5 Ways to Win with Deadlines

Do you get things done?

Let me ask a slightly different question, “Do you get things done on time?”

These days it seems that not many people do. The norm is to be late whether it is finishing a project or showing up to a meeting.

Our society has conditioned us to ignore deadlines. How often do you see people asking for an extension or simply not completing a project on time? The normal response is, “I’m still working on it.”

Oh well, who cares? Very nonchalant. It has become acceptable in modern culture. Workers get away with it, because it is the norm… everyone does it.

Where do deadlines come from?

Do you know where the word deadline comes from?  From earliest uses, it refers to:

“a line that was drawn around a prison.  If prisoners crossed this line they could be shot dead on sight.”

Hence, the word…deadline.

Would people get things done on time or finish projects by the deadline… if they were going to be shot?!?!?

Why we don’t care about deadlines…

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Is your time management system too big?

iStock_000008203287XSmall- Bloat

This is Part 3 in a 3 part series. See also Part 1 and Part 2.

In the previous posts, we discussed two potential impacts from a poorly designed or implemented time management system: Leak and Creep.

Leak was the loss of information from your system, usually due to inadequate tools to capture it.

Creep was the tendency to add more and more tools to your system.

Today, I want to talk about a third potential impact…Bloat.

Is your time management system too much?

As it sounds, a bloated time management system is one that has grown in size or complexity to the point that it is cumbersome to use effectively.  Its awkwardness arises from either too many tools or processes that are excessively complex.

Symptoms of a bloated time management system:

  • Too many tools – Too many tools can be a result of Creep.  Redundant tools reduce efficiency and create duplication/sync issues for your information.
  • Too much complexity – If your system has too many moving parts you will not be able to keep up with it.  It will slow you down, and parts of it will be forgotten.  Ever find the “other list” that you made and then forgot?
  • Too big to be used effectively – This can be a literal thing.  I know people who are great with a dayplanner, but it is so big that they only carry it with them sometimes.  Your time management system has to be with you…always.  No exceptions.
  • Wrong tools for the job – You wouldn’t use a hammer to fix a screw, and you wouldn’t use a blank spiral bound notebook for your calendar.  These examples are extreme, but you would be amazed what tools people will try to misuse in their systems.  Ensure that the tools you select are right for the job.

Too much to handle…

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Does your time management system keep growing?

Plant Sequence Cutaway

This post is part 2 in a 3 part series (See part 1 here.)

In the last post, we discussed 3 potential impacts from a poorly designed or implemented time management system.  (Leak, Creep, and Bloat).

Today, I want to talk about “Creep.”

Does your time management system keep getting bigger?

I mean this literally, not in a maturing sense.  Does it keep growing more appendages?  More tools that you use and carry around?  More places that you record and track things?  You see where this is headed.

Creep tends to occur when your time management system does not have clearly defined “boundaries.” You do not know which tools are in or outside of your system.  This can lead to using whatever is at hand or constantly adding new tools to your arsenal.

When creep adds more items to your system, it tends to reduce your efficiency.  You end up with multiple tools that do that same thing.  We want to stick to the simplest, yet most effective set of tools.  (See the “Power of 1“)

Why do we constantly try new tools?

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Does your time management system have leaks?


This post is part 1 of 3 in a series.

A poor or incomplete time management system can wreck havoc on your personal organization and efficiency.  In fact, a poor time management system can actually make you less productive.  Let’s explore 3 impacts of a poorly implemented solution.

They are: Leak, Creep, and Bloat.

Each of these is different but they are often interrelated.  An ill-defined or implemented system usually contains all three in some manner.

Why are we concerned with this?  Bad time management slows us down and increases Life Friction, ultimately making things worse.  We want to utilize the simplest forms of time management that bring effortless efficiency.

Today’s post discusses Leak.  Parts 2 & 3 will cover Creep and Bloat later this week.

What is Leak?

Leak, as its name implies, is the leaking of information from one’s time management system.  Leak results from an incomplete system.  One that lacks all of the tools needed to get the job done.  The loss of information is due to “holes” in the system.  It could be a lack of ability to capture notes or not having a place to record contact information.


