Tip: Start your day with a routine that primes you to be in charge
All of us, at one time or another, get that sinking feeling of having way too much to do in way too little time. It’s demoralizing to feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks of everyday life. While barely treading water with the routine tasks, it doesn’t take much – a flat tire, an unexpected potluck, a roof leak – to push your schedule into full chaos. How can you reclaim your sanity and sense of control and competence?
Here are some strategies from a recent workshop we took from Productivity Coach, Steve Kirch.
Make Conscious Choices
Busy is a choice, but often doesn’t feel like it. You may not feel like you have choice or control over your time. But even in the most obligated person’s schedule there is enough wiggle room to create space for reflection, planning, and some choice-making. Regaining control of your schedule and your life, starts with making a little time to evaluate the bigger picture and consciously deciding what tasks are essential and where they fit best in your schedule. Otherwise, we get pulled from our important goals into other people’s priorities.
Purge, Purge, Purge
One of the most essential things to do is re-evaluate how much you take on. Just as our spaces get cluttered, so do our schedules. Given your personal priorities, figure out both your essential tasks and those that make you truly happy — and fit those in first.
Create a Morning Routine
It doesn’t have to take oodles of time to plan. Start with 10 minutes of any day and be intentional about how you are going to spend your day. What are YOUR critical few priorities for today? The ideal time to do this is first thing in the morning.
Consider getting up a little earlier and incorporating this short morning routine that grounds you for the day and helps you feel in control of the ship:
- Stretch or move
- Drink some water
- Plan the day (check your calendar)
Get Things Done
Try these strategies for actually getting tasks done:
- Time blocking – group like tasks together and schedule a block of time to complete them before moving on to a different set of tasks or project.
- Pomodoro Technique® – work for 25 minutes, don’t work for 5 minutes, for 4 rounds –then take a longer break.
- Don’t check email first thing in morning.
- Know your biological prime time – what is yours? Try and schedule important tasks during this higher energy time.
- If you’re naturally distractible (ADD), structure your planning time to avoid distractions and consider silencing your phone or putting it on airplane mode to avoid interruptions.
Try to incorporate one or two of these tips into your day and see how it feels. If you need more help, consult with a Professional Organizer, Coach or Productivity Specialist. Asking for help can be one of the most productive tips of all.
Do any of these feel familiar?
- Things are getting done but feels like it’s only by blind luck or chance rather than design
- You’re barely treading water with all the tasks, apt, obligations on your plate
- You fantasize about more time for leisure or healthy habits like yoga, meditation, exercise?
- You feel like a fraud? You hold it together in your professional life but fear if people saw how you managed your home or your personal life, they’d be shocked?
- You say “no” all the time and it still isn’t enough?
If the list above feels familiar, stop and reflect on how you are already accomplishing a full and active life.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do critical items such as bills and deadlines mostly get handled?
- Are your kids going off to school fed and clothed?
- Are your kids’ interests being supported?
- Do you move your body or do some form of physical activity?
- Do you maintain regular contact with your friends?
- Do you show up to work regularly? Are you doing an okay job at work?
- Is your home functioning to support your basic living needs?
True, there’s always room for improvement in some or all these areas but we often see people measuring themselves against a completely unrealistic standard of what they think they are “supposed” to be doing. Holding onto unrealistic expectations is setting yourself up to feel perpetually overwhelmed and underachieving.
In our modern world, with access to unlimited information and means to acquire things, many of us have raging expectations — wanting our homes to look like a magazine — wanting our bodies to age without showing — wanting our relationships to look perfect — wanting to avoid making mistakes — wanting to give our kids every opportunity for enrichment and advancement.
So, ARE you disorganized?
Like most of us, probably a bit. But it’s possible you’re being unrealistic and not appreciating how hard you’re working and how much you’re accomplishing every day.
Take a step back and savor the life you have, accepting what you have is “good enough.” You can still dream for “more and better.”
This week we are celebrating our 200th blog post!! Let’s take a step back and tell you the story of our blog. It’s a story of risk taking, growth, and collaboration.
Back in November of 2012, both of us felt some pressure that we “had” to have a blog to be “legitimate businesses” and jump in the pool of social media marketing. At that point Dana had been in business 10 years and Katherine for 16 so we both felt established and reluctant to take on a new form of promotion. We decided to tackle the project together – to co-write a blog that we would publish jointly and could each re-purpose for our own use.
Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned through 200 posts:
- Don’t go it alone – tough jobs are way easier, and often actually fun, if done with a friend
- Have courage to move forward even if you don’t know what you’re doing – things have a way of sorting themselves out and you learn along the way
- Commit regular time in your calendar – make it realistic if you want to get something done
- Don’t give up – your partner may have energy when you’re flagging
- Honor your limits – over the last 6 years we adjusted our start time, adjusted the frequency of posts, and gave us ourselves permission to repost old blogs when feeling uninspired
- Go for good enough, instead of perfect – don’t let perfectionism be a roadblock; done is better than perfect
- Keep things simple
- You don’t have to have all the answers – bring in outside experts to help with topics or technical issues
- Make your own rules for success – don’t let others’ expectations drive your goals or standards
- Celebrate your accomplishments – it’s often only the negatives we focus on, celebrating helps you remember and savor the positives
Does the blog get us new business? Hard to tell. But we get consistent feedback from current clients that they like hearing from us and get value from the topics. Taking the time to think through topics keeps us curious and open to ideas and creates content that we can use in presentations, newsletters, and other places. One of the biggest benefits to us is a regularly scheduled time to stay connected, support each other through business challenges, and celebrate business and life successes.
How could you collaborate to achieve some of your goals? Have you had a great collaboration experience related to organizing? Share your story with us!
Time Timer lets you see time passing
Dana just got back from the National Association of Professional Organizers conference in Phoenix, Arizona. A product highlight from the conference is the Time Timer®. This is an ingenious timer that gives you a visual of time passing.
How do timers help you be productive and get organized?
- Stay on task by working in short segments
- Feel less overwhelmed by breaking larger projects down into manageable chunks
- Give time blocks to regular tasks to create routines
- Control time spent responding to emails or checking social media by setting a time limit
- Help kids learn about time management
The Time Timer® is also available in a phone app and wristwatch.
Any kind of timer can work to implement these principles. The advantage of the Time Timer® is you actually see time passing and can see how much time you have left. For that reason it’s a great tool for people who have trouble conceptualizing time.
The “Pomodoro Technique” focuses on learning how long it takes to complete different tasks. Click on the picture to learn more.
One of the more critical skills in being organized is being able to accurately estimate how long tasks take. If you start using a timer around your daily tasks, make note of what you learn –
- Did you allow enough time?
- How many timer sessions did it take to get through a project?
The more you learn about how long things take, the more effective you will become at time management.
What tasks are you avoiding because they are overwhelming? Set a timer for 25 minutes and see if that helps you make progress. Let us know how it worked.
Last Friday we attended the Small Business Summit in San Francisco, hosted by our Professional Organizing Association, NAPO-SFBA. Here are the most useful productivity tools we learned:
Attorney, Jeena Cho spoke about how to set up a virtual office. She is able to work from home and be virtually paperless.
Her two must-have tools are:
Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner
file sharing site
Hot tips from a panel of productivity experts:
- We can only control our behavior and attitude toward information overload
- Productivity = vision + quality. Make a vision for your life to help keep your task choices in line with what is important to you
- There is no such thing as multi-tasking
- Mindfulness and meditation are good tools for keeping perspective and managing overload. Headspace is an app that can help you get started
- Set specific times to check and respond to email instead of letting it interrupt your day constantly. Use the signature line of your email to set an expectation around response times
Our favorite app: HomeZada. This cloud-based application helps you create a home inventory and manage upkeep and improvement projects for your home. It’s free to use their home inventory function. But the time tracking tool for figuring out when to replace filters, clean gutters and flush water heaters is promising. We look forward to test-driving HomeZada and sharing more about it.
Cloud Security & Privacy
No huge surprises here; basically if you choose to use the Internet your data and information are not all that secure. Key things you can do to increase your protection:
- Use complex passwords! Use lots of them. Ideal passwords are a string of 3 unrelated words (so you can remember them) with mixed in capitals, numbers, and symbols. For example the password: curtainbeachdog could become Curt@1nB3@chDog
- Pay for apps instead of opting for the free version. Nothing is truly free! If the company can’t make money off your purchase they will make money off of selling your data to others
We’ll explore more about these topics in the coming weeks. What are your favorite productivity tools?