There is a practice that I have been using for years when it comes to my schedule and how I allocate my time. It is a habit I started doing years ago because I am very calendar-focused. I pretty much put everything on my calendar. And by everything, I mean even activities that most people wouldn’t think belong on a calendar. Most people schedule in appointments and planned phone calls, both personal and professional. They also layer on social events, such as parties to attend. But they almost never think to add activities on their calendar such as exercise, meals, sleep, hobbies, errands, etc. Those activities often seem too personal, or are solitary activities and, therefore, often don’t get precious space on the calendar, which means they get placed at the bottom of the priority order.

For years, it seemed natural to me to give space on my calendar to activities that most people typically don’t include. And I started mentioning this to my clients when doing time management and productivity coaching. I also started teaching this tool to my audiences when conducting a speaking engagement about time management and calendar planning. And what I have noticed is that it resonates with many people!

I’ve seen clients and audience members adopt this practice and it has resulted in major shifts in the way they spend their time. It gives them permission to focus on the activities that often don’t get enough attention. They wind up getting more sleep, eating healthier meals (and not skipping meals!), getting their exercise in, and engaging in hobbies and passions and other pursuits that they don’t usually make time for.

Could a simple practice of putting an activity on your calendar really make such a difference? The answer is yes. A resounding yes. But don’t only take my word for it.

Neil Fiore, the author of the book The Now Habit (which is a great little book about how to beat procrastination) calls this practice The Unschedule. Unscheduling is a massive shift in thinking from how most of us use calendars and schedules. It gives structure to unstructured activities and tasks. Instead of starting to build your calendar out the typical way, which is to first place the structured activities on your calendar (meetings, appointments, social obligations, etc.), you reverse your calendar and begin with the unstructured activities.

The premise behind the Unschedule is that you need (and deserve) at least one hour of play and relaxation a day, and at least one day off of work a week. You schedule the unstructured activities first, such as sleep, meals, exercise, commuting to work, hobbies, and other blocks of time you must expend each day. Then you layer on top of those activities everything else. The everything else activities are often the need to do, have to do, should do types of activities, whereas the Unschedule activities are often the want to do and love to do activities.

Can everyone do this? Yes, but to an extent. To be fair, if your calendar is so chock full with work, obligations, and other activities that there is no room for unstructured activities to be added, then this would be a tough practice to try to implement. However, let that be a wake up call. You could start a small version of the Unschedule by at least adding a proper amount of sleep and actual meal times so you no longer eat on the run or skip meals altogether. In time, you could aim to add in some exercise and other activities to start giving yourself some more me-time on your own calendar.

The key to the Unschedule really working is that you don’t only add the unstructured activities to your schedule, but you honor them. My clients and audiences have heard me talk about this often. Honor appointments with yourself the same way you would honor an appointment with anyone else. If you see a slot on your calendar is taken up with an unstructured activity that only involves you, and you immediately give that slot away because it is only “me time” after all, then the Unschedule loses its effectiveness. That’s really the beauty of the Unschedule. YOU get to be a priority on your own calendar, in your own schedule, and in your own life. That is the true power of the Unschedule as a worthy time management tool.

Try to Unschedule your calendar by adding in some unstructured activities and see how it feels. I hope you love the results!

“Let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are. Be imperfect and have compassion for yourself. Connection is the result of authenticity.”
~ Brene Brown

road_to_successIf you ask most people want they want for their career, business or life, often the word Success comes up at some point. Indeed, many of us want to be successful. So what stops some people from being successful but not others? A whole host of things. It is often said that success leaves footprints. I do believe that there are certain patterns that successful people follow — taking action, being focused, making bold but calculated risks, finding a support system, and staying positive to name a few. But there are also some serious saboteurs that often get in the way of success. They cause (and are often caused by) doubt, fear, lack of confidence, and negativity. They come disguised as 3 blocks that try to stop you from moving forward and being successful.

