Just Keep Swimming

This week, I was reminded of one of my favorite motivational time management quotes. It was spoken by none other than Dory, the blue fish in Disney’s well-known time management film, “Finding Nemo.

What? You didn’t know “Finding Nemo” was a film about time management? OK, well, maybe not entirely, but whether or not Disney intended it this way, there are many embedded lessons about dedication and time/stress management.

Time Management in the Ocean

The main character, Marlin, loses his son and sets off on a mission to find him. He is extremely dedicated to his quest, but is becoming overwhelmed by his stress and desperation. That’s when is travel companion, a blue fish named Dory, utters her famous line:

“Just Keep Swimming.”

Basically, stop using your precious time and energy to worry about everything and just calmly keep moving forward. Variations of this advice are everywhere, from the famous quote: “The longest journey begins with a single step,” to my own story about the two cows grazing in a field. Dory’s idea is far from new, but her words are unique in their simplicity. Just….keep…swimming.

We’ve All Been Marlin

Haven’t we all been there before? Wanting to bury our head in our hands after becoming lost in a seemingly endless ocean of stressful work? Stress is a natural part of life and we are all going to feel it from time to time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do everything in our power to get rid of it as soon as possible so it doesn’t slow us down.

Here are three simple ways you can keep from becoming overwhelmed with your work:

1) Think of it in smaller chunks

As you sit down to begin a large “Meat” task in your Time Diet, don’t think of it as one big project. Think of it only in terms of what you plan to accomplish that day.

2) Take a break before you need it

We all know how important Desserts are in your day. Don’t wait until you hit a wall with your work to give yourself a break. By then, it’s too late and you’re already stressed.

3) Write down your timeline

Plotting out which parts of a task you plan to complete when can be very reassuring. Then, when you catch yourself muttering, “How in the world will I ever get this all done?” you need only look at your calendar to answer your question.

This week, do not let stress overwhelm you and slow you down. Keep moving forward. Your friends, your family, and maybe even this blog can serve as a life preserver when you feel like you’re drowning, but YOU have the power to “just keep swimming.”

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Photo Credit: Copyright Benson Kua. 

The Productivity Solution Everyone Needs to Try

What is the best way to improve your productivity? We know that it’s important to remove distractions and Time Killers, plan your work in a calendar, stop procrastinating, etc… But what if you are doing all of that already? What next? Solution: Try changing the way you work. I looked for ways to change my work this summer and ended up finding a free program called Zotero that saved me hours of time.

People get stuck in a productivity rut when they get in a habit of doing their work a certain way and never stop to think if there is a better or more efficient way. If you are not constantly re-evaluating how your work processes could be better, you could be wasting loads of time.

Here are three ways to make sure you don’t get stuck in a bad productivity habit:

1) Be Aware of Changing Circumstances:Just because a process worked last year doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way to do things this year! Circumstances change.

2) Don’t Work in a Vacuum: You don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. Talk to people in your industry. What resources do they use to get work done efficiently?

3) Be Open to New Methods: Sometimes, a better work solution is staring us right in the face but we don’t want to use it because, “That’s not the way we do things.” Be open to new ways of doing things, whether it is a new technology, new process or new idea.

How Changing My Process Saved me Hours

I was guilty of a bad productivity habit for the past year until I used the summer as a chance to re-evaluate the way I do academic work. In my master’s program, I frequently wrote papers and had my process pretty much down to a science. Now, in my PhD program, I also write papers frequently but they are much more research-based than before.

My circumstances had changed, but my process remained the same.

I was having a difficult time managing all of my research sources and citing them correctly in my paper. I asked one of my friends in my doctoral program how she handles it all. (Remember, don’t work in a vacuum!) She said, “Oh my goodness, I don’t do that all by hand! There are programs that manage all your sources for you.”

My first reaction was, “I like to do things by hand. That’s how I do things.” Besides, those programs were probably expensive and difficult to use. Then I realized that wasn’t being open to new methods.

I did a little digging on Google and found a great program called Zotero that is not only free, but easy to use. I no longer have to type all of my sources into my bibliography or try to sort them all by topic on note cards. The program does all of that for me. I have now saved myself hours of formatting work.

