Hurry Up And Wait

time management boredEverything I know about life I learned in my college marching band…

OK, that’s not entirely true, but it makes for a good opening. (Spare your “one time at band camp comments. I’ve heard them all. Twice.) In band, we had a saying: “Hurry up and wait.” It was amusing because every time we had a performance, the staff ran around urgently telling people to get ready quickly…only to sit around for 45 minutes afterwards while we waited for the performance to start. I’ve had this phrase on my mind a lot lately as I’ve thought about the overall pace of my day. Here is what I think it means to me now…

My Mentality

I realized that I live by the “hurry up and wait” mentality. It’s better to be 20 minutes early than 1 minute late. That philosophy has served me well, however, I’m realizing that it can be taken to the extreme.

“It’s better to be 20 minutes early than 1 minute late” only matters when there is a consequence for being late. When being late means missing an important deadline, an airplane, or your best friend’s wedding…rushing to be early matters. However, when being late is not a problem, rushing just for the sake of rushing is stressful.

Does Everything Need a Deadline?

I realized that I do this. Sometimes I set arbitrary deadlines for myself because that’s how I operate best. Then I hurry hurry hurry to meet the deadline, when in reality, being a few minutes (hours, days, etc…) late wouldn’t really matter. I end up stressing myself for no good reason.

Do you do this too? I talk about how setting your own deadlines can be a good motivator, and that’s true, but I’m going to be careful about what types of tasks I set deadlines for.

Not everything needs to be done in a hurry. This week, I’m going to try to be better about slowing down. Or next week. Whenever I get around to it.

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Does The Phone Go Next To The Knife or Fork?

Time management for dinnerWe use technology to speed up our lives, but does it end up slowing us down instead? We have coffee machines programmed to turn on when we wake up, apps to find the quickest route to our destination, email so we can quickly communicate with the world, etc…We use all of this with the assumption that it’s making our lives faster, but I read an article this week that challenged that notion in an unexpected way.

It Started With a Picture…

This week, we celebrated our anniversary dinner at a trendy restaurant. When the delicious food showed up, I did what any self-respecting restaurant patron would do…I took out my iPhone and snapped a picture. After all, in two years how would I remember that I ordered a scrumptious kale salad if I didn’t take a picture of it? My husband chuckled and sent me the following article: Slow Service Demystified

The nutshell version of this article is that an NYC restaurant was getting complaints about slow service, so they checked surveillance footage to see what was going on and it turns out, the customers were wasting time and distracted with their phones, which stretched out their dining time.

My Own Observations

Now, I’m not one to believe everything I read on the Internet, so who knows if this situation actually happened, but it has made me do a double-take at restaurants. True or not, I’ve noticed that my use of a phone does significantly lengthen my dining time, and not in a relaxing meaningful way, but rather in a distracted way.

I take my phone out to snap a picture…and then notice that I have an email…and then I want to check in on Facebook…and then check my phone a few times to see if anyone has commented on my check-in…and then notice an article on my USA Today app that I haven’t read…and pretty soon my food is here and I hadn’t even noticed.

I Promise!

If I’m going to linger at dinner, I want it to be because I’m enjoying good food and company, not because their WiFi is slow. So, I’m making a vow to start enjoying food and stop making my cell phone a permanent place setting. I encourage you to do the same!

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How Time Killers Can Make You More Productive

Time management social mediaWe all know what it feels like to be sucked into a Time Killer. What starts off as a “quick glance” at Facebook, quickly becomes an hour long time indulgence we didn’t plan for. We can bemoan the time they waste, or we can analyze what keeps us addicted to these platforms for hours on end and use it to our advantage.

Here are three ways to harness the power of Time Killers to be productive:

1. Keep your next task in front of you
Why is it so easy to binge watch Netflix? Because the next episode pops up before the credits for the last one are even done running. Use this same concept in your productivity. It’s very easy to stop working when you finish a task and you can’t remember what to do next. Writing all of your tasks on one consolidated to-do list helps keep the next task in front of you so you can keep your productivity streak going.

2. Make it easy to work
You’ll notice that on social media, the interface is designed to make it easy to keep you hooked. It’s very easy to friend, like, follow, etc… You don’t have to search very hard for those buttons. Similarly, don’t make yourself search for a space to work. Giving yourself a comfortable, pleasant place to be productive will help make you want to use it!

3. Get your friends involved
Part of the allure of Time Killers, particularly social media is the thought that a friend might have commented on something witty we posted. We enjoy getting feedback from other people, so bring them into your productivity too. Don’t go it alone. Involve your friends and coworkers in your goals to help hold you accountable.

We ultimately must face the fact the work just isn’t nearly as FUN as Time Killers are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make productivity as easy as possible.

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Our Newest Time Manager

Newest Time ManagerThey say “good things come to those who wait,” and this weekend I found out that’s true. This week I’m taking a break from your regularly scheduled programing because Friday 6/27, after 9 months of waiting, we finally welcomed our daughter, Avery, into the world.

Loyal followers of the blog will appreciate that not only did baby girl show up right on her scheduled due date, but she only kept mommy waiting at the hospital for 4 hours. She’s a great time manager right from the beginning!

