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Become a master unitasker.

I'm sure that times weren't always perfect for Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family, but I often wish for that type of simple life. She was happy when she got an orange and some maple candy in her Christmas stocking. She and her sisters sewed their own dolls and spent most of their afternoons sitting in trees or playing stick ball. "Paw" was always doing one thing at a time: chopping wood, fixing the roof, taking the wagon into town for supplies. He held the reins and focused on the road. I didn't once see him take a conference call while driving. 


My career has been a hectic one, and I've had days where I was involved in so many projects at once that I felt like my head would shoot off of my shoulders like a rocket. I would start working on one task, get interuppted by someone's "emergency", run off to help them, then I'd get a phone call and need to take that. I'd walk down the hall and get pulled into a meeting, and before I knew it, it was 7pm, I hadn't eaten a thing, and the original task I started that morning would still be unfinished on my desk. 

The older I get, the more I realize that I have to slow down and focus completely on one thing at a time. This is for my own good and for the good of whatever I'm working on. Everything turns out better when it's gotten my undivided attention. This goes for my job and my relationships. No cell phones at the dinner table, people! Try simply enjoying the company of your loves ones tonight. They'll appreciate it. 

Jacquelyn Smith wrote this about unitasking at the office:

Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time, says concentration is critical. "In the old days before GPS, if you were driving around and got lost and had to look at a map, the first thing you did was to turn off the radio so you could concentrate," he says. "To successfully unitask, you need to do the same type of thing; eliminate any outside distractions."

1. Schedule time to unitask. You’ll likely spend a majority of your day multitasking, but if you know you have an important memo to write or a big decision to make, schedule time on your calendar to devote all of your attention to that one task.

2. Allocate a specific amount of time. “There’s something scary about having to focus, but if you give yourself a set amount of time, like 10 minutes, it might make it less scary for some people,” says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career. It’s not always feasible to spend hours or an entire day on one task, but if it requires that much time and attention, and is that significant, then you should try. Determine an amount of time you want to unitask, and follow through, Marjie Terry, VP of business development and client service at Great on the Job adds. 

3. Choose the right time of day to unitask. “Don’t decide to do it during the busiest time, like the first hour of the workday,” Pollak says. Pick a time when you’ll have the fewest distractions, or work on it over the weekend. “Sometimes you can accomplish a task that might take you the entire workday to do, in an hour on a Sunday,” she says.

4. Close your door if you have an office, and/or post a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. You shouldn’t do this too frequently, though, or you may appear isolated or incapable of dealing with any distractions, Pollak says. But if you do it occasionally, when you really need to focus on something for 15 minutes or an hour, your colleagues will probably be respectful and understanding.

5. If you don’t have an office and you’re in an open work space, like a cubicle, ask your colleagues to give you some time to focus on the task at hand by putting up a sign on your cube, sending out an e-mail, or verbally informing them of the situation. Again, you shouldn’t make a habit of this, as you don’t want your co-workers to think you’re unreachable or unapproachable. “You don’t have to announce it to the whole world,” Pollak says. Only tell those who really need to know, like the colleague who sits next to you or the one you’re working on a project with.

6. If your workplace in noisy and filled with audible distractions (like phones ringing, people talking and loud televisions) consider finding an alternative work space. Go to a nearby park, coffee shop or library where you can focus with fewer distractions, says Teri Hockett, chief executive of What’s For Work?, a career site for women. 'If the task you’re trying to accomplish doesn’t require you to be online, pick somewhere that doesn’t have Internet, or has expensive Internet,' Pollak suggests. 'This way, you’ll be less tempted to go online and be distracted by things like Facebook or e-mail.”

7. If you stay at work, clear your desk. If it’s messy and you happen to catch a glimpse of some paperwork or a post-it note with a reminder, you might be tempted to focus some of your attention on those things, as well.

8. Disconnect! This one is extremely difficult for most workers, and might not even be possible for some—but if you can, turn off your e-mail, phones, computer, etc., while you’re unitasking.

