How Many Hats Have You Worn Today?

If you feel as though you’re expected to be multiple different people during the day and fill many different roles, you’re not alone. Most of us wear many different hats in our lives and it is a real challenge to our time management. Learning to wear only one at a time can greatly increase our efficiency and decrease our stress in three ways.

1. Easier to Focus

When people become overwhelmed with work, they commonly report feeling pulled in many different directions at once. When you try to be too many things at once, you can’t focus on any of them. You can be an accountant, and a salesperson, and a trainer, and a webmaster, and a student, and an athlete BUT you can’t be all of those things at the same time.  When you put on one hat at the beginning of the day, try to finish as many of those responsibilities at once before removing that hat and putting on another one. This isn’t always feasible in a fast-paced work environment, but the more you can try to organize your time based on the roles you play, the less scattered and more focused you’ll feel.

2. Maximize “The Zone”

“In the Zone,” “In the Groove,” “In Flow”…No matter what you call it, being on a productivity streak feels really good. We’re so engaged and focused, we hardly notice that time is even passing at all. This state of focus is great for motivation and productivity, but it’s hard to achieve when we’re jumping back and forth between tasks haphazardly. Sticking with one role as long as you can before switching to another helps maximize your chances of getting into a productivity zone and fending off Time Killers.

 3. Remove the Blur

Wearing one hat at a time can be particularly helpful in removing the blur between your work life and your personal life. Separating those two worlds can be difficult, especially if you frequently work from home. However, this can quickly lead to a feeling of burnout when your work invades every corner of your life and you have no place to escape. When you take your work hat off and put your “family and friends” hat on, leave it that way.  Enjoy a meal without griping about your schedule. Enjoy a Saturday afternoon without worrying about the stack of work awaiting you on Monday. If you don’t own a “relaxation” hat, get one.

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Shifting Gears from Plan to Do

Careful planners are often good time managers. They look before they leap, they aim before they fire, and they research before they implement. However, good ideas can easily stall out in the planning phase if we don’t eventually change gears into implementation. Knowing when to stop planning and start implementing is a key component of efficient time management. Don’t let these three factors hold you back.

3 Things That Slow Down Implementation

1. Fear of the Unknown

When we are trying something new, our lack of knowledge on the subject can be paralyzing. We may know so little about a new process or project, that we might not even know what we don’t know. In other words, finding out what questions to ask might be even more difficult than finding the answers to those questions. In this case, it’s important to set a goal for your background research so you don’t lose hours of productivity in unrelated Google searches. Set a goal of finding 5 essential questions you need answered in order to begin your task. Then, once you find the answers to those questions, move to implementation. When we know nothing it’s tempting to try to learn everything before beginning something new. However, much of the new knowledge you’ll acquire comes from the implementation process itself.

2. Fear of Failure

Sometimes when we get stuck in the planning phase, it’s because we are afraid of failing. The planning stage is safe. We feel productive without actually implementing anything. The “doing” is much scarier. I could sit here and recite oft-quoted, cliché advice about “failing forward” or how “the toughest journeys begin with one step” or how many times Thomas Edison failed before inventing the light bulb…but you’ve heard that all before. For me, I try to just embrace the fear rather than avoid it. Convert the fear to adrenaline. I’ve never parachuted out of an airplane before, but I would imagine that if people are afraid of jumping when they get into the plane, they are probably still afraid when they are about to take that first, big looooong step out of it. Do you trust your training, instructors and parachute and jump anyway? Or let the fear hold you back. (Parachutes…overcoming fear…oh goodness. I’m starting to sound like a motivational speaker)

3. Lack of Confidence

The final thing that leaves us stuck in the planning stages is our own lack confidence in our ability to complete the task. This is where I’m supposed to tell you that you can do anything if you just believe in yourself. Here is the thing: if you’ve done all your research, planned as much as you can and embraced the fear of starting something new, you now have three options:

1. Implement

2. Delegate

3. Abandon

Nobody really likes to talk about number 3 because it sounds like giving up. However, if after researching a new project, you come to the conclusion that your skill set is better suited for a different kind of task…then find that new task! Not all ideas are good ones and not all people will be successful at all things. The more time you waste on a project you’re never going to finish, the less time you can devote to pursing a task that is much more suited to your goals, abilities, and desires.

