How You Can Get Your Groove Back … Creating More Free Time

Improving your personal productivity requires work … upfront. Working yourself into deeper holes and trying to squeeze in a day off or a vacation just won’t cut it. The damage is already done, and if you don’t totally revamp how you work, that same stress and mess will be there when you return. I’m a personal productivity coach and consultant, and here’s how I structure working with my clients.

ANALYZE. You have to analyze how you spend your time. See where it’s going using a time log. You’ll be SHOCKED to find out how much time you actually waste.

ORGANIZE. Everything you touch needs a system so you can find anything the instant you need it. This applies to everything from your clothes closet to your computer files.

PRIORITIZE. Do the main thing you’ve been hired to do because that’s closest to the money. Which clients gladly pay you what you’re worth and which ones nickel and dime you and work you to death? What were you hired to do as opposed to what you’re actually spending time doing? Do the thing that gets you paid the quickest.

SYSTEMATIZE. If you do something more than three times, you absolutely must develop systems that are well-thought-out and documented so others can follow if they need to. Streamline and automate…this requires quiet, thinking time.

COMPUTERIZE. You invest in the latest technology with all the bells and whistles. But then you can’t be bothered to learn how to use it. The more tips and tricks you learn, the quicker you’re going to finish the work with less mistakes. Take classes in the software you use every day (the 2 hours you spent with IT when you got some new software isn’t sufficient).

Now that your systems are tight and you’re clear on what needs to be done and how, you can delegate. Let others follow your system and tweak it as they need to.
Spend time upfront to do this, and I promise you’ll end up with way more free time than you thought possible. Oh, but I know…you don’t have time!


Will Productivity in the Workplace Suffer Due to the Winter Olympics? It Depends.

Productivity in the workplace is expected to take a dip during the weeks of the Winter Olympics, but some employees will handle it better than others.

Sporting News recently reported that heavy sports enthusiasts spend on average over 31 hours a week following sports. These same people will probably completely shut down the next few weeks to follow the Olympics. Others will do what needs to be done…it all depends on the type of worker they normally are.

Slackers will use this as an excuse to do less work. If they’re wasting time instead of working now, they’ll just do more of it these few weeks.

On the other hand, conscientious employees will continue to meet goals, beat deadlines, and service the customer.

If you’re the boss and are going to require less of them during this craze, you should have required more from them before it heated up.


Two Tips for Deleting Email Messages Quicker

When I sit down to deal with messages in my Inbox, I make decisions right then on what to do with each one. I keep my Inbox to one screen and don’t worry about promises, commitments, or deadlines falling through the cracks. Most messages are deleted. Here are two tips for deleting messages in Outlook (I use 2007. Works the same in 2003).
  • Turn off the warning, Are you sure? If this pesky box bothers you, it’s easy to turn it off. When I hit Delete, I want it gone and don’t want to give permission. From the Inbox, click Tools, Options, Other tab, Advanced Options, and untick the box, Warn before permanently deleting items.
  • Bypass the Deleted Items folder. If you’re sure you never want to see the message again (as in spam), permanently delete it so you don’t have to delete it again. Select the message (if it’s closed), hold down the Shift key then hit Delete. If you’re on an Exchange server, the message can be recovered. Otherwise, it’s gone!
Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Widget Calculates How Much Free Time You Have Each Week

One of the exercises I conduct in my time management training involves having the attendees determine how much free time they have after doing all the things they absolutely have to do. I came up with a brilliant idea (at least I think it was brilliant) and had this time log coded as a Flash (SWF) file (hired a programmer through After that, I was able to turn the SWF into a widget (at The widget will also provide a way for me to shamelessly promote my blog as others download it and add to their site (see more of my shameless tips in my ebook).

Use the time calculator above (also located in the right sidebar of this blog), and it will do the math. You’ll quickly see that you have more free time than you think.

The big question is how will you use it?
Will you waste it by being disorganized, procrastinating, and dealing with all the other time bandits you allow to take over your day? Or will you set goals and prioritize how you spend your time based on them? Get selfish and focus on making YOU better.

To get the work done, you have to work hard but you shouldn’t have to work long. To create time for a life, you have to work smart. See the related posts below for tips on how to spend less time working but get more done.

You can add my widget to your Web site or blog by clicking the
Get Widget
button. It’s free.


Promote Your Own Products and Services on Your Blog

I was in a meeting recently with a group of solopreneurs. We pulled up each other’s blog and talked about each one. The most important thing I walked away with was this: since the purpose of my blog is to share helpful information and not about making money from ads, I should create Web banners and promote my own stuff. And stop advertising my competition’s training (from Google ads).

I always had pictures of my books, but I hadn’t considered promoting my training (other than mentioning it in an article).

So I removed the few Google ads from my blog and used PowerPoint to create my Web banners. As you look around this blog, I’m advertising my hands-on workshops, Webinars, and consulting services. The banners link to my Website that has more details.

So if you’re just making pennies from Google Ads, try advertising your own products and/or services and see how it goes. Let me know.

P.S. Check out my PowerPoint class on how to use it to create marketing collateral.

It’s also available as a Webinar. And here is a blog entry “Create interesting art projects with PowerPoint.”

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

My Laptop Crashed but I Didn't Panic

My latest book, The Time Management Memory Jogger(TM), will start shipping August 25, 2008. It is published by GOAL/QPC and becomes the latest in their bestselling series of books that focus on workplace improvement (over 10 million in print).

An editorial board had made some great suggestions that have made the book even better, and I was down to the last paragraph of revisions. I attempted to boot up my laptop and an error message appeared that my Config file was either missing or corrupt. I couldn’t believe my eyes: my trusted friend, my baby, was sick!

