Get Everything Done and Make It To Happy Hour

When I was in my early 20s I loved to watch Sex and The City. I was working weekends at the time and I would sneak episodes while I was writing or producing for the news. I hoped it was an accurate picture of what my life would be like – brunches and after work, get togethers with the girls. However watching it back these days I can tell you my life is not really like that. Did those girls ever actually work?

While we can’t all live the glamorous lifestyles of Carrie and Samantha, we can still make it to happy hour. Provided of course, that we get all our work done. When we’re buried under a heavy workload the chances of leaving work on time get slimmer and slimmer. But it is possible, all it takes is a little planning.

Here are some of my secrets to help you head out the door at 5!

  1. Make a roadmap of your day – Every day, when I’m nearly finished with work I create a “roadmap” for the following day.  I’ve stolen the idea from my time as a live news producer.  We always have a rundown to keep us on track during a live show.  Your work day should run the same way. Having this roadmap means I can hit the ground running and everything goes so much smoother when I get in the following morning.
  2. Don’t answer the phone Only answer if it’s absolutely necessary. That means the person who is calling can give your information about the task you’re working on or you have an appointment for the call right then. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in conversations that go nowhere! You’ll get back to them later – just add it to your list.
  3. Break the day up into chunksGot some mammoth task you’re really not looking forward to? Split it into smaller chunks and distribute it throughout the day. Giving yourself a chance to look at emails, etc in between will help to ease your frustration.  Breaks are our friends. But don’t get sucked into other projects. Give yourself specific time limits.
  4. BacktimeI’ve talked a little about backtiming before. It’s a concept I got from working as a TV news producer. You start at the end goal and work backwards. So what do you need to have done in order to get out of work on time. Make a list of all these things and how long they will take. If you incorporate this with your plan from the night before you can create a schedule for your day.
  5. Make a meeting checklist – The biggest time suck in the office is not people checking their social media or chatting by the water cooler, it’s meetings. Who hasn’t been in a meeting that has gone on for an hour longer than it needed to? Meanwhile the mound of work on your desk just piles up. By having a meeting checklist you can make sure all the important things are covered, but it can also help to move the whole process along!

So now the only thing left to decide on is  what you’re drinking when you get to happy hour!

If You’re a Spreadsheet Nerd – You’ll Love AirTable

Not so long ago the most revolutionary organization tool was the filofax. Once home computers became popular this was replaced with programs like Excel spreadsheets or Outlook. Nowadays there’s a million and one productivity tools to choose from. How do you know what to pick?

Personally, I’ve always felt there was something about spreadsheets that really stands the test of time. They present your data in an easy to read format and you can tab between the various options. I use Google Sheets for example to keep my blog schedule and ideas organized. Read more

Let’s Start Planning Your Summer Vacation!

Summer is here! It’s time to break out the sunglasses, the BBQs, the sandals and just relax. I’m sure the big buzz at your office right now is all about where everyone is going for their vacation. Some people have planned it a year in advance and others are hoping to snag a last minute deal. Either way it’s something for us to look forward to.

Like all other aspects of my life, planning is key  when it comes to vacations. Before I pick a spot I do a lot of research into the area, figure out where I’d like to stay and to eat. This helps me to know that I’m going to get the most out of my time there!

Here are a few travel resources  I’ve found to make sure I’m ready for the perfect vacation:

NextVacay – The first step for planning the perfect vacation is figuring out where you want to go. The idea behind NextVacay is totally brilliant. You input your closest airport and their software will sift through all of the flights going in and out to find when an airline is offering amazing deals. For instance, I put in NYC airports and I get emails about cheap flights to Bali, Lisbon and Tokyo.The more flexible your situation the better, plus it’s really good for people who don’t know where they want to go. You get 1 month free trial and after that it’s $25 for the year. So it’s relatively inexpensive to try and you could save a lot more.

TripAdvisor – So you know where you want to go, what’s next? Make the most of your trip, whether you’re briefly visiting a destination or staying for a few weeks. Definitely plan some time to cruise TripAdvisor. It really helps you to narrow down the best attractions to see which restaurants are worth visiting. I have major FOMO when it comes to these things so checking this site guarantees I won’t miss out. I love being able to check other people’s experiences and see their candid reviews. I always make sure to add my favorite and not so favorite places when I return. If you’re interested in reading some of my reviews you can see them here.

MeziSo you know where you want go and what you want to see, now you just need to book somewhere to stay. If you’re going to a big city or popular resort you can easily become overwhelmed by options. Do you pay a little more to be closer to the city center? Or stray further out and rent the whole apartment? Mezi is an app that helps you find the right hotel for you, based on your personal preferences. The twist is that it’s all done by artificial intelligence. It’s a little but futuristic and AI can use deep learning tools to search through hundreds of options and create links that we might not notice – it could find your perfect getaway! If you try the app I’d love to hear what you think about it!

Global Entry – I tell everyone I meet about this – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! If you travel even one time per year, it’s worth doing. This program has several benefits for 5 years and a $100 price tag. First you are eligible for TSA Precheck within the United States. That means you get to basically skip the line at security, keep your laptop in it’s bag and forego taking off your shoes and sweaters. Plus, when you’re returning to the US you get to bypass all the lines! I wrote a blog post explaining why this is a must have for any regular travelers.

When is YOUR “Power Hour”?

Here’s something interesting that most people don’t know:

Each of us has a specific two-hour window every day when – thanks to certain physiological processes – we’re naturally TWICE as productive as normal. Not only that, but our cognition is sharper, too.

Remember the last time you were in the zone? Chances are, it was during this two-hour window.

I know my peak time starts around 11am, I need some time to get settled into the day and then I’m ready to get down to work.

Knowing when you’re at your peak performance can help you in so many ways. You know precisely when to do your most important work. Better yet, you could set an alarm and wait for it to ring before diving into tasks that are essential for getting ahead.

Why? Because then, without even trying and tapping into your personal productivity style, you’d perform at a higher level and, ultimately, do a better job. You’d finish faster, leave work earlier, and arrive home with more energy at the end of the day.

This two-hour window occurs at a different hour for each of us.

It’s hardwired into our neurology. Read more

How to Break Down Your Goals

Whatever project you have in mind, whether it’s writing a book, planning a big dinner party or starting your own side hustle, these big ideas can quickly become overwhelming. Thinking about all the work you have left to do can make you feel like giving up before you even begin..

To help me feel less overwhelmed I  use a little trick called “backtiming.” This is a concept I picked up from my day job as a TV news producer. If your show finishes at 11pm, that’s it, you can’t over run. So to make the news work on time we start with the end in mind and work backwards. This guarantees that you’ll finish on time.

This method has multiple real world applications, if you’re a whiz in the kitchen you probably use this method to ensure all the various elements of your dish will finish at the same time. You can also use backtiming to plan out your future goals. For more on how backtiming works check this out.

It also  helps to break up your goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. You can focus on one of these lists at a time to prevent yourself from getting distracted by all the other pieces of the puzzle. Read more