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notes-vintage-cat-symbolsTo Do List is Not for Everyone

When looking at how to increase productivity, it should be noted there are as many good processes as there are people. Those considering changing up how they get things done might be relieved to know that despite its widespread use, the classic ‘to-do’ list is not the best way for everyone. Feeling that the list will never be done, or that one is incapable of doing it can result in negative thinking patterns that ultimately reduce productivity. If you are one of the many who finds this manner of organising your work day stressful, you may want to tweak the method, or replace it entirely.

“Positive Mental Imagery” Alternative

San Francisco State University put the ubiquitous ‘to-do list’ to the test by comparing it with a technique they called ‘mental imagery’. According to James Adonis at the Sydney Morning Herald, this is a “combination of goal-setting, relaxation techniques and positive self talk”. Apparently, well over half of the 214 participants in the study preferred the latter method after a two week trial. They reported less stress about what needed to be done, and a more encouraged mental attitude towards their many tasks. Using positive mental imagery, one participant stated they “Kept up spirits in the face of adversity.” Sounds like a success story in the making.

Making the Most of It

There are times when a to-do list can be a helpful memory jolt, and useful in planning effective time management. Being able to see what is on your plate is one way to start working through it. However, the list made up of tasks that are added when they come to mind is unlikely to be the best way to go about it. Time management experts suggest dividing the list into at least two columns: one to be done today, and one for ongoing tasks. Alternatively, creating a list of “do-not-do” items might be the ticket to success. Productivity expert Laura Stack suggests being firm about not using social media during work time, not spending time gossiping or complaining, and not procrastinating are some of the ways we can get more done.

Looking Back

Another task listing method that gets positive results is the “done” list, where tasks are written down as they are completed, offering the listee feelings of satisfaction and encouragement. This way does not help plan a day’s work in the same way a to-do list can, but could be more useful for keeping a positive mental attitude. Coupled with alternative means of organising time, the “done” list can be quite effective.

Many Roads to Success

If you are experiencing doubt about your current methods of getting things done, it is a good idea to try some different ways. There is no one way for everyone, and many people find switching things up from time to time beneficial as well. Particularly if you are dissatisfied with your to-do list, it is worthwhile experimenting with different ways.

night-office-shirt-mailWouldn’t it be great if you could stop wasting so much of your time each day hunting for that one document that’s hiding in that stack of unfiled paperwork on your desk? Or reclaim all of those hours that you’ve lost searching for that one email out of the dozens, if not hundreds, of emails that remain unread in your Inbox? The key to being more productive and making actual progress, rather than losing your time to “busy” work, is to become physically more organised and take a systematic approach to your day.

Office organisation is about more than filing things away on your desk or within your devices. It’s about developing and putting into place a few simple systems that will help you save time and reduce your daily stress levels. The following five steps can help you to break free from the chaos and clutter in your office and get more done each day.

Take Stock of Your Situation and Identify Your Current Time Sinks

The first step in establishing order and routine to your office space is to determine what current systems are working for you, and which are not? You can do this by taking a moment to identify what parts of your day are simply wasted with inefficient routines. What takes up the majority of your time? Look for steps that you can take to make your processes more organised and efficient.

Establish Systems for Tasks that are Frequently Repeated

When you are thinking about how you spend your time during each work day, you will find that you can improve your productivity by establishing a system for each task that you repeat on a frequent basis. For example, you may find that for many of your email inquiries, you end up replying with the same or similar information most of the time. Why not save some time by creating some “canned” email responses that contain this information. That way, you just need to quickly customise a few lines when you send your reply, rather than having to type out an entirely new email each time.

Establish Systems for Time Sinks

Email is not the only area where establishing a simple system can save you time. Any aspect of your daily routine that is repetitive and takes up your time is ripe for systemisation. Just look at your specific time sinks and ask yourself what steps you can take to save time, then write those steps out into a plan, or “flowchart,” to establish your plan of how you will handle similar workflows.

