Productivity
Productivity Coaching, Time Management Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Time Management Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Time Management Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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Productivity

On the quest to minimize paper I will share with you a tip that helps me a lot.  I have a designated holding zone.  This is where I put things that I don’t need now, but am not quite ready to do something with or get rid of.

Remembering the proven statistic that “80-85% of all papers put into files are never referenced again” helps to explain the purpose of the HOLDING ZONE.  Think of it as a step on the path to the recycle bin, but with the opportunity to retrieve it if need be.  When I do my weekly office organizing session, I work to make all the paper go away.  But there are always a few things that I am not quite ready to toss and don’t want to put into my files or my action system.  My solution is to pop them right into my holding zone.

It is important to go through the holding zone ever 2 or 3 months to see what can be moved out (filed, recycled or act on) so this area remains functional, otherwise you’ll just end up with an out-of-control mess.  (To get into the habit, I recommend you calendar “process holding zone” every other month.)

The holding zone can be a file, a bin, a basket or a level of a letter tray.  I use a letter tray because that’s easy for me.  What kinds of things do I have in my holding zone? Here’s a sampling:

  • The certificate for the two hours of tech support I won at the silent auction
  • Notes from a project that I completed but want to keep around for a bit just in case
  • A sample of a marketing campaign from a local theater that I liked and might want to do something with
  • An idea for a product that I might want to do something with

Once again, remember that if the system isn’t easy, it’s too hard.  Find an out of the way, yet accessible, place and set up your holding zone today.

 

Evernote

Imagine 1000 sticky notes that are organized and available at the click of a mouse.  Meet Evernote.  Evernote is a cloud based application that can be accessed from just about anywhere – your PC, your Mac, your iPhone, your iPad and/or your Android phone.  And it’s FREE!  Go to www.evernote.com and download it.  Play with it.  Basically, all you need to know to get started is that you make a note – give it a title and Evernote saves it.  Then when you want to find it you can search on any word in the note and it will pull it up for you.  Later, when you get more comfortable with it, you can take pictures into your notes, cut and paste links and photos into your notes, and even do voice to text input.  Here are some ideas about how I use mine:

  • Favorite lists:  books to read, restaurants to go to (each city has its own note), wines to try, nail polish colors I like
  • Numbers: Frequent Flyer Numbers, Insurance numbers, Clothing/Shoe sizes
  • Maps: Pictures of how to get from point to point
  • Things to Buy: Pictures of my odd size light bulb for my desk or the humidifier filter I only have to buy once a year
  • Lists of names: friend’s kids/ grand kids/ husbands names, etc.
  • Notes from meetings
  • Summary notes from articles or books
  • Absolutely anything that is on scrap of paper that can now be placed into a sortable manageable system

Evernote is really a simple system to use.  Do yourself a favor and try it today.

Developing a habit is an important part of creating change, but an equally important aspect is creating a process.  And not just any process, a SIMPLE process.  For if I’ve learned anything working with my clients, I’ve learned “if it’s not simple, it’s too hard.”  Creating a simple process is perhaps the most crucial aspect of driving change.

What does creating a process look like?  If I asked you to write down the steps to do something you do every day you could.  Let’s take getting dressed each morning.  My system looks like this:  1. Take shower 2. Brush teeth 3. Put in contacts….. etc.  I do the same thing each morning.  I don’t need to think about it, I’ve done it so many times that it has become rote.

Everything that is done routinely needs a clearly thought out process.  Let’s apply this concept to staying on top of the papers in your office.  We start by breaking this into WHAT, HOW and WHEN.

“WHAT” is the goal: “round up the piles, papers and notes into a clearly prioritized task list in order to be able to focus on my most important work.”

