Let’s see. You are meeting with your boss first thing in the morning to go over the new Jones project. At 11 a.m. you have a conference call to finish up the Smith project. After lunch, you have an appointment to spend time with your file cabinet. A normal day, right?
It should be, according to Deirdra E. Gross, president of MAKK Strategies, a personal productivity firm. The only way to get things done. is to schedule them and take them as seriously as you do your other appointments. Her theory, which makes good sense, is that you wouldn’t stand up your friend for dinner, right? Of course not. Well, you shouldn’t cancel out on the project you had planned to do in your garage tonight either. Those paint cans that need opened and dried out are waiting for you.
To encourage all of us to achieve personal productivity through smart organization, Deirdra offers tips on how find more time for what you love in your life than you thought was possible. To start, Deirdra offers her S.P.E.C.S. Productivity Process, a five step procedure:
S -- Sort. Start small, with a section of a room, rather than your entire house. Divvy the stuff in that section into easily identified piles – things that belong elsewhere in your home or garage; that need to be fixed or delivered to someone else; that you no longer want/need and should be given away. That last one raises the persistently thorny problem of giving things away that you MIGHT need some day. Deirdra says you have to be realistic at this point (or brutal depending on your mind set) and keep in mind that “when you have too much, nothing matters,” she says.
P -- Prioritize. Ask yourself the following three questions: Do I truly want and need this? When will I realistically use this again? What is it costing me to keep this? Proceed accordingly. Keep only what matters to you. Again, you don’t need to keep everything.
E -- Eliminate. More than just throwing your things away, this step permits you to give your things to family or friends or charities or sell at a garage sale, on eBay, or through consignment stores.
C -- Contain. Make certain that everything you own has its own “home.” As an example, Deirdra says she can walk into anyone’s home and find silverware in about five minutes. That’s because the silverware lives where it is used. She warns against falling into the trap of putting all of your things into containers, because then you still have the same problem. You have only moved the stuff to another place.
S -- Schedule. After all your hard work organizing your home and office, it’s still likely that you will end up with the same mess if you don’t initiate this step. This is the time management piece of the puzzle (a necessary partner to any organizing project, Deirdra says.) She offers her Master List to help with the rest (see image below).
Get a three ring binder and place several copies of this sheet in there. Write “Category” on top of each of the pages and fill it in with the names of some of the major projects you are interested in doing, say planning a vacation. Then begin to list each of the steps necessary to accomplish those goals under the headings of urgent (make flight reservations), medium (cancel your hair appointment) and low (buy matching colored pens to take along). You will have to accomplish the urgent and medium level items if the project is to get done, but for the low priority ones, that’s “the cherry on top.” Nice to do, but not necessary.
Then you have to schedule some of these steps into your day planner (which should always have some “wiggle” room allowing for meetings that run over etc.) so that they begin to get done. Set aside an hour here and there for this project or longer and be firm about keeping the appointment.
The binder now serves as your “brain dump,” Deirdra says, keeping your mind free from those constant swirling thoughts we all have about what needs to be done – all those coulds, shoudls and woulds. You have “deposited” your projects into the binder and you are on your way to getting them done.
How Much Time Are You Wasting?
According to Deirdra Gross of Makk Strategies, the average person spends from five to 15 minutes per hour of each day looking for things – and some waste even more time than that. She says that if you spend even ten minutes an hour looking for things, you have wasted 333 hours in a year -- or eight 40 hour weeks. This is not good.
When you add up the cost of that time and the money spent replacing items we already have -- but can’t find -- it’s staggering, and amounts to more money in a year for most of us than I made as a full-time secretary in the 1970s.
Deirdra goes on to say that 85 percent of documents in our homes are never used, mainly because we can’t find them when we need to.
Give her suggestions above a try. You will find that soon you will be happily spending more time on what you want to be doing, instead of searching for things you can’t find.
Deirdra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.makkstrategies.com or by calling 412-414-2242.
By Teresa K. Flatley