For most people these days, keeping up with the daily onslaught of email is a major challenge. In fact, experts estimate that e-mail has added an extra 1.23 hours to the average person’s workday (E-Writing: 21st Century Tools for Effective Communication by Diana Booher; Managing Your E-Mailby Christina Cavanagh). If you multiply 1.23 hours by 5 days for 52 weeks, the average person is spending 320 hours per year of extra time handling e-mail. Wow! That is a lot of time spent on email. And experts estimate that the time lost to email has caused workers to shave time elsewhere, causing a productivity crunch.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the average U.S. worker spends up to four hours a day sending and receiving e-mail. Of that four hours, it is estimated that one hour each day is spent on the 36 percent of e-mail messages that are either irrelevant, or relevant but do not require a response.

So how do your survive the daily email attack? The following tips will help you manage the flow of email:

  • Turn off e-mail alarms and prompts through your e-mail preferences tool. Many people have alarms and prompts set to go off every few minutes upon the arrival of e-mail in their inbox. These continual interruptions make people respond like Pavlov’s dogs every time they hear the “you’ve got mail” chime. Turning off the chime will keep you from interrupting what you were doing to read e-mail in the midst of other projects.
  • Plan for the reading and response of e-mail in your daily schedule. Create a proactive method of managing e-mail by setting up time in your day dedicated to e-mail. Do not check e-mail the first thing in the morning, or you risk becoming reactive. Instead, spend the first hour working on the most important project or planning your day out.
  • Estimate the amount of time you are spending on e-mail now, and cut that time in half. Deadlines usually make most people more efficient. You may want to spend half of your allocated email time in the morning, and the other half after lunch or before you finish working for the day. The time constraint forces you to prioritize. The e-mails that do not get answered are probably not that important and, thus, deleted, or archived in file folders for future use.
  • Create e-mail folders, and direct the flow of e-mail. Create folders in your e-mail system that mirror your paper filing system to reinforce storage and retrieval of important information. In addition, create the folders to reflects your active projects and change your e-mail settings to direct e-mail that contains project-related language to those folders within your inbox. Added bonus: many e-mail systems impose limits on inbox size, but not in a folder.
  • Use computer storage folders. For e-mails that need to be kept for a longer period of time, create an electronic filing cabinet, with electronic folders for category names that match the physical files. Use Word or any system your company utilizes and backs up often.
  • Save the most recent only. Delete the earlier string of emails and just keep the most current one to avoid saving redundant emails.
  • Just save the attachment. If e-mail has an attachment and that is all you need, only save the attachment.
  • Control the flow of the e-mail exchange. People often feel they must respond to email instantly. Take time to consider your response and slow the flow of email when an immediate response if unnecessary.
  • Refrain from sending irrelevant e-mail. Be careful not to send e-mail just because it’s quick and convenient. The same rules apply to e-mail as regular correspondence – if it doesn’t have to be said, don’t say it.
  • Create templates. If you frequently send the same types of emails, create templates that you can use over and over (changing only the specifics each time).
  • Create an e-mail ritual. Every Friday before you leave the office, be ruthless about deleting e-mails no longer needed, saving those you need for a week or longer to personal folders, saving those you need longer to Word, and reviewing those in the personal folders to delete any no longer necessary. Make this a weekly habit and your e-mail will be a lot more manageable. You can also do the same thing at the end of every day if you so choose.

Many people are familiar with the above tips, but few actually implement them, leaving them to be reactive instead of proactive. Organizing your e-mail, like any other organizing behavior, allows you to be more productive and better utilize your time and energy. So stop the madness, and do what it takes to take control of your email. Remember, e-mail is supposed to be an electronic communications tool to assist you, not drive you crazy.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Time management is a major issue for many people.  And it’s not getting any better.  Experts estimate that during the last 25 years, our leisure time has declined by 37% while our workweek has increased by a full day.  The American’s Use of Time Project at the University of Maryland revealed that the average American spends more than 20 hours per week on housework.

Even if you are an otherwise excellent time manager, a disorganized physical environment will steal a large amount of time and energy from your day.  USA Today reports that Americans collectively waste 9 million hours every day looking for misplaced items.

