Posts Tagged ‘time management’

Posted on: March 25th, 2013 by Kristi | No Comments

the non-planner datebook

What organizational product do I see the most of when I visit clients homes?  No, the answer is not calendars, planners and to-do lists.  The product I see the most of is organizing books.  The second most popular find is organizing bins.  The third is calendars, planners and to-do lists. 

Why do I find these items so frequently and in such high volume in clients homes?  The top two were no surprise to me and easy to diagnose.   

  • My clients have a stash of organizing books because they want to be organized.  They are intelligent people and sought out resources.  They eventually came to realize that they simply didn’t have the time to organize on their own, that some steps in the books were difficult to handle emotionally (if it was all about intelligence, I’d be out of a job) and that the steps in the books really weren’t made for their specific situations.  So, I get called in to plan, support and assist.   
  • My clients have a varied collection of organizing bins because they want to be organized.  They are intelligent people and sought out resources.  They eventually came to realize that without a plan, the bins simply displace the clutter.

The third was a little more difficult for me to analyze.  Why do they have so many calendars, planners and lists?  Some are blank, some are partially filled, some are new, some are years old, some are decorative, some are plain, some are small, some are large and some are even electronic.  What became clear was that none were working.  Once again, the products showed a desire to manage their time.  The products showed intelligent people that sought out solutions.  I have come to find that there is no area in which people try to fit into what is popular, current and usual more so than in the area of time management.  People tend to think that one planner or one calendar fits all.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Left-brainers may do well with a typical planner, but right-brainers are more creative and visual.  They need planners that reflect these traits.  What ever happened to writing on the back of your hand?  Well, maybe we don’t need to consider that one, but we do need to consider everything and anything until….it works!  This is one of the services I love to provide my clients.  You don’t have to use a thick planner!  You can use sticky notes, the wall, voice recorders, pictures, index cards, etc…  My August issue of Organization-411 will focus on these creative time management techniques (as well as back to school tips for the parents out there).  In the meantime, check out two of my favorite “planners” linked below.  Also, if this is an area you would like help in, time management is one of the services I provide.  We will work to find what works for YOU!

 

A Favorite Planner for the Creative 


Another Favorite

A Faster Way To Organize Your Home

There's so much to do when you're running a household — just keeping your physical space in order and making sure your family is properly fed can be a full-time job! However, most people can't (and don't want to) spend all week on chores, because they have other responsibilities to think about — so you have to find ways to make those routine everyday tasks take less time. The good news is that the right household environment naturally makes everything easier — that includes meals, getting ready in the morning, and clean-up. You know that old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine”? Well that's what it's all about — investing a little bit of energy up front to create a system that works for you will save a lot of unnecessary work down the road!

  • walk through one room in the house and put away anything that is out of place
  • set up a basket at the base / top of the stairs for items that need to go up / down
  • gather up every book in you own in one specific category (self-help, history, biography, etc.)
  • organize one grouping / category / author of books alphabetically on your shelves
  • set up your pills and vitamins for the week in a daily dosage container — AM, mid-day, PM
  • move everything  for your AM routine (coffee/tea, meds, supplements) together into one cabinet
  • group all of one kind of food (cereals, canned goods, baking items, etc.) together in your pantry
  • put all loose bulk food items in lidded containers in your pantry — don't forget to label them
  • figure out your menu for the week, including page numbers for the recipes
  • write out a grocery shopping list for the week's meals
  • chop / marinate / prep your veggies and meat (in containers in the fridge) for the week's meals
  • cook a batch of a favorite dish (spaghetti sauce, soup, lasagna, etc.) and freeze individual servings
  • rinse your dishes right after each meal to prevent food from drying and becoming stuck on them
  • choose outfits for each day of the next week, including shoes and accessories
  • separate your casual clothes from dressy, or summer from winter, or work from play in your closet
  • put all of your shoes on racks or in labeled boxes by pairs
  • set up bins for separating out “dry cleaning,” “repairs,” and “alterations” in your closet
  • break your gift wrap paper / bags / tags / bows / ribbon into separate labeled tubs
  • clear your bathroom counter of everything except what you use daily for your grooming routine
  • set up an area at each entryway where visitors can remove their shoes to keep from tracking dirt in