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Fear of a Blank Page: Conquering Writer’s Block

Scorpions, heights, blank Microsoft Word screens. Those three things terrify me about equally as much.

We’ve all suffered from writer’s block at some point or another. Whether it is a paper for a class, a report for a boss, or an awkward email, we’ve all suffered the frustration of wasting time while struggling to find the right words. Writer’s block happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to stretch on indefinitely. The following strategies can help lessen the time spent staring at that blinking cursor.

1. Speak It

If you can’t find the perfect way to write something, say it out loud. Don’t think about it in advance, just start talking. Then, write down what you said, even if it was rambling and included a lot of “sortas” and “likes.” Once you see the basic structure of the point you’re trying to make, it’s easier to adjust your words to be more coherent.

2. Start in the Middle

Sometimes the first sentence is the most difficult to write. Don’t let crafting your introductory words hold up your whole composition. Just write them last. There is no rule that states you must write your words in the order they will appear. Come back to the beginning later. Often, the beginning is easier to write once you’ve finished your thoughts anyway.

3. Do Something Else

If your ideas just aren’t flowing, sometimes it’s best to step away from the project for a while and complete another task. Our best ideas often come to us while our minds are busy doing something else. Just don’t put off the task too long. You can spend a lifetime waiting for the “perfect” set of words to come to you.

Formulating complex ideas into clear, concise sentences isn’t always easy, but the more you practice, the less of a drain writer’s block will be on your time management.

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Fluff is for Bunnies, Not for Email

Efficient communication is an essential component of time management. However, sometimes we pad our communications with so much “fluff” that the main point is lost or hard to find.  This wastes both our time and the reader’s time. We have enough to do in our busy lives that we cannot afford to wade through extraneous information looking for the main point. With a few simple steps, we can streamline our communications and save everyone time.

Steps to Efficient Communication

1. Shorten your greeting.

When we’re typing emails or leaving voicemails, it can be tempting to start off with a flowery greeting. After all, we can’t see the person we are speaking to so we want to convey our tone with words instead of body language. However, these extra sentences just add bulk to your message. Stick to a brief, simple greeting and get on with your point!

2. Don’t Overwhelm Your Reader

When your email or memo appears cluttered and lengthy, people are far less likely to read it. They see its length and don’t want to take the time to read it all now, so they put it in the “later pile.” Before you send a business email, ask yourself: “What is the main point I want this message to convey?” If there are superfluous sentences that don’t support this main point, delete them. You wouldn’t want your reader to ignore an important email because it looked too long, especially if the main point is actually very short.

3. Organize Longer Messages

If your message truly is lengthy and necessary, then organize it into headings and bullet points so it’s easy to navigate. If you need your reader to take action from your email, make that explicit in both the greeting and the closing. Make directions simple, clear, and to the point.

4. Don’t Hit Send

Before you hit send on that email, ask yourself if you really need to send it. Email is such an easy form of communication that it can be quickly abused. Does the person you’re sending this message to really need this information? Or will it become one of countless other messages in his or her inbox that gets deleted?

Time Management Karma

Keeping your business communications short and to the point not only saves you the time of crafting an overly long and complex message, but it’s also a good way of practicing “Time Management Karma”: treating other people’s time the way you want yours to be treated. We all struggle to stay on top of our emails and phone calls. Sifting through the mountains of information we receive every day can be daunting. Don’t add to someone else’s mountain with unnecessary information.

Besides, if people know that you don’t send excess, un-needed information, they are far more likely to open your email in the first place.

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Upcoming Event!

Check out The Time Diet’s next free presentation for students at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ on Monday September 10th 2012 at 7:00pm. Time Management for Student Survival

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