How One Famous Artist Tackles Unwanted Work

Time Management violinItzhak Perlman, a world class violinist, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week recognizing his lifetime achievement in the arts. I listed to an interview he gave to NPR discussing what got him to this point in life. He was asked about his rigorous practice schedule as a young boy and teen and his answer to these questions made me want to find this man and give him a high five (If that’s appropriate for a 70 year old world famous musician.)

Practice Makes Perfect

When speaking of his practice schedule growing up, he joked to the interviewer that he hated it. “Any child that tells you they love practicing is lying to you,” he continued. He explained that even though he hated it, he came from a small town and like all small town aspiring musicians, he knew the way to “make it” was to perform on the international stage, and that’s the type of hard work required to get there.

I love this.

Work is Work

We look at successful people and assume that they somehow enjoy work, like they have some gene in their DNA that makes them enjoy the arduous, difficult, repetitive tasks it takes to perfect an art. That must be what makes them great. It’s refreshing to hear that they are just like the rest of us.

While they may enjoy their craft, or their profession, or the cause they are furthering, all greatness requires hard, difficult, work at its core, and it’s not necessarily “fun.”

Embracing the Negativity

The next time you’re faced with a difficult task you know needs to be done, and you catch yourself thinking, “Ug, I really don’t want to do this.” Answer yourself with, “…and?” You really don’t want to do it. So does that mean it’s not important? Does that mean you’ll feel more like doing it later? Instead of looking for an excuse, think of Mr. Perlman, embrace your disgruntled feelings, and do the task anyway.

So much of success is made up of consistently doing tasks that might scare us or intimidate us because we know they’ll lead to a desired result.

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The Time We Lose To Waiting

time management waitingLet’s say you have a phone call scheduled for 1:00. 1:05, they still haven’t called. 1:10, 1:15, still haven’t called. 1:18, they finally call and you begin your meeting. What did you do for the last 18 minutes? If you’re anything like me, I bet I know the answer. Nothing. Here is what to do about it.

Why It’s Frustrating

Waiting is frustrating because we’ve already mentally prepared for our new task, the other person just hasn’t shown up yet. We are hesitant to start a new task because that will require changing our mental state again and we’re afraid that we’ll have just gotten started when the person finally shows up.

What To Do

We can make this easier on ourselves by having a list of tasks ready to go that can fill this time. The Vegetable tasks in your Time Diet are good candidates for this role. Remember, Vegetable tasks are still important, they just don’t require the same kind of mental dexterity as your Meats. These are often short, easier tasks that you can knock out quickly. Do those while you’re waiting.

Or, when you’re making your to-do list and you have a big difficult Meat task, break it into smaller chunks so that when you’re glancing at your list for something you can tackle in a few minutes, those smaller pieces look more do-able.

Time Management Karma

Finally, remember the golden rule of time management: treat other people’s time the way you want your time to be treated. It is frustrating when people make you wait. Remember this frustration the next time you’re tempted to leave late for a meeting or appointment. It will also help you remember that sometimes even when we plan to the best of our ability, life still happens and makes us late occasionally. There are times we can also be understanding.

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What Blogging Has Taught Me About Time Management

time management bloggingI’ve written a time management blog nearly every week for the past 4 years. I didn’t realize that the very act of writing the blog was doing amazing things for my non-blogging productivity. Here’s what I discovered.

The results

I write much faster. Everything from emails, to summaries, to project descriptions to formal proposals. I’m able to get my ideas down on paper much faster than I could in my pre-blogging days. Not only am I faster, but I’m more concise. I get to the point more quickly and it’s boosted the response rate of my written communication.

Before blogging

Before blogging, I had the tendency to be verbose and include long run on sentences of excess information, but there is no time for that in blogging. In a blog, you need to get your information out in a few hundred words so you need to make each one count.

Blogging has also helped my writer’s block. I used to stare at a blank screen for a while waiting for inspiration. However, when writing a weekly blog, I don’t have time to wait for inspiration. Sometimes I have to just start writing and see what comes out. This process usually kick starts some ideas and I can pull something good out of the random pile of sentences.

My recommendation

I recommend that everyone write regularly. Whether it’s a blog, or a personal journal, or poetry, or letters to a friend, written communication is such an essential tool and our writing skills only get better with practice. Do you have your own blog project? Tell me what it is!

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3 Reasons We Overschedule Ourselves By Mistake

time management overscheduledFaced with a packed calendar? Wonder how it happened? We don’t mean to schedule too much into our day, but sometimes it happens anyway. Here are three ways to stop over-scheduling yourself.

