Archive for the ‘productivity’ Category

My goals for 2009

After writing so much about goals, including the New Year’s post yesterday, I have, of course, been asked what my goals are. Well here you go!:


– Exercise at least one hour a week (not including all the walking I do).  Hey, like I always say, start small! The quickest way for me to fail is to say “exercise 3 days a week!”

– Read two books per month. One fiction, one non-fiction (It’s been a while since I’ve read any fiction cover to cover)

– Get 6-8 hours of sleep each night

– Have one FULL day off from work or ANYTHING work related each week.

– Get better at saying NO.


– Work with clients 4 – 5 days a week

– Spend one day each week writing for all outlets I am published through

– Cultivate at least 3 joint ventures

– Delegate anything I possibly can.

– Consistently have a minimum of 2 events per month for my networking group.

– Create a marketing plan for the year

– Develop a semi-formal board of advisors

– Reorganize all my business cards

– Join 1 to 2 additional professional networks

– Drop out of 2 – 3 ineffective networking groups or groups that are in areas I don’t want to travel to

This is just a snippet of my goals list. I have a lot more! Some are way to personal for me to want to post here (sorry!) Some can be done in minutes, some will take all year. Others won’t take long, but they have to happen at a specific time. The key to the goals I set is that they are reasonable. I think it is fantastic to dream big – I do all the time, but the actual goals I set are attainable.

It is unrealistic to expect that I could buy a house this year. But I could start saving for one. I could say “I want to meet 10 new people every day.”  Certainly doable, but at what cost? How in depth would these meetings be? What quality of contact am I looking for? I could walk up to any Starbucks and introduce myself to 10 people in line that I have no intent of speaking to again. Or, I could sacrifice time normally set aside for clients to attend events where I can meet different people. A more appropriate goal for me would be “add two additional key players to my network each month that I would feel confident referring people to.” Another option “attend one event each month where I don’t know anyone in attendance.” Could I sort and purge every area of my apartment on Monday? Sure, if I cancel my client and meetings. Instead, why don’t I pick an area to tackle each day this week?

I’m excited about my goals because WHEN I achieve them, they all play a part in driving me closer to the ideal vision I have for my life. I hope you have some fantastic goals for yourself and that you really strive to achieve them.

– Alaia

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Personally, I do not make New Years resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions. They make people feel warm and fuzzy. It’s nice to feel warm and fuzzy sometimes. The problem with resolutions is that most people drop them by the end of the month – some people simply state the resolution and never even really try. Do you know many people join gyms in January? A lot!

If you want to get organized this year, whether it is for your home, office, car, purse, or brain, I have a challenge for you.  Write down the resolutions. Post them up somewhere prominent. Put them in your planner. Tell your friends and family.  But don’t just stop with stating the resolution – turn it into a goal and turn that goal into your reality. Set manageable deadlines and milestones.

If you want to “get organized in ’09” stop being so broad. What do you want to organize? Even if you feel like you want to organize “everything,” list what everything means to you – your home, your office, your paperwork, children’s rooms, the garage, the basement, family photos.  List out what you want to do so you have a better picture of what is ahead of you.

You can NOT do everything at once – even if you have nothing else to do with your time. So break down the work. What is your goal for January? The office? Okay, great. So maybe at the top of your January calendar page you write “Goal: Organize my office.”  The next thing you should do is decide what you can do each week to get you closer to that goal. For example:

  • Week 1: Filing all papers so that all 2008 stuff is out of the way and I have fresh files for 2009
  • Week 2: Organizing all office supplies and making sure I purchase the appropriate ones so I have everything I need.
  • Week 3: Getting everything out of the office that does not belong in the office
  • Week 4: Rearrange the furniture, have a cleaning crew come through, creating a marketing plan for 2008, etc.

While “organize everything” and “organize my office” are broad goals, these narrowed down sub-goals are practical, achievable goals. Of course, you can break it down further. For week one, a daily goal could be to spend 15, 30, or 60 minutes a day filing (based on how much paper you have!). Of perhaps your goal is to schedule someone to come in during week one and do the filing for you. Perhaps you’ll hire a Professional Organizer. Maybe during week 4 you will with a feng shui expert, a cleaning crew, an interior designer, and a marketing consultant who can have you create a system for marketing your business.

This same formula can work for every area you want to organize. Just scale it appropriately. Maybe you spend a week cleaning out your car and set daily goals: toss all trash, buy a receipt organizer, buy small baskets for the car and talk to the kids about only having as much stuff in the car as will fit in the basket. When everyone gets out of the car, they put all of their stuff into their container. Purchase a mobile organizer that holds notebooks, pens, calculators, etc.

If you want to achieve your goals, whatever they might be, you have to do more than simply stating them. Take action. Start now while the calendar is fresh and there is optimism in the air. If you start planning now and work toward your goals, you will achieve great success this year.

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Productivity is a great thing. I don’t believe that you have to schedule every minute of your day or that you have to be in work mode 24/7. I do believe that it is important to do our jobs and do them well – whether you are an investment banker, an office manager, an artist, a stay at home parent, or a research analyst.

