The one-handed Blogger asks your help!

Why am I 1-handed u might ask? Long story short (QWERTY was made for 2 hands), new house + early AM + puppy = unfamiliar stairs to trip down during outdoor potty training. End result is a fractured wrist (my right, of course I’m right handed). After answering the repeated question, “what do u do for a living” (answer, desk job) I decided I need to seriously rethink my organization.

When it comes to my organization style, I am SERIOUSLY handicapped. No writing, minimal typing (this blog 27 min and moderate-severe pain) how will I cope for 4 weeks??

I count on recording thoughts, convos to organize my thoughts and plan next steps. That said, what are YOUR best tips on mental organization? What’s the best advice u have that doesn’t require pen and paper to get me through the next 3-6 weeks?

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OneNote is a lifesaver

I love having lists. I’m a very visual person and lists help me keep my tasks in order. I’ve never had a great system for an online to-do list as they always seem like so much work to maintain. Until recently…I discovered OneNote

Not only is it set up like a little notebook with easy-reference pages, but you can also easily forward things to it straight from Outlook. It’s also very easy to manage multiple “to-dos”.

What are my OneNote lists?

1.  A General To-Do – it’s nice to keep this updated as a quick reference on your screen during the day – so you dont have to decifer your scribble from various meetings.  If you keep it updated, you can easily email/print it and send to anyone who needs a report on what you’re working on.

2. Status lists – For major projects, I keep a daily status update. It’s not formal, but a good way to stay organized.    Ex: Monday (08/18/08) – met with technology to discuss data integration.

3. TheGood to Knowlist – This one keeps little reminders like “Don’t email Tina before 11am” and “Mark likes to be reached on his cell phone.” An online list serves as a good resource for these tips and doesn’t clutter up your desk/planner with post-it reminders!

So…I recommend that people who like lists (especially online ones!) should use this handy program called OneNote.

Therefore, what is at the bottom of my to-do list today? “Write a blog about the greatness of OneNote.”

Done.

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You know you’re an organizational nerd when…

1. You get really excited when Franklin Covey has The Biggest Sale of The Year
2. You find a perfect planner, search for it online, find out that it’s only sold at Barnes and Noble , then go there during your lunch break only to find they dont have it in stock and then you dont even get the Starbucks you wanted because you feel so defeated
3. Your grocery lists are prioritized and sorted by aisle
4. You get frustrated when your “X” project Sharpie disappears
5. You go house hunting and make a spreadsheet of each find with links to the corresponding Craig’s List/MLS post

 .cb

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The Basement Phenomenon

Have you ever stored something that you “absolutely couldn’t live without” only to find it months, if not years later to wonder why you’re still holding onto it?

I cleaned my basement recently and afterwards decided to make a personal mission of purging my inner packrat.

It’s hard, in the moment, to look at something that you use fairly frequently and judge whether or not it will come in handy in the future. It is even harder to take things that you’ve paid good money for, or are in decent condition, that could be useful to others (but not so much to you) and justify tossing them.

So how do you make better decisions “in the moment” and not months later after grueling hours in musty basement hell? Well, that image helps. Here are some other things that I have found particularly useful asking myself?

- Is the item replaceable? How much will it cost to replace it if I decide I need it later? By the time I’ll likely want use it again, will I even desire this old one that I have lying around with the work it’ll take to dig it out and clean it up? Will I even remember that it’s down here? If it can be replaced for relatively little money and/or effort, it’s a good sign it can be tossed.

- Can I give it away/donate it? If think someone could get reasonable use out of your items, sort them into boxes/bags marked “Give Away” and “Donate”. It’s ok to keep these stored as long as once they get full, you act on them. Because charitable donations may qualify for a tax deduction, label the “Donate” container with its contents and the estimated value of each. If you take these to a local facility such as The Salvation Army, ask for a receipt and file with your tax documents.

- Should I put it somewhere else? Let’s face it. Sometimes the items you save really should be saved- we’re thinking here photos, random “keep” documents, etc.. The point is, if they’re in a pile in your basement, they’re doing no good. If you don’t already have a “place” for them in the house, make one! Go out and get a container and label it and now everything of that nature is centralized.

- Speaking of containers… Are you a box hoarder? It’s true, those nice boxes MAY come in handy around the holidays to pack oddly shaped gifts, but chances are you won’t need every single one you keep. Rule of thumb? Box the boxes. Narrow them down to a nice selection of shapes and sizes, fill a large box and toss the rest.

Keeping these things in mind in the moment have made it easier for me to keep my basement (or any other “hidden” area for that matter) more organized for the long term. Cut the clutter by saving and storing with a purpose!

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Ode to Ultra-Thin Sharpies

Whoever thought that a single marker could keep me organized? While most would look at my notebooks thinking they resemble a wordmaze, I understand them.

Mostly because I have a designated color Sharpie that corresponds with a project.

That way, as I look through my disheveled notebook, I know exactly which pages to turn to – as if they were color-coded tabs.

Head to a meeting – pick up the corresponding marker. It’s not that hard.

