Tag Archives: Organization

Time to Shine

What time does your alarm tell you to ‘rise and shine’ every day?  (I’m assuming here that you do not get to sleep until you naturally wake up on any given work day.  A safe assumption on my part, yes?)  I’m also going to guess that you are quite likely one of the altogether too many folks that are sleep deprived much of the time.  Do you even know if you are a morning person or not anymore?

 

Sleep deprived or well-rested, we all have an optimal time of day when we are clear-headed and ready for pretty much any challenge.  When our brains are primed to calculate and estimate, analyze and realize, plow through that to-do list at a record pace with stellar results.  Even if it might be caffeine fueled, just a little bit.

time

Do you get to pick your own starting hour?  So that you can arrange it based on what you consider a decent wake up time, barring any familial responsibilities.  Or do you march to the requirements of your workplace, even if it is in sleep-walking mode?

 

Personally, I am not an early morning type, though I have found that I can get my mind moving earlier in the day if I am allowed by circumstance to do it slowly with a mug of tea to nudge my brain into gear.  When required by outside forces, I get up and get moving grumpily and my brain has several false starts before the gears start to act in concert, about midmorning.

 

Chipper early risers get a blank stare from me at best on these days.  Though as I have mentioned before, I will rouse my meager energy store to offer ‘good mornings’ to all I encounter because I know it is important.  Just don’t ask for much more, please.

 

But back to your optimal clear-headed state.  I hope that, sleep deprived or not, self-selected start time or not, you do at least know your best hours of the day.  That you can manipulate and arrange to work on the really important stuff during these golden minutes of mental whirring.

 

If not, give it some thought.  Knowing when your mind is sharp will give you a better shot at success, when it is your time to shine.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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All the Little Life-keeping Tasks

I am amused or perhaps bemused by the occasional articles in various sources about people who have successfully simplified their lives and are happier for it.  I like to be aware of where all my edges are, so I have never been one for creating complexity in my life.  And yet, I cannot imagine how people are able to really pare down these days with all the bits and pieces that worm their way into your needs.  (For instance just consider all the types of insurance…)

 

Anyway, I have been taking stock of the status for many of the little things that help us to keep a life.  Particularly because quite a few can be out of sight, out of mind.  I just realized that I cancelled my teeth cleaning in January, meaning to reschedule and haven’t gotten back to it, oops.  This is why I take stock periodically.  I keep a list of all these bits and pieces, again so I know where the edges are – because these are all things that can trip you up when you don’t have them in order when you need them, but things that tend to work their way out to the edges of your awareness.

 

Many people let the condition of their skills and career work out to the edges, and often even fall over the edge.  And then when they need to take stock, say in the midst of some change at the office, they don’t even know where to start.  Doing the work every day somehow felt just like keeping that skill current.  But it turns out that it wasn’t, at all, and now it’s a problem.

public domain image - French predictions for the future

public domain image – French predictions for the future

 

We can fill each day with plenty of tasks, we get bombarded with reminders of this or that bit of life-keeping thing from the dentist or the insurance company or HR; and we can relax and let the busyness of the tasks or the external reminders take the lead.  It can all just be too much.

 

Or we can set aside an hour or two as often as we feel the need and go through some of this life-keeping that gets out to the edges, check up on it.  I’m going to go hunt up the dentist’s phone number now.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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What Do You Do that is Counterproductive?

Don’t tell me nothing because I don’t believe that for a minute.  We all do things that we know perfectly well might put us into some hole or other, a deficit that will be difficult to overcome, and yet we cannot help ourselves.  I save up personal business phone calls.  Note that I said personal – I would like to say that I spend so much effort on work related calls that I just don’t have the energy for the personal business related calls.

 

Psychologists just love to study this sort of thing and then tell us all about our foolish ways of undermining ourselves.  The really honest ones let us know that they got into this area of study because they know they are the worst offenders of counterproductive actions.  The others are just too holier-than-thou for words.

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie.  (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie. (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

 

Back to you and the shovel that you are right at this moment using to pierce the ground at your feet in the form of a doughnut that belies your diet or a bit of office gossip that can be traced back to you.  Ask yourself why?  What do you hope to accomplish with this counterproductive act?  Well, you don’t know, you are just in the moment and it is too delicious to pass up.  Pay for it later?  Hmph, future self can deal with it.  S/he will have the energy, skills, will power, stamina necessary that you just can’t seem to muster at the moment.  Right?

 

What do you have to say for yourself?  Me, I’m going to get right on that list of calls.  Right after I do this other thing.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Structure – Limiting or Freeing?

What is your relationship to structure?  Late last year I posted a piece about personal styles of organization, Chaos is a Style, but I’ve been thinking lately that we don’t go deep enough when we talk about organization.  Organization is an overlay concept of structure; if you aren’t aware of the structure, how can you effectively organize?

framing_house

public domain, house frame

Structure is first imposed upon all of us because we get a finite amount of time per day – nature is egalitarian in that we each get the same total minutes and hours.  After that, the forms our personal structure might take are endless.  So what do I mean by structure?

 

You move from waking through your ‘day’ (I put this in quotes because some people are awake during night hours, living opposite of most of the rest of us) until you decide to end your ‘day’ by going to sleep.  Some people don’t bracket their day with sleep, for whatever reason so we are back to the imposed structure of a 24 hour period for a day, one bleeding into the next without the break of sleep.

 

Then we get to the myriad activities, thoughts, events, tasks that fill these waking hours and the method that we use to move from one to another.  Some of these activities formulate patterns – the number of times that we eat in a given day, a work schedule, planned appointments – all of which start to fill in the details of our daily structure.  Organization is the method, or methods, that we choose to use to manage the structure that our days take on.

