Get Your Life in Order for ’09

Productivity expert Peggy Duncan talks streamlining, forward thinking

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Duncan

Last year saw economic disaster, record joblessness, and a discouraging outlook for 2009. Though the outlook seems bleak, there are ways to manage the challenges ahead. BlackEnterprise.com‘s Janell Hazelwood talked with Peggy Duncan, productivity expert and author of The Time Management Memory Jogger, on how to better organize your life, both at work and at home.

BlackEnterprise.com: As people move into the new year, what are some ways they can make 2009 more productive—both at work and in their home life?

Peggy Duncan: People waste hours a day always looking for something. At home, one of the best things you can do is organize your closet. Go through everything. If you didn’t wear it last year and don’t love it, donate it. If you love it, save it one more year, but if you don’t wear it in 2009, don’t let it see 2010. Put like items together in your closet and sort by color (e.g., suits, light to dark). You’ll start each day with less chaos and stress.

At home and work, prepare for the next day the day or night before.

At work, clear the mess off your desk and create a logical system for paperwork, much like your closet, by putting like subjects together. Then create that same logical system for your computer files. Go through every project you’re doing and develop smarter ways to get them done. Use the right technology to speed everything up.

You have a background in technology. What are some ways people can better use technology to help in their productivity?

[Many] aren’t aware of features in the software they use every day that’s been there for years. Very few take classes, and still use the computer like it’s a typewriter. They don’t click the buttons, nor do they wonder what the buttons do. They spend hours doing something [themselves] that the technology they already have can do in minutes, seconds, or nanoseconds. You can record a quick macro (a series of commands you can capture and run anytime you need to perform the task) that will handle mundane work with the click of a button. A formula in Microsoft Excel takes work you do by hand and figures it out before you can blink.

You can link the information in a spreadsheet with a graph in PowerPoint that gets updated every time Excel changes. You can manage your entire life in Microsoft Outlook: drag from the inbox to the calendar or tasks, save multiple signatures to quickly insert information you send often, view multiple calendars in the background to let you know when everyone can meet, and so much more.

What do you tell someone who is so used to disorganization that it is difficult for them to get into a more streamlined and organized way of living?

They have to want it. A lot of times they’re working like that because no one has ever shown them a different way. They

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