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Ten Terrific Tips

Sometimes just the right tip, trick or tool can shift us into a whole new paradigm of organizational bliss. I remember back in 1998 when I was introduced to my first PDA (personal digital assistant). In those days, it didn’t even include a cell phone or camera but it still changed my productivity and feeling of control over my work fairly radically. 

A great tip, trick or tool doesn’t have to be high tech. For example, using a simple egg timer at your desk can really be an eye-opener as to how much time you really spend on phone calls, e-mails and office chit chat. Here are some other easy but effective tips to help you pack as much productivity into this short month as possible.

• For one week, keep a record of every little thing you do as part of your morning routine and time each item. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, even weighing in on the scale only take minutes apiece but with the myriad of other little tasks we need to do to get out the door each morning, it adds up. Once you know how long it really takes to get ready, you can set your alarm accordingly.

• Keep a clock in the bathroom and anywhere else you get ready to pace yourself.

In addition to an egg timer, a regular timer is a fabulous tool for the office. Set it to learn to limit your phone calls and meetings (if appropriate). When the buzzer sounds, wrap up the conversation or task so that you can stay on schedule.

• When you are on a phone call, turn away from your door and also turn off or turn away from your computer screen so that you can give the call your full attention. There are truly no phone calls that won’t be more effective if you give them full attention. 

• If you’re put on hold, have any unsorted business cards handy and do a mini-purge, or go through your Rolodex or contacts list and toss or delete any that are no longer relevant.

• Before you dial, give some thought to what you want to accomplish with the phone call. A little planning and a clear idea of how much time you want to spend on the call will keep the length manageable and render a lot more value.

• Remember, if an e-mail conversation has gone on too long without yielding results, pick up the phone and have a conversation. It will allow you to move the project or situation forward.

• Clean as you go. Whether chopping vegetables, putting on make-up or working on an art piece, if we tidy up after each task it prevents the overwhelm at the end of the day that often causes us to abandon the effort to stay organized altogether.

Top up regularly. I heard a story over Christmas about a woman who was lost at sea for 22 days before being rescued. Since then she will not board any plane or do anything without having a meal first or bringing snacks along, since she knows what it’s like to be without food for such a long time. Though most of us will not experience such drastic circumstances, it’s a great lesson to prevent the nagging hunger, thirst, empty gas tank, uncharged phone and other organizational irritants. When your car’s gas tank reads less than half full, stop and fill ‘er up at the next opportunity. Fill up your water bottle. Keep your electronic devices charged up. Buy stamps before you’re completely out.

Keep your “to read” stack with you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The time we spend waiting around before appointments or while waiting for our car at the maintenance shop can be used to stay on top of the copious amount of reading we all seem to have. Getting through a week’s worth of articles pertinent to your life will feel so much better than catching up on the lives of celebrities.