For example, do your customers frequently contact your business by phone,email or in person with the same questions? Compile these questions and the answers into a helpful FAQ file that you post on your website. In the case of co-workers and associates, you can cut down on the interruptions in your work day by creating an online “Wiki” on your company’s intranet, where you and others can go to find the answer to common questions, such as what procedures should be followed for specific situations.

Group and Assign Specific Work Tasks to Specific Days and Set Aside Time in Your Calendar

Most of us have had the experience of having to scramble and make time in an already crowded daily schedule because we “forgot” to do a specific assignment. You can prevent these disruptions by grouping common work tasks together and assigning a specific day of the week to complete these related tasks, and then setting aside this time in your daily calendar.

For example, you might set aside a specific hour or two on Mondays in your daily calendar for following up with your accounts payable, and then another chunk of time on a different day for following up with clients who are late paying you, rather than trying to work these tasks in each day as they come in.

By grouping similar tasks together, and establishing a specific day that you will work on them, you eliminate having to disrupt your attention from other, equally important tasks through your workweek. You also make it less likely that these tasks will “slip through” your busy schedule and go uncompleted for long periods of time.

Create a Long Term Plan for Your Time

In addition to assigning specific days to complete specific tasks, create a long range plan, or budget, for your time. Assign projects, such as your marketing efforts, email campaigns, sales promotions and other strategic plans to different weeks and months on your annual calendar. This way, you know at a glance what you need to be working on each week so that you don’t squander away free time that you don’t really have.

By establishing a few simple systems to organise your time and your efforts, you will less stressed and become more efficient. As the days and weeks pass, the time that you’ve “reclaimed” will add up, giving you more time to focus on other areas of your work and personal life.

coffee-flower-reading-magazineWe are busy, all of the time it seems, and we’re all being asked to do more with increasingly less time and resources. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow just snap our fingers and get it all done?

Being more productive, and getting more accomplished each day requires more than wishful thinking.  Productivity is like any other good habit, it’s a skill that each of us can develop with enough practice. Over time, adopting the following five traits will help you to get more accomplished each day.

Increase Your Focus. It’s easy to get caught up thinking and obsessing about things we can’t control or to become distracted by all of the other, more enjoyable things that there are to do with our time other than our work. Taking our eyes off of our primary goals and objectives, however, wastes time. You’ll get more done each day if you actively look for ways to eliminate interruptions and distractions while you work. As you focus on the tasks at hand, don’t be afraid to ask others for help, and consider delegating tasks that are better suited to others.

Increase Your Effectiveness by Managing Your Energy and Eliminating Negativity. A lot of us not only waste time when we should be focusing on our work but, we also manage our energy unwisely a well. We can increase our ability to get more done by taking steps to better manage and enhance our energy levels. This means adopting practices that boost our physical and mental health, such as increasing our nutrition, getting enough rest and taking the time to exercise. We can also boost our energy levels and morale by avoiding negative situations or people that sap our energy and instead choosing to surround ourselves with people that inspire and encourage us and build our energy.

Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Stop Letting Doubts Hold You Back. Are you so afraid or failing, or being embarrassed that you are your own worst enemy? Do you let false, self-limiting beliefs hold you back from taking risks and putting forth your best effort? If your mind is full of visions of obstacles and what can go wrong, regain your focus and reclaim your life by changing the channel on negative self-talk and doubts. Focus on what can go right about a given situation and what steps you need to take to achieve your objectives. Practice visualising how you will feel and what will happen when things go well, and keep pressing forward towards your goals!

Leave the Past in the Past. Learn from Your Mistakes, but Then Move On. Each of us has made mistakes and has failed at something. Rather than wasting time and energy remaining trapped in the past, resolve to learn from the experience and quickly move on. Continuing to mull over in your mind all of the mistakes and errors that you have made will not help you. When you make a mistake, ask yourself what you have learned from the experience, what you would change in the future, what steps you need to take to improve your performance and then move on and allow the experience to become part of the foundation that is paving the path to your future.