See how easy that was? Wink

Calculate The Financial Cost

Disorganization is an insidious but often unnoticed drain on your wallet. The money leaks start as dribbles, but over time, become a flood that sweeps you away. You can't find your electric bill to pay it until a week after the due date — 20% finance charge. You throw your mail in a pile, unopened on the desk, and an early conference registration deadline passes you by — $50 late fee. You misplace a gift card from your birthday and don't find it until it has expired — $25 you could have saved. You shove your bank statements in a drawer without looking at them and overlook an error in your last deposit — $100 lost. It's a simple equation — the more organized you are, the more money you save.

Reclaim Your Wasted Space

How often do you acquire something that you really didn't want,  need, or care about? Could be a magazine, a brochure, a free giveaway at the store — you accepted it unconsciously, now it's taking up valuable space that could be used for some better purpose. The piles are squeezing us out of home and office, and without a good system for staying on top of it all (read that as “throwing away the 90% that is junk and keeping the 10% that matters”), we quickly find ourselves buried in clutter. It's become so bad that many people buy homes larger than they need to store stuff they've never even looked at — and pay the storage industry thousands of dollars a year to babysit unopened boxes of who-knows-what. This is a serious epidemic!

Plug Any Drains In Your Time

Clutter can also be found in your schedule — this type of disorganization is particularly irritating and frustrating, because it's eating up precious minutes of your life that you can never regain. You know you're experiencing time clutter when you seem to always be running late, no matter how hard you try to get out of the house on time — when you go 90 miles an hour every day, but can't manage to get caught up — when “time wasters” like procrastination and interruptions keep you from ever completing a project — when you're always putting out fires, functioning in “reactive” mode instead of “proactive” mode — and when you can't focus on your real priorities because your to-do list is always full of busy work. It's time to get off the treadmill!

Stop Wasting Emotional Energy

How often has the stress in your life been related to disorganization? Your mood is greatly affected by how smoothly your day goes — have you ever had your entire day spin out of control because spent 20 minutes searching for your car keys or misplaced a document or were late for a meeting? It's depressing to see nothing but piles and stacks around you — the mental toll is just as great as the more tangible costs of disorganization. But once you realize how much disorganization is costing you, you have a reason to want to change. The idea of cleaning out all the clutter, setting up storage systems, and revamping your schedule may seem overwhelming — but I guarantee you that getting organized is way less challenging than continuing to attempt to function in the middle of chaos.

Keep the vision of a clutter-free and chaos-free life in front of you for motivation as you move forward with your organizing efforts. And just recognize that this is going to be a process (possibly a slow one) — it's not going to happen overnight. But if you commit to your goals and stick with it, just another small change every day, you will see progress. It's never too late to get organized!

A Faster Way To Clean Out

Cleaning out is often exhausting work — especially for those who haven't done it in a while. It's easy to walk into a room filled with clutter and become completely overloaded by the task at hand. You try to empty the whole space at once, don't even come close to finishing it all, and end up feeling like a failure  — will you ever be able to see the floor again? Rather than overdoing it (and subsequently paralyzing yourself with frustration and despair), why not set yourself up for success — by tackling just one small pile at a time? If you simply make use of those odd free moments (say, two or three times a day, every day for a week) — you will make a bigger dent in the mess than if you devoted your entire Saturday to sifting and sorting and cleaning out!

