Making Time

The gym and I have not been as good a friends this year as we have been in the past. By the time I’m done with work and school for the day I’m so tired that I’ve been letting my workouts fall by the wayside. Because of my recent fitness slacking, I was particularly proud of myself the other day when I took my gym bag to work with me and vowed to put in at least 30 minutes of cardio before coming home. I was so proud of myself that I even called my health-nut sister to tell her I was going to exercise!

Let me tell you about my amazing sister. She is smart, gorgeous, eats better than Jillian Michaels and works out 5-6 times a week. I told her that I wish I could get to the gym more often but I just never have the energy. Then she said something that has inspired my time management all week. She said, “Well, I mean, I never have the energy to work out either, but I just do it.”

Just Do It. Wow, someone should use that as a company slogan.

I have been thinking about my sister’s comment all week. Don’t we all have things we want to do but never seem to have the time or energy for? What if we stopped making excuses and made time for the things that are important to us? I can count on one hand the number of times I have bounded out of bed at 5am with the energy to go to work, but I go anyways, putting on a smile and faking energy until I have my morning cup of coffee and the adrenaline of the day kicks in.

A Challenge

This week, I challenge you to make time for something meaningful that you never think you have the time or energy for. Since talking to my sister, I have found the energy to go to the gym two more times and I feel so empowered. Remember- you control your schedule, no one else and you decide if something is worth your time. Stop making excuses and start making time for things that are important to you.

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Knowing When to Stop

Not everything goes according to plan. Few people would disagree with that statement, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to deal with! Planning out your day in advance is an essential part to having great time management skills, but we have to be prepared to quickly adjust the plan when unexpected speed bumps arise in our day.

On Thursday, my husband had a dinner to attend for work. I had a lot of work to finish up so I was really looking forward to having the house to myself and enjoying a productive evening. I had a whole “itinerary” of tasks planned out.

First on my list was editing a track for the school talent show next week (oh the things on an elementary music teacher’s to-do list!) I sat down with my laptop, but quickly became frustrated when I couldn’t get the microphone to work. I should have just stopped and moved on to the next thing on my list but did I? No. Instead, I spent the next hour fighting with technology, Googling tutorials, and restarting my computer. When I finally decided to give up for the evening, I was so frustrated that I ended up watching reruns of the “The Office” to help fight the urge to throw my laptop out the window. So much for my productive evening!

Avoiding Frustration

We work most efficiently when we are motivated, not frustrated. This is why when we hit a major point of frustration with a task it’s sometimes best to walk away, give it a rest, and start something else. However, there is a difference between something being frustrating and something being difficult. If we stop each task when we get to a difficult part, pretty soon we’ll only have the hardest parts of all our work left on our choose-to list. Frustration is different from difficulty. When you’re frustrated, it’s not necessarily because something is hard to do, it’s because something just isn’t clicking. I had used my microphone setup a hundred times, but for some reason it wasn’t working this week. Maybe your technology isn’t working either, or you have a headache or you’re getting irritated with your co-workers. In this case, it’s best to just walk away and come back to it later before your frustration consumes all of your desire to be productive.

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Organizing Your Life

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve perfectly planned out your afternoon to finish several pressing tasks. As you sit down to work, you’re feeling extremely proud of your time management skills. Nothing is going to stop you today! Then, you actually try to begin your work and you can’t find that one form, spreadsheet or piece of paper you need to get started. Pretty soon you’re spending your afternoon tearing your desk and filing cabinet apart instead of working.

Time management and organization go hand in hand. If you want to get your work done as efficiently as possible, you have to be able to find it quickly. That’s not to say that in order to be organized you must maintain a perfectly manicured filing system. Everyone’s system will look different and the most important thing is that it works for you.

This year, I started teaching at 3 different schools during the week and I quickly discovered that my old system of organization was no longer going to work. It was difficult to predict which piece of paper I’d need at which school. I’d find myself wasting an afternoon at one school because I’d left my work at the previous school. I decided the only way to combat this problem was to have a mobile filing cabinet. I bought a rolling cart and put three large files in it- one for each school.  Whenever I received an important piece of paper, I’d put it in the rolling cart. I periodically clean out the files and put them in my desk at their corresponding school. My poor rolling cart ended up being a little cluttered, but this system works for me and I rarely have trouble finding what I need.

When creating your own system of organization, remember:

1) Not every scrap of paper is important

Often, the papers that cause clutter are not the important ones, they are the ones you’ve already used and don’t need anymore. Frequently go through your papers and throw out things you don’t need.

