A Full Plate

Rutabagas or Sweet Potatoes?
Rutabagas or Sweet Potatoes?

 

Most days we have too much to do, too much on our plate so to speak.  If we continually fill our lives with things to please others or only do those things we think we should do, our lives become unfulfilling and mundane.

Think of life like a Thanksgiving plate.  I’m confident that on Thursday you’ll be selective about what you put on your plate so that you’ll have room for all your favorite things.  If you fill up on rutabagas and parsnips just how much room will you have for sweet potatoes and pie?

Live your life like you fill your Thanksgiving plate – be selective about how you spend your time – and you’ll be more satisfied and fulfilled.

 

Save Time with Ellen’s Top Ten Easy Google Search Tips

Search bar
search bar

Sometimes just the smallest thing makes a difference.  We spend a lot of time on computers and if we could do what we needed to do faster than there would be more time to do the things we want to do.  Here are my Top Ten Google Search Tricks that help me save time.

Tip Issue Type in Results
1. Spell Don’t know how to spell a word? Type in the word spell and your closest guess. As long as your guess is reasonably close, Google returns the correct spelling Spell infintesimal Infinitesimal
2. Google Images When looking for a product, type in product description and select “images” for your search tool (grey options across the top – 3rd one) Desk top file and select “search images” Pages of desk top files pictures that you can shop from
 3. Define Need a definition?  You don’t need to go to a dictionary website.  Type in “define” and the word. Define Complementary Full dictionary definition
4. Minus Sign If you want to find something but leave out certain results use the minus sign Caterpillar – tractor Insect options not machinery company options
5. Date Range To identify a range of years use two periods. I use it often to get the most current technology results iPhone updates 2013..2014 Only listings posted during that range of dates
 6. Timer Let your computer alert you after a certain amount of time?  Type in “timer” and the length of time. Timer 10 minutes A countdown timer that dings when you are out of time
7. Math Don’t have a calculator handy?  Google does equations. Type in the equation and you’ll get the answer 365 * 24 8760
8. Weather What’s the temperature outside weather and zip code 10 day forecast
9. Answers questions Google is just like your smart phone’s assistant (Siri) When is daylight savings 2014 Starts March 9, Ends Nov 2
10. Exact Words When searching for exact words use quotes to delineate the exact words you are looking for  “Michael C. Jones” Only searches that have the words Michael C. Jones, in that order.

 

Dealing with Perfectionism

A+

The goal of getting organized and improving productivity is not to be perfect.  It is to make life easier and more enjoyable and fulfilling.  Complex systems are rarely the answer.  The best solutions are often the simplest.  Over complicated systems most often cannot be maintained.  More often than not, well done is good enough.

There are times that being “perfect” is important; in a client proposal, or on a resume, or in a white paper for your boss.  But equally, there are times that you don’t have to be so perfect – I’m not talking about spelling errors, or typos – I’m talking about thoroughness and precision.
When you strive for perfection your time investment is maxed out.  Where can you step back and save a bit of time and energy?  Here are my favorites:

  • Email – ask yourself, do I have to include that piece of information.  The briefer and more to the point your email is the faster it takes to write it and the easier it will be for the person receiving it to send you a prompt response
  • Planning your day – write out the top 5 things (or 3, or 7) you wish to accomplish.  Prioritize them by writing numbers next to each task – 1 for the most important, etc.  Just do it – but don’t spend a lot of time on this task – it will change anyway because you’ll never be able to anticipate the nuances of each day.  It’s the act of  planning that keeps you focused, not the exact plan itself
  • Drop the Penny – round up, it always balances out and it saves such silliness.  Imagine how many payroll dollars would be saved if employees didn’t have to count pennies.  Their impact is insignificant (unless of course you have a million of them – but that’s not the point!)

If you’re a perfectionist, try an experiment.  Pick one thing today and try to be a little less perfect.

AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS… AND NEITHER DOES EVERNOTE

EVERNOTE
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/ grandkids/ 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.

