Don't Put Off Shredding

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Here's chapter three of my new book. Every Wednesday there's a new chapter. You can read them here, or buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #3

Almost every day you get mail
that’s got sensitive information in it that should be shredded. Don’t
stack it up somewhere to shred later! Shred
it right away.
Otherwise, you end up with a shopping bag full
and the idea of sitting next to the shredder for an hour is not very
attractive (it’ll be too loud for you to watch TV at the same time).
Get a quality shredder (one that won’t jam or freak out over staples)
and put it where you usually sort mail and paper. Then you can shred as
you go.

What you shred depends on your personal comfort level. Some people like
to shred anything with their name and address on it, but that’s a lot
of work and will not do much to protect your identity. The important items to shred are
ones with your signature, social security number or any account number
(this includes credit card offers). Additionally, anything with legal
or medical information about you should be shredded.

Right now:
If you haven’t gone through today’s
mail, look at it now and see if you can find something that needs
shredding. Then shred it!


Originally posted 2010-08-11 10:28:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

A Blackberry is Just a Tool

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Having information is not the same as knowing what to do with it. Sometimes more is just … more. Will a Blackberry make you better at your job? Are you sure about that?

In an interview with CIO Insight magazine, David Allen said, "If you are unproductive to begin with, technology will add something else you are unproductive about." Having great tools is wonderful, but they don’t automatically bestow the skills needed to use them. It’s easy to have the illusion of productivity when you are constantly pushing information around.

Go ahead and get the Blackberry if you want it. If you also want to be more productive, you’ll need to

  • be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish
  • make decisions
  • take action on those decisions
  • follow up on the actions of others
  • stay on track

Electronic devices such as Blackberrys are great for aiding you in those tasks (so is a pen and some paper). It’s you, however, who supplies the brain power.

Originally posted 2015-12-03 22:30:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Fighting a Hidden Distraction at Work

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Assembly line Many a blog post has been written about turning off your phone and closing your email program and browser so you can get some work done. Tips about deflecting office visitors and avoiding meetings can combat those in-person distractions. But there's another subtle way that you get off track, and that's by doing other people's work.

The thing is, it's usually easier to solve someone else's problems than your own. When you give advice to a friend, you have no difficulty thinking up ideas to get her out of her predicament. And we all appreciate the more objective point of view of our friends in addressing our own challenges. 

If you do this at work, though, you're usually short changing your own projects. Every time you get sucked into an office crisis or even just volunteer to look up information to respond to a casual request, you're doing a task that someone else should be doing.

I'm not saying you should become a hermit and never offer to help. Just be mindful about whether you are also honoring your own commitments. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Schedule work appointments with yourself and keep them. Putting them on a shared calendar is helpful to let others know you're busy
  • Create an email auto-responder that you can easily activate for the times that you need to be distraction-free. Let correspondents know when you'll be back on line
  • Have office hours. Put a sign on your door that says you're open from 1-4 pm
  • Don't respond to casual requests that are sent to a group. Let someone else respond
  • If necessary, set an hourly timer so you can check in with yourself and make sure you're on track
Cream puff assembly line from misocrazy's photostream

Originally posted 2010-07-21 09:30:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Pile-Free Zone

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guard your desk spaceYears ago I had a client who was plagued by what she called CHS. That stands for Convenient Horizontal Surfaces. Whenever there was one, she found herself filling it up with something and then had to work to get it free again.

Your desk is a prime candidate for attracting piles, especially when there is empty space on it. It’s a conundrum; you want to have space to work at your desk, yet that empty space inevitably calls out to have paper piled on it.

To maintain your free space, try creating a DMZ for paper. In this demilitarized zone, you make a treaty with yourself not to allow pile attacks. They may occur elsewhere, but this spot is a pile-free zone (PFZ).

It’s helpful to mark your PFZ so you know where it begins and ends and can easily honor your self-created treaty. One way to enforce the PFZ is to use a desk blotter. These come in a variety of materials and sizes. Choose one that allows you enough space to work.

If you can’t find a big enough one, make your own. You could use a rectangle of contact paper or just make a shape with colored tape (it doesn’t have to be a rectangle!). Heck, you can even paint it right onto the desk.

What matters is that you define this spot as the PFZ. Inside the borders: no piles. Outside the borders, piles are allowed. Try to keep them in an in-box if you can.


Originally posted 2014-04-21 09:53:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Decluttering = Cheap, Fast Redecorating

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Sure, you can put some fancy European handles on your kitchen cabinets or install track lighting, but designer Christopher J. Grubb also recommends this approach (this quotation came from today’s New York Times and the link may only be temporarily available):

The fastest and least costly way to update your kitchen is by removing clutter. “Do you really need the canister set, breadbox and all of the appliances out on the counters?” Mr. Grubb asked. “Put things away and leave out a bowl of fruit for color, a tray of oils and other beautiful bottles you cook with or use. One chic spice set and a plant is always a great way to add life to a kitchen.”

I would bet the average designer secretly thinks everyone has too much clutter. It’s refreshing to see decluttering offered as an inexpensive and easy alternative to spending money on decor updates!

Of course, you can apply this technique to the whole house. You don’t have to throw things out, just put them away. That way, your eye (and those of your guests) will be drawn to the lovely vase on the shelf or the beautiful color of your sofa rather than flitting restlessly around a crowded room where nothing stands out except excess.

