The Simple Secret to Overcoming Procrastination

time management nowHave you procrastinated this week? A huge reason we procrastinate is because we see big tasks on our list and assume we don’t have time to tackle them right now. This week, I was faced with a large task that had been on my list for a while. I FINALLY crossed it off my list by doing this…

Large Tasks and Small Tasks

Large tasks can always be broken down into smaller pieces. When you see a big task on your list, your first thought is, “Oh goodness, that will take forever. I’ll have to do that later.” But when you see a small task, it’s easier to think, “I can easily knock that out in 10 minutes or so.”

My Decal Dilemma

My sister in law gave my daughter some adorable Monkey decals to put up in her room. They are really cute, but come in about 100 small separate stickers that need to be put together on the wall to make the desired scene. (And they are in no particular order on the sticker sheet. Of course not. Why would they be.)

After a long day of work, the last thing in the world I want to do is spend a few hours sorting through all these stickers and applying them to our textured wall, which is definitely NOT sticker friendly. So this big task kept being added to the “later” pile.

One at a Time

Finally, this week, I decided the decals needed to happen…one sticker at a time. Every time I walked into her room, I placed one or two decals on the wall. It took about 30 seconds. It became sort of a game. Over the course of the whole week I watched the scene grow until FINALLY, yesterday, I put the last sticker on the wall.

As I stood back and admired my work, I was reminded that I can replicate this process with other tasks in my life.

How are books written? One page at a time.

How are presentations put together? One slide at a time.

Your Action Plan

What BIG task are you facing this week? Stop putting it off, and instead, break it into smaller pieces. What will you be tackling this week?

Do you have a procrastinating STUDENT in your life? Why not get them “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” on Amazon.com today!

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Time Management Book for Students

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My Quick Time-Saving Lunch Solution

time management pack a lunch“Packing a lunch every day is a great way to save money…” says everyone. And it’s true. I conjure up imagines of healthy, crisp salads, immaculately chopped red pepper slices, fresh fruit, and hummus and crackers packed in an adorably small Tupperware container. Sounds delicious…if someone else is making it. I don’t have that kind of time in the morning and I’m sure you don’t either. I used to tell myself, “I guess I don’t have time to save money and eat healthy” until I stopped making excuses and did this instead…

My Realization
At first I tried making my lunches the night before. This worked for a little while, but then I realized, “I hate finding a few minutes to do this after an exhausting day just as much as I hate waking up a few minutes earlier to do this in the morning.” I had the astonishing realization that there are other times to make lunches other than 10:00pm or 6:00am.

My Sunday Ritual
I now make all of my lunches for the week on Sunday afternoons. It’s wonderful. I make a big batch of something that can be put into a wrap. Last week it was chicken salad. This week it’s quinoa and kale salad. I put aside 5 granola bars and 5 pieces of fruit and call it a day. Then, all I have to do in the morning is throw the salad in a wrap, put it all in a bag, and walk out the door. It takes 30 seconds. I checked.

I’ll admit, this is not a revolutionary idea. I mean, seriously. Read ANY money or time saving blog and they talk about this. But it’s revolutionary to me because I wasn’t doing it. You know that awesome feeling of finding a 10 dollar bill in your winter coat you forgot about? That’s how I feel, only with time. I found extra time in my morning I didn’t have before and it feels golden!

Again, The Time Diet is so not a food blog, but if you care to join me in my time-saving culinary endeavors, here is what I’ve been eating this October. Can’t promise it’s healthy, but it’s quick and delicious!

Procrastinator’s Chicken Salad

2 cans of Kirkland shredded chicken ( I love Costco so much I can’t even tell you)
2 apples, diced
A few handfuls of grapes, halved
A half cup of slivered almonds
As much or little mayonnaise as you desire

Snooze Button Quinoa Salad

1 package of quinoa, cooked
1 can of Kirkland chicken (again with the Costco…)
1 bag of “Cruciferous Crunch” salad (It’s from Trader Joes. It’s basically shredded kale and Brussels sprouts)
A bunch of slivered almonds
As much or little sweet poppy seed dressing as you desire

Put either salad in a sandwich wrap. I’ve been buying “Flat Out” Flatbread from, you guessed it, Costco, and it’s great.