1. The Perfection Trap

The Perfection Trap is what causes you to second guess yourself at every turn. It is often disguised as a strength (“I have such high standards.”), but in reality can be a manifestation of procrastination, lack of confidence, or fear of failure or success. The Perfection Trap is in some ways the Great Western disease: “I’ll be happy when I …” (fill in the blank!). Many people wait until everything is “perfect” to move forward with their ideas, insights, strategies, interests and passions. Unfortunately, the waiting game goes on and on because the stars are never perfectly aligned. In the meantime, what happens? Life (and often success and happiness!) pass you by.

Win Borden said, “If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” Stop waiting until everything is perfect! Life your life now. Pursue your dreams, follow your passions, launch your business, apply for that promotion, ask that special someone out on date… whate ver it is. You probably have “enough” already under your belt to take a step in that direction. Remember, done is better than perfect. (For more on this topic, check out my article Done is Better Than Perfect at https://www.lisamontanaro.com/2012/03/16/done-is-better-than-perfect/).

2. The Comparison Trap

The Comparison Trap is often right there waiting to attack. It is the voice in your head that says, “I could never do that” as you look at others’ accomplishments, successes and happiness. It forces you to look outward for your definition of success. You look at others, measure yourself against them, and then think you are less than. When I work with a client, I implement a rule that he or she must follow: No negative self talk! You’d be surprised how difficult it is for many people to adhere to it. Words are powerful, and negative self talk always puts you in a losing position.

The world is filled with a sense of competition. Women tend to compare themselves to other women in so many areas: physical appearance, parenting, relationships, and business. Men tend to compare themselves based on material possessions, status, and money. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with everyone else! Use what others’ do as a model, sample or template, but, make it your own. Otherwise, you will just spin your wheels trying a little bit of everything, but mastering and enjoying nothing.

The problem with the Comparison Trap is that it is completely false. No one stands in your shoes. You are the only you. And the trouble with someone thinking they can get ahead of you is that you’re assuming that they can walk in your shoes. And this reminds me of something that the actress Judy Garland once said: “Be a first rate version of yourself, rather than be a second rate version of someone else.” An original is better than a copy every time.

3. The Impostor Syndrome

comparison_trapThe toughest critic will often be you. There’s a theory called the Impostor Syndrome that many successful people suffer from. It’s where you feel like a fake even if you have the education, training and experience to be successful at what you do.

Jodie Foster has talked about it freely in some of her interviews. She said that every time she would go on a movie set, whether as an actress or a director as her career progressed, she felt like an impostor and was worried that she’d be “found out.” And this is coming from an accomplished performer since she was a child, and a celebrity by most people’s standards. But it doesn’t matter. When she looked in the mirror, she didn’t see that celebrity. She didn’t value herself the way others valued her.

We so often judge ourselves harshly because in our own minds, we aren’t quite there yet. We tend to focus on what we have not accomplished yet, what remains to be done, what goals we have not yet reached. Try to remind yourself of what you have already accomplished, how much you have already grown and changed, and the goals you have met. It is often on the journey to becoming who we are that the true growth takes place. The term authenticity is often used these days (some may say over-used). I think being authentic means taking ownership of your true value, including all that you bring to the table, while humbling yourself enough to admit that you still have some steps to take on your journey. That doesn’t make you an impostor. It makes you human.

So psyched to be the featured speaker at the July 23rd event hosted by the American Marketing Association chapter in Sacramento, CA. I’ll be presenting “Boost Your Productivity to Be More Successful!” If you are local, come join us. Should be a great event — here are more details:

productivity-July23rdWould you like to achieve new heights through greater organization and productivity?

Come learn tips and tools of the trade as productivity expert, Lisa Montanaro, provides solutions to real-life productivity problems. This fast-paced and entertaining presentation provides practical techniques for managing time, paper, information, projects, and yourself. Enhance your organizational and time management skills to become more productive, achieve your priorities, and make your business more successful.

Grab & Go Strategies:

  • Take control of your day by effective planning & scheduling.
  • Focus on your priorities and work more productively.
  • Handle interruptions and time wasters that drain productivity.
  • Overcome procrastination and minimize reactively running your business and life.
  • Delegate and use others more effectively.
  • Manage information overload.
  • Develop a personal action plan to enhance organizing & time management skills.

