Time Management Strategies that Work

timers

Time management is such a funny phrase.  We all banter it about like we understand it, but really what does it mean?  My definition of Time Management is getting done what you have to do so there is time to do what you want to do. There is such a wealth of information and tools to help manage your time – but as with everything I espouse IF IT’S NOT EASY, IT’S TOO HARD.

What works?  Here are some simple strategies you can implement starting now:

  • Set meetings with start and end times:  When setting appointments, meetings and networking don’t just set a start time SET AN END TIME.  If I’ve budgeted an hour for a coffee meeting and the person I’m meeting budgets two than one of us is going to be disappointed.  When setting meetings make it clear: “I’ve got us down from 1 pm to 2 pm”
  • Stay in control of interruptions: You don’t have to answer the phone when it rings – but if it is someone you want to talk to there are techniques that you can use that will keep you from getting off course.  State up front how much time you have (or want to invest): “I’ve got 20 minutes” 
  • Give your work a time budget.  Just like you know how much money you’ll spend for an item ($18 entrée – okay …$38 entrée – too much) think about how much time is reasonable to spend on a specific task (1 hour ok…3 hours too much).  If I have deemed a project to be worth one hours’ worth of time not only will I set a timer for an hour to cue me to stop, but I’ll set another for 45 minutes, so I know when I have 15 minutes left.  Always ask yourself “how much time is this task worth?”

When determining your time commitment keep in mind Pareto’s Principal (the 80/20 guy I talk about all the time.) You will accomplish 80% of your work in 20% of the time.  That means if you meet someone for coffee/lunch/networking you’ll have held the most important parts of the conversation in the first hour, anything additional contributes minimally.

Getting Daunting Tasks Done

Getting Things Done

Most people rely on their internal compass to get their important tasks done. But what happens when that internal compass doesn’t motivate you ENOUGH for you to get started?

Sometimes deadlines or bosses exert enough external pressure to complete the task, but other times even that isn’t enough. Add to this, that the more time passes, the worse the incomplete tasks make you feel, and the task becomes even more daunting.

How can you get those daunting tasks done?

Understanding which tasks are hard for you to complete and which aren’t is a good first step.  When planning your daily work break your tasks into two columns “hard to complete” and “fun, easy or not so hard.”

  1. Start with an easy task to stimulate your brain. Take advantage of the “pleasure seeking” chemicals and as soon as you finish the easy/fun task move to one of the “harder to complete tasks.” The hardest part of getting these tasks done is getting started, so alternate the hard tasks with the easy/fun tasks and take advantage of the “high” you get from the easy/fun tasks.
  2. Don’t go it alone – Meet a friend at Panera or at the Library and work on your “hard” project alone – together. (Officially, this is called body-doubling.)
  3. Break the “hard” project down into small little parts. Commit to doing the first two parts.  You may find once started you’ll happily complete the task.
  4. Chose a “Zen” environment – sometimes clearing space and removing distractions is very helpful as is playing soothing music or changing locations. Weather permitting try working outside.
  5. Think about how good it will feel to not have the pressure of the project weighing on your mind. Consider that it feels worse to not do it than it feels to do it.

Life Balance is so elusive…

Improving Life Balance

Why does LIFE BALANCE seem to be so elusive? Because it’s imaginary.  No one is ever in equal balance.  An admired colleague Krista Clive Smith once described it more like a symphony where different parts are louder than others at different times, but when listening to it as a whole it is harmonic and beautiful.

What would be possible if you gave yourself permission to live in harmony and not strive for perfect balance all the time?

I divide my “life pie” into 4 parts; business, family, service and self-care.  No day, week or month is ever the same.  If I lived in balance, my pie would look like this:finding life balance

Not only is this unrealistic, imagine how boring life would be if every day and every week were the same.  More realistically my life looks like this:Finding Life BalanceOne may say I’m never in balance, but that’s okay.  Collectively my pies makes sense.  By accepting that my life pie isn’t always going to look the same I find peace and harmony.  Understanding this makes me feel grounded, happy and successful.  How do you think a shift of perspective about life balance would effect you?

Making Change Stick

Making Change Stick

I recently attended a workshop with Alan Weiss, The Million Dollar Consultant. He discussed how to successfully change habits.  He stated that if you change one thing at a time you have a 92% chance of success.  If you change two things at once your chance of success declines to 53%.

What does that mean for your productivity?  It means take it one step at a time. Take the time to integrate each change before adding something new.  Don’t rush.  Be kind to yourself.

Instead of changing your calendar, your task system, your schedule, and your paper systems all at once, change one thing at a time.  Integrate it, be comfortable with it, get it right.  Only when it has become a part of your routine should you make another change. It’s a slow process, but better slow and steady than back where you started.