  1. Be realistic with how long tasks take

Your one-hour class at the gym doesn’t take an hour. You need to add getting ready and travel time. Your 30 minute meeting is only 30 minutes if it starts on time. When scheduling your day, plan for the real amount of time tasks take so you don’t over-schedule.

  1. Trust others to help you.

If you want something done right you need to do it yourself. Are you a believer in that mantra? Then you’re probably over-scheduled because you refuse to let others help you. Before you can work on delegating, you must first develop the trust that delegating is worth it. Let go of the notion that everything must be done your way. There are many “right” ways to do things and having it DONE is what’s important.

  1. Learn from your mistakes

How many times have you said yes to too many things, found yourself stressed, vowed to never do it again, and wind up in the same position 6 months later? Learn from your mistakes. If you over-scheduled yourself once, don’t accept the same combination of tasks again. Learn to say no.

Nobody is a super human capable of cramming more than 24 hours of work into a day. You’ll frustrate yourself trying!

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Why Time Management Relies on Honesty

time management honestyAre you struggling with your time management? You might need to do an honesty check-in. Despite great goals and plans, honest plays a role in time management in two big ways.

Honesty With Yourself

We lie to ourselves all the time. Phrases like: “I’ll just check this ONE email” or “I’ll feel like doing this task tomorrow instead” echo in our heads as we come up with excuses to not finish what needs to be done. Too often we KNOW what our priorities are, but we’ll engineer excuses or succumb to distraction as we avoid doing what we need to do.

You know an excuse when you hear it. Don’t let that little voice distract you from your focus and priorities.

Honesty With Other People

Learn how to say no. When someone asks you to add another thing to your plate, say no if you know there isn’t room. It’s better than saying “Yes” only to let them down later. Be honest. Explain that you aren’t able to give this task the time and attention it deserves. You might even suggest another resource for the person to try.

If saying no makes you feel like a bad person, remember that time is a limited resource and simply wishing you had more doesn’t make it so.

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Why “Doing Nothing” Can Take A Ton of Work

time management getawayDuring the workweek, we long for the weekend. Visions of kicking up our feet in an exotic locale holding a drink with an umbrella tease us while we respond to the same email we’ve already answered 5 times. When we dream of that relaxation scene, we forget one very important fact…

…that “relaxing getaway” took a lot of time and work. It often takes work to do “nothing”, at least if you plan to do nothing somewhere that isn’t your home. But here is the thing- it’s totally worth it.

My Weekend

As anyone living in Phoenix can attest, it is a thousand bazillion degrees in the summer (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) We wanted to get out of the heat and relax in a cooler climate. Our friends found an adorable cabin in the mountains just a few hours away and the escape from work and the heat was too tempting to pass up.

Then came all the planning. This escape required finding and coordinating the right weekend, creating and shopping for a meal plan, packing up 10,000 things into our SUV (did I mention we have a toddler? Yeah, we have a toddler) and finding a place for our dogs to stay.

After coming home from a long day of work only to be faced with an empty cooler and a jigsaw puzzle of food that was simply not meant to all fit in that tiny space, I thought to myself, “Why are we doing this again?”

All Worth It

Then, relaxing in the mountain air I remember. “Oh right, THIS is why we went through that hassle.” Good, fun things in life sometimes come with hassle and planning. If we never took the time do deal with the hassle, we’d miss out on a lot of “Desserts” in our Time Diets.

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Why I Don’t Use Reminders on My Phone

time management remindersI am glued to my cell phone, but I don’t nearly maximize its potential when it comes to helping me with time management. This week, I remembered why.

My System

My paper calendar and to-do list are the staples of my time management system. My husband relies heavily on iPhone reminders. When I have something to remember, I’ll pull out my calendar and write it down. He just pulls out his phone and says, “Siri, remind me to go to FedEX at 2pm tomorrow.”

I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous of the ease of his system. It’s quick, it’s convenient, and it feels much more “2015” than my pen and paper. So this week I tried utilizing reminders more than I usually do…

…and I hated it. I have trained myself to look at my calendar when I need to know my schedule. But when I put something in my phone as a reminder, that means I didn’t have it in my calendar. When I looked at my calendar during the day, I didn’t see all of my information there and the reminders caught me off guard later.

Do What Works!

Moral of the story: use the time management system that works best for YOU, not somebody else. You can be open to new ideas as they come along. You may discover a more efficient modification to your system! But if you give something a try and your old system worked better, stick to it.

Remember what your mother said: if everyone else decided to jump off a cliff, would you do it too?