You time management solution may have leaks if…

  • You have a desk drawer full of business cards – Why isn’t this information in your contact book?
  • Scraps of paper and Post-it notes cover your desk (and computer) with important info
  • You lose phone #’s and other info that you need again – Ever find yourself looking up the same info repeatedly?  Or wasting time looking for info you already had?
  • You forget tasks and appointments that never reach your calendar or todo list

The scrap of paper syndrome

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The Power of 1


One of the main reasons that people fail at time management is… because their system fails.

Too often people try to implement systems that are too complex.  This leads to loss of information, overlooked obligations, and general frustration.  (See “Why complex time management systems fail…“)  It is ironic, that the #1 time management book today preaches a system that is so complex it needs a flow chart to explain it.

Simplest is best

One of the basic Time Management Ninja principles is simplicity.  The simplest solution is usually the best and most efficient.  Simplicity is the key to stressless, efficient, and effortless time management.

To that end… you should have only 1 of each type of tool in your toolbox.

At a time management seminar, we asked the participants to bring with them all the tools they currently use.  Every calendar.  Every todo list. Every address book.  Etc.

It was amazing.  One employee had a pile of stuff.  A full-sized desk calendar, a PDA, a yellow pad of paper, and his cell phone.  He also brought a printout of his online calendar.

I asked him how he knew which calendar to look at in the morning.  He said it usually depended on where he was… at his desk, at home, etc.  He was quick to admit that he often missed appointments because they were written on one calendar, but not the others.  (Does this happen to you?)

The Power of 1

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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?

Freeze! Nobody move! What is on your desk?

Freeze! Nobody move!
This is an inspection. What is on your desk…right now???
Papers. Post-its? highlighters? Binders from last month? Unfinished sodas? Last year’s magazines?

How are you working in that mess?
I recommend that you start each day by spending 5 minutes cleaning up your workspace.  It will pay off in spades in terms of productivity.  (When was the last time you “lost” something on your desk?)

And no…we are not buying the “they are organized piles…I know where everything is” excuse.

File it or Trash it

If you are not immediately working on it, either “file it” or “trash it.”

Personally, I prefer the “trash it” method.  Put away what you need and then get rid of what you don’t in order to get your workspace clean.

Productivity Increase

You will find that a few things happen if you regularly clean your workspace:

  • You will be able to work on the task at hand without shuffling other things on your desk.
  • You will not “lose” things on your desk.
  • You peers will notice your “new” reduced clutter attitude.  They may follow suit.
  • You will have less accidents knocking stuff off your desk.  (Don’t say it doesn’t happen).
  • You will get more done. Period.
Cleaning your workspace is a prefect example of where “spending time” pays with more time later.
So, what are you waiting for…clean up your workspace for 5 minutes!
PS – There will be another inspection… 🙂

Shelf Genie Glide-outs

Yesterday, had Shelf Genie glide-outs installed in a few cabinets and our pantry.

Have to say that we are extremely pleased with the quality and design of these organizers.  We now have more than double the usable space in our cabinets.

My wife’s favorite in the vertical organizer that allows simple storage of trays, lids, etc.

PS – Thanks for Monica Ricci for her post that originally turned me on to Shelf Genie.  Check out her review on her blog here.

Does your company make you clean your virtual office?

Can you have virtual clutter?


 I spent the other day cleaning up my iPhone.  Yes, my iPhone.


It had become cluttered with quite a few apps.  In fact, I had over 120 apps installed when I started cleaning.


I had been avoiding it for a while.  In fact, I had been using iPhone’s Spotlight feature to find some of my apps since they were buried in many pages of icons.


As I cleaned I tried to keep only the bare essentials, but it was so hard to DELETE those programs.  Even though I could always download them again in a few moments from the app store.  Was I being a virtual packrat?


This is not necessarily something new.  After all, look at the desktop on most Windows PCs.  Most are littered with dozens of files, programs, etc.


So, as we move more and more into virtual workplaces… will companies have a “clean up your virtual office day?”


What do you think?  Should people be responsible for their virtual work environment?


– TMNinja