Archive for the ‘Focused Workload Management’ Category

The Simple Yellow Banana: How to simplify your life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 1 comment

(Photo: Jason Gulledge)

Did you ever notice how great the banana is? How it fits so nicely into your hand; how just by looking at it you can tell if it is ready to eat? Did you ever realize it has a built in pull tab for easy opening, the peel separates and falls back so gracefully and it’s even curved toward your face for easy consumption? Yes, it doesn’t get much better than the simple yellow banana.

For all the effectiveness the banana has to offer in its tight yellow package there is not much about it you can offer as a complaint; in fact the packaging is even biodegradable. So my question to you is how can you make your life simpler? What can you do to make everything you in your life as effective as the banana has? The answer is easy; it is execution that’s the hard part.

Going on an Information Diet:

“You don’t need to know everything; you just need to know where to go to get it.”

  • Watch a little less television.
  • Skip the morning paper occasionally.
  • Cut down on some of your internet time.

Think about it; do you really remember everything you read, watched or listened to at the end of the day? And of the things you do remember how important are they to your life? Does it really affect your life when a celebrity cheats on his wife? Unless you are his agent or he is endorsing your product, I’m guessing not. So why spend time cluttering your mind with information that is going to be yesterday’s news – tomorrow?

Instead spend some time with your family and friends or take some time for yourself to relax.

Apply the 80/20 rule:
Pareto’s Law says 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This or similar ratios apply to most things in life.

  • 80% of your life’s complication is caused by 20% of….
  • 70% of your stress is created by 30% of….
  • 90% of your happiness comes from 10% of….

Think about what you can eliminate to remove the complicated stressful parts of your life and apply the extra time toward those things which make you happy and add simplicity to your existence.

Be in Control:

“You can’t control everything that happens in the world but you can control your response to it.”

Be in control of yourself. If someone is trying to argue with you; the only person who can allow you to get upset about what they are saying, is you! If you are feeling stress about an upcoming event, this may happen or that might go wrong; guess what? Those things are out of your control! What are you accomplishing by worrying about them? Have a contingency plan and move on.

All too often we get worked-up about things in life we have no control over, take time to assess the situation, determine if there is anything you can do to affect the outcome and if the answer is no, then let it go. Take control of your life and put your efforts toward the things you can contribute to and make your life simpler.

Once you start to let it all go, you will feel the stress dissipating and your mind focusing on what is truly important Let your own built-in effectiveness take over; the banana did it, why can’t you?

What are you going to do right now, to make your life simpler?

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Get More Done in Less Time

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 1 comment

(Photo: margolove)

How are you possibly going to get everything done today? The answer is simpler than you might think. Focus.

We have all been there, it may be an mounting pile of work, a project needing completion, or a customer presentation you have not even started to put together. You may be thinking you are up against an impossible mission, but don’t give up – just stay focused.

Getting Started

Take time to clear your head and relax so you can start with a clean slate and concentrate. Many people find by allowing yourself a calm before the storm, it allows you to enter into your project with a clear head focused on the your desired out come. For me it could be reading a book and having a cup of coffee; others may go for a walk, hit the gym or read the morning paper. Do whatever works for you, but by allowing your mind to calm you are preparing it for what lies ahead.

Get in the zone

As you prepare to take on your day be sure:

  • The location is free of disruptions.
  • You have everything you need.
  • You are prepared.

I will grab something to drink, go into my office, close the doors, tune to my favorite internet radio station, sit at my desk, clear away any distracting clutter and organize for the day. Do what works for you.

Sometimes all it takes is a change of location to really focus, there are times I have packed up my laptop and found a far corner of the local library for some distraction free concentration. Some people enjoy having music on in the background, others do not. I find music gets me in the zone and allows me to zero in on my task. Whether it be music, a change of location or something else determine what works for you and make it happen.


Task List: It’s best to keep a task list of some sort be it electronic, a note pad, or just a scrap of paper you write your “to do’s” on.

Prioritize and Schedule: Prioritize your task list  by sorting them into urgent, important and non-urgent tasks. If you have trouble prioritizing, use the 80/20 rule (aka Pareto’s law) to determine what the important tasks are.

