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Emergency preparedness was something I had checked off my To-Do list five years ago.  Thanks to a neighborhood workshop, I had stocked up on bottled water and power bars and other supplies and hadn’t thought about it again in a long while.  Fortunately, there hadn’t been an emergency and we didn’t really need to think about it, right?

And yet, when the need for a flashlight arises, I begin to wonder, are we really ready?  For example, when my husband turned off the power to install a lighting fixture, where were our flashlights?  My son found the one by his bed but it was just a penlight.  We found a lantern in the camping supplies but the battery was dead.  As it happened, our neighbors stopped by to say hello and their six-year-old daughter had a flashlight in her pink power purse!  We were grateful to borrow it to finish the job and get our power turned back on.

The real light bulb moment for me was that emergency preparedness is a continual process, not just a one-time thing.  And for really getting ready for an emergency, I was fortunate to have some help from another friend, Tina Costa Delaney, a personal concierge with a package, a TLCD Concierge Emergency Kit. NERT-certified (NERT is the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team trained by the fire department), Tina not only knows what you need but offers the service of getting it for you.  Tina helped us inventory what we had on hand and got us to organize it all in one place where we could find it when we need it.  She also got us to think about what we would really need to eat as a family of three over the course of three days (powerbars alone weren’t going to cut it) and to provide supplies for our pets.

Then she shopped for the supplies that we didn’t have and found us the best flashlight ever (a 3in1  Tripod flashlight, just right for our family of 3) and stocked us up on extra batteries so we will be prepared.  And that bottled water from 5 years ago had expired so we had to re-stock that too. Tina’s service includes reminders…when the batteries need to be checked, when the expiration date on the food needs to be checked, when the fire extinguisher needs to be recharged…all the things you don’t want to think about when there’s a need for the emergency supplies.

The hardest part of the emergency supply preparation wasn’t a supply, it was a plan.  For the first time, my family talked about where we would meet after an emergency and who we should call out-of-state if something should happen.  It got us talking to our son’s school about their emergency plan because something could happen while we are away from home and our emergency supplies.

Again, I am grateful for the help from a friend!  Her guidance help me prioritize emergency preparedness, something I knew we needed to do but didn’t know how to do efficiently and couldn’t find the time to do on my own.  Best of all, now I know where my flashlight is and have working batteries even!  How’s that for ready for anything?


Every now and then, I am turning over the reins to my creative friends and letting them show and tell about their work-in-progress.  I’ve also asked them to address the issue of how they make time in their busy schedules for their own work.  My guest today is artist, teacher, and arts counselor, Barry Beach.

Barry, what are you thinking about in your current work?

My current artwork is more intuitive, produced quicker, focused on exploring surface and form. My general area of exploration is how the human-made and natural environments intersect, how they affect us physically and psychologically.

And how do you make time for your work (and all the other things you fit into your schedule)?

How do I make time for my work? Honestly, it’s the biggest challenge I face. And often I don’t make time for it. It was nearly 4 months since I was producing sculpture before this latest work. It tends to go all or nothing – but I don’t necessarily see that as a problem, just part of my process. During the times I’m too busy or uninspired to build, I keep sketching in my sketchbook, recording ideas and thoughts to follow later when I have the time and/or inspiration.

But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that during the times you’re not feeling like producing work, you can’t beat yourself up. You just have to keep yourself involved and active on other pursuits. I find reading things I traditionally enjoy helps me get back into my creative groove. Inspiration will return – you just have to have faith and be ready to act upon it when it does!

Thanks Barry!  Where can we see more of your work?

My website is

Every now and then, I am turning over the reins to my creative friends and letting them show and tell about their work-in-progress.  I also asked them to address the issue of how they make time in their busy schedules for their own work.  This week’s guest is photographer and entrepreneur Tanya Boggs.

Tanya, what are you thinking about in your current work, Daily Dose?

Some of the themes you will see repeated in all of my personal work have been about collecting, archiving, mortality and memory, and an exploration of personal history.  And those ideas are even more evident in this current body of work Daily Dose.

This is an ongoing self-portrait of me and my daughter and is a continual work in progress.  Everyday, at approximately the same time, I place us as the subject of a photograph.  Day in and day out, each image, taken at the same distance from the camera, with the same lighting, and the same background, begins to compound and grow.  Days become weeks.  Weeks become months.  And soon months will become years.

