Filing, Filing, Who's Got the Filing?

Everyone agrees that filing in an organized way is better than not filing at all.  Okay, there are a few outliers who don’t, but they’re just being stubborn. 

The real issue here isn’t whether to file, but how to file.  My clients routinely fail to file well because they don’t believe they have the time or wherewithal to create a filing system that will actually work. 

Just Look to Your Kitchen for Guidance

Most people cry, “But I’d don’t know where to start!”  whenever the issue of creating a filing system is brought up.  Nonesense.  Just look to the silverware drawer in virtually everyone’s kitchen.  It’s organized, so it can’t be that hard.  Note, the silverware drawer stands in stark contract to the “junk” drawer which is generally a disaster. 

What’s my point?  Ask yourself which system works better for you.  Read on if you answered the silverware drawer.


QuickTip: Texting Improves Communication … If You Try

Face it.  Texting is here to stay. Love it or hate it, it’s just another chapter in the long history of faster, more mobile communication technologies that started with messengers running across the Greek mountains between rulers.  Whether we’re using the “old school” flip-phone style of texting or the update-to-date smartphone with its virtual keyboard, nearly everyone is texting, at least to a very small group of people.  In fact, the only people I know who aren’t are my parents.  That’s because my Mom can’t stay focused long enough on the “how” to make it happen!

It occurred to me while deplaning the other day and watching everyone check their messages – text and voice – that if done properly, texting can actually improve how well we communicate with each other.  The reasons lie in the technology’s (perceived) limits of 140-160 characters and in the nature of short-burst opportunities occasioned by its mobility.


Where Stress and Disorganization Collide

As a professional speaker, I travel constantly.  That means that I go through airport security all the time and, as a consequence, am witness to myriad methods of successfully and not-so-successfully navigating the process.  This microcosm of activity is a terrific example of how being disorganized generates tremendous and unnecessary stress.

The Cattle Call

We travelers converge on airports from points distant.  The majority of us are either returning home or leaving home but before we can truly begin that journey, we all must pass through the daunting airport security checkpoints.  For those of you who haven’t traveled by air in the last … say … thirty years, here’s a brief run down:

  1. We line up single-file (kinda) in a zig-zagging line similar to attending an opening of a new museum exhibit, only with luggage.
  2. In addition to keeping ourselves and our carry-ons moving forward, we just extract our photo IDs and make our boarding passes available.
  3. Once the TSA agent has verified (in cursory fashion) that our picture IDs and boarding passes have the same name on them and we somewhat resemble the picture proffered, we queue up for the screening process.  It is here that the fun truly begins.
  4. We must now extract from our luggage and place into a plastic bin the following:  properly packed toiletries (read: clear Ziploc bag), shoes, coins, cell phones, most jewelry, belts, and laptop computers (which  must be placed into a separate bin). 
  5.  The remainder of our luggage must also be placed on the conveyor belt.
  6. With our pants sagging and our unshod feet cooling, we must marshal our plastic bins and our carry-ons up to the x-ray machine before passing through the adjacent scanner ourselves.
  7. Having successfully made it through the scanner (don’t ask what happens if you fail here), we must now collect and re-insert all bin items into our luggage while getting on our belts, shoes, coats, etc.  Oh, and we have about two square feet in which to accomplish this final task.

Finally, we are free to make our way to our gate to board the plane that will take us far, far away from the memory of this most recent security checkpoint experience.


Which Books to Keep? – Making Really Hard Choices

When I downsized to a small cottage about six years ago, I had to pare down the number of books I owned.  This was a huge issue for me.  I’m a book fanatic.  All hope is lost when I walk into a bookstore.  We’re talking hundreds of dollars a visit.  In fact, if I have less than 15 books scattered around the house waiting to be read, I get nervous!

As you can image, this need to reduce my library to a manageable level for the new house – all of 1050 square feet – caused much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.  Instead of spiraling down into analysis paralysis, I simply created a three-step process to deal with the situation.  I am, after all, a process guy!


Power Processing Your E-mail – Q&A – Follow-up to RocketMatter Webinar

On February 18th, 2011, I delivered a Power Processing Your E-mail webinar to clients and subscribers of RocketMatterRocketMatter is an online legal practice management platform.  Larry Port, RocketMatter’s founder and CEO, had invited me to present to his clients and those interested in learning more about how to better manage e-mail via webinar and I was thrilled to oblige. 

The 60-minute, CLE-approved seminar was well attended and we ran right up against the 60 minutes leaving time to answer only a few questions.  However, Larry’s presentation platform was able to capture all the questions posed and this post consists of my responses to the many great questions raised during the webinar. 


Three Small Steps to Greater Control of Your Day

Change is easy; deciding to is hard.  That’s because we all know that we need to make changes to improve our lives.  However, the inertia of the status quo is a very powerful force to overcome when the moment to effect those changes arrives.  My personal and professional experience is that small change is, indeed, the most effective strategy for accomplishing all types of goals.


Three Simple Ways to Direct Conversations in Multiple-Recipient E-mails

One of the greatest benefits to using e-mail is the ability to converse with a group of people asynchronously over a large geographic area.  Just add any number of e-mail addresses into the To:, CC: and BCC: fields, write your e-mail and hit Send.  Off goes your message to be read and responded to by everyone everywhere at any time. And that’s when the trouble begins.

Spaghetti on a Plate

Unlike real-time environments such as conference calls or meetings where the directionality of a statement can be implied by the circumstances – “She’s asking me that question because she’s looking at me.” or “That’s a question for the entire group.” – e-mail messages rarely queue the directionality of comments or questions.  Consequently, any and/or many of the people on the thread begin weighing in … via “Reply All” of course.  Now, instead of a communication that was intended to keep a group informed while also directing certain comments to some and seeking specific answers from others, you have spaghetti on a plate.  A whole bunch of unorganized information is being delivered to a large group of people with no one directing traffic.  Think Tokyo train platforms at rush hour.


Keeping E-mail Under Control

This is a guest post by Stephanie Calahan.  Stephanie is a nationally known speaker, productivity consultant and founder of Calahan Solutions.

“Some firms report that e-mails account for up to 40 percent of data-storage costs, with an estimated one in five defined as non-business-related”

— Source: Hitachi Data Survey of 630 IT Directors, via

Are you like most executives?  Statistics report that the average exec averages at least 100 emails daily.  Add to that, the National Association of Professional Organizers reports that e-mail has added one to two hours to each person’s work schedule per day compared to 10 years ago!

Today I’ll cover some tips you can use to keep your in-box under control.


Three Reasons Why Executive Time Management is Like Losing Weight

Instead of doing the normal “set your goals” first-of-the-year post that you’d expect from a productivity guy, I wanted to do something different. The purpose of New Year’s resolutions is to take stock of our lives and, hopefully, find things we can improve. However, making a list of resolutions that invariably fail is not only pointless and unproductive, it’s failure – plain and simple. Why do we want to start the year off with a failure?

And then it hit me! The rate of failure of New Year’s resolutions is so high that their failure must have a pattern, a discernible weakness. That got me to thinking. Why do these resolutions (and similar commitments) fail so often? More importantly, how could that dynamic be changed to make keeping resolutions a successful experience?

Much thought and many discussions ensued to uncover the dynamics of resolution failure. The theory proposed below was developed based on these informal research sessions and the actual experiences of success I encountered. I’m sure there are thousands (millions?) of PhDs who could give us all a lesson on the hows and whys we have difficulty maintaining commitments. But, candidly, if they were so smart, they’d be able to do more than explain why we can’t fulfill certain types of commitments, they’d offer us an answer that can be translated into action resulting in success.