Taking Back Control of Your Day

In a recent post, we talked about accountability and how you can become your own accountability partner. The technique we shared is very effective for making sure that the one thing you are trying to change gets done – every day.

In this post I would like to share a tip to help you deal with the multiple things that attack you every day. Because, even while you are working on the one thing, you have a lot of other things that have to happen each day, as well.

Even if you don’t have Entrepreneurial ADD, unless you live in a very protected environment you still have many things clamoring and competing for your attention each day. Every one of us has to find a way to cope with this. Additionally, most of us need help in being as effective as we can.

By the way, note that I use the word effective rather than productive. That’s because productivity is achieved by doing the same thing over and over and over again. When you do this, you work out processes that let you be the most efficient in doing it. But most of those kinds of tasks and jobs have been turned over to machines or to computers. Instead, we humans handle the special things, the one off things, the “figure it out, first” things.

So, what’s my tip for being effective throughout the day when so much is competing for our attention?

Lists.

Yes, lists. However, I am not talking about scraps of paper everywhere. For your lists to be effective they have to be with you, available, and organized. For most people, this means either a small notebook that they can carry around with them or lists in an electronic format.

The pre-digital form of effective organizing was the Day-Timer or the Franklin Planner. These small notebooks were designed to be carried in the pocket everywhere. A great deal of thought went into the way they were organized and how they were used. Because their contents can be customized they are still a great idea if you’re not into digital.

If you are into digital you have several options, as well. The three most common these days are the smart phone, the tablet (such as iPad), and laptop or desktop computer. (A few years ago, a personal digital assistant (such as the Palm PDA) would have been an option as well. However, most users have replaced these with smart phones.)

If you have a smart phone and you use it for keeping track of things – as opposed to making phone calls, texting, and playing games – it can be a great tool for keeping track of your lists.

Likewise, if a tablet is your companion of choice, it can be a great organizational tool.

Your primary computer, whether it’s a laptop or desktop, can be just as effective, and in many cases more effective, than the smart phone or the tablet – especially if you work on a computer all day.

All three of these digital options have some basic note-taking or list-making applications, already. So, with one of these you already have something that can get you started. There are also numerous applications (apps) you can get to be even more effective.

There are also Internet applications designed to let you access your lists no matter where you are, or which computer you have available. (There one drawback can be that they do require an Internet connection to be available. Depending on the devices you have and where you go, Internet service may not always be available. This is something to take into consideration when you are deciding which route you want to go.)

Because I’m a geek, I actually use all three of these (four, if you count the Internet applications). My smart phone is always with me, my iPad is usually near at hand, and I spend a good part of my day at my desk working on my computer.

I have tried several different applications to keep all my tasks organized. I have personally used everything from Microsoft Outlook with its reminders, tasks, and appointments, to Microsoft OneNote, to Franklin-covey software, to various stand-alone and Internet applications. At this time, the one that works most effectively for me is Evernote.

Evernote works for me for several reasons.

  • It is low-cost entry (free unless you need power user features).
  • It is cross-platform (app for smart phones, tablets, and computers – both PC and Mac).
  • It syncs through the Internet giving me the ability for all my devices to stay up-to-date but also allowing me to use any computer to access the online version (I simply login to my account at Evernote.com.)

Evernote has many features for note-taking and productivity well beyond keeping track of lists. However, this article is about lists and staying organized with them, so that is all I will mention here.

You may already have an application that you like and use. If so, that’s fantastic. Keep using it. If not, you might want to investigate Evernote.

Next time, I’ll share more about how I use my lists to keep track of things and how to stay on top of all those things clamoring for our attention.

By the way, I have shared these techniques with my clients and they have found significant improvement in getting things done and feeling more in control of their day and of their lives. Maybe you would like to have a program tailored for you. If so, contact me and let’s talk about where you are and what you are encountering. Who knows, you might find yourself getting more done with less struggle and more fun.

Do you use a different tool to keep yourself organized? If so, share with us what you use and how it makes life better for you. (Use the comments.)

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