OF CLOCKS AND TIMERS

Time is intangible. You can’t see, smell, taste, hear, or feel it. So, it’s hard to pin down. Probably one of the reasons clocks were invented.

Timers can be a great help for keeping track of our time. Decide you’re going to work for an hour, set the timer, and you don’t have to think about time again until it goes off. Smart.

Clocks are not nearly as helpful, but if you check them often enough and pay attention, you may learn to “feel” how much time has passed and be able to guess pretty accurately what time it is. (I can actually do this, probably because I used to be very time conscious about everything, so I know it’s possible).

But I recommend using a timer. The benefits are many.

Here’s one example. You need to tackle a job that can take hours that you hate (cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and scrubbing them down, cleaning out a closet, or the garage, for example). Tell yourself you’ll work on it for fifteen minutes every day until the whole job is done. Every day at a set time, get ready, set your timer for fifteen minutes, and begin. You can stop at fifteen minutes, or if you feel like it, continue for a while. But don’t push yourself or you won’t want to put in your fifteen minutes the next day. You can always stop at fifteen minutes. Because tomorrow you going to do it for fifteen minutes again, and you know it will eventually be all done.

Or perhaps you want to do a big project, and you really like doing it, but you keep procrastinating. Again, set a time of day to start, put your timer on one hour, and go. At one hour, do stop. If you’ve been sitting, get up. Stretch. Do a small chore, grab something to eat, freshen up, make a phone call (standing). If you’ve been on your feet the whole time, sit down with a snack, file your nails, make a phone call—anything that takes about ten minutes Then you can call it a day, or go for another hour, then take another break. And so on.

You can use the same method to get a lot of small jobs done all at once. Set the timer for half an hour or an hour, and work on that list until the time is up. Tomorrow’s another day.

Hope this is helpful.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TO-DO LISTS

The importance of to-do lists cannot be over-stated. Almost everyone who uses them gets more done than those who don’t. Sure, a few people can keep everything in their heads without a problem. Most of us need some help remembering, especially lists.  Studies have shown that people who are disorganized are anxious. Making a list of to-dos, and using a planner, calendar or spreadsheet for expenses can help calm the anxiety.

However, be very careful with that to-do list. Here are several ideas I’ve come across during my study of this subject:

Go ahead, make the list. Then choose either the three or up to six most important things on it. Write them down on another list, and put away your longer one. Concentrate on getting those three to six things done before tackling anything else. This does not work for long-term projects, however. Most people cannot write a whole novel using this idea.

In that case, break your six larger projects down into smaller chunks. For the novel, your to-do list says to work for a certain about of time or word count every day. Then you go on to the next item.

If the next item of importance can be finished, after doing your hour or so on the broken-down project, finish item two.

Maybe item three or four is also a project that will need to be spread out over several days. Again, plan to devote a certain amount of time to it, then get to the other things.

Another way to do a list is to break down your life into sections: Family, work, health, finances/family business, spirituality, leisure. Or pick your life priorities, and put them in order of importance. Then plan to devote a certain amount of time every day to each one. In this case, you’ll probably have to again break down your work priorities into order of importance and amount of time to spend on each every day during working hours. Notice the coincidence of my listing six life priorities. The other day I read about picking three things from your to-do list every day to concentrate one. Today, I read about picking six items. I’ve seen the other idea of life priorities over the years.

I’m thinking for work, you might want to have three major project priorities, and three smaller ones that can be done quickly.

I suggest fooling with your to-do list or lists (could be one for work and one for personal) until you find a system that makes you the least anxious and least likely to procrastinate.

That will end up being your own, personal system.Then, you can do the happy dance.

COSTS OF BEING DISORGANIZED

Do you ever think about the many costs of being disorganized? Here are quite a few. There are probably some I’ve missed.

FINANCIAL:

  • Uncashed checks.
  • Unclaimed insurance payments.
  • Unused coupons.
  • Late fees on bills.
  • Late fees for conference registrations.
  • Missed errors on your bank statements you forgot to look over.
  • Rebates not sent for on time.
  • Business expenses not claimed for company reimbursement.
  • Business expenses not reimbursed by company not taken as a tax deduction.
  • Money spent for a storage unit.
  • Losing track of items and having to buy replacements.

