June 24, 2024

Write That Weekly Task List!

How do you plan your weekly tasks and to-do’s?  Do you work from a list? I almost always do, but during the past two weeks, I got so busy that I neglected to write my weekly task list.  I accomplished (most) of the biggies on my plate, and nothing catastrophic was overlooked.  Nevertheless, without my list I felt a bit unmoored, a bit less productive.  

As of this morning, I’m back on track.  My weekly task list (via Google calendar) is at my fingertips, and I’ve already checked off a few boxes, which can be ridiculously satisfying.

If you habitually carry your to-do’s in your head, I suggest you write them down, and make a list.  Whether on paper or electronically doesn’t matter much–whatever works for you. Options could range from a small spiral notebook or giant post-it, to an app such as Toodledo (www.toodeldo.com) or  Remember the Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com). 

So try it–make a weekly list, and give your productivity a boost

Ho Ho Ho–Just Say No

Many of us tend to over-commit ourselves, especially during the holidays.  Rather than give you pointers on how to manage your time, I’d like you to consider the Art of Saying No. In Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern says,

“The act of eliminating tasks involves saying no to other people.  If it’s hard for you to say no, you’ll end up doing things you really don’t want to, simply because you feel guilty declining.  We all hate to disappoint, but the larger truth is that those requests are going to keep coming your way.  Do you really want to spend your ever more precious time doing things just to please others?  You need to learn how to balance doing things for those you care about, while still honoring your own goals.” 

And finally, there’s the saying: “Stress is when your gut says no, but  your mouth says yes.”  Isn’t that the truth!

So go ahead, volunteer, help out on that special project, bake those cookies–if you really can, and if you really want to.  Sometimes it’s ok to say no.

Back Up Your Calendar with Google

An unfortunate series of events recently befell my friend’s BlackBerry.

My friend is a busy, successful entrepreneur, and mom of two young ones.  Always on the go, always multi-tasking.  It’s what we mompreneurs do best, right?  

Not always.

Five minutes after starting a load in the washing machine, my friend realized that her phone was tucked away in her pocket…in a pair of pants at the bottom of the machine.  She estimated that her BlackBerry was fully submerged for a good three minutes.

Panic time? Well, sure.  But she remembered hearing about the bag of rice trick: if a cell phone gets soaked, quickly seal it in a bag of uncooked rice.  Supposedly, the rice will draw out the moisture.  Am I suggesting that you try this? I am not.  Though it just may work, as it did for my relieved friend.  All was good again.

Until two days later, when she absolutely, positively, lost her phone.  It was replaceable, of course, and she had her contacts backed up.  What put her into a tailspin, was that she didn’t have her calendar backed up.  A calendar that was booked solid for the next six months.  Uh oh.

 Is your electronic calendar backed up?  If not, I suggest you start using Google calendar asap.  It’s free and user friendly.  If you don’t already have a Google account, set one up here.  You don’t have to use gmail; you can sign in with any email account.  (This is also the source  for Google Analytics and Google Reader.)

You can set up your Google calendar so that someone else (an assistant, say) can set appointments for you from the office, which then magically sync to your phone.  You can also share your calendar with friends, family, or post it on your website. 

Best of all, Google calendar syncs with a number of  mobile devices, like the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and a few more.    So, you can continue to use, say, the BlackBerry calendar that you’re so fond of–the interface is the same–but it’s synced, and therefore backed up on the Google cloud.  (You can find Google sync instructions here .) 

Volia, calendar back-up problem solved.

I haven’t spoken with my friend in several days (you know, no phone.)  But if she knows what’s good for her, one of the first calls she’ll make on her new phone will be to me, so I can remind her to set up her Google calendar.  I suggest you do the same.

P.S.  If you have any first-hand experience with the soaking-phone-in-a-bag-of-rice trick, I’d love to hear about it.

Managing Email: 7 Tips to Tame your Inbox

Got email?

Of course you do, and probably more than you’d like.  How many emails do you currently have in your inbox?  Are you a minimalist with fewer than ten, or a high roller with thousands?

Once upon a more naive time, while looking over a friend’s shoulder, I gasped to see that she had over two thousand emails in her Hotmail account.  I didn’t even know that was possible (insert chuckle.)  As a regular deleter, it never occurred to me to keep that many messages. 

I now know that a thousands-full inbox is pretty common.  Is that bad?  Not necessarily.  If you’re comfortable with–or even comforted by–several years’ worth of emails, then carry on.  You may be forced to delete when you max out your storage, but if you’re able to stay on top of your messages, and the tasks they represent, then you don’t have to confront the number “just because you should.”      

However, if you’re stressed by that backlog, as well as the daily onslaught of new emails, it may be time to take action.  For many, especially those of us who are visual, a cluttered inbox represents just one more source of overwhelm.  “How can I possibly weed through three thousand emails?”, you may whimper.   As with any decluttering project, you must first decide to make a change, make a plan, and then get going.     

Ready to streamline your  inbox?  Here are some tips:

1)  First, make a plan for new and yet-to-be-received  emails.  While you’re working through the backlog, new messages won”t stop coming, of course.  Once you start dealing with new messages more effectively, you can work on the old ones according to your schedule.  This will help you avoid that frustrating, “I’ll-never-get-caught-up” feeling that can stop you in your tracks.

 2)  As new emails come in, act immediately.  Obvious junk? Delete.  No action required? Read and delete.  High priority, or action required? Flag and schedule the task on your calendar.  Store coupon you plan to use? Print and put it in your wallet.  Client email you should save? File in the proper email folder.  You get the idea: make immediate decisions as often as you can. 

3)  Set up email folders.  Client names, projects, upcoming events, photos, receipts, research, recipes–these are all possible folder ideas.  Folders are ideal for emails that you want to archive, or will need in the near future, but don’t need to keep in your inbox.  The trick is to file emails as quickly as possible.  As with paper files, remember to clean out your email folders every once in awhile.

4)  Set up email filters.  You can flag incoming emails by the sender or a key word (in many cases) so that messages automatically go into designated folders.  Filters are great for newsletters, blog subscriptions, and list servs.  You can check out content at your own pace.  Not sure how to set up filters?  Your email provider should have a help or tutorial section.

5)  Unsubscribe.  Virtually every time you make an online purchase, your email address gets added to a list.  You continue to receive messages from the company, even if you have no plans to buy again.  You may also be subscribed to a number of newletter and groups that are no longer relevant to you.  Set aside some time and unsubscribe from these lists.  The result? A less cluttered inbox with content you actually want to receive.

6)  As for dealing with the backlog, I propose that you purge messages that go way back.  Don’t read, just delete.  Extreme? Maybe, but chances are that you won’t ever need them.  If you want to hedge your bets, search for senders or topics that you want to keep, and file those emails in folders.

7)  Delete regularly.  I’ll say it again.

Here’s to a leaner inbox!

10 Benefits of Solid Organization for the Entrepreneur

  1. Ability to  find anything within five minutes
  2. Reduced stress and frustration
  3. Better defined boundaries between work and family time
  4. Organized financial records = peace of mind 
  5. More time to focus on what is truly important to you
  6. Knowing where to place every piece of paper that crosses your desk
  7. Manageable to-do lists
  8. No more forgotten appointments or missed deadlines
  9. Uncluttered space = uncluttered mind
  10. Stuff gets done