Senin, 14 Juli 2008

Organizing Solutions for the Disorganized Entrepreneur

After more than 20 years as an entrepreneur and a consultant to entrepreneurs, I am convinced that for many entrepreneurs, "organized" is an enigma. "Organized entrepreneur" may even be an oxymoron, because the very strength that makes great entrepreneurs makes for poor organizing - at least organizing as most of the world defines it.

For the majority of my career I called myself an organizing consultant. The most frustrating aspect of that role was defending myself against people's pre-conceived notions about the word "organized" - particularly as it related to me. They imagined me having "one piece of paper on the desk at a time". And as someone who lived and worked in a methodical (boring?) manner. They assumed I could not even imagine experiencing the chaos of feeling totally overwhelmed by my surroundings. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

I had the good fortune to grow up in a very organized household. Four of us shared the top floor of a 2-story farmhouse - with the bathroom downstairs where my father's parents lived. As soon as I went to school, my mother went to work full-time. In addition, she handled the normal activities of a farmwife, such as gardening and canning and was very active in the community as well. Being responsible for taking care of my own physical environment was an unspoken expectation - and was role-modeled by my parents. I have no memories of panic situations, such as frantically looking for car keys or lost pieces of paper. Although the house frequently looked cluttered, it could be quickly corrected, because everything had a place.

My first husband was not only organized, but fastidious. We used to joke that we made a great team because I could make a mess faster than anyone he knew, but he enjoyed cleaning it up. His profession was one that involved very long term projects, so cleaning up the kitchen was something he enjoyed because he could see immediate results.

After we adopted three children, I began to spend time with other mothers listening to horror stories about their struggles with organizing. Prior to that event, I had not given much thought to how I organized my life. As I sat on a playground in New York City, I would hear comments such as "We haven't eaten on the dining room table in months because it's covered with papers," or "We had to file an extension on our income tax again this year." At that time I was looking for a way to make extra money for our household and I had read that many successful businesses resulted from entrepreneurs listening to what other people were complaining about. Thinking about my own experiences, I realized that I had a history of helping other people take control of their environment. During one summer vacation, I helped my aunt, a mother of five, organize her kitchen and closets. In high school I organized a music library. As an au pair in college I developed a recipe retrieval system for my boss, a gourmet chef. I even created a filing system while I was a volunteer for a non- profit agency in the West Indies.

I soon realized that helping other people to organize their environment also improved their lives. And for myself, it was quite therapeutic as well. As someone who had frequent bouts of depression, one of my techniques for coping was taking control of my surroundings. When my mind began to feel totally overwhelmed, I found comfort in controlling my environment - especially getting rid of whatever I possible could, so there was less I had to control.

As I became interested in creating a career as an organizing consultant, I began paying attention to how I organized. I read articles on managing time and space to compare how other people did it. Often I became frustrated that I was unable to act in the routine ways that "organized" people described. Funny things like getting dressed in the morning frustrated me. I observed that I didn't have a routine, and as much as I tried to develop one - after all, that's what "organized" people did, I failed. Sometimes I fixed my hair first, and then put on make-up, frequently stopping to do something in the kitchen before I finished. I found little time to "straighten up" before taking the kids to school and often folded clothes in the middle of the night. Nonetheless, I seemed to get lots of things accomplished (though never as many as I wanted to!), and other people often asked me how I did it.

After I declared myself "an organizing consultant," I was determined to become the role model for organized living. One attempt stands out clearly in my mind. It seemed to me than an "organized" person would have a menu plan. So with great diligence I would get out my cookbooks over the weekend, plan the menus for the following week, and purchase the ingredients. I soon discovered this plan was a horror to me. The menu said that Wednesday was spaghetti night - but I just wasn't in the mood, so I took the leftover vegetables, a few scraps of chicken, and made stir-fry instead. I finally concluded that organized cooking for me meant three things:

(1) always having plenty of staples on hand,

(2) buying a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables once a week, and

(3) preparing a meal depending on my feelings that day.

Although my career as an organizing consultant started by organizing homes, soon clients asked me to help them in their office. I was terrified at the thought. How would I know what to do in a business? I was trained as a musician! But I agreed to try, and soon discovered that many of the techniques that served me well in the home setting worked equally well in business. The first step was always getting rid of the unnecessary. Ask any 100 employees if they know there are things in their office they don't need, and 99 of them would say "Yes!" But how many people go to work and say, "Well, I don't have anything better to do, I think I'll clean out my files today." In fact, if they do, they may well be confronted by a colleague complaining, "What are you doing that for? We have to finish that new proposal!"

