Watch the video here, or read the full article below.

video-superachieverOne of the greatest challenges for busy, successful and creative people juggling several projects, talents and ideas is to live a well-balanced life. If only we could do all that is on our personal and professional ‘to do’ lists while simultaneously attending to our health, nurturing our important relationships and taking good care of our responsibilities.

Everyone knows someone who works full time, volunteers, runs a successful blog, and somehow still finds time to go grocery shopping, cook organic Instagram-worthy meals, foster a loving relationship, walk his or her adorable Boston terrier, and, oh — train for a half marathon. These kinds of “super-achievers” have the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us, but somehow, they always seem to get more done. How do they do it? Here are 5 tips to help you maximize your precious 24 hours daily.

Tip #1: Stop Trying to Win the Crazy-Busy Badge of Honor
crazy_busyStaying busy, but not productive, is the curse of our times. These days we are so busy that we can’t stop talking about it. And busyness has become a cultural symbol of status. Even though people say they’re complaining, they’re secretly bragging. Here are some typical phrases that I often hear from my private clients and audience members:

“I am so tired, I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep!”
“I’m drowning over here!”
“Oh my God, I’m crazy-busy!”

We have to stop the glorification of busy, and realize that no one is really “busy”… it’s all about priorities. We have to stop using this phrase, and take back control so we feel empowered, not depleted.

Tip #2: Use Time Management Tools that Work for You & Stick to Them
One of the key components to time management is to find time management tools that work well for you and then stick to them. Consistency is key! Use one calendar, one master project list or project management tool, and one task management system. It doesn’t matter if they are paper or digital, old fashioned or a fancy new app. The key is to create a system around your habits, needs, work and lifestyle, learn it well, and use it consistently.

Tip #3: Stop Multi-Tasking & Engage in Uni-Tasking Instead
Multi-tasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time. Studies show it impairs productivity. It is impossible to do 2 tasks at the same time without compromising each. Research shows that it takes your brain 4 times longer to process than if you focused on each task separately. David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has spent the past few decades studying multi-tasking. His research shows that not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but also can cause problems at work, at school, and even, in some cases, be dangerous. Meyer explains, “It takes time to warm up to a new task, especially if both require the same skills.” So focus on one task at a time, give it your full attention, and then move onto the next task.

Tip #4: Use the Power of the Pareto Principle (a/k/a the 80-20 Rule)
The Pareto Principle takes its name from a 19th century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. In the late 1940s, business management guru Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto’s Principle (or the 80/20 Rule as it is often called) means that in any grouping of items or events, a few (20%) are vital and many (80%) are trivial. 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity. That means that of all of the daily activities you do, and choices that you make, only 20% really matter (or at least produce meaningful results).

What is the takeaway that we can learn from the Pareto Principle? Identify and focus on the 20% that matters! When life sets in and you start to become reactive instead of proactive, remind yourself of the 20% you need to focus on. If something in your schedule needs to be deleted or not completed with your fullest attention, try your best to make sure it’s not part of that 20%. Use the Pareto Principle as a litmus test to constantly check in and ask yourself: “Is doing this task or activity right now the highest and best use of my time? Is this truly part of the 20% that matters?” Let the Pareto Principle serve as a powerful daily reminder to focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of your work and life that is really important and delivers positive results.

Tip #5: Honor Appointments with Yourself
facialCalendar in your personal to-do’s, along with your professional appointments. Our work calendars fill up quickly with tasks, projects, and events. When was the last time you scheduled something fun for yourself and/or your family? A date night with your significant other? A yoga class, time to read, take a bubble bath, etc.? Give structure to unstructured activities and tasks. Try to reverse your calendar and begin with the premise that you need (and deserve) time for play and relaxation. You schedule those first, as well as previously committed time — like when you sleep, eat, exercise, commute to work, and other blocks of time you must expend each day.