Ellen Faye’s To-Do List Categories

Ellen Faye's To-Do List Categories
Ellen Faye’s To-Do List Categories

Last week I wrote about setting up your to-do list by priorities so that you didn’t have to copy the same information over and over again.  This concept captures the new way of managing time.  The reality is that no matter how hard we work or how organized we are, we can no longer get everything done.  When planning how to use our time I have found it most effective to group my to-dos into priorities.  Many time-management gurus have their own methodology.  Mine is a hybrid – based on what I’ve seen WORK with clients over the past 12 years.  As with everything I do, it’s easy, because we’ve learned – if it’s not easy it doesn’t happen.

Critical – must be done today before I leave the office or go to bed

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Perfectly Productive Product – Incipio Stowaway®

Incipio STOWAWAY
Incipio STOWAWAY

Every once in a while I come across a product that is perfect.

I’ve been carrying the Incipio STOWAWAY® for about the past 6 months. I have had more people comment and get excited about this phone case than anything I’ve owned (that I can remember.) Practically everyone who sees it asks about it and says they want one.

This is a wallet case for my iPhone that holds 3 credit cards (Business Credit Card, Family Credit Card, and Personal Credit Card). It does add a bit of thickness to the case, but that doesn’t bother me. I typically carry my cell phone in my jeans back pocket or in my handbag. The thickness doesn’t affect either of these situations. It is great to have what I need when I need it.

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This isn’t so bad

“This isn’t so bad” is perhaps one of the more frequent statements I hear out of my client’s mouths. It doesn’t quite matter if we are sorting stuff, culling emails, consolidating post-its or any of the other numerous tasks that go into becoming more organized and productive, I hear it often…”this isn’t so bad”.

What’s that about? Could it possibly be that:

  • creating order and structure actually is a relief?
  • getting rid of excess actually feels good?
  • being in control of one’s responsibilities actually is a good thing?

Yes, I’m convinced of all that, and I’m convinced that having some semblance of order contributes to a better life overall.

Then why is it so hard to do it? The easy answer is because there are so other things we have to do that it’s hard to prioritize taking care of our work space. What if we were to reframe this? For those of you who love to exercise and would never miss a workout, but the thought of spending time getting your office or desk or kitchen island in shape is horrifying – ask yourself why is this any different?

Organizing is simply a workout for your space. Without the maintenance of taking care of your stuff, your space gets sluggish, inefficient and blob-like. Once you invest a bit of time and energy into taking care of it you feel lightened up, more agile and more nimble. And that isn’t so bad.

Paper-less not Paperless

I recently attended a workshop on digital filing. It was clear that the concept of a paperless office was completely unrealistic. What is clear however is that we can simply reduce our use of paper by training ourselves to think differently? I pose to you the challenge of going Paper-LESS. Yes, LESS PAPER! Easy Paper-LESS changes:

  • Don’t automatically print out receipts of on-line purchases – Do file electronic confirmations in an email folder (mine is called on-line purchases!)
  • Don’t automatically print out emails you need to act on – Do put the action item into your task management system (on your to-do list, on to your calendar, etc.)
  • Don’t automatically print out airline ticket confirmations – Do put arrival and departure information (including flight numbers and confirmation codes) right onto your calendar.

These are simply places to start. However the real trick is the “automatically” part. You are going to have to change the habit you now have of hitting the print button at every turn. Instead of hitting Print try hitting a mental Pause and asking yourself “can I do with less paper?” Because when Paper-Less you have less clutter, and less clutter means fewer distractions from your important work.

What is Good Enough

The goal of getting organized is not to be perfect; it’s to make life easier. Do you want to get your mail under control? File your paperwork? Find your summer shoes? Once I give clients permission to not be perfect their progress takes off. Ask yourself – “what is good enough?” Good enough doesn’t have to mean Pinterest perfect visuals or complex systems.

It’s always best to begin with the end in mind. If your goal is to be able to find things when you need them than that’s the type of system you should create – Consider:    Continue reading »

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