Time Management is You Management

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Here are some helpful hints from Jan Hayner for managing your time, courtesy of the Clutter Control Freak Blog (sponsored by Stacks and Stacks, which has some fab organizing products).
Time mgmt pie

These hints are especially helpful for those of you who have a hard time saying no. This means scheduling things during lunch so that you have no break time (not to mention no lunch) and otherwise feeling compelled to fill up your entire schedule with requests from others.

Remind yourself that others need not be in charge of your schedule. Even if it seems that they do, it never hurts to ask, “Can we meet at 10 instead of 3 pm? That would work better for me.” Or “I’ve got 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon. If that’s not enough time, can we schedule it for later in the week?” Controlling your time doesn’t mean being self-centered and rigid.

Originally posted 2014-08-11 03:35:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Less Information = Fewer Decisions to Make

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I’ve written many times about decision making (here and on my previous blog, which I wrote between March and October of 2006) and how to make it easier and less time consuming. Today I discovered a new way, which is just having fewer decisions to make.

I wrote the other day about Timothy Ferriss’s “low information diet.” Another of his posts is about a man who followed the Bible literally for a year and found, among other things, that life was easier because decision making was simpler.

His decisions were now all based on what the Bible said (a minimal information diet). If the Bible said yes, he said yes. If the Bible said no, he said no. You don’t have to simplify quite so far, but you can see how it works. The less input you have, the fewer variables there are.

This works best if you realize up front that you will never have all the information you need to make the “perfect” decision anyway. Your access will be limited by time or other logistics. So, why not limit information yourself, with criteria you choose?

I’ve noticed that people get far too involved in collecting information, ostensibly for the purpose of making decisions, but actually because they get hooked on it. Sort of like following link after link on the Internet. It’s hard not to fall down that information rabbit hole.

Try thinking of it as a real diet. For a real diet to be successful, you have to focus on what you’re eating and the exercises you’re doing. If you focus on what you can’t eat, you’re more likely to fail. When the diet is over, the chocolate cake will still be there. Same with information. You’re really not going to miss anything important (see point #3).

Originally posted 2012-12-29 00:19:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Tips for Taming Distractions at Work

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I often hear from people that they come in to the office early in the morning or on weekends just to get some work done in peace. They don’t particularly like doing it, but they do like the quiet and the lack of interruptions from phone, email and coworkers.

Lifehacker yesterday ran a post about “guerilla tactics” people use to get some distraction-free time at work. This was a favorite:

“A couple colleagues of mine and I schedule fake meetings so we can sit
and get an hours work done. If it’s just the three of us, it’s quiet
and easy because we know why we’re there.”

Over at 43Folders, there were several good ideas for managing emails and meetings, such as “filter any email that contains the string “to unsubscribe.”
Although many of these certainly will be valuable (sign-ups, Google
lists), that string means there’s a good chance they’re also bulk messages
that are being generated automatically. And some folks want to only see
those sorts of emails, again, once or twice a day — and only when they
have extra time”

Email in this category is being referred to these days as bacn. It’s not as bad as spam but it significantly clogs inboxes.

Originally posted 2012-02-22 23:40:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Packing List for Holiday Travel

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Holiday travel season is coming up! If you’re going somewhere, use a packing list. It will ease your travel considerably.

I use checklists a lot, all kinds of them. They’re very helpful for making sure nothing falls through the cracks, and I get the satisfaction of checking off items as I do them. I put everything on my checklists because I find that the most common things I forget are the ones that seem most obvious (my toothbrush, for example). When my checklist is as complete as I can make it, I can stop worrying about forgetting things and focus on worrying about missing the plane (!)

There are many generic packing lists on the Internet, such as this one on a travel website. It includes tasks to take care of before leaving home; a great addition. I recommend cobbling together several lists and then editing them to suit your own travel style and to comply with current security regulations.

Again, it’s important to add in everything you can thing of and be specific. For example, the entry for arranging for pet care might also include: make sure this person has a key to get into your home! On the other hand, a checklist is great because it helps you avoid packing unnecessary items; you’ve already decided what you need to take. As this site points out, a packing list

"…defends against last-minute attacks of "I might need this." The worst possible time to be considering what to take on a trip is while you are packing for the trip!"

Hindsight, of course, is 20-20. You can refine your list by making notes while you’re on your trip. Was there something important you forgot? Did you bring some clothes you never wore? Did you have the right shoes? Would it be great next time to have a book light so you can read in bed (I’m always amazed at how poor hotel room lighting can be)? If you’re traveling domestically, what about bringing stamps with you so you can actually mail those postcards from your destination?

Happy trails!

Originally posted 2012-02-15 22:48:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Be Productive in Your Own Time

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Do you live your life by the clock so you can squeeze everything in? Do you anxiously consult your watchBoat_2
while working toward a deadline? Most of us have to live by a schedule part of the time, whether it’s work, school or events. But when you don’t, try leaving the watch on the bureau and forgetting about its constant ticking.

Susan Sabo proposes having a "watch out" day or evening on her Productivity Blog. Remember what it’s like to do something because you’re prompted from within. This is a way to tune into your internal clock. Without the pressure of time, you may find that you’re more productive. Ideas may come more easily.

You might also find yourself lollygagging and daydreaming and feeling unproductive. However, your creativity and thus, your productivity, also needs that kind of time, or timelessness, to really shine.

Dawn in Norway photographed by Maikun.

Originally posted 2008-04-29 12:17:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter