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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what’s in your glove box?

If you live in a place where you experience change of seasons, you have a cue to complete certain activities.

Spring is a good time to move the ice scraper from your glove box to a designated place inside your home. If you actually have gloves in your glove box, they can come out, too. While you’re at it, take everything out and vacuum the compartment before you put anything back.

Instead of shoving all kinds of things in that limited space, consider what you really need and what would be useful. You might keep a pen and small pad of paper, tire pressure gauge, the car manual, tissues and a mini first aid kit.

Remember that car interiors get hot – don’t keep anything in the glove box that could get damaged from heat exposure or any liquids that might burst out of their containers.

What essentials do you keep in your car’s glove box?

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book review – stress awareness month

April is Stress Awareness Month and it’s important to remember that some stress can be good for you. You might work more diligently or feel more creative if you experience a little stress.

Sometimes, however, we create more stress for ourselves than necessary. That’s the premise of Manage Your Time To Reduce Your Stress by Rita Emmett.

You are in charge of your reality and you choose how you react to stressful situations. In fact, you might react to non-stressful situations in ways that create stress.

I like to remind people that you can’t manage time, but you can manage the things you do. As Emmett says, if you don’t manage your tasks, you create stress for yourself and others around you.

You can reduce stress by making some small changes:

  • Write everything down so you don’t have to remember as much.
  • Decide how you want to spend your time and learn to say “no” to activities you don’t want to participate in.
  • Keep appointments on your calendar so you don’t end up double booking.
  • Ask for help.

None of these ideas is earth-shattering, but it’s worth remembering that you can be productive, instead of just busy.

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earth day

You can do your part to make every day Earth Day by considering what you buy and what you toss.

  • Buy better quality and you’ll send less to the waste stream.
  • Use up what you have so you don’t have to toss things that go bad.
  • Consume less packaging and you’ll have less to dispose.
  • Shop when you need something, not when you need entertainment

Happy Earth Day!

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don’t feel foolish

When I was a kid, I dreaded April Fool’s Day because I was invariably the “fool.” I fell for all sorts of antics that other people would see through and I wasn’t creative enough to come up with something clever in return.

Although I don’t fall for pranks as easily, I still think about amusing ways to fool others.
Here you go:

That “limited edition” Norman Rockwell collectible plate you’ve been holding onto because you think it might be worth something someday? It’s worth $1000!

The Library of Congress wants the correspondence from your grandparents you’ve been keeping!

You can sell your old LPs for hundreds of dollars!

April Fool.

I know, it wasn’t very amusing, but I hope it made you think about what you’re keeping. Don’t let your stuff make you a fool.

And if you have a really good practical joke, I’m probably the right one to test it on.

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book review – you have too much sh*t

Almost everyone has too much stuff. Identifying it and doing something about it can be challenging.

This month’s book is a very short, very straightforward, slightly vulgar read. The title is an indication to what you will find inside. You can buy the book or download the free ebook. Either way, it won’t take you long to read and you might implement some of the ideas to help you let go of excess stuff.

“To find real value in material things, it’s helpful to discover a deep appreciation of the things you use every day.” – Chris Thomas

Thomas is British, and his informal tone and colloquialisms are reflected in the text. You’ll find the same sentiments in The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go, albeit in a bit more refined manner.

Do you prefer a more informal approach in your reading?

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