9. If you can’t disconnect completely, at least silence your devices and disable notifications. "There are websites you can visit that allow you to turn off your Internet for a period of time," Pollak says. "If you find that you’re constantly distracted by the Internet, this might be a good solution for you." You can also set your phone to go directly to voicemail or set up an auto-reply on your e-mail to let people know when you’ll be available again, and how they can reach you or a colleague in the case of an emergency.

10. If you are on an important call or need to clear your head, turn your chair around to face a wall or the door. "I’m doing this right now!" Pollak says. "It’s the only way I can prevent myself from checking e-mail while I’m talking to you."

Train Your Brain.

Science suggests that your brain is one of the best organizational tools out there. But how do you deploy it to de-clutter your life? A coauthor of the new book Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time provides some thought-provoking strategies.

1. Tap Into Your Logical Side.

"Disorganization is often driven by anxiety and fear," says Paul Hammerness, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Those feelings are processed in the amygdala, a primitive part of the brain. Rational thinking, on the other hand-the cornerstone of effective organization-takes place mostly in the prefrontal cortex. Rev up this area by filling out an expense report or looking over a spreadsheet; you'll be on the road to thinking more logically and tackling tasks more efficiently.

2. Flex Your Memory Muscles.

First thing in the morning, go over the upcoming day's tasks, step by step, in your mind. Making a mental to-do list stimulates your working memory-the part of your brain that helps you store and use complex information. Focus on completing the items on your list in order. If you're interrupted (say, the phone rings), make a conscious effort to ask yourself if you need to respond-an action that taps right into your working memory. Once you've reacted (or not), revisit your mental list. The more you use your working memory, the more likely you are to stick to a task, which should ultimately leave you with a greater sense of control.

3. Give Yourself A Break.

"Despite all the brain's impressive hardware, there is a limit to what it can deal with," Hammerness says. Most adults can focus on one task for only about 60 minutes. To make the most of your attention span, stop hourly and walk around; any new action will "reset" your brain and ready it to return to the work at hand.

(By Gretchen Reynolds via Oprah.com)

Be the CEO of your mind.

A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is defined as "the highest-ranking corporate officer (executive) or administrator in charge of total management of an organization."

Melanie Greenberg wrote the below about how to gain CEO-style management...over your own mind: 

Buddha said, "to enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to yourself and your family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind."

You may have tried to control your thoughts at one time or another. With the aid of self-help books, perhaps you really tried to “be positive” and “show negativity the door.”  And this may have even worked for a while. But sooner or later, you probably found yourself back at the starting point. I’m here to tell you that there is another way. And that is to become the CEO of your own mind – skillfully directing it to live in harmony with the other players of self - body and spirit.

If you follow the six steps below, you will be the master of yourself in no time.

STEP 1:  LISTEN AND ACKNOWLEDGE.

Like all good leaders, you’re going to have to listen to your disgruntled employee, and acknowledge that you’re taking its message seriously. Minds, like people, can relax and let go when they feel heard and understood. Practice gratitude and thank your mind for its contribution. “Thank you, brain, for reminding me that if I don’t succeed in making more sales, I might get fired.” “Thank you for telling me that I might always be alone and never make a family if I don't find love soon.”  “These are important areas of life, and I need to pay attention to them, and do my best to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up. I also need to learn from past experiences so I don’t keep making the same mistakes.”

STEP 2: MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR MIND.

You may not like what your mind does or the way it conducts itself. In fact, all that negativity can be downright irritating sometimes. But the fact is, you’re stuck with it, and you can’t (or wouldn’t want to) lobotomize it away. In the book The Happiness Trap, Dr. Russ Harris uses the example of the Israelis and the Palestinians to illustrate your relationship with your mind’s negative thoughts. These two old enemies may not like each other’s way of life, but they’re stuck with each other. If they wage war on each other, the other side retaliates, and more people get hurt and buildings destroyed. Now they all have a lot less energy to focus on building the health and happiness of their societies.