Schedule:

5:30-6:30 Registration and Networking/Cocktails/Appetizers

6:30-7:45 Presentation + 15 minutes for questions

Location:

Seasons 52
1689 Arden Way Suite 1065, Sacramento, California 95815

See the details here, and register here

Time is one of our most precious resources. Yet we battle daily to make the best use of it. This presentation addresses how to get more done in less time with less stress by maximizing your productivity and setting priorities. Learn to pinpoint where you need to take control. Improve your comprehension and focus and more effectively perform when juggling people, paper, and priorities. Topics Include: self-assessment, tools of time management, how to say no, project lists and to-do lists, conquering procrastination, the myth of multi-tasking, and dealing with interruptions.

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

Many of these products and services are part of official affiliate programs which pay a referral commission to me based on any purchases you make through these links. However, that is not the reason I recommend them. I only recommend products and services that I believe are of high quality, value, and will benefit you in a tangible way as you improve your home, office, and life.
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.



National Cristina Foundation

Linking Life to its Promise.

The National Cristina Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology. For more than two decades, it has encouraged companies and individuals to donate computers and other technology, which is then matched to charities, schools and public agencies in all 50 states, Canada, and in many countries around the world.


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.


Overseas Coupon Program Did you know that expired coupons can be sent to troops stationed overseas and they can use them for 6 months after the expiration date?  If you find this idea redeeming, go to OCPNet.org and get the details. It’s 100% legal and each overseas base has a USA address so it is a local mailing. Save your coupons, even if they are expired to help out our troops!


DisposeMyMeds.org is an online resource to help you to find medication disposal programs at the local independent community pharmacy near you.

Your local community pharmacist has knowledge to ensure the safe and proper handling of your medications, from dispensing to disposal.


Recycle These Items That You Never Thought Of…

Vintage Doorknobs, Radiators, Windows and Mantels
Donate or sell classic architectural elements to salvage firms or restoration projects. SalvageWeb is an online ad space that links buyers and sellers all over the world; here you can buy an Art Deco church chandelier, or unload a clawfoot tub after renovating your bathroom. Baltimore-based Second Chance Inc. accepts salvage donations and trains low-income people in the art of “deconstructing” buildings.

Toothbrushes
The Radius Original Toothbrush has a handle made of cellulose, an organic fiber. (Radius also recycles the handles of its battery-operated model once the battery runs out.)

Foam Packaging
Lightweight “peanuts” made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) contain 25 to 100 percent recycled material.
The Plastic Loose Fill Council has a “Peanut Hotline” (800-828-2214) you can call to find local recycling centers, including chain-store shippers such as Pak Mail and The UPS Store. To recycle large, molded chunks of EPS used to cushion televisions, air conditioners and such, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.

Sneakers/Tennis Shoes
Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns used athletic footwear (no cleats) into a material called Nike Grind, used to surface playgrounds, running tracks and outdoor courts. Or send your still-wearable athletic shoes to Shoe4Africa, which forwards them to athletes in developing countries.

Toys
Ask your local shelter for homeless families or battered women if they accept gently used toys. The Salvation Army and Vietnam Veterans of America also take used toys. Adult-appropriate items such as board games can be sent to troops overseas through www.AnySoldier.com

Wine Corks
Yemm & Hart, which produces recycled building materials, turns used corks into floor and wall tiles.

Motor Oil
Recycled motor oil can find new life as a lubricant or fuel. The American Petroleum Institute estimates the electricity created with just 2 gallons of reused motor oil would power the average home for nearly a day. Preserve used oil in a clean container with a secure, leakproof lid. You can recycle the used oil filter, too. Earth 911 has a list of motor oil recycling centers that’s searchable by ZIP code.

Prom, Bridesmaid and Formal Dresses
Charities like the Glass Slipper Project accepts donated gowns, shoes and purses to provide free prom wear to low-income teens. Another great resource is Donate My Dress, which is the first national network to bring together local dress drive organizations across the U.S. Books such as “Always a Bridesmaid: 89 Ways to Recycle That Bridesmaid Dress” offer tongue-in-cheek recycling advice to every woman who has a hideous gown buried at the back of her closet.