Someone else even shares my love of a good Sharpie

And it’s way more fun taking notes with a marker. Let’s be honest.

.cb

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Paper vs. technology – which is best?

Ahh… the continuous debate. Some people like handouts – others appreciate an email recap. Here’s my thoughts on the paper vs. technology debate.

 

I actually I fully utilize both when getting organized but there is a very large distinction.

 

I use technology to organize my projects and my calendar. For example, my life is run by my Outlook calendar. Co-workers and friends know that if they want to schedule something (even after work hours), it’s good to send me a meeting request for it (is that anal-retentive?).  I falsely assumed that my other team members shared my affinity for Outlook calendars when I created a shared calendar that we could all post our projects and time off on. It didn’t take off. But not because anyone is lazy – I just needed to realize that some people appreciate planners and color-coded notebooks more.

 

Technology is also great for working on colloborative projects. There should always be enough easy resources available on a shared intranet so that you could be hit by a bus and anyone could reference your project. Havng meeting summaries, budget outlines, and other quick “cheat sheets” are great to have online – so yes, technology is great for that too.

 

Now my to-do list is a whole other story.

In my opinion, the “task” function in Outlook is a waste of time – who looks at them?  I HAVE to keep my to-do list on Post-it notes. I would personally die without Post-It notes. In my opinion, your to-do list is constantly changing and it makes more sense to keep it on a portable tool. That way, if it’s urgent, you can stick it right on your computer screen and the less important items can go on a file folder.

 

I also use paper for outlining projects. This way, your brain can think about new ideas  – not about what button to push to create a bullet point. In my opinion, paper is the perfect tool for scribbling down ideas, but then once you have a plan, then, you can create your final draft online. This also helps you keep your online references organized because you know that whatever “plan” is online is the final draft.

 

So here’s a recap of my project process:

  1. Create a to-do to start the process – on a Post-it of course.
  2. Outline the process for the project on a large piece of paper.
  3. Once a plan is determined, then the technology comes into play – creating meeting re-caps, spreadsheets, and saving all materials to shared folders for everyone’s reference.

 Could there be a better way to do this?  I’m open to suggestions. Just don’t take away my Post-its.

 

.cb

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Deadlines: A Necessary Evil?

Deadlines. Tenseness. Racing Thoughts. Tasks. Projects. Deadlines.

Once my arch enemy, the deadline is now one of my dearest friends. Not that I had ever really known my enemy. If I had, I would have saved myself a lot of unnecessary dread and stress. While I can’t guarantee anything, I firmly believe that once you appreciate the benefits of deadlines, you’ll actually volunteer one when no one even asks. Here’s why:

  1. They establish personal time-lines. Think of it this way… personal time-lines guarantee something: that you’ll finish a project or task in the foreseeable future. Now, when you haven’t even begun that project or task, this can be a little intimidating, especially if that job is complicated with many sub-tasks.  The key is to break up your project into do-able actions and establish a time-line for each. Use the mini-deadlines to build up to your ultimate goal.
  2. Deadlines hold others accountable. If your project depends on other individuals, teams, or external vendors, do yourself a service: request a deadline that they agree to meet. This reduces the stress you’ll feel when your project is held up by circumstances that you feel are out of your control. If someone can’t meet the deadline that you were promised and it threatens your ability to meet the deadline that you promised, be proactive and schedule a call or meeting to identify prohibiting factors. Establish a new ETA along with expectations if that ETA is not reached.
  3. Deadlines help you stay on task. If you work in an environment in which your supervisor establishes certain deadlines for you, volunteering your own deadlines or establishing mutual deadlines can work strides towards giving you a more manageable workload. Mark Forster writes about this beautifully and gives step-by-step pointers in his post, The Problem with Deadlines in his blog, “Get Everything Done”. If you can keep a big-picture understanding of the responsibilities that are yours to complete, the date you’re expected to complete them by, and the resources that are required from third parties in order for you to deliver upon that deadline, and then communicate your overall workload effectively, you’ll virtually guarantee yourself a reduced stress environment. Your projects will be organized; your resources less strained. 
  4. They can (and should) be dynamic. If you can reach all of your deadlines on  the date that they were originally set, kudos to you. But if you work in a dynamic industry or company that innovates change on a daily basis, priorities can come up that require immediate attention. When that happens, acknowledge that priority, determine how much effort it will take and redefine the deadlines for projects of lesser priority until you have reconstructed a realistic workload. Don’t forget to account for the unexpected.
  5. They establish do-ability. A very professional term, I know. Make sure you proactively communicate your deadlines to your team leader. If they question the date you’ve set, chat about the project’s needs. Now both of you are accountable for prioritizing your projects and you can free yourself of the pressure of meeting deadlines that you can’t possibly meet. If you’re skeptical about how receptive your team leader will be, setting your own ETAs establishes your seriousness about a project, ambition, and organizational abilities. It’s also possible that your team leader can help speed up the process. Finally, it shows that you care and gives you a chance to communicate your efforts on priority projects. And you deserve that recognition.

Deadlines. Relaxation. Organization. Tasks. Projects. Deadlines.

-JV

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