By choosing to keep some of the elements in the image stable and by placing these seemingly arbitrary restrictions on the project, the nuances begin to come to the forefront.  This gives the viewer the opportunity to notice small details like when I have a headache, or when my daughter is exhausted or not feeling well.  You can begin to see some of the subtleties of the relationship and the individuals.

I began the work in March of 2009, so it’s been just over a year.  I plan to continue this project until my daughter grows up and moves out.  Most if the time in art, I think tightly editing can be crucial. This is one of the few projects where I think more is more.  The accumulation over time will really begin to shift and change this project.  I am so excited to see where this journey takes me.

Tanya, how do you make time for your own creative work (and all the other things you fit into your schedule)?

Given the nature of this current body of fine art work, making time for it is built into the project.  And it doesn’t take too much time everyday so it has been easy to commit to doing.  It’s probably a little easier as a photographer since I’m not making oil paintings or something more time consuming.  But it does require that I commit to the project daily.  There are some larger tasks and overall upkeep which I do in chunks on a weekly or bi-weekly basis: Color balancing, adding titles, updating the images on the website, applying for shows.  It’s been pretty easy to find small blocks of time to stay on top of the work because I’m really excited about the project.  I try to find 30 minutes or an hour here and there.  Which can easily turn into a larger amount of time as I get lost in the project.  Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part.

The other thing I have done to make time for my creative work, is that I have made my art into my craft and my livelihood as well.  I was frustrated that I never had enough time in my studio.  And one day a light bulb went off.  I want to do what I love and have someone pay me for it.  Given my medium of photography, it wasn’t that far of a leap.  Just a leap of faith really.  Now making time for my personal work just blends into my life a little more seamlessly.  I work with images all the time, so it’s easy to flip right into my personal work for 30 minutes at lunch or for an hour on Saturdays.  I hardly notice the difference between the two anymore.  I’m no longer frustrated by my lack of studio time and both my personal and my professional work organically blend together in my daily workflow.

My advice to others who might struggle to make time for their creative work is to first remove as many barriers as possible between you and getting it done.  If your commute to your studio stops you from making work… remove the commute.  Second, figure out how much time you realistically have and then schedule it for you.  Make a date with yourself and don’t break it.  And lastly I’d say, commit, commit, commit!  If it is really a priority for you, then you have to devote the time and energy.

Thanks Tanya!  Where can we see more of your work?

My Solo Exhibition for Re: incarnation at the School of the Arts at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA was cancelled for the 2009/2010 exhibition season due to budget cuts.

Currently on the fine art website for my personal work, the Daily Dose images begin in March of 2009 and move to the present, but I am going to switch that shortly so that the most recent images are the first one’s you see on the site.  I want to update the site weekly so the content is always current and easy to get to.

Become a fan:

Follow me on Twitter:

Being a great believer in documentation for office operations, I am creating a checklist to share the process of capturing the step-by-step details in something as simple as a checklist.  For more complex procedures, the same process could be used to create a training manual.

Why? Because most everything you do in the office you will do again next month or next quarter or next year or every 10 years.  Once you’ve figured out the process, get it in writing so that you have a guide for yourself or for the person you would like to delegate the responsibility to.  Relying on the oral tradition alone means that you will have to remember and repeat and possibly leave out a step or two each time you go through the process.

I’ll use an example for each step.  Let’s say you are a member of a professional organization and you have volunteered to help with the annual membership renewal.   Long-time members sort of remember how it was done last year and as a new member, you have to discover this process.

1. Gather what you already have: a manual that needs updating, bookmarks of useful information, or a stack of helpful handouts.

What letter did the last volunteer send out to the membership?  When did they do that?

2. Work through the process and take notes step-by-step.  Capture the skeleton of the process in a list.

  • Send renewal email to membership on _____.
  • Record responses (renew, decline, no response) in table.
  • Collect dues and send to treasurer.
  • Follow-up with reminder email to members who do not respond.

3. Troubleshoot.  What problems do you tend to notice every cycle?

Some emails get lost along the way due to spam filters or overflowing inboxes.  Should we follow-up with a snail mail letter or a phone call if a member does not respond?