Here are some small time management tips that can help make a big impact:

  • Take 15 – At the end of every day at the office, take 15 minutes to put things in order.  Put away files that are no longer in use, plug in to do’s on your daily list from your master one, take out files to be used the next day, etc. That way, you come into a clean ready-to-work environment.  At home before you go to bed at night, spend 15 minutes picking up stray items and putting them back into their proper homes.
  • Prepare for Your Morning the Night Before – Prepare for your morning the night before.  Gather everything you will need, such as your pocketbook, briefcase, knapsack, keys, etc. If you have a “home” for these things near your entryway, you will never have a problem scurrying around for them when you are leaving the house.  Choose your clothes and set them out in a convenient location for dressing.  Get out what you need to quickly and easily prepare breakfast.  And be sure to pack your lunch the night before also!
  • Set up a Gift Zone – Buy cards in advance for many types of occasions and even consider some generic gifts for house warming, birthdays, and baby showers.  Keep the items together in a gift, card, and gift-wrapping station with everything at your fingertips if you need to write out a card, choose a gift and wrap it.
  • Record TV Shows – Turn on the television only when your show is scheduled to begin and turn it off when it is over.  Turning the television off 1 hour per week gives you 52 extra hours in a year.  Some people record shows even if they are home to be able to avoid commercials and not interrupt themselves but save the show for when it is most convenient for them to watch.
  • Listen and Learn – Listen to audio books or podcasts for your commute (learn a foreign language, work related, novels, etc.), or consider carrying a mini-recorder to dictate work assignments or even personal ideas.
  • Portable Reading – Carry a “to read” file with you for those times when you are waiting on line, waiting at the doctor’s office, on the subway, etc.  If the reading material sits in a pile at home, it hardly ever gets read!
  • Delivery Anyone? – See what services offer delivery, like office supplies, dry cleaning, food, etc.
  • Organized Errands – Run all of your errands at one time, starting farthest from your house and ending up closest to home.
  • Call & Confirm – Call ahead before going to the store to see if they have what you need, call to confirm appointments before you show up, call to see if the restaurant has seating.  Save yourself unnecessary drives.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

The 80/20 Rule

The Secret to a Successful Relationship?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule. Little did I know at that time that the 80/20 Rule would surface in the most unlikely of places a few days later – during a wedding ceremony.

My brother’s wedding was this past Friday evening. Friends and family were all gathered in a lovely setting for the ceremony. The minister started talking about what makes a good marriage. He then proceeded to introduce the 80/20 Rule, and described how it applies to marriage.

He said that when we fall in love, we fall in love with 80% of our partner’s personality, and that the other 20% makes up the flaws and personality quirks that we would like to change. He then advised that the most successful relationships are ones in which the partners focus on the 80% they love about each other, and consciously try to ignore, or at least tolerate, the 20% they don’t.

As the minister was giving his sermon, I couldn’t help thinking how this is just another way that the 80/20 Rule manifests itself in our daily lives. It truly pops up in the most interesting ways and situations. I also started to realize that if the 80/20 Rule can be applied to marriage in this way — focus on the positive and ignore the negative — then, by extension, it applies to relationships of all kinds.

Think about it. In every relationship – romantic couples, family, friends, co-workers, business associates, etc. — there exists some form of the 80/20 ratio. There are always going to be aspects of the relationship that are better than others. In good relationships, the positive aspects clearly outweigh the negative ones. And, perhaps, the best relationships are the ones in which the parties make a conscious effort to try to avoid focusing on the 20% that is negative.  It’s sort of like applying the ”glass is half full” attitude to relationships.

So, whether in marriage or any other relationship, think 80/20 and chances are, it will be a more fulfilling partnership!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

One of the best books on writing – and life itself for that matter – is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Among the pearls of wisdom she offers in her funny, witty style, is to take baby steps. Apparently, when she was a child, her brother was facing writer’s block as he attempted to write a book report on various species of birds. He was overwhelmed, realizing there was so much to do, and didn’t know where to start. Her father advised her then 10-year-old brother to, “Just take it bird by bird.”