Research shows that the average worker spends 150 hours per year looking for misplaced information, and 80% of what most office workers keep is never used. My being there as a "consultant" gave people permission to take the time not only to eliminate what they didn't need, but to discover what they had that might be useful to other people in the organization. We then created systems in storage closets and filing rooms that allowed people to access each others information. Often it eliminated the purchase of supplies and materials which already existed. Plus it helped erase time lost reinventing what another employee had already created.

I've always been intrigued by God's sense of humor. I am now married to a man for whom organizing is a mystery and he is totally disinterested in changing that. He'd simply rather have someone else do it for him! Talk about a challenging relationship. Now I not only have to cope with my own organizing struggles, but someone else's as well. This, however, has facilitated my career, because one of the most common questions I am asked is "What if the problem is my colleague or spouse?"

One of the things I've learned is that there is a big difference between inclination and motivation. If I am motivated to do something, I can. If it is not something at which I am innately skilled, it will take me longer than it does someone else, but it is possible - and the results are very satisfying. On the other hand, it is impossible to convince someone else that they should be organized - or anything else for that matter - if they don't see the need. I am blessed with a husband who is the most supportive person I know. He never complains about my outrageous and often hair-brained ideas! Without his support, I would never have been able to grow Hemphill Productivity Institute into a team of nearly 60 people committed to helping entrepreneurs take their innate skills to the marketplace. One of the principles of survival in business for a disorganized person is to surround yourself with people who have skills complimentary to your own. I would have burned out years ago had I not found strategic assistants who are brilliant at cleaning up the messes I create.

I have always been, and continue to be, frustrated with my own lack of inherent time management skills. The idea of making and prioritizing a list continues to be a challenge for me. For one thing, I always interrupt myself before I complete the list. Deciding whether something is an A, B, or C priority is a complete impossibility for me - though goodness knows I've tried! But I have finally made peace with myself (most of the time, anyway) by continually making lists. One of the principles I teach clients is "Half of any job is having the right tool." When it comes to time management - I must capture a "to do" when I think of it. That means carrying a tape recorder in the car, a phone call to my self when I can't write my idea down and large blank pieces of paper with me when I'm sitting on an airplane.

The secret of time management for me is to categorize all those "to do's" from various places, and then organize them according to when and how I could do them. For example, "mail a birthday card to John" goes on my calendar, because it has to be done on a specific day, "buy new stapler" goes on an "Errands List" and "check out" goes in "On-Line To Do's." Often I discover I don't have the "Errands List" with me when I decide to run errands, but it's amazing how the very act of writing it down helps to create a list in my memory. It's not a perfect system, but it works most of the time - and I've been known to call my office from the supply store to ask my assistant to check my list!

I may always be frustrated by my plight to improve my own organizing skills. But the good news is that I get better and better everyday. In the meantime, I am totally capable of helping clients who feel they are hopelessly disorganized take control of their lives and their businesses. From my perspective, organizing is an art, not a science. It's not forcing our clients into any pre-conceived notion of "organized," but helping them to develop systems and techniques, and to choose the right tools that will enable them to be the best entrepreneur they can be. Three questions we ask repeatedly: Does it work? Do you like it? Does it work for others? If the answer to any of those is "No," we have to go back and refine the systems, tools, and techniques we have designed. Organizing is a journey, not a destination. It cannot be installed; it has to be nurtured. Your entrepreneurial success will be judged by your results - not your organization skills. But improving your organizing skills will probably increase your chances of success, and will undoubtedly make your journey a lot smoother!

By Barbara Hemphill

10 Tips to Get Organized and Clutter-Free- Now!

1. THE LOVE IT OR LOSE IT PRINCIPLE: Every item around you represents a choice you made. You either went out or selected it; or it came to you, and you accepted it. Look at that item now with fresh eyes. If you do not know that item to be useful, believe it to be beautiful, or love it for personal reasons, it's time to get rid of it. In other words, LOVE IT OR LOSE IT. Love what nourishes your dreams and directions, lose what drains or distracts you. Call this process your "Clutter Campaign".

2. DESIGN your vision of how you want to live and work. What is your ideal environment? Look at where you are now and document your current condition (yes, this means writing it down). Create a clutter campaign workbook. Then write down where you want to be and what budget and time frame you are working in.