4. Ask for feedback.  Who else is involved in the process?  What do they see as the problem areas?  What works best for them? Capture the unwritten knowledge that you and others possess regarding the process.

Depends on the number of calls you have time to make…might be better to send a letter directly to members who do not respond to email notices.

5. Identify needs of stakeholders.  What needs clarification? What needs to be changed to suit a realistic schedule or current staffing situation? Chances are that schedules and personnel have changed.  The process should be adjusted to best fit the current circumstances and even anticipate future growth.

Do we have current email addresses for members?  How do we get that information and update our membership directory on our website?

6. Capture the ideas for solutions.  Brainstorm with the group to tap their expertise and work-arounds.  It’s important not to debate the idea at this point but just list as many creative and even crazy ideas as you can.

What if we posted the renewal notice to the yahoogroup?  Would all members receive the notice?  Or do we need to send it out to each member individually or as a group?  How confidential is this information?  Can we create a wiki on the web directory so each member can update their own information?

7. After you’ve thought of everything, go back over the list and pick the most workable idea to revisit with the group.

Seems okay to email the initial letter to the group but follow-up individually with members on the more sensitive issue of payment reminders.

8. Can the group live with this solution (assuming it means changing/improving the process)?  Everyone doesn’t need to love the idea at first, just agree to try it to see if the improvement is acceptable.

Let’s not spend more than X amount of time on follow-up at this point.  If there are more than Y people who don’t respond to the email, let’s send a letter.  If there are fewer than Y members who don’t respond, let’s give them a call to determine whether they wish to renew or not.

9. Write it down and test it out.  Evaluate the process each time and revise notes as adjustments are made. Depending on the complexity of the process, it may take a few cycles to work out the best steps.

  • Send renewal email to membership on _____.
  • Record responses (renew, decline, no response) in table.
  • Collect dues and send to treasurer.
  • Collect updated directory information and send to webmaster.
  • Follow-up with reminder email to members who do not respond.
  • Follow-up again with call or snail mail notice to members who do not respond to emails.

10.  You should have a working checklist or even a manual for your procedure at this point.  Plan to review at appropriate intervals to capture changes in the process as business grows and new service or products are developed which may or may not fit into the way you are now doing the process.

The next volunteer will have a starting point for membership renewals next year.  Be sure to save a copy of the renewal notice with the checklist.

This checklist leaves a lot of room for revisions and improvements along the way.  That’s a very important part of capturing a fluid process.  After all, it’s easier to improve a process if the basics are already documented.  Time spent improving a process is well-spent while time spent re-creating a process every cycle is not the best use of your valuable time.

You might start with the most important procedures first.  For example, I made a checklist for my consultation and client in-take process.  But the steps for hooking up my web page to Google Analytics each time I update my website is still on my list of things to do.

What process have you been meaning to document?

It’s parent-teacher conference week at my son’s school which means that I met with his teacher to review his report card for this quarter. I am so proud of how well he is doing in first grade! A former teacher myself, I appreciate the value of noting progress made throughout the year towards a larger goal. In fact, I have built in a weekly review of my own progress towards my professional goals into my database.

Every Friday afternoon I take just 15-20 minutes to fill in the responses to the following prompts:

1. Date

2. This week’s wins are:

3. This brings me closer to my goals to _______________________.

4. What was challenging about this week and what did I do about it?

5. I could ask _____________ for help with _________________.

6. Thank you to ______________ for __________________.

7. Next week I will  ___________________________.

This simple but powerful tool builds in accountability for myself and keeps me focussed on making the best choices each day to reach the goals that I have established for myself. It’s a process that could be shared with a business buddy or support group, but I find that putting my goals and my progress towards them in writing regularly is sufficient.

Every week I take a moment to note what I accomplished that week and how that brings me closer to my goals in the fields for #2 and #3. Chances are that the week didn’t go exactly as I had planned so I have some space to reflect on the challenges that arose and my response to them in #4. Field #5 reminds me that I don’t have to solve everything myself and encourages me to think about who to ask for help when I am stuck. And I’m sure to appreciate the help, unexpected and otherwise, that I did receive during the week in item #6. And finally, I set my priorities in writing in #7 so on Monday morning I can pick right up where I left off.

