Posts Tagged ‘priorities’

A Faster Way To Clean

Cleaning day — what an old-fashioned notion! The idea that you should give up one entire day of your week for scrubbing and mopping might have been appropriate when folks didn't have jobs outside the house — but this system doesn't work so well with modern schedules. It's hard for busy families with working parents and afterschool activities and other responsibilities to fit in a whole day for housework. And when you work 9-5 Monday through Friday, you surely don't want to sacrifice your “off” days to chores. More importantly, there's no reason you should have to — if you stay on top of the dirt throughout the week. Each time you have a few free minutes, why not take care of one small cleaning job, rather than saving it all up? That way, you can finish your cleaning by the end of the week, leaving the weekend for fun!

  • wipe splatters and fingerprints off the bathroom mirrors
  • clean the ring out of the toilet and wipe down the seat
  • wipe down the bathroom counters
  • wash your bathroom rugs
  • wipe down the tub and shower walls with disinfectant
  • load your dishwasher and let it run while you do something else
  • empty your dishwasher and put the dishes away
  • wipe down the kitchen counters
  • clean the grease and food splatters off your stove top and vent hood
  • wipe down the inside shelves and veggie drawers of your refrigerator with disinfectant
  • empty your trashcans and take out the trash
  • put a load of laundry in the washer or dryer
  • fold some clean clothes
  • hang up your clean laundry
  • make your bed
  • change the sheets
  • vacuum, sweep, or mop in one room
  • dust one room (or if you have big rooms with lots of nick-nacks, just one shelf)
  • wash the windows in one room
  • go around the house with a lint roller or brush and clean pet hair off the furniture

See how easy that was? Wink

File Storage

Whether you're shopping for life insurance or remodeling your living room, planning a conference, or preparing next year's budget — the one thing you can count on with any project is paper! So the first step to a successful project is getting your files in order.

Your system doesn't have to be complicated — just a series of folders, an accordion file, classification file, or set of expandable wallets is fine. If the project is small, everything can go into one file — for larger tasks, break your paperwork out into logical categories, one per folder. For example, hiring a new assistant might include files for “advertising”, “applications”, “interviews”, “references”, etc. — or even a separate section for each prospective employee.  Just remember that project files are temporary — they will only be used until the project is completed. So get organizers that can be re-purposed, with lots of extra labels!

The files you set up for short-term projects do not need to be incorporated into your regular paper management system — they are not long-term reference files, and should be stored separately. Treat these documents more like “to-do” files — your goal is to give them a home until the project is complete, then they will be archived away or tossed. So assign a drawer, section of a drawer, rack, hanging file box, or document sorter for your project paperwork, and store everything in this one location. Of course, the best possible project organizing system is portable — so you can take it with you to meetings, presentations, shopping for supplies, and to all project-related activities. An expandable accordion file with a cover flap or a file box with a lid are two great options.

And if you are engaged in a project that involves more than just paper, you might need a bigger and more expandable storage solution. Larger project tools may require a banker's box or a plastic tub with a lid. For example — when remodeling your office, you might need to store flooring and wallpaper swatches, paint brushes, and hardware. If you're considering a new vendor or product line, you want a place to keep your samples. And even storing books or binders of information for your project is easier with a good, sturdy box (you can't easily put these in a file folder!) Give yourself as much room as you need, and don't forget to clearly label the outside of the box.

Tracking Systems

Finally, with any project, you need a way to keep track of your progress. Calendars and planners are fine for day-to-day appointments, but an ongoing project really requires a more visual method if you don't want to find tasks slipping through the cracks.

The most effective solution is a dry erase board dedicated to either one project or one phase of a project. List out your steps and the deadlines for each, participants and their individual responsibilities, general to-do's, supplies and resources you need to gather — whatever makes sense for your particular project. Completed items can be marked off, and the entire board can be reformatted for the next project as needed. The specifics of the system don't matter, but you want to be able to see at a glance where you stand and what remains to be done — it makes follow-up much easier.

Of course, you can put anything you want on a wipe-off board, but that doesn't guarantee that task will actually be completed. The trick to seeing your project through to the end is using a two-part approach. First, plan out the big picture, the large milestones and deadlines, on your dry erase board. Then, transfer those action items to your calendar — noting deadlines and blocking off chunks of time to work on each step. By planning on both the macro and micro levels, you are setting yourself up for success with every project.

Learning How To Quantify

When you were a kid, you probably didn't think much about what it took to earn money — you just asked for what you wanted and somehow, mommy and daddy made it happen. You didn't worry about what stuff cost, and you didn't understand when someone told you it was too “expensive.” Then you got an after-school job or started working for your allowance — and I'll bet you became a lot more discriminating about what you did with hard-earned cash!

It's the same with time.  Very few people really know what their time is worth, in concrete financial terms. They just go through their day on autopilot, wondering where the hours go. Until you recognize that your time is intrinsically valuable, you will never be able to make informed decisions about where your effort is best spent.  Here's a general guide illustrating how much an hour of your time is worth, and how just one hour a day (spent poorly or wisely) adds up over a year's time:

YOUR
ANNUAL INCOME
WHAT ONE HOUR
IS WORTH
ONE HOUR PER DAY
FOR A YEAR
$25,000 $12.61 $3,125
$40,000 $20.49 $5,000
$50,000 $25.61 $6,205
$75,000 $38.42 $9,375
$100,000 $51.23 $12,500
$125,000 $65.10 $15,884
$150,000 $76.84 $18.750
$175,000 $89.65 $21,875
$200,000 $102.46 $25,000
$250,000 $128.07 $31,250
$300,000 $153.69 $37,500

** Based on 244 working days per year

You can always look at delegating in terms of the biggest financial payoff. When I hire someone to take care of an item on my not-to-do list — and I pay them $25 an hour while my hour is worth $60 — I'm coming out ahead. The same is true when I can hire someone to do a task in a half hour that would take me 3 hours to complete. I can be focusing on higher priorities — things that feed my soul or grow my business or let me know I'm alive — without worrying that the work isn't being done.