Eyeglasses, Frames and Cases
The Lions Club and Give the Gift of Sight Foundation collect used eyeglasses for needy people around the world. Donate your glasses at one of 17 Lions Clubs recycling centers, or at chains such as Pearle Vision Center, LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut.

Computers, Cell-Phones and Other E-Waste
The EPA maintains a list of charities that accept used electronic equipment. Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy offer in-store e-waste recycling — Best Buy also recycles used appliances. Dell, Toshiba and Sony lead the way in recycling computer products. Donate cell phones to organizations like The Wireless Foundation. Ship old videotapes and DVDs to Ecodisk or Greendisk.

Radio Shack Electronics Trade-In Program

Have electronics to trade-in? Use Radio Shack’s Trade-In Program!

You go online to http://www.radioshack.com/tradeandsave and indicate what items you wish to trade. Items must be in working condition. The site will determine the trade-in value of your items and create a pre-paid shipping label for you. You print off the shipping label, affix it to a box, pack your items and mail it to Radio Shack free of charge. When they receive it, they will mail you a Radio Shack gift card.

Electronics
Electronics improve the way we live, work and play. But, there’s one place where electronics should have no impact — the environment. Through responsible use, reuse and recycling of electronics, the consumer electronics industry and consumers can protect and preserve the environment — together. Many organizations offer free recycling of used electronics, so it’s easy to be green. Check out the following sites, which offer ways to sell or recycle your used electronics.

http://www.Gazelle.com
http://www.MyBoneyard.com

There’s still “Time” to sign up for my upcoming course, Make Time for This! Effective Time Management through Pace University’s Professional Development Program. This event is open to the public, so come join me. Click here for details and to register.

Time is one of our most precious resources. Yet we battle daily to make the best use of it. This workshop addresses how to get more done in less time with less stress by maximizing your productivity and setting priorities. Learn to pinpoint where you need to take control. Improve your comprehension and focus and more effectively perform when juggling people, paper, and priorities.

Topics Include:

  • Self-assessment
  • Tools of time management (calendars/PDAs/daily planners)
  • How to say no
  • Project lists and to-do lists
  • Conquering procrastination
  • The myth of multi-tasking
  • Dealing with interruptions.

The Details:

Date: Friday, May 11, 2012
Time:
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Pace University Midtown Center
551 Fifth Avenue at 45th
New York, NY
Tuition: $195 (includes all materials)

Click here for details and to register.

Ah, procrastination. Most people experience it at one time or another. Procrastination can be a deep-seated problem involving fear of failure or success, or a natural result of overload. Regardless of why you are experiencing procrastination, there are ways to overcome it! How you choose to overcome procrastination depends on the task involved, the people involved, and the underlying reason for the procrastination. Take a look at the following strategies, and see which help conquer your procrastination the next time it rears its ugly head.

Get Started

  • Stuck on a task or project? Take a cue from Nike, and ‘Just Do It!’ Once you get started, you gain momentum and energy. Usually, all of the thinking about and dreading starting the task is worse than the actual task!

Don’t Start at the Beginning

  • Sometimes, you get tripped up on how to start an activity. Well, often times there is no rule that says you have to start at the beginning. Start somewhere else if that is easier and then work your way back to the beginning once you’ve made some progress and get a handle on the task or activity.

Take it One Step at a Time

  • Many people procrastinate simply because it’s too formidable a task or there isn’t enough time to do it now. But you don’t have to do it all now! Break the task into small, manageable segments, each with its own end in sight. This encourages motivation and discourages procrastination.

Involve Other People

  • Being accountable to someone else can be a very effective way to overcome procrastination. Collaborate by working with someone else to get the task or activity started and finished faster. Two minds (or pairs of hands) can be better than one! Or you can assemble an entire team if that is feasible. You can also barter with someone to do the parts of the task or activity that you don’t like or are not good at, and then in turn, do something you do like or are good at for him or her. Lastly, you can give the task or activity away altogether by delegating it to a family member, friend, employee or co-worker.

Set a “Finish Line”

  • Ever notice that we call the due date for a task or activity a “deadline?” We attach a negative concept to the tasks and activities we want to accomplish. When you complete a task or activity, it is not dead, merely completed. Think instead, or reaching a finish line, so that you view your task or activity as a game or race. On your mark, get set, go!

