Get Focused

Plan to make productivity a priority

(Family Features) Although there are many reasons to feel stressed in the workplace, productivity is often at the root. After all, productive employees are often perceived as the most valuable employees and when productivity fails, it tends to put everyone on edge.

Concerns about productivity are broadly founded. They may be related to your self-assessment of your own performance, or it could be that a manager is demanding more. Or maybe you’re collaborating with a team of peers and are struggling to find your footing, and collectively productivity is down.

Productivity is not only good for business; it’s good for worker morale, too. A productive work day can produce a sense of accomplishment and pride, and may result in a less stressful work environment. You can take a proactive role in improving your own productivity with these ideas.


1. Face a challenge head on. Procrastination can be the ultimate roadblock to productivity. For many, that means saving the least desired task on your to-do lists for the end of the day. However, by the end of the day, it’s too easy to delay the task until tomorrow. Instead, start the day with your least desired task. This is when you’ll have the most energy and you’ll kick off your day feeling accomplished, ready to tackle whatever comes next.

2. Be intentional with your time. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can help you have a more productive day. When you feel your energy start to wane, give yourself a timeout. Take a 15-minute walk, run the stairs or spend some time drawing in your notebook. Over the course of a week, pay attention to your schedule and start to plan your meetings and tasks around breaks so you’re working during periods of the day when you’re the most energized.

3. Capture ideas when they come. Let’s face it: not every great idea arrives at the ideal moment. While it’s possible to key your ideas immediately into your smartphone, that can come with multiple obnoxious distractions. However, trying to recreate that flash of inspiration at a more opportune time more often than not falls short with missing details.

An option like the Bamboo Slate smartpad allows you to write naturally with pen on any paper without the social media notifications and email alerts. With the push of a button, you can then convert your handwritten notes into “living” digital files. With Wacom Inkspace, you can organize, edit and share your notes and sketches on your enabled smartphone, tablet or other devices. In case you’re not near your mobile device when inspiration strikes, you can store up to 100 pages on your smartpad and sync later. Learn more at

4. Identify areas for collaboration. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The key is knowing yourself well enough to know when you need to ask for help to be more productive. Wasting time on tasks you don’t excel in can slow everyone down. Rather, find others whom you can collaborate with and learn from to help you improve your productivity over time.

5. Stay organized. When you’re working under continuous deadlines, things can really start to pile up – literally. Digging through a mess to find the report containing the data you need or the invoice to cross reference is a waste of precious time. Allow the clutter to build during the work day if you must, but make it a goal to never leave the office without bringing some order to the day’s chaos. Coming in each morning to a desk that is de-cluttered and ready for the day ahead can be a big productivity booster.

Learn to Make Lists with Purpose

List-making has long been revered as the classic time management tool, and technology makes it easier than ever to blend this analog task with your digital world by using smart notebooks like the Bamboo Slate to create an online to-do list.

Consider these three list styles to determine the approach that best fits your work style to put you on your way to more productive days:

Categorized lists. Most people start with a daily to-do list, focusing just on the most urgent tasks for the day. Once you’ve mastered that approach, try looking ahead to the future to help you meet your goals. For this technique, you might consider an annual list or even a life list to help put the big picture in perspective and make it more manageable to accomplish your desires. Others go so far as to categorize their time to focus their attention on different types of tasks on different days.

To-do vs. done lists. Another option is to use lists to catalog both the items you need to do and those you’ve already completed. A “done list” can be a motivating factor in pushing forward with your to-do list by letting you see your accomplishments in writing.

Bullet journaling. The bullet journal approach is a four-step process designed to make the to-do list less of a chore and more efficient. A step-by-step guide shows you how to create more productive lists you can easily reference in the future.


Feel good about clearing clutter

(Family Features) Whether spring or summer, extended breaks from the day-to-day routines are great for making new family memories. They are also great for taking some time to recall previous ones often found in items around the house.

From those old baby clothes and toys to books and dusty tech you haven’t touched in years, these “memories” may be cluttering your home. Spend some time as a family and clear out what you no longer need. For some extra motivation, approach your cleaning with a fresh perspective: donating your gently-used items will help others while freeing up space for new memories.

Get on your way to a cleaner, less cluttered home with these tips:

Take it one room at a time. Whether you live in a modest apartment or a sprawling single-family home, overhauling your entire living space at once is an overwhelming prospect. Instead, focus on one room at a time with a timeframe that makes sense for your schedule.

Don’t save the worst for last. Avoid the temptation to leave your messiest catch-all room for the end. Instead, tackle it first and spend extra time thinking about where you can reassign some of the clutter, so it’s not all accumulating in a single room.

Give items meaning. Take a cue from stylist, author and TV host Emily Henderson and implement a rule that items you keep should be at least two of three things: functional, sentimental and beautiful. If an item is none of these (like an old food storage container without a lid), toss it. Especially if you are low on space, only hang on to those items that serve two or more roles.

Sort your stuff into piles. In every room, you’ll find items you need to keep close at hand, others you’d like to keep but could be stashed away, things that may have value to others and stuff that simply needs to be trashed.

Look for ways to give back. While it sometimes makes sense to resell unwanted items online or through a yard sale, donating is another way you can give these goods a second life and help bring warmth, happiness and smiles to others. Through its Glad to Give program, the Glad Products Company makes donating easy because you can fill a Glad ForceFlex bag, stretch it and stuff it with just about anything you want to donate. Clothing is one of the best things to donate so others can make better use of the gently-loved items you are hoarding, Henderson said. Unless a garment has been worn in the last four seasons, donate it. Other prime candidates for donating: toys, sports equipment, DVDs and home gadgets.

Organize what remains. Once you’ve cleared the clutter and determined which items will stay, find attractive ways to create order and manage the mess. You can choose from a wide range of organizational options – everything from shelves and baskets to storage furniture and closet systems – to help make the most of your space and reveal more inviting rooms that make you feel comfortable at home.

Find resources for giving back, and schedule a free local donation pickup for an organization of your choice, at

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hollis, The Chic Site