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Your Spring Tune-Up Checklist

Aug 18, 2007
Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Take a moment right now to look around your home environment. What does it look like to you and how does it feel? Do you feel a sense of calm and order, or is there a sense of chaos and frenzy in your space? It's important that we consider the design of our physical space as a key ingredient in how we set ourselves up to succeed in our life's ambitions. Life is busy enough these days and most of us are eager to squeeze just that next level of productivity out so we can keep on top of all of the challenges and decisions we make. To see how you're doing on the organizational home front, take a few minutes to complete this self-assessment quiz!

5 Tips to Make Your System Work for You

There are a zillion books on time management and organizational. I'd like to share the top 5 strategies I've adopted that have radically changed my productivity. Putting these strategies into place have reduced my stress and greatly increased my peace of mind. Everyone has their own unique needs and style, so here are some ideas that can help you put in place a stronger system that works for you!

1. The Two Minute Rule

Organizational expert David Allen (in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity) advises that, "If the next action can be done in two minutes or less, do it when you first pick the item up." I initially didn't see the value in this idea until I actually tried it. I used to be a big piler of things -- I thought it was more efficient to pile those nagging little things up or put them on a list until there were enough of them to deal with all at once. I'd make a pile for things that needed to go upstairs. I'd have a different pile for things that belonged downstairs. Inevitably I would get interrupted or distracted and never get to the growing piles of stuff.

Implementing the two minute rule has changed all that and I feel liberated! Touch it, deal with it and get it out of your space. It's not just your physical space that gets cleared -- it's your psychic space that's freed up as well. Read a school report card -- run it up and put it immediately into the proper file. Phase 2 of my plan is to train my three children to use this rule!

2. Only One In-box

I thought I used one in-box, but then I realized that I actually had many different places where I would gather my incoming information. An official in-box in my home office, and a stash of papers next to the phone in the kitchen. Then there was the pile of mail by the front door and a collection of receipts in my wallet. Oh yes, the business cards and notes-to-self in my purse and pockets. A few things strewn about on night-tables or in my van. No wonder I would lose track of things!

I've consolidated all of those sources of inflow into one holding place until I can process it. Everything goes into my in box in my office now, even if it makes my in-box look scary. An important corollary of this system is to book time in your calendar each week to tackle your in-box. The volume that's in there now can look intimidating at times, but I am always amazed at how quickly I can work through it knowing that all of the loose ends I may need to make a decision are already in that one single in-box.

3. Ode to the Label-maker

A dear cousin of mine with a real talent for organization suggested I get a label-maker. I thought it was a sweet suggestion, but didn't see the need. I'm a pretty neat printer and my labels were fairly legible on my file folders.

Then I caved and borrowed a friend's label-maker and have become a true convert. Seeing those crisp labels in 20 pt font beaming at me makes me want to feed those folders on a regular basis. Having beautiful labels has created a sense of professionalism in my home systems and a stronger commitment on my part to keeping my space organized. I look now for opportunities to organize and label my storage space, like those containers in my basement and inside my cupboards. Official-looking labels are helping me teach others in my home where I like to store things. The bonus of my label-maker is that my children have caught the fever and anything that inspires school-age children to label their binders and storage places is definitely worth having!

4. Game on, Game Over

Athletes have got the right idea -- they train hard, they play hard and then they review the game and develop a strategy to win the next one. Dave Buck, President of Coachville, urges people wanting to improve their productivity to decide when it's "Game on, Game Over..." Life moves at such a quick pace nowadays it's easy to be caught in perpetual "game on" mode. To be productive we need rest, recuperation and reflective time. He recommends you set up a game with a definite start and end time. When the game is on, you are on -- no interruptions and you keep your nose to the grindstone. When the game is over, you're done (for now) and celebrate your success in the game.

It's been fun to set up "games" to help me accomplish tasks that I used to consider to be a chore and a bore. I use the timer I now have on my desk for that purpose. I've noted a much higher level of productivity when I give myself that down time and when I know my focus and attention is going to be required at 100% for short bursts. It's alleviated some of the guilt I used to feel that I wasn't "getting enough done." Some of my favorite games are "Clutter busting in the basement for 20 minutes" and "Deleting 50 old emails a day keeps the computer technician away..." What games could you set up this week?

5. Seriously, Put it in your Calendar

This seems like an incredibly obvious tip but it's vital. If an activity is not in your calendar or daytimer, it's likely not going to happen. Inevitably when a client tells me they didn't take an action step in the past week, it's because they didn't put it in their calendar. We're usually fairly good about keeping appointments with others. We're far more irresponsible when it comes to treating those personal commitments with the same level of importance and respect. There's never a shortage of household maintenance like bills, correspondence, filing, emails and other paperwork. If you don't specifically block that time out on your calendar, guess what happens -- you'll never get the time to do it! For an investment in your peace of mind, build in and protect that time.
About the Author
Carolyn B. Ellis, author, spiritual divorce coach and founder of Thrive After Divorce Inc. If you want simple life-changing tips for single parenting, visit Thrive After Divorce now to receive a FREE report.
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