Good luck on your time saving lunch experience. If you have your own favorite quick lunch, please leave a comment.

For more time management tips, check out my book on Amazon.com

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My Routine Was Holding Me Back, Is Yours?

Time management holding backWe are creatures of habit. Once we get into a routine, we tend to keep doing it. But what happens when those routines end up derailing our time management plan? This week I noticed a few habits in my schedule  had become outdated, but I never thought about changing them before because they were so engrained. Here is what I changed and how you can identify similar needs for improvement in your own schedule.

My Sunday Schedule

Every Sunday evening for the past 4 years, I’ve written a time management blog to post on this site and email out each week. It’s become such a routine part of my schedule that I hardly think about it.

Since having my daughter however, I’ve noticed that my weekends are packed with much more “family time” than they were before. My Sunday evening blog sessions became more difficult. I struggled to find a moment to sit down in a quiet place and peck out my thoughts. “Maybe I can find a different room to work?” I thought. “Or put a pot of coffee on? Or ask my husband to watch the baby while I work?”

Making a Change

I’m embarrassed to admit, it took me three months to realize “Oh wait, maybe I just don’t do blog time on Sunday evenings anymore.” When habits are so engrained in our schedule, we often keep doing them, even after they’ve outlived their convenience. Sunday evenings used to be the time I collect my thoughts and prepare for the week ahead, but I do that on Fridays now so I can have my entire weekend to myself and my family.

This week, I wrote the blog you’re reading on Friday. It felt strange, and will probably continue to feel strange until this, too, becomes a habit.

What have you struggled to fit into your schedule lately? Are you letting a habit or routine cloud your search for a solution? What if you had NO routines set and had to start over from scratch. Would you do things in the same order and at the same time you currently do?

Over the course of the week, look for ways to update your routine. Think of it as “ongoing system maintenance” of your schedule.

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Time Management Revelation in Aisle 1

time management checkoutI’m not proud of this blog I’m about to write. In fact, I debated whether I should even share this experience with you because it makes me feel like kind of a jerk, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has encountered this situation. This week, I almost let my hectic schedule get in the way of my kindness to other people and I’m making a vow to never let it happen again. Here is what happened…

My Grocery Store Encounter

On my way home from work on Tuesday, I stopped by the grocery store. I had finished a long day of meetings, workshops, and phone calls, and had just picked my daughter up from preschool. I was in a hurry to get home and was irritated that I hadn’t made time to go to the store over the weekend.

Check-out Chatter

As I was searching around in my purse at the check out counter, I suddenly become aware of the fact that the cashier was trying to talk to me. “Mm…looks like you’re making spaghetti for dinner! That was my favorite meal growing up.” He then looked over at my daughter, “What do you think little one?”

Now, here’s where I’m not proud of myself. My immediate thought was: “Oh my goodness, I’m here for some pasta and butter, not a conversation. Every moment you spend making adorable small talk with my 3 month old is a moment you aren’t swiping my credit card so I can get the heck out of here.”

Mean, right? But haven’t we all felt like that sometimes?

Snapping Out Of It

I let my brain go down that train of thought for a moment until a snapped myself out of it. Oh my goodness Emily, who are you? Is your schedule really so tight that you can’t allow five seconds to smile at someone being a kind person? To engage in some small talk with a stranger?

We are not so busy that we can’t at least smile at the people we meet during the day. And if your schedule is such that you don’t have a moment for these interactions, then you have some adjusting to do.

I vow that I will be much better at taking a breath and not rushing through every transaction and conversation in my life. I’m not that busy, and I don’t want to be.

