Signs You Need to Have Handy by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Mar 24th, 2013

signs 2Sometimes, it’s worth announcing to others (or to remind yourself) that you are trying to keep chaos at bay.  You can make your own signs for this purpose or you can download the ones that I’ve already created for you (just go to and click on the Downloads link).  There is no charge and you’re welcome to print them and share them with others.

Use them as reminders for yourself.

  1. Use signs to remind yourself of what you’re doing and why (for example, “What is the best use of my time, right now?” or maybe something like “If I died today, would this matter?”  This sure helps you focus on priorities, believe me!)

  2. Don’t clutter up your area with too many signs, but if you are trying to remind yourself to de-clutter, put up one sign at a time (for example, “Clutter is postponed decisions.”  Barbara Hemphill).

  3. I believe it was Napoleon Hill who said, “What you think about, you bring about.”  Use a sign to remind yourself what it is you want to be focused on, such as a particular goal.  For example, when I was an assistant professor, I had a sign up that said, “Full professor by 40.”  And it (almost) worked.  I was 41.

  4. You might use a sign to remind you about a new habit you are trying to integrate into your life.  Breathe, for example.

  5. Or, possibly you are working on saying “No” more often.  Certainly, you might need a reminder for that (seems like we might need a whole set of Top Ten Productivity Tips for this one!)

  6. Maybe you need to take it easier on yourself…let’s say you keep trying for perfection.  Perfection isn’t really possible, but excellence is.  See the sign I’ve given you for that.

Tell others what you want them to do

  1. If you have been de-cluttering and you put a bunch of stuff out into the hall for folks to take, then put up a sign that says that.  If you don’t (and just put the stuff out), you’ll be interrupted by people asking you.  Give them a sign.

  2. Ask others not to disturb you.  It’s best to put the time when they can come back (and you’ll see I’ve left a place for that on the signs I’ve created for you).  If you don’t put the time, then they will knock on your door anyway.

  3. Give others a reason why you’re asking them not to disturb you.  Maybe you’re on a deadline or you have something of the highest importance due.  Tell people what is happening with you and ask that they be thoughtful of your time and priorities.

Here’s one more reason to use a door sign.

  1. By asking others to come back later (and we tell them why), it helps us to stop “self-interrupting.”  You know what I mean, I’m sure.  It’s what happens when we are working on something that is high priority, but it is not *exactly* what we want to be doing (say, writing a grant, preparing a proposal, completing a budget report for a client, generating next year’s marketing plan).  We look for any excuse to stop working, regardless of how inconsequential.  Someone walking by, let alone *in,* our office is certainly enough to make us stop doing what we need to be doing.  Signs help with this.

© Meggin McIntosh, PhD  Meggin was a university professor for over 15 years and spent five of those years working with faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno.  Since leaving the full-time academic life, Meggin writes, consults, and does workshops for smart people who want to be more productive, thereby being able to consistently keep their emphasis on excellence.  Thus, the name of her company is Emphasis on Excellence, Inc.

Door signs are a great way to maintain your focus on the tasks at hand. For your very own set of printable door signs, head to the Free Downloads page of Keeping Chaos at Bay, where you’ll find those, reminders, and other handy resources. These will help keep you on track and in the right mindset, and might even deter would-be time thieves!