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Productivity & Organizing Myth #2 – Can’t stop influx

Productivity & Organizing Myth #2 – Can’t stop influx
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    As a new guest author to lifehack.org and an experienced productivity consultant I would like to start by naming and dispelling common productivity and organizing myths. This series will be posted each week until we cover the top 10.

    Myth: I cannot stop the email, paper mail, and physical things from coming at me

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    Reality: You can stop much of the paper mail, email, and ‘stuff’ (items, articles, things) from coming at you and encroaching on your life.

    There are preventive actions that you can take to reduce the influx of stuff being delivered to you. These are proactive steps that you must take and will feel so worthwhile when complete! Let’s look at a few representative cases that are meant to trigger some of your own efforts. Please do leave a comment with your own specific questions… I can help solve them!

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    Case 1 – Email. Regarding email that piles up in your inbox and you have no interest in reading, stop it from being sent to you. Send a request to the creator of the email saying simply, “Please take me off the mailing list for _________. I am making an email reduction effort and removal from the distribution list would help me. If I find I need that report in the future, I know you’re the one to contact. Thank you for your help on this.”

    Case 2 – Paper mail. Stop all subscriptions to periodicals & catalogs. Yes, this is dramatic but you really aren’t reading most of them anyway. Simply call the customer service number listed in the front pages of magazines and throughout the catalogs and cancel your subscription. Be sure to say, “Please cancel my subscription and send the refund to me at the address you have. Also, please delete or mark my record so that no future mailings of any sort are sent to me.” With that done, sit back and imagine the vast relief you’ll have without a backlog of periodicals piled high reminding you of your lack of time.

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    Case 3 – Stuff. It’s a month after Christmas and Jane has 6 boxes of fancy tea bags that people gave her during the holidays. They’re cluttering her cube yet she doesn’t want to offend those who gave them to her. She doesn’t even like that type of tea. (You can substitute sweater or pens for tea). Jean can give the tea away to people in a distant part of the building. Or, Jean could take them home (and throw them out). Or, she could have headed this off before the holidays by promoting event only gifts. She could have made it widely known that she prefers time with people over things as gifts. By chatting about giving others the gift of time in the form of lunch gift-certificates she could make it pretty clear that such a gift would be her ideal to receive as well as to give.

    You might need to be a little creative and you must be diligent then you can curtail the clutter that threatens to overwhelm – and stop the stuff!

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    Previous Myth: Productivity & Organizing Myth #1 – Born Organized

    Susan Sabo – a traveler who has been to 47 countries. Her organized life has allowed her to go overseas for months at a time. She writes the Productivitycafe.com blog, presents to groups and consults one-on-one with individuals.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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