Start practicing proactive, positive productivity using the 5 tips above. And remember, be consistent!

calendarA few weeks ago, I presented at the National Association of Professional Organizers San Francisco Bay Area Regional Conference. My topic was Make Time for This: Effective Time Management. As I was putting the finishes touches on my slides and handout prior to the conference, I started thinking about the many different systems, tools and strategies people use to manage their time. Specifically, I started thinking about how far we have come with regard to digital/electronic systems compared to years ago. Yet, every time I speak to an audience about time management and survey the participants, it amazes me how many people are still using paper-based systems (paper, pen, notebooks, post-it notes, folders, etc.) compared to digital (software, apps, tablets, smart phones, etc.). And yes, even in a room full of professional organizers and productivity consultants, there were more than a handful that admitted to still using a paper-based system.

So which is better? That’s not an easy question to answer, even for a productivity expert because the winner is in the eyes of the user.

checkmarkA paper-based system has a certain solidness to it. You get to touch your system and hold it in your hands. For people that are very tactile focused, this concreteness can make all the difference. Being able to write with your own hand, feel the pen move across the paper, turn the page, tab it, shuffle paper, put a post-it note on it, etc. can make all the difference. The act of being able to physically manipulate the system is what helps the paper-based user to stay in control of the system and perhaps even enjoy using it. The disadvantages to this “ol d fashioned” type system include a limited/finite amount of space/storage, inconvenient size if the system is too large to fit into a small purse or pocket for example, and the fear that your system can be easily lost or destroyed with no back up.

People that are digital focused tend to do better with an electronic system. There are many advantages, including the ability to set reminders and alarms, an amazing amount of storage (especially if your digital system is in the cloud), portability and often a small size if you use your system on a handheld device, and the ability to share and synchronize with other’s calendars in workplace. Some disadvantages are that you can’t always see the full month view (a real pet peeve for those that are strong visual learners), and it’s not satisfying for tactile individuals who love the feel of pen to paper.

I used a Filofax day planner for years when I was still practicing law. I absolutely loved it! The smell o f the leather, the feel of the paper, the way my pen filled up the pages with appointments, and the fact that it was always with me ready to serve me at a moment’s notice. I was very careful about the way I handled it, and was adamant about not losing it. Some lawyers were so fearful that they may lose their daily planner that they offered a hefty financial reward to anyone that found it and returned it to them! I knew someone that left his planner on a plane and got it back and did indeed send a large check to the finder.

I fought the digital revolution tooth and nail for a long time, as I loved my Filofax and it served me well in the sense that I used it religiously and had great time management skills. But when the Palm Pilot was created (yes, I am dating myself!), I thought I had died and gone to Heaven, which is surprising for such a tactile person (I love to write by hand… even to this day!). I think it was the fact that it looked like a Filofax (leather bound, small size with the device inside) and you could “write” with a stylus. So it was a great transition piece as it mimicked many of the attributes of a paper system, but was the beginning of the digital overthrow — at least for me!

asanaThe Palm was the first in line of many digital time management systems. I am now fully digital using Asana as my digital task/project management system (if you haven’t checked it out, go to — it is free and pretty amazing!), and iCal as my digital calendar system on all of my Mac devices (iPhone, iPad and iMac). BUT I still often make a daily to-do list on good old fashioned paper, and sometimes I even do a Brain Dump on paper when I have a lot of mental clutter in my head and need to get it out. There is still something so satisfying to me about running th at pen across the paper and watching the words appear. And there is nothing like the feeling of physically crossing an item off your to-do list!

If you are still struggling with whether to go fully-digital or continue using your tried-and-true-but-outdated paper system, realize that you can use both. Just be careful not to duplicate your efforts (by using two systems for the exact same purpose) or create systems that conflict and compete with each other.

In the end, there is no “perfect” system. The ultimate goal of any productivity or time management system should be to capture and complete the tasks and responsibilities that make up your personal and professional life, not necessarily HOW that is accomplished. The system doesn’t have to be pretty or stylish (unless aesthetics are important to you), or the latest and greatest digital marvel (unless being a techie is fun for you and you love being an early adopter). The system just has to do its job, which is to help you manage your time and tasks better. Free yourself from the mindset that one is better than the other, and ask yourself which is better for you at this particular time in your life. And if you absolutely can’t choose one or the other, feel free to create a system that incorporates both the paper and digital worlds. Heck, you never know… it just may become the next big thing!

My friend and colleague Stephanie Calahan recently posted on social media asking people to share their favorite project and task management tools. I shared how much I love using Asana! Stephanie then asked me to write a comprehensive guest blog post for her readers describing Asana, how I use it for my business (and personal life!), and why I love it so much. Thought I’d share it with my readers too!

