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Organization can extend your lifespan.

Will getting organized help increase longevity? It makes sense to say yes; because it puts you under less stress, reduces the frustration of continually having to search for things in your home, and reduces accidents by having everything in its place. One study even found that people who worked in a neat space tended to have healthier snacks during the day than those who lived or worked in a messy work space.

As an octogenarian, I find that my body doesn’t always keep up with my mind and I have to make certain adjustments. Although we may hate to admit it, we become frailer and more susceptible to falls the older we get. The National Center for Injury Control & Prevention reports that over one third of people 65 and over suffer falls and related injuries. Our bones are usually more brittle. So keep both home and office relatively clutter-free. Avoid placing furniture or other obstacles in high-traffic areas. Don’t wear hard-soled shoes and avoid having loose throw rugs on the floor. You might consider balance training as well.

The best advice I can give is to recognize that as you age, your body and mind change, and you have to pay more attention to organizing your environment and yourself as you may have done in the past.

According to Home Safety Council statistics, older adults in the U.S. experience more than 2.3 million home injuries each year. The most dangerous rooms in any home are the bathroom and the kitchen – mainly due to trips and falls. So install grip bars. And remember that bathroom rugs are dangerous.

Pets in the home can also be a hazard as well as a help. Large dogs can push you off balance and small dogs and cats can trip you up. Cats and dogs are blamed for 86,000 annual falling injuries that send humans to the emergency room, according to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. Dogs cause seven times more injuries than cats. So be aware of where your pet is at all times.

The major causes of fires in the home include leaving on a curling iron or heating blanket or an electric heater too close to flammable material – or an unattended kitchen burner or stove. I think it would be a good idea to have a checklist to go over each night before retiring – such as pull the plug on electric heater, turn on nightlights, lock door, etc. I’m a great believer in checklists.

Seniors should definitely keep a checklist for all the prescription and over-the-counter medications they take. Include supplements and vitamins. For each medicine, mark the correct name of the drug, the amount you take, the time of day you take it, and whether it should be taken with food. Store two copies of the list: one on the refrigerator door or where your medications are stored, and one in your wallet or purse. Drugs frequently get mixed up because many of them look alike and even the names sound the same.

Some people are notorious for keeping old medications. Periodically organize your medicine cabinet and toss out all the expired and unused stuff. You should store things in the room they are used. For medications, that could be the kitchen. Highlight the expiry date on all your medications. Use pill containers that have separate compartments for morning, afternoon and evening, and fill them with your week’s medications every weekend. I have one that holds enough medication for an entire month and it’s convenient when taking vacations.

Before heading to the runway for takeoff, pilots must complete a procedural checklist to assure the aircraft is ready for flight. Now many hospitals require surgeons to complete a similar checklist before doing even the most minor procedures — including, to the amusement of some, confirming which limb or organ is to be operated upon. While it seems silly, it’s not — it’s a way to be assured that every possible step is being taken to assure patient safety. Research is demonstrating that when hospitals adopt this practice, there is a measurable improvement in outcome. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a reduction in both deaths and complications when hospitals used a 19-item surgical safety checklist.

It makes sense that if individuals establish a structure with routine procedures for health-related matters, it would not only reduce stress, but also help lower the risk of at-home medication mistakes and other mishaps that can have serious consequences. Many people put themselves at risk because they are haphazard about letting important papers pile up or, equally problematic, throwing out things they should keep for future reference. Keep a copy of all medical records in a clearly marked folder. Make it a habit to request copies of all test results, X-Rays, and treatments.

As Leonardo da Vinci has been quoted as saying, “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”  To that I would add, “and who will manage it with care.”

Note: The above article was taken from the book. “How to grow older without growing old,” by Harold L Taylor, Taylorintime.com, 2018. 147 pages. Available in both paperback (Perfect bound, 8 ½ X 11 format, and electronic format.)

 

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Organize your home and office

Organization aids peace of mind, creativity, and attention as well as time effectiveness. Disorganization, on the other hand, causes stress, fractured thinking and wasted time. It could even contribute to obesity.

