Wasting Time

I'm speaking to a group of medical practice managers (Greater Atlanta Medical Management Association) tomorrow on Time Management and Productivity Improvement. They had asked that I contribute an article to their professional association's newsletter, and I thought it might be helpful to republish it here for those of you who are trying to get a handle on your time. Here it is:

"Time is probably our most precious resource, yet many of us squander it away each day. In this fast-paced world, we are inundated with information, emails, meetings, and a multitude of distractions. How is it possible to fit it all into a 24-hour day? The answer is that you simply can't. Instead, you have to sort through your activity clutter, get rid of the "junk", and choose to spend your time on those things that are MOST IMPORTANT, those activities that will move you closer toward achieving your goals.

That begs another question: Are you clear about what your goals are? Before you can manage your time most effectively, you must be crystal clear about your goals. Otherwise, like a gerbil running furiously on an exercise wheel, you may be spending your time staying very busy without ever really moving forward. Your first challenge, therefore, is defining your personal and professional goals. Literally, write them down.

Next, capture all of the tasks demanding your attention in one spot so that they can be properly prioritized. Most people do this with a To-Do list or Action file. Depending on your preference, you may want to keep your list in a notebook, in your paper calendar, on a PDA, or on a computer-based system. It really doesn't matter which system you choose because each offers its own inherent benefits. What does matter is that you pick a system, stick with it, and use it regularly.

Now comes the real secret to successful time management and improved productivity: check your to-do list or action file everyday. The best times to do this are first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. As you review the list, ask yourself, "What tasks on this list do I need to accomplish in order to get closer to achieving my most important goals?" You should also determine how much flexible, non-meeting time you have each day so that you can plug your tasks into the most appropriate time slot.

Remember, most any goal is reachable if you just break it down into manageable steps and consistently cross off those to-do items necessary to get you to your final destination."

Hoarding Causes Car Accident

Last week, a car crash in the Cape Cod area was discovered to have been caused by falling mounds of trash...from inside the vehicle. The Ford Focus was completely filled with trash from floor to ceiling. The 53-year-old driver said that trash fell onto the gas and brake pedal, causing her to lose control while backing out of a parking space. Fortunately, no one was hurt as she crossed three lanes of traffic before crashing into another vehicle and stopping at a nearby gas station.

Like most cases of hoarding, it doesn't end there. Concerned about the state of her vehicle, the police later went to the woman's home and found similar conditions. According to a news story, they found three cars full of household items and debris. Additionally, her front door was bowed out due to the amount of stuff in her home. In the end, the police helped the woman move out of her home because they didn't think the house was safe. Steps are now being taken by the town's Health Department to have the home condemned.

Cases like these are due to a psychological condition known as hoarding. If left unchecked, it can obviously create a real safety risk to the person with the condition. If you or anyone you know may have this condition, please seek help among your local mental health providers. Additionally, you can go to the National Association of Professional Organizer's website, www.napo.net, and search for Professional Organizers in your area who are specially trained to work with folks who suffer from chronic disorganization challenges.

There's Money Hidden in Your Closet

We've all got them. Those items of clothing that hang in our closets but never get worn. The reasons we don't wear these space-stealers are varied....maybe the jeans are too snug, the jacket fits weird, the sweater is scratchy, the color makes us look like death. So why do we let these clothes take up valuable real estate in our closets even though they never see the light of day? Maybe it's because they used to fit but, after weight fluctuations, not so much now. Maybe some were gifts or bought during an impulsive buying frenzy.

Regardless, I have a suggestion that will put cash in your pocket and free up room for the clothes you do love and wear. Consignment stores! As many of my hands-on organizing clients know, I'm a huge fan of consignment stores, and my favorite local shop is Finders Keepers in Avondale Estates, GA. One of the services I offer to my Organizing Makeover clients is to sign them up with an account at Finders Keepers so that they can offload those clothes and household items that they no longer use or love. The store generally accepts those clothing items that are in style and in great shape. Please be aware that Finders Keepers has really stringent quality standards, so "great" means "like new."

Right now, Finders Keepers is accepting spring consignments. Shoes and handbags are great sellers, and they sell every designer handbag they get. To find out more about their sign-up schedule for new consigners, store policies, and payback percentages, give them a call at (404) 296-0285 or go to their web site.

Just try not to come home with more than you drop off!!

Organizing on Oprah

Oprah is on an organizing and personal improvement roll this week!

Today's (Weds., Feb 7) Oprah show is titled "This is the Year to DeClutter Your Life" and it features Peter Walsh from TLC's "Clean Sweep." He'll be helping two families reclaim their homes from the chaos of clutter.

But it's tomorrow's show (Thurs., Feb 8) on The Secret that I'm most excited about. I received a copy of The Secret DVD for my birthday last year (thanks, Dad!) and I absolutely love it. It teaches the techniques and, well, secrets that high achievers have used throughout history to accomplish seemingly impossible goals and live amazing lives. Based on the law of attraction and the power of intention, the lessons in The Secret can be used by anyone looking to make their dreams come true. You'll hear me refer to these concepts often in this "Better Organized" blog, because they are the foundation principles upon which I've built my life.

Tomorrow's episode features some of the contributors from The Secret including Jack Canfield, the creator of the "Chicken Soup" books and author of a couple of my favorite personal improvement books, "The Success Principles" and "The Aladdin Factor." So tune into Oprah and be prepared to be movitated!

Big elfa news!

Big news! My favorite organizing store, The Container Store, has extended their once-a-year 30% off elfa shelving sale until President's Day, February 19th. (Their annual elfa sale was originally scheduled to end on February 5th).

The elfa shelving system is one of the most durable and versatile systems on the market. Plus, it's a breeze to install for you do-it-yourself types. All you have to do is drill a few holes for the top track. The rest of the system then easily clicks into place. I installed elfa in all three of my bedroom closets many, many years ago and it's still going strong. Most recently, I used a wall of elfa to organize my storage shed. Heck, I even use elfa in my home office to hold my professional reference books and my gigantic color printer. Can you tell I love this stuff?

If you've been thinking about redoing your closets, garage, or home office, measure your space and hurry on down to your local Container Store where they will design a storage solution for your for free. If you don't have a Container Store nearby, you can go on my creativeorder.com site and find a link for The Container Store in my Products section. The Container Store site has a "Plan a Space" section where you can design your storage solution and then have everything shipped to you along with an easy-to-use installation guide. Plus, if you have questions while you install elfa, the Container Store customer service is top notch.

Don't wait! This stuff only goes on sale once a year and at 30% off, it's a bargain.