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Readers Digest

Are You Too Busy To Get Organized?

Productivity Expert Ruth Klein Has The Answer

Are you too busy to get organized? The 36 million U.S. readers of Reader’s Digest turned to time management pro and best-selling author Ruth Klein for smart answers, and so can you! In today’s fast-paced, high-stress world, declaring “I’m too busy to get organized” is becoming a common lament from those who find themselves buried beneath piles of paperwork, unfinished tasks and the relentless tick-tock of too few hours in a day.

“High-powered executives, entry-level workers and busy homemakers alike are increasingly feeling overwhelmed by the high-speed pace of our culture,” says time management expert and best-selling author Ruth Klein, whose clients range from solo entrepreneurs to the Fortune 500.

“For too many people, smart time management tools can help them get back control of their days, but far too often the response is: Who has time to get organized?’ But there are quick ways to get back on track in just a few minutes each day,” Klein says.

The July issue of Reader’s Digest featured “take-control” tips from Klein, an award-winning business owner and author of Time Management Secrets for Working Women and four other books on business and time management topics.

Here are five quick tips that even “people who say they’re too busy to get organized” can follow in just minutes to save more hours in their day.

Five Fast Ways to Get Organized

1. Start Your Day the Stress-Free Way.
Before tuning in to the morning news or turning on your computer to check your e-mail, spend the first 10 minutes of your day stretching, meditating and silently thinking about the day ahead. It’s a stress-free start that will prove more productive than “immediately falling into overwhelm,” Klein says.

2. Follow the “Rule of Two.”
Klein’s trademarked “Rule of Two” involves spending five minutes each morning writing a list of the day’s tasks, circling the two most important tasks and focusing only on those two tasks. “If you approach each day faced with five or even 30 tasks, you’ll end up feeling frozen by the sheer workload ahead. Instead, ask yourself, what are the two most important tasks for today that I should take care of, if I take care of nothing else? Focus only on those two tasks. When they are completed, focused on the next two most important tasks,” Klein recommends. “By organizing your day by your most important priorities, you’ll celebrate real accomplishments by the end of your day.”

3. Post Your Plan on a Calendar
Write your schedule on a large calendar and post it in the most visible place in your home or office. “This allows you to visualize and focus on your daily and weekly schedule without losing track of your priorities,” Klein says.

4. Take Control of Your E-Mail.
The 24/7 availability of e-mail doesn’t mean you should waste hours in your day continually checking your e-mail, PDA or cell phone messages, Klein says. First, don’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. Second, choose only three or four times a day when you will check your e-mail. Third, strive to respond to multiple e-mails from the same person with one e-mailed reply summarizing your responses. “It’s a great way to avoid e-mail traffic jams in your day,” Klein says.

5. Organize and Systemize.
Organizing those mounds of paper can take less than 10 or 20 minutes each day if you “organize and systemize,” Klein says. Divide everything into categories (work, home, school, projects, tasks, invitations, bills). Create color-coded files for each category. Attach a note with a paper clip to each file in your “system” indicating the dates responses or actions are due. “Once you get into the habit of spending a few minutes a day filing papers, you’ll feel in control and avoid missing deadlines or wasting time searching through piles of paperwork for the document you need,” Klein says. “These few minutes spent organizing and systemizing will prove the smart way to save so many hours each week!”

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