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Watch the following video or read the text below to suspend and help others to let go of perfectionism:

If perfectionism vexes you and prevents you from starting or finishing tasks, what words or phrases can you use to suspend the dysfunctional behavior so you can get unstuck? Following are four I find useful:


1 Experiment

For a recovering perfectionist like me, using the word experiment is liberating. When I want to try something new, I approach it as an experiment rather than a cold, hard fact of life. Things instantly get lighter and become approachable. Experiments aren’t perfect, they’re fun!

2 Doing things right versus doing the right things

This was one of the time management jewels from Randy Pausch’s body of work highlighting the failures of focusing on the wrong right.

3 Done is better than perfect

A fellow personal productivity coach taught me the power of this phrase. For instance, having this post published today in its current state is better than having it posted in a few weeks with a few more nuggets of gold. You might need the advice to make your weekend better!

4 Satisfice

One of Life Contained’s time management seminar participants touted the fourth mantra: satifice, a blending of satisfy and suffice.

The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy defines it as “an outcome that is good enough. Satisficing action can be contrasted with maximizing action, which seeks the biggest, or with optimizing action, which seeks the best…it is often rational to seek to satisfice i.e. to get a good result that is good enough although not necessarily the best.”

What language do you use to set your inner stickler free?

P.S. Feel free to point out typos and grammatical errors, as my non-perfectionist geek flag is flying freely.

Even with the move to the computer era, paper notebooks are not a lost art. The benefits of writing out tasks and points to remember, being able to easily add hand-drawn diagrams, creating a permanent record, and easily  flipping chronologically are some of the advantages we love. If you’ve been unhappy with online notes, we’d like to offer suggestions for how to move back to and organize paper notes.

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set limits

This is the story of how I re-learned I cannot do it all.

This summer I joyously dedicated much of my time to the care of a dearly-loved family member. When the care began, I was off to a good start. I allowed someone else to renegotiate my commitments the first week (thanks, sister!). After noticing a constant irritability, I re-calibrated my me/alone time (being kind to the introvert I am).

And then it all went to hell in a hand basket.

I turned down help. (No delegation.) I reduced my time spent alone. (Not honoring who I am.) I stopped practicing yoga. (No self care.) I stopped renegotiating commitments. (Silly.) I continued a near-full work schedule. (Stupid.) I failed to meet the expectations I set for how I service clients. (Not fun.) I neglected people I love. (Not fulfilling.)

Trying to do it all and thinking I had no limits was a humbling stretch of time, indeed. It resulted in writing someone to tell them I don’t have my submission prepared on time, in sending an invoice more than a month late, in having a build back up disregarded personal relationships, and in leaving a few clients wondering when the next personal productivity check up call would happen.

Don’t get me wrong. The summer was filled with magnificent life moments. But I needed to learn again I cannot do it all. Thanks, Moe, for that valuable lesson.

What sparked your last reminder? What are the signs you see before you go too deep? Share your story so we can all learn from it.

Tony Buzan wrote many books on mind mapping–an effective, non-linear technique to dump, and then organize your ideas.

Following are guidelines for creating one:

  1. Begin with your central idea in the middle of a page
  2. Dump all your ideas onto the map without judgment
  3. Use lines to make associations as/if they emerge
  4. Work quickly
  5. Get playful with color, images, turning the page landscape
  6. Once finished, organize using color, numbers, arrows, etc.

    Mind Map

    Three personal productivity Chicago coaching clients of mine have turned to mind mapping of late to increase their output. Following are tales on how they use mind maps to be more productive.


    If you produce well once you get going, but you have a tough time starting (a.k.a. procrastinate), then using a mind map as your starting point might just eliminate a barrier.

    For example, let’s say you’re chairing a conference that is six months away. Rather than wait until the last minute to start producing, let the assignment of the conference be a trigger for creating a mind map on the project. Map out all the different mini projects within the massive one. All of the people who need to be involved. All the of the checkpoints to make the project a success. Then organize the information. Use numbers to suggest an order for completion. Use dates to begin scheduling deadlines.

