And The Oscar Goes To…Time Management?

Time Management OscarOh, The Oscars. That yearly tradition when many of us sit down to see our favorite movie stars, then collectively look at our watches around 9:30pm, realize we’re 3 hours into the show, the “good” awards haven’t even started, and we all have to work in the morning. We may groan at the lengthy Oscar telecast, but don’t we all have tasks in our lives that seem to go on far too long? Follow these three tips to keep your lengthy tasks in check.

Give Yourself Deadlines

Many people contribute to the success of a film, and the directors of the Academy Awards know, if given the time, actors will thank each and every one of them. Just like award winners have time limits on their acceptance speeches, you must give yourself deadlines for your tasks.  According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time we give it. If you give yourself a week to finish something, it will take a week. If you give yourself a day, it will take a day. There will always be “one more thing” that can be done, just like there will always be one more person to thank, but at some point, it just needs to be finished.

Leave A Buffer

If you plan for everything in your day to go perfectly, well, you’re likely to be disappointed! Sometimes things take longer than they should. Mistakes happen, we hit a wall, we have a technology mishap, etc…Setting your own deadline a few days before the real one creates a valuable “buffer zone” to plan for these things. After all, when Ben Affleck gets snubbed for best director, and then ends up on stage anyway, you just let him talk. As long as he wants to. Make up the time somewhere else.

Focus

One of the easiest ways to instantly make your work take longer is to lose your focus. Constantly checking your email, sneaking a peak at Facebook, looking at all the other tasks still waiting on your to-do list –– all these things distract us from our primary objective: finish the task at hand as efficiently as possible. We lose all hope that the Oscars will be anywhere close to three hours when they start showing seemingly un-related musical numbers and the presenters start deviating from the script. Focus, people, focus!

By forcing yourself to focus and get your work done efficiently, you’ll find that some of your most dreaded tasks really don’t take as long as you once  thought. You’ll spend that extra time thanking yourself for having the discipline to stick to your schedule…and of course, thanking The Academy.

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

5 Ways to Tune Out Your Social Network While You’re Working

Time Management Social NetworkIn today’s distraction-heavy world, staying focused while we work is tough. Social networking sites in particular are very good at stealing our attention and interrupting our time management.  They have all the makings of a perfect Time Killer: easy to access and difficult to look away. Those of us who enjoy being on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… have a tough decision to make. How in the world do we continue to use these sites but remove them from our mind while we’re working? Start with these 5 strategies.

1. Log out

Many of us choose to keep ourselves logged in to our social network. This makes it all too easy to check Facebook “just for a minute” while we’re trying to work. Instead, log out of these sites and make sure your computer does not auto-save your password. This way, you will be less tempted to snoop on your news feed when you should be focusing! The extra step of having to enter your username and password can be just the deterrent you need.

2. Work Offline

If your work doesn’t require the use of the internet, shut it off. Remove the temptation all together. I turned off the WiFi on my laptop before starting this blog post, and it has done wonders for my focus. Not only that, but my battery isn’t draining nearly as quickly as it usually does!

Time Management Smartphone3. Put Your Cellphone Away

Smartphones are great in that you always have a mini-computer in your pocket, but they also make your social network a distraction everywhere you go. To avoid mindlessly  scrolling through Twitter during every spare moment, put your cell phone out of reach when you need to focus on something. If you can’t deal with the separation anxiety that causes, try removing the  short-cut button from your home screen.

4. Pick and Choose

The first social network I took part in was MySpace. Then I got a Facebook, then a Twitter, then a YouTube Channel, and now I’m venturing into Pinterest-land. These have been great tools to grow my business, but personally I try to only pick a few to use regularly. It takes time to remain deeply involved in every social network available. Choose your favorites to stay involved with, and relegate the rest to “once a week” status.

5. Dedicate Time

At the proper time and place, social networking can be a fun Dessert in our Time Diets. Rather than glancing at YouTube only when you’re trying to do something else, give it some dedicated time in your schedule. Maybe it’s the way you unwind for a little bit at lunch, or what gives you a quick laugh after a stressful day. If we don’t allow ourselves time for these indulgences, they’ll just creep into our schedule when we need them least!

Number of times I checked my smartphone while writing this post: 0
Number of times I wanted to: 5,782,506.

How do YOU keep your social network from distracting you? Got a comment? Please leave one!