TIME:

  • Looking for lost items.
  • Being interrupted and then getting back on task.
  • No systems for handling mail and email.
  • Sifting through items to find the one you want—too much clutter.

EMOTIONAL:

  • Stress when you can’t find something while searching.
  • Time lost for inability to find things after you find it (if you do).
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • A feeling that others will judge you for being disorganized.
  • Uneasiness when people drop in on you.
  • Depression.

SOCIAL:

  • Old friends drop off when you miss one too many meetups or are continuously late.
  • You don’t invite people into your office or over to your house because of the clutter.
  • Your loved ones complain.
  • A loved one stops interacting with you through divorce or just distancing him or herself.

Now flip all the above to see how correcting the behavior will benefit you. You can have more time to relax and enjoy life, and you can feel better about yourself if you’re organized.

I’M NOT HERE BECAUSE I’M SOMEWHERE ELSE

Since I have a guest blog up this week about writing and time management for writers, and an article in a newsletter about blogging, I thought it best to direct everyone to those instead of posting yet another article here.

I’m delighted to be at lovely Patricia Stoltey’s blog today, and as a bonus, giving away a copy of Organized to Death to someone who comments:

http://bit.ly/17HcCyf

Patricia Stoltey

And I’m featured in this month’s SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) newsletter where I talk about blogging—scroll about halfway down this page to read it:

http://www.spawn.org/blog/?p=2625

So, get outa here and go read elsewhere! Thank you.

MORNING, ALL DAY, AND NIGHT

For a more productive day. Some of this is a repeat, but I think it’s worth saying it a bit differently so it can sink in.

When you first settle down to work, decide what your top priorities are for the day and decide when you’re going to do them. Make a to-do list in order or list them on your calendar.

What you want to do in the moment is often different from what you’d hoped to accomplish that  day. Stopping every hour to think about what you’re doing will help keep you on track.

Before dinner, assess your day. What went right? What do you wish you’d accomplished and didn’t, and why not? What can you do tomorrow to make it a better day than today was?

Fine tune: Only decide what you want to do each morning in order to be happy about it when you look back. After lunch, decide what you want to do in the afternoon so it will be a great one. Same after dinner. What will make it a memorable or productive evening?

Example: If you’re a writer or work at home, decide how much you’re going to write (words or timeframe) in the morning. Maybe morning is also the time you exercise. Get those two things done before lunch, and you have a great start. Afternoon—is this the time you’ll do housework, catch on email and phone calls? List what chores and emails you want to work on. After dinner, decide whether you’re going to do a few more work-related things or chores, or if you’re going to watch a movie you’ve been putting off, or a TV show, or dip into that book you got from the library. Try to leave at least the last two or three hours before you go to bed for relaxation, doing something you love to do so you end the day in a great frame of mind and relaxed.

AUTOPILOT REVISITED

He’s back:

Remember my post about developing habits to help you get through your days quicker and easier? http://www.janchristensen.com/is-habit-destiny/

Well, here are a few more thoughts about fine-tuning your schedule.

1.     Have a routine for checking your notes, calendar and to-do lists every day.

2.     For major projects, don’t list on your to-do list more than three to five actions related to the ones you’re going to tackle that day.

3.     Prioritize your goals on your list, not just in your head.

4.     Take items off your lists that are no longer necessary or desired, even if you haven’t finished them. It’s surprising how many of us leave things on there that no longer interest us or that we haven’t a prayer of accomplishing. They just clutter lists up and can make you feel discouraged.

Realize that you cannot always, get everything done that’s on your to-do list every day. Hardly anyone ever does. This will eliminate a lot of stress.

And finally, effective time management uses the great in-and-out system;

Try not to take on a new task before an old one is finished.

This works on so many levels—Before bringing in a new food product, new clothing, new decorations, new project, new anything, get rid of something else. You whole life will be less cluttered.

And your time will be more easily managed.

TWO IMPORTANT TIMES OF DAY

How you start and end your day can make it or break it plus help you the following day.