    Using mind maps for starting typically results in feeling better on two fronts: seeing how much you already know, and breaking something big into smaller parts.


    If you think best when you’re producing the work yourself, then using a mind map to think through an assignment will put you in a better position to delegate.

    For instance, let’s say you want to delegate the creation of a presentation, but you’re unsure of your vision. Rather than do the work yourself, let the thought of delegation be a trigger for creating a mind map. Diagram the primary and secondary messages you want to communicate. The different audience members and their expectations. The definition of a successful outcome. Then organize the information using color, numbers, etc.

    Deploying mind maps for delegating allows not only for reduction in workload, but also for opportunities for others to grow by doing.


    If you’ve struggled with linear-based task tracking systems, then using a mind map to track tasks might be the answer.

    As an illustration, you might track on an ongoing basis all your tasks in a mind map. Rather than try to track all your tasks in your head, let the thought of a new task be the trigger for adding to your map. Map assignments by client. List all the things you’ll complete “someday.” While likely over time the map will feel fundamentally organized, the starburst and colorful nature may appeal to you more than a boring list of to dos.

    Using mind maps for tracking is more fun than a paper planner, so it can deliver an increased chance for sustained change.

    Whether you use paper and pen or go electronic, mind mapping may be just the answer to free up your personal productivity.

    In what instances do you use mind maps?

    degrees of initiative

    Through organizational coaching I help Chicago executives enhance their time management. Sometimes it’s by changing the way they interact with their team–helping them obtain better results from their direct reports.

    One such method is empowerment via improving the degree to which direct reports are required to take initiative.

    Consider the five levels of initiative as Oncken and Wass described in one of the most popular Harvard Business Review articles of all time:

    1. Wait until told (lowest initiative);
    2. Ask what to do;
    3. Recommend, then take resulting action;
    4. Act, but advise at once;
    5. Act on own, then routinely report (highest initiative)

    What would happen if your team eliminated the two lowest degrees, and operated mostly at the top two levels? How much more do you think you could accomplish? When do you think the results would begin to show in performance reviews?

    Initially this shift might result in more time committed to people development, but longer term should produce happier staff and calmer bosses.

    What tricks do you use to get people to act from a higher level of initiative?

    We’ve been using a free only scheduling service,, to help find agreeable dates and times for a group to meet without overloading all parties with email. In fact, using doodle often reduces email volume down to two emails per event.

    Here’s how it works in three easy steps:

    doodle step 1

    doodle step 2

    doodle step 3

    We’ve been so pleased with the personal productivity this service provided, we’ve not looked for any other. Have you had success with doodle or with another scheduling service? Have you added some of the bells & whistles they offer like branded pages and Outlook integration. Tell us about your scheduling wins.

    P.S. Thanks to a fellow professional organzier for introducing us to Doodle early 2009.

    The following information is delivered in the less than 5-minute video above.

    One of the keys to my personal time management success and that of my clients is conducting a weekly review to map out navigating the week ahead. Built on the foundation shared in David Allen’s Getting Things Done, following are the components of my Friday afternoon one-hour ritual:

    • First I clear my paper inbox
    • Then I review my calendar

      • Using the appointments for the week I just experienced as well as the upcoming week as memory joggers, I add follow up/preparation/travel logistics not yet captured
      • Looking at office time available for completing work, I size up each day of the week for potential assignments
    • Next I move to reviewing my next action lists

      • I delete things I already completed or no longer think are useful

      • I move items to someday if they’re no longer urgent or definite 

      • I look for things to delegate to others 

      • I assign dates to the things I need to complete this week 

      • I add things not already in the system 

      • I move qualified items from my waiting for list to an active list

    • Then I review a comprehensive project list

      • Using the list as a reminder, I schedule activities for active projects not yet on one of my next actions lists

    • Next I begin to judge my assignments

      • Looking at the office time available, I evaluate if I’ve added too many or not enough tasks to each day

      • I ask myself if I have delegating as much as I can, if I have scheduled realistically, and if I have allowed enough time for unplanned work

    Finally, on a daily basis, I put my tasks in priority order first thing and then work from that list. What is your routine? How do you stay on top of tasks?

