Greeting cards are a wonderful way to express appreciation for the people in your life–if you can pick one up before the occasion passes by. Why not make sure you’re prepared by keeping cards on hand instead? Make this the year you get your notes in order and plan for all of the occasions likely to emerge throughout the year.
This Is How I Do It
I’ve got big dreams and a small child so tips for the work-hard-sleep-short set are my sweet spot. I appreciate when a blogosphere tidbit saves me time or money, and I hope to pay it forward with how-to posts like those shown below.
Contaminated time is your enemy. Think of those tainted moments you spend worrying about one thing when you should be focused on something else–and more worthwhile, like your family or sleep. It’s the role overload, task density and time crunch that scatter your attention, tamp down your spirits and vaporize your impact.
One surprisingly simple solution is to literally get things off your mind, by putting them down on paper, be it print or digital. Productivity guru David Allen recommends maintaining a list of every single thing you are serious about accomplishing that requires more than one action step. In his experience, folks typically juggle 30-100 projects at a time. Sound familiar?
A less-is-better ethic is taking hold of my life. Influenced by an eclectic mix of productivity gurus, leadership coaches, spiritual guides and environmentalists whose teachings are surprisingly similar, I’m getting increasingly choosy. Refusing invitations. Declining requests. Limiting commitments. Editing my closet. And generally whittling away the excesses of my life to focus on the few things that really matter to me.
Depending upon your advisor, this focus on pursuing fewer activities of higher quality apparently can help us fulfill our potential, save the planet, find God. As a recovering overscheduled-overcommitted-overwhelmed person, I’m all in with the trend…except for one area: my books.
I’ve probably bought 200 volumes in the genre, all promising to offer up the keys to eternal happiness, flawless skin, heaps of money or somesuch. On my desk this moment, I’ve got “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right,” “The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-raising” and “52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve.”
Make Yourself at Home
Find the comfiest spot in your house and declare it your get-better zone. Peace, quiet and natural light are musts. A live, verdant plant helps, too. Goes with the healthy, thriving theme.
Deck your well room out in the softest, most luxurious blankets and pillows you’ve got. You’re sick, not on punishment, so spare no comforts.
Stanford Graduate School of Business marketing professor Jennifer Aaker devised this idea and explains it in a Lean In lecture. Aaker argues that finding such multipliers will help us stay ambitious, feel less rushed and accomplish more.
If you want to be a great athlete and a great partner, go for a run with your partner, she says. If you want to volunteer at a nonprofit and be a good friend, take a friend volunteering with you.
Aaker calls such productivity pairings “doubles.” Extending the baseball analogy, a home run would be a single activity that advances four or more of your goals.
“When we feel overwhelmed, we often feel like we need to sacrifice goals,” she says. “But instead of giving up on certain goals, might we rethink time and use these tools to become more time affluent?”
The spirit of her advice is spot-on, if not the flimsy examples. Women make the best use of their time when they know what they want and then consciously choose high-impact activities that serve those goals.
Need help running the shopping gauntlet? Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here are some ideas and strategies for bobbing and weaving through the massive assault of advertising, “deals” and offers that keep us spending but never satisfied.
I love a good list. I list things to do, errands to run, calls to make. I even record things that I want other people to do for me. These Do Lists and Delegate Lists are stellar organizational tools, especially when synced and stored in the cloud so that you can access them anywhere from any device.
But when the lists get long, as they inevitably do, another variety of list is required—The Kill List. It is the more forceful cousin of the Not-To-Do List touted by productivity experts. It is a catalog of time-sucking, energy-draining, useless activity that you no longer choose to engage in.
Given our frequently complex and unpredictable lives, we all need a few daily anchors—little things that make us feel grounded and in control—if only fleetingly. For me these things include a made-up bed, a clutter-free kitchen counter and an empty email inbox.
The bed won’t stay made. The clear counter will inevitably yield to an onslaught of dishes, ingredients and mail. But at least once a day for a brief interval–let’s call it a Martha Moment–I will set things right and experience a bit of peace and quiet in an otherwise hectic day.
An empty email inbox is by far the trickiest of the three to pull off daily, but it’s possible. Productivity gurus will tout the wisdom of folders and filters. They’ll tell you to prioritize and offer tips on scanning to separate the important from the junk. They’ll lobby for regular email-checking time blocks and warn of the perils of checking messages too early in the morning or too late at night.
These email-centric tactics are all well and good. But the things that made the biggest difference in my personal quest for inbox zero happened outside the box—in my attitude and on my to-do list. If you’re ready to take charge of your inbox, follow my lead.
I knew I had a problem when, in a meeting with a couple of block-print Moleskin types, I pulled out a crumpled piece of bright yellow legal pad paper and began jotting down some notes. They watched my pen like a movie trailer.
Now, granted, part of this reaction was due to my red lacquer pen with a dragon pattern etched in gold. But these super-organized colleagues were mostly staring at the notes themselves—loopy non sequitur scrawls on unmoored paper. I vowed that when we met again, I’d have my note act together. For appearance’s sake, yes, but more importantly for my own productivity and sanity.
It didn’t take much… this time. A stroll through the office supply store and one simple tool aided a transformation that went much deeper than just appearing to be a neat note taker. In fact, it helped me bolster attentiveness during meetings, improve my follow-through on promised tasks, and make strides in my ongoing quest to commit without overcommitting. The answer? A preprinted spiral-bound notebook specifically designed for meeting notes.
When it comes to meeting notes, I’ve tried it all, from punching them into electronic devices to scribbling longhand on meeting agendas; from color-coded, project-specific binders (arranged reverse-chronologically) to scraps of paper scattered about (rarely to be seen again). Ultimately, they’ve all failed me in one or another way. Usually, by being too elaborate or too isolated.