3 Reasons My New Puppy is Terrible at Time Management

This past week, we were adopted by a puppy named Molly, (who many of you saw on Facebook.) As with tiny humans, tiny dogs consume a good deal of your time and energy. In the past seven days, I have discovered that the new addition to our family is terrible at time management. I tried to explain to her that since her mommy is a time management speaker, this behavior would have to change immediately, but so far I’ve only received tail-wags and face-licks in response. I take this to mean she is deeply considering my suggestions. Allow me to explain what I’ve observed…

3 Reasons Molly is Terrible at Time Management

1) She is Easily Distracted

Molly was not potty trained, so I have taken on that endeavor this week. She goes outside with one mission: pee on the grass. When we leave the house, she is goal-oriented and focused. She prances proudly to the side yard, with purpose and determination. Then the neighbor’s dog barks…and she sees a leaf on the ground…and a bird flies by. Pretty soon, all sense of her original goal is gone and I’m left to stand outside for 20 minutes in the hot Arizona sun.  When we allow ourselves to be distracted, moving haphazardly from one task to the next, our work takes longer. We must approach our tasks with laser-like focus, tuning out distractions until we are finished. Short bursts of focused work are more effective than long stretches of unfocused work.

2) She Doesn’t Plan Ahead

Molly refuses to eat when I put her bowl down at dinnertime, but then whines during the night when she’s hungry. I tried to calmly explain to her that 6pm is dinnertime and 10pm is sleeping time, but sadly, they don’t seem to make calendars for puppies. We are all guilty of putting off tasks we don’t want to do. We become very skilled at rationalizing our procrastination, but that only worsens the problem. Don’t let yourself continually put off tasks, and then whine when you’re stressed right before the deadline.

3) She Panics in New Situations

The first night I put Molly in her crate, you’d think I had put her in mortal danger. She flailed about, barking and crying for hours. Her circumstance was clearly not changing any time soon, but she continued to expend her energy complaining about it. This blatant waste of energy upsets me. When we’re faced with new situations, or a sudden change of circumstance, we must keep calm and adapt quickly.  To do anything else is a waste of our time. We are the most productive when we can keep a cool head in stressful situations.

Molly will get better at all of these things because she has humans training her, however, we will only get better at time management if we train ourselves to form good habits.

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The 26-Hour Workday

When we are faced with a mountain of work, we frequently long for more hours in the day. “If I only had more time!” we cry in despair. We assume that if we simply had more time available to us, it would be far easier to accomplish all of our necessary tasks. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

For the last few weeks of the school year, I was counting down the hours until summer. I had so many projects I wanted to start and was thrilled I would soon have 6-8 hours a day to devote to the cause. However, summer is now here, and while I have crossed many things off my to-do list, I can’t say as I’ve been the productivity machine I thought I’d be. I have more time available now, and yet I seem to be accomplishing roughly the same amount each day that I did during the last month of the school year. Why?

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” When presented with more time, it is easier to allow our current work to expand than to actually utilize our extra hours to get more done. Having more time in your schedule only actually helps if you’re able to focus and use that time effectively.

After analyzing my schedule, here are three things I’m going to do to better utilize my summer time:

1) Get up earlier

During the school year, I get up at 5:00am. In the summer, since I have a more flexible schedule, I’ve been getting up at 8:00am. Not only that, but I take twice as long to get ready in the morning since I’m not strictly watching the clock. This all adds up to losing about 4 hours of my precious, energetic morning time that I could spend doing something meaningful; like getting in the workout I swear I “never have time for.”

2) Shrink my to-do list

In anticipation of my summer schedule, I added many more items to my to-do list that I never found time for during the year. However, I didn’t stop to think if those extra items were necessary. I found myself trying to move in ten different directions at once, and then wondering why I was losing my focus. Instead of adding tasks to my to-do list, I should have been looking for ways to add more time to the items already on it!

3) Focus

One of the benefits of my hectic schedule during the school year is that I didn’t have much time for distractions. Now, with a little more time, I find myself out of practice with fending off Time Killers. I have to retrain myself to stop checking my email constantly and picking up the phone every time it rings, even if I’m in the middle of something.

More time doesn’t always mean more accomplishments. Make sure you have a clear focus and aren’t wasting your time with unessential or unimportant tasks before trying to add more hours to your workday.

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Photo Credit: Graur Codrin

5 Secrets Productive People Know

We all have the same number of hours in the day, and yet some people accomplish what seems like 48-hours worth of stuff while others struggle to make use of 4. Check out these five secrets that productive people know about time management.

1) One Hour of Focused Work is Better Than Three Hours of Un-Focused Work

Every time your focus is broken while you’re working, you have to spend time getting back into the “work groove” before you can be productive again. Think of it as taking one step forward and two steps back. Stop allowing your work to take longer. Eliminate Time Killers, such as email, Facebook, or texting and make time for them during breaks or when your work is finished. Don’t allow other people to make a habit of interrupting you either.

2) Training is a Time Investment That Pays Off

Learning a new method of doing something takes time. However, productive people know that initial time investment will pay off in the long run. This is particularly true for new technology. When we get a new program, there is a strong temptation to just figure it out on our own. Spend the few extra minutes to watch the tutorial. Not only will you instantly learn more time-saving capabilities the technology can offer, you will also save yourself months of trial and error.

3) Goals and Plans go Hand in Hand

Productive people start each day with a goal and a plan to reach it. They know that goals aren’t limited to long-term, big-picture dreams either. A goal is simply a realistic set of priorities you wish to accomplish during the day. Do not waste time moving haphazardly from one task to the next. Stay focused by keeping track of these goals on a written list and moving methodically through them.

4) Sometimes You Must Do Work When You Don’t Want To

There are some tasks we never really feel like doing, but productive people know better than to use that as an excuse to procrastinate. Instead, they consider the phrase “I don’t want to” as merely a truthful statement, not a reason to stop. Break up difficult or unwanted tasks into smaller pieces to make them more manageable. Ditch your excuses and just get started on your most dreaded tasks. The sooner you start them the sooner they are over.

5) Commitments to Yourself are Important Too

Unproductive people sometimes look at their productive counterparts as workaholics who never have any fun. This is often a misconception. Truly productive people are equally committed to themselves as they are to their work. They make time for the “desserts” they enjoy and maintain a balanced schedule.

Don’t waste your time wishing for more hours in the day before making the best use of the ones you already have.

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Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Unplugging Your Day

We use technology for everything. We use it to manage our communication, organize our finances, keep track of our schedules and even supplement our social lives. Email, word processing, social networking sites and Google have become mainstays in our daily lives. This week, I found that sometimes unplugging for an afternoon can do wonders for our time management.

My Unplugged Afternoon

I am teaching a few college classes in the near future and was struggling to come up with a course calendar. I sat staring at the blank Microsoft Word screen for 20 minutes as that blinking cursor seemed to mock me. Keeping Facebook, Gmail and other Time Killers at bay was becoming a strain.

Finally, I just couldn’t look at a computer screen anymore. I slammed my laptop shut, grabbed a notebook and pen, and went downstairs.

I suddenly felt more productive. Not only were some of my distractions instantly removed, but I somehow felt more free to brainstorm with a pen in my hand rather than a keyboard.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you trade an afternoon with your computer for a much cheaper “tablet.”

1) Faster Isn’t Always Better

Initially I was hesitant to do my work on paper because I can write so much faster on a computer. However, I realized that if I wasn’t writing anything I was wasting far more time than the extra few moments it takes me to form letters with a pen. The pen and paper method works great for planning, outlining and brainstorming. I could then use my computer to quickly type up my plan later.

2) A Change of Scenery is Key

Even if you have a laptop, you are still somewhat limited as to where you complete your work. You don’t want to be too far from a power outlet, nor do you want to be anywhere it could get easily damaged. Using a pen and paper eliminates those problems. Sometimes just being in a new place is enough to kick-start your productivity.

3) Technology is a Tool

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that we are still the ones doing the work. Technology is a tool we frequently leverage to help us, but we need not feel lost without it for a few hours. Sometimes getting off our desktops for a bit helps us better tap into our own personal computer that rests on our shoulders.

To be clear, I am a huge fan of technology and do not plan on throwing my laptop away any time soon. However, my “unplugged” afternoon was extremely productive. I plan to make another date with my pen and paper next week, and I encourage you to do the same!

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