Just as living in peace would allow these nations to build healthier and more prosperous societies, so will making peace with your mind. Accepting that negative thoughts and feelings will be there, that you can’t control them, can allow you to focus on your actions in the present moment, so you can move ahead with your most important goals. You don’t necessarily have to like the thoughts or agree with them, you just have to let them be there in the background of your mind, while you go out and get things done.

STEP 3: REALIZE YOUR THOUGHTS ARE JUST THOUGHTS.

Most of the time we don’t “see” our minds. They just feel like part of us.  Dr. Steve Hayes, the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, uses the concept of being “fused with your thoughts” to illustrate this relationship. To be fused means to be stuck together, undifferentiated. You feel like your thoughts and feelings are YOU and so you accept them unconditionally as the truth without really looking at them. “I’m thinking I’m a failure and boring – gee, I must be a failure and boring.”  This kind of simplistic logic seems to prevail because we can’t see our own minds, so we have difficulty stepping outside ourselves and getting an objective observer’s perspective.

In actuality, our thoughts are passing mental events, influenced by our moods, states of hunger or tiredness, physical health, hormones, sex, the weather, what we watched on TV last night, what we ate for dinner, what we learned as kids, and so on. They are like mental habits. And, like any habits, they can be healthy or unhealthy, but they take time to change. Just like a couch potato can’t get up and run a marathon right away, we can’t magically turn off our spinning negative thought/feeling cycles without repeated practice and considerable effort. And even then, our overactive amygdalas will still send us the negative stuff sometimes.

STEP 4: OBSERVE YOUR OWN MIND.

The saying “know thine enemy” is also  applicable to our relationship with our own minds. Just like a good leader spends his time walking through the offices, getting to know the employees, we need to devote time to getting to know how our minds work day-to-day.  Call it mindfulness, meditation, or quiet time. Time spent observing your mind is as important as time spent exercising. When you try to focus your mind on the in and out rhythm of your breath, or on the trees and flowers when you walk in nature, what does your mind do? If it’s like mine, it wanders all over the place – mostly bringing up old worries or unsolved problems from the day. And, if left unchecked, it can take you out of the peacefulness of the present moment, and into a spiral of worry, fear, and judgment.

Mindfulness involves not only noticing where your mind goes when it wanders, but also gently bringing it back to the focus on breath, eating, walking, loving, or working. When you do this repeatedly over months or years, you begin to retrain your runaway amygdala. Like a good CEO, you begin to know when your mind is checked out or spinning its wheels, and you can gently guide it to get back with the program. When it tries to take off on its own, you can gently remind it that’s it’s an interdependent and essential part of the whole enterprise of YOU.

STEP 5: RETRAIN YOUR MIND TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN.

There is an old and rather wise saying, “we are what we repeatedly do.”  To this, I would add “we become what we repeatedly think.”  Over long periods, our patterns of thinking become etched into the billions of neurons in our brains, connecting them together in unique, entrenched patterns. When certain brain pathways – connections between different components or ideas – are frequently repeated, the neurons begin to “fire” or transmit information together in a rapid, interconnected sequence. Once the first thought starts, the whole sequence gets activated.

Autopilot is great for driving a car, but no so great for emotional functioning. For example, you may have deep-seated fears of getting close to people because you were mistreated as a child. To learn to love, you need to become aware of the whole negative sequence and how it’s biasing your perceptions, label these reactions as belonging to the past, and refocus your mind on present-moment experience. Over time, you can begin to change the wiring of your brain so your prefrontal cortex (the executive center, responsible for setting goals, planning and executing them), is more able to influence and shut off your rapidly firing, fear-based amygdala (emotion control center). And, this is exactly what brain imaging studies on effects of mindfulness therapy have shown.

STEP 6:  PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION.

The pioneer of self-compassion research, Dr. Kristin Neff, described this concept as “a healthier way of relating to yourself.” While we can’t easily change the gut-level feelings and reactions that our minds and bodies produce, we can change how we respond to these feelings. 