  • start a box of items to donate — every time you find something you don't need, toss it in
  • check your desk for dried up pens and markers and throw them out
  • sort through your Tupperware and remove any bowl or lid that's missing it's mate
  • try on clothes you haven't worn in the past year and get rid of anything that doesn't fit
  • gather up a pile of library books / rented videos and return them from whence they came
  • look through your shelves and pull books you'll never read again to donate to the library
  • clean the trash out of your junk drawer
  • remove the extra empty hangers out of your closet and take them to your dry cleaner
  • get rid of old or yucky makeup in your cosmetic drawer
  • put all those purchases you've been meaning to return in a box and schedule an errand day
  • pull out any torn / worn underwear and socks — either turn into rags or discard
  • toss empty bottles of household cleaners, car care items, and gardening chemicals in the garage
  • go through your magazines / catalogs and toss all but the most recent issue
  • throw out expired food from your refrigerator and pantry
  • sort through your recipes and toss those you're never going to get around to making
  • when you unpack your holiday decorations, discard broken ornaments, lights, candles, etc.
  • create a pile of borrowed items to give back to your friends and family
  • clean out batteries and light bulbs that no longer work
  • toss expired items, empty bottles, and used-up grooming supplies in your medicine cabinet
  • put all your “donates” in the car and drive them to the nearest charity drop-off point — now!

See how easy that was? Wink

An Epidemic Of Assumptions

People simply assuming that you are free to help with a project or attend a meeting, without asking first. Folks dropping by your home or office to “chat” during work hours, not giving a thought to the fact that you might be busy. Your kids expecting to be chauffeured around all weekend, never once imagining that you might have other plans. And technology has made it even worse — quick, drop everything and deal with each request as it comes in, lest you make the other person wait even 30 seconds for a response! But what about your time? Isn't it just as important?

There is one hard truth out there that most people don't want to face — you are responsible for the fact that other people either respect or don't respect your time. There is no one else to blame but yourself. You have to be the one to set some boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not. The only reason that folks take advantage of you, expect too much from you, or don't allow you the room for personal free time is that you have let them behave that way in the past — and they've gotten used to it. But if you draw a different line in the sand — develop some “time management ground rules” and stick to them — you will be amazed at the change not only in yourself, but in the people around you.

Set Aside Time For You

When we talk about “me time,” most people think of lounging in the bathtub, a lazy Saturday with a good book, or a week-long retreat in which you re-discover your inner child. But “me time” is any time spent doing the things that keep you sane. That might mean exercise or meditation, a hobby or lunch with a neighbor. You could choose to organize your closet, paint the kitchen, or finish up an important professional project. The only rule is that “me” time should move you closer to feeling balanced, caught-up, calm, and in control of your life. For my own personal sanity, I need to have one day a week in which I take care of “administrative work.” I might return phone calls, answer e-mails, pay bills, buy groceries, or clean house. Or I could choose to get my hair cut, attend a yoga class, have a massage, work on an art project, or call a long-distance friend I haven't talked to in weeks. I use my “admin time” to get caught up in all the different areas of my life.

The point is, whatever you enjoy doing with your “me time,” treat it like it is sacred. Once you commit to an admin day, mark it on your calendar and guard that time with your life! If you use a paper planner, physically draw a line through the entire day with the word “Occupied” written across the top — leaving no room for you to accidentally stick in any other appointments. On an electronic calendar, set an appointment called “Occupied” that fills the whole day — and assign it a pretty font or background color as a reminder that you're taking care of yourself during that time. Nothing short of a medical emergency (or a vacation!) should get you to give up your “me” time. I often have a client ask me if I can get together on a day I have planned for admin activities.  My answer is always, “No, I'm sorry but I'm not available that day.” I can't tell you how long it took for me to become comfortable saying that! How dare I turn down an appointment with another person when I don't have anything else in my schedule that day?! Ah, but I do. I have an appointment with myself. And that's the most important appointment of all! Approve

Balance Your Free, Focus, And Buffer Days

A number of years ago, I was introduced to a way of viewing time (developed by personal coach Dan Sullivan) that really resonated with me. It offers a very simple system for using your time in the most efficient way possible. He suggests that you break your schedule into three distinct segments:

1) “focus days” — days in which you do nothing but focus on your job, on those activities that bring home the bacon (seeing clients, making sales calls, writing, painting, crunching numbers, whatever earns you a living)

2) “free days” — you do no work at all (you take that entire day to simply rest, relax, have fun, and recharge the old batteries)

3) “buffer days” — for all of those little chores that have to be done, but don't really make you any money (administrative work, personal errands, dentist appointments, trips to the library, etc.)