For example, a Psychology Today article posted on May 17, 2017 mentioned a study showing that people will eat more cookies and snacks if working in a messy and disorganized kitchen. A special edition of Mindfulness, April, 2017, reported that according to the recent study published in Environment and Behavior, we are likely to overeat up to 34% more when our kitchens are in a mess – such as old newspapers, unopened mail on the counter and so on.

Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, authors of YOU: On a Diet, claim that visual clutter slows down the brain. That’s why clusters of road signs double the chances of missing the one you’re looking for. It also explains why website designers aim for simplicity.

As we read more about the workings of our brain, we learn even more about the importance of getting organized. For example, according to neuroscientist Torkel Klingberg, author of The overflowing brain, the more items on your desk, the greater the demand on your attention. And mental clutter is a suspect in the cause of age-related memory losses. Clearing clutter from your desk, office and home and leaving more wide open spaces also helps to clear your mind so it will be more productive.

To stay organized you must develop systems unique to your situation, whether it is handling paperwork, managing email, conducting meetings, using a follow-up file or scheduling in a planner.

Peter Bregman, in his book 18 Minutes, describes a study showing that deciding in advance when you will do something increases your commitment to do it. That’s one of the reasons I suggest to people that they block off times in their planner to actually do the priority tasks. This could include blocks of time to organize specific areas of your home and office.

Here are a few organizing suggestions that I have published at one time or another in my bi-monthly time management newsletter.

Re-purpose storage space

When you sort through your belongings and donate or scrap the sweaters, blouses, scarves and other clothing items you never use, re-purpose the drawer for those non-clothing items that are causing your closets and other storage areas to overflow. You are re-purposing when you remove bottom shelves of linen closets to store your golf clubs or use a kitchen drawer to house your toolkit. Don’t feel that you have to use all storage areas for the purpose they were originally intended. I use a spare bedroom as an office, and the closet organizers such as hanging compartments for shoes and larger ones for sweaters now house my various office supplies.

Not so junky junk drawer

I maintain that everyone needs a junk drawer for miscellaneous one-of-a-kind items. The secret is not to let it expand into two or more junk drawers. When items that you just can’t part with become too plentiful to find quickly, add dividers to the drawer to separate items that have some common association – such as those used in the same room, (kitchen, garden, etc.) or for common use (cooking, repairing, washing, etc.)

Act at the time of recall

When you recall that you need to mail letters in the morning or deposit clothes for dry cleaning or return a book to a friend, act now, not in the morning. Place those items near the front door or on the front car seat – where they won’t be missed. Marking them on a “To Do” list might not allow enough time if you’re rushing in the morning. And you could even misplace or forget to look at your “To Do” list.

Organizing tip for procrastinators

Not ready to part with some of the items cluttering up your home or office? In addition to your “Toss”, “Keep”, and “Donate” boxes, have a fourth one labelled “In limbo” for those items that you can’t decide whether to toss, donate or keep. Six months or a year later, tackle this box as well. If you haven’t needed, looked for, missed or even thought about any of the items in the meantime, it will be a lot easier to part with them.

Brighten up those storage areas

Rather than storing those extra paintings and framed photographs that usually get shoved under the bed, and that artificial plant that you received from Aunt Sally, use them to embellish closets, the laundry room and other out-of-sight areas that tend to attract unused stuff. You might hesitate before blocking wall-hangings and other decorative pieces. It also gives you the added advantage of brightening up those otherwise cluttered hideaway places that you have to visit frequently. It might even give your mood a boost.

If you need a further reason to invest a little time in getting organized, heed the information published in the April 6, 2013 issue of The Globe & Mail in an article by Leah Etchler. A U.S Study found that employees lose 76 hours per year as a result of disorganization. That’s time that could be put to use – either in your business or your personal life.

 

 

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 Organize your office for maximum productivity.

 

Organize your desk and surrounding area so that frequently used materials and supplies and equipment are within reach. The less frequently you use materials, the farther away they should be stored. For example, your stapler, paper clips, writing materials might be on your desk, along with your computer and working files while archived files could be in another room entirely.

