Time Management for the Holiday Season

time management for the holidaysThe year is almost over, and all of the stress, hurry, and bustle of December is upon us. A busy time like this calls for a return to The Time Diet basics. Feel like you have a million things to do before the end of the year? Pull out your list and consider these three things when you’re planning your day tomorrow.

 1. Difficulty

Remember, when everything is a priority, NOTHING is a priority. That’s why you have to categorize your tasks before you can figure out which should be your focus. While everything might be important, not everything is difficult.

Everything you do is either a Meat (difficult), Vegetable (easy) or Dessert (fun.) A “balanced diet” of each will keep you stress free!

2. Distractions

We know we do our best work when we are completely focused and free from distractions, but distractions are rampant this time of year! When you know you’ll have an hour of focused time, prioritize your difficult Meat tasks. Save your Vegetables for those times when distractions are likely to pop up.

3. Time of Day

Are you a morning person? Great! Complete your difficult Meat tasks in the morning when you are most alert. Not a morning person? Don’t fight it! Whenever you can, schedule your Meats for later in the day when you know you’re likely to be more efficient. Different people focus best at different times. Only you know what works best for you!

Remember, everything might be important, but not everything can be important at the same time. Use the basic Time Diet principles to plan your December days most efficiently!

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Three Ways to Stop Being Late

Time management lateHave trouble getting out the door on time? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re all late sometimes – cars break down, emergencies come up – but it’s important to remember that when we keep others waiting, we are spending their time that could be used for other things. These three tips will help you with your punctuality!

I ran across this article this week, and while its tone is harsh, it was a good reminder that other people depend on us. Sometimes a start time is just a suggestion, but other times promptness is important. If you find yourself consistently late…

1. Calculate transition time

Add ten minutes to any commute. Sure, it may take 30 minutes to get from point A to point B, but you have to find your keys, get to the car, park when you get there…and all of those things take time. As a general rule, add 10 minutes to whatever Google Maps says.

2. Have a list

It takes forever to get out of the house or office when we’re running around trying to collect everything we need. Keep a list of the things you need to bring so you’re not trying to remember when you’re in a rush. Better yet, keep a “bring it with you” bin by the door so you have everything in one place.

3. Apologize

When you are late, apologize to the person. Say something like, “I’m sorry I kept you waiting. I hate to waste your time like that. I know it’s valuable.” Keep it short and sincere. Apologizing not only expresses your value of the other person’s time, but it sends a message to yourself that your tardiness was a mistake and shouldn’t be a habit.

Being late happens to the best of us, but recognizing your mistake and taking steps to correct it in the future will be the best steps for your time management.

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The Thing That’s Missing From Your Calendar

Time management calendar pieceDo certain tasks cling to your to-do list forever? I’ve had some odds and ends on my list for a while that I never seem to have time for. Today I finally figured out why…

I didn’t have them on my calendar!

“Between Time”

I give seminars, presentations, and workshops all day, with an occasional meeting sprinkled in here and there. Those types of things have prominent places on my calendar, but that’s not all I have to do during the day. I have to respond to emails, compile mileage reports, map out new presentations, etc… I call them “between” tasks, because I squeeze them in here and there between larger obligations.

Today I noticed that my “between time” has been more scarce than usual and some of these smaller tasks have been slipping. If these tasks are to be completed, I need to reserve space on my calendar, just like any other obligation.

Assign Your Smaller Tasks

So, this week, I’m designating where my “between time” is and fiercely protecting it, just like I would any time I’ve reserved for a meeting or workshop.

Take a look at the older tasks still clinging to your to-do list. Are they missing from your calendar? Assign them a time on your calendar this week so you can actually cross them off!

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3 Ways to Treat Time Like Money

time management is moneyThey say time is money, and if that’s true, we can learn a lot about time management from the way we manage our finances. We take such care to manage and track our money and it’s not even a finite resource. There is always a possibility of getting more! That’s not true for time. We only have a set amount, so we should treat it with the utmost care. Here are three ways to treat time as carefully as we treat our money…

 1. Track it diligently

To keep from overspending, many people keep a budget. Whether you save your receipts, keep a spreadsheet, or categorize your credit card expenses, tracking where your dollars go is a good way to keep more of them in your pocket. The same is true for tracking time. Track your time for a day or two to see where you’re over or under spending.

 2. Avoid impulse purchases

Ever walk into a grocery store for milk, and come out with milk… and a soda? Impulse purchases are those pesky little unplanned expenses that add up so gradually we don’t realize they’re derailing our budget. Time killers are the “impulse purchases” we make with our time. Not work, not planned relaxation, but rather mindless distractions we allow to steal our focus. Get rid of those distractions so your work finishes sooner!

 3. Save for a rainy day

It’s important to save for emergencies so you can pay for that flat time or busted water heater when you least expect it. It’s just as important to save for time emergencies. Have your support network in place so you know who to call when you’re faced with a sudden time constraint you didn’t prepare for. Have your materials organized so it’s easier to ask for help. Anticipate when your hectic times will be and ask for help in advance.

Be sure to treat your precious resource of time carefully!

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Who Is On Your Time Management Team?

TIme Management team“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Haven’t we all said that before? What a waste of time. If you want something done your way, do it yourself, but if you want it done NOW, for goodness sake, recruit some people to help. Here are three things to consider when recruiting for spots on your team:

1. Play to People’s Strengths

You wouldn’t ask the slowest person on your team to be your star running back, so don’t ask your disorganized coworker to help you clean up your files. Figure out people’s strengths and delegate accordingly.