A number of things attracted me to this philosophy. First of all, it becomes incredibly easy to draw clear boundaries around your time. You are simply going to focus on one type of activity all day long — no confusion and no waffling about what to do. If someone asks you to do work on a “free day” or do some mindless chore on a “focus day” — the answer is “no,” plain and simple. Second, it creates an automatic sense of balance between the many activities in your life, requiring you to spend some of your time at work and some at play. Third, you really do use your hours more efficiently when you settle into one mindset for the entire day. It's the mental (and physical) switching of gears that slows us down, eats up so much of our time, and distracts us from really enjoying what we are doing at that moment.

Best of all, it's not a rigid system. You can label as many days in a week as “free” or “focus” or “buffer” as you need to, and you have the freedom to change a day's activities around at will. I've even broken it down further, counting my time before lunch as a “focus” period, and the time after lunch (when I'm sort of brain dead) as a “buffer” zone. Although you may not have total control over your schedule — especially when you work a 9 to 5 job — you can still apply these principles to your life, making weekdays “focus” days, setting aside one day a week for “buffer” activities, and saving at least one weekend day as “free.”

Healthy Boundaries

Most folks have no clue how to draw the line with people who ask too much of them — unfortunately, it's not something you really learn in school (why don't they offer a class called “Boundaries 101”?) In fact, parents and teachers often instill the exact opposite values in kids — expecting them to cram more and more and more into their schedules, teaching them to automatically say “yes” to any request under the guise of being ambitious and accommodating (and we wonder why they turn into overwhelmed adults!)

We're always so afraid of offending another person by saying “no” — even if acquiescing is going to stress us out or keep us from being able to take care of other more important tasks on our list. But you need to learn how to tactfully dodge a request if you ever want to regain control over your time. The best way to do this is to offer another alternative.

If you can't participate right now because you are too busy, but you would really like to help at a later time, say so. “I'm sorry, I can't do it just this minute — but I'll be free Friday afternoon, if you still need some help.” Or you might suggest another, more appropriate resource. “I'm too busy, but I have a friend who has been wanting to get involved. Let me give you her number.” And finally, if you are asked to do a job that really doesn't interest you or is outside your area of expertise, offer to assist with a different task. “That's really not my strong suit — but I would be happy to help out with ________.” You will assuage your guilt and feel as though you are still making a contribution, when you follow that “no” with a suggestion for getting the job done another way.

Healthy boundaries also mean letting go of the idea that you can (or even should) do it all yourself. We like to imagine ourselves as indispensable — falling prey to the “no-one-else-can-do-it-as-well-as-I-can” syndrome. We become unwilling to delegate jobs to other people, to ask for help, or to simply say, “I'm not going do that.” That leads to frustration and resentment — we blame other people for heaping too many responsibilities onto our plates, even though we're the ones who said, “pile 'em on!” Just understand one thing — as far as everyone else in the world is concerned, you are replaceable. I don't mean as a human being — of course you are a unique individual and we would all miss you if you were gone. Wink I'm talking about the tasks you complete, the responsibilities you take on, the favors you do for other people. It's amazing how often we think, “If I don't do it, it won't get done.” Not true — if you can't do it, they'll find someone else.

Stick To Your Guns

It's not going to be easy to change people's behavior, especially if they've grown accustomed to your being at their beck and call. But this battle is well worth fighting — if you want to survive in a crazy world with out-of-whack priorities about how we use our time. You'll hear comments like, “You were always available to babysit at the last minute before” — or, “You never had a problem working weekends in the past.” So what? You don't have to explain yourself or justify your decisions to anyone — it's your time, apportion it as you see fit! It's unfortunate, but most folks out there believe that feeling stressed, pressured, overloaded, and trapped is simply the status quo. You will have to convince them otherwise by your good example.

So if other people don't understand at first, they will when they begin to see the positive changes in your life. Suddenly, people will be asking, “How is it that you can have time for a hobby (or reading for pleasure or travel or spending a day at the park with your kids)? Can you tell me your secret?” And that's an amazing day — because you get to help one more person regain control over his or her life. You are spreading the gospel of “setting boundaries” — you touch one person and he or she touches one person and soon we have a society that's regained a sense of perspective about its priorities. Hallelujah!