When we judge our feelings, we lose touch with the benefits of those feelings. They are valuable sources of information about our reactions to events in our lives, and they can tell us what is most meaningful and important to us. Emotions are signals telling us to reach out to for comfort or to take time out to rest and replenish ourselves. Rather than criticizing ourselves, we can learn new ways of supporting ourselves in our suffering. We may deliberately seek out inner and outer experiences that bring us joy or comfort – memories of happy times with people we love, the beauty of nature, creative self-expression. Connecting with these resources can help us navigate the difficult feelings while staying grounded in the present.

SUMMARY

To be a successful CEO of your own mind, you need to listen, get to know it, acknowledge its contribution, realize its nature, make peace with it, implement a retraining or employee development program, and treat it kindly. It will repay you with a lifetime of loyaly and service to the values and goals that you most cherish.

False Evidence Appearing Real.

Is fear sabotaging your productivity?

The CEO of FacileThings, Francisco Sáez says: 

We all know what fear is, since we live with it every day. We are afraid of changing jobs, public speaking, starting or ending a relationship, confronting people, being rejected…fear can make you abandon your business or the love of your life.

It is shown that when companies use the fear factor in the workplace (fear of not achieving goals, fear of conflict, fear of not being good enough, fear of not seeming productive), employees work harder but worse. The anxiety this climate generates affects people’s memory and ability to concentrate.

Types of fear

Fear of failure occurs especially when you do something you had not done before, something new, unique. Sometimes it is hidden by an extreme perfectionism that paralyzes work and prevents completion of projects.

To conquer it, you must understand that this fear is merely a misunderstanding of the learning process. When you try to create a new future, there are no molds, you have to experience. Consequently, failure is a part of the process that should not stop you. Simply, you must analyze what went wrong and make it work.

Fear of success is, if anything, even more common. It prevents you to catch the good opportunities. It makes you believe that you won’t be able to deal with such a challenging situation.

To conquer it, you must improve your self-esteem and the best way to do that is to act. Try to do the best you can and you will be satisfied although ultimately you would not get the best outcome. This way your self-esteem will be enhanced for future challenges.

Sleeping with the enemy

To make matters worse, when you try to make changes in your life, it turns out that the most important people for you - those who are supposed to stand by you - often don't entirely agree. They are accustomed to interact with you in a certain way and breaking that pattern of behavior bothers them. So you need to add the fear of worsening your relationships to the natural fear of the new.

If this is common and usually ends in your passivity, you should start questioning your environment. Are people around you willing to help you grow? Or are they negative thinkers who make things difficult?

If you stand firm in your intentions to overcome your inner challenges and give good example of this - not in an aggressive way -  people who love you will find the strength to go with you.

Moreover, it is natural that, little by little, negative people will shy away from you, and you, almost unconsciously, move towards more motivating people that are willing to support and inspire you. Connect with people who have already gone through something similar. They will help you see the path and fear of the unknown will be minimized.

Conquer your fear

In general, we are afraid of things that are beyond our control. So we must find ways to develop more confidence in our ability to handle any situation.

Acting is the best way to gain that confidence. Visualize the result, define the next actions and take the first step. Incorporate into your life the trial-and-error mechanism as a natural way of getting things done. Act, measure your progress and correct what does not work. Adapt. Repeat. 

It is possible there are some fears at the moment preventing you from doing many things, forcing you to accept work you should not do and, ultimately, undermining your productivity.

A little fear can keep you motivated, but uncontrolled fear will kill your productivity.

Feel your fear and move forward anyway.

Mind-mapping your path to success.

In James Fallows' interview with David Allen of "Gettings Things Done" fame for the Atlantic, David replied with this when asked how we can all get our busy lives under control:

"All the stuff that is coming in needs to be externalized. I don't know that I could get it any simpler than that.


You need to capture the stuff that's potentially meaningful, you need to clarify what those things mean to you, and you need to keep a series of maps of the results of all of that so you can step back and see it from a larger perspective. That's the only choice: you're ultimately going to have a lot more to do than you can do, so the question is, do you want a half-empty or half-full life?