Staying on Track: Now you have prioritized your day and determined the first item on your list, break it into small pieces. As you do this it will make a large task seem less daunting and as you accomplish each piece you will build momentum as you move throughout the day.

“Your daily schedule helps to focus the mind, holds it steadily to one thing at a time and in the right order. Following a logical sequence tends to eliminate confusion.”

Keep a stringent schedule for your day. As mentioned, I take time in the morning for relaxation so I can come in the day focused. I move right into my projects and phone calls, check and respond email before lunch, come back, work on other projects and phone calls, check email an hour before the day is over, review my next day, prioritize, clear my desk of clutter and I am ready to start the next day with a clean slate.

Not everyone is the same, so when you find a method that works for you, stick with it. Soon you will see you will be getting more done in less time by using focused planning and execution.

More Tips:

  • Only check email twice per day. This is not easy to do, but is productive.
  • Let your calls go to voicemail knowing you can get back the callers when you decide to break or complete your task.
  • Don’t multitask. Multitasking has been proven time and again to be the cause for lack of focus. When you multitask, you never do anything well.
  • Inundated with random thoughts? Keep a notebook, task list, or sticky note pad near by. As I am working I have stack of index cards I use. If something pops into my head I write it down knowing the thought is saved there on the index card for later and I don’t mentally have to keep coming back to it.
  • Schedule time for future tasks. As new tasks present themselves, put them through Pareto’s Law, prioritize them, and schedule them for the future.
  • Rest, eat appropriately and exercise. It has been found these habits are contribute greatly to your level of concentration.
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“No, no way, uh-uh, forget it!”

Thursday, January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

(Photo: massdistraction)

We are pulled in many different directions in life, be it a project at work, a bake sale for school, a volunteer opportunity, you name it. So how do you find time to participate in everything and still find time for yourself and for your family? The answer….you don’t! It is time to just say, “NO!”

It Hurts to Say No

It is not so easy to say, “no.” The word “no” carries with it:

  • Guilt associated with not being able to help.
  • A struggle against peer pressure and others impression of you.
  • Feelings of failure not being able to do all the things you may want.

Let’s face it, You can’t do it all!

Why say, “no?”

We all have goals in life and hopefully you are focused on what you really want. If so, the answer should be an easy one, however saying, “no” is the difficult part. Remember every time you say, “yes” you are taking time from your schedule and essentially saying, “no” to something else in your life. So don’t feel bad saying, “no,” it allows you to have time to concentrate on what is really important to you and…

  • Keeps you from burnout.
  • Lowers your stress level.
  • Allows you more time for other things.

When should I say yes?

Before you can even think about getting good at saying “no,” get clear on what to say, “yes” to in life. If your yes is more time with your family it will mean turning down obligations keeping you away from home. If it’s yes to better health, you’ll need to say, “no” to late nights at work that keep you from the gym. “The firmer your foundation and connection to your yes,” says William Ury, Ph.D., author of The Power of a Positive No, “the less difficult it will be to say no.”

Are there some times you should say, “Yes?” Of course, but before you do, ask yourself:

How to say, “no.”

You have come to the decision to say, “No,” because is does not fit what you are looking for in life; so how do you do it?

  1. Show sincerity. – People appreciate a genuine response.
  2. Be direct and don’t elaborate. – No one wants to hear excuses.
  3. Be convincing and exude confidence by being firm. – If your answer is no, say, “no,” and mean it.

“Avoid burdening the other person with unnecessary or elaborate excuses. You run the risk of the other person trying to fix the situation. Plus, the more drawn-out the excuse, the less authentic it sounds — and, in the end, it’s really no one else’s business.”

Here are some examples of  ways to say, “no” and why they work:

  • “Thank you, I already have something going on at that time.” – Tell them you already have plans for that time.
  • “Thank you for the offer, but I am committed to another project.” – Let’s them know you appreciate the offer, but you are committed to something else (ie. Church, charity, school, family, etc,)
  • “I’d really love to, but it just does not fit my schedule.” – Shows interest, but let’s the other party know the timing does not work for you.
  • “Not at this time.” – Leaves the door open for them to ask you at another time.
  • “I don’t want to take on what I can’t fully commit to doing well.” – This is a yes to higher standards.
  • Say “no” by saying “yes.” – Lessens the feeling of conflict.