Keep Growing. As we get older and past hurts, mistakes and errors pile up, it can be tempting to stick with what we know and what is familiar to us and get stuck in the rut of established routines and outdated ways of thinking and doing things. If we want to maintain our effectiveness and increase our productivity, however, we must seek ways to continue to grow. We can encourage new growth within ourselves by remaining open to new experiences and ways of thinking and finding ways to improve and develop new skills. Pursuing growth and development not only improves our productivity and effectiveness, but it also builds our passion for living and the joy we obtain from our lives!

pexels-photo-31256Coming up on the calendar are some interesting and worthwhile events for NFP board members and volunteer treasurers.

Meetings and Minutes Masterclasses are taking place in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne towards the end of April, and are designed to be beneficial for all NFP members with committee, administration or board roles. There is almost always room for improvement in running more efficient meetings and taking better minutes, so those who think they could do with some assistance in this area should have a look at the course information and registration on the Institute Of Community Directors Australia website.

Also just around the corner, the Board Builder Conference, is being held on April 29 in Melbourne. This conference will put a focus on building boards that are responsible, productive and sustainable, and at the centre of organisations that do first-rate work consistently. There will be a selection of speakers to give insight and advice on a range of issues pertinent to modern NFPs, including Kylie Cirak, the Director of Membership Experience at the Institute of Community Directors Australia, and Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children. This is an excellent opportunity to consult experts on your organisation’s particular problem areas, and also learn new management and directorial skills. For further information, and to register, refer to the website.

Finally, but importantly, the Communities in Control Conference is scheduled to take place in Melbourne on May 30th and 31st. This event is a chance to engage with some of the greatest minds in the country and be on the lookout for what is emerging in our cultural landscape, to be able to adjust your organisation’s mission and work to be the most efficient it can be. This conference is designed to be both entertaining and inspirational and aims to bring new ideas to attendees, so community organisations continue to evolve with the communities they serve. There are some high profile speakers, including broadcaster, academic and author, Waleed Aly and actor and comedian Magda Szubanski. Other speakers bringing their valuable perspectives include Holly Ransom, intergenerational economics expert, and Celeste Liddle, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Indigenous Organiser for the National Tertiary Student Union. More information, including an in-depth programme, can be viewed at Communities in Control.

These events, along with others throughout the year, are a worthwhile investment of time and resources as they facilitate keeping on top of necessary skills and brushing up on topics that are useful to successfully running an NFP organisation.

pexels-photoAlmost everyone can remember a time when they have been asked to do something new and they have felt it is beyond them. Perhaps there’s new software that needs to be mastered, or more negotiating skills are needed than one is felt to possess. Perhaps a better understanding of business practices would speed up the process of getting certain tasks done. Whatever it is, if further training will have a positive impact on your work, it is going to benefit your organisation. For that reason, it is not unreasonable to approach them to fund said training.

Easier said than done? Not if you have your bases covered. Follow these three steps and you will be in with a good chance to get that extra training you would like.

Research Training Options

Make sure you have selected the most appropriate course for the knowledge you need. Make sure it is good value, and happening at a time that will not clash with other work that cannot be rescheduled. If you can propose a particular course, you are making things as easy as possible for the decision makers to approve.

Be clear about what the training entails

Communicating what you will learn and how it will benefit your organisation is key to getting the cost of training covered by your organisation. Explain how your work will improve with the new knowledge, and what impact your improved skill set will have on the organisation both short and long term. Most courses will have information that can be forwarded to the decision makers, but if not, prepare something in writing that can be considered when the time is right. If there are noteworthy trainers leading the course, be sure to include that information. Also, point out if other attendees are likely to make good contacts for your organisation.

Offer to share what you learn

A proposal to attend training becomes particularly attractive if the knowledge gained can be shared with others in the organisation. It might not be feasible for all to attend the training, but those who can are in a good position to return with their new knowledge and teach others what they have learned. Offer to run a mini development course for others to sweeten the deal for everyone.

By following these steps, convincing those who can write the tuition cheque that is it a good investment can be relatively straightforward, especially if the course is indeed worthwhile.

