What Did You Forget to Pack?

On your last trip, what did you forget to pack?
You would be amazed what people will forget:

  • Socks
  • Cell phone charger
  • Workout shoes
  • Maybe even their brain! (Some people have admitted to this…)

Traveling can be stressful enough, but when you are disorganized and worrying about packing it only adds to your Life Friction.

The Power of a Travel Packlist
Whether it is for business or personal, it always seems to be a complicated evolution to gather the items for you trip. The best way to make the process easier and less stressful, is to make it repeatable.

A travel packlist is just that, a simple list of all the things you need to bring. By having a list, you can use it each and every time that you need to pack whether for a business trip or vacation.

(If you think you do not need or are above having a packlist, please go back to the first paragraph to see what you forgot…)

How to Make Your Packlist & Where to Keep it

It is easy to write your list by starting with some simple categories. You will also find that this grouping helps when packing. Here are the sections of my packlist:

  • Clothes – All clothing items both business and casual
  • Toiletries – all toiletries down to and including Tylenol
  • Gym – All the stuff needed to workout whether shoes or gym clothes
  • Other – miscellaneous stuff ranging from business cards to my travel wallet
  • Gear – In this age of technology, this section ranges from noise-cancelling headphones to my cell phone charger

Again, these are my categories. Choose your own and personalize your list.

The best way to maintain this list is in a spreadsheet. That way you know exactly where it is (filed on your computer) and can simply print a fresh copy each time you need to pack.

Evolves Over Time
You will find that your packlist evolves and becomes even more powerful over time. When you travel, you will discover things that are not on the list. Either you had not considered them or your needs have changed. Make sure you are updating your list to add things you want to remember next time.

You will even find that you will delete things off the list as they become obsolete. For example, I no longer pack an iPod, because all my music is on my phone.

Better Travel

WIth your travel packlist, you will find that you pack in less time, with less stress, and with fewer forgotten items.

It may even prevent you from buying another cell phone charger on that next business trip.  :)

Best wishes on your future travels!

The Visible Todo List

Where is your Todo List?

And more importantly, when was the last time you looked at it?

The idea of a todo list is to capture the things you need to do, so that you can get them off your mind, and you can continue the business at hand. However, all that is worthless if you never look at the list again.

Are you one of those people who finds lists that you made days or weeks later?

One list and one list only, please.

Lets start with the basics.  You should have one list.

People fall into the trap of capturing their todos in too many places.  An inbox, their email, their phone, an online web app. The problem here is too many places to look in order to know what you should be doing.

Todos belong in one place and one place only… on your one todo list.

Again, the medium is not important. I don’t care if you use pad of paper, a sticky note, a web application, an iPhone… whatever… but pick one. It is about putting all your todos in one place.

Now that we have one list, it is time to act on it.

You have to keep your todo list visible.

Your todo list should be with you and visible at all times.

The issue with Dayplanner and technology based todos lists is that they are very easy to be out of sight, and out of mind.  If your todos are on a website, how often are you able to look at them?  If your dayplanner is closed or not with you, how can you review your tasks?  When I used a dayplanner, I would stick my todo list on the front cover of the binder.  That way it was visible even when the dayplanner was shut.

Visibility leads to action.

When your todo list is readily reviewed, it leads to increased prodcutivity and getting your priorities done.

Try keeping your one todo list visible at all times.

What other tips do you have for keeping your todo list visible?

How early are you?

Trick question: When do you show up for the 9AM meeting?

If you are like most people in the workplace, you shuffle around and or even get to work at 9AM and then head down the hall to the meeting.

What happens?  People are wandering in for a good 5-10 mins.  They make small talk and the meeting does not start until 9:10-9:15. Right?

I show up at 8:50.

Yes, a full ten minutes early.  Why? Because it scares people.  Just kidding, but more on that in a minute.

I show up early so that I am ready to start the meeting on time.  It sends a message to my team, whether or not I was the one who called the meeting.  It also gives you a buffer in case something comes up, you will be on time vs. late.

Some are already thinking, well, that is a lot of time.  10 minutes.  If you have 6 meetings in a day, you would be wasting a full hour waiting for meetings to start.

The Most Productive 10 Minutes

Here is the secret.  I get more done in those 10 minutes than most people do in a full hour.  In 10 minutes, you can knock out 5 “two minute tasks.”  (For you GTDer’s)  You can address 10 or more emails.  You can even get 1-2 phone calls done.