It’s amazing to me to see each week, no matter how trying or unpredictable it proved to be, that slowly but surely, yes it’s true, I am that much closer to my goals. Often I so focussed on what I didn’t get done or what I still need to do that I don’t give myself the credit for what I did do to stay on track. Throughout the week, I check back to remind myself of the priorities and goals I have set for myself, just in case I am tempted or distracted by some new idea. There are lots of those! But I know that at the end of the week, I won’t be accepting any excuses from myself.

What about you?  How do you keep track of your goals and the progress you are making towards them?

Help!  What are you going to do if everything on your list is screaming highest priority as an Important AND Urgent task?  That’s what my list looked like after an initial triage this morning using my favorite and super simple time management strategy of sorting tasks into these categories: Priority 1 for Urgent and Important tasks, Priority 2 for Important but not Urgent tasks, Priority 3 for Urgent but not Important tasks, and Priority 4 for Not Important and Not Urgent.

1. Before even starting on the list, take the time to plan your day and how to make progress on the important tasks that you have to do today.  I do that before I check my email or return phone calls (items most likely to earn a lower priority ranking but most likely to take up my time in the morning).  And remember to breathe.  You’ve got the whole day ahead of you yet.

2. Look for masqueraders. You can rank the tasks again by importance and by just how urgent (now or later this afternoon? or maybe even tomorrow). Tackling the most important and maybe the most difficult task first thing in the morning usually energizes me enough to manage the rest of the list afterwards.  Inevitably, some things that looked impossible become possible once I focus on just the next step.  The important thing is to get started and work through the jobs just one step at a time.

3. Divide the time you have in the day and allot each task a portion of that time. Okay, five big jobs to do in just five hours means a plan to work on each task for an hour.  Some tasks may take longer and others less but you will make progress if you are able to focus your undivided attention (as in not worrying about those other tasks until it’s their turn).

4. Share the workload.  Can you delegate? Do you need someone else’s input in order to move forward on a project? Often you can do one small thing like put in a phone call or an email to someone who can help you by doing the task or supplying critical information that will make the task so much easier for you. Put in those requests for help first and move on to focus on the big job that only you can do today.  As others reply, you can decide to take a break and advance those projects to the next step or to continue working on the big job.  But you will not be be stuck until someone else gets back to you. Ask early and plan to allow the other busy people time for their replies.  It’s so much better than all those urgent last minute interruptions that slow everyone down.

5. Look forward to the rewards.  What task is going to give the most satisfaction to you if you can check it off your list?  What task is going to need some sort of other reward (a latte perhaps?) just to get it going?  Which task is the most fun to do once you get started?  If you know what motivates you best, you can use the reward to pull you through the list instead of letting all those screaming items push you around.

Okay, I’m feeling better because I just checked one thing off my list.  What do you do to set priorities when it seems like everything is important and urgent and there’s just too much to do?

My spring forward challenge is simply this: How many ways can you save an hour of your time?

1. Organize it once now to save an hour, at least, later.

I am just catching on that every time I re-enroll my son in the after school program or sign up for day camp, or even just fill out a field trip form, I am going to need all his emergency contact and medical information.  Now I keep a copy of a completed form so that all that information is in one place for me when I fill out the form next semester.  Most of the information is still current.  Otherwise I find myself looking up the same information over and over (the address of the doctor’s office or my husband’s work phone number) and those minutes add up.  Or even worse, I put the form aside to fill out later because I have to look up the information online when I am working.  Personal tasks could disrupt my workflow.

2. Do for your business what you would do for your clients.

This golden rule is really just a variation of the first.   As an admin specialist, I create simple systems or procedures for my clients to get the routine but important administrative work done.  Busy people often skip the step of taking time to organize an approach to admin work because they have other priorities on their minds.  That’s why they need assistance.  But your business needs the same top-notch care that your clients get.  Otherwise there’s a risk of the unbillable work of running your business taking over all of your free time or not getting done at all.  As my own assistant, I have to spend time solving my own organizational woes and build my own routines for follow-up, keeping my calendar and bookkeeping current, and managing my online presence.