An organizer tray in your most accessible drawer could contain such items as elastic bands, sticky notes, scissors, tape, batteries and staples. Another drawer could contain envelopes, stamps, return address labels, forms, invoices, and so on. If you frequently refer to hardcopy files, house them in hanging folders in your desk’s filing drawer or a freestanding filing cabinet within reach. Action files such as next week’s meeting material, invoices to be paid, information for an article being written or items to be reviewed can be held in a vertical step file device on your desk. But otherwise keep your desk as clear as possible to accommodate your current project.

Since people recognize color faster than they can decipher text, for your action folders it is usually a good idea to color code the various categories. Use different colored manila file folders and hanging folders to house the paperwork for different projects and categories. You might have red for action items, blue for payables, yellow for follow-ups, and so on. Of course the tabs should be clearly labelled as well; but eventually you won’t even have to refer to the tab to identify the folder.

To store inventory and supplies you could paint shelves different colors so you would know that cleaning supplies are on the green shelf, paper products on the white shelf and safety and first aid supplies on the red shelf.

Color provides instant identification among similar items, and if you file by color, anything filed in the wrong place can be quickly spotted. I particularly like the idea of color-coding books according to topic.

Whenever possible, store your supplies where they are used – printer paper, ink cartridges etc. near the printer, copier supplies near the copier and so on. These organizing principles apply to your digital files and forms as well. Have frequently used documents such as your weekly blog articles, tweets, monthly reports etc. in a folder on your desktop. Avoid having to click through five or six levels of document folders every day or week to reach the materials you need.

Less frequently used files can be several levels down in your main “Documents” folder. For instance, you might have to click through Documents, Associations, NAPO, Conferences, and Exhibits each year to reach the display information document.

Don’t allow your computer desktop to be cluttered with folders and individual documents. File newly created documents in the proper folder as you create them. Temporary storage easily becomes more permanent and slows the retrieval process.

Have a bookcase within reach for more current books that you refer to frequently for research while writing articles, writing proposals for clients or developing training programs. Once they are referred to less frequently and replaced by more current books, move them to your larger bookcases farther from your immediate working area.

Remove all clutter and other potential distractions from your immediate work area – including the in-basket on your desk if your office is in a company. Hopefully you have already decided what you will be working on each day and don’t need additional distractions. Any in-basket should be outside your office or at least as close as possible to the doorway. If it’s a crisis, people won’t use your in-basket anyway.

Don’t have family photos or memorabilia in your line of sight. These could initiate the brain’s impromptu trip down memory lane. A window view is okay as long as it’s a view of nature and not a school playground.

Although it seems I am trying to glue you to your desk for the day in the name of efficiency, read this in context with the rest of these articles. Remember the standing desk, 90-minute works sessions, frequent breaks, walking sessions and stand-up meetings. You don’t want to remain sitting; but you do want to remain productive during those 90-minute work sessions.

A word of caution: working from home and using your bed instead of your well-organized office desk to get work done is a major productivity killer. And an article in the November 17, 2012 Toronto Star reported on a survey by Infosecurity Europe in London that found that 70% of the workers surveyed spent at least a half hour a day working in bed. An Angus Reid/Vision poll reported in the January 26, 2013 issue of the Toronto Star found that one third of wired Canadians use Internet-ready digital devices before getting out of bed in the morning. This practice is proving to be neither efficient nor healthy.

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Working from home can boost your productivity

Home office

The trend is to a more mobile workforce

People seem to thrive in a work environment where they have clear performance objectives and are allowed more freedom to choose their own work methods, hours and location. A January 11, 2012 Toronto Globe and Mail article cited a survey in which two out of five respondents said they would take a lower paying job if it gave them leeway with respect to mobility, choice of electronic devices and social media access.

There is a trend towards flexibility in both working hours and location. Studies have shown the traditional workstations are only occupied about 50% of the time. One survey of 950 companies revealed that 60% had some unassigned workspace in their company. We have gone from individual offices to cubicles, and now seem to be moving towards the sharing of a desk or a table in the company office – with the majority of our work being accomplished at home or on the road.

