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.

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.

 

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.

Easy Time Management Strategies that Work

On screen Timers
On screen 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 1pm to 2pm”
  • 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 ok…$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.

What About That Summer Project?

What's on your list?
What’s on your list?

With the end of summer around the corner I’m sure there is an item or two left on your to-do list that you had expected to get done.  You’ve got one weekend left before Labor Day and that can have two good results:

  1. Choose to relax while you can and work on the project later.
  2. Choose to get the project done this weekend.

Seriously, the only bad result is if you waste your weekend telling yourself you’re going to get the project done, feel guilty, and don’t accomplish anything.  I know you can handle the relaxing on your own, but if you go with #2 here are some tips to help you get the project done!

Continue reading »

Own the Last Minute Pattern

If you thrive on deadlines, it’s better to plan for them than fight them. Worrying about if you are going to get done on time or being frustrated about how you’ve waited until the last minute is a complete waste of energy. Instead try planning your success:

  1. Plan backwards to your deadline – identify exactly when you need to finish the project. Don’t build in extra time. If it’s due Thursday at noon it needs to be done Thursday at noon.
  2. Write down the steps you need to accomplish. Identify each step on its own index card or post-it. That way you can keep the current step top of mind and not worry about anything else. Put them in order.    Continue reading »

Top 3 Tips to Maximize Working from Home

A lot has been written in the news about working from home. I understand why Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo has put an end to it for her company – a lot of people who say they are working from home, do everything but work. Working from home is a privilege I wouldn’t want to lose. Here are my top 3 tips for maximizing the opportunity:

  1. Outline a Daily Plan – Be clear in what you want to accomplish. Write out specifics identifying what you want to get done. It could be a part of one big project, or many little tasks – but write it down.
  2. Make a Daily Schedule – project how much time each item on your plan is going to take and plug it into a schedule. Don’t forget the time you need to let the repairman in or to pick up your child from school. When you see your day in black-and-white it will help you from frittering time away.
  3. Create Space – I’m a huge advocate for creating effective work space. You’ll need a clear space that isn’t cluttered with distractions that take you off your game. It could be a desk, a table or a big comfy chair – but be sure that you have room to spread out. I also suggest that you have a printer close by and basic office supplies (stapler, pens, highlighters, post-its, binder clips, etc.). It’s a huge time-suck to have to keep getting up for essentials.

Time Control

Endless Tasks….Overwhelming Pressure…Desire for Results…Knowing there has to be a better way….

Escaping to Walden Pond or traveling the country via RV are definitely options – but for most of us not viable ones. Minor adjustments that cumulate for noticeable change are much more desirable. Here are some of my favorite time control techniques:

MINIMIZE THRASHING

Thrashing is the computer science term for when a system spends more time switching from task to task then actually working on the task. When we spend our time thinking about what we have to do, remembering where we were in the project, and then building up momentum to get results we are thrashing. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the meat of a project and then having to stop. I have found the best way to minimize thrashing is to plan substantial chunks of time for a project. I’ll arrange my schedule to be able to commit 2 or 3 CONTINUOUS hours to the task. While it may be hard to find those uninteruptable hours it sure is worth it when the project is done!    Continue reading »

What is an Organizer Coach?

Help with the WHY’s and HOW’s
A professional organizer helps the client with the “hows.” A professional coach helps the client with the “whys.” An Organizer Coach combines these two valuable skills to best move clients towards their visions and goals in a realistic, manageable, and dynamic way.

A Professional Organizer enhances the lives of clients by designing systems and processes using organizing principles and through transferring organizing skills. (source: National Association of Professional Organizers)

A Coach is a trained professional who partners with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. (source: International Coaching Federation)

A professional organizer’s work is extraordinarily valuable to many individuals in many different situations. Learning new ways to manage space and possessions can have a substantial impact on improving the quality of people’s work and lives. But sometimes the actual act of organizing isn’t enough. For some people it is important to delve into the “whys.” Utilizing coaching techniques, an Organizer Coach can help clients:

  • gain clarity around their long term vision for their work and life
  • understand the value of creating work processes and systems to complement their visions and goals
  • anchor their actions with their long term goals through action plans, accountability systems, and support

Typically when organizing a business client we begin by assessing what is working, what isn’t working, and where the stressors are. By evaluating these issues utilizing a coaching style, the root problems tend to surface. Only when we understand the true problem can we solve it in a way that is longlasting and sustainable.