I read a lot of blogs and I’ve seen people on both sides of the productivity issue. Some people say “get as much done as possible.” Others have a “who cares about productivity?” or an anti-“life hack“attitude. Of course, there is everything in between.

The dictionary defines productive in the following ways:

1. having the power of producing; generative; creative: a productive effort.
2. producing readily or abundantly; fertile: a productive vineyard.
3. causing; bringing about (usually fol. by of): conditions productive of crime and sin.

(there were three other definitions that don’t relate to what I’m writing about)

It is not a bad thing to produce, to generate, to create. Most everything we have in life was produced – the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the movies we watch, the music we listen to. I’d be pretty let down if musicians stopped producing great music for me to listen to. I don’t plan on being a hunter or farmer any time soon, so I appreciate the productivity of people who help produce the food that is on my table.

While we often have to go the extra mile at work, or put in more time at certain points, don’t work yourself to death. Work is important – but if it kills you, what good is that? Step back for a minute if you feel overwhelmed. Take time for yourself. Relax. Have fun. Take a vacation – even if it means not leaving town, but just spending time at home with family and friends – or alone.

Once you adopt a healthy view of productivity, you will stop seeing it as the enemy. You won’t feel as pressured to always be in “go!” mode or to shun the idea entirely.

What is your view of productivity and how does it impact you?

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What is it that you want out of life right now? A successful business? A romantic partner? An organized home? A vacation?

Are you living a life that reflects what you want for yourself and what you value? Not sure? Try this:

Grab a piece of paper, a journal, or open up a new document on your computer. Ask yourself, “what’s taking up my time?” Make a list. Here is an example of things you might include: work, time with your spouse or kids, time with other family, time with friends, volunteer commitments, spiritual development, errands, home improvement, etc.

Examine your list. Your list reflects who you are – but is that who you want to be?

What do you want for your life? Do you wish you could adopt a dog, yet you have a schedule that keeps you away from home 18 hours a day? Do you share with your friends how much you want to have a “special someone” in your life and yet you don’t leave room for dating? Or maybe you are already in a relationship, but you aren’t taking the time to cultivate and nurture it with your partner?

Take time to carefully plan out what you can scale back on or cut out entirely so that you can create room in your life for the things that you want. Go to the next step: now that you have created the time, what else do you need to do to bring those things into you life?  Just because I took two weeks off from work does not mean that I have the resources to take a trip to Argentina. Most likely I’d need to put in more hours at work for a short time, curb any unnecessary spending, apply for a passport, and so on.

While it can be nice to fantasize, wouldn’t you love to turn those flights of fancy into reality? How can you turn these things you want into tangibles? How can you get your time to reflect your values and the things you really want?

  • Decide what you really want.
  • Figure out what you need to do to get what you want.
  • Turn that list of things you need to do into goals and priorities.
  • Create milestones and deadlines for your goals.
  • Tell people you trust about what you want to create accountability and support for yourself.

You won’t get what you want by sitting around on your butt all day – unless what you want is more time to sit on your butt. Dream about it, but make sure you back those dreams up with actions. We’re given 24 hours in a day. Leverage your time and create the life you want.

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The concept of “working at home” is nothing new. People have been working at home since the dawn of time. The ever changing world of work and business has seen an increasing number of people working from home, and there are no signs of that changing any time soon. Writers, independent sales reps, freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs, and employees whose companies permit telecommuting are just a small sampling of the kinds of people working from home these days.

Most people in the working world have experienced having some sort of manager or boss in relatively close proximity who can pop in at any moment to see what they are up to. It’s safe to say that for many people, this is what helps keep them on their toes. But what about those of us who work from home at least part time? I spend the majority of my time in someone else’s office, but when I come home, I still have writing deadlines to meet and things to do for my own businesses.

What can we do when the couch (or in my case, the bed) is calling our name? How do you resist the urge to explore everything the internet has to offer? Here are some suggestions to managing yourself when no one is watching.

Man looking into file

1. Get dressed for work every day. It doesn’t have to be fancy – unless you are meeting clients and that is what is expected. Get in the habit of viewing working from home as any other legitimate work environment. Take a shower, get dressed, drink your coffee, eat breakfast, or whatever your normal routine would be if you were leaving the house.

2. Keep work and home separate. Do the best you can to keep home life and work life separate. While you are working from home, remember, the key is WORK. Dedicate a room, or a least space in a room for working. Don’t work in bed. Create a space specifically for work – get in the habit of realizing you are at work. If other people are at home during the day (house mates, spouse, kids, other relatives), close your door. Send the message that you are at work. An open door sends the message that people can come in at will and interact with you.

3. Set office hours. Maintain those boundaries. Act as though you are at work – because you are. Return personal calls on your lunch break or when you are done with work for the day. Save the housecleaning for later. When work hours are over, enjoy your time with family, friends, or time alone! Sure, you’ve got some leeway, if you were working in an office or store, you’d turn off the lights and head home. Do the same thing at home. Wrap things up and walk away until tomorrow.