Cause and Effect

  • Use good old behavior modification tactics. Don’t allow yourself to do something else until you start or finish your project. Or set up a reward that you treat yourself to once you reach a certain milestone in the project or at its completion.

Copyright © 2011 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 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

By Guest Blogger,  Nadine Nicholson

Procrastination.

According to Wikipedia, this is “a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.”

Ouch. That hurt.

Let me tell you a personal story.

Recently, my accountant emailed my year-end corporate taxes. I made a task to review the documents. Two weeks later I still hadn’t reviewed them. I delayed the task at least three times.

My company is incorporated and getting my taxes done on time is not a nice-to-have.

I allowed myself to get distracted by other “more interesting” tasks and went against the time system that usually works so well for me. There’s a big difference in delaying versus CHOOSING to do something in the future.

I delayed. Period.

One day I thought to myself, enough is enough. Just review the taxes, will you already! It took me maybe 30 minutes. Easy, easy, easy.

I spent way too much energy avoiding this task. I let it drive me, not the other way around.

The moment I stepped into the driver’s seat and took charge was the moment it became easy. Not only that, it also freed my energy to focus on other high-priority business items.

My mindset completely shifted.

Do you relate? I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced something similar.

Procrastination is like having guilt. Both are wasteful ways to spend energy.

So what can you do about it?

  1. The most important thing is to have buffer time set aside in your calendar to do your admin-type tasks. Check out my article to learn about a time system custom-made for entrepreneurs. Use your buffer time to get whatever you need done that will allow you to focus on your top performance days.
  2. Before shutting down your computer for the day, identify the top three mission critical things you must accomplish the next day. Try not to pick more than three. Don’t leave it for the next day. Do it before you walk away from your desk. It will take one minute.
  3. Design a morning practice ritual to warm yourself up in the morning. This could include yoga, meditation, walking, stretching, etc. Do the same thing every day, whether you are at home or on the road.
  4. Have a healthy breakfast within one hour of waking up. Your body’s energy requirements peak during the first hour you’re awake so make sure you give it good fuel. Control your physical energy throughout the day. Ensure you’re eating to get enough nutrition to provide energy for the next two to three hours. Don’t wait longer than three hours between meals. Your brain needs to be fed for you to think clearly and make good decisions.
  5. Use a tool like Microsoft Outlook tasks to manage your task list, assign due dates and estimate how much time they will take.
  6. Do your mission critical things when you have the most energy in the day. For most people it’s around 9 am or 10 am.
  7. Minimize your email while you’re working on your critical tasks so you’re not distracted each time someone sends you a note. Even better, shut your email off completely and choose two times each day to check it. If people really need you, they’ll find you or call your cell phone.

How do you stay focused on the key tasks in your business? Share a comment below.

Nadine Nicholson is a business consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and author for solopreneurs who survive… and thrive! Using her D.R.I.V.E. to Thrive Business Blueprint™, Nadine helps high-achieving solo business owners unleash and leverage leadership skills to drive business growth and honour personal priorities at the same time. She believes building a business is a spiritual journey of personal leadership and inner bravado. It’s about doing what you’re meant to do and not settling for anything less. Visit Nadine’s free resources at: http://nadinenicholson.com/free-stuff/.  

Do you often miss personal and professional deadlines? Do you feel frustrated due to failing to carry out your priorities?

Then join me for “Time Management” at Pace University’s Professional Development Program on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 from 9 am – 4 pm at Pace University Midtown, 551 Fifth Avenue at 45th Street, New York, NY.

Time is one of our most precious resources.  Yet we battle daily to make the best use of it.  This comprehensive workshop addresses how to get more done in less time with less stress by maximizing your productivity and setting priorities. Learn to pinpoint where you need to take control.   

Topics Include: Self assessment, tools of time management (calendars/PDAs/daily planners), how to say no, project lists and to-do lists, conquering procrastination, the myth of multi-tasking, and dealing with interruptions.

If you are ready to tackle the time management beast, click here for more details and to register.

Hope to see you there!