Inertia At Work

I've overcome difficult personal situations in the past — career changes, a bad economy, crises of confidence, even the loss of another parent. But never before has my life come to such a complete and grinding halt. Usually, I just keep on plowing along at about half-speed, getting fewer things done than normal, but still accomplishing something while I work through the problem. Not this time. My circumstances were so overwhelming and utterly devoid of hope that I hit a brick wall — went from 60 to 0 in about 10 feet. I experienced sheer physical and emotional exhaustion. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning, let alone think about trying to communicate with the outside world or keep my business running. I used up all of my energy taking care of funeral arrangements, legal paperwork, financial paperwork, and plans for the estate sale — I frankly had nothing left to give, not even to myself. I hit absolute rock-bottom in terms of output, and I was forced to simply stop. Not slow down, but stop. For the first time ever.

Newton's first law states that a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless stopped by an outside force — while a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless started moving by an outside force. Translate that into sociological terms, and you will understand why it's so easy to stay productive once you're in a groove, and why it's so hard to get back in gear once you lose that momentum. Exercise is a good example. If you can just allow yourself to be acted on by an outside force (for example, a trainer or a gym class or a piece of weight-lifting equipment), you are set in motion — it takes less and less effort to stay with it the longer you consistently work out. But stop for a while (because you got sick, your schedule became too busy, or your gym closed, whatever outside force you choose), and inertia takes over. Once you've come to rest, it's going to take a lot more effort to get back on track. I can tell you that this is true from personal experience. Wink But I'm not suggesting that it's realistic or even wise to try and keep going when you run into an obstacle. Sometimes, an extended period of inertia when you've run out of gas is a good thing — just what you need to then bounce back even harder.

The Physics Of Motivation

To quote the book of Ecclesiastes (or The Byrds, if you prefer) — “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose. A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time to get, a time to lose. A time to keep silence, a time to speak. A time to build up, a time to break down. A time to dance, a time to mourn.” Nothing can grow and bloom and thrive year-round — every creature on this planet needs a period of rest. There's a reason that plants and animals go into hibernation during the winter —  they take a break during the hard season in order to prepare for the spring. And if you try to force a creature out of hibernation too soon, you can kill it. This was my hibernation, a time to rest and heal. And by not rushing things, taking as much time as I needed, I have come back even stronger in the long run.

Newton's third law says that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sociologically (again), this means that when you work hard, you need to to take a break. And conversely, by taking that “time-out” to regroup, you will be more productive when your nose returns to its grindstone. I am certain that, had I continued pushing when I was spent, beating my head against a wall when I should have just quit for a little while, I would be in worse shape than ever. But I recognized my limits and took a powder when it got to be too much — I gave myself the gift of time and space, saying no to all of my commitments until I was ready to return to the world. And I have allowed myself to re-enter the water slowly, one step at a time instead of jumping back in with both feet (and drowning in the process!) I know that not everyone has that luxury, that kind of control over his or her schedule — but if you can swing it, it makes all the difference in the world.

I stepped off the career path for an extended period because I had no other choice — but I worried the whole time that I would lose my place in line and people would forget about me. Now I am returning even more sure of what I want to accomplish and how to get there than ever. I feel calm, full of clarity, and ready to tackle each new day. Thanks to this burst of energy, my business is thriving. And I now realize that I have the power to walk away for a bit whenever I need a little to re-evaluate my position and re-invigorate my spirit. That's the best lesson I've learned all year!

A Faster Way To Get Kids Organized

Contrary to popular belief children were not put on this planet to perpetuate chaos — hell-bent on undoing your housework and leaving piles of clutter trailing behind them. Kids actually thrive on order, but it's not something they can easily maintain until you teach them how — and children have short attention spans, so you can't expect a 6-year-old to stay focused as long as an adult might. You'll get a better response (and your children will experience a greater sense of achievement) if you ask your kids to complete just one small task at a time — something concrete and specific.  With the right action plan, there will be no misunderstanding about what you expect from your offspring, and your kids will soon be picking up after themselves without you even asking! Have your kids:

  • sit down with you to draw up a chore chart for the week
  • help prepare a week's worth of packed lunch “basics” (veggies, cookies, crackers, fruit, etc.)
  • collect up all their scattered pairs of shoes and coats to put away in their closets
  • go around the house, gathering their stray toys from each room into a basket
  • put away any games or toys as soon as play time is over
  • sort their dirty clothes into “whites,” “colors,” and “darks” on laundry day
  • put away their newly cleaned laundry
  • clean out all the broken crayons and used-up paint in their art supplies
  • go through their school supplies and clean out anything they no longer use in class
  • label each of their drawers with a picture of what's stored inside (shirts, pants, undies, socks, etc.)
  • sort their craft paraphernalia into separate tubs (for beads, glitter, markers, construction paper, etc.)
  • pull out any toys that are too childish for them to donate
  • try on last year's school clothes and get rid of what no longer fits
  • go through their art papers and pick only those favorites to hang or put in a scrapbook
  • go through their school papers and pick only those favorites to keep as memorabilia
  • choose their school outfits for the next week
  • gather up everything they need for school the next day and sit it by the front door
  • group their books together by author or type (coloring, picture, story, etc.)
  • put all their CDs, DVDs, and software discs back in the correct cases
  • sort their sports equipment into containers according to the game and label with pictures

See how easy that was? Wink