two types of change can be made during an office makeover that will both boost productivity. The first has to do with our physical environment and the second relates to our work habits.

Workspace Changes

First we will focus on when we need to make changes to our physical environment, the actual workspace itself, and how to do it.

Productivity increases with an office that is current with your work, your position and job description. However, frequently what I see is an office where the current work is stacked up on the desk and the file cabinet and desk drawers are filled with ancient history.

Here are some hints to help you decide if you would benefit from an office makeover.

  • You have a new job title or job description in the same company. This may mean you have changed offices or you could still be at the same desk.
  • You are working for a different company.
  • You are now working from home.
  • You are in business for yourself and your company has changed direction in what it offers and/or you have new products.

If none of the above apply, but you are losing items and your office looks like a windstorm came through, it is time to tackle the job of purging and setting up current systems. This also is a good way to organize your mind for your current work, and it will reduce your working stress. Things that are hanging around our office are not only cluttering up the physical space but are also creating mind clutter.

Work Habits

Let’s review the above scenarios and the pitfalls they present for your office:

  • We tend to hang on to material from old projects and committees on which we serve. Now is the time to toss this material or pass it on to someone else. The same goes for newsletters by mail or by email that don’t pertain to your current job. If this is a new position, it often makes sense to keep some of the previous person’s material until you get familiar with your new work. What is not okay, and what I often see, is the material still filling up desk drawer space two years later. Open up your desk and see if this is true for you.
  • If you found yourself taking boxes home or with you to your new office “just in case,” it is time to do the purge. Sometimes I see boxes and more boxes taking up space years later that have no value.
  • You are now working from home. If you are not careful, your new office can creep into the other rooms of your house. It also is important to keep your time organized because another pitfall is that you may find yourself working all hours. Some of my clients find it helpful to close the office door and actually put up a sign saying “Office Closed” to give them some separation from their work.
  • For those who are in business for themselves, as I am, it is important for your office to keep step with what your business is right now. Purchasing another filing cabinet is not the answer. A client wanted to buy a new filing cabinet before I came so we would be able to file his current work. I suggested he wait. Turns out three of his four file drawers were filled with information that had nothing to do with his current business. Money and space were saved by getting his office current.
See the Results

You can check out pictures with the results of hard work that made office spaces less cluttered from the Business page of my website.

Change in your office can be very freeing — making your office more organized, look better and feel bigger. Another huge benefit of reducing your office clutter and your mind clutter is that you will be more focused, more productive and accomplish more with less stress.

Getting Unstuck on Organizing Projects

Organize your home for spring

Recently, I was really stuck on an organizing project – pulling together the information for a presentation. The material that I needed were in my office.  Many of you have read about or visited my cute little country office. (You can see photos and read about it on my website.)  It is a great place to work but, for some reason, I felt like I was going around in circles.  I was making little progress and knew that I needed a change.

I took the file box with all the information I had gathered and moved it from my office to the dining room table in my house. It isn’t finished, and papers are covering the table, but at least I’m working on it. Try changing locations from where you usually work to see if it will help you, too.

I was making progress by working at the dining room table, but decided I really would like to eat dinner on the table also! The project is now divided up into do-able sections that I have returned to the file box. Dividing projects into do-able, manageable parts is a great way to move forward.  

I’m working on it each day, and can now see that my presentation will be ready…soon, I hope!

Organizing Tip 1: Recognize when you are stuck on a project and need to do something differently.

Organizing Tip 2: Change locations – moving the project/box or whatever you need to do to another location makes it seem do-able.

Organizing Tip 3: Divide and conquer to really make a project feel more do-able.

Create a Productive Workspace Using Gardening Principles

Are you challenged by a cluttered, disorganized workspace or office?

If so, your love for green living things and gardening may hold the solution.

If you like to garden but are challenged by organizing drawers and work surfaces, think of your workspace as your garden spot. If you can weed your garden, you can de-clutter your office.

It is easy to pull one little weed from your garden, but if you leave it long enough to grow and get established, it becomes a project. The same thing happens when you put off clearing that little stack until tomorrow, then tomorrow, then tomorrow.