3. ELIMINATE your excuses that undermine that vision. Take the time to list the excuses. How do you feel when you are clutter-free? Decide what natural talents and skills will help you get organized - and get assistance for the areas that are difficult for you. What are others doing that is helpful to you?

4. COMMIT your time to take positive action. Think about how much time you spend now looking for things. Then think about how much time getting organized will take - especially if you break projects into bite sized pieces. Now mark the calendar - when are you getting started?

5. SELECT your tools to match your personal organizing style. Think about what you need every day, and arrange these items in a system that works for you. Make sure the tools are in working order and utilize technology to your advantage. Ask yourself this about any item in your life: Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Do you love it?

6. MAINTAIN your success and keep the process flowing, revel in your success. Notice new habits you have developed and what is making it easy for you to maintain those habits. Making organizing and de-cluttering a regular part of your day. Reevaluate the systems you created on a continual basis - make sure they work for you!

7. Create A Support Group. Some people like to do the Clutter Campaign on their own. Others prefer to work as part of a group who share support and encouragement and also hold themselves accountable for staying on focus. Working with friends can even add some fun to the process. If you decide to work as part of a team, remember the four things most successful groups have in common a. A structure that keeps them focused on their goals b. They hold themselves accountable for the promises they make c. They support one another d. They celebrate their successes

8. Practice the Art of Wastebasketry?. As yourself these questions about everything you own, and based on the answer, decide whether or not to keep it.

a. Does it require action?
b. Does it exist in another place or form?
c. Is it recent enough to be useful?
d. Can I identify a specific use for it?
e. Would it be difficult to obtain again?
f. Does it have tax or legal implications?
g. Does anyone else need it?

9. Maintain a Master Project List. List all the projects you are working on, and create a file, folder or holding space for information on each project.

10. The most important question: What is the worst possible thing that would happen if I don't get organized and/or start a clutter campaign in my life? Creative minds always have more ideas than the physical body can carry out - give yourself a break and permission to get rid of those items and projects that do not meet your life goals.

Let us know how your clutter campaign is going - we would love to hear from you. Happy organizing!

By Barbara Hemphill

Escaping The Clutter Trap? - 5 Steps For Increasing Productivity And Decreasing Stress

? Do you feel overwhelmed by all the "stuff" in your life? Magazines and journals you've never finished reading, clothes you never wear, e-mail you haven't responded to, or photographs you intended to share with friends or colleagues? ? Are you embarrassed to invite people to your home or office because they will see the way you live or work? Do you rush around when someone's coming to hide the evidence?

? Is clutter putting a strain on a relationship that's important to you? Do you argue with your spouse about what to keep, or spend time reassuring your colleagues that you know what everything is?

? Do you waste time looking for things you really need - documents you already created, or the keys or receipt you had in your hand five minutes ago?

? Is your home or office just too crowded? Does clutter take valuable space and leave you feeling overwhelmed? If you answered "Yes" to any two or more of these questions, you are caught in The Clutter Trap - a state of cumulative disorder which diminishes your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or financial health. There are more than a few people reading this article right now who are feeling distressed by the clutter in their lives. There are more than a few whose relationships are drained by arguments about clutter. There are more than a few who would panic at a letter from the IRS announcing an audit. "But wait," you may be saying.

? "Isn't clutter the inevitable condition of living in a complex world with never enough time, never enough space. Always too much to be responsible for?"

? Or maybe you're saying, "I'm creative, and creative people are just naturally messy."

? Or "I've got more important things to do than worry about clutter."

Here's the truth! Clutter is NOT inevitable. It is NOT synonymous with creativity. It is NOT a precondition to life on earth in this time. You arrived on earth without clutter and you will certainly leave without clutter. The question is how you live in between!

Let's put it another way: To know if you are organized, ask three questions:

1. Does it work?
2. Do you like it?
3. Does it work for others?

Most people answer "Yes" to the first question, hesitate on the second, and will admit the answer to the third is "No," - but rationalize by saying it doesn't really make any difference. But does it? What will be the results if something happens to you, or to one of the people in your organization? In reality clutter, and the resulting inability to find the right information at the right time, can, and often does, have a negative impact on everyone who lives or work in that environment.

Our mission is to assist individuals, families, and organizations to create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. What is a "Productive Environment?" Think of this way: It's an environment in which everything supports who you are or who you want to be. The more clutter, the less likely you, or the people around you, will be able to find what they need effortlessly. We've developed a program called The Productivity QuickStart? which guarantees a ten percent increase in productivity, based on the premise that your ability to accomplish any task or goal is directly related to ability to find the right thing at the right time.