Another little secret.  Those 10 mins are some of the best relationship building/networking times.  There is always small talk before a meeting. But, you also have a captive audience of some of your co-workers that you might need to touch base on for something else.

Some of the best things to do in those 10 minutes:

  • Review your todo list – Visiblity to your tasks leads to action.
  • Send off several emails – If you have issues keeping your inbox at zero, this is a great time to act.
  • Make a phone call or two – Not to interfere with the start of the meeting, of course.
  • Read papers or documents – Great time to review items.
  • Touch base or just chat with co-workers on other topics that need to be addressed.

Scaring Your Co-workers

If you take this lesson to heart, within only a few days you will hear whispers from your co-workers.  It will freak them out when they repeatedly come to a meeting and you are already there.  Ready.  And Prepared.

An additional benefit… you will notice that people will start to respect your time more. Meetings will start closer to on time and people will shame themselves if they are not there.

By the way… when does the 9AM meeting end?

By 9:50, of course.  You may have a 10:00 meeting.  :)

What are you thoughts on how meetings run at your organization?  Please add your comments below.

Email – Only 5 lines?

If you Twitter a lot… you know that every character counts.  140 is not a lot to say. So, you find yourself omitting words, leaving out spaces, changing before to b4, etc.

I wonder how much Twitter is changing our current langauge/communication styles?  Simple words like “very” are replacing fancy words like “extremely.”  Poor words like “the” and double spaces at the end of sentences are disappearing as quickly as global warming.

The other day I was writing some emails and noticed that I was being very brief.  Also, I had adopted some Twitterism’s…leaving out unnecessary words here or there.

Which got me thinking… What if all emails were limited?  Maybe to an arbitrary 5 lines?

What would be some of the benefits?

  • Quicker reading of messages
  • Emails would have to focus on the most important details of the message
  • People would stop wasting time writing marathon emails
  • Co-workers would be forced to actually have a conversation when the topic was more than brief thought

What are you thoughts?  Would limiting emails to 5 lines increase productivity in the workplace?

Block Your Time



As part of my daily prep, checking my calendar is one of the most important tasks.  After all, most of us live by our calendars to schedule our time.
One of the most important tasks I do is to “Block Time” on my calendar.  I usually do this at the beginning of each week.
What is Blocking Time?  Well, it is simply scheduling time for your activities.  You have probably heard of “scheduling a meeting with yourself” and Blocking Time is just that, taken to the next level.
If your job/company utilizes Outlook, then Blocking Time can become a critical task.  At my company, death by meeting…. via Outlook is not uncommon.  People seem to have no qualm about scheduling your time for a last minute meeting because they did not do something on schedule.  Worse yet, many of these meetings have no clear objective or agenda.
So, what is a Time Management Ninja to do?  Schedule his own meetings, of course.  Lots of them.  :)
The first week I did this, it was a bit scary.  I scheduled about half of my time on my Outlook calendar.  I labeled each of these meetings “Block Time.”  Then I went and put in each block a task that I had to get done.
Amazingly, I was more productive that week than I had been in a long time.  Instead or running around to all kinds of meetings, I actually sat down and did my work.
Blocking Time accomplished a few things:
  • Prevented myself from being invited to last minute meetings
  • Allowed me time to get my obligations done
  • Prevented people from stealing my time
A few other Ninja tips:
  • Block Time for personal tasks too.  Even something as simple as running an errand.
  • One Calendar – Use only one calendar.  You can use different colors/buckets for Work/Life, but one calendar ensures that your obligations do not go overlooked.
  • Be ruthless! – I regularly schedule 60-70% of my time.  Some people think this sounds extreme.  I ask, “Do you want to choose what you do with your time?  Or let others?”

Too Many Tools in your Toolbox?

Calendar? PDA? Notebook? Outlook? Dayplanner?

Just how many tools do you have in your time management system?

Many people find that their personal organization fails because they simply do not have a DEFINED system of tools. They use whatever is at hand. They use almost everything from a legal pad to Outlook tasks.

What happens is that they soon do not know what tool to use for what task. And even worse, they have multiple tools for the same task! (How many places do you have that you record todo items?)

The Time Management Ninja is a big believer in only one tool for each area of organization.

  • One Calendar
  • One Task List
  • One Notebook

So, how many tools do you have in your wallet toolbox?