 

Personally, I have this mix of the creative – which requires unplanned mental and physical space to fully evolve – and logic – which prefers discipline and detailed planning for greatest efficiency and comfort.  Some days this is a tedious mix, but mostly I see this as a tremendous benefit since I can then relate to the style and structure of so many other people.

 

The structure of your day can be imposed externally by nature, by obligation (work, school, etc.), by your personality type.  It is interesting to me, and perhaps one germinating factor in this post, that the word and concepts of fluidity have come up over and again in my various experiences in the last few days.  Types of structure can go from fluid to rigid; again affected greatly by the broad points that I made in the start of this paragraph.

 

What you do with the structure of your days, your life, and about controlling the structure your life has taken on, to the extent that you can deeply affects your feelings of contentment, happiness.  Your awareness level of the structure in your life; decisions that you make as to the effectiveness of your current structure, is where the title today comes in.  If you don’t put some thought into the sort of structure that you operate best in, then you can build a life that feels all wrong.

 

Creativity and fluidity usually appear hand in hand.  Water is the best representative of fluidity, but it still requires some external structure – pitch or grade to allow flow, gravity, varying solid surfaces – what would the Grand Canyon be without these additional factors, as one example we are all given for the amazing effects that water can impose.

structure

On the opposite side is rigidity; complete inability to adapt, change, or even bend to conditions.  All people have some need for structure, but rigid folks have such a strong desire for days upon days that follow a precise pattern ad nauseam.

 

Most people fall somewhere in between complete fluidity and complete rigidity; usually exhibiting a combination of these characteristics based on the activity.  More detailed structure is welcome in one situation, but intrusive in another – limiting or freeing.  Lack of clear structure can be frightening when in a crowd, but welcome on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Have you given any thought to how structure affects you?  To the types of imposed structures that give you the best opportunity to shine?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Tracking Your Progress

Every year at performance review time do you sit and stare blankly at the cube wall while you try to remember what you have done in the preceding months that is noteworthy?  How about your resume or LinkedIn profile, when was the last time that you updated either one with your latest achievements?

tracking

“The past actually happened.  History is what someone took the time to write down.”

~A. Whitney Brown

 

I know, I know, it’s just that one more detail that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back if you found a means to document these things at the time, or shortly after the time.  Ok, but you are only hurting yourself by not making the time.  If it isn’t up to you to remember and document, then who?

 

Trust me, it is easier shortly afterward than months or even years afterward.  Details only get murkier with time, but even just a quick couple of sentences into a notebook or on a sticky note sketching out the scenario will be well worth it at review time or when it is time to really polish up your work history.

 

The idea of something going into our permanent record was threatening back in school because it was associated with some misstep or peccadillo.  Wipe that association from your mind and get a mantra that your permanent record is the progression of all of your work achievements; therefore worthy of regular maintenance.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Mise en Place, Not Just for the Kitchen

I’m getting ready to make a presentation to a fairly large group, one that I had offered to make some weeks ago and have been refining since.  (I want to use a theater phrase in my intro that simply won’t come to the forefront of my mind, but that is a story for another time.)  I enjoy presenting (remind me I said that just minutes before I go on, would you?), and like to be prepared – shooting for that sweet spot where it can be interesting and clear without seeming practiced.

 

Anyway, I wanted to go into Chicago to the Lit Fest to watch other presenters and got my son interested by showing him the list of activities in the Good Eating tent.  I have cooked since my pre-teens and occasionally managed to do it well, but I have learned much more about the art of cooking since he became interested a few years ago.  It is his interest that brought me to DSC03390the French phrase in the title, which literally means everything in its place, relating to completing all prep work before actually starting on a recipe.  (You know when the chef just easily pours this little bowlful or that into the big bowl and tells the audience what is in the bowl.)

 

Put in terms for the rest of us:

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

~A.A. Milne

 

The carpenter who takes care of his tools and puts each one carefully back into a dedicated section of his tool box after wiping it clean from each use spends more time on the actual carpentry, purportedly the part of his (or her) work that is most enjoyable.  The same for the cook, and the office worker.

 

Not liking to do the clerical filing type tasks of keeping templates, manuals, etc. in the proper place means spending more time thinking about them and searching for them, in the meantime possibly losing the stream of the project or idea that is your actual task.

 

Our skill at managing these thankless mise en place tasks deeply affects our effectiveness at the tasks we were really hired to complete.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Do You Make Checklists?

I used to work with someone who had a great habit of keeping daily checklists in a specific notebook, including starting each new entry with a box to check off once completed.  If I asked her to do something, out would come the notebook and she would start with a box on a new line.  She would repeat back to me exactly what she understood the request to entail.  She would end by asking me if I had a specific time frame or if she could fit it into her active task list and let me know the completion date.

checklist

She and I liked to bounce ideas off of each other so not only was her process great, it helped that she would promptly write the request down since we often would start to brainstorm on one thing or another while I was there.

 

My dad was a premier list maker – fall yard work, spring yard work, things he could tell us that he wanted, and so on.  And when I say things that he wanted, he would include the store or stores, the sale cycle, the color, the catalog number – everything we could possibly need to get that item.

 

I have found that I have to date my lists and put a list header – projects for the house, blog post ideas, books to read, etc.  I have a bit too much of my mom in me, maybe; or combo of mom’s somewhat haphazard methods and dad’s more precise ones.  Mom was good at jotting down info on whatever was handy at the time and then forgetting where she had put the data when she needed it.  I do manage much better than she at getting the info moved to the correct list.  But I still come across undated random lists that I’ve made upon occasion.

 

Early on, I wrote about this topic from a different tack, Chaos is a Style.  There are so many details that I am stunned when I meet someone who doesn’t keep lists, doesn’t have someone else to get the details done, and manages to get things done on time.  How about you?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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