Click on over and check it out, and feel free to leave comments under the original post over on Stephanie’s site, or below on mine.

asanaWould love to know if you are using a project and task management system, which one and how you like it. And if not, let us know if you plan to check out Asana after reading this post. Read the article here.

Many of my clients suffer from what I call “mental clutter.” Mental clutter can be described as all of the thoughts, ideas, tasks, to-do’s, projects, and reminders that are swimming around in your brain taking up precious space (or matter, to be more accurate). This type of mental clutter gets in the way of you being able to be productive, stay focused, and enjoy a sense of peace and relaxation. Mental clutter can seriously affect your sleeping and cause insomnia. Many of my clients lately have shared that they feel so anxious at night when going to bed as they have all of this mental clutter taking up real estate in their brain and they can’t seem to turn it off.

What to do? A Brain Dump!
A Brain Dump is a great way to take all of the mental clutter in your head and get it out. It is the first step in an effective time management and project management action plan. People get caught up in what system should be used to record the Brain Dump. The system you use to do your Brain Dump should be tailored to you. The main difference is whether you want to physically write your Brain Dump (paper) or record it electronically (technology).

Old Fashioned Paper Method

Many people are strong tactile learners and, therefore, still love the feel of pen to paper. It is quick and easy, doesn’t require any fancy gadgets or technology, and can be implemented anywhere. I encourage my clients that are tactile to keep a pad of paper on their nightstand and dump their brain onto it at night before they go to sleep. In the morning, you can tear off the top page (do not use a spiral pad or this gets messy), and incorporate the items into your Master Project List or Daily To-Do List depending on whether they are short term or long terms tasks. The disadvantage to pa per is that it is not easily backed-up, and can be lost.

If you keep a Master Notebook where you track all of your projects and to-do’s, then consider using that for your Brain Dump so that all of your project management is in one convenient location. It’s better than a bunch of post-it notes or scraps of paper!

If you want something to keep by your bed that lights up, but is still tactile with pen and paper, check out the Nite Note Nightime Notepad by Dream Essentials. The pad “lights up” when the pen is removed and “lights off” when the pen is replaced. Nite Note features a pressurized Fisher Space pen used by U.S. astronauts because it writes at any angle, even upside down. Pretty cool, huh?

Harness the Power of Technology

So many people are now using powerful smart phones that come with all of the bells and whistles. If you are using such a device, this can be an ideal place to capture your mental clutter because it is backed-up or synched, can be accessed from almost anywhere, and has an amazing amount of storage space. You can use a task feature, your calendar (make a recurring daily item called Brain Dump and put items in there so that they get carried over everyday), a memo feature, or any other type of feature that makes it easy for you to dump the mental clutter, easily access it again, and keep it organized. If you prefer to use an “app,” then consider applications like Evernote, Toodledo, One Note, Treepad, etc. You can even just open a Word doc on your computer, and dump your brain into that, dating each entry to be able to find them again, or organizing entries by category.

The power of a Brain Dump is to be able to keep track of tasks, ideas, and information that you are afraid you would otherwise forget if you don’t write them down or record them somewhere. There is no right or wrong way to do a Brain Dump. Determine what type of Brain Dump recording system appeals to you, and then try it. I promise you it will help free up some of that precious brain matter so that you can refocus it on implementing the tasks, living your life, or relaxing your overworked brain once in awhile!

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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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  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at 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

Are you overwhelmed just thinking about the upcoming holiday season? Don’t want to get caught up in the madness and miss the joy?

There is a better way! Join me for a live 1.5 hour workshop, “Managing the Chaos of the Busy Holiday Season,” on Thursday evening, December 3, 2009 at Goshen Gourmet, 14 W. Main Street, Goshen, NY. This event is sponsored by Linda’s Office Supplies of Goshen.

The workshop is from 6:30 – 8:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time) and the fee is $10 per person. Space is limited so please call (845) 294-3869 to register.

I will be sharing tips on time management, project management, how to say no, and setting goals for the holiday season and beyond. The workshop will be interactive, so come with your questions ready!

I hope to see you there!

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