Wiser words were never spoken and not just about overcoming writer’s block. The same can be said of how to get organized. One of the biggest obstacles that people face when attempting to ‘get organized’ is that they bite off more than they can chew. They forget that it took them years to get disorganized, and that they should allow ample time to reverse the trend. If you truly want to get better organized, the bottom line is that you have to be willing to make changes in your systems and the way you are doing things (or not doing things), and you have to be prepared to act – to put the principles in place. Be ready to put in the time to make or break habits – psychologists say it takes approximately 18 days to do so. Organizing is a way of life that requires maintenance and ongoing effort until it becomes second nature. Remember that change is a process, not an event. Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one area of your life that needs changing the most and focus on it first.

So, how do you take it ‘bird by bird’ when organizing? First, do a ‘brain dump.’ This is when you put down on paper (or on your computer, in your iPhone, etc.) every organizing problem and challenge you face, all of the tasks and activities you need to accomplish to have a more organized home, office and life, and what your organizing goals are. Next, get your calendar out, and start scheduling organizing sessions with yourself. At the very least, map out one thing you intend to do and what steps it will take to do that, then schedule them.  Even if it takes you six months of scheduling, in six months from now, you’ll be better organized.

In order to stay motivated while organizing, post your goals in a conspicuous place, especially if you are a visual person. Before and after photos also help many people get and stay motivated. Reward yourself along the way as you would with any other behavior modification program. For example, when you finish a certain portion of your organizing project, treat yourself to some stylish new organizing products, like bins or baskets (or any other dangling carrot that works for you!). Play music while you are organizing. Not only will it help you keep moving, but it can also serve as a great timer so that you don’t overdo it and spend too much time organizing and burn out. When your favorite CD is over, so is your organizing session. Lastly, consider working with a buddy (perhaps as a couple?) in a team/group effort (a family project?), or go to the pros and hire a professional organizer. Involving others is often a great motivator and keeps you accountable!

Where and how do you start organizing? Attack what’s visible first. For most people, this serves as the best motivator, gives them a sense of accomplishment and, therefore, offers the most ‘bang for the buck.’ Sort one section at a time, room by room. Try to finish an area, project, or room before moving onto the next. Remember, the space often looks worse before it looks better. The process of organizing is messy, as you have to pull everything out to sort, purge, and create new systems. Stay focused by making a separate box labeled “action” and tend to it later. Also, create an “out” box near the door of the room you are organizing for items that belong somewhere else in the home or work place. Do not leave the space you are organizing to go put things away!

I know it’s tempting to try to tackle the whole house, office, or your life, but exercise some restraint. If not, you will most likely be setting yourself up for failure. Trying to do it all generally leads to feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy. Then you will wonder why you ever tried to get organized in the first place, and stop trying at all. Instead, just take it ‘bird by bird.’

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

 “I have found that among its other benefits, giving
liberates the soul of the giver.”
~ Maya Angelou

This time of year, many people are switching their clothes to prepare for the new season.  Most people do not have enough room in their everyday closet for two seasons’ worth of clothes.  So the big switch begins!  Out with the summer clothes here in the Northeast and in with the fall/winter ones.

Transition times are perfect for donating.  As you put away and take out each article of clothing, think about whether it fits, is a great style for you, needs tailoring, etc.  If you decide to donate, there are many worthy charities and organizations ready and able to take those clothes off of your hands and get them into the hands of those who need them.  Here are some choices:

The Help Kenya Project

This is a Westchester County, NY based charity that focuses on helping the children of Kenya. They collect donations of used computers, books, clothing, sports equipment, and other supplies and ship them to Kenyan schools and libraries. In return, they ask that the recipients plant trees to combat deforestation and provide children with a place to rest and play out of the sun.

It’s incredible how valuable the book or computer you might be throwing out is to a Kenyan child. By providing Kenya’s students with science, English, and computer skills, they give them a much better chance of finding good jobs later in life. It breaks the cycle of poverty by helping Kenyans to help themselves. This is a charity that truly leaves a lasting impact.

Vietnam Veterans of America
VVA accepts donations of household goods and clothing in 30 states in the continental United States. To make a donation, please refer to the state map. Identify your area and call the phone number referenced.

Tangible Karma is a donation tracking service that gives you a chance to see the difference your donated goods can make in the world.  At Tangible Karma their mission is to inspire and motivate you, to transform items that are hindering your life into valuable gifts that could make a meaningful difference in the life of another.