This week: I urge you to re-evaluate how you work. Once you open your mind to new ideas and methods, you may find yourself wondering how you ever worked “the old way.”

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Technorati Tags: Time Management, Productivity,

(Photo Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=721 by Renjith Krishnan)

What is Parkinson’s Law?

This summer, Parkinson’s Law has had an interesting effect on my time management.

Parkinson’s Law:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Basically, the more time you have available to do something, the longer it’s going to take. Oh so true!

I went into this summer expecting to be very productive, and I was! However, if I take a serious look into how much concrete work I accomplished, it isn’t too much more than what I would have accomplished during the school year. This of course, is because of Parkinson’s Law. I have more time to work in the summer, so the work takes longer.

However, there is something to be said for how much more enjoyable and less stressful my work has been this summer. During the school year, I’m up at 5 to get to school. I try to cram in some work over my lunch break, then squeeze in a few more hours between when school gets out and ASU evening class begins. It’s rather exhausting, but it works.

In the summer, I don’t have to get up that early. I can work much more leisurely. I can take frequent breaks and I also have the flexibility to take a mid-week day off if I need to. Sure, I may not be completing triple the workload that it may seem like I’d be able to, but I’m enjoying my work much more. As long as I’m not flat out wasting time, I’m willing to sacrifice a few productivity hours to make my summer a little more relaxing.

What Counts as Wasting Time?

The key difference between working leisurely and wasting time is your use of Time Killers (or as Lifehack calls them: Cockroaches of Time Management. Ha!) As long as you aren’t getting lost in those little things that waste your time without your permission, there is nothing wrong with choosing to let yourself work a little slower once in a while if your schedule allows it.

Focused work is always better than unfocused work, but staying “focused” doesn’t mean having your nose to the grindstone 24/7. Finding that balance is the ultimate time management secret to success.

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How To Manage Your Time Like a Genius

You could be the next genius in your field if you learn to manage your time like one!
I’m of the opinion that being a “genius” or “talented” are traits only partially gained at birth and that excellent time management skills play a big part in most very successful people. Let’s look at their secret.

Time Management From Amadeus to Zuckerberg

On my trip to Salzburg, Austria I had the opportunity to tour the birth place of one of classical music’s greatest talents- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On display are many letters that Mozart wrote back and forth to his sister, including one in which he described in detail what his typical work day entailed. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote:

“My hair is always done by 6 in the morning and by 7 I am fully dressed. I then compose until 9. Then I give lessons from 9-1…I can never work before 5 or 6. I am often prevented by a concert. If not, I compose until 9…..When I come home early I will often lose myself in writing until 1 o’clock and then wake up again.”

I was amazed at his work ethic. Having been told my whole life that Mozart was a musical genius, it’s easy to think that this brilliant music just poured out of his head with ease. I’m not suggesting that if I too spent the majority of every day composing that I could also produce music of Mozart’s quality. There is definitely something to be said for sheer talent. However, Mozart devoted hours upon hours to writing his music. He ate, breathed and slept music. It was his life. This wasn’t just dedication, it was obsession.

Fast forward about 250 years and you’ll find the same obsession in today’s great minds. The movie The Social Network depicts the tireless energy Mark Zuckerberg put into creating Facebook. We can sit around and debate the movie’s gross inaccuracies of the “real” story, but one thing seems to be clear- this man ate, breathed and slept Facebook. He too was obsessed and used this obsession to push his idea into existence.

Both of these men were obsessed with their craft and their time management plan seemed to be “work whenever possible.” My question is, is this the kind of dedication it takes to do great things? Is the quest for a healthy, balanced life unrealistic?

I don’t think so. In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell popularized the idea of the 10,000 Hour Rule; that you need to do something for 10,000 hours to be truly great. I don’t believe that those 10,000 hours need to necessarily be all in a row. The key is persistence. You’ll never reach those 10,000 hours if you consistently get off track, let Time Killers steal your focus and give in to procrastination. However, you’ll also never reach those 10,000 hours if you try to do them all at once and burn out too quickly. Seth Godin describes this as getting past The Dip.

The lesson to take from these great minds is not their obsessive use of their time, but their obsessive belief in their work. Their time management secret is actually a motivation management secret. Work with fierce determination toward your goal and you’re on track to greatness.

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