According to a November, 2015 issue of Tampa Bay Times, more than 24 million Americans now work from home at least some of the time. And they are reported to be a lot more productive at home, with fewer interruptions, fewer distractions, more comfortable environment, and minimal office politics and less stress from commuting. Paul and Sarah Edwards, in their book, Working from home, indicate that productivity rises 15% to 25% when work is done at home instead of at the office.

There is much time to be saved if commuting to an office can be eliminated. According to the Toronto Board of Trade for instance, getting to and from work in this city consumes an average of 80 minutes.

Mobile applications and conference calls, email etc. now make it easier to work at home and on the road. It’s important to be able to share energy, creativity and brainstorming with others; but it need not be done daily.

A Careerbuilders.ca survey shows that nearly one third of all remote workers spend one hour or less on the job each day when working from home. Whether you are more or less productive working from your home depends on your individual situation. If you ask the telecommuters, 37% say they are more productive at the office, 26% say they are more productive at home, and 37% don’t see any difference.

Distractions seem to be the critical factor. The more significant home distractions, in reducing order of severity, are household chores, TV, errands, children, Internet and pets.

To be productive at home you must structure your day and maintain a work mindset. For example, one survey revealed that about 25% of telecommuters tend to work in their pyjamas. Instead, you should dress for work, keep a normal working routine, have dedicated office space with the necessary office equipment, stay connected with working colleagues, plan your breaks – and occasionally take your work to a coffee shop where there are people. You may find that when you work among others at a coffee shop, you can feed off their energy without being interrupted.

For a discussion on how your working environment can have an impact on both your energy level and your personal productivity, refer to my eBook, Managing your energy, to be published by Bookboon.com, in December, 2015. http://bit.ly/1PQekqV

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Getting organized adds meaning to your life

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Get started by developing routines.

Organizing your office and home not only helps you to find things, it helps you to find purpose in life as well. According to recent research reported in the July/August, 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind, an ordered life lays the groundwork for the pursuit of larger goals, purpose, and significance.

Getting organized, maintaining a tidy office, keeping a daily schedule, having weekly dinners with friends and other routines all add meeting to your life, according to Samantha Heintzelman, a University of Missouri psychologist. Although most people may think routines bring boredom, they bring richness to the mundane, while saving time and mental energy to invest in higher pursuits.

Few people balk at the morning routine of taking a shower, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and so on before starting their day. It’s necessary groundwork upon which to launch their significant activities. Neither should they question the validity of developing routines for planning their day, dispensing with email, making calls, and working on their significant projects in chunks of time throughout the day.

For maximum ongoing productivity and achievement you should first invest the time in organizing your office or work area. Set up your electronic and hard copy file systems, your follow-up system, the location of your inventory and office supplies, the layout of your desk and bookshelves, and so on.

Then choose a good planner that displays all seven days at a glance, segmented into 15-minute or half hour increments from early morning until late evening so you can schedule both work and personal activities.

Develop the habit of scheduling time for the priorities of the day well before the day’s activities begin. Relegate the less important tasks to your To Do list, preferably on the same week-at-a glance planner page.

You also must manage your energy in order to gain control of your time. Routines require less energy, leaving plenty for creativity, decision-making, and the mental demands of your significant projects and tasks. And the tendency to procrastinate is reduced to a minimum.

 

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Wisdom does not devalue with time

books

Never judge a book by its birthdate

 In one of my articles I mentioned my love of books and my tendency to hang onto them. I have been criticized more than once for citing time management reference books that were over ten years old – as though ideas had a “Best before” date. Let me refer you to a few “old” ideas that have just as much relevance today.

The oldest time management book in my now dwindling library, How to live on 24 hours a day, was published in 1910. The author Arnold Bennett reminds us of an important fact of life that time can often be used to produce money; but money can never be used to produce time. Since we tend to waste or squander time, Bennett urges us to claim 90 minutes a day for at least 3 days per week, and to use that time for self-improvement. It’s hard to argue that such advice is outdated – for we have the same 24 hours a day in 2013 that Bennett had over 100 years ago

Skipping to 1947, and the book published that year, The Technique of Getting Things Done, author Donald Laird voiced the same opinion as most modern time management experts when it comes to tackling the unpleasant tasks first. “He does not dread the next task for the unpleasant task is behind him.” He also emphasized the importance of self-discipline in getting started on any task: “The beginning is the chief point of resistance in any task – this is when one’s full will power needs to be turned on.”

