Posts Tagged ‘personal parameters’

I often struggle with maintaining an optimal level of organization throughout my work days. I’m easily distracted — particularly by new e-mail messages — and can lose hours of precious work time reading incoming e-mails and the assortment of accompanying attachments and Web links. Other times, I log into my e-mail network to send a quick message only to feel overwhelmed by the vast quantity of unread or neglected e-mails waiting for me. Next thing I know, it’s quitting time and I haven’t achieved many of my goals for the day.E-mail inbox

Imagine my excitement when, for a work project, I had to read a book addressing online journalism that just happened to dedicate a whole chapter on digital organization. Finally, the answers to my inefficient work methods were being handed right to me — literally! Through this book, I learned of a Web site called Getting Things Done, which was founded by David Allen.

One of Allen’s best suggestions, in my opinion at least, is to spend no more than two minutes on each e-mail, whether replying, filing, or deleting the message. If you can’t respond to the e-mail in two minutes, Allen recommends filing it into a folder. However, this organizational approach only works if you already have established a detailed folder system so you can quickly and efficiently determine which folder is most appropriate and then — here’s the important part — remember to return to that e-mail for the necessary follow-up action.

I have always aimed to respond quickly to messages that require an immediate reply and often succeed at achieving that goal. It’s the follow-up that I struggle to remember, sometimes leaving my messages unanswered for long, inappropriate amounts of time. To remedy such a problem, Allen suggests creating a “waiting on” folder for storing e-mails that you can’t reply to until you receive additional information, and a “read this” folder for storing e-mails that contain attachments or more informa­tion than can be read in two minutes. You can go back to those when you have time or print them out to read later.

Well, I took this concept and ran with it, creating several additional folders for e-mails addressing subject areas about which I write, each freelance project I have worked on, each client I work with, and new ideas for future projects, among others. By setting up all these topic-specific folders, I know exactly where to place all my messages that I want to save – and they don’t clog up my inbox. I can now call up any one of them at a moment’s notice, if needed.

Allen’s overall goal is to look at each e-mail message only once, thus saving time, energy, and productivity. I have implemented this method in my own daily work routine and, so far, it has been working like a charm. I have even started to carve out time in the mornings and late afternoons to read the e-mails I place in various folders throughout the day. Now, I’m able to focus my attention on the required work at hand, while still taking breaks to read all the formerly neglected messages I receive. Hopefully, these tips can help alleviate some disorganization in your daily work days too!


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During a recent day of traveling, I found myself exhausted on the morning flight. It didn’t make any sense though — I awoke at the same time I always do and I wasn’t rushed to get ready, yet I couldn’t wait to close the plane’s window shade, shut my eyes, and nap for the duration of the flight.

I was stirred awake a few hours later and began reviewing the morning’s schedule for clues that might explain my exhaustion. That’s when I struck gold. To arrive timely for my flight, I had to get out of bed right away and immediately get ready to head out the door, whereas normally I Morning in bedam able to slowly wake, watch the news, read a few pages of my book, snuggle with my dog, and close my eyes off and on for a few minutes before actually rising out of bed and starting my day.

This relaxing routine of mine usually takes about 30 minutes, though sometimes it can extend to an hour. I recognize this is a luxury of being a self-employed writer who works at home. Regardless, this morning routine is exactly what I need to function properly each day. My body just can’t handle “abrupt wakeups,” as I call typical morning alarm-driven routines.

We all probably have some routine that calms and relaxes us, and we should take the time to acknowledge those needs and set aside time to achieve them. Maybe you relish the idea of reading the paper while savoring a cup of coffee, going for a run as soon as you arise, or listening to your favorite talk radio show. Whatever morning routine gives you peace of mind — and establishes a positive and happy vibe all day long — I urge you to allot enough time to realize it every day.

Next time necessity dictates my morning routine vary from the norm, I’ll be sure to respect my idiosyncrasies by adding enough time to slowly wake up in bed — and feel more balanced throughout the day.

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It’s official: I have become one of those people. Or at least that’s what my husband repeatedly tells me, with obvious disdain in his voice.  The annoying thing is that he’s right. I am constantly checking my smart phone for missed calls and e-mails. When I’m bored forCrackberry longer than three minutes (know how we supposedly live in an “ADD nation”? I could often be the posterwoman!), I whip out my phone to read the latest news headlines, check in with friends on Facebook, or play a game of solitaire. I must fess up — my name is Dina and I am addicted to the technology of a smart phone.

