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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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 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 today!

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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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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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Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

Must Focus, Must Focus…Oh Look, Something Shiny!

Time Management Excited PuppyDo you manage your time like a hyper puppy? You know the feeling. You have a great idea, a sudden surge of inspiration and throw yourself full throttle into a task…until you get distracted by something shiny in a different direction and abruptly change course. Then it happens again. And again. Pretty soon your week is over and you have a bunch of half-completed projects, you’re exhausted, and feel you’ve achieved nothing. Let’s examine this phenomenon…

First of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. There are some definite up sides to the “shiny object” approach.

The Upside: You get things started. Sometimes half the time management battle is finding the motivation to begin a task. If you find a sudden surge of inspiration to begin, you definitely don’t have that problem! You’ve gotten further than the people who let a task linger on their, list making excuses about why they simply must wait for “later” or “someday.”

The Downside: You never finish. When we jump quickly from one task to the next with no focus, we lose all the benefits we gained with our quick and motivated beginning. Instead of capitalizing on that motivation and pushing through to the finish, we let it go.

I’ll admit that starting a project is exponentially more exciting than finishing one. (The three half-written book projects I have on my hard drive right now are proof positive of that statement, though I think I’ve finally settled on one I like.) The trick is to keep in touch with that initial excitement as you drive toward the finish line.

Defining your focus can help keep you on track. Too much planning in the beginning can restrict a great idea, or cause a bad case of “analysis paralysis” which means you never really start. However, as you get further into your project, it’s important to start narrowing down where you see it going and define some goals.

Finishing a project becomes much easier once you can define where a finish line actually is.

Graduation is coming up! Do you have a present for your niece? nephew? neighbor? friend? Why not take care of it now?

Get your copy of “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” on Amazon today for $11.99!

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3 Benefits Gained From Backing Away

Time Management Do Not DisturbWhen we’re committed to finishing an important task by a deadline, working non-stop seems like the responsible option, but it isn’t always the most productive. This week, I took a whole 7 days off from my dissertation. I couldn’t look at it anymore. The words were starting to blur together and I was not making the progress that needed to happen.

Coming back to it after the hiatus has been a wonderful experience. Here is what we can all gain from backing away from a task for a while.

1. Excitement

It’s much easier to work on a project when we’re excited and motivated to do so. Unfortunately, we quickly lose that motivation when we allow ourselves to burn out. If you’re concerned that backing away from a task will cause your progress to slow, consider the time you’ll gain in the long run from your ability to work faster when you start back up again with renewed motivation from the time away.

2. Perspective

If you’re stuck in a rut with a project, stepping away can allow your perspective to shift as you suddenly see things differently and come up with new ideas. Creativity research suggests that time away is a critical step in achieving an “a ha!” moment of creative brilliance. It’s why some of our best ideas happen in the shower, or just as we’re about to fall asleep.

3. Mistakes

Time away allows us to see mistakes we may have missed before. When we’re too close to a project, we start to gloss over mistakes and only see what we want to see. Don’t allow your proximity to a task to interfere with your ability to look at it objectively.

Time away doesn’t always seem like the best option, but I was so glad I stepped back this week. What can you step back from that will help your long term productivity?

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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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Why Santa Claus is an Excellent Time Manager

Time management santaIn a few days, millions of children will anxiously wake up and rush to the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought for them. It’s a good thing Santa is an excellent time manager so he can ensure everything is finished on time! Here are three time management lessons we can take from the jolly man in red:

1. He makes a list and checks it twice.

Notice that Santa’s naughty and nice list doesn’t consist of multicolored post-it notes carelessly strewn about the North Pole. He keeps everything organized in one place so he can easily find it.

2. He delegates

Santa could try to make all those toys himself, and thus ensure that they were all made his way and to his standards, but then he wouldn’t have time for those important administrative tasks, like list-checking, travel-planning, and cookie-eating. Santa delegates effectively to his team of elves to make sure everything gets finished efficiently in time for Christmas.

3. He thinks outside the box

Imagine how much longer present-delivery would take if Santa had to fuss with keeping keys to each house and letting himself in through the front door! By using a more creative approach, the chimney, he’s able to speed up his process and finish it all in one night.

Now, some would argue that if they had 364 days to prepare for one project, they’d be great time managers too. Point taken. But regardless of what your job is, I sincerely hope that you are taking time to slow down and enjoy your family and friends this Holiday Season, and are ready to work efficiently and productively in the new year so you can always find time to relax and enjoy the important things in life.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Time Diet!

Did Santa bring you time management help this season?  Check out The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management for $12.99 on

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5 Lies We Believe About Time Management

Time management liesTime management is an essential skill for productive success, so it’s no wonder we all want so badly to be good at it. However, in your quest for time management excellence, don’t let yourself fall victim to these 5 lies we believe about productivity.

1. Technology will save us.

There is an app or electronic device to manage pretty much every aspect of our lives if we so desire, and our time is no different. It’s easy to think, “If I just had the right program, or the right filters on my email, or the right calendar app, managing my time would be easy.” While technology certainly does help, it’s important to remember that it’s merely a tool, and without a plan, discipline, and patience, even the best tools can’t help us.

2. Everyone has more time on their hands than I do.

OK, so maybe not everyone, but when someone misses a deadline or forgets a responsibility, it’s tempting to think, “Really? Come on. I have way more on my plate than you do, and you don’t see me complaining.” Just remember that we all have our own unique time management struggles and your perception of what someone’s life is like may be far from the truth.

3.  I must multitask to get everything done.

While multitasking might initially seem like an efficient way to get multiple things done at once, in the long run your productivity takes a major hit. Plus, you’re stuck re-doing tasks that were done sloppily or without focus the first time around. Juggle multiple projects, but focus on one at a time.

4. There is a silver bullet piece of advice that will fix all of my time management problems, I just have to find it!

There is a lot of time management advice out there. Some of it’s good, some of it’s not, but ALL of it is just words on a page until you adapt it to your needs and put it into practice. I enjoy inspiring and motivating people to adapt time management solutions for their unique situations, and more importantly, ingrain the habits into their schedules. That’s what changes behaviors!

5. I can do it all.

You can do more than you think, but nobody can do it all and we harm ourselves by trying. Setting realistic expectations for what we can tackle and celebrating our small accomplishments along the way is what will keep us motivated to keep moving toward our goals.

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