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The Root of Your Time Management Trouble

time management rootI like to think of time management struggles like gardening. Cutting down weeds does nothing. It’s not until we pull them out by their roots that we’ve solved a problem. In time management, we spend a lot of time dealing with the results of problems – an over packed schedule, a disorganized calendar—and forget to find where the problem stems from. Here are three questions to ask to uncover the root of your problem.

1. Why am I in this mess?

Instead of dwelling on the fact that you’re always late for work, or keep forgetting about appointments, look for WHY that might be the case. Are you going to bed too late? Did you over schedule yourself? Then look even further…Maybe you’re going to bed too late because you save all your email replies until just before bed and then get lost in your inbox. Often the cause of our troubles lies with a decision or habit we made long ago.

2. Is it likely to happen again?

Is your time management trouble a one-time issue? If so, stop worrying about it and move on. But if this situation is likely to come up again, how can you alter your habits? Looking for patterns in your day and in your year can help you assess what needs to change.

3. What can I do about it?

When looking for a solution to your dilemma, it’s important to accept the fact that the solution might be drastic. You might not like it, and it might mean making tough choices or sacrifices. But the alternative is to keep having the same problem over and over again. We simply don’t need that in our lives!

If you’re having difficulty uncovering the root of your problem, ask someone close to you for help. We don’t see ourselves the way others see us and sometimes our friends and family have insights into our lives that we could never grasp ourselves.

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Why Office Hours Aren’t Just For Professors

time management office hoursOffice Hours: you know, that thing you swore you’d attend in college but never really did. Professors have office hours to give students a chance to get a hold of them outside of class. How do YOU communicate to your colleagues when you’re available for questions? Why not try this…

One of my favorite things about running time management workshops is that I always learn something in the process. This week I spoke to NHS Phoenix and had a blast meeting some truly fabulous people. One man shared that he puts his availability in his email signature. For example: “I return phone calls between the hours of 2 and 4pm” or “I return emails three times a day, at 8, 12, and 3.”

I love this concept because it gives people a reasonable expectation when they can expect to hear from you, so they don’t get upset with their communication isn’t immediately returned.

If having regular hours like this doesn’t work for you, maybe giving a broad time frame would work better. For example, “I try my best to return all communications within 24 hours.” While that might seem obvious (of course we want to be prompt with our communications) it reminds people that they can’t really be upset if they haven’t heard back from you 20 minutes later.

So what are your “office hours?” Remember, people need to get a hold of you, and if you haven’t conveyed when communication is convenient to you, people will be left to guess or assume, and you know that they say about assumptions.

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Why I’m More Productive with a Kid and How Non-Parents Can Learn From It

Time management babyAs we awaited the arrival of our daughter this year, I was excited, but also a little nervous. Here I am, a time management writer and speaker, about to face my biggest time management test yet. What if I couldn’t handle the demands of being a parent? Wouldn’t that make my time management advice a little hypocritical? Luckily, little Avery has drastically altered my productivity…in a good way. Here is why…

1. I use Parkinson’s Law to my advantage

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time we give it. Well, now I have far less time for work, which means I’m forced to avoid distractions and work more efficiently. When I had all weekend to finish a chapter of edits on my upcoming book, they took forever to get through. Now, when she’s napping, the dogs are quiet, and I have my office to myself for 30 minutes, I know that I have 30 minutes to get as much done as possible before I go back into Mommy-mode. The shortened time frame is a major focus booster.

2. I’m forced to prioritize

Now that family time has gotten all that much more important, I’ve found it much easier to prioritize my time. Some things that I thought were important don’t seem so anymore. Instead of thinking, “how in the world will I get all this finished?” I find myself thinking: “which of these things should I let go today?” or “does this really matter right now?” The world hasn’t stopped spinning yet.

3. I enjoy my non-work time much more

I now have a much sharper divide between work and non-work time. I thought I was pretty good at balancing my life, but I didn’t realize how much I think about work during leisure time until now. I’m getting much better at shutting off the work switch when it’s time to relax and spend time with my family.

I’m not going to pretend having a 2-month-old tiny human living at your house who is completely dependent on you for everything is easy. It’s pretty much the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve been surprised how it’s shaped my approach to time management in a wonderful way.