It all started so innocently. I promised myself when I purchased the phone (for work purposes, primarily) that I would not become dependent, engrossed, or driven by its advantages. I merely wanted to check e-mail as needed so that I was not tied down to my computer during the day. I envisioned the smart phone as freeing, granting me even more mobility with my freelance work.

But know the first thing I do when I wake up each morning? Check my phone for e-mail. First thing I do before bed? You got it, check my phone for e-mail. In fact, when the phone blinks an orange light to notify a new e-mail, voice mail, text message, or missed call, I check it every time — immediately. Sometimes I try to ignore the blinking, but it somehow tempts me with every blink of bright orange light: Message! Message! Message! I just can’t resist it.

I suspect that some may wonder whether this phone-checking habit of mine is of any real consequence. Our society readily embraces the idea of accessibility as an asset, and I am merely one more person taking advantage of our ever-ready communication abilities. Indeed, technology can be helpful, even life-saving at times.

However, I think the explosion of technology begs the question: Where is the balance? I’m not suggesting that we all toss our smart phones out the window, but rather, perhaps we should consider whether we could actually benefit from turning it off every now and then. Take some time just for you, your family, and friends. Allow yourself to be in the moment, be bored in the store checkout line, relax at a red light while driving.

One of my primary goals in life is to maintain a calm, balanced, and peaceful existence. However, if I am completely honest with myself, my recently excessive use of technology is incongruous with that goal. So I’ve decided to take a few steps to avoid becoming a slave to my smart phone, including placing it out of eyesight while working so that enticing little device of a phone can no longer bait and trap me into procrastinating. I also am creating a personal ban of any e-mailing or texting while engaging in other activities, such as conversations, walks, and drives.

Smart phones interrupt face-to-face conversations, quiet time, vacations, and relaxing weekends. We should use technology to enhance the balance and calmness in our lives — not infiltrate our lives with stress and less connection with other humans. I hope my new personal parameters bring about peace, or at least more balance, in a technologically-advanced, hurried world. And I can avoid the Crackberry Addict label, to boot.

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quit-signTwo weeks into a new job, I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. I was working late every night, I was stressing about meeting deadlines, and I was generally feeling stressed and unhappy. What was I to do? My gut and intuition were telling me to quit, particularly before I became more invested in the company, colleagues, and projects, after which it would be harder to make a clean break.


I encountered a similar experience one year ago while working for a client that required jugging schedules, relying upon others to complete their work, and partnering with colleagues who did not respect my personal time — all factors I find particularly difficult to deal with. Despite my misery, I continued working on the project, ignoring my intuition and the multiple signs chauffeuring me away from the job, as well as the very real problems of my constant headaches, tense muscles, and restless sleep. If I continued on with this new job, I risked failing to benefit from the hard lessons learned from this previous experience. 


So why couldn’t I just pull the trigger and fire off the resignation e-mail? Rationally, I knew quitting was the right step for me; I could spend at least 20 minutes giving a detailed description of all the reasons I should quit. Yet I questioned whether the situation would improve and wondered whether I should try harder to make it work.


Several days of hemming and hawing later, I had an “ah-ha” moment while discussing the topic with my mom. My problem was that I equate quitting with failing. Quitting, to me, meant admitting that I was wrong. In this case, I was wrong for accepting the job, wrong for being unable to complete the task, wrong for disliking the work. But in reality, quitting is about taking control of your own life and setting clear parameters for yourself. When you realize that an action, project, friendship, or situation does not fall in line with your particular boundaries, you must take steps to self preserve.


That doesn’t mean that you were wrong for trying something new. We were not meant to do everything. We are not perfect. The best thing we can do for ourselves is clearly identify our own limits and balance them with new endeavors, recognizing that not all of our goals will be realized — and that’s okay. Instead of believing that quitting a venture that is too painful or not worth the effort means that you failed, consider quitting a step toward controlling your own life, digging the boundaries in deeper to secure your balance.


Personally, I value time with my family and friends more than I value a high-powered career riddled with stress and pressure. Since this new project was requiring longer than I wanted to give, it wasn’t right for me. It doesn’t matter how my husband, friends, or family might have been able to respond under the same conditions, since parameters and boundaries for balance are inherently personal. All that mattered was I became conscious that this particular career move was compromising my life/work balance. So I sent that resignation e-mail and, not surprisingly, immediately felt relief. I had succeeded.


Next time you find yourself in a situation that feels out of control, consider whether quitting would preserve your mental well-being, overall health, and balance. Quitting just may be the most successful step you can take.


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