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Three Ways to Ensure You’ll Waste Time on Unimportant Tasks

Time Management TrashcanDo you often feel as though you just don’t have time for everything? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the fact is, you don’t. None of us do. Nobody has time to do everything, we only have time to do what’s important. The difficulty lies in figuring out what is important enough to deserve our time, and what’s not.

Everyone will have different criteria to decide what stays on their list and what goes, but there are certainly some ways that will be more effective than others. Here are three strategies to avoid that will ensure your list is cluttered with unimportant tasks:

1. Spend Time on Things You Think Should Be Important, But Aren’t

I’ve never been the neatest person in the world. Keeping a tidy office and a spotless home are not things that come naturally to my husband and me.  We’ve tried cleaning schedules, chore lists, and phone reminders, but inevitably, we’ll be in the middle of some brainstorm when it’s time to vacuum under the furniture, and it just doesn’t get done. After much fretting about this, it occurred to me: if this were truly important to us, we’d make the time for it. Just because having an immaculate house is important to some people, doesn’t mean it has to be important to us.

I feel no shame in telling you that if you were to come over to our home today and run your hand along the baseboards, they would be dusty. The glass sliding door has a few nose prints on it from where the dogs peer outside. We’ll probably take care of those nitty-gritty things the next time we throw a party, but in the mean time, I am 100% fine with spending my limited time on other things.

2. Spend Time On Tasks That Don’t Produce Results

Habits are great. They help us complete tasks without thinking about them and free up valuable brain power for other things. However, when you’ve allowed an inefficient task to become a habit, then you have a problem. When people contact me about speaking engagements, my natural reaction is to write them back with a lengthy customized message including all of the information they could ever possibly want. I thought this was working OK, until I came across a wonderful book from the National Speakers Association called Speak More!. One of the chapters suggests responding to inquires with short messages that set up a time to speak on the phone.  This both saves time and increases the chance of a response. Guess which method I use now!

Reflect on your habits to make sure they are using your time efficiently and producing the results you want. A great way to do this is to talk to others and be an avid reader. Have an open mind to consider new ways of doing things. Our default action is to do what is comfortable and familiar but that isn’t always the most efficient approach.

3. Give Yourself the Leftover Time

There is no leftover time. Period. If you’re waiting to first finish all of your important tasks before giving yourself a Dessert from your Time Diet, you’ll be waiting forever. There is always one more thing that can be done. Instead, schedule your Desserts frequently into your day, even if they are short and bite-sized. How you spend your time is a reflection on what you feel is important. What does that say about the value you put on yourself if “you” tasks like hobbies, exercise, a walk with your family, or time with your friends never makes it off the bottom of your priority list?

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Handle the Unexpected Like a Super Bowl Champion

Time Management SuperbowlNo doubt, many of you spent part of your weekend watching the Super Bowl, and were reminded that sometimes, even in the biggest sporting event of the year, things don’t go according to plan. In case you weren’t watching, the power went out at the Superdome in the third quarter, leaving most of the stadium dark and halting the game. We all have unexpected events pop up in our lives that throw us off our carefully crafted plan. Follow these three tips to handle a crisis like a pro.

1. Don’t Panic

While it may seem obvious, staying calm allows you to think of a solution more quickly without losing valuable time to stressing out. When the lights went out, did you see some of the players pacing back and forth on the sideline? Their faces were visibly stressed. Most of us have the good fortune of not watching our unexpected events play out on national television in front of millions of people, but when something goes wrong, it can sure feel like the whole world is watching. Don’t let the pressure of the situation overcome your rational thinking.

2. Keep the Goal in Mind

Even though your plan might have to change, your goal remains the same. Don’t let a hiccup in your plan cause you to become distracted from what is really important. After the lights finally came back on in the Superdome, the Ravens lost hold of their size-able lead as the 49ers made a swift comeback. One could make the argument that perhaps the Ravens’ momentum was shaken by the sudden black out (or, perhaps the 49ers decided to actually start playing football, but I digress…)

3. Ask For Help

In times of sudden crisis, we sometimes feel the need to solve all problems ourselves. Don’t forget to rely on your support network to search for a solution. I’m betting that the manager of the Superdome didn’t know what specific problem caused the lights to go out, but he had a team of people working to figure it out. Know who your experts are and seek their help. You don’t need to face every crisis alone.

Ultimately, not every crisis will resolve well, but knowing how to stay calm and keep your mind on what’s important will increase your chances of succeeding…even if nobody gives you a big trophy and confetti ceremony afterwards.

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net