reactionary workflow

I learned a new term today: reactionary workflow.

Every time you stop what you’re doing so you can answer an email or a text, you’re reacting to someone else’s needs.

Most of us spend our days reacting to circumstances around ourselves, instead of moving forward the projects that are important to us.

Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen, encourages readers to schedule time for the work you want to accomplish. Otherwise, you’re constantly in reaction mode and going home with that “what did I do today?” feeling.

Find a place to keep track of the actions you want to take so you can follow through on them. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just functional.

Stop reacting and start acting in your own best interest. You’ll get more done without working longer.

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top 5 reasons organizing efforts don’t work

People often tell me they haven’t been successful when they try to organize their spaces. Although everyone has a different story, they usually fall into one of the reasons listed below:

1. You started too big. Instead, limit the scope of your project. You probably aren’t going to complete an entire garage overhaul, for example, in one afternoon. Instead, take on a manageable piece of the room and schedule another manageable piece for another day.

2. You don’t have systems in place. You say you want to organize your closet, but you don’t have anywhere to put out-of-season clothes, which take up all the available space. Instead of piling on a chair the clothes you currently wear, make room for them in the closet. Select a place for out-of-season clothes that is not as accessible (attic, basement, spare room, etc.). If you don’t have another room, get creative – use the space under your bed or at the top of the linen closet, for example.

3. You didn’t give yourself enough time to try out a system. Studies show that it takes at least 21 days of consistent effort before something becomes a habit. Before you declare that your filing system doesn’t work, be honest about the number of times you actually filed papers. Are you surrendering before you’ve really put any effort in?

4. You don’t know when to stop. Getting it done is more important than getting it done perfectly. Look for the maximum impact – putting the clothes in the closet, not putting them in color-order; putting papers in a folder, not putting them in reverse-chronological order. You can always modify the way you store or display items, after you’ve created habits to put them away.

5. You think organizing is an event. Organizing is a process and requires maintenance, like personal hygiene or cleaning your house. No one says, “I did laundry, why do I have to do it again?” Consider your organizing project a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this one for the long haul.

What’s your greatest organizing challenge?

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product review – li’l davinci art cabinet

School is out and you’ve vowed that this summer you’re finally going to go through all those masterpieces your kids have brought home from school. While you may feel that you can’t part with any of their artwork, choose the ones that you like best or that show specific milestones (a stick figure, a recognizable face, a house, your family, etc.).

The Lil Davinci frame displays one 12” x 18″ picture and stores up to 50. You can change the display seasonally or when your child brings home a new creation.

Whether you choose to display your kids’ artwork or keep it in a memory box, sort through the collection once a year and let go of the pieces that don’t inspire. Take advantage of these summer days, when it’s too hot to go outside, and choose the pictures you want to keep.

If you dread throwing out any of them, send some to relatives who would enjoy sharing your kids creativity. Remember that teaching children how to sort favorites from mediocre work is a skill they will benefit from, at school and beyond.

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what’s in your garage?

It’s National Garage and Storage Organizing Month! As the weather is warming up across the United States, now is a good time to take a look at what you’re storing in your garage, shed or carport.

Instead of waiting for a full weekend when you’ll feel motivated to tackle the project, choose one area to work on each week. Group similar items (sporting goods, gardening equipment, tools, car-care supplies, etc.) and determine where you will keep each. If you use the lawn mower every week, for example, you don’t want to have to dig it out from behind the pool toys each time.

There are numerous products made for organizing garages. Before you buy anything, however, take a look at what you already have for storing your stuff. In addition, you want to make sure that you’re not storing junk. That means discarding anything that’s broken beyond repair, that you have multiples of, or that you just don’t use anymore.

Dedicate a box to donations and take it to a non-profit when it’s full. Alternatively, you could set up a date for a pick-up, which might motivate you to finish the job. Then you’ll be able to pour a cold drink, admire the cleared-out space and find what you need, when you need it.

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book review – solving the procrastination puzzle

Timothy Pychyl is a professor of psychology who writes about procrastination. Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change is a short book, making it easy to get through quickly.

Dr. Pychyl asks the reader to identify excuses used to justify procrastination, then to take action to meet stated goals. You may know that it’s important to break large projects into manageable tasks; in addition, Psychyl encourages readers to pre-decide – figure out how you’re going to handle situations before they arise. Forget about willpower. You have a limited amount and it’s too easy to put things off when you’re tempted by some other activity.

Each chapter in the book begins with a short phrase. Here are some of my favorites:

Procrastination is failing to get on with life itself

Feeling good now comes at a cost

I won’t feel more like doing it tomorrow

Like my oft-repeated advice “Just do something,” Pychyl says “Just get started.” You don’t have to finish, you don’t have to do it perfectly and you don’t have to feel motivated. Sometimes, just taking the first step is enough to get momentum going.

Finally, he discusses personality types and propensity for procrastination. Regardless of your tendencies, however, there are actions you can take to reduce procrastination, if not eliminate it altogether.

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the essential productivity tools that everyone needs

You’ll find lots of productivity advice on the Internet, much of it contradictory. In actuality, maintaining productivity doesn’t require anything fancier than a notebook and a calendar. Here are three strategies for using them that will increase your success:

Write everything down

I don’t believe anyone who says that they don’t need to write things down because they have a superior memory. No one’s memory is that good. Compare your mind to an overstuffed file cabinet – even if you could keep everything in your head, you wouldn’t be able to access it easily. Instead, dedicate one notebook to capturing all your ideas, conversations, observations and commitments. Promise to call someone back with an answer tomorrow? Write it in your notebook. Want to investigate sources of funding? Write it in your notebook. Need to remember to make a doctor’s appointment? Yes, put that in your notebook, too. You can’t start a new task every time a random thought goes through your mind, but you can write it down to take care of later. Of course, you need to refer back to your notes so you can accomplish the activities.

Schedule your critical work

It doesn’t matter whether you dedicate the first two hours of your day to essential projects or you close your door from 2-4 pm to focus on priorities. Maybe you prefer to come in before everyone else so you can dedicate energy to significant work. Figure out the time when you are best able to focus and when others can work best without your supervision. Mark the times in your calendar and treat them like appointments with your most important client. Make sure that people understand you are not to be disturbed during those times.

Finish what you start

You can’t always finish a project entirely in one sitting, but you can avoid interruptions that make you lose your train of thought. Answering the phone or reading a text while you’re trying to concentrate on a project causes you to refocus, which is a waste of time. You lose momentum while your brain “reboots” to return to the task. When you stop working on a project, make a note to indicate where you left off, along with any ideas that you were contemplating. When you return during your next scheduled session, it will be easier to get back into the job.

Use your notebook and your calendar to keep your mind clear and your projects flowing smoothly.

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Product review – Laundry Supply Shelf

Being organized and productive allows you to save time and money, even when you’re doing the most mundane tasks. One of the principles I teach is storing things where you use them so you don’t spend time searching.

You need a convenient area to keep detergent, bleach and fabric softener in the laundry room that doesn’t create clutter and allows you to see what you have on hand. I recommend stocking a nearby cabinet or shelf with the products you use regularly. If you aren’t able to hang a shelf on the wall, the laundry shelf from Lillian Vernon allows you to keep supplies right on top of the washing machine.

If you have additional detergent in reserve, consider keeping it away from the regular supply in the laundry room, garage or utility cabinet, where you keep extra supplies. Having one place where you store surplus items allows you to monitor inventory and prevents making a last-minute trip for something you’ve run out of.

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