During the past 25 years, we've distilled a five-step process you can use to create and sustain a productive environment which we call The Productive Environment Solution?:

1. Design your vision.
2. Eliminate your excuses.
3. Commit your time.
4. Select your tools.
5. Maintain your success.

Notice the common word in those five steps? "Your!" The key to escaping the clutter trap and creating a productive environment is linked to discovering and implementing what works for YOU - not what worked for your mother, or what your colleague thinks you should do. In other words, "organizing is an art!" Design your vision

Have you ever noticed how much you seem not to notice about your everyday environment? Look around your office and you're likely to "see" many things that have become invisible to you on a daily basis because you trained yourself not to look at them.

Clutter is postponed decisions®. The first step to creating a productive environment is to decide what you need to foster your best and highest experience. It is impossible to even define our own clutter if we do not hold a clear picture of who we are, or what we are about.

A photographer had on-going dreams about living in a white tower with glass windows, while her real home was buried in clutter accumulated over 30+ years. When we focused on her love of the arts, letting go of the unsightly clutter became less painful, and even freeing.

Eliminate your excuses

Banish all temptation to blame the condition of your surroundings on circumstances or people around you. "I don't have enough space" often proves to be inaccurate after one of our office clean-out days. Choose to work with what you've got.

A book agent discussing the idea of a book on the subject of clutter commented, "Some of us are just slobs." Only if you want to be. Creating a pleasing and productive environment requires a process. If you honor the process, you will succeed. While it's impossible to force someone else to eliminate clutter, we've never met anyone who couldn't get rid of their own.

Commit your time

Recognize that the time you invest in creating and sustaining a productive environment will pay returns every single day of your life in your personal and professional life.

One association executive recalls arriving at work every day for five years chastising himself because there was no room in his office to hold a meeting. Finally, in desperation, he hired an organizing consultant to help. In six hours, the boxes he'd paid to move to three different offices were replaced with a small conference table.

"How long is this going to take and how much is it going to cost?" is the first question asked by potential clients. The answer: "The longer you wait, the longer it's going to take and the more it's going to cost."

Select your tools

Find the perfect equipment to match your style of operating and arrange it efficiently and aesthetically. Barbara's father often told her "half of any job is having the right tool." Of course, he really meant, "using the right tools." Many people, for example, fail to invest the time or get the training to use the organizing tools that already exist on every computer.

One client had Post-it® notes stuck all over her office to remind her of places to go and things to do. She swore that she could never use a calendar. "I just hate those ruled lines and the thought that every hour of every day needs to be so structured." We found a unique calendar with a red leather cover and lots of open space on the pages. Within three weeks she called to say she didn't know how she had gotten along without it. "It doesn't control me - I control it!" She'll never convert to a Palm Pilot, but she finally found the tool she could love. What you love, you will use. What you use, streamlines your life and work.

Maintain your success

A major excuse for not getting organized is "It never lasts anyway!" Here's good news. Once you accomplish the first four steps, maintaining your success is not difficult.

Remember those three questions earlier in this article? Does it work? Does you like it? Does it work for everyone? This ever- changing world requires asking those questions frequently. If the answer is "No," it doesn't mean what you did in the past was wrong. The situation has just changed. This five-step process is most powerful when it becomes a way of life.

Do you have difficulty getting rid of clutter? How much of your clutter is there because "It might be useful someday.!" Several years ago, a colleague made a statement that influenced our work today significantly: "Sometimes overresponsibility becomes irresponsibility." How much could that unused furniture or equipment benefit a nearby school or a community service group? What about that cane from your broken ankle eight years ago? What about that flute nobody has played for thirty years? It's much easier to let go of something when you know someone else will benefit.

How often we hear "But my real problem is other people's clutter! How do I change them?" One client complained, "At work people give me stuff I have to keep. I don't have a choice, and at home, other people's stuff drives me crazy."

The shortest path to frustration and failure is trying to change other people. Your most powerful path to sustained success is to start with yourself, and let those around you be affected by observing your increasing calm, focus, and productivity. If all your tactics of the past have failed, perhaps it's time to try a new approach. Tell yourself a new story about the amazing level of power and control you have over one person in the universe - you. Say to yourself "I don't allow anything to rob me of my freedom to create the results I want in my life." In other words, change what you can (you). Accept what you cannot change (everyone else), and waste no energy fighting the difference. Through the years, we have discovered an interesting phenomenon. Emotional loss, such as the death of someone close, loss of a dream, or frequent loss of physical belongings, can often impact people's desire to hold onto physical things. One woman who had been fighting with her husband over his clutter for years got dramatic results when she told him, "You know, I never really understood how much you want to keep all this stuff. Let's figure out how we can keep it." She came a few days later to find the garage filled with boxes he was donating to a local thrift store.