Don’t be ashamed or feel guilty about saying, “no.” Take pride in knowing you are remaining committed to your values and are doing what is important to you and your family. You’ll be stronger for it. Even better, you’ll be a more focused contributor to the people and things that matter to you most.

What are some other ways to say no?
Do you think you should ever say, “no?”

Article Title Source: Parents Just Don’t Understand DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

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What’s it gonna be; yes or no?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 2 comments

(Photo: Johnny Grim)

You have a decision to make and the answer is yes or no. Maybe it will help you get where you are going, maybe it is a temporary solution, maybe it is not the right decision at all. How do you decide?

First, you must have a clear vision of what you desire in life, a definite major purpose. Once you have that, you will know the answer by formulating it based on what best suits your goals.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will this tie-in directly to my definite major purpose?
  • What is my heart telling me?
  • How does saying yes help me?
  • If I say yes; what will I have to give up doing to do this instead?
  • What will happen if I say no?
  • Will this be too much for me to handle?
  • Will this challenge me?
  • Is it the right time for me?
  • Is this something I am saying, “yes” to or is it something that makes me say “HELL YEAH!”

If the opportunity does not seem exciting to you, then the answer should be an easy one. Only do what fits your vision and don’t do it if this is not something you are going passionate about.

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“HELP! I’m buried under here!”

Saturday, November 7, 2009 2 comments

(Photo: Tasja)

Do you ever feel like you are getting buried under a ton of bricks, by your work? Like you are unable to breathe and no matter what you do you will never catch up with your workload? Well join the club; the club of millions of people across the globe fortunate enough to be employed in this age of cutbacks and layoffs. Everyone is taking on heavier and heavier loads, bearing more weight for the company. And you’ll do it without a flinch or the bat of the eye, after all look at your alternative – unemployment! You may be only one person but you need to learn to cope and to manage yourself as a more productive and effective employee.

Prioritizing can help!

This is one of those times where you need to spend a little time to save yourself even more time. Start by writing down each item on your to do list. It’s okay if you fill up the whole page, just take the time to get your list written down no matter how big or small. Next, label each item prioritizing it as an A, B or C item.

  • A = Item which is urgent in respect to time. No matter the importance it needs to be done right away.
  • B = Item of importance and somewhat time sensitive, but not with an immediate need.
  • C = Item which is not urgent or does not have a time line.

Once you have each item prioritized, the path is clear. Start with the A items, work through each task, move to the B items, complete each task and eventually move on to the C items completely clearing your list. Well maybe not. You see it is not likely your list will ever be clear and it this economic climate you should be concerned if you don’t have another project in the queue. It is likely you will continually be adding new items to your list which is why you will need to reprioritize as new tasks come in. Each task will vary in importance so be flexible with your priorities allowing new projects to take precedence when need be.

As times passes, items which were lower on the list, often increase in priority. Something which was not important last week could take precedence today; so it is important to review your list daily. As new items keep piling up taking precedence; when will you ever get to those C items? Great question.

A and B items can frequently take much time and concentration, but if you use your time wisely, you will find time to complete all your tasks. First take a good look at those C items determining if they are really something you need to get done or are they non-productive filler items which can be scratched off your list. Next, take a look at your schedule to find bits of time where you will not be able to focus accurately on the important A or B tasks; this could be on the seat of airplane, on the commute into work or while waiting for an appointment; no matter the case, use this time to knock out a few of those C items. It could be a phone call or quick email, either way use this gray time do what you can to complete a few C items.

What if you have multiple high priority items needing completion right away? Take a look at each item determining which item is most important or urgent. If you come across a hard decision it becomes a judgment call. No one knows your job better than you so make the call. If you are not confident in your ability to do this, contact your manager present him with the conflict, provide potential solutions, and then ask for assistance.

When you are feeling buried alive remember to ask yourself what is important, prioritize it and accomplish your goals one by one.

  • Are there other things you can prioritize in your life?
  • What other methods do you use to get yourself out from under the workload?

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Don’t GOal into Debt, Balance your Goal Checkbook.