And don’t worry. You don’t have to bring a child into the world to change your approach. Just reconnect with whatever that thing is that you care about more than work, and start making it more of a priority.

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Texting While Talking: Why Do We Do It?

Time management textingYou’re having a conversation with a loved one, colleague, or friends. Suddenly, you notice their gaze turn down to their lap or table. They continue to nod at what you’re saying, but you’re aware that they are distracted. Pretty soon, you see your competition: a smartphone, it’s screen glistening in the sun, almost as though it’s mocking the fact that it has now replaced you as the focus of this person’s attention. I call it Communication Distraction, and it’s not OK.

When we try to do two things at once, our attention is split and we aren’t focused on either of the tasks at hand. People are starting to realize that multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but for some reason we don’t really think of texting as multitasking…or trying to do ANY two forms of communication at the same time for that matter.

Typing an email while on the phone, texting while in a meeting, both of these scenarios are examples of multitasking, and they are both rude! Not to mention the fact that distracted communication is not effective and therefore, not good time management.

How do we prevent Communication Distraction? Be more aware of your communications. Focus on the conversation you’re having and who you are talking to. When you find yourself a victim of Communication Distraction, you don’t need to return the rudeness, but perhaps you say something like, “Did I catch you at a bad time? I’m sorry, I can try again later if you’re busy right now.”

We can work together to help prevent distraction and make communication more personal again.

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3 Ways to Make Meetings Shorter

time management meetingOh meetings- a necessary evil! Whether it’s because of one person who won’t stop talking, or a multi-page agenda sent out 5 minutes before, meetings have a tendency to drag on forever. Try these three tips to make your meetings more efficient:

1. Add times to your agenda

Agendas help keep meetings on topic and focused, but not necessarily on time! Adding times to your agenda convey how long you expect each topic to take. It’s much harder for someone to keep pressing an issue when it’s clearly only been allotted 5 minutes on the schedule. If it becomes apparent that an issue will need far more than the allotted time, then readjust, but not at the expense of letting the meeting run long.

2. Cut down the invite list

If you’ve ever counted ceiling tiles to stay awake in a meeting that didn’t pertain to you, you’ll agree that not everyone needs to be invited to every meeting. Only invite the people who will directly benefit from or contribute to the discussion in some way.

3. Postpone questions

If someone asks a question that doesn’t pertain to the whole group, answer it later offline. Making yourself available to answer questions is important, but not at the expense of everyone else in the group.

Face to face communication and brainstorming can be excellent tools when used properly. Don’t let “meeting” become a four letter word!

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How to Write Lightning Fast Emails

time management fast emailWhat’s the number one time management problem I hear when doing time management trainings? Email management. “My email consumes my day!” “I spend all day answering emails!” “How can I be faster at email?” One way to help cut down on your email time is to spend less time writing them. Answer these three questions before starting an email:

1. What is the action item?
I’ve seen emails that are 4 paragraphs long in which the sender doesn’t mention the action she/he would like to see the recipient take until the very last sentence. No need to be unnecessarily curt in your messages, but don’t make it difficult for the recipient to find out the intent of your email. In an email that’s to-the-point, they’ll spend less time reading and you’ll spend less time writing.

2. What is the subject?
Too often I see emails with blank subject lines. A descriptive subject helps your recipient know exactly what to expect in your message. Think of it as a one-line summary, which helps make the body of the message shorter and easier to act upon.

3. Is it necessary?
Because email is so easy, it’s tempting to get into the habit of sending more email than you really should. If your message is not truly necessary, don’t send it. It takes up your time and clogs up your recipient’s inbox. Besides, people are far more likely to overlook an important message from you, if they are used to seeing a flurry of unimportant ones.

Finally, don’t forget that email in general isn’t always the most effective means of communication. Sometimes a phone call, in person meeting, or hand written letter is more appropriate. When you use email efficiently, you’ll minimize the time you waste staring at your inbox.

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