This month’s article correlates to the fourth key in my newest book SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best (Wiley), to be released on August 16: ACCESSIBILITY.

SuperCompetent people can quickly find the information they need.
ACCESSIBILITY is the ability to organize the inputs and outputs in your life.
This key gives you the systems you need to locate data contained in any medium: paper, email, phone calls, contacts, Internet, etc.

When I was in college in the mid-eighties, I attended my first time management course. The instructor told us to write down our schedules for the entire day, including the specific time we would work on each task. I dutifully wrote up-to-the minute agendas, detailing what I would complete: "from 8:00 to 8:30, I'll do this…from 8:30 to 9:10, I'll do this…"

Back then, I could pretty much keep up with it, and the day usually went as planned. When something unexpected arose, it was fairly easy to adjust my plan. Then things started to change: technology exploded, voicemail, email, and the Internet entered the scene, and the productivity game was forever altered. If you attempted nowadays to write out every minute of your day, how long would your schedule last? It would probably blow up in the first five minutes. You could probably spend more time revising the plan than simply doing your work!

Indeed, it has become harder to be productive, for all these reasons:

• We're busier than ever before—since we have more to do, with fewer resources, and less time to do it in.
• We're more disorganized than ever before, as we receive information from multiple sources and have more data to track and organize.
• We're constantly communicating with more people, more quickly, through more medium, so we have more conversations and history to recall.

Being productive today requires many different competencies—one of which is being organized. If you excel in this competency, you likely have systems, rather than piles of paper and piles of files. If you're organized, you can find what you want when you want it—in thirty seconds or less. Being organized means controlling the paper, email, reading material, and inputs into and out of your office and life. Organization is your ability to sort, filter, and process all types of information effectively. It's how tidy your office (and home) looks, inside and out. It's how in control you look and feel, inside and out. Being organized will give you more control over your life and time. SuperCompetents find the time and the self-control to achieve organization through proper systems.

If Accessibility is a Key you have issues with, keep these suggestions in mind as you move forward:

1. Invest a little time in developing simple systems, so you know where everything is at all times. Despite the popular saying, a clean desk is not a sign of an empty mind. It's a sign of a productive one. Experiment with various ways to become more productive; it's worth the time you'll spend on it.

2. Set up a logical, easy-to-follow scheduling system, and stick to it. Highly productive people always know where they're supposed to be at any particular time, so learn to effectively manage the three distinct scheduling components: 1) Appointments and meetings, 2) Things to do; and 3) Reminders.

3. Don't let yourself get distracted by the technology you use to stay organized. You're the boss, not your PDA or smartphone. If you'll take a little time to handle, organize, and track your files, emails, and other communications as they come in, you're unlikely to be overwhelmed later on.

4. Keep careful track of your contacts and communications. We communicate with more people than ever these days, by means of more media than ever before. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to track contact information, histories, and pending communications—if you're willing to put in the necessary time.

5. Don't waste travel time. A second saved is a second earned; so instead of taking things easy while you're traveling, use the time to get ahead so you'll have more free time later. You can also save plenty of annoyance and time simply by preparing for your trips in advance.

How much time do you spend every day trying to track things down—whether it's basic information that should be at your fingertips, that pesky file where you keep your vendor list, or the phone number for that productivity expert you were thinking about asking to address your work group? It's not that these little interruptions take all that much time. The problem is that they force you to relinquish your focus. Once it's gone, it takes a while to get it back—and that's where the real time is wasted.

Make it a productive day!

(C) Copyright 2009 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.


© 2009 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time®.  She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.