Begin anew


create space 3

Clear your physical space. Fill it with:

Peace and tranquility

Something new you really love

Nothing

Clear your calendar. Fill it with:

Time for pleasure

New opportunities

Nothing

Clear your emotional space. Fill it with:

Fresh perspective

Renewed energy

Nothing

Create space…See what fills it.

Welcome 2016.  What a great time to begin anew.

SMART Intentions for a NEW Year

Happy New Year loyal weekly tip readers:

I know I’ve been gone a while. I’ll be honest and tell you I didn’t write much last year because I didn’t feel I had much new to say.  I’m tired of all the content clutter out there…the same stuff over and over again.  I will not waste your time with that.  I will write this year when I have new thoughts that I think you would find valuable.  I hope that will be often.

Many of you signed up to receive my weekly tip years ago when I wrote exclusively about organizing. I have evolved and so has what I’ll share. I will be writing this year about organizing, productivity, and leadership as they relate to quality of life and making life easier.

This week I want to share with you my alternative to New Year’s resolutions and goals.  This year I want to ask you to consider writing down your intentions.  For many years people wrote about SMART Goals with the SMART meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  I’m asking you to throw that out the window and write your SMART Intentions.  Here’s a graphic I made to help you:

SMART Intentions
SMART Intentions for a NEW Year

Consider what you want for 2016.  Set your intentions today and I am sure you will indeed have a happy NEW year.

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Simple Project Planning with Post-its

Post-it Planning
Post-it Planning

Do you have a project to do, but don’t know where to start?  Most of us don’t have access to complex project management software, nor do we want to make the time investment to learn to use it.  I’ve developed a simple project planning process that yields many of the same results without the learning curve.

1.  Get a stack of Post-its

2.  Write down each task associated with the project. Don’t worry about writing them in any order, just write as fast as the ideas come to you.  Be sure to use a new post it for each individual task.

3.  Put the post-its in order. Consider – what has to come before another step, what would be the most logical way to do the work, if there is any significant wait time, and what would be best for you?  During this process you may think of extra steps.  Create a post-it for those steps and insert them into the process.

4.  Assign a length of time it will take to complete that step to each post-it – it could be 15 minutes, an hour or a week.

5.  If you have a deadline, start with the last post-it and write the deadline on that post-it, then using the time projection, working from the last post-it forward, date each post-it with the day it is due. If you can’t make the deadline as projected, better to see that now and make adjustments from the beginning.  If there is no forced deadline, start on the first post-it and assign due dates accordingly.

6.  If there is more than one person working on the project identify whose responsibility each specific task is (note on post-it)

7.  Transfer the post-it information (in order) to a project planning grid:

Project: Blog Schedule
Task Time needed to complete Who is responsible Date Due
1. Identify frequency of blog posts, # of blog posts needed 1 hour EF 12/5/14
2. Brainstorm possible blog topics 1 week EF 12/12/14
3. Select the best 26 topics 2 hours EF 12/14/14
4. Group topics in logical flow 2 hours EF 12/16/14

Planning the project is critical to completion.  Try this for your next project and let us know how it goes.

 

A Full Plate

Rutabagas or Sweet Potatoes?
Rutabagas or Sweet Potatoes?

 

Most days we have too much to do, too much on our plate so to speak.  If we continually fill our lives with things to please others or only do those things we think we should do, our lives become unfulfilling and mundane.

Think of life like a Thanksgiving plate.  I’m confident that on Thursday you’ll be selective about what you put on your plate so that you’ll have room for all your favorite things.  If you fill up on rutabagas and parsnips just how much room will you have for sweet potatoes and pie?

Live your life like you fill your Thanksgiving plate – be selective about how you spend your time – and you’ll be more satisfied and fulfilled.

 

Traveling for the Holidays? How Can You Get Away Without The Stress?

It’s surprising to see how many of my clients are traveling at this time of year. So much is going on that sometimes people tell me they wonder if it is even worth the effort to get out of town.  Add to that the stress of re-entry and it’s no wonder our vacations don’t do such a good job of sustaining us.  Of course I have a solution – and it is in that old fashioned form of a list.

I’m all about lists supporting you in getting the right things done, and we do that by creating zones in the list.  For travel the list I suggest looks like this:

Get Out of Town with Peace
Get Out of Town with Peace

 

To make it work for you do as follows:

  • Find a note pad
  • Divide it into 4 sections and label them as follows:
    • Must Do Before – put tasks here that MUST be done or you can’t get on the plane
    • Like To Do Before – put tasks here that would help you enjoy your trip more if you were to get them done before you leave
    • Do ASAP When Home – put tasks here that really need to be done when you get home
    • Do When Home – put the other stuff you think of here
  • Focus on the “Must Do Befores.” If you get those done move to the “Like To Do Befores”

Like everything else, when you are clear about what’s most important then doing it is easier.  And when you get on the plane you will feel peace.  Hope you have a great trip.

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