Stacks of paper grow just like weeds; eventually, you have a huge stack to tackle.

Weeding and de-cluttering are the same: The sooner you do it, the faster it goes.

You plant tomatoes and lettuce together so that when you select salad vegetables, they are in the same garden spot. “Like items together” is a useful organizing principle. Following this principle in your office tells you where to put things and where to retrieve them.

It is best to weed or plant in one garden row at a time. Likewise, organize one area at a time in your office — just a desk or drawer. Finish it completely before moving to the next spot.

Seasoned gardeners plant kitchen herbs where they are easy to reach before the evening meal. Apply the organizing principle “Prime Items in Prime Space” in your office by putting the most frequently used items in the easiest places to reach.

The wisest gardeners weed a little each day. Most of us don’t have the time or energy to weed the entire garden at once. Organize your workspace in short sessions — perhaps 15 to 30 minutes at a time. It is simpler to make the smaller decisions, and you’ll be motivated by feelings of satisfaction and completion.

When your garden has the flowers that please you and the vegetables you enjoy, your garden is successful. Likewise, the definition of good office organization is “you like it and it works.” If you like how you’ve arranged your workspace, if you can find what you need, if you can be productive, then you have achieved good organization.

When we feel overwhelmed or we need to make huge changes in our yard, the smartest and most economical decision is to hire a landscaper. Similarly, when organizing is a personal challenge, hiring a professional organizer can be an excellent, tax-deductible investment for a business.

As you accomplish each task, no matter how small, stop and pat yourself on the back for the progress you have made. That will motivate you to do another area. Your efforts will definitely increase your productivity and be well worth the time you invest.

Conquering Mind Clutter

We often think of organization in the context of things and possessions, but often it is our Mind Clutter that prevents us from achieving our potential.

Tips for Conquering Mind Clutter:

1. Do a Mind Clearing of all the items on your “To Do List” by writing them down on a piece of paper
2. Next ask yourself how important each is on scale of 1 -10
3. Give yourself permission to delegate or eliminate as many items from your list as possible
4. The items that remain on the list then go on the “Must-Do List” and should be written on your calendar.

Time management will aid in working efficiently to complete your new “Must-Do List.” Block 15-minute uninterrupted segments to focus on a project, and only ask of yourself to complete a task one-step at a time.

Does Your Time Management Go Out the Window with Stress?

The other day, I had a really good day working with a client rescuing a room in her home. It did involve over 3 hours of drive time, so all in all, it was a long day. To top it off I had a one hour Mastermind Call and a one hour teleseminar, plus email to do. I could have skipped the Mastermind Call or the class, but was determined to plow through.

Well, I paid the price. I got my calendar days mixed up and called a coaching client thinking maybe she had forgotten our call, only to find out I had jumped one day ahead. She did laugh and tell me it
made her feel good to know I make mistakes, too. What do you do when you push yourself too far?

The icing on the cake was when I had a cup full of cat food for my garden cats and a cup of bird food in my hand – you guessed it, I poured the bird food in the cat dish. The look on the cats’ faces immediately had me fixing that!

I made myself sit down, take a deep breath, and think about how pushing myself and getting out of balance creates more problems. It isn’t efficient use of my time, and I do not have to be Wonder Woman.

Another telltale sign that I have pushed myself too far is when I stop hanging up my clothes at
the end of the day for several days. It’s a sign that my self-care is out the window.

Do you have signs that are reminders that you need to slow down? Please leave a comment to share.
We can all learn from each other.

Organizing Tip #1
Cramming too much into your day throws time management out the window and increases stress.
Organizing Tip #2
Look for the personal signs that tell you to slow down and honor them. Rethink your schedule of priorities.
Organizing Tip #3
Self-care allows you to give more to the people around you – at your job, at home, in the community. Put yourself on your priority list…at #1!

Clear Your Mind’s Clutter onto Lists, Calendar

Mind ClutterMind Clutter results in lost time, frustration, reduced effectiveness and diminished productivity.

