Keep it clean in 19 minutes

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Real Simple | The Keep-It-Clean Plan

The Keep-It-Clean Plan

With a plan of attack, you can maintain a sparkling house in just 19 minutes a day

KITCHEN, 4 1/2 minutes daily
Always start with the sink. "Keep it empty and shining," says Marla Cilley, author of Sink Reflections (Bantam, $15) and creator of, a housekeeping website. A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen's benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep counters, refrigerator doors, and the stove top spick-and-span, too.
  • Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
  • Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
  • Wipe down the counters (one minute).
  • Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).

BATHROOM, 2 minutes daily
Make cleaning the basin as routine as washing your hands. But don't stop there. Get the most out of your premoistened wipe by using it to clean around the edges of the tub and then the toilet before tossing it.
  • Wipe out the sink (30 seconds). Wipe the toilet seat and rim (15 seconds).
  • Swoosh the toilet bowl with a brush (15 seconds).
  • Wipe the mirror and faucet (15 seconds).
  • Squeegee the shower door (30 seconds).
  • Spray the entire shower and the curtain liner with shower mist after every use (15 seconds).

BEDROOM, 6 1/2 minutes daily
Make your bed right before or after your morning shower. A neat bed with inspire you to deal with other messes immediately. Although smoothing sheets and plumping pillows might not seen like a high priority as you're rushing to work, the payoff comes at the end of the day, when you slip back under the unruffled covers.
  • Make the bed (two minutes).
  • Fold or hang clothing and put away jewelry (four minutes).
  • Straighten out the night-table surface (30 seconds).

Start with the sofa — as long as it's in disarray, your living room will never look tidy. Once you've fluffed the pillows and folded the throws, you're halfway home. If you pop in a CD while you dust, you should be able cover the whole room by the end of the third track.
  • Pick up crumbs and dust bunnies with a handheld vacuum (one minute).
  • Fluff the cushions and fold throws after use (two minutes).
  • Wipe tabletops and spot-clean cabinets when you see fingerprints (one minute).
  • Straighten coffee-table books and magazines. Throw out newspapers. Put away CDs and videos. (Two minutes.)

Five fast email productivity tips.


Five fast email productivity tips

There’s been a lot of great discussions about email productivity going around on sites I enjoy, so I thought I’d throw in five no-brainers that I’ve seen help a lot of folks.

  1. Shut off auto-check - Either turn off automatic checking completely, or set it to something reasonable, like every 20 minutes or so. If you’re doing anything with new email more than every few minutes, you might want to rethink your approach. I’m sure that some of you working in North Korean missile silos need real-time email updates, but I encourage the rest of you to consider ganging your email activity into focused (maybe even timed) activity every hour or three. Process, tag, respond to the urgent ones, then get the hell back to work. (See also, NYT: You There, at the Computer: Pay Attention)
  2. Pick off easy ones - If you can retire an email with a 1-2 line response (< 2 minutes; pref. 30 seconds), do it now. Remember: this is about action, not about cogitating and filing. Get it off your plate, and get back to work. On the other hand, don’t permit yourself to get caught up in composing an unnecessary 45-minute epistle (see next item).
  3. Write less - Stop imagining that all your emails need to be epic literature; get better at just keeping the conversation moving by responding quickly and with short actions in the reply. Ask for more information, pose a question, or just say “I don’t know.” Stop trying to be Victor Hugo, and just smack it over the net—especially if fear of writing a long reply is what slows your response time. N.B.: This does not mean that you should write elliptically or bypass standard grammar, capitalization, and punctuation (unless you want to look 12 years old); just that your well-written message can and should be as concise as possible. That saves everyone time.
  4. Cheat - Use something like MailTemplate to help manage answers to frequent email subjects. Templates let you create and use boilerplate responses to the questions and requests to which you usually find yourself drafting identical replies over and over from scratch. At least use a template as a basis for your response, and then customize it for that person or situation. Don’t worry—you can still let your sparkling prose and winning wit shine through, just without having to invent the wheel 10 times each day.
  5. Be honest - If you know in your heart that you’re never going to respond to an email, get it out of sight, archive it, or just delete it. Guilt will not make you more responsive two months from now, otherwise, you’d just do it now, right? Trust your instincts, listen to them, and stop trying to be perfect.

Getting Things Done Summary


Getting Things Done by David Allen

  1. capture all the things that need to get done into a logical and trusted system outside of your head and off your mind
  2. disciplining yourself to make decisions about all the inputs you let into your life, so that you will always have a plan for next actions that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment

Outcomes & Actions

  1. describe in a single sentence the intended successful outcome for the problem or situation
  2. write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward

Horizontal & Vertical Control (Get Things Off Your Mind and Get Them Done)

  1. horizontal maintains coherence across all activities in which you are involved
  2. vertical manages thinking up and down the track of individual topics and projects

Five Stages of Workflow (Horizontal)

