be more productive at work

I read, talk and write about productivity. A lot. One of the things I try to impress upon people is that productivity is not about doing more. It’s about doing the right things at the right time.

Have you ever had a day when you were so busy that you didn’t break for lunch and you’re not sure you even stopped to go to the bathroom? Do you remember saying, at the end of the day “What a great day that was! I accomplished everything I needed to.” Or did you go home, exhausted, wondering how you were so busy without being able to move any of your goals forward?

Here are some techniques to improve your productivity:

1. Turn off the alerts on any device that will distract you. Phone, email, calendar, social networking or texting interference keeps you from getting work done.

2. Reduce the number of decisions you have to make. Whether it’s what you wear, what you eat or how you perform a task, decreasing your choices frees your brain for more important tasks.

3. Reduce the clutter in your workspace. Looking at piles of pending work sucks up your energy. In addition, you’re not being productive if it takes more time to look for a document than to read it.

4. Learn to say “No” to tasks that don’t advance your objectives. Don’t volunteer for committees or take on extra work when you have more than you can handle. Sure, you want to be a team player, and there will be other opportunities to pitch in when you’re not swamped.

Notice that “Fill every minute with activity” is not on this list. When you break away from your work for short periods, chances are good that you will come back with new ideas or more energy.

What is your favorite productivity tip?

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product review – epson printer

People often ask me about buying a scanner so they can digitize their paperwork. I don’t have a dedicated scanner, but I am delighted with my Epson 4-in-1, which has scanning function.

Since I opened my business 10 years ago, I have used Epson printers. I started out with a printer/scanner/copier, which I had for almost 10 years. I upgraded recently to the WF-3540 for two-sided printing, copying and scanning. I also got rid of the separate FAX machine, which I rarely use. My old Epson got handed down to my niece, who probably will have it for many more years.

I scan a lot of documents to avoid paper clutter, so being able to put a stack of paper in the feeder and press the button once was a huge time saver. If you don’t do a lot of scanning and you don’t need a FAX machine, Epson makes a lift-top printer/copier/scanner that is less expensive. They make photo printers, too.

I am a loyal Epson user and recommend the brand highly. Do you use Epson products? What’s your experience been?

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do it now or do it later

No, this post isn’t about giving you permission to put things off.

The truth is that you have to do stuff eventually, like laundry and dishes and cleaning the bathroom. So, if you put it off by saying that you’ll do it later – when is later?

Sometimes you really do have to put things off – if you don’t have the materials, supplies or knowledge to do a task, for example.

Most of the time, though, you’re just deferring the inevitable. Why not just do it now so you don’t have to think about it later?

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buy nothing day

The day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. is Buy Nothing Day, promoted by adbusters.

With sales starting on Thanksgiving, not to mention the Black Friday frenzy, we lose perspective on the holiday.

Instead of imagining the great bargain you’ll bag – which, by the way, is unlikely – consider spending some quiet time alone or with people you care about. Think about what you could accomplish if you used that time and money toward a goal you really value.

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product review – gift wrap organizer

Although I despise the invasion of Christmas music and decorations this early, I do appreciate people who plan ahead.

If you buy gifts in advance, you need to be organized about your purchases. You have to remember what you bought for whom and where you put them. You also have to be disciplined enough not to buy something else that you like more. Then you have to wrap everything.

You can stand giftwrap rolls in a basket or trash can or you can keep them in an underbed box. If you’re like me, you only have one or two rolls of wrap because you learned how much easier it is to use gift bags.

Especially handy when you’re short on space, a hanging organizer will keep all your materials in one place and you won’t have to hunt for supplies when it’s time to wrap presents. The gift wrap organizer from The Container Store corrals rolls and bags. It also holds ribbon, bows, tape and scissors.
It can hang or slide under the bed, but what I like most about it is that it folds in half for carrying and sits like a sandwich board so you can grab what you need.

Do you like to wrap gifts or do you prefer the convenience of gift bags? Where do you keep your wrapping supplies?

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national sleep comfort month

November is National Sleep Comfort Month.

While it probably was dreamed up as a promotion to get you to buy a new mattress, there are good reasons to look at how you sleep.

If you aren’t getting enough quality sleep, you won’t function well at work or at home. I’m not encouraging anyone to buy anything; however, if your mattress and pillow aren’t supportive, you may not be getting adequate rest.

There are some steps you can take to get better sleep that don’t cost anything:

  • Have a regular bedtime and waking time
  • Reduce the temperature of your bedroom
  • Restrict your use of electronics before bedtime
  • Create a bedtime ritual that allows you to wind down from your day

If you struggle with sleep because you’re thinking about things you need to do, make a list before you go to sleep. Keep it beside your bed and, if you wake up, write down your thoughts instead of dwelling on them.

Get a good night’s sleep so you can make thoughtful decisions during your day.

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book review – the checklist manifesto

I love checklists. To-do lists, packing lists, shopping lists, menu lists, procedure lists – I’ve made them and used them and recommend them highly.

When I worked in Human Resources, for example, I created a list to confirm that new employees had all their paperwork completed before they attended Orientation. If you haven’t worked in HR, you don’t realize the federal, state and company-related documents that accumulate before someone even is put on the payroll. If a particular piece of paper is missing, the whole production grinds to a halt and you risk government sanctions or the person not getting paid.

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, came highly recommended from several sources. Dr. Gawande presents three uses for checklists:  in surgery, aviation and construction.

You won’t learn how to create a checklist or whether using checklists will make a difference in your life. What you will discover is Dr. Gawande’s enthusiasm for the humble list and the impact of using a checklist in his work.

The book is short and easy to read, albeit a bit redundant. I’ll save you the time – here’s the takeaway: Use checklists. Make them short. Make them specific. Get input from others. Test to ensure you’ve included everything. Determine a point person to ensure the checklist is followed. Use it.

Do you have a recurring task that could benefit from having a checklist applied to it?

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