“HOW” is the process:

  1. Gather all papers and notes that are laying around into one big pile
  2. Pick up the top item in the pile – ask: what needs to be done?
    1. If I need to put it away – put it away
    2. If I don’t need it – put it in the trash, recycle or shred zone
    3. If I need to give it to someone else – put it in a pile with their name on it
    4. If I need to take action on it – prioritize the action (critical, hot, sooner, later) on my task list and decide if I still need the paper (put it in the take action zone or throw away if I can)
  3. Pick up the next item and process
  4. Continue until I’ve cleared the pile
  5. Distribute sorted papers to their proper places
  6. Review my task list to ensure proper prioritization

“WHEN” is the frequency: “I will schedule 2 hours each week.”  Put it on your calendar.  If something comes up and you have to move it, that’s fine as long as you spend the 2 hours each week.  (Realistically, when you get started this can take 2 hours.  As time goes on it may take less than 1).

While this process may seem daunting, the more you work it, the easier it becomes.  By having the process written down it helps you to keep on track, and on task, until it becomes rote.

effective decision making

Being a solopreneur or telecommuter has many advantages. But there are also a few disadvantages.  One of them is that there is no one in the next office to bounce ideas off of. As the old saying goes “two heads are better than one.”  And the more I study group dynamics, the more I KNOW that many heads create best decisions.

But what happens when we are working alone? I see in many of my clients that making decisions often presents road blocks. From a productivity perspective, I don’t think that in this situation rushing to conclusion is the best solution.

To make a good decision, one should:

  1. Be clear about the problem and what you want to happen
  2. Gather facts – who, what, where, why, when, etc.
  3. Develop alternatives – brainstorm, discuss, debate
  4. Decide on the best solution – considering how it will affect other aspects of the business and analyzing consequences

1,2, and 4 we can do on our own. But who do we brainstorm with? Consider – a mastermind group, an accountability partner, a coach, a consultant, or colleagues from a professional association.  I depend on my NAPO colleagues most of the time.  When it’s a big decision I often consult an expert or coach.  Regardless, I know that ideas spark ideas, and for my decision making to be most effective I can’t do it alone.

I’ve stumbled upon an awesome technique to get me through the day on those days that I have just too much to do and can’t figure out where to start or what to do first.  I write each task, to-do, and action step on an individual post it.  Then I arrange them in order of:

  • Do what’s most time sensitive first
  • Do what’s most important next
  • Do what has to come before something else before I can do the other thing

It does take a few minutes to write out the post-its, but it’s a very useful exercise.  By doing this I am:

  • Getting clear on today’s priorities
  • Narrowing my focus on the most important things
  • Letting go of those things on my list that really aren’t important.

Useful Hints:

  • I’m loving these new 2×2 post-its
  • Post so you can see from your desk
  • Use a marker so you can read it from your desk
  • Color code if it makes you happy
  • If you have a lot of the same task to do, (phone calls, invites, notes to send) break it out in smaller groups (a few at a time – with each batch getting it’s own post-it) so it’s not so overwhelming.

The Best Part:

  • Taking down each post-it feels so good
  • You have a visual picture to get you through the day
  • At the end of the day when there is only a few post-its left you feel so good

And as much as I love my technology, sometimes low-tech is the best way to fly.  Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Many people use their email signature as a way to communicate credentials, contact information and marketing links. Sometimes people include an inspirational message. These are all great uses…but there is more you can do.

Most email programs provide an option for multiple signatures. Some people use this feature to change between business and personal signatures. This of course is helpful. But imagine the possibilities if you used these signatures to communicate information you use all the time.

The best way for me to explain this is to share what I do. If I find that I’m sending the same information in emails over and over again, it is worthwhile to turn it into a signature (I actually put the body of the letter into the signature.) Then when I need to send that email, all I need to do is change to that particular signature, add the salutation (Dear Jane), make a few personalization tweaks, and hit send.

Here are the signatures I use:

  • Coaching – is used when replying to a client interested in coaching
  • Ellen – is for when I just want my name
  • Ellen Faye Organization – is my full blown signature with all the bells and whistles
  • Ellen Personal – is for personal correspondence with my home phone #, etc.
  • Ellen Short – is essential information used for business
  • Mom – is for my kids… (says…Love, Mom)

This super useful tool saves me a great deal of time. Check out the signatures feature in your email program to see how you can benefit. Questions – post them as a comment on my blog and I’ll get back to you right away.