In addition to the above organizations, don’t forget Dress for Success, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, domestic violence and homeless shelters, places of worship, educational institutions, animal shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, and libraries.  I am sure you can think of even more in your area!

Adopt an organization and make it a point to get a wish list from them so that you can fill it with the items you no longer love, use often, or need.  Then sit back and experience the satisfaction of knowing that your cast-offs are becoming someone else’s needed treasures.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

The Clothes Closet Overhaul

  • Remove everything from your closet.
  • Create four piles: Keep, Donate, Toss, Tailor/Clean.  If you haven’t worn it in a few seasons, get rid of it!
  • Try on everything in your keep pile and decide item by item if it is really a keeper.  If you are unsure, try it on and look in a mirror.  Or better yet, ask a kind but honest friend to come over and give you his/her opinion as you conduct a mini fashion show.  The ultimate – get a pro and hire an image or wardrobe consultant to help you.
  • If you have a few sentimental favorites you can’t part with but won’t wear, store them in your Memory Box or out of season storage area.
  • Once you’ve pared down, give your closet an orderly flow.  Organize by garment type (shirts, pants, dresses, suits), season (current in most accessible location), color (only if that appeals to you), use (work versus casual), size (good for babies and little kids who grow out of sizes easily) — whatever makes the most sense for your lifestyle.
  • Consider storing your off-season clothing in separate location if it takes up too much room.  Dress clothes/evening wear used occasionally can also go elsewhere.
  • Use wooden hangers for suits and slacks, clear plastic swivel hangers for shirts, and padded hangers for lingerie and delicate items.
  • Be ruthless about weeding out your clothes on a regular basis, at least whenever there is a change of seasons.  Place a donate bin, box, or bag at the bottom of your closet as a constant reminder! Donate any items not used in the last few seasons, that don’t fit (yes, even your “fat” or “skinny” clothes — it is bad energy to have clothes that don’t fit you hanging around!), or that are out of style.  Remember to keep track of what you donate and get a receipt for a tax deduction if you donate to a tax-exempt charity!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

A large percentage of my clients face paper clutter challenges. Despite visions of a paperless society when the computer was invented, we are still inundated with paper at home and at work.

One of the biggest culprits is “junk mail” — those credit card solicitations, catalogs, circulars, and the like that you don’t want or need, but that still keep coming. Experts estimate that the average person receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year.

How to stop the madness? Here are some great resources for helping you whittle down the amount of junk mail that comes into your home or office in the first place.

  • OptOutPrescreen.com is the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website to accept and process requests from consumers to opt-in or opt-out of firm offers of credit or insurance.
  • Catalog Choice is a free service that allows you to decide what gets in your mailbox. Use it to reduce your mailbox clutter, while helping save natural resources.
  • DMAChoice.org is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help you manage your mail. This site is part of a larger program designed to respond to consumers’ concerns over the amount of mail they receive, and it is the evolution of the DMA’s Mail Preference Service created in 1971.  For the purposes of this site, direct mail is divided into four categories: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers. You can request to start or stop receiving mail from individual companies within each category—or from an entire category at once.
  • YellowPagesGoesGreen.org was started because we are continually bombarded with yellow and white pages directories at both home and office. The site is not intended to stop the use of such directories, but to eliminate the unsolicited delivery of the books. The thinking is, if you want a book, you can call and order one.
  • 41Pounds.org is a service that helps you stop 80-95% of unwanted catalogs and junk mail. Yes, it is a paid service, but the fee is reasonable and they do all of the work of contacting the mailing companies for you. 41 Pounds donates over half of its profits to environmental groups, local schools, and youth groups.
  • Mail Stopper is another paid service that does all of the work for you. Mail Stopper plants 5 trees on behalf of each member to further fight the environmental impact of all of the wasted paper produced by junk mail.

Take the time to contact any of the above resources to help you stop junk mail from entering your home or office. The result will be less paper to process, which means less clutter and more time for you!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

The phrase ‘time management’ has become one of the most oft-repeated phrases of our society. Almost everyone thinks they need to improve their time management skills. The problem is that most people aren’t even examining what the real issue is. Instead, the average person will blame time itself. Think I am kidding? Let me demonstrate.