4. Plan your work day. Create a to-do list for the day. What absolutely has to get done? What else needs to be accomplished but is less pressing? Set up a mini-road map for the day to provide some structure for yourself. Yes, even artists can use a little structure. I’ve had plenty of artist clients!

5. Create a schedule that works for you. One of the benefits to working at home. If you aren’t a morning person, start a little later, or do tasks earlier in the morning that get your warmed up for when you are at your peak. Perhaps you start the morning with a few non-essential tasks because you know you hit your peak at 11 and you can power through something really important then that will take more of your focus and energy.

6. Take breaks. Take a lunch break. Get up and stretch your legs once every hour or two. Take breaks during times your typically feel sluggish. Use that time to check personal emails or play around on the internet during this time.

7. Create a healthy work environment for yourself. Make sure you have adequate lighting. Get a comfortable chair. Buy a plant. Listen to music that isn’t distracting – avoid mellow sleep inducing music, songs that bring down your mood, or music that makes you want to get up and dance every two minutes. Find the balance between upbeat and out of your seat. Tidy up your work space at the end of the day so you don’t dread starting work the next day because of the prep work you have to do just to get started. Getting started is tough enough as it is – don’t make it harder for yourself.

Working from home can be great as long as you can manage your time. For some of us, working from home can be a luxury (I know it would be for me!), so it is important to make sure that boundaries are put in place so that we get things done. This is important across the board regardless of who you are – but it is really horrible if you convinced your boss to let you work from home twice a week and you get nothing done on those days!

Are you a person who works from home? What struggles have you faced? Which habits and practices work for you?

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Girl Pouting Over Bowl of Cereal
Image details: Girl Pouting Over Bowl of Cereal served by picapp.com

Small changes can make a big difference. If you are trying to make big changes in your life, don’t be afraid to start small. All the small things you do to better yourself or change your situation prepare you to handle the bigger things. I personally feel that it’s better to start small and succeed, than to set an unrealistic goal, not reach it, and feel disappointed and angry with myself.

If you have something big you want to change, break it down and figure out which part of that big change you can handle first. I have a goal to improve my physical health (which definitely connects with every other kind of health) because that is an area where I can definitely be considered a slacker. Rather than trying to rush into working out five days a week, eat the best food possible every time I’m hungry, and so on, I broke it down. What can I do first? What can I do now? Well, I could grocery shop more than once every two months. Now I hit the grocery store once every two weeks, or once a week if absolutely necessary. I’ve saved money and fortunately, I’ve been able to make slightly better food choices. I’ve managed to start going to the gym once a week. Not much – but a vast improvement over never going.

When it comes to organizing, I often deal with clients who think everything has to change right now. That mentality often ends up making them feel overwhelmed and frustrated. So, I help them figure out where they need to start, and we work at a steady pace until we can take on a little more….and then a little more….

Here are some suggestions for a few small changes you can make that will help your progress if you are trying to (a) get more organized, (b) gain more control of your time, or (c) get better at getting things done.

Put things away when you are done using them. It seems easier at the time to just sit something aside when you are done with it. But when you’ve set 100 things aside, or let a sink full of dishes pile up, when you get ready to deal with it, it just seems like too much, and you could possibly lose your motivation. What happens then? Things keep adding up. Putting things back where they belong also will save you time the next time you need whatever it is – you’ll know exactly where to find it.

Stop trying to remember everything in your head. Tomorrow, you’ll suddenly remember something you really needed to take care of today. Trust me, I see it happen all the time. Make a to-do list, or keep a note pad with you. I love notepads because I have lots of random thoughts. Sometimes it’s a writing topic, other times it’s a person I need to call or an errand I need to run. I flip through the notes at least once a day for a quick refresher and cross things off as I get them done.

Shift your attitude. Decrease the amount of negative self talk you engage in. Negative self talk hold us back from all the great things that are possible for us. It’s best to get rid of all of it, but changing your thought habits doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative, counter it with two positive things. Through the course of my studies and personal reading, the research I’ve read seems to point to 21 days. Steve Pavlina has a great article on his website called 30 Days to Success that I recommend if you are trying to break a bad habit of any kind. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative, counter it with two positive things.

Start this new month off by making a small change that contributes to a larger goal you have in mind. It will definitely make a big difference.

(This article was featured in The Seventeenth Edition of the Carnival of Improving Life.)

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Plan your day before you start reading emails or checking voicemails. Take 10 to 20 minutes at the start of your work day to figure out what you need to get done and by when. Set priorities and realistic goals. Make sure the things at the top of your to-do list for the day are things that absolutely need to get done today. Work your way down the list with things that can be done at a later date toward the bottom of the list.

Make sure the items you add to your list contribute to your overall project or business goals. Planning your day before you get inundated with emails and voicemails is a great way to establish some direction and lay a foundation for the day. Even better – if you can make the list the evening before, you’ll be ready to get right to work as soon as you arrive.

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