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How I Plan to Get More Sleep This Week

time management sleepWhat do you do just before bed? I usually fall asleep reading…on my phone…OK fine I’m checking emails…and by “emails” I mean I’m scrolling through Facebook and writing comments in my head to the ridiculous things I’m reading that I would never actually post. This week I read an article that made me want to change my behavior.

Never Enough Time To Sleep

This month’s USC Trojan Family Magazine had a fascinating cover story about sleep. The researchers pointed out that very few of us get the 7-9 hours of recommended sleep. I’m guilty of that too. I tell myself there is just “too much to do” but that’s an excuse I make for myself.

I spent 40 minutes browsing around on my phone last night before I decided to go to sleep. That’s more than 4 hours of missed sleep over the course of a week.

How it Affects Us

The article goes on to point out how our diminished hours of sleep affect us, including depression, health problems, and the fact that a staggering 1 in 5 serious car crashes are related to inadequate sleep.

In addition, the article cites another study which found teens who read a printed book before bed slept better and awoke more rested than those who read on a tablet before bed. Interesting. So here it what I take from all of this.

My New Sleep Plan

I complain about two things: I don’t have enough time to sleep and I don’t have enough time to read. This week, I’m going to solve both of those problems by making my bed a digital-free-zone. I’m going to sleep earlier and if I can’t fall asleep I’m going to pull out a book…like…one with pages…and read. Wish me luck!

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The To-Do List You Need But Might Not Have

Time Management To DoI’m usually pretty good at keeping my to-do list. I review my tasks, I plan ahead, I methodically check things off, but this week I realized I might need another list in my life.

My College Flashback

I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses this week. (Btw, Nothing will make you feel super old quite like hanging out on a college campus. They ride tiny, florescent skateboards now? Really? Is that a thing?) But anyway, looking around made me think. I saw all these groups of friends hanging out, chatting, laughing, studying in the quad, you know, the scenes college brochures are made of.

I miss that. I miss having all of my friends right there, all the time. Being social didn’t require much work. Want to grab dinner with someone? Great! I’ll probably run into them after class, or in the hallway, or at some club meeting. Social relationships were in close proximity.

Relationships Now

Now it’s different. Now there is work, and obligations, and many of your close friends live in different cities. The ones that live in your city, might be far away. For example, there could be a difference of 45 miles between friends living “in the Phoenix area.” Finding time to be social takes work.

Your To Do List for People

I stumbled across this blog about Time Management worries  from a cancer survivor. She writes about having two different to-do lists: one for things and one for people. I love this idea.

We get so caught up in tasks, that it’s easy to let your social relationship fade into the background. I vow to be better at maintaining my “relationship to-do list.” It’s not easy, but I don’t think most good things are.

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We get so caught up in tasks, that it’s easy to let your social relationship fade into the background. I vow to be better at maintaining my “relationship to-do list.” It’s not easy, but I don’t think most good things are.

How to Help your High School Student Be More Organized

time management high schoolIs your high school student going back to school this month? Or maybe you’re a high school teacher struggling to help your disorganized student? Starting the year off organized is a great way to ensure your students will have good time management skills for the rest of the semester. It’s not easy but it can be done! Try these three tips to help get the year started right.

 1. Let them choose a calendar

If your high school student’s backpack looks like a tornado just went through it, you’re not alone. But, you also probably know that telling them to “get organized” will go in one ear and out the other. Students need two things to be organized: 1. Some kind of list (for daily to-dos) and 2. Some kind of calendar (for weekly and long-term deadlines.) Let them pick what that list and calendar looks like. Remember, it might be different than what you use! If you’re glued to your iCal, your student might prefer a paper calendar. It doesn’t matter how they organize their deadlines, as long as it works for them!

2. Procrastination Prediction

Chances are, your high school student probably procrastinates from time to time (and I bet you do occasionally also!) Ask your students to guess which types of assignments and tasks they are most likely to put off during the year. Then ask why. Maybe your student is feeling some anxiety about a certain class, and it’s easier to address that anxiety in the beginning of the school year than right before a big test.

3. Identify Time Killers…together!

Time Killers are those little things that waste our time without our permission. You may feel like you’re constantly telling your teen to get off the cell phone so they can focus on their work. Social media apps are a common Time Killer,  and they don’t just affect high school students! Start by identifying your Time Killers and explaining to your student how you plan to remove these distractions while you’re working. Then ask them to identify their worst Time Killer and how they can stop it from affecting their work.

4. Resources

Need more help? Enroll your student in this 1-hour online time management class for some practical tips. 5 star reviews, written by a college professor.

Time Management for College Survival…or just get the book on Amazon today! Time Management for College Student Survival

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students