2. Replace “Right” With “Accurate.”

We tend to think there is only one “right” way to do things (our way) but there can be many ways of doing a task accurately. Just because you do it differently doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Instead of trying to get someone to do it your way, explain what the end product needs to look like and let them find the way that’s best for them.

3. Plan Ahead

Asking for help can seem like more work in the beginning when it seems easier to just do it ourselves rather than explain to someone else how to do it. Don’t get caught in that trap. Think of it as a time investment. If you invest the time now to train someone else, you’ll save tons of time later when the task comes up again!

It takes practice for a good team to work together, so don’t give up if your first attempts at delegation are rocky.

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The Importance of the Last Five Percent

time management emptyHow many almost-finished tasks do you have on your to-do list right now? For some reason, we tend to do all the difficult parts of a task and then leave the last details unfinished. Lucky for us, when WE do this, we don’t have millions of football fans watching us around the country. Watch what happened when Utah forgot one small detail at their game against Oregon this Saturday…

http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=400548304

In the video, you can see Utah almost score a touchdown, but the player drops the ball in celebration before he actually crosses the goal line. Oregon picks up the ball and runs 100 yards the other way for a touchdown.

Whoops…

Our almost-completed tasks may not be that public (or embarrassing) but they can really slow down our time management.

Why do we save the last 5% of tasks until the last minute?

1. We want it to be perfect. Keeping a task “not quite done” gives us the option to come back and fix something later to make it better.

2. We’re lazy. A large task might be intimidating enough to schedule it into our day, but once it’s become a small task, it’s easy to infinitely put it off until later.

3. We lose momentum. If we’re forced to stop a task before we’re done, sometimes it’s hard to get back into the groove of it to finish up.

This week, take a look at your to-do list. Do you have any tasks that are 95% finished? Make it your goal to see them through to completion…before someone else picks up the ball and gets the credit!

Speaking of college, check out “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” for the high school or college student in your life! The holidays will be here soon and it makes a great stocking stuffer.

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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The Difference Between Rushing and Efficiency

time management rushing“Be as efficient as possible!” they say. “Oh, but don’t rush.” “Don’t waste time trying to be perfect!” “But measure twice and cut once.” There is a difference between rushing and being efficient, but it can be difficult to figure out when you’re in the middle of a busy day. I was abruptly reminded of the difference this week…

My Breakfast Disaster

A few days ago, I was trying to get out the door as quickly as possible so I threw a breakfast sandwich in the microwave while I made my coffee (efficient.) Then, while grabbing all my stuff with one arm, I hastily shoved the sandwich in my mouth before I gave it time to cool (rushing.)

I immediately spit the sandwich out with a yelp of pain. A stray piece of overheated cheese had seared my bottom lip. As I held an ice pack on my poor blistered lip, I had a lot of time to ponder the difference between rushing and being efficient.

Product Quality

When we rush, the end product tends to suffer. We neglect key components and complete our work sloppily. This results in even more work later as we try to cover up for our hasty mistakes (or facial burns as the case may be!)

Accurate, not Perfect

While rushing makes us careless, being TOO careful can be just as damaging to our schedule. When we’re efficient, we make sure things are accurate without wasting time striving for the impossible level of perfection.

Being efficient is the perfect balance between doing something carefully, accurately, and as quickly as possible. It’s important to note that “as quickly as possible” might be relatively slowly, depending on the task, so we can’t measure all items on our to-do lists equally.

Don’t let a silly mistake derail your day because you tried to rush through something that simply required more time.

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The Three Words of Organization

Time management organizedLet’s talk about time management organization for a second. Some people are naturally organized. Beautifully labeled file folders and neatly kept calendars come easily to them. The rest of us have to work hard to keep all of our deadlines and obligations from falling through the cracks. No matter where you fall on the organization spectrum, I’ve found there are three simple words that solve most organization problems…

Write. It. Down.

I know. Seems obvious right? But I like to keep things simple, and if we distill most time management organization problems down to the core of the issue, difficulties arise when we don’t have a good system for writing things down.

You might be asking, “Where?” and “How?” Then you’re developing a system, make sure it has the following three characteristics:

1. Easy

Writing down your tasks should be simple and only take a moment or two. If you use a paper calendar, that means keeping a pen clipped to it at all times. If you’re using an app or some sort of digital calendar, that means making sure it’s accessible at all times, and only requires one or two clicks to enter an event.

2. One place

Everything should be written down in one place. Writing things down does no good if you have to remember where you wrote it. I recommend having one list for short-term tasks and one calendar for long term tasks. The calendar is where you keep track of long-term obligations and deadlines. You use your calendar to make your daily list of tasks to complete. Remember, your list is not a collection of everything you have to do, it’s a collection of everything you plan to do today.

3. Consistent

Whatever system you use, make sure you use it consistently. Every appointment gets written down every time. The moment you start thinking, “I’ll just remember this one, it’s no big deal,” that’s when the system begins to break down and disorganization creeps in.

When I start to feel disorganized and out of control, sure enough, it’s because I stopped writing things down. Keep your organization simple for the best success!

Need help staying organized? Check out The Time Diet task planner! Or watch the instructional video below!

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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!

Time Management Book for Students

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

The Time Diet: Digestible Time ManagementPopular Time Management Book

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