Sometimes, it’s doing something for a client to save their time that triggers the a-ha moment for me (hey, why aren’t I doing that for my business?).  Converting all paper bills to an electronic bill paying system is just one example.  Because it takes some extra time to set up the account the first time, I decided to just convert one account each month so the task never became too daunting.  Once the account is set-up, it’s much more convenient to pay my bills electronically each month.  I save time, paper, postage, and storage space by doing so.  That half hour I invested to set up each account results in saving me time each month, at least 10 minutes.  Over a year, that 10 minutes a month becomes 2 hours saved.  And that’s just on one account.  I might even save a whole day if I convert all of my accounts!  That’s some serious daylight savings.

What about you? What do you do that can save you an hour?

Whether you love or hate it, keeping up with your emails is good for business.  The trick is to stay current without spending all of your time responding to emails or becoming mired in a backlog of emails that all needed your attention, last week.  Here are some tips to help you keep your emails manageable:

1. Block out time to do your emails.  Even though I can get through my emails in half an hour on most days, I schedule an hour each morning to do emails and then I feel really good when I finish up early, just like it feels when a meeting wraps up successfully before the time you’ve alloted.  Instead of constantly checking and replying to my email throughout the day which can distract me from my day’s tasks, I will check my email again before and after lunch and at the end of the day.

2. When tackling a batch of emails, start at the top and work your way down the list.  You might be tempted to answer the fun ones or the most pressing emails first, neglecting the others for another time.  Warning–it’s those neglected others that become clutter and clog up your email inbox, making it harder to see and address those important emails.

3.  Use email folders for storing emails that you want to answer later.  I use a “reply later” folder for my non-work related emails which I respond to after my prime working hours.    I can catch-up with a friend or help find a volunteer for my son’s classroom on my own time. Tucking these emails away for later keeps them out of sight and out of my mind while I am working.

4.  Use a folder for storing your online networking (Facebook and Linkedin) messages.  I respond to these in a batch once or twice weekly (I really don’t want to spend all of my free time on the Internet! After all, that’s what I do for work).  I find that I can keep up with my messages this way so that I am networking online and re-connecting with people.

5.  Another useful folder is for “Bills to pay.”  I park my online notices there until Tuesday when I sit down to take care of bills for the week.  Everything gets paid on time and I don’t have to look at the PG&E bill every time I review my email or worry that I’ll miss it this month.

6. Limit the number of folders that you will review later.  I use just the 3 described above.  The point is not to spend my time moving my emails from one file to another.  I do keep archive folders for emails that I need to keep around for reference but don’t review very often unless I am looking for something.  I have folders for client correspondence, events I am considering, resources I might want to investigate some day but not this week, groups I belong to, and topics I am interested in. I let the size of my email window dictate the number of folders I maintain so that I never have to scroll or open a folder to find a folder.

7.  Unclutter your email inbox.  You only want to look at and think about what you need to do today.  Everything else needs to be reviewed and responded to immediately (anything that can be done in 2 minutes or less, just do it per David Allen’s advice in Getting Things Done), stored in a folder to respond in a batch later, archived for reference, or deleted.

8.  Don’t be afraid to delete emails.  All sorts of useful information that you have requested either through Google Alerts, Yahoo group digests, e-newsletters, and blog notices will flood your mailbox every day.  Scan these for useful information.  Bookmark any interesting links for future reference.  Delete the email messenger, the email that delivered the information.  Trust your snap judgement on this one, if it doesn’t merit your attention now, when or why will you ever look for it again?  I love to think of the Internet as a vast storage system, holding all this information for me whenever I might need it.  And yahoo groups archive their messages already so I don’t bother keeping copies in my mail system because I can go to the message board and search for items posted in the past.

9. What do you think might slip through the cracks?  I used to worry about change of address notices because I store contact information in a couple of places.  Now I keep a folder of “database updates” to review whenever I am working on my contacts.  I will review the change of address notices and make the necessary revisions while I already have the database open.

10.  What about those smart mailboxes?  My mac has an interesting feature that will sort emails by predetermined criteria.  For example, all emails from a certain sender will be grouped in a smart mailbox.  I watched the demo at the Apple Store with interest but increasing horror as I say how it worked.  All of the emails stay at the level of the inbox.  When you select a smart mailbox, it pulls up the relevant emails.  Nothing is actually filed automatically for you, just searched and reprioritized for you.  I couldn’t imagine looking at that many emails all the time and not stressing out.  Each one is like a trigger to my brain and I would get lost in distractions if I had to look at all of my email all of the time.