Ever approached your work with the thought, “I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start”?

One of the first things I suggest is a “Mind Clearing.” Let the mind relax by capturing all the To-Dos on paper. If some items are like tangled webs, the use of a project-action plan or a white board can untangle them.

Relief is almost immediate, because the mind has space to think and process what is important. Even if you are not in control of the projects you’re assigned, making the To-Do List can be calming. Suddenly there is clear space, freedom to think. This leads to deciding what is most important and to making a step-by-step plan to get it done.

Put work you are concerned about on your calendar even if it is scheduled out several months. Unfinished projects contribute to our mental clutter.

Time management specialist David Allen says: “It is not that we have too much to do. We have too many things left unfinished.”

Creating focus time is a way to get projects done and eliminated from your To-Do List. Do you work best focused for long periods on one project or do you do best with variety in your day?

You can do in 15 minutes what will take you an hour with interruption, so build into your schedule an
uninterrupted hour to focus on a project.

Here are some ways to make sure that hour is uninterrupted:
– Explain to others why you are letting voicemail answer your calls.
– Move to another space, for example, an empty conference room.
– Put a sign on your door that says “Working on a project. I will be available at 11:00.”
– Turn off the email notification and your phone.

An hour of focus on a task/project allows you to stretch your prime time and complete projects. This will have a tremendous effect on eliminating mind clutter. An added benefit could be that you get work done that you normally come in early or on Saturday to do.

Grab a sheet of paper, a whiteboard or your favorite electronic tool to do the Mind Clearing.

Next look at your calendar and schedule some blocks of focus time.

Taking these steps will reduce your mind clutter, leaving you clearheaded and moving forward to accomplish your goals.

Being Connected 24/7 is Counterproductive

Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not something people decided — the trend has crept up on us silently like a fog. From the 1960s through the 1980s, many professionals went to work at 8 in the morning and left at 5 in the evening. Work rarely interfered with personal lives, with the exception of physicians.

For many of us that schedule is inconceivable. Some companies now demand you request permission to leave behind the laptop when you vacation. Seventy-five percent of vacationing employees check in by phone or email, some several times a day. As time management consultant and author Harold Taylor notes, “Work is no longer a place you go to and then leave.”

Should we accept this as the new normal, or is there reason to be concerned?

Many studies have concluded this constant connection is creating high levels of stress. And that causes a myriad of other issues including higher risk of heart conditions and problems with concentration and memory that affect work performance. Up to 90 percent of all primary health-care visits are related to stress, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in lost production and $277 billion in treatment for everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of “Crazy Busy,” sees many people who can’t focus, are forgetful and think they have attention-deficit disorder. He labels their condition “attention-deficit trait.” Almost half of all American workers don’t take their vacation days. Apart from the health risks, people who don’t get out of the office tend to be less creative, less productive and, ultimately, less effective. To improve performance, people need to take time off.

Can you take control?

To develop the mindset that technology should work for you will require you change some habits and readjust your thinking. Consider the bottom-line benefits to you personally, to your family and to your career.

Deciding on real motivation to change is key to making the change. Here are some ways you can take back control:
– Set boundaries on how often you check email. If the idea of not being constantly available makes you nervous, start checking your email every 15 minutes and gradually build up to an hour, then two hours. Having your email notification constantly on is death to productivity.
– If you have a project that needs your full attention, turn off all communication devices. You will be surprised at how much faster you will complete the project when you give it your total focus.
– Do you get jittery thinking about going to lunch and leaving your cell phone in the car? A client of mine said she forgot to take in her cell phone to a lunch event and never enjoyed anything so much.
– Take your vacation. Start the year by scheduling time on your calendar.
– Have a no tech day. Resume your hobbies. Often our best ideas come to us when we are having down time.

Trying to be productive by being connected via technology 24/7 is counterproductive. Instead, we increase our stress, make more errors, find it difficult to focus and get our lives out of balance. Start thinking about time management in a holistic way and control technology so it works for you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”