This week we have taken a pause from our crazy lives to appreciate love and family. I hope that you’ll join me in doing the same! See you next week

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How To Solve Your Time Management Dilemma Over Lunch

Time Management LunchHow many times has this happened to you? You’re at your wits’ end with a project. You know you’re wasting time going around in circles, but you don’t know what step to take next and in which direction. You know you should probably ask for help, but you don’t know who, where, or how, so you simply don’t, and continue the frustrating cycle. Sound familiar? Here is how I broke the cycle this week:

This week, I had a fabulous lunch with a dear friend that turned into a time management coaching session…for both of us. I’ve been going out of my mind the past few weeks as I’ve started to feel the pressure to tie up a million loose ends before Baby Schwartz makes her appearance. My friend was frustrated with a portion of a research paper that wasn’t coming together in a neat and tidy way.

Even though neither one of us could magically take away the other person’s frustration, it was immensely helpful to talk through it and brainstorm solutions. We both left feeling much more confident in our abilities to accomplish our goals. Here are three tips to do the same:

1. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re frustrated

Sometimes we’re afraid to ask for help or admit we’re stuck because we’re afraid of looking stupid or admitting weakness. It takes a strong person to articulate frustration and seek resources to solve a problem. Friends can be that resource.

2. Don’t just vent, look for solutions

Venting and complaining can bring a temporary sense of relief, but it doesn’t actually solve anything. After a brief complaining session, steer the conversation toward brainstorming solutions that can evolve into an actual plan.

3. Share your successes

Follow up with your friends and let them know what worked and what didn’t work! This is less for your friend’s sake, and more for yours. It helps celebrate your successes and focus on positive improvements instead of negative problems.

Finally, I recommend having these conversations over delicious food or coffee. The helpfulness of that factor simply can’t be overlooked :-)

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How Google Robbed Me of My Saturday

Time Management GoogleOK folks, we need to have a discussion about what I call the “time management rabbit hole” AKA Google. You know what I’m talking about. It starts off innocently enough, asking one simple question to find a seemingly simple answer. Then, pretty soon it’s 4 hours later, you have 23 tabs open with more articles and opinions than you could ever hope to read in a lifetime…and you still don’t have an answer.

If you’re thinking “Wow, it’s like Emily knows my life,” you’re right, I do, because that was my Saturday and I think I figured out what I did wrong…

Lost in the Reviews

We’re thinking about buying a new refrigerator. Naturally, I want to get a good price on a quality appliance, so I thought I’d just nose around on a few sites to see what people are saying about different brands. This quickly became my entire day.

“This fridge leaks,” says one person.

“This one broke after 3 months,” says another.

“This appliance is seriously the most amazing thing I’ve ever owned in my life,” says someone else.

…all talking about the same model fridge.

Too Much Information

As I poured over all the reviews, discount appliance sites, and home improvement stores, I was under the illusion that I was getting “smarter” about refrigerators, but at the end of the afternoon I realized that while I knew more information, I wasn’t necessarily coming any closer to making a decision.

I’ve talked at length about how social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc… can turn into serious Time Killers if we’re not careful, but information overload can be a huge waste of time as well. We live in a world where endless information is available at the click of a button, and we’re trained to believe that that’s a good thing, but here’s what I realized today:

My Lesson

Good information is helpful. Excess or unreliable information is a waste of time. The next time you catch yourself falling down the time management rabbit hole of information, stop and ask yourself, “Is what I’m reading helping me make an informed decision? Or do I have all the information I need and simply need to step back and choose something.”

Hopefully you can save yourself a Saturday afternoon!

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A Golden Rule of Time Management

Time Management golden ruleThe ability to say no is a skill we all need, but knowing when to say no can be even more important. This week I was reminded of one of the golden rules of time management that keeps our schedules trim and our minds focused. Here is what happened..

Saying NO

At a board meeting last week, one of my friends informed everyone of a really cool business opportunity that came her way. We were all impressed and congratulated her, until she mentioned that she wasn’t going to take it because it didn’t fit in with the mission and focus of her business. If I was impressed before, I was amazed now.

Saying no is hard. We’re trained to say yes to everything because we never know where things will lead, and at the very least, it’s a good thing to add to the resume. But after casting a wide net of opportunity, we need to focus in on the things that are most important to us, and that means saying no to the things that aren’t.

Time is a valuable resource and every moment we spend on something beyond our focus is one moment we can’t spend on the essential activities that will propel us forward.

Think of It Like Shopping

If saying no is still difficult, think of it in terms of money and shopping. If you were out shopping and saw a pair of pants you loved, but they didn’t fit, would you still buy them? Probably not, because you’d rather use the money to buy something that does fit and that you’ll actually wear. Think of your time in the same way. You have limited time and need to save it for the things that best fit  your focus and priorities.