Sunday, November 1, 2009 2 comments


(Photo: megan/quinn)

Goal setting; what a waste of time, right? WRONG! Every year without fail, I grieve over this process. And every year without fail I start looking at how I did and think, WOW, I did this and that, I could have done better here, and could use some improvement there. But you see it’s like taking time to balance the check book. You hate to do it, but it has got to be done so you can see where you are at financially. Consider goal setting and goal reviews as your personal checkbook to balance. You need to take time to balance your life and figure out if you are on the path you intended.

First, start by reviewing last years objectives:

  • Did you come out ahead or are you in the red?
    • If you came out ahead, what led to you to achieve your goal and are you able to utilize a similar process to attain other goals?
    • If you came out in the red, what could you have done differently to change the outcome?
    • Look for areas where you can make improvements and work to do better.
  • Did you blow your goal out of the water?
    • Set that goal even higher next year.
    • Or has it become so routine and natural, you don’t need to include it as a goal anymore?

Now give yourself a pat on the back for what you did well and a stern talking to for things you could have done better. Don’t be too rough on yourself; resolve to do better in the year ahead.


Second, set SMARTER goals for the future.

  • As you set goals, verbalize them in a positive tone and it will keep you optimistic. Never discourage yourself by stating your goals in a negative fashion.
  • Start with your major objective and break it down into small clearly defined achievements which will stair step you up to your major objective making it a reality.
    • Having these smaller goals makes your major objective seem more achievable.
    • Accomplishing these smaller goals will motivate you and improve your self confidence as you near your major objective.
    • Prioritize your goals keeping the most important one on the top of your list.
  • Develop a method to evaluate your goals for achievement.
    • You need to have a way to measure your goals in order to know if you have achieved them.
    • Whatever the case set a realistic number and then just for the fun of it tack on a little bit more than you can handle. This becomes your “go get” target. You know you will likely reach the realistic goal, but can you “go get” that little bit extra? You bet you can!

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”Robert Browning


  • What are the realistic levels of achievement for your goals?
    • Are there areas of improvement which you could add to your targets?
    • Set both qualitative and quantitative result oriented goals:
      • Qualitative: goals tied to quality improvements.
      • Quantitative: goals that can be measured and are usually tied to numbers.
  • Apply a specific timeline as to when you have each goal accomplished.

Finally, take a few minutes to review your goals frequently. Reviewing your goals keeps them in the forefront of your mind and will make them more achievable because you will be thinking about them often and looking for ways to make them happen. It’s like checking your balance. Are you going to end up in the red? What strides can you make to change that? Take those strides and be sure you always end the year with your checkbook balanced in the black. Before you know it your goals will be accomplished as if it happened by banking error in your favor.

Ready, Set, GOal!

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Who’s got time for that?

Thursday, October 15, 2009 Leave a comment

(Photo: sea turtle)

It seems that no one has enough time these days to do the little things. They used to seem so easy and trivial like dropping a letter at the post office or shopping for groceries. Everything takes time. Fortunately this dilemma has been recognized and in this world of convenience there are many services built to help us save time.

It’s four o’clock, the end of the day is nearing and you notice you have failed to drop off the package needing to be delivered tomorrow. Never fear your global delivery service is here! FedEx and UPS both have pick up services which come to your location to collect the packages you would have otherwise spent YOUR TIME taking to them. The delivery convenience does not stop there, thanks to the ever faithful United States Postal Service you can also request a pick up beyond your daily mail service, buy stamps online and have them delivered to your home or office, and print out postage online for packages, all you need is a postage scale to calculate the weight. Most office supply stores will deliver materials directly to you without having to go to the store. Even FedEx Office will allow you to print from you computer to their store and will deliver it globally. You can even print to various locations across the country if you need to.

Are you supposed to pick up groceries and the dry cleaning on the way home? Don’t waste your time! Get in that extra hour of work by ordering your groceries online (Netgrocer or Peapod) and having them delivered directly to your home or office. This applies with dry cleaning too; only use the dry cleaner with delivery service to your home or office.

As a remote user you know how valuable time is and gaining time beyond the commute allows you to do the things you enjoy and spend time with your family and friends.

If you are not taking advantage of pickup and delivery services you are just wasting time.

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