Friday, May 17, 2013

Work Smarter NOT Harder in your direct sales or WAHM business - Taming the To-Do List

My mantra (all the time, every day!) is “Smarter not Harder”.  I pretty much just try to pay very close attention to what I avoid doing and why, and then I try to solve that barrier. I worked for a time management consulting company for many years as an administrative assistant, I learned a lot from all that stuff I typed!

That means that if it can be automated, streamlined or eliminated, I do it. If it is not a “business building activity” I try to avoid it. If it is something that has to be repeated (consistency and follow through are my arch nemesis) then I find a way to make technology my slave!

I like lists.  A lot.  I make really pretty lists.  They are serious works of art.  If I only had staff to actually DO all the things on my lists...

I'm not exactly sure what it is about lists that I like most.  There is a component of getting it all out of my head and onto paper.  There is satisfaction in sorting my thoughts into neat lines and categories.  And color coding it.  And making stars next to the really important ones.  And marking them off (have you ever written something on your list that you've already done, just so you can mark it off?  I have!)

And yet, with all my pretty little lists, I was even less effective than before!  Why?

The first thing that I did is clear my head.  "Never memorize anything that can be looked up" Do you recognize the famous genius who said this?

Albert Einstein. Technically, he said "Why should I memorize something when I know where to find it?" but that doesn't look cute on T-shirts and coffee mugs, so it got edited a bit!

I had been using lists to clear my head, but what got dumped on the list never got done. So when I saw my list, it made me sad and left me feeling guilty. Those are not the most productive emotions :)

I have a very nice collection of books on organizing and simplifying (I know they are somewhere here in this messy office...)  Most of them were written by people who are already good at simplifying and organizing.  I am wired differently.  Very, very differently.  I long for organization and simplicity, but not as much as a long for creativity and stimulation!  And definitely not as much as I long to not do the things that are required for simplicity and organization.  

Two books stand out in my memory though.  The first is "30 Days to a Simpler Life"  Granted, it took me 3 years to actually get all the way through it, but that little paperback (bought from AVON when I was a consultant 14 years ago!) is marked up and dog-eared.  Day 12 is "Simplify Your Mind" and covers letting go of expectations of yourself and others.  (I probably am due for a check-up on this one, I'll be re-reading it this weekend, when I find it...)  This freed me up from my overwhelming self-imposed "SHOULDS".

The second is Organizing from the Inside Out.  This book offers a personal inventory (right up my self-discovery alley!) and organization solutions that honor the way you are wired.  Both of these (and I'm sure many others along the way) have given me the permission that I needed to "let go" of the way that other people expected me to be organized, and find the way that works for me.  I call my method "loosely organized chaos"  (and yes, it does drive my husband crazy, in case you are wondering!)

Every now and then I forget, and try to do it someone else's way.  I am quickly reminded that "that is not me".  Oh, that reminds me of another great book...Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently I need to re-read that one too!  THIS book gave me permission to stop wasting spending my time trying to bring my weakest traits up to average, and instead, to focus on making my strengths the very best they could be!

I'm sure by now you are thinking "where's the tip?" 
(me too!  I got a little carried away being ME!)

So, here are a few tips to help you tame your to-do list:

  • When you are working online and you see something that you need to read, respond to or otherwise engage with... right click and choose "open in a new tab" or "open in a new window".  Now your browser tabs are your "to-do list" and you can click that X at the top when you are done with the same flourish as marking it off your list (only you didn't stop what you were doing to write it down!)
  • If it takes less than 60 seconds, do it right now.  It will take more brain-power to remember to do it or write it down and check your list later.  Just Do It!  (if it's quick)

  • Keep your supplies together.  For example, when it's time to mail out postcards, it's much easier because everything I need is already in the folder.  I used to have a folder for postage, the labels on my desk in a file box with all my labels and the postcards in my drawer with all the cards and correspondence.  Not only did it take a while to gather my supplies, it took time to put them back where they belonged (yeah, I did that... most of the time) and they were also subject to scalping from children!
  • Which brings me to another tip (That I practice daily.  As in, I've not mastered it yet!)  Quit multi-tasking.  One of those organizing books told me this.  I scoffed at the idea that not doing 20 things at once was more productive.  It even said to not multi-task doing laundry - can you imagine?  "No, I'm sorry I can't fix you a snack right now honey, I've got laundry going!"  But, I have found that I am most productive when I (try my very best to) stay on focus.  

Noel Giger Independent Director Proud GLOW Girls Team Leader  469.583.4604

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