Get Organized this Year! Start here


“Bob” was a top dog in a very competitive industry and he was on the verge of a very big promotion. But his company was worried about the liability risk. His office was a black hole filled with piles on every surface that you would measure in feet. He reluctantly agreed to work with me on the advice of corporate officials, but given his successful career, he wasn’t happy about it in the beginning.


The Cost
It’s hard to argue that the “Bob’s” of the world can’t be successful, because they are. But the toll can be enormous. Watch closely and you will see a constant rifling through paper, emails, and computer files. It is a process of memorization because forgetting something important could be disastrous. Completely relaxing is difficult if not impossible. This is a huge drain of a valuable resource, your brain power.

Peak performance requires well organized, no-brainer systems that you trust. If you are not organized, you simply are not as productive as you could be. When your mind is cluttered with unimportant details, you are not able to give all the focus and mental energy you could be spending on the truly important.


Where to begin?
Getting organized at work will merge into your home life and vice versa. By its very nature order fortunately breeds more order. Small investments of time have big pay-offs. Waiting for a big chunk of time to begin will probably never happen. But spending manageable chunks of time consistently is realistic.

Being organized is an ongoing process and it works in layers or levels. Think of it like moving into a new home. First you put the clothing in the bedroom and the dishes in the kitchen. Eventually you will be separating the knives from the forks, but you begin by getting them in the right room. Finding the level of organization that you desire may change as your systems improve over time.


January’s theme
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to focus on the most important basics of organization. Knowing you have a plan for the year is a simplistic and manageable way to overcome the debilitating feeling of being overwhelmed. Make January’s organizing theme: Health and Planning.

  • Use this checklist to START now:
    o Schedule annual medical visits
    o Pick one up-to-date system to keep all your to-do’s and calendar events
    o Add key meetings, conferences, events and projects to your calendar
    o Create a personal strategic plan, even if it’s a one pager
    o Purge medications
    o Sort and purge athletic wear and gear
    o Schedule vacation time!

Next month we will move on to a different theme. Use this simplistic annual plan to truly get organized throughout the year. It really can be transformational.

Music and Productivity – Do They Work Together?

“I can’t concentrate when the music is on,” complained Gina’s co-worker.  “But I feel motivated and enjoy my work more,” she countered.  Sam stood by listening intently because she had just had this argument with her teenager about music and homework.  Tensions can quickly rise when it comes to such personal preferences.  

Is it a motivator? A mood booster? Or another example of multitasking that interferes with your ability to think?

Teens overwhelmingly listen to music while doing homework, more than 75% of them, according to a recent survey by Common Sense Media. Over half of those teens believe that it actually helps them work and only 6% said that it hurt. Who is right?

The correct answer is, “it depends.” Although the research leans very heavily in favor of the parents’ position, there are some significant exceptions that apply to both homework and the workplace. It all impacts your productivity.

Why is it a Problem?

Numerous studies have shown that multitasking is detrimental to your productivity. One key study at Stanford University showed that those who self-identify as “heavy multitaskers” are far more easily distracted and actually performed poorer than any other group in:

• Filtering irrelevant information
• Managing the working memory
• AND in switching from one task to another

Most importantly, these individuals were actually losing the cognitive ability to focus when they weren’t asked to multitask. Listening to music, texting and using social media while trying to do cognitive work will typically give you poorer results, taking longer and causing more mistakes.

Music and Productivity CAN Work Together

Music has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Sometimes it can actually improve your productivity, your mood and your ability to concentrate. For peak performance, know what helps you get more done and what doesn’t. Experiment with these modifications to find the right balance:

1. Listening to upbeat music that you like before beginning work can be motivational, and enhance both cognitive skills and creativity.

2. In a noisy office, hearing others talk can be an irritating interruption. 48% of office workers said speech is the biggest distraction in one study. Background music or a pair of headphones can have a significant impact on cancelling out those interruptions and improving concentration.

3. Productivity can actually be improved with music if it is highly repetitive work with low immersion, according to a study at the University of Birmingham, England. Think stuffing envelopes or working on an assembly line. Our minds tend to wander when the work is not complex and music with lyrics improves our mood and our ability to focus.

4. For more complex work, however, you should avoid music with lyrics; music that is louder than ambient noise; and any music that might grab your attention because it is new, unfamiliar or highly variant.

5. Music or soundscapes without lyrics can have positive productivity impacts. Baroque music has been shown to improve efficiency and accuracy in some situations. And researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that natural sounds like waves and rain can enhance our cognitive function, ability to concentrate and our overall job satisfaction.

Setting an atmosphere or mood, can make work more enjoyable and block out a noisy environment. Video game makers have long been successful at overlaying music that doesn’t detract from high concentration playing. If classical music and wave sounds aren’t your style, try jazz, movie scores or electronica. For the highest productivity, aim for background, ambient music. Your attention can either be on your work or on the music, but not both.

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