When I attend a social or business function and people discover that I am a productivity expert, the topic often turns to ‘time management.’ Many people will invariably say some version of, “I don’t have any time.” To which I then usually reply, “Actually, you have the same 24 hours in your day that every other human being has. What you’re really telling me is that you don’t like the way you are spending your time, or you have not been able to prioritize your tasks to maximize that 24 hours.” I usually get a long pause, and then if the person ‘gets it,’ he or she will have a small epiphany and reply, “Yes, that’s it! I wish I were managing my time better. I’m feeling out of balance.”

The reason that this common time management description irks me so much is that it essentially gives the person an excuse by blaming time itself, when the real issue generally lies with the person. While there may be some real issues involved that cause a person to get into a time management jam, it is also often the person’s lack of planning, procrastination, and failure to adequately prioritize that causes the time crunch.

People are not overwhelmed with time itself, but with what they fill that time with – all of the tasks and responsibilities that make up their busy schedules. That overwhelmed feeling is a lack of control over the passing of time. And that would actually be correct because no matter how hard you try, you cannot control the passing of time.

No matter how organized you are and how much you plan ahead, the reality of life steps in. Good time management techniques are in place so that when life throws you a curve ball, you can hit it and get back on base. You need techniques to put your plans into action so that you can avoid, to the extent possible, the time crunches that can come between you and your best life.

The phrase “time management” is itself an oxymoron. You can’t manage time, only what you choose to do with it. I often tell my clients that if I could invent a time machine and give them all a 25th hour in the day, I would. But until that amazing feat occurs (be patient, I’m working on it), we are all left on even playing field.

Indeed, time is the great equalizer. As Denis Waitley puts it, “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes each day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.” Wise words.

Another phrase that I often hear is “Time is money.” This is actually a bit of a loaded topic for me. As a former practicing attorney, I am all too familiar with what it means to sell your time as a commodity. You are essentially selling your time (i.e., your life) in six-minute increments. The only valuable time is billable time. The decision to spend time doing anything other than billable work must be justified. It’s no wonder that chief among a host of reasons for the high dissatisfaction among lawyers is the pressure of high billable-hours requirements in large firms, which leads to a serious lack of life-work balance.

Time isn’t money – time is life itself. No amount of money in the world can buy a minute or an hour. That moment that just passed while you were reading that last sentence is now gone forever. To me, that is more of a motivator than money. I can make another dollar in my lifetime, but I can’t get back that moment. However, because time is so forgiving, I can start over each day, hoping to live it to the fullest and use all of its 24 hours in the best way possible.

So let the connection between time and life itself be the impetus you need for managing your time better. “Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Imagine you are on a roll, engrossed in a project, in the “flow.” All of a sudden, the phone rings, an e-mail alarm goes off, a colleague is standing in your doorway, a fax is coming over the machine, etc. Ah, interruptions. If you didn’t define all of those as an interruption, think again.

Experts estimate that the average American is interrupted 73 times per day. Some people find this number to be high, others find it extremely low. It depends on what your definition of an interruption is. My definition is anything that you didn’t want to, or expect to, happen at that time. I equate an interruption to a weed in my garden – if it doesn’t belong there, or if I don’t want it there,  it is a weed. Same with an interruption.

So how do you avoid getting sidetracked? Own your interruptions if you can. It is not always easy, and it depends on what your job is, and who is interrupting you, but try it!

Own your interruptions. Start to think of an interruption as an offer, and your decision as to whether you will take the interruption as a counter-offer. It is okay to say “Thanks for your call/visit. I do want to speak with you, but now is not a good time. Can we talk/meet at 2:00 p.m. instead?” There. You just counter-offered. See if it works. It is certainly worth a try.

Grade your interruptions. Let’s face it – some interruptions are more important than others. You probably need to take interruptions from certain people, like your boss, a sick child, etc. But not everyone. So be selective and if an interruption comes in that does not make the grade, don’t take it!