2) Alphabetical filing cabinets aren’t everything

If you can’t force yourself to maintain a filing cabinet, then don’t use one as your primary system of organization. Instead, use bins, trays, notebooks, or whatever else works for you. Filing cabinets that aren’t used properly can become the worst black holes for lost things. If that isn’t your style, use something else.

3) Keep things close that you use frequently

If you use something everyday, there is no sense in keeping it in a notebook on the other side of the room. I keep my most-used contact sheets pinned to my wall by my phone.   Save yourself time by keeping the things you use most frequently in a place that is easily accessible.

4) Get organized in your down time

Your system of organization is most important during your busy times, but it needs to be in place before then. It’s too late to build a life boat when the ship is already sinking. Use a less-stressful time to re-vamp your organization so you’ll be prepared when your hectic time hits.

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When Perfection is a Waste of Time

Even those of us who don’t label ourselves a “perfectionist” have our moments of obsession with getting something just right. We generally think that being a perfectionist is an admirable quality. However, in The Time Diet, it can also lead to massive amounts of unnecessary wasted time. There are times when perfection matters and there are also times when “good enough” truly is good enough. Knowing the difference is important in time management.

This week I have a research paper due for one of my grad school classes. Completing an entire original research study in one semester is generally considered to be an impossibility so my professor has asked for a rough draft to grade us on. She has stressed that this paper does not have to be close to final form yet, she just wants to see our progress. The perfectionist in me has had a difficult time with those instructions. I have declared myself  “done” with this draft no less than 8 times over the past week. I have saved the document, opened up an email to send it to my professor, and then decided I want to add one more quote or change one more word.

No Such Thing As Perfection

The problem is that this kind of perfectionism is a giant waste of time. In this case, my work does not have to be perfect and the relentless pursuit to make it so is not worth it. My time is far better spent finishing up other work. While I made countless edits to my draft, my other equally important work sat on my desk untouched.

No work will ever be perfect. There will always be something you can change, something you can add, or something you can fix. At some point, you have to just say enough is enough and move on. As I’m posting this blog, my draft is sitting in my professor’s inbox waiting to be read. It is not perfect. Even when I fix it up and submit it to a journal, it will still not be perfect. However, it is “good enough”, and right now that’s good enough for me.

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The Consequence of Nothing

When we fail to make time for our own projects, a terrible thing happens: Nothing.
It’s one thing to find time to work on projects or assignments that are essential. If you don’t finish a project for work, your boss will be upset. If you don’t turn in an assignment for school, your professor will lower your grade. If you don’t get your leaky roof fixed, you’ll have an unwanted shower in your living room the next time it rains. However, if you fail to make time for your own projects, an even worse consequence occurs: Nothing.

When we already have a full plate of obligations to other people, it’s difficult to find time for completing our own projects that are important to us. There is no consequence for never planting that herb garden you’ve always wanted in your backyard or never getting around to training for that marathon you’ve thought about. The only thing that happens is….well…nothing. And that’s the problem. You’ll experience “nothing” instead of the fulfillment and happiness of working on something just for you. You have to learn to be accountable to yourself .

What Writing a Book About Time Management Has Taught Me About Time Management

As many of you know, my project has been writing my first Time Diet book about time management. It has been more difficult than I ever imagined. I’ve re-written it twice and really thought I’d be done by now. However, it’s extremely difficult to find time to write when I have so many obligations for work and school. I have learned three ways to manage my writing time so I don’t let my book fall by the way side.

1) Make Appointments for Yourself
I schedule my writing time in my calendar just like I schedule all other work time. Before something makes it into my calendar, it’s just an idea. When it’s written down on a specific day and a specific time, it’s a commitment.

2) Remove Other Distractions
When I’m writing at home, it’s all too easy to become distracted with other work I have to do. This is why I do most of my writing at Starbucks. I almost feel obligated to share some of my (hopefully) future profits with them, but I think they’ve made enough money off of me in Grande Java-Chip Frappuccinos.

3) Hold Yourself Accountable
I don’t allow myself to break commitments I’ve made to my writing. I set mini goals for myself such as “Have Chapter 1 edited this week” or “ Re-write Chapter 2 by Saturday.” I write these goals in my calendar and tell my husband about them. My big goal is to have this book finished this summer. There, now I’ve told you my goal too. Feel free to nag me about it. I can use all the help I can get.

I don’t know what will come from finishing this book, but I do know that the worst thing that could possibly happen is “Nothing.”

If you’re also writing a book, or curious about the process, I’ve been reading “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. It’s a fabulous resource. You can buy it on Amazon Here.

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