I turned the computer off and on several times thinking the problem would go away, but it didn’t. Did I panic? Nope. Did I have a breakdown? Nope.

Fortunately, I use Carbonite, an online vault, to back up my computer at regular intervals whenever I’m online. I borrowed a laptop, logged onto the site, and was able to download my manuscript. I’d lost about an hour’s worth of work, but it could have been much worse.

The only thing that frustrated me was that Carbonite’s tech support is only 9AM-5PM, weekdays only (at this writing). I had a problem downloading my file to a borrowed laptop and had to wait until the next morning to resolve it. I was on a deadline and wanted immediate access. If I had procrastinated and had no more time, I would have been really ticked off. But I was on schedule with some leeway so I used my extra time to do some Web research.

As soon as I get my laptop back, I’m going to add my files to my MozyPro account with 24/7/365 support, and will use Carbonite as a secondary backup.

What would happen to your important project if this happened to you? Are you backing up your files? How? A backup is not a backup if it’s not offsite. And how often are you doing it? Can you afford to lose any amount of work? And if you’re a procrastinator, get out of the habit. You’re taking a chance that nothing will go wrong, and you’ll run out of time before you do your best work.

To get the help you need, read my blog post that has more details on backing up your data and which files to back up.

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

A tornado hit Atlanta and I didn't know

A tornado whipped through downtown Atlanta last month for the first time in history. I slept through it and so did at least five other people I spoke with. In fact, we didn’t even know about the storm until our loved ones called from out of town to see if we were OK.

Why is this? Why didn’t we know? Because we rarely watch the local news or read the local newspapers (paper or online). Why? Because they’re not talking about anything except what Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are doing, or who shot John overnight.

I talked to my other “clueless” friends, and we all agreed that it’s scary to think that something this drastic happened and we didn’t know about it. So we discussed some solutions.

  1. Watch television news first thing in the morning. Nope. I’m not starting my day out with the horrors that are happening in the world. That “news” gets in your spirit and that’s what you’ll think about all day. (I keep up with what’s going on by checking news sites, but not in the morning.)
  2. Listen to the radio first thing in the morning. Nope. For the same reasons as Number 1.
  3. Depend on others to let us know what’s going on. We could do this and wait until our loved ones who watch the news let us know. But we shouldn’t put this burden on others. We have to take responsibility for our own safety.

Our discussion went on through examples like this. What did we decide on? Since we live on our computers, we downloaded The Weather Channel Desktop for Atlanta. Now every day, all day, I have a visual of what is going on in my town…at least weather-wise.

Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert

The Google Calendar integrates with Outlook so sharing is easy

The question about sharing the Outlook calendar with others comes up a lot in my workshops I conduct on managing time with Outlook. If you’re on an Exchange Server it’s no problem. But what if you’re working with a virtual assistant or you’d like a family member to always know where you are? There are various solutions, but Google has taken all the pain away.

I use Outlook to its fullest. If you knew it the way I do, you wouldn’t use anything else. It never crossed my mind to use the Google Calendar until now. Google integrates with Outlook and you can easily share your calendar with the public or only with certain people that you designate. And it’s free! (Is this old news? I’m just now finding out.)

Keeping the two in sync is easy…as easy as with your PDA. Any change I make in Outlook is synched to the Google Calendar as soon as I connect to the Internet. This is just too good.

Will the NCAA tournaments cause a dip in productivity?

Sporting News recently reported that heavy sports enthusiasts spend on average over 31 hours a week following sports. Amazing. I spend zero minutes a year on it.

If you’re going to get caught up in the festivities of the NCAA tournaments next week, remember that the work still has to get done. Since most people work like machines when they know they’ll be off, how about pretending that you’re going on vacation next week.

Will we see a dip in productivity? It depends.

  • Slackers will use this as an excuse to do less work. If they’re surfing the net, talking sports all day, handling personal business now, they’ll just do more of it next week.
  • Conscientious employees will continue to meet goals, beat deadlines, and service the customer.

If you, as the boss or owner, are also getting caught up in it, people will do what they see you do. If you’re going to require less of them next week, you should require more from them this week.

Note: See this blog entry for more information on how people waste time at work.


Keep Your Overloaded Inbox Under Control

I just got back from presenting my most popular seminar, “Conquer Email Overload with Outlook,” at a conference of magazine editors. If you think you have email issues, try being the editor of a popular magazine! They receive tons of irrelevant email from public relations companies and individuals trying to get press.

I have tons of ways to manage email overload in my book, Conquer Email Overload, and here in this blog. Here is one I suggested to this group.

Keep Messages Separate
Use two email addresses…one for the Web (don’t make it clickable). It’ll read like this: editor (a(t) Then create a rule in Outlook that sends all this email to a special folder as soon as it gets to your Inbox. (There is no valid argument for putting your clickable email address on the Web. Spam will continue to be a huge problem if you do because spambots crawl sites looking for the @ symbol. They’ll find it inside PDFs too.)

You can use this same email address on your business card.

You could also consider not including this email address in your regular Send/Receive. You’ll have to manually check email coming to this address…maybe have a routine to do it once or twice a week…deleting immediately and not letting them pile up.

Consider getting rid of the email address that’s “out there” too much. It won’t be the end of the world…just do it and start over. For the editors, I also recommended setting this new email address up with an autoresponder that returns a message that explains what their publication is about, what makes a good story, the best way to submit a query or deliver a pitch, and a link to their Webpage that explains more. They’ll also put this email address inside the publication instead of their main address.

For the second email address, use it internally, give it to the PR people who always send you relevant press, and to other important people in your life (like me).

And that’s it!


Related Posts

Email Etiquette Can Reduce Email Overload

Cure Email Addiction: 15 Things to Try