The Multi-Tasking Myth

Popular Time Management BookAs 2012 winds to a close, I am proud to release my third book in The Time Diet series: Digestible Time Management.

Make this the year you actually enjoy your weekends because you’ve finished all your work by Friday afternoon. Learn why Time Killers are making your work take longer, your to-do list isn’t helping you, and a simple re-ordering of tasks could save you hours of time. Pick up your copy on Amazon today for $12.99 and check out this excerpt below:

“The Multi-Tasking Myth” from The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management

“One of the things that makes Time Killers so dangerously invasive is our obsession with multi-tasking. We are trained to think that not only is it OK to do multiple things at once, but it’s desirable. We think it’s fine to be on the phone while answering emails, or creating a meeting agenda while cleaning our desks, because in today’s fast-paced world, if we’re only doing one thing, we’re simply not doing enough!

Multi-tasking is not as glamorous as it appears. There is no substitute for focus. When we try to complete multiple tasks at once, something is going to suffer, be it quality or time of completion. Remember what your mother told you: Chew one bite and swallow before taking another.  The same is true with tasks in your Time Diet.

It is an art to manage multiple projects at once, but you do so most effectively by focusing on one at a time. Switching haphazardly from task to task, never concentrating long enough to accomplish any of them, is one of the worst Time Killers of all.”

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Schedule Your “When”

Time Management Start NowOften when we say we “haven’t gotten around to” something, what we really mean is that we haven’t committed to a deadline and tried. When a boss or supervisor is checking up on us, we’re forced to finish our tasks, but when we are only accountable to ourselves, we can sometimes allow too much leeway. This is why creating a deadline and making a commitment are half the battle. Make this the week that you schedule your “when.”

“When” before “How”

When our schedules are already bursting, we don’t like to add more things to them. It doesn’t seem like we’re able to fit anything else into our day, so we wait. We put off tasks that are important to us at the expense of tasks that we owe to other people. It’s difficult to figure out how you’ll find time to do something if you don’t first set a goal of when. Once the when is established, the how comes much more easily.

My Deadline

As part of my doctoral degree, I have to take three written exams. There is no set date these are offered. Students are supposed to schedule them whenever they feel “ready.” I have been waiting for the day when I wake up and feel “ready” to regurgitate all of the knowledge I’ve acquired in the past three years, and that day has yet to come. My days are full as they are and I don’t have large blocks of time at my disposal to study for these exams. This week, I realized the only way I’ll ever finish these tests is if I just schedule them.

The last week of January, I will be taking my first doctoral written exam. My “when” has been established. Over the next month and a half, I’m going to figure out the “how.”

Schedule Your When

Have you been putting off something that’s important to you or that you know needs to be done? What are you waiting for? Take out your calendar, pick a day, and make a commitment. Putting it in your calendar makes it real and forces you to start constructing a plan. Until you add it to your schedule, your task is just an idea. Turn your idea into an obligation.

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Photo Credit: Free Digital

No, You Won’t Just Remember

The Time Diet Writing“I don’t have to write it down, I’ll just remember it.”  We’ve all heard someone repeat this famous line as an excuse for not keeping a calendar or written list of tasks. Sometimes, we need a reminder that no matter how good our memory is, we can always use a little help remembering it all. I definitely got that reminder this week. Check out my story, and the three excuses we tell ourselves to avoid putting pen to paper.

My Mistake

On Saturday, my husband and I hosted our annual holiday party. We had everything in place – appetizers, dinner, dessert – except one thing: a list to keep track of it all. We host a party every year and I never write down a menu, so I didn’t think it was important.

After the last guest went home, and I went up stairs feeling satisfied with our gathering, it hit me. I went to the fridge to be sure, and my suspicion was confirmed. We forgot to put out one of the side dishes. The vegetable salad with the tri-colored peppers my husband had meticulously chopped into tiny pieces sat untouched in its Tupperware.

The anger I felt was perhaps unjustified given the situation, but this was not about the salad. In my Time Diet workshops, I reinforce the importance of writing things down, and here I had not taken my own advice. A simple written menu would have ensured we remembered to put out all the food in the hustle-bustle of hosting a party. I’m reminded of the three reasons to write things down:

1) You always forget just when you “know” you’ll remember

I keep a detailed calendar and pride myself on staying on top of my deadlines. This party was not something I was worried about. It’s six different food items, how hard could it possibly be? I “knew” I’d remember everything, but that is exactly when things started to slip my mind. In the heat of the moment, even the simplest things become easy to forget. It’s important to take a few seconds to write down your tasks so you’re sure you meet your deadlines.

2) Just because it’s worked in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll work forever

Each time you don’t write down a deadline, but manage to remember it anyway, you train yourself that it’s OK. You build a false confidence that you don’t need to write anything down because your memory is excellent. Inevitably, you reach a point where you don’t remember it anymore, and now you haven’t trained yourself to be organized. I had myself convinced that I could throw a party for 50 of our friends without writing anything down. That was silly.

3) Writing things down doesn’t take a ton of time

We have all seen those people who make immaculate to-do lists that look like works of art. We’re convinced that it took longer to make the list than accomplish anything on it and we tell ourselves that list-making is a waste of time and it’s better to just start doing than to waste time organizing. If you set out to waste time making a list, you certainly can, but it doesn’t need to be like that. Organization only takes a few seconds. It doesn’t need to be fancy or elaborate. It just has to be consistent.

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Time Management for a Merrier Holiday Season

Time Management HolidayIt’s December, and all of the dashing through parking lots, decking the halls, and increased number of deadlines can create a time management crisis that makes us feel less than jolly. Just follow these tips to rein in your holiday schedule so you have time to enjoy the season with your friends and family.

1. Ask for Help

At the beginning of December, we optimistically think that we can handle everything ourselves. Despite the longer work hours and lengthier to-do lists, we think we’ll be able to do it all without any help. Then, sometime around the 17th or 18th of December, we start to crack.

Don’t let it get to that point. Ask for help in advance. Don’t put off big projects until the day before your vacation hoping they will just…happen. Be realistic at work and delegate when you need to. Instead of throwing a huge party for your family and friends, ask everyone to bring a dish and embrace the decreased workload that comes with a potluck.

2. Make One Trip

During the holiday season, all retailers and grocery stores try to tempt you into their shops. It’s easy to think you need to make it to all of them, but this makes your shopping take three times as long. It’s not worth saving ten cents a pound on the Christmas turkey if you have to drive 40 minutes out of your way to go get it. Your sister will appreciate the sweater from the store down the street just as much as the one from the mall in the next town over.

3. Plan Some Quiet Time

In the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to get swept up in it all and forget to step back and enjoy it. Free time will definitely not just happen at this time of year. You have to make it. Set aside a few evenings to stay in and relax. There will always be shopping to do, or parties to attend, or community events to check out. You probably already have enough mandatory extra activities, such as overtime at work or an increase in deadlines at the end of the year. Make up for it by skipping out on one of the optional activities and staying home instead.

It’s tempting to fill up our calendars with loads of holiday cheer, but the best way to enjoy the holidays is to simply step back and breathe.

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