Tips for Easier Living
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Tips for Easier Living

There is a cute meme going around saying it’s simply “day,” not Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday…. just day.  And yes, sometimes the days just run together because there is not a lot of differentiation. It does seem like every day is kind of the same.

That sameness makes it easy to fritter time away.  Without having to be at the office, or a client at a specific time, or having to prep for a trip, or even meet friends for a night out, time seems to fly by.

What can you do to boost your productivity during these unstructured times?  In the absence of external structure, we have to create internal structure! Here are some possible ideas how:

  • Create a daily checklist
  • Identify the 1 (or 3) most important task to accomplish each day.
  • Set specific intentions for living well
  • Plan time “on” and time “off”

Daily Checklists

  • Cues you to do your important tasks
  • Holds you accountable
  • Shows results

Out of necessity I created a simple Excel doc and have been using it daily since the beginning of May. I feel like I’d be lost without it.  It changes a bit as time goes on and my priorities shift. Here’s a snippet of what it looks like now:

Identify Top Daily Tasks

Take the time to write out the most important things you intend to accomplish for the day. Use a post-it and stick it somewhere you’ll be able to see all the time.  Here are some options:

  • Top 3 tasks
  • Top 1 task – and 2 on deck
  • Top 1 task (I love this one because it ensures your focus is only in one place!)
  • Top 3 tasks – and on deck tasks if the top 3 are quick

I’ve had clients who find success with all these options. Try them and see what works for you.  Right now the most popular selection is #2 – Top 1 task, and when that gets done move to the 2 on deck.

Set Intentions

What do you need to do to live well? Make a list.  Set your intentions.  Then when you plan your week, be sure they are integrated.  Here are some examples:

  • Work no later than 6pm
  • Protect 8a-9am for email and daily planning
  • Create two 2-hour blocks for project work
  • Practice Yoga 3 times a week
  • Meditate at least 5 minutes each day
  • Do a cardio workout 2 times a week
  • Make time to plan healthy food choices

Plan time “on” and time “off”

When working from home it is so easy to work all the time. Going to the office created separation. Now you have to create that for yourself.  Protect your non-working hours.

  • Create a space where you go to work. Don’t go to that space during non-work hours. If you need your computer, use it elsewhere.
  • Try a tech-Shabbat/Sabbath. With the endless Zoom meetings and phone calls it is healthy to give yourself 12 hours off. Try shutting your tech off on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Take a few days off – if possible, find a place to go for a few days. If there is nowhere safe to go plan a stay-cation and put work on hold.

At the beginning of the pandemic, much was discussed about working from home.  In my opinion, way too much discussion.  I don’t know about you, but I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of newsletters, emails, and social media posts, as well as the endless links of things to read shared by well-meaning friends. Even if I only read selectively, it took so much time!

It was all too much. The rebel in me was not about to jump on that bandwagon and inundate you with more.  I took that break, but now I feel like I have information that will help you adjust as we move into this new normal.

From talking to clients and colleagues around the world, it’s clear that things are different depending on location.  I’ve heard of a few people preparing to head back to their offices now, while others are being told not to plan to return until 2021.

With that in mind, here are my productivity tips for the next few months:

  1. Be ruthless with your online reading/viewing time
  2. Create more structure than usual
  3. Schedule non-working and working blocks of time
  4. Plan (and take) vacation/stay-cation time

My intention with this blog has always been to keep the posts short enough so you can quickly read them and absorb them.  I do not want these posts sitting in your inbox. Please read what I am sharing and then delete this email!  You can always reference back at www.ellenfaye.com/blog.  (The search feature will help you find what you’re looking for.)

To keep this short and sweet, I will address each of the above noted topics in individual posts. Today’s topic:

Be ruthless with your online reading/viewing time

Now more than ever be super selective with what you are choosing to spend your time reading and watching.  The availability of information is enormous and endless. I have clients that spend hours reading things that they have never asked for, yet because it’s in their inbox or feeds, they feel compelled to read it.  Here is how you can manage this:

  • Set specific hours for online reading – that means articles, blog posts, texts, videos, and messages from well-meaning friends. If you stop for a quick read/view of everything that is sent to you, it’s going to be hard to get your important work done. Try blocking out time at the very beginning of your day, at lunch, and at the end of your day for this.
  • While it may be interesting or have value, ask yourselfwhat else is reading this now keeping me from doing?” Some of you with a super high need for completion may need this extra nudge to keep you on task with the work you want to be doing.
  • Reframe and read without guilt! – build in a system to help you stop “reading on the ping.” Move what you want to read to a folder, mark it unread, or flag it for later; then when you get back to it you can enjoy reading without guilt.

I can’t help thinking that solidifying these habits now are going to make you even more productive later! In my next post I’ll be address how to create more structure in your day, and why this is more important now than ever. Talk to you soon!

 

 

 

from over-stressed to more productive

Last post I wrote about how the brain reacts to stress and why physiologically, it’s hard to get anything done when we are over-stressed and anxious.  If there is one thing we can be sure of right now, it’s that there is much uncertainty. It is quite stressful.  There are however specific things we can do to help move ourselves out of our emotional brain and back to our thinking brain.