Any other ideas for keeping your email inbox under control?

My South of Market neighborhood here in San Francisco gets pretty busy this time of year due to it’s proximity to Union Square and all the surrounding stores and parking lots.  The rush can be exciting and part of the landscape of the holidays but mostly it’s just hectic.  One year I was rushing along, shopping bags in hand , pulling along a 2-year-old because I had to be somewhere and had to get through the crowd to get there when I passed by a store and saw something that made me pause and think.  It was a fancy store, selling cigars from a special smoking chamber, and it was mostly empty except for the staff and a couple of shoppers.  One of the shoppers was sitting on a couch and reading a newspaper as his companion consulted with the sales person.  I must have pressed my nose against the glass and stared to see the sight.  I didn’t want the fancy cigars or any of the other luxuries offered by the boutiques in that neighborhood.  The luxury I coveted was the ability to sit and relax while Christmas shopping.  Was that something only available to the wealthy?  Did it have to be?  How could I get some of that in my life?

The first thing I did was keep that image in mind the rest of the shopping season.  I slowed down my own pace.  I carried fewer things around at once.  I found benches to sit on with my son and relaxed while he played while the rush kept on going past me.  I felt incredibly rich and prosperous as I gave myself the gift of taking time to do things or to not do things.  What did it cost me?  Not much.  I could easily afford buying fewer gifts.  I allowed fewer events on my schedule; where once I would have seen room for 3 events, I decided that one would suffice and then I had to pick and choose which one I wanted to attend.  Instead of making appearances at 5 holiday parties, I carefully selected the one party that would make me feel most festive.  I would just imagine myself to be a connoisseur of the calendar, like the gentleman in the store, enjoying the luxury of time.  It felt decadent by comparison to the rushing around I was used to tolerating.  Now every holiday season when the urge to do more to celebrate better comes upon me and everyone else, I resist.  I remember what I really want and that it is there for the taking, if I can just allow myself the luxury of taking time.

What do you plan to give to yourself for the holidays?  What luxury would you like to allow into your life in the new year?

Even doing just one small thing at a time does make a difference.

Yes, we are all too busy.  I am so busy with clients that I don’t have time for marketing. So busy building my business that I don’t have time for myself, much less taking on a hobby.  And yet, I found the Klutz Knitting kit impossible to resist!    I found those little bits of time that would have been lost otherwise and took them for myself and slowly but surely, stitch by stitch, they added up.

Personally, I find it gratifying to see how all the little things I do add up whether it’s knitting or marketing my business.  In fact, as I knit, my mind is at work, thinking about my business and the next steps I need to take.  So often I find myself rushing ahead on a list of tasks that it’s rewarding to slow down a bit and think things through, re-prioritize as needed, and ultimately save myself time.

Just for fun, can you imagine a Klutz start-your-own business kit?  Here’s what I came up with:

1.  First of all, it would be fun.  And why not?  Aren’t small business owners pursuing their passion?  Aren’t they turning what they like to do for fun into a business?  I hope so.  A great guide would capture that enthusiasm and adventurous spirit.  And there would be purple yarn included.

2.  And it would break a rather complicated, time-consuming learning process into simple steps.  Business planning involves tackling the complexity of the big picture, but breaks it down into the small steps that are do-able and puts them on a schedule that moves the business forward.  Marketing in particular challenges me with so many options to do it better or more.  But, thanks to a marketing action plan, I know that the next thing is something simple, like adding a sign-up form to my blog page.  Every little stitch counts.

3.  It would be put together by experts who have learned from their own mistakes.  It’s not going to prevent me from making any but it will offer  me some strategies for turning mine around.  If I drop a stitch, I can learn how to pick it up again.  And sometimes, the best thing to do is to unravel a few rows and start it over again.  If anything, taking the time to do things right is a great lesson for knitters and entrepreneurs.  If I keep on knitting and ignore a mistake, I’m going to end up with a lumpy sweater that I won’t want to wear.  If I rush to throw up a fancy website, I am going to end up with errors that undermine my professional image and does not appeal to the clients I am hoping to attract.  Instead, since I am doing it myself and know that I can make it great, I am going to have to proceed slowly to do so.

That’s just a start.  What else would be essential for a start-your-own business kit?