Three Time Management Hacks

time management hackI’m always fascinated with the creative ways people find to keep themselves focused and reach their time management goals. This week, I spoke with my sister, Gretchen, who shared with me three time management resolutions she had for the new year and the time management goals they were meant to achieve. (When you write a time management blog, these are the kinds of things you discuss with your family.)

Check out her interesting ways of changing her behavior. Could any of them help you too?

1. Put a book near the TV remote

Gretchen wants to find more time to read, but she knows that flipping on the TV to watch Netflix is much more tempting and convenient. Worse yet, as soon as the TV is turned on, it’s difficult to turn off! By putting her book near the TV remote, she’s more likely to use that time to read instead of binge watch House of Cards.

 2. Put the candy bowl away

We all have our Time Killers, those little things that steal our focus while we’re working. Gretchen analyzed her day and realized her Time Killer was snacking. She tells herself she’s hungry, but she’s really just looking for a distraction. To help achieve her goal of staying focused, she’s putting her candy dish away.

 3. Wear a watch

Smartphones are distracting. We know this. But Gretchen noticed that when she looked at her phone to see the time, she was consumed with email and Facebook alerts. Checking the time could turn into a 15 minute distraction. Instead, she’s going to wear a watch and avoid pulling out the phone all together.

This week, I challenge you to ask your friends and family for the creative ways they meet their time management goals. You might find a strategy that works for you too!

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Time Management Book for Students

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NPR Told me I Don’t Have Time To Think and They Are Right

78321193 thinking“I’m so busy I don’t have time to think!” Do you feel like that sometimes? I know I do. The thing is, I realized this week that I DO have time to think, I’m just spending that time doing other things instead.

My Gut Reaction

I’m an NPR junkie, and I heard a story called “bored and brilliant” this week that made me instantly feel defensive. The premise was that because of the instant and constant availability of Smartphones, we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. My gut reaction was, “What’s so wrong with that? Sure, I use my phone a lot during the day, but it’s to be efficient with my work and squeeze every moment out of my workday. I never pull my phone out during family time. This is just another story making technology out to be evil. Grumble grumble grumble.”

Then I listened more closely to the story. The author makes the point that we’re more likely to get our most brilliant ideas when we’re bored, daydreaming, or thinking about something else. Makes sense. That’s why we come up with our best ideas in the shower right?

My Realization

Then it hit me. The shower is one of the last places we still let our minds wander, and when waterproof phones are everywhere, that will probably change too.

Now I notice my aversion to being even the slightest bit bored all the time. Waiting in line at the post office? Pull out my phone. Arrive a few minutes early for a meeting? Pull out my phone. Out to dinner and my hubby gets up to go to the bathroom? God forbid I sit and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant for 90 seconds. That’s 90 seconds I could be using to check my very important email.

There is a very fine line between being efficient, and never allowing your brain any moment of downtime. I’m going to try to manage that balance much better. Because you know what? I DO get my best ideas when I’m not trying. So I’m going to try to “not try” more often.

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Do You Do This Before A Meeting?

time management meeting reminderI’m a living, breathing, reminder app. Are you? If I have a meeting with someone, I email 24 hours before to confirm we’re still on for the meeting. I’m like that little digital calendar message that pops up to say, “Hey don’t forget! You’ve got that thing tomorrow!” Even though I’ve done this for years, I’ve recently starting weighing the pros and cons of the practice. Here is what I’ve come up with:

The pros: You’re minimizing your risk of wasting time. If you block off time in your day, or worse yet, drive out of your way to a meeting only to have the person not show, you could have spent that time doing something else. Plus, even the most organized person forgets appointments from time to time and a gentle reminder can avoid an oversight. Finally, a reminder email also tells the other party that YOU didn’t forget either.

The cons: You’re contributing to the world’s epidemic of superfluous email communication. Email is so easy to send that sometimes we end up sending unnecessary messages, making it more difficult for the recipient to find messages that really matter. Reading email has become more like a treasure hunt- quickly sorting out the junk to find the important stuff. If you sent too much email, you might risk being associated with the “junk” and having your important communications glossed over.