  1. List and plan what you can control: take a minute and make a list of what you can control – routines, work flows, meal prep, news consumption, social media time – then set an intention around each.
  2. Create a realistic timeline – to say I will build a website in April may not be realistic. What is?  Outlining it?  Selecting a platform? Writing copy?
  3. Break large task into small steps – look at #2 above. Build Website is stressful. But breaking into the small steps – outlining, selecting platform, writing copy (maybe page by page,) is a lot less stressful.
  4. Practice gratitude, meditation & exercise – build the positives into your day. I take time each day to count my blessings…
    1. My family is healthy.
    2. I have a comfortable home in which to isolate.
    3. I have many friends and colleagues to stay in touch with.
    4. Good things are still happening in my business – check out these two articles from CNN Business Writer Kathryn Vasel on Working from Home 1) handling it all 2) scheduling work with kids around. I’m grateful for the wonderful professional relationships I have, like with Kathryn, and that she consistently reaches out to me for my expert opinion.
  5. Find outside support or accountability – we are juggling a lot these days. A coach or trusted friend/colleague can help you process your thoughts so it’s not quite so hard.

improve efficiency

When I think of improving efficiency  I think of when I was in college and learned about the time and motion studies of the 1950’s.  I envision Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolate on the production line.  And then I think that no one wants to live life with so much constraint that we are more machine than human.  However, so many of my clients tell me they want to be more efficient.

I am a big fan of putting rote tasks on autopilot so that our energy can be put towards creative process and enjoying life. I am embarrassed to tell you this, (but will because perhaps it might help,) but I’m always looking at how to do things in the fewest steps.

I will exemplify this with a task we all do – emptying the dishwasher. I’ve observed many people empty the dishwasher – I do it differently.  And I typically get it done in the time it takes to brew a couple cups of coffee.

  1. I work from the bottom up so that if water spills out of something it’s not going to get anything below it wet.
  2. I unload in groups –the silverware into my hand and then direct to the silverware drawer
  3. I place things on the counter at the location it will be put into
  4. I unload completely, then I put away. I’m only opening the drawer or cabinet once and I’m putting everything away at one time
  5. And I make it a game to see how fast I can do it. It’s fast and it’s done.

I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.

Now let’s apply that to our work.

  • How can I process my email as efficiently as possible?
  • How can I keep my to-do list as streamlined as possible?
  • How can I make my meetings as effective as possible?

I’ve blogged about all of this and I’ve linked the above questions to those posts.  What I’m addressing here however is how to create systems and processes to be most efficient, streamlined, and effective.

Creating efficient systems

  1. Notice it – recognize the opportunity. Don’t assume you can be efficient without thinking about how to be more efficient. Awareness is the first step!
  2. Analyze the steps. Is there a better, faster, more effective way to do something?  Can you eliminate, combine, or change the order of doing something.
  3. Do – Assess– Adjust. Try it out, practice, watch, question. Shift, try something else.  Keep modifying until you get it right.
  4. Practice and Repeat – use the system until it becomes routine and you don’t have to think about it. Watch your stopping and starting. Stick with a task until it’s done, or at least until there is a logical stopping point.

Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.

 

healthy productivity

It’s a hard time of year to be productive.  There are so many distractions!  Instead of trying to do it all, how about doing what you have to do well, and setting yourself up to have a truly healthy and happy holiday season.

Be realistic about how much you can get done between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and create a plan to get it done:

  • Use your to do list to support you in identifying the work that has to get done
    • While I’m a HUGE fan or organizing your list in order of priority I know some of you chose other approaches.
    • Simple solution – use your Sharpies for colored stars – red for “must be done before Christmas” and green for “would love to do before Christmas.”
  • Set deadlines on your important work – those red star projects. Then assess
    • Can I get this all done and still do everything else I want to do (parties, shopping, decorating)?
    • If not, reassess and be realistic about what you can really accomplish
  • Choose non-essential work carefully – don’t have unrealistic expectations
    • Ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that would happen if I don’t do this before New Year’s?”

Protect your off-time. When not at work or working:

  • Know that your office won’t fall apart if you don’t check your email
  • If you check your email and there is something you want to do, do it and get it done, but don’t feel like you have to do more than that.
  • Stay present – remove the temptation of distraction
    • When out or doing something fun, use the Do Not Disturb on your phone
    • Keep your phone in your purse or pocket… or gasp (leave it in another room, in the car or somewhere out of reach!)

Prep for an easier reentry:

  • Going out of town or taking a few days off? Prep for leaving.  Coming back to a clean slate, both physically and digitally, will help you get back into action much more quickly. Before you leave, take an extra hour or two to:
    • Clear your desk
      • Throw your trash/recycling away
      • File papers you want to keep for future reference
      • Put your current projects into their own folders and set them in a project file holder
    • Clear your email inbox
      • Delete the trash (yes – get the JUNK out of your inbox!)
      • File emails you want to keep for future reference (Make a 2019 folder and put it all there…)
      • The only thing left in your inbox will be things you need to address when you get back. Now you have a fighting chance!
    • Work harder to finish your “must do before Christmas” so you can take time off and really relax and enjoy yourself.

Wishing you a healthy and productive holiday season.

  1. Google Calendar
    • Because it syncs flawlessly with my iPhone.
    • Because of the new REMINDER feature that reminds me of tasks I need to do on a specific day.
    • Because I can paste a phone # or Zoom link into the location field.
  2. Apple Watch
    • Because I can keep my phone on silent and my wrist vibrates when I have a call or text.
    • Because I can quickly find my iPhone at any time by pressing one button (iPhone pings!)
    • Because I now don’t need to have my phone with me all the time.
      • I really value that I can get help or be reached in the case of an emergency.
      • And I love that I don’t have to carry a pocketbook and can pay for things with Apple Pay.
  3.  Evernote
    • Because it’s easy to manage my tasks and change my categories as needed.
    • Because it’s easy to manage a project in a note.
    • Because it’s easy to find the notes I take!

Productivity Tools I WANT for Hanukkah/Christmas – The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD….The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD…The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD…The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD….