Quick Tips (13) – Prioritizing Saves Time

One of the biggest time wasters is not setting priorities for your day. If we don’t know what are priorities are, then it only makes sense that we will whittle away the hours on unimportant tasks rather than accomplishing things that are truly important.

A favorite way of setting priorities is to pick three things that need to be done and writing them down under the heading, “Three Things I Will Do Today.” Limiting the list to three items has the effect of not overwhelming us. Additionally, once we finish the three tasks, the sense of accomplishment will spur us on to make another list for the following day. Before we know it, prioritizing our lives will have become a habit.




How To Save Time and Reduce Your Daily Stress Level

I live by lists. I have a weekly grocery list. I have a “To Do” list. I keep a list of ideas that come to me at odd moments so that I don’t lose the thought. I make a list while sitting at the computer and working on my business, jotting down things I need to remember as I move from one task to another. Occasionally, I don’t add something to my list, thinking that I will surely remember it because it’s important. BIG MISTAKE.

Lists are our friends. They save us incredible amounts of time and help to keep us organized. Here is an example of how I organize my grocery/errand list. Every time a family member says we are out of something, it goes on the list. Whenever someone says, “Next time you’re at the store. . .” it goes on the list. Any items I need for our family meals that week go on the list. Some people group their grocery list according to location of items in their particular grocery store. I like that idea.

My errand list goes on the back of my grocery list. Usually it includes the bank, some specialty stores, the post office, etc. Before I leave the driveway, I take a pen and put numbers next to each item in order of their location. By doing this ahead of time, I know that my errands will flow in the most time efficient manner.

Where you keep your lists, whether they’re color coded, and other such considerations are a matter of personal choice. Since I spend so much time at the computer, I usually keep most of my lists at that desk. I prefer hard copy lists for most things, although I do keep business items in a software organizer that can be printed out when needed.

We lead busy lives. Trusting our memories can be a risky venture, especially when so many items compete for our attention in any given 24-hour period. Keeping lists is a great way to save time, keep in the flow of things, and reduce the stress level so many of us experience on a daily basis.




Quick Tips (9) – The Secret to More Productive Days

If you start your mornings looking for your keys, wondering where you left your glasses, and scrambling through your closet looking for something to wear, this tip is for you.

A smooth flowing, productive day begins the night before. Purchase a note pad that you keep near your night table. Before you retire in the evening, sit for a few minutes and think of all the things you need to do the following day and write them down. It helps to think through the day chronologically.

Next, set out the clothes you will wear. Make sure car keys, glasses, and other essentials are in your handbag. As you’re making these preparations in a relaxed manner, you will probably think of one or two additional things that need to go on your list.

By planning your day the night before, you will be able to spend the new day acting upon the things you need to do rather than planning them or wasting time trying to remember what it was you needed to do in the first place. As a side benefit, you will probably get a much better night’s sleep.




How to say no (and only no).

About a year ago I received a call from someone wanting me to do a mailing within my neighborhood for a charity organization. At the time, I was helping with the care of my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s type dementia. I explained to the caller that I was the primary caregiver for my mother, that my mother had Alzheimer’s disease, and that free time did not exist in my world.

Believe it or not, the caller went on to say that it would only take me about an hour to address the envelopes and surely I could find that much time to help their organization. As I listened to all her prepackaged comebacks for subjects that didn’t answer “yes,” I thought about some sound advice I had been given years before and how I had forgotten to apply it with this caller.

When the woman finally took a breath, I interjected this question: “Excuse me, but have you ever cared for an Alzheimer’s patient, even for as little as 24 hours?” The phone went silent. After a few seconds, she mumbled what I think was an apology and hung up.

You’ve probably experienced the above scenario many times. In fact, I’m sure we’ve all been there and we’ve all regretted saying yes when we should have said no. Why is it so hard to say that little two-letter word? In most cases, it’s because we just can’t say no without following it with a long string of justifications, reasons, and excuses. It’s as if we’re on trial and must give a defense for our answer. So to avoid the whole unpleasantness of the situation, we say yes. Then we hang up the phone and wish we had never answered it in the first place.

I recently read an article that presented a number of similar situations along with sample answers that one could use in order to say no and satisfy the person making the request. However, real life experience has taught me that few (if any) justifications or reasons are ever good enough. For every reason I put forward as to why I can’t do something, the person making the request will find a way around it, informing me that I can if I just do as they say.

Here is the sage advice that came to mind during my experience with the charity caller.

1. Know your life priorities (e.g., family, friends, church, work, previous commitments, etc.)
2. When asked to do something that will compromise your time priorities, politely say “No, I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to do that.” Do not give reasons or make excuses.
3. If the person making the request asks you for a reason, simply rephrase your answer and say “I’m sorry, but I simply can’ t do (whatever it is) at this time.”
4. If appropriate, you may suggest someone who can or offer your help in the future if possible.

Personally, I have found this advice highly effective. Callers often have a prepared arsenal of rebuttals for every excuse they hear. When you don’t give any, they have nothing at which to fire back. I must warn you that it will feel awkward at first because you will be tempted to justify yourself. Don’t give in. You’ve appraised your priorities and know what you can and cannot do. When “no” is the honest answer, enjoy the freedom that honestly brings.



A little something about the mail

It’s one of those things that can pile up quickly if not attended to, growing into a formidable mountain by week’s end. Why let that happen when it’s so easy to deal with mail the minute it comes through the door.

Here is my daily routine that you can adapt to your circumstances.

(1) Deal with mail one time and only one time.
(2) As soon as you bring the mail into your house, stand over a trash can and throw away all junk mail, advertisements, etc.
(3) Place all bills into a basket or other file/receptacle that you have designated for this purpose.
(4) Place magazines in their appropriate places.
(5) Read letters or any other remaining mail and file or give them to members of the family to whom they belong. It is helpful to have files or baskets for each person who receives mail.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is an excellent motto for mail. I have found this system to be a great time saver, and I know it’s one you will love once you begin using it.




Quick Tips (2) – When copies are a good thing

Losing your wallet or having your handbag stolen can be a less stressful event by following this helpful hint.

Make a photo copy of every item in your wallet. Be sure to make a copy of the front and back on credit cards, insurance cards, and any other similar items that contain important information and telephone numbers.

Place the photo copies in a safe place, such as a fireproof safety box or safety deposit box. If the unthinkable should happen, you will have all the phone numbers and information you need at your fingertips for reporting the loss or theft, saving you hours of time and lessening the anxiety that such a situation brings with it.