    If you decided long ago At-A-Glance appointment books, wall and desk calendars were not for you, it might be time for a second look. This Ohio-based company sells a family of planning notebooks at many major retailers (CVS, Kmart, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Rite Aid, Staples, Target, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, to appeal to those who have a great calendar system, but need a place to record daily tasks and notes.At-A-Glance Planning NotebookWith roots back to the early 1900s, you’ll be surprised how modern the circle the date, one day per page, two days per page, 6″ x 9″, 8.5″ x 11″ options are.

    They feature:

    Don’t let the lack of day of the week, month, day and year identification dissuade you from these notebooks. Instead print and apply labels to quickly mark everything you want to know on each page. I created the following labels for a client–can you guess her favorite color? Download the template, make changes as you see fit, and print your customized version on Avery 5167 Return Address labels.

    at-a-glance planning notebook labels

    What successes have you experienced with At-A-Glance or another planner company?

    The age-old tickler filing system may not have the sexiest name, but it is a powerful time management tool to track tasks. Following are nine steps to turn the old fashioned filing system into a customized machine to help you organize your daily tasks.

    1. Make space for 50-60 hanging file folders in the easiest-to-access place in your office.

    2. Gather 50 high-quality hanging file folders (in your favorite color or colors) & 50 clear tabs. (The daily files consume 43 folders: 12 for the months & 31 for the days. Most people have another half-dozen or so files they add to complete their system.)

    3. Customize & print your tickler tabs (we have several to choose from at the bottom of this post), and then slip them between the plastic flaps.

    4. Then insert the tabs into the front (Illustration 1) of the hanging file folder. Consider using straight-line techniques or color to separate the months from the days from the extras (Illustration 2).

    5. Arrange the hanging file folders in their space in this order or in an order you prefer: Scrap Paper –> Waiting for Response –> 1-31 –> Jan-Dec –> Other

    6. Rotate the files so the day you are experiencing is the day at the front (Illustration 3).

    7. Convert your current tasks to reminder sheets (one per sheet) & drop into your trusty new system. When you’re stuck, ask, “when is the next time I want to be reminded to this?” (You go through a lot of paper in the beginning, but this subsides the more you use the system.)

    8. Commit to using the system every day.

    9. Rejoice in the liberation & peace of mind you just created.

    Select one of these tickler tab sets by clicking the image you want. Further customize after opening. Test print. And then print a final copy on Avery 5167 Return Address labels. You’ll make all your colleagues jealous!

    tickler tabs pink  tickler tabs green purple brown  tickler tabs orange green brown

    tickler labels blue gold lime  tickler tabs blue gold red  Tickler tabs blue green purple

    What tickler tricks do you think others should know?

    Paper PlannerThese are the kinds of folks I’ve seen drawn to paper of late:

    • An insurance field agent relationship manager
    • The director of worldwide engineering for a food and beverages company
    • A mobile manager working in the health care industry
    • An account director at a large advertising agency
    • The owner of a high-end bath and kitchen cabinetry representative firm
    • A senior manager at one of the largest CPA firms

    Why are these folks devoted to paper again? Because it keeps them organized when all the electronic gizmos couldn’t.

    Also because…

    • It’s more real to them
    • They can touch it
    • It’s been good to them
    • They can crumple it up when they’re finished with it
    • They can tear it into pieces when they’re frustrated
    • They can access it without power or internet access
    • It cuts down on their screen time
    • The paper products have gotten better looking and funcitoning
    • They have a long, loving relationship with paper
    • It’s cool again

    How about you? Paper or plastic?

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