0 QnVzaW5lc3NfMTQ3LmpwZw==It can be a precarious balancing act, the idea of fun at work. While all workers, volunteer or otherwise, will be more productive when they are doing things they enjoy, the idea of trying to inject more fun into an organisation’s operations can be quite a tricky one. When implemented properly, there are several major benefits of fun at work, but there are notable pitfalls too, so spending time to get things ‘just right’ is worth the extra thought it entails.

Improved Communication

Staff or board members who have opportunities to get to know one another find their communication is more seamless and fewer workplace misunderstandings take place. Getting to know each other can be a long process, but is accelerated by work-related extracurricular activities.

Increased Productivity

Better, more efficient performance is the natural consequence of hard work being interspersed with fun. Silicon Valley companies are famous for having places for employees to play computer games at their own discretion throughout their workday, or even flop on a beanbag and have a beer. Each organisation will have their own ideas for what is appropriate for their culture, but letting workers have fun can give them the mental break they need for the next burst of innovative thinking.

Improved Worker Retention

People tend to stick around when they feel they belong and are appreciated. Festivals that rely on volunteers have the same people back year after year, often because they are looking forward to the “volunteer appreciation concert”. Making sure people are having fun is a great way to encourage them to stick around and enjoy a long-term association with any organisation.

Staff Implemented Fun

Many organisations report the best results from work-related fun occur when it is the employees themselves who decide what they would like to do. Giving workers the first and final say in their work-related fun activities increases feelings of being appreciated and ensures the activities chosen will be well received. As one individual pointed out, work-related obligations that are not chosen by those supposed to enjoy them, can end up feeling like more work.

Formation of “Second Family”

When workers have the chance to have fun and get to know one another well, colleagues can start to build relationships that can feel, particularly for younger people, like a “second family”. They are people one can feel comfortable with, trust implicitly, and enjoy sharing milestones and successes with. When this happens, spontaneous fun emerges throughout the calendar, as people are keen to mark occasions, such as birthdays, at work.

Ensuring a good balance of fun exists alongside the operations of any organisation is good encouragement for the people involved to work better, experience greater satisfaction, and stick around to be part of an organisation’s growth.

office-1069207_640Nothing stays the same; the world, our world is constantly changing, so it stands to reason that we must change with it if we are to continue to thrive. Whether we are conscious of it, or even willing, we are forever learning and changing, growing and adapting to the shifting sands that form our lives.

So if learning is constant and essential for growth, instead of resisting, it helps to embrace and even seek opportunities to learn. No point fighting, right? With such busy and sometimes over committed lives, the easier the better.

We’ve compiled a short list of must watch personal development videos of varying lengths to inspire you to a world of online learning.

The Secret

The first 20 minutes of the full length movie explaining the Law of Attraction is a game changer, and for some, a life changer. The suggestion that the Universe is infinite and has the capacity to provide anything you ask for, in the right way, takes a leap of faith. What do you have to lose?

Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability

A research Professor from the University of Houston and public speaker, Brené Brown’s TEDx talk about her subject area, vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame, is one of the most popular ever filmed and encourages each of us to see our value and worthiness for love, belonging and joy.

Tony Robbins – 10 rules

No personal development list of resources seems complete without Tony Robbins, the biggest man in motivational speaking, literally as well as figuratively. If you like the feel of this video, the producer Evan Carmichael, has developed a series with other well-known people sharing their own 10 rules.

Maysoon Zayid – I got 99 problems, palsy is just one

If a reality check and perspective is what you need, check out this great talk, from Comedian Maysoon Sayid who describes herself as a cross between Mohammad Ali and Shakira. Actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled, this will have you learning whilst laughing.

Steve Jobs – Most important life lesson of all

An incredible story about failure, finding and knowing what you love, and being strong enough to apologise, is all the more poignant and inspiring since the passing of this successful man in 2011. Beautifully produced with original photos and soundtrack of Steve’s voice, this short video will have you wanting more.

“YouTube is becoming much more than an entertainment destination” – Chad Hurley

It’s said if you are not learning you are dying, and YouTube isn’t just for funny cat videos or people hurting themselves. If you have 5 minutes, you can learn a thing or two, and change your perspective. Don’t be surprised if you look up and your time is gone but your brain and heart are full!

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