Staying Organized & Getting Things Done


Life is very busy and it seems that there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything we would like to, right? You have your job, your children, your church, your charities, soccer games, and the list goes on and on. I, myself, for example, currently serve on 13 various Boards and committees on top of those directly associated with the day to day operations of my job. I attend a lot of meetings and still keep up with my house, my yard, my dog, my friends, my health and my family – does this sound familiar?

A business owner recently asked me how I manage to get everything done and if I could offer any tips on time management and completing tasks efficiently – so I thought that perhaps this is a topic that others may like to hear about as well. These are the tips and tricks that I use, they may not work for everyone but I have found them very effective.

In my opinion, the most important attribute of efficacy is organization. I find that keeping a list of everything I need to do assures that I don’t “drop the ball”; I jot down every little task that needs completed. If I’m in the middle of something and receive a phone call asking me to write a letter, for example, I add it to the list so I don’t forget because I may have 10 more things to do before I actually get that email sent and I don’t want to forget any one of them in the shuffle. Ideally, I would take care of the email at that very moment but that is not always possible.

My ‘to-do’ list is an all-inclusive, dynamic document, with items being added from a variety of origins. There may be member requests, phone calls, emails, walk-ins, tasks that need to be completed weekly, monthly or annually or tasks that I acquire at meetings. I star items that I need to accomplish at the top of the agenda for each meeting and those items are then moved to my ‘to-do’ list. I take 5 to 10 minutes each day to update my list and make sure that everything from the last meeting attended has been added. I then color code the list as tasks get finished or delegated out. In my case, pink means that it is completed, yellow means that I have turned it over to someone else in my office and green means that I have done due diligence and “the ball is now in the other parties’ court”. This method is very effective because I can quickly glance at the list and see what is still “untouched” – those are the things I try to tackle first each day.

Another way I stay organized is that I try to clean out my email in-box every day. I read my emails, tend to all imminent issues, add the others to my ‘to-do’ list and then move that email to a folder or delete it. I apply this same concept to postal mail; I open it, put bills in one pile, checks in one pile, requests in another, etc. I enter all of the bills in to QuickBooks and then file them in a “Bills to pay” folder so I can easily pay them at the end of each week; the checks are also entered in to QuickBooks and entered into a “Receivables” folder so they can easily be deposited each week and everything else is tended to almost immediately; this keeps my physical in-box cleaned out as well. This concept applies to my voice mail box too – I return calls, add items to my list or otherwise handlethe matter and delete those messages too – the less clutter, the more organized I feel.

If there is a large project coming up, I keep more than one list; I have my “master to-do” list but may also have a shopping list, a packing list or a variety of other lists as well. I don’t want to boggle my mind trying to remember all of those types of details so I put them on paper and free up my mind for more productive thoughts.

Another beneficial attribute of efficiency is your ability to save time. Continually look for ways to save time by cutting down or eliminating the major time wasters from your life at work or home. Only then will you have enough time to work on the goals that are central to your success and happiness. Stay focused.

Another tip I would give is to be sure to schedule time for yourself – I block out my vacation time at the beginning of each year to ensure that I don’t schedule anything during those times; it is critical to your well-being and your productivity to be able to recharge occasionally – you will only increase your effectiveness by decompressing and coming back rejuvenated.

Different methods will work for different people and we would love to hear any tips that increase your level of productivity. Please send any suggestions that you would like to share and we will communicate them to our members! Now, back to work!

A Message from Your Director (May 2014)

We have all heard about the importance of honed leadership skills, right? There are articles, books, speakers, classes and retreats dedicated to the topic. We know that, to be good leaders, we need to communicate well, be able to delegate, have integrity, treat people with respect, be creative, and if our goal is to be a great leader, we need to be able to inspire and evoke passion. A much less discussed topic is what great leaders do not do, so we thought it would be beneficial to share that side as well.

Some of the actions that leaders want to avoid are obvious, for example, you wouldn’t expect to see a great leader whining, making empty threats or deceiving people. Nor should leaders be closed-minded, or grandiose in their thinking. Great Leaders do not ignore the truth, they are acutely aware of their reality; they do not let their own egos get so overinflated that they think their own magnificence alone can make things happen, they do not act like dictators and they do not make commitments that they cannot keep. Great leaders never say “It can’t be done”. If there is any task worth doing, they will search until they find a way to make it happen.

Leaders don’t wait for other people to do things for them. Nothing stands in the way of accomplishing their goals, certainly not excuses. They are people of action. However, they do understand when it is good to be patient and when it is time to go forward. They also understand the value of delegating. No one can do everything all of the time; delegation is vital to great leadership. They just make sure that those to whom they delegate can actually get the job done.

Leaders don’t let the fear of failure stop them. The average leader will fail many times before he or she succeeds. They are undaunted by failures and view them as golden opportunities to get closer to their goal. Leaders understand that failure is not the end of something hoped for, but a chance to learn to do it better next time.

Great leaders have a variety of personalities and styles. They do not strive to become a copy of someone else. Individuality is important to leadership. While strong principles are important to the integrity of leadership, so is their unique vision.

Leaders never stop learning and growing. I will shamelessly promote our leadership program now… The Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce offers an annual leadership program entitled “Leadership Mecosta” and registration is now open for the 2014-2015 class. The program lasts 9 months, participants meet one day per month and enjoy an overnight opening retreat. This is an exciting program, with an incredible heritage and benefits that will last a lifetime.   If you’re a new or existing leader, a business owner, or someone who just wants to learn more about the MecostaCountycommunity, this program is for you. If you believe that your business or organization would benefit from the strengthening of your employees, send them too! After all, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” – Jack Welch.

Scott Barger, Executive Director of Cran-Hill Ranch, will be serving as the facilitator for the leadership program; Scott is also a Special Appointment Professor atCornerstoneUniversity,Grand Rapids, teaching in the MBA and MM Graduate Programs teaching courses such as Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Management, Marketing, Entrepreneurism andTeamBuilding.  Scott owns his own consulting business, working with businesses, non-profit and government agencies throughout theMidwestregion as well as developing organizational boards and mentoring and coaching several management executives; he is also a certified DiSC personality profile facilitator for individuals and corporate settings.

We are thrilled to have Scott facilitating this year and are excited about the direction of the “Leadership Mecosta” program! If you are interested in registering or would like more information, call the Chamber at 231-796-7649 or visit us at