Really, you can only do one thing at a time with conscious attention, so you either are saying "That is the thing I need to do" or you're going "Shit, I'm not sure this is what I need to do." And one is stress-free productivity, and the other is an ulcer. Right? In a way, it comes down to that.

So, what do you need to feel comfortable about what you're doing and, maybe more importantly, what you're not doing? Well, you need to have a map of all the possibilities.

I just spent four hours with the head of [a large government organization] last week, and all we did were two mind maps--one for his job and one for his personal life, just to do the 20,000-foot areas of focus and interest and accountabilities about all of that--and then spent time making sure he got all the projects he needed ... to make sure he wasn't letting anything fall through the cracks, and then did a triage on some of the projects he needed to get rid of and hand off to associates. He just needed to externalize that, be more objective about it. He's buried, as is everybody.

So in a way, it really does come down to that: stop using your psyche as a place to try to collect and organize what you care about. If you try to keep it in your head, then it becomes like quicksand in there. So the good news is that all of this is forcing us to learn that lesson. And then, in the great, glorious future, we'll have nothing on our minds and can develop our inner wisdom. Why not?"

If you don't know what a "mind map" is, here are some examples: 

You see that they range from fancy ones with drawings and logos to simple, hand-drawn ones. 

The point is not how it looks. When you need to find more time in your life, spending a lot of time drawing a map is NOT going to help!

The point is to get everything that's floating around in your head out and capture it into one area. That way you can decide what your priotrities are and what your next steps should be to complete them. 

As a Fancy Hands client, one section of your mindmap can be "Delegate to Fancy Hands". As you write down the things that need to be done, but can be done by anyone - things that are not specifically in need of your personal touch, draw a line from that task to your "Delegate" section. 

  • Get quotes on fixing camera.
  • Order cedar blocks from The Container Store.
  • Send Mother's Day gift by May 7.
  • Make haircut appointment.

These are the things on my to-do list right now that I can delegate to someone else, and I'm happy to know that my Fancy Hands assistants will handle them for me. 

What can your assistants do for you today? 

Right or left?

(Click to enlarge)

Too Hot to Handle, Too Cold to Hold.

The temperature at Fancy Hands HQ varies widely. Our methods of heating and cooling are tempermental and inefficient. Add that to a handful of people toying with the thermostat everyday, adjusting it to the temperature that they feel is perfect for them, and you get a lot of ups and downs. 

Nick, one of our developers, brought an electric imp in so that he could chart the scale of our thermodifferentiation (I think I just made that word up).


It seems that we haven't perfected the art of temperature control ourselves, but Men's Health says that in order to maintain our utmost productivity levels, we should. 

A Cornell University study that found low office temps (68 degrees or below) increase employee error by 44 percent.

How can temperature hurt your performance? Blame what the Cornell researchers call the “post-lunch dip.” Unlike the early morning and early evening hours when body temp and hormone levels are elevated, you experience a drop in both between 1 and 4 in the afternoon thanks to your body’s natural circadian rhythms, the researchers write. And, just as your body temperature drops at night when you’re asleep, the afternoon dip causes drowsiness that’s heightened by a cool office, the research shows.

If you work from home or hold the reigns to your office’s thermostat, set it for 71 degrees—the optimal temp for afternoon productivity, according to similar research from Finland’s Helsinki University of Technology. If your workplace’s temperature is beyond your control, pulling on a sweater, moving away from AC vents, or switching on a space heater could help you stay sharper after lunch, a Northumbria study suggests.

Productivity remains high even up to a balmy 77 degrees, according to the Cornell research.

Looks like we're on the highest temperature cliff here at Fancy Hands. I think I'll go open a window before we all start to drift off.

You're a giver.

Have trouble thinking of gift ideas for friends and family? Throughout the year, whenever you hear them mention something they want or like in conversation, add it to the "notes" section of their contact in your phone. As their birthday or a holiday approaches, you'll have a cheat sheet ready to go.

Your Fancy Hands assistants can help you buy the gift, and you'll be a hero! 

Nap time?

(Click to enlarge) 

(Via Daily Infographic)

26 Time Management Tips

Should I check my email?