My Conclusion

So what’s a person to do? After much deliberation, I’ve decided that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation. I will continue to be a meeting reminder, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts? What do YOU do before a meeting?

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How I Kept My Time Management Resolution Even When I Wanted to Quit

time management resolutionIt shouldn’t shock you that my New Year’s resolutions are usually of a time management nature. Last year, my resolution was to write my fourth book: How to Speak so People Will Buy.

While this was challenge in itself, I had a few additional hurdles to overcome. The subject matter was different than previous books, I was also finishing my dissertation, and, oh yeah, we had a baby! I’m proud to say that on December 30th, two days before my “deadline” I received my first shipment of the books in the mail. Here is how I met my goal:

 1. Ask for help

I usually like to do a lot of the formatting, editing, and graphic design layout on my own before handing it over for final checking. Not this time. I asked a fabulous graphic designer to layout the cover, and asked my wonderful husband to be my extra set of eyes on the rough manuscript before doing the “official” edit. Did it mean giving up a little control? Yup. Did it save a tremendous amount of time? Absolutely.

 2. Break it up

Whereas previous books received whole weekends of work at a time, I didn’t have that luxury this year. Instead, most of the work was completed in 90-minute segments. I used to tell myself that I needed a whole day to write, that I needed to be “in the zone” all day to get anything done. It’s amazing what you’re capable of completing when you take away your excuses.

3. Always be prepared

My computer followed me everywhere this year. If I had an extra 30 minutes in my day, that was another bit of book work, no matter where I happened to be. On a plane, eating lunch, waiting at the doctor, etc…Instead of scrolling through Facebook to pass the time, I pulled out the book.

I’m not going to pretend that this process was easy, or that I similarly completed ALL of my time management goals, but this one I was particularly committed to. My time management books started when I noticed that had a lot to offer in terms of solutions to the productivity problems of others.

Why?

As I started my speaking and coaching business, I began to meet a lot of other business owners and sales professionals. I quickly realized that being brilliant in your field didn’t necessarily mean having the public speaking skills to present information most effectively. Again, I knew I could help people and was committed to bringing this book to life!

And now, I’m happy to say, it’s done!! So if you ever need to speak about your business to others, I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s what one reviewer had to say:

“I’ve been a business owner for more than 12 years and speaking with confidence is critical for success. Emily’s tips on how to be a more proficient, interesting, and engaging speaker will completely transform your approach to speaking in front of any group.”

Dorothy Wolden
President, National Association of Women Business Owners, Phoenix Chapter.
Gravity Web + Design

Get it on Amazon today!

Public speaking book

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How to Give The Gift of Time Management

time management giftWe struggle to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. Something that will make them smile, add joy to their lives, be fun but practical, special but economical, and most of all, say “You’re important to me!” If you’re striking out at the mall, and gift cards just aren’t right, why not give a gift that requires no shipping and is sure to be valued?

The gift of time.

Time is one of those things we all need but never have enough of. If someone gave you an extra few hours of free time in a weekend, would you be able to put a price on it? Here are three ways to give someone the gift of time:

1. Organize

Do you have a talent for organizing? Offer to organize a friend’s home office. Not only does it check a task off their list, but it makes their daily tasks easier to manage because they can find everything.
2. Clean

I have yet to meet the people who love reserving part of their weekend to clean their bathrooms and mow their lawns. Offer to come over for a morning and clean their kitchen, mop their floors, trim their yards, whatever they need. Not feeling up to the task? Take that money you would have spent on a gift card and hire a maid service.

3. Cook

When we’re crunched for time, we end up eating out or grabbing a frozen bag of something. Help your friends free up some time in their evenings by cooking a homemade meal in a disposable container ready to pop in the oven. No cooking AND no cleanup. The perfect time saver.

The perfect gift is fun to receive, but even more fun to give. You’ll never go wrong by helping people with their time management by giving the gift of time.

Help give your favorite student time all next year with The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival

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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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