Remember this golden rule of time management: if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

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College is around the corner! Make sure you son, daughter, niece, nephew, neighbor, or friend is prepared. Get them a copy of the 5-star reviewed “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” today for $11.99. (update! Amazon has it on sale today! Save a couple bucks)

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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Is the Extra Mile a Waste of Time?

time management extra mileWe grow up hearing that we don’t get far in life without going the extra mile. That going above and beyond the call of duty is the way to be noticed, get ahead, and stand out, but is it really the best use of our time? This week I read an article called “Nobody Cares How Awesome You Are at Your Job” that made me re-think the assumption that exceeding expectations is always best. Here is what I discovered…

My Initial Reaction

In this article, the author cites a study in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal that found people are disappointed when expectations aren’t met, but aren’t necessarily impressed when they are exceeded. The researcher makes a comparison to Amazon shipping- that if you order something with 4 day shipping and it arrives in 5, you’re upset, but if it arrives in 3, you aren’t impressed.

At first I was angry with this article. I thought the take-away message was that we should all strive for mediocrity, never try hard, and skate by on doing the least amount of work possible. But then I thought more about it.

Re-thinking Mediocrity

Since when is fulfilling a promise mediocre? Since when is doing exactly what you say you’re going to do not good enough? Perhaps it’s this kind of “above and beyond” thinking that creates an unrealistic super hero mentality. That we are all capable of doing absolutely everything, and if we don’t, we’re letting people down. Perhaps it’s wonderful that we aren’t overly impressed with over-delivered promises, because simply fulfilling an expectation should be good enough.

This super hero mentality also causes us to let some people down while we’re trying to overly impress others. We only have so much energy and so much time in the day, so if you’re spending more time than you should on one task, you’re probably not putting the necessary time into your other obligations. The people you’re letting down don’t really care that you over-delivered to someone else. Perhaps it’s best to make sure all of your obligations are met before trying to exceed any of them.

It Still Has a Place

Finally, I do believe that there is still a place for the extra mile. I like to go above and beyond for my friends when I know they aren’t expecting it, or when I’m particularly passionate about a project. However, when the “extra mile” becomes something we expect of ourselves all the time, it isn’t really an “extra” anymore. You’ve just made the journey longer.

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Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

College is around the corner! Make sure you son, daughter, niece, nephew, neighbor, or friend is prepared. Get them a copy of the 5-star reviewed “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” today for $11.99. (update! Amazon has it on sale today! Save a couple bucks)

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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Are You Devaluing Your Time?

Time Management time is moneyHave you every caught yourself driving all over town to run one errand? Maybe you’re looking for the best price, or the perfect item, or the best combination of both. In this case, the time management and the money management part of our brains seem to be in direct conflict. If this sounds like you, read on…

Wasting time vs. saving money

I’m a huge bargain shopper. I never met a coupon I didn’t like. Because of this, I know what it’s like to become fixated on a discount. I don’t like paying more for something if I can get it cheaper somewhere else. It’s partly about the money, but it’s also because having the knowledge of a cheaper price and not using it bugs me!

But as you’re driving across town to save $5 on item, ask yourself: is my time worth more than that? How much extra time will it take you to go to that other store? Pretend that the potential money saved is an hourly wage you’re paying yourself. Is your time worth more than that?

The hunt for perfection

Our extended errands don’t just apply to searching for a bargain. Sometimes we run all over town looking for a perfect item when “good enough” would be just fine instead. Either way, we end up sacrificing our precious time without really thinking much about it.

Instead…

The next time you find yourself embarking on a string of errands that seems to be taking too long, ask, “What else could I be doing with my time, and is that thing worth more than looking in one more store?”

Sometimes you may decide that the discount or perfect item really is worth it, in which case, a little extra planning can save a lot of time. Maybe you can wait a day or two and combine it with another trip in the same area of town. Either way, make sure that you take the value of your own time into account. It’s one of the most precious resources you have.

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3 Steps to a Lighter Calendar

Time Management Light CalendarDid you give your calendar a Spring Cleaning? It’s easy to get stuck in a time management rut when it comes to obligations that consume our day. Sometimes we end up doing things just because we’ve always done them, not because we get any enjoyment or useful result from our actions. This week, I challenge you to give your calendar a good purging. You only need three steps:

1. List Out Your Activities

Sometimes we don’t realize how much we do until we list it all out in one place. Compile a list of all the things on your calendar. Include things like work, family commitments, networking groups, organizations you belong to, classes you attend, etc… Next to each activity, list the realistic time commitment it requires. For example, if you attend an hour long yoga class once a week, your realistic time requirement might be 2 hours when you factor in travel and shower time.

2. Look for the Results

What do you get out of each activity? The answer might be anything from “a paycheck” to “enjoyment” or “fitness.” If the “What do I get out of this?” question is difficult to answer, consider whether that activity has overstayed its welcome on your calendar. Our priorities and needs shift over time. If an activity is no longer providing enough of a benefit for the time you put in, why does it still take up valuable space in your schedule?

3. Find the Least Important

We assume that we’re only supposed to cut unimportant events from our calendars, but sometimes we complete an activity inventory and everything still seems important. In this case, you have to find activities that are least important, or least important right now. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you have time to do it. Life requires choices and stretching yourself too thin diminishes your enjoyment of the other things on your schedule.

Make re-assessing your priorities a regular habit so activities don’t linger on your calendar longer than they remain useful and worth it!

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