Very few people are truly impervious to their environment. Most of us just pretend we are. We make promises to take care of the clutter later. In the meantime, we walk around as incomplete, diminished versions of the fully resourceful, fully generous people we could be. The world needs the best you have to give and if your best is smothered in clutter, we all lose. It's a great campaign. We're all in it together. Good luck.

By Barbara Hemphill

The Magnificent 7: Tips for Cleaning Up Clutter

Clutter is postponed decisions®. Here are some suggestions to simplify the task of controlling clutter:

1. Put all like items together. Put items in their largest category first, and then break them down by steps as necessary. For example: (1)Put all clothing together. (2) Then break into women's clothing and children's clothing. (3) Then break women's clothing into seasons.

2. Create your own "organizing store." Determine a specific place to store any organizing items you find as you sort that might be useful in the future. This could include boxes, hangers, hooks, shelves, bags, organizing equipment, etc.

3. Determine the best location for each category. Where will they be used? What location would be the most practical place to have these items. For example, if items need to be secure, choose a location that can be locked or a lock could easily be added.

4. Choose an appropriate container. Select one that will hold the largest amount of each particular item you expect to have at one time - or, put some of the item in a convenient place, with additional supplies in some less accessible space. For example, some paper could be under the copier with extra paper in a nearby closet.

5. Make containers easy to use. If you want to encourage people to put things away, remove lids whenever possible. For example, a container for videos which requires taking the container off the shelf to remove the lid will probably result in people putting the videos on top of the container!

6. Labels contents. Label the outside of all containers/shelves/cupboards clearly. This will vastly improve the chances of items being returned to their correct location!

7. Identify a specific purpose for every container/location. Unidentified containers/shelves/boxes quickly become catch-alls for postponed decisions.

By Barbara Hemphill

The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Organizing Your Kids Rooms

1. In terms of organization, what is the first thing a parent should do before decorating a kid's room?

Get rid of the clutter! Because we are such a materialistic, marketing, socializing-driven society, kids are bombarded and often overwhelmed with "stuff" - much of which they don't even like and will never use.

2. What is the biggest organizational challenge with children's rooms?

Finding ways to make it easy for kids to maintain organization - this means getting them involved in the process and using tools like baskets without lids, hooks instead of tools racks, etc.

3. Why is organization so important in a kid's bedroom?

Studies show that children who live in an organized environment (especially those who have learning disabilities, ADD, etc.) function better.

4. Are your organizational tips different for different age groups? If so, could you offer a few?


At this age, you can teach children organization without them even knowing it. For example, using color coded containers to sort toys.


This is a great age to begin teaching paper management. Purchase a desktop holder for hanging files - create a folder for special interests such as "Soccer", "Cartoons," "Haircut Ideas" "Gift Ideas" etc.


The older they are, the tougher it gets - because they begin to want to assert their independence! The answer lies in "What will they do?" When my son turned 16, I finally closed the bedroom door, and said, "If it doesn't crawl out or smell, I won't complain! I'm tired of teaching, bribing, nagging, etc."

One of my clients hired me to organize her 15-year-old's room. It was a gorgeous room, but not at all to the daughter's liking. We took out the clothes bar, and filled the closet with colorful stacked baskets. When we were done, she invited her basketball team to come and see!

5. What are the must-have items in every kid's bedroom?

Specific places for specific items of clothing (e.g., this drawer is for sox or this box is for memorabilia), An easy place to put dirty clothes.

6. Can children be taught to be organized, and if so, how does a parent make this happen?

One of the best ways is to be a good role model. Often when parents says to a child, "Clean up your room!" the child doesn't have to look far to see other people's messes - some of which have been around for a long time!

However, as the mother of five, who are now grown and living responsible lives, I learned that although I taught them how to be organized, it didn't mean I would see the results until AFTER they moved out of the house!

We use a 5-Step Process to help our clients organize all aspects of their personal and professional lives - this process applies to organizing a kid's bedroom as well:

1. Design your vision
2. Eliminate your excuses
3. Commit your time
4. Select your tools
5. Maintain your success.

Notice that the common word in all of the steps is "your" - organizing is an art!