Morning music motivator.

Time management tip for your mornings: make a playlist exactly the length of time that you have from the time you get up to the time you need to leave the house.

No more checking the clock.

Make the last three songs your favorite high-energy tunes. That will not only warn you that it's time to wrap things up and leave, but you'll dance out the door with a spring in your step.

Time is money.

Focus! Or, take a nap and send us your work to do. 

Streamline your timeline.

Oliver Emberton shares these tips for simple time management: 

The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency.


Humans are pre-wired to focus on things which demand an immediate response, like alerts on their phones—and to postpone things which are most important, like going to the gym.

You need to reverse that, which goes against your brain and most of human society.

Look at what you spend your day doing. Most of it, I'll warrant, is not anything you chose—it's what is being asked of you. Here's how we fix that:

Say no.

Most of us follow an implicit social contract: when someone asks you to do something, you almost always say yes. It may feel very noble, but you just agreed to slow yourself down because you were asked nicely. You may need to sacrifice some social comfort (as a bonus, people tend to instinctively respect those who can say no).

Unplug the TV.

I haven't had a TV signal for 7 years, which has given me about 12,376 hours more than the average American who indulges in 34 hours a week. I do watch some shows—usually one hour a day whilst eating dinner—but only ones I've chosen and bought. You can do a lot with 12,000 hours, and still keep up with Mad Men.

Turn notifications off.

Modern technology has evolved to exploit our urgency addiction: email, Facebook, Twitter, Quora and more will fight to distract you constantly. Fortunately, this is easily fixed: turn off all your notifications. Choose to check these things when you have time to be distracted—say, during a lunch break—and work through them together, saving time.

Schedule your priorities.

Humans are such funny critters. If you have a friend to meet, you'll arrange to see them at a set time. But if you have something that matters to you more than anything—say writing a book, or going to the gym—you won't schedule it. You'll just ‘get round to it'. Treat your highest priorities like flights you have to catch: give them a set time in advance and say no to anything that would stop you making your flight.

First things first.

What is the single most important (not urgent) thing you could possibly be doing? Do some of that today. Remember there's a limitless number of distractions—don't fool yourself by thinking "if I just do this thing first then I can." 

Less volume, more time.

There's always millions of things you could be doing. The trick is to pick no more than 1-3 a day, and relentlessly pursue those. Your brain won't like this limit. Other people won't like this limit. Do it anyway. Focusing your all on one task at a time is infinitely more efficient than multi-tasking and gives you time to excel at your work.

(You can outsource your to-dos to Fancy Hands, of course!) 

Ignore.

It's rude, unprofessional, and often utterly necessary. There are people you won't find time to reply to. There are requests you will allow yourself to forget. You can be slow to do things like tidy up, pay bills, or open mail. The world won't fall apart. The payoff is you get done what matters.

Relax for Productivity.

"A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance. In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when she got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent.


Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap — and slept an average of 19 minutes — they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.

Longer naps have an even more profound impact than shorter ones. Sara C. Mednick, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.

MORE vacations are similarly beneficial. In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm."

-Tony Schwartz for The New York Times

The Manual of YOU.

Ari Meisel, productivity genius and longtime Fancy Hands customer, guest blogs for us today: 


While some people might complain about the vagueness of IKEA instructions, you have to admit, they have broken down the process of building something into a set of instructions that is language-independent, requires as few steps as possible, and, for the most part, is fail-proof.

The goal with your processes should be exactly the same. You need to break them down to the fewest, most explicit steps possible so that they are easier for you, and more importantly, can be automated or outsourced entirely.

Processes?

You all have processes that you go through on a regular basis like checking your email, writing reports, doing research, generating content, reviewing materials, making meals, etc.

These can be things you do on a daily or weekly basis, or even just once in a while. The problem is that most of these activities have become routine, we do them without even thinking about them, almost as if on autopilot.

That might seem like a good thing but the truth is, if you can get these things done on autopilot, then someone else can probably get them done for you. It’s easy to fall in that trap of thinking you are the only one who can do the things that make your world spin, but have you ever stopped and considered the steps you actually take?

