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Productivity & Organizing Myth #5 – the right planner (tool) is all you need

Productivity & Organizing Myth #5 – the right planner (tool) is all you need
Moleskine

    Myth: Having the right portfolio planner, calendar, mole skine and containers (tools) will make someone productive.
    Reality: Having the right tools is the first part to being productive, managing your time well, and being successful. The second part, which is even more vital, is that one knows how to use the tools.

    None of us would expect to be master gardeners just because we purchased a shovel and rototiller. Nor would we think we could play Chopin because we purchased a piano. Ditto for playing like Tiger Woods simply because we bought good golf clubs. Why would we think we’d be magically productive and organized by having the right tools?

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    Fortunately the second step to being productive and organized follows immediately on the heels of the first step. The second step is to create then implement personal standard operating procedures! Just as we know that using those clubs, garden tools, and piano, correctly and practicing will yield a good golfer, gardener, or pianist, you can be assured of turning in projects on time, having accurate budgets, and allocating your day effectively by using standard operating procedures (sops).

    Simply, the solution is to have the tools AND learn how to use them proficiently. Notice I don’t say use them perfectly – that’s a quest that requires too much energy and time. Use tools proficiently and they will impact your life in many positive ways.

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    The concept that makes SOPs most powerful is that you ‘automate’ things that you can so that you have energy and focus for that which you cannot automate – planning, decision making, and communicating. For example, if you know that you always list phone calls to return on the next line in your notebook you will always know where to look for someone’s number. Closely linked to this SOP is ‘enter contacts into your address book weekly’ (or daily if that is better for your own SOP). An additional benefit of using the notebook (tool) consistently – elimination of scraps of paper that you have to toss into your inbox and process later so less clutter!

    A quick list of useful SOP for productivity & organization that are meant to trigger your thinking as you develop your SOPs:

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    • Calendar SOP: list every time commitment in the calendar, print the calendar and post the copy at home (update weekly)
    • Calendar SOP: Color code types of activities
    • Business Meetings – the company color IE blue for SAP
    • Personal activities – Gold (because that’s what your time is worth)
    • Annual events like birthdays & anniversaries – Dark Green
    • Actions – Black
    • Things to do while driving around – Bright Green
    • Travel days – Red
    • Kids Activities – Orange
    • Inbox (paper) SOP: all unattended collect in the inbox. This includes receipts to be recorded, mail to be open, notes from others – everything. All things are held here until processed. Process the inbox once per day. (processing is a subject unto itself – for a future post)
    • Moleskine notebook SOP: I’ll refer you to Kathy Sierra at the Creating Passionate Users Blog because it’s ace!
    • Addressbook SOP: categorize your contacts as you enter them. This allows you to create a Holiday Card mailing list, for example, throughout the year rather than having to review every contact at that busy time of the year. Yeah, you’re streamlined.

    There are many sources from books to classes to coaches that will help you use your tools more proficiently. Explore the help menus, view the tutorials, ask a colleague, for their ideas on using productivity tools. You don’t need to learn to use them on your own!

    Previous Myths:

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    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at Productivity Cafe, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity SOPs & tips(such as how to get home for dinner) to groups.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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