  1. collect things that command our attention (anything personal or professional, big or little, that you think should be different than it currently is and that you have any level of internal commitment to changing)
    1. get it all out of your head
    2. minimize your collection buckets
      • physical in-basket
      • writing paper and pads
      • electronic note taking
      • auditory capture (answering machines, voicemail, dictating equipment)
      • email
    3. empty the buckets regularly
  2. process what they mean and what to do about them
    1. what is it?
    2. is it actionable? YES or NO
      • No
        1. trash
        2. incubate
          1. someday/maybe list
          2. tickler file (suspended or follow-on file; a 3D calendar)
            • 43 folders:
              • 31 Daily Files
              • 12 Monthly Files
              • Tomorrow's Date at the front
        3. reference (reference should be information that can be easily referred to when needed)
      • Yes
        1. What is the next action?
          • do it
          • delegate it
          • defer it
          • Project (anything requiring more than one step to accomplish the desired outcome)
        2. actionable tracking
          1. list of projects
          2. storage or files for project plans and materials
          3. calendar (time specific actions [appointments], day specific actions, day specific information)
          4. list of reminders of next actions
          5. a list of reminders of things you're waiting for (only review as often as they have to be in order to stop wondering about them)
  3. organize the results
  4. review the options
  5. do
    1. choosing actions in the moment
      1. context
      2. time available
      3. energy available
      4. priority

Weekly Review

  1. Loose Papers
    • business cards, receipts, etc. - put in in basket for processing
  2. Process Your Notes
  3. Previous Calendar Data
    • review for remainning action items, reference information, etc.
  4. Upcoming Calendar
  5. Empty Your Head
    • write down any new projects, action items, etc.
  6. Review "Projects" (and Larger Outcome) Lists
    • ensure that at least one kick-start action is in your system for each
  7. Review "Next Actions" Lists
    • Mark off completed actions & review for reminders of further action steps to capture
  8. Review "Waiting For" List
    • Records appropriate actions for any needed follow-up & check off received items
  9. Review Any Relevant Checklists
  10. Review "Someday/Maybe" List
    • Check for any projects that may have become active and transfer them to "Projects" & delete items no longer of interest
  11. Review "Pending" and Support Files
    • Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new actions, completions, and waiting-fors

Models for Making Action Choices

  1. predefined
  2. work as it shows up
  3. defining work

Six Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work

  1. current actions
  2. current projects
  3. areas of responsibility
  4. 1-2 year goals
  5. 3-5 year vision
  6. big picture view

  • projects: clearly defined outcomes and the next actions to move them towards closure
  • horizontal focus: reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly
  • vertical focus: informal back of the envelope planning

Five Steps to Accomplish Any Task (Project Planning)

  1. defining purpose and principles
  2. outcome visioning
  3. brainstorming
  4. organizing
  5. identifying next actions

Five Phases of Natural Planning Techniques

  1. purpose / guiding principles
  2. mission / vision / goals / sucessful outcome (what would success look, sound, or feel like?)
  3. brainstorming (how?)
    1. view the project from beyond the completion date
    2. envision wild success (suspend "Yeah, but. . .")
    3. capture features, aspects, and qualities you imagine in place
  4. organizing (identify components, subcomponents, sequences, events, and/or priorities; what must occur and in what order?)
  5. next actions
"If the project is off your mind, your planning is sufficient. If it's still on your mind, keep applying the model until it's clear."

Critical Factor of Filing System

  • filing has to be instantenous and easy
    • One Alpha System
      • consider A-Z organizing unless you need more specific filing
      • reduces number of place something isn't
      • organize by topic, project, person, or company
    • specialized filing may be necessary if amount of reference material on one topic or project exceeds one file drawer.
  • get high quality mechanics and avoid hanging files
  • if you must use hanging files:
    • label files, not the hangers
    • use only one file folder per hanger
    • keep a big supply of plain hangers and new file folder in the front of the drawer
  • purge files once a year
  • encourage a dumpster day at work

Dealing with un-met agreements:

  1. lower standards
  2. do it
  3. renegotiate agreement

"What is the next action?"

"The better you get, the better you'd better get."


  1. keep everything out of your head
  2. decide actions and outcomes when things first emerge on your radar, instead of later
  3. regularly review and update the complete inventory of open loops of your life and work

Pick up anything around you that you’re wondering what to do with, and apply a simple set of formulae:

  • I don’t need or want it = trash
  • I still need to decide what this means to me = IN basket item
  • I might need to know this information = reference
  • I use it = equipment and supplies
  • I like to see it = decoration
  • When I could possibly move on it, I want to see the action as an option = next action reminder, reviewed when and where it could be done
  • I need to be reminded of this short-term outcome I’ve committed to = project list item, reviewed weekly
  • I need to have this when I focus on a project = support material
  • I might want to commit to this at any time in the future = Someday/maybe list item
  • I might want to commit to this on or after a specific time in the future = calendared or “tickled” item incubated for review on a specific future date
  • I want to achieve this “bigger” outcome = goals, objectives, visions that you review on some longer interval
  • It’s something someone else is doing that I care about = item on Waiting-For list, reviewed at least weekly
  • I need to consider it when I do certain recurring activities = item on a checklist

- from David Allen []'s Productivity Principles newsletter