In his 1957 book, How to enjoy work & get more done, O.A. Battista made the observation that we are most likely to lose our health at the peak of our career when our future looks the brightest, prompting this warning “There are two major dangers about which you must always be vigilant because they are likely to be held against you: overwork & overweight.” Those two hazards are still in the news today, and one of the major concerns is that obesity is becoming an epidemic.

How outdated is Robert Updegraff’s 1958 book (All the time you need) where he decries the conventional approach of business people of reading their morning mail (now email) before taking up the important business of the day? To quote, “The freshest hour or two of the day is consumed in routine activities instead of with concerns which might mean much in accomplishment and purpose.”

Joseph Cooper, in his 1962 book, How to get more done in less time, addressing working environments and distractions, makes a statement that bests any year 2015 suggestions on how to be productive in a chaotic environment:” If you are highly motivated to get on with your work, it is amazing how much of the outside world you can shut out of your mind.” The relatively recent “Gorilla Experiments” described in the 2009 book by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, The Invisible Gorilla, proves beyond a doubt the truth in that statement.

Even the original version of my 1981 book, Making Time Work for You, contains ideas that cause me to think, “I don’t do that anymore. I should have a more structured “time policy.”

Never judge a book by its birthdate.

 

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Gaining control of your time can impact health and longevity

gain control of your life

gain control of your life

Organization is an indication of control

According to Daniel Gilbert, in his book, Stumbling on Happiness (Random House, NY, 2007) at the root of most stress is the feeling of being out of control. I’m sure you know the feeling if you have ever been stuck in traffic, or waiting in a long line or suddenly told that the unrealistic deadline on your project has suddenly become more unrealistic.

People have a natural inclination to control events and make things happen. Losing control makes them unhappy and stressed.

Here’s an example. In a nursing home, the elderly residents were given a houseplant. Half of them were told they were to control the care and feeding of the plant while the other half were told that someone on staff would look after the plant. Within 6 months, 30% of the residents in the low control group had died, compared with only 15% of those who were in control. (Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, Random House, 2007.)

Another study had student volunteers visit nursing home residents on a regular basis. Some residents were allowed to decide when the student was to come in and how long he or she stayed. The others were not given that option. The student just popped in. After 2 months, residents with control were happier, healthier, more active, and taking fewer medications than those in the low control group.

Gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being. But when the researchers had finished their study and all visits stopped, there were more deaths among the high control group than the low control group, showing that losing control once you’ve had it can be worse than never having had control in the first place.

This could be related to disorganized people whose houses or offices are in a shambles and yet are happier than organized people whose lives are disrupted by sudden changes in environment, workload, and interruptions that move them into a disorganized state.

Those who don’t rush through the day in a panic, but pace themselves and work efficiently, actually survive longer according to Matthew Edlund, author of The Body Clock Advantage. (Adams Media, 2003.) These people usually have routines for going to bed and rising at the same times every day, exercise and eating. They control their work versus letting their work determine when they go home, go to bed or exercise.

Mental clutter is just as stressful as physical clutter. Writing things down and having a plan to get them done unclutters your mind, relieves anxiety, eliminates the fear of forgetting and makes you feel better.

Ken Blanchard in the book, The One Minute Manager Balances Life & Work, (HarperCollins, 2004) made the comment that we should never put our health at risk in order to gain more money. Otherwise, he claimed, in later years we’ll be spending even more money in an attempt to regain our health.

Other authors also have stated that losing control affects health and productivity. Stefan Klein, for instance, in his book The Secret Pulse of Time, said that stress originates in a surrender of control.

People who lose control of their time end up sacrificing exercise, regular medical checkups, leisure activities, relaxation, and healthy eating habits. Keeping well is easier and more time effective than getting well.

Healthy activities such as exercise, relaxation and leisure time should be scheduled in your planner if necessary, along with your priorities and major activities and events. If you don’t, the time in your planner may become filled with work-related activities and you may spiral out of control.