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How to Get Organized in Spite of Yourself

How to Get Organized in Spite of Yourself

    “He who knows others is wise, he who knows himself is enlightened” – Lao Tzu

    One of the first steps in change is awareness — understanding how and why you do things the way you do.

    But why is it important to know yourself?

    Awareness of self…empowers.

    It creates space and understanding for decisions to be made. Decisions on how to move forward or decisions on how to change. Self-awareness gives us a starting point, a place to work from.

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    In Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roesch’s book “How to be organized in spite of yourself”, they explain that everybody can be identified by a different operational style and knowing what your personal style is can be a good starting place if you feel the need to organize your work life.

    In the book, people are classified by the following Time Styles:

    Hopper: A person who generally has many projects on the go at once and likes to works on all simultaneously. They constantly jump from task to task without finishing any of them.

    Perfectionist Plus: The Perfectionist Plus gets so involved in their projects and believe they can do everything right that they rarely finish a project on time. Even when they do finish a job, they are usually dissatisfied with the outcome.

    Allergic to Detail: They would much rather formulate the plans than carry them out. This type is very weak on follow through.

    Fence Sitter: The Fence Sitter leaves most things to chance because they are incapable to making a decision and worry whether their decisions will be the correct ones.

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    Cliff Hanger: These people thrive on excitement, delay everything to the last minute and usually need a deadline to complete anything.

    Identify your own style. When I identified myself and my style of working, I realized that it wasn’t so much a character flaw as I had previously believed, but a recognizable style that probably one-fifth of the population of the world share with me. Knowing this allowed me to (firstly) not be so hard on myself but it also put me in a position of power to allow me to learn to work with it.

    Here are a few tips to help you work better with your each style

    Hopper:Slow down. Eliminate distractions and interruptions.Do high priority tasks when you have most energy. Break projects down into mini-goals.

    Perfectionist Plus: Identify and focus on your highest priorities. Anything else does not need high attention to detail. Learn to say “no” and to delegate.

    Allergic to detail: Create simple, basic routines, set reminders, break up tasks into smaller goals, and schedule tasks.

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    Fence Sitter: Understand that there really are no bad decisions. Break down decisions into small steps, pinpoint your fears, and get familiar with your gut feeling.

    Cliff Hanger: Schedule time for tasks. Become aware of how long they really take, check your to-do list regularly to ensure you are not procrastinating on important tasks.

    How do you spend your time?

    Another important factor is to see how you currently spend your time. We all work hard — we spend many hours each day on tasks and projects that need to be done.

    But are there tasks that could be eliminated?

    Are we perhaps spending too much time on certain jobs? Identifying how you spend each moment of the day can be very enlightening.

    When the end of the work day comes and you think you know how the day was spent, do you remember that you spent twenty minutes chatting to your work colleagues about the football game or the fact that you spent thirty minutes on social media? What about the time spent at two meetings that didn’t really affect your job? Could you have read the meeting minutes rather than attend it personally?

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    Analyzing how the hours of each day were spent will allow you to make better decisions about your time going forward.

    This can be done by using a paper time sheet where you detail all of the things that you spent time on during the day or you can download an electronic time-sheet from the Internet that will monitor all that you do on your computer during the day.

    Know Thyself

    When you discover more about your personal style and how you currently spend your time you will be in a more powerful position to make more informed decisions about how you can work at your best.

    As for my style, it turns out that I am both a Hopper and Allergic to Detail. Confusion, disorder, chaos, disarray were all words that described me in the past. Getting organized has been life-changing for me. It has been the facilitator of my personal success — and believe me when I say that if I can do it, anyone can!

    (Photo credit: Document folders sorted via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2019

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

    With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

    So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

    1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

    Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

    So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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    You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

    If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

    Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

    2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

    Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

    Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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    Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

    Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

    3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

    If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

    This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

    Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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    When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

    If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

    Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

    4. Get up and Move

    We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

    When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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    If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

    Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

    It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

    Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

    The Bottom Line

    It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

    Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

    More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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