Create do-not-disturb time. Screen calls, or set up times of the day when you answer and return calls and let that be known to friends, family and work colleagues. Utilize a “do not disturb” sign at the office when working on a tight deadline, close your office door, set “office hours” for visitors and colleagues, or go work in a conference room, library or coffee shop where you can hide. When I was practicing law, I often escaped to another location when writing an important court brief, or closed my door and left a sign-up sheet for people that stopped by that explained that I was on deadline and when I would surface for air.

Use a post-it note wisely. Before you take an interruption, write down the very next action you were planning to take, how long you thought it would take, and whether you can delegate it to someone else. Often, the interruption itself is not as bad as playing catch-up after it. Taking the time to write down where you are and what you need to get back to can help you save precious time.

Plan for interruptions. If you work in an interruption-rich culture, you can only plan out 50% of your time to allow for 50% interruptions. For example, if your job is to put out “fires” all day, you can’t avoid interruptions as they are exactly what you should be handling. An example of this would be a sales manager in a car dealership whose job is to support the sales team on the floor, and to control and manage issues as they arise. This individual will be less able to avoid interruptions and should plan for them in his or her schedule, by blocking out time before or after “floor” time to get his or her project-related work done.

Stop the interrupter. It is worth noting that supposedly 80% of our interruptions come from 20% of the people we come into contact with. Try to identify the frequent interrupters and start coming up with ways to cut them off before they occur. If you know someone always calls you to confirm a meeting, send a quick text/e-mail to let him or her know you are still on as scheduled. Or better yet, explain that it is your policy not to miss meetings and you do not need a reminder (you have your Blackberry for that!), and that you will call in the rare event you need to cancel. Start taking control of the interruptions before they occur and stopping them at their source. Then, you won’t need to “own” as many interruptions in the first place.

Now, go forth and “own” those interruptions so you can get some work done!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

I am a big fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. I have read all seven of them, and each time a new movie version premieres, I make it a point to re-read that book before seeing the accompanying movie. Therefore, at this time, I am re-reading the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is currently showing in theaters. In Half-Blood Prince, the sixth-year students at Hogwarts are taking lessons in apparition. Apparition is a magical form of teleportation, through which a witch or wizard can disappear (”disapparate”) from one location and reappear (”apparate”) in another. During the lessons, the instructor outlines the 3 D’s of apparition: Destination, Determination, and Deliberation. When I read the 3 D’s of apparition, I couldn’t help but think that there is a strong parallel to the principles of organizing. Let me demonstrate.

If you are about to embark on an organizing project, you need to first think about your organizing goals, i.e., your Destination. If a physical organizing project, you can do this by visualizing what the space will look like after you have organized it. Visualize your home or office without the piles of clutter. If your organizing project is not physical, then you can envision what you will feel like once the project is accomplished. Visualize your calendar with less tasks in it. Hold onto that visualization in your mind. Thinking about your Destination is a powerful motivator to help get you there. In my 6-step organizing approach, DECIDE®, the first step is Discover. Like Destination, it is the stage when you think about what you want in your home, work, and life, and how being better organized will serve you and your goals.

In order to succeed with your organizing projects, you need to practice Determination. When you are determined, you are more likely to prepare for success. What type of Determination do you have? Have you created an accountability partnership? Have you hired a professional organizer to assist you? Are you willing to make the time and exert the effort that it takes to make organization a reality? With Determination, you will make time in your schedule to organize, and will break down the organizing project into small manageable portions in order to stay focused and motivated. In my DECIDE® process, the 5th step is Dedicate. Just like with Determination, you must dedicate yourself to becoming organized, and staying that way once you have achieved your desired goal.

Lastly, you must act with Deliberation when you want to get organized. To be deliberate when organizing means that slow and steady wins the race. You need to take each action with an eye toward whether it makes sense for you. In the DECIDE® process, the 4th step is Implement, during which you design organizing systems to match your habits, needs, work, and lifestyle. You need to carefully consider each step along the way, and be deliberate so that the system can be maintained for the long haul. If the system is deliberately tailored to you, you will be more likely to maintain it.

So when organizing, think of the 3 D’s of apparition from Harry Potter: Destination, Determination, and Deliberation. They are useful tools for accomplishing your organizing projects. And, of course, if all else fails, you can always try to “disapparate” your clutter!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.