First thing in the morning, get ready. Get dressed, get groomed, and get a good breakfast. Then check over your notes, to-do list, and your calendar and plan out your day.

Digital Display with

At the end of the day, clean up. Take about fifteen minutes to straighten your work space, your kitchen and handle emails and mail if you haven’t done so before the end of the day.

These two simple habits will make you more productive and sane.

START YOUR DAYS STRONG

A frequent and probably one of the most valuable tips about getting things done is to start your day with the most important tasks (especially if you’re a morning person) or the most disliked tasks.

Before you start on your tasks each day, though, it’s a good idea to check:

·       Your notes – Run through your notes. You made them for a reason, so be sure to check them every morning.  Put your appointments on your calendar, your chores on your to-do list, and your long-term goals on your bucket list.

Then check:

·       Your calendar. See what’s up for the day and for the coming week or two.

·       Your to-do list. Have tasks front and center. If you see them often, you are more likely to get them done. This list is there to remind you of what you need to do soon.

·       Your bucket list. Maybe you can do part of a project this week. If you don’t think about them they’ll never get done.

·       Your inboxes, both virtual and actual. Save them for last. A lot of them will include requests from other people, and if you handle them first, you might get lost in the forest and not get your own trees taken care of. However, if you can start your day with your inboxes empty, you’ll be ahead for the rest of the day and will be motivated to get even more done. But again, be sure not to get caught up in other things. Move chores from there to your to-do list or calendar, or take notes. But unless it’s an emergency, get going on what you had planned for the day first.

Isn’t it a great feeling to be in control and have a plan? I thought so. Enjoy your day!

QUICK CLEAN ANYTHING

Need to clean up the kitchen, bathroom, refrigerator, your office? Here’s the best way to do any clean-up job quickly:

  1. Put everything away, or pull everything out of what you want to clean (like the refrigerator).
  2. Start at the highest point, and dust or wipe everything down, circling the area if it’s large, like a living room or bedroom, or starting at one end of a long space like the laundry room or the bathroom and moving to the end.
  3. Clean the floors—spot clean as necessary, and do a thorough job on a routine basis.

Sounds simple and easy when you break it down like this, doesn’t it? Since I sit a lot of the time on my computer, I break up jobs like these just the way I have them listed above. It doesn’t take more than ten minutes to straighten up a room in preparation to dust it or wipe things down. Except for possibly the kitchen, it doesn’t take much more than ten minutes to dust or wipe. For the kitchen, I sometimes break it into two sessions. Same for the floors.

And if everything is put away after it’s used, you can even pretty much skip #1 except when cleaning out something.

Another way to tackle keeping everything clutter-free and clean is to do one type of job in those ten minutes. Dust as many rooms as you can in ten minutes, go back to your sit-down job, then do another ten minutes after another hour has passed. Like this: I do the bathroom and kitchen on Wednesdays, I dust mop the bare floors and dust all the furniture on Fridays (I take Thursdays and Sundays off), and I vacuum the whole house and wash the floors on Saturday. This way you only get out your supplies for each job once a week instead of getting them all out every day to do, say two rooms a day.

The main points: Keep everything picked up and put away. And spot clean every room every day—counters in kitchen and baths, spots on the floor, handprints around doorknobs and so on. When you see something dirty or out of place, take a moment to fix it.

DEADLINES

Have you thought about deadlines? I hope you’ve learned to prioritize your to-do list, keep your calendar updated, and have a place to jot down notes.

Next in your time management arsenal should be making deadlines for each task. Many of us do not report to anyone else—we’re stay-at-home moms, creatives, or entrepreneurs who report only to ourselves.

 

Working to deadlines, self-imposed or not, is smart. Some can be as simple as having a goal to finish a certain project by lunchtime. Or have several things you want to do before you go to bed every night. Others can be a lot more difficult to set, especially if they’re really big projects (such as writing a book or decorating a whole house). In the case of big projects, break them down into daily doable timeframes, figure out how many days it will take you to finish, give yourself a few days wiggle room, and put that deadline down on your calendar. And keep it at the front of your mind every day as you do your daily work.

Good planning, then having deadlines are the keys to good time management.