By Cheryl Lowitzer – Your Organizing Guru
It’s official – January is Get Organized or GOMonth – sponsored by the National Organization of Professional Organizers (NAPO) of which yours truly is a proud, card-carrying member of the Pittsburgh Chapter. In honor of the collective “Yes, We Can” intent to make 2009 a year of new beginnings and positive changes, I offer a quick roundup of the wisdom, written words and web sites I’ve found most useful in my own efforts to live a productive, creative life across all fronts.
Before you continue reading, you may want to close your eyes, take a few DEEP breaths, and allow yourself to simply imagine the possibilities of finding and working in your own “Productivity Zone” this year. What would have to happen in your office/home/life to allow you to feel LESS STRESS yet actually ACCOMPLISH MORE because you decided to create the most productive environment possible for yourself?
Barbara Hemphill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger at Work is one of my trusted advisors and mentor. She currently has me working with what she calls five simple (though not always “easy”!) steps to help significantly increase productivity and reduce stress in my life this year:
- Set aside some time to identify what really matters to you in life. As the old saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” Many of us are like ducks swimming across the water – we look calm, but underneath we’re paddling like crazy – and going in circles! It takes real courage to stop long enough to assess your current situation.
- Figure out what it is you do best and spend the majority of your time doing it. There are a variety of companies that offer services to help you identify your strengths. I’m a fan of Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus and Buckingham while Barbara finds the Kolbe index particularly helpful. Whichever tool you use, know your strengths, play to them, and find resources to shore you up in areas that are not your sweet spot.
- Make your office as inviting a place as possible to work in and enjoy your day. Take a look around your workspace – does everything in it support you in doing your best work? If not, consider holding a “Productive Environment Day” – an event in which you look at everything in your office and ask – “Does this help us get the job done?” and/or “What’s the worst possible thing that would happen if we didn’t have this?”
- Use technology tools to streamline your business. Virtually everything an entrepreneur has to do today can be improved with technology – communication, marketing, administration, customer service – you name it! So I’m focusing on creating a website and making better use of my contact database. What technology tool will you challenge yourself to leverage to make your life easier in 2009?
- Continually ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time right now?” and encourage everyone around you to do the same. There’s an old Burma Shave ad that read: “Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for next 30 miles.” That’s true, but what is also true is that even though you get out of the rut, down the road a piece, you’re likely to fall back in. Be sure to surround yourself with positive people who help you keep yourself accountable.
WRITTEN WORDS (aka Books)
Yes, there are literally hundreds of finely written books on the topics of organizing, productivity, and time management. However, here are the three books I’m currently relying on and refer back to often to help me keep my own office and home running smoothly:
Taming the Paper Tiger At Work, Barbara Hemphill: I can personally attest to the effectiveness of her methods and if you’ve been reading this column you know I refer to them often. If you take nothing else from Barbara, consider just two things: 1. Separate your Action Files and your Reference Files and 2. Apply the File, Act, Toss approach to every piece of paper or electronic information to cross your desk.
Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern: This is the ultimate DIY guide for organizing whatever office environment you may work in, every room in your home and even your briefcase/handbag. It’s laid out in a reader-friendly fashion and provides realistic estimates of how much time you might expect to devote to a project.
Getting Things Done, David Allen: what I appreciate most about the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach is identifying a specific next action required to move forward on whatever requires your attention. The other great tip here is to batch your activities, especially phone calls and errands. Finally, schedule time for a weekly review of upcoming calendar items, next actions, calls, errands, etc to help prioritize and schedule. Remember, a task without an associated time slot on your calendar is likely NOT to get done.
Of course, we can all Google “productivity” or “get organized” and get back over 8 million results. Here are just two you might find useful:
www.smead.com: Check out the Organomics Hot Topics section for action oriented Home and Work organizing tips and Organomics Calculator to find out what disorganization could be costing your business.
www.lifehacker.com: will keep you abreast of the latest ways to simplify your life and help you feel much more tech savvy!
YOUR mission, should you choose to accept it (yes, at the risk of dating myself, I watched a lot of the original “Mission Impossible” series) is to schedule an appointment with yourself to check out whichever one of these resources has piqued your interest.
P.S. If you took a stab at using the 5 Step Productive Environment ProcessTM that was outlined in November’s column to create a vision for your holidays, pause to reflect on what worked for you. What did you like about your 2008 holiday experience? Did your approach work for you and those you care about? What will you choose to change during the 2009 holiday season?
Cheryl A. Lowitzer serves on the board of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO, Pittsburgh chapter). She is a certified Paper Tiger Authorized Consultant™ (PTAC™) personally trained and mentored by Barbara Hemphill and the Paper Tiger Productivity Institute. For help finding and working in your Productivity Zone, contact Ms. Lowitzer at 412.231.2127 or via email: [email protected]