As an exercise, think about something you do often. Now describe, on a very granular level, each step you go through in order to complete that activity. Think about it as if you were creating “The Manual of You” and you were going to give it to someone who doesn’t know you, or how you work, and they have to get your tasks done.

This can and should be applied to most of the things you spend your time doing.

I have clients go through this exercise with incredibly complex and precise tasks with the same results - creating the perfect instruction manual.

I had one client start with a process that was 10 pages long, and he ended up with 11 easy-to-follow steps. 

Once you list all the steps, try to identify redundancies or missing instructions.

Then look at ways you can automate some of these steps using web services like IFTTT.

Finally, go ahead and send it off to your Fancy Hands assistant.

They will undoubtedly respond with a question or two, and may even offer a way to streamline your instructions.

The point of all this is that in the end, I was able to break my tasks down to an incredibly efficient, error-proof process that ANYONE can follow and complete.

Once a process has been perfected, delegating out of your sight and out of your mind is as easy as can be. 

Do-licious Integration!

We're pleased to announce our newest feature - an integration with the

Do platform


Do is a social productivity tool that allows you to streamline your tasks and get things done! 

It's free to sign up, and now, as a member, you can integrate your Fancy Hands account, and they'll work magic together. 

It's our goal at Fancy Hands to help you simplify your busy life. 

We'll continue to work towards bringing you more opportunities like this one. 

Give it a try (start here) and let us know how it goes on Twitter or Facebook

We love to hear from you. 

End it right.

On Monday, we talked about 14 things you should do at the start of your work day in order to accomplish a focused and balanced day of productivity. 

How you wind down your work day is just as important. Jacquelyn Smith shared this on her Forbes blog:  

“How you end the day is critical, as it has much to do with how you start the next day,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. “It’s half of the puzzle of being productive.”


Ending your day on a good note will also ensure that you look back on it with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, making it easier to get up and go to work the next morning, adds Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.

Another reason to end your day the right way: Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work, says it has a huge effect on the level of stress and happiness you carry home, “which in turn can impact your health, your marriage and family life, your ability to sleep and your overall level of happiness.”

“Just as it’s never a good idea to hard crash your computer, you shouldn’t hard crash your day,” advises Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan. “Closing out your day in an orderly and positive way is critical to making that clean psychological transition into the personal side of life. Nobody likes that feeling of unfinished business hanging over their head while playing with the kids or dining with the family, so it’s important that you do what you can to make as clean a break as possible when walking out the office door.”

Here’s how you should end your work day:

1. Evaluate your to-do list.  

Make sure you are where you need to be on these activities and that you’ve accomplished as much as you could, says Anita Attridge, a career and executive coach with the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching organization. “If you aren’t satisfied with where you are, plan what you need to do and when you will do it so you don’t get further behind.” If you could quickly get something done before you leave, do it. This will save you time the next morning.

Review your schedule for the next day. Make sure you’re aware of any meetings or calls for the following day. You can also use this opportunity to schedule time on your calendar to accomplish any remaining items from today’s to-do list.

This is a smart time to hand your scheduling tasks over to your Fancy Hands assistants! 

“Some people like to visualize, make a mental or physical note of what is on their schedule first thing the next day,” says David Shindler, an employability specialist and author of Learning to Leap. “Think about one thing you are most looking forward to tomorrow. It will help you leave behind what’s happened today, enrich your current mood and help to put a full stop to your working day.”

2. Check in with your boss and colleagues.

Depending on how hands-on your boss is, you may want to visit with him or her to discuss the status of any projects you’re working on, Taylor suggests. You’ll also want to get end-of-day updates from co-workers.

This is also a great opportunity to double-check deadlines and confirm that everyone is on the same page.

3. Tidy up.

Nobody likes the feeling of walking into a mess, especially when you are under the gun, Woodward says.  Before walking out the door take a few minutes to toss any trash, organize your paperwork and straighten up your desk. This will give that feeling of a fresh start when you arrive the next morning.

You should also clean out your in-box. “Block off at least 15 minutes at the end of your day to sort through those unnecessary CCs, happy hour invitations, and random solicitations,” he says. “E-mails can stack-up fast and it’s easy to miss those critical ones when your in-box gets too backed-up.”

4. Complete non-peak hour work.

The end of the day is the best time to handle paperwork and tasks that don’t require phone contact. “E-mails, reports, status memos and thinking projects are best handled when phone calls, texts and other distractions have subsided,” Taylor says. Hopefully, you’ve maximized the peak hours to contact the people you need so that you can complete the administrative side of your job armed with their input. The end of the day is the time to determine who you need to reach first thing in the morning.

5. Get closure.

Be sure to tie up any loose ends so that you can truly disconnect when you walk out the door, Woodward says. Be sure not to leave anything hanging that can quickly be taken care of. “There is nothing worse than having that feeling of something hanging over your head,” he says. Attridge agrees. She suggests you take a few minutes to send that e-mail you’ve been meaning to send, respond to that request that you can quickly answer, or touch base with a colleague you been meaning to see.

6. Make a new to-do list.

Determine what you must accomplish the next day and have a plan of how you will use your time to manage your priorities, Attridge says. You’ll probably update or expand your to-do list the following morning, but it doesn’t hurt to compile a preliminary list the night before.

“Based on the day’s events and input, reflect those changes on your master to-do list so that when you start your day, you’re that much further ahead of the game,” Taylor says. “Anything you can do to have a head start in the morning will help you achieve more productive days and a more productive career.”

This is a great time to shoot your menial to-dos off to Fancy Hands! 

7. Reflect on the day.

Unfortunately, most people don’t do this. They’ll run out the door the second they’re done with their work. But if you can make time to reflect on your best achievement or success that day, you could end up walking out with a spring in your step, Shindler says.

8. Say good bye.

Kerr says it’s important to create routines and rituals at work that will helps us feel more fulfilled and happy in the long run, “so that we go home feeling reenergized and inspired, instead of fried and dead tired.” One simple routine that falls into this category is saying a proper good bye to your colleagues. “We tend to think about the importance of checking in and saying good morning to kick off the day, but we forget that it can be just as important, and make us feel good as well, to say a friendly and proper good bye to everyone rather than just silently drift off into the night. This is triply important if you are the supervisor.”

9. Leave on a positive note.

Take note of something that went well, compliment a co-worker on an accomplishment, or drop a thank you note to a client, Woodward says. “The idea is to find something positive that makes you feel good about your job and make sure that moment is the last thing on your mind before walking out the door.”

Taylor agrees. “If you have people reporting to you, say a few words of encouragement before you head for the door,” she says. “Most workers want to feel appreciated and know they’re making a difference in the big picture.”

10. Be green.

Turn off your lights and equipment, Levit suggests.

11. Disconnect.  

Don’t be afraid to shut down your smartphone or at least shut off the e-mail alerts, Woodward says. Let people know about it. When you walk out that door be sure to tell your colleagues the period of time you will be unavailable and stick to it. “It’s important to be present for your family and friends,” he says.

12. Leave your stress at the door.

When you walk out that door commit to leaving your stress behind. “Leaving the office at the end of the day can be tough, but carrying your stress home with you won’t serve any good,” Woodward says. “Your family needs you to be present, so do what you can to make sure your stress stays at the office.”

13. Go home.

Don’t aim to be the last to leave for the sake of face time, Taylor says. You’ll wear yourself out and your productivity will slip. It’s one thing to be a hard worker, another to hang around for Brownie points, achieving nothing. Better to plan for the next day, get rest and be clear-headed in the morning. “If more than one person has labeled you a ‘workaholic’ or you’ve forgotten the name of your pet, it may be time to do ’80%’ and not give 110%,” Taylor says. “Then you may normalize your work patterns more effectively.”

Shindler adds:  “Don’t stay just to keep up with the boss. Don’t leave just because you can.  Your colleagues may depend on you. Do the right things and do things right.”

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