Stop Being a Reactive Time Manager by Next Week

reactive time managerAre you busy all day long, but find you haven’t actually done anything at the end of the day? You may be really good at eliminating time killers in your day, such as Facebook, Google, etc, but what do you do when work is the thing distracting you from…well…more work? You may have fallen into the trap of reactive time management. Read on…

Reactive and Proactive

There are two types of time managers: reactive and proactive. Reactive time managers spend their days reacting to situations. They are constantly putting out fires, answering last minute requests, and fielding questions from colleagues. Proactive time managers on the other hand, spend portions of their day getting out in front of these problems and shaping their priorities.

Here are three small things you can do this week to help be more of a proactive time manager

1. Define your role

What are your job responsibilities and, more importantly, what AREN’T your job responsibilities? Just because you’re able to solve a problem doesn’t mean it should take up a prime spot on your to-do list. Proactive time managers are really good at identifying which problems are theirs to solve, and which ones should be delegated to others.

2. Protect your time

Try scheduling 30 minutes into your day this week to get ahead on future projects that fit into the role you defined in Step 1. Schedule this time into your calendar, just like you would any other appointment, and fiercely protect it. If someone asks you to attend a meeting during that time, decline. If your phone rings, don’t answer it. If you have email notifications, turn them off. 30 minutes is long enough to get something done, but short enough that you can reasonably expect to protect the time.

3. Keep a slow day list

Pull out a pad of paper and label it “slow day list.” When you’re in the middle of a busy time, and catch yourself doing something that could have been done weeks prior, pull out your slow day list and write it down. Then, months later, when you’re having a less-busy day, pull out the list and see what you can tackle. We always think we’ll remember these slow day tasks, but as soon as our busy time is over, we tend to get selective amnesia.

You won’t change your time management habits overnight, but by making a habit out of small deliberate changes, you’ll be well on your way!

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Brilliant Time Management Advice My Grandma Gave Me

time management grannyA few days ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with my Grandma (“Granny”) on the phone and she told me what my blog needed to be about this week. Remember, no matter how many degrees you hold or how much experience you have, your grandma is wiser than you, so you should generally listen to what she has to say. That’s why, this week, I present time management wisdom from Emily’s Granny…

Make Time For Family

According to Granny, we should never become too busy to make time for family. Whether it’s a note, a call, an email, or even a visit, family connects don’t happen by accident. We have to purposefully protect time in our days, weeks, and months to make them happen.

For me, this is tough because my family is spread out all over the country. Visits are expensive and logistically challenging. Instead, I used to reserve weekends to call family and friends. Now, weekends have become hectic too ever since our little peanut, Avery, was born. So I’ve revised my plan.

Now, instead of listening to the radio on my way home from work, I use the time to call family or friends. It’s 30 minutes every day that I know will be there and it’s a great way to clear my head from work and catch up with the people I love.

Save Your Communications

Granny’s other piece of advice: save the letters people write to you. We hardly write letters anymore, and when someone takes the time to do so, save it in a special place. You may not want them now, or even next month, but years from now you’ll be glad you saved these precious communications.

Your Challenge

This week, I challenge you to make time to reach out to your family, wherever they may be. And if you’re fortunate enough to still have your Grandma in your life, write her a letter. She’d love to hear from you.

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Check out this title by Emily Schwartz: “How To Speak So People Will Buy” Public speaking book

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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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Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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 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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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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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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Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

How To Make Time To Network

Making time to Network“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” We’ve all heard that phrase before and understand why it’s important. Networking can get us a job, an internship, more business, new business, and expand our professional circle. But who has the time? Cultivating new relationships seems time consuming and when we’re already busy, it seems like one extra thing that can’t fit in our schedule. Try these three tips for more effective networking:

1. Network everywhere

A 3 day conference, a weekly networking lunch, or a monthly mixer are all great ways to meet new people, but if your schedule is tight, network wherever you are! Talk to the person sitting next to you on the airplane, chat with the person in front of you at Starbucks, or say hello to that lady you always end up next to in your 7am yoga class. Networking in an informal setting is a time-saving way to meet new people.

2. Follow up

When you take the time to meet new people, unless you also make room in your schedule to follow up with them, you’re not maximizing your effort. I recently attended a workshop with business coach Mary Cravets, who pointed out that unless you make time to follow up, you haven’t actually made time to network. Reach out to the people you meet with either a quick email, note, or phone call. This isn’t the time to say, “…and by the way, can you help get me a job?” This is the time to lay the foundation for a relationship that you’ll keep up over time.

3. Be patient

Networking doesn’t produce results overnight. If you don’t see results right away, don’t assume your networking isn’t working. Be patient. Building relationships doesn’t take a lot of time all at once, it takes a little bit of time consistently over a while.

Networking is an important skill that requires practice. What steps will you take this week to expand your network?

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Did you know that Emily is a public speaking coach in Phoenix? Get that standing ovation next time you speak.  Learn more

How To Stop 5-Minute Tasks from Taking Over Your Life

Time Management 5 Minute RuleThe “5 Minute Rule” is one of my favorite pieces of time management advice to keep your to-do list trim. “If it takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now!” However, how do you ensure that your day doesn’t become an endless barrage of short 5-minute tasks and you never get any “real” work done? It’s a valid concern. Check out these three tips to let The 5 Minute rule help your time management.

1. Set aside “focus blocks”

In The Time Diet, everything you do is either a Meat, Vegetable, or Dessert. If you’re focused intently on a Meat when a 5-minute task comes across your desk, try keeping it on your desk until you finish your train of thought. Then, before you reward yourself with a break, tackle the 5-minute task. Sometimes these tiny little Vegetables can be a great way to break from our Meats while still remaining productive.

2. Monitor your procrastination

Sometimes people search for tiny 5-minute tasks to do when they are really procrastinating on something else. (For example, a light bulb has a greater chance of being changed in my house if I’m trying to avoid writing my dissertation…) Be honest with yourself when assessing these tiny tasks. Are you doing them because they are important? Or are you just trying to avoid doing something else.

3. Make a process for your interruptions

If you’re continually interrupted with the same short little task, how can you create a procedure to handle these interruptions? Can you send calls straight to voice mail when you’re working? Can you create a signature file outside your office door to sort through at the end of the day? Can you post a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” on your door or in an email? Use your creativity.

Taking care of little tasks quickly is important, but so is keeping your focus. With some discipline and planning, you can keep your to-do list trim, while still maintaining your concentration.

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net