By Barbara Hemphill

Secrets to Eliminating Emotional Clutter

Are you plagued by clutter in your personal or professional life? Is there someone in your family or your work who is? Based on my experience, the answer is probably "Yes!"

As a professional organizing consultant for more than 20 years, I have discovered that eight out of ten people are bogged down in life with physical clutter somewhere in their lives. Ironically, most of them suffer in silence. In many cases, you would never know it just by seeing them, or even working with them, because they are frequently some of the smartest and most successful people in the world. In far more cases than most people believe, the clutter actually drives them to do or not to do the very things they want most or want not to do. In some cases, it causes emotional paralysis, even mental illness. The only thing stronger that their desire to get of the clutter is their desire to hang on to it, and a vicious cycle results.

My consulting business has been built on the concept "Clutter is Postponed Decisions®." In the beginning, I was referring to the physical clutter that plagues so many people in our increasingly materialist society. When I began to explore this issue, it became evident that the physical clutter was an outgrowth of another kind of clutter: emotional clutter - internal beliefs that control our behavior and our results.

If I just get organized, I will be able to do it all. I, or someone else I know, might need it someday If I keep it long enough, I can justify the fact that I bought it. I can't get rid of it because someone else gave it to me.

You can keep everything you want if you are willing to pay the price: time, space, money, and energy.

It suddenly occurred to me that decision-making about our emotional environment is just as important as decision-making about our physical environment. Deciding what thoughts to keep determine whether we just "keep on keeping on" or learn from our experiences, move on to even better things, and help others to learn by our example.

I once interviewed an extremely talented and prolific painter in her home studio. It was filled with beautiful paintings. "Do you ever like something you create so much that you can't let go of it," I asked. "On, no," she immediately responded. "I have to. Otherwise nothing new would come."

By Barbara Hemphill

Get Organized - Stay Organized

My mother is one of the most productive people I know. She is 78 years old and still works full-time as the personal assistant to the CEO of a bank. (I come from great genes-it makes me very optimistic about my long-term future!) One of her secrets to productivity is what is often called "a tickler file." It used to be a popular organizational tool but eventually fell by the wayside. The tickler file is a reminder system based on the days of the month and months of the year. It simply consists of two sets of file folders: "1-31" and "January-December." It's time to bring that old system back.

Surveys show that people's stress levels are at an all-time high. A major source of that stress is information overload. Information arrives in five ways: on paper, electronically, via voice mail, through verbal messages, and as thoughts in your head.

Think of a 5-lane freeway. You are speeding down the highway when suddenly you see orange barrels-you know you're in for trouble. That's exactly what happens when you sit down at your desk and are overwhelmed with where to begin. Do you start with the e- mail? Most people do, but should you? The highest priority could be in the "In Box" you haven't looked at in days-or could it be the idea you had while taking a shower? You've got information overload and you need a way to cope with it.

Managing Information To conquer a stack of papers-permission slips, newsletters, report cards, bills, and articles to read-employ these five productive steps.

? Discard. I've spent lots of time promoting the power of throwing things away. Ask yourself, "What's the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn't have that or didn't do this?"
? Delegate. If you are not delegating some of your work, why not? The most productive people in the world are those who spend 80% of their time doing what only they can do and surrounding themselves with people whose talents are complementary to theirs.
? Do it now. Ask yourself, "Is taking care of this the best use of my time right now?"
? File for reference. These are things you want or need to keep for future reference. Develop or use a good filing system (like Taming the Paper Tiger, information below), so you can find items easily and quickly.
? File for follow-up. These are things you want or need to do. In the Paper Tiger software system, we place these items in Action Files so you can find them when it's time to take act on them. The task won't be forgotten because the Paper Tiger can print weekly reminders or you can put a simple note in the tickler file.

The Important Question No matter how information arrives, your first reaction is probably, "I have to take care of this now." If you are serious about increasing your productivity and prioritizing your work, the question you have to answer is, "When?" As scary as it is sometimes, you have to decide. When you determine what date to take action, put the reminder in your tickler file system. Now you have a tool that enables you to prioritize your work and to measure whether the interruption of the moment is more important than what you said you were going to do today.

When people hear about this system, their first reaction is often fear-fear of making mistakes, fear of taking on another task, fear of failure. But remember that old saying, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to keep getting what you're getting!" After trying the tickler file system for the first time, one client said, "Instant peace of mind!" Are you ready for something old and better?

By Barbara Hemphill