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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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?

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How Impatience Can Derail Time Management Goals

time management patience“A watched pot never boils.” I was reminded of this saying tonight as I waited impatiently for my pasta to cook so we could eat dinner. “Why is this taking so long??” I muttered.

Then I realized that the “watched pot” is like so many other tasks we have in our world of instant gratification, and that patience can hold great value for our time management. Here are three ways to be patient as you move through a lengthy to-do list.

1. Keep track of small steps of progress

We live in an age where we want to see results now. (5 minutes ago would be preferable.) This makes it difficult to devote time to longer tasks that will take a while to complete. Celebrate small successes and keep track of stepping stones of progress. That will keep you motivated.

2. Keep your eye on the goal

Do you remember why you’re working so hard? Before you get frustrated and give up, reconnect with that you want your end goal to be. I would say to remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but I’ve already used one cliché in this blog so far and I think that’s sufficient.

3. Remind yourself of past experiences

If abstract future goals are not motivating you, tangible past examples can be helpful. Remind yourself of a time when patience paid off. For me, I always think back to when I started my PhD four years ago and thought I would surely fall off that steep mountain before ever reaching the top. Now that I’m so close, that motivates me to finish pretty much anything on my to-do list!

What is your “watched pot” that you’re frustrated with right now as you wait for it to boil? Don’t give up just because you think the end is not in sight. Keep plodding along, be patient, and don’t stop!

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5 Things To Do In 30 Minutes Per Day

Time Management 30 MinutesIf you absolutely needed to, could you find an extra 30 minutes in your day? That extra half an hour might not seem like much, but if you make the time each day, it can add up to a lot over time! It might mean getting up a little earlier, finding more focus in your day, or cutting down on your social media/internet surfing time. However you find it, here are 5 things you can do in those 30 extra minutes that produce big results.

1. Get in Shape

I know, I know. We never have enough time to exercise. Why not use those 30 minutes to work out at home? You’ll save time by not driving to and from the gym. Try this 30-minute at home workout, or one of the many others available online.

2. Learn a Skill

Have you always wanted to learn to play the piano? Or be more proficient at Excel or Photoshop? Why not learn? “How-to” information has never been more readily available. Either buy a book and slowly work your way through it, or use an online course website such as Udemy to learn things you never thought you’d have time for.

3. Follow Up

It’s easy to get lost in the quagmire of a full inbox and forget to reach out to contacts we’ve met recently. Why not use those 30 minutes to follow up with new people and keep in touch with old friends or clients. Staying in touch is the only way to maximize your ever-growing network.

4. Accomplish a “Some Day” Task

Have you always wanted to write a book? Organize your garage? Re-finish that furniture? Huge tasks like this seem daunting, so we continue to put them off until “some day.” In reality, “some day” doesn’t have to be one 24-hour time period. Use your 30 minutes a day to tackle one tiny piece of that task at a time. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’re finished!

5. Clean

Who in the world has time to devote a whole day to housecleaning? Use your new-found 30 minutes to tackle a few tasks each day. Perhaps one day you clean the bathrooms, another day you vacuum, another day deal with clutter, etc… It’s much easier to stay on top of cleaning when you set aside tiny bits of time for it in your schedule than when you wait for it to get overwhelming.

Where will YOU find your 30 minutes a day and what will you do with it?

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10 Time Management Tips in 3 Words

Time Management TipsUsually, I strive to fill this blog with eloquent, helpful commentary that addresses a specific need in the time management world. This week, I came across an awesome blog called Do It Marketing that gave great advice in only three words. “This is genius!” I thought. If there is any subject that should be distilled down to three words or less, it’s certainly time management. After all, who has time for more than that? So, here are 10 time management tips in three words. Quick to read, easy to remember. No room for excuses!

1. Don’t say “later”

2. Write it down

3. Schedule your Desserts

4. Productive not busy

5. Banish Time Killers

6. Focused work always

7. Delegate when possible

8. Stop making excuses

9. Plan in advance

10. Do it now

Got some more 3-word advice? Leave a comment!

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And The Oscar Goes To…Time Management?

Time Management OscarOh, The Oscars. That yearly tradition when many of us sit down to see our favorite movie stars, then collectively look at our watches around 9:30pm, realize we’re 3 hours into the show, the “good” awards haven’t even started, and we all have to work in the morning. We may groan at the lengthy Oscar telecast, but don’t we all have tasks in our lives that seem to go on far too long? Follow these three tips to keep your lengthy tasks in check.

Give Yourself Deadlines

Many people contribute to the success of a film, and the directors of the Academy Awards know, if given the time, actors will thank each and every one of them. Just like award winners have time limits on their acceptance speeches, you must give yourself deadlines for your tasks.  According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time we give it. If you give yourself a week to finish something, it will take a week. If you give yourself a day, it will take a day. There will always be “one more thing” that can be done, just like there will always be one more person to thank, but at some point, it just needs to be finished.

Leave A Buffer

If you plan for everything in your day to go perfectly, well, you’re likely to be disappointed! Sometimes things take longer than they should. Mistakes happen, we hit a wall, we have a technology mishap, etc…Setting your own deadline a few days before the real one creates a valuable “buffer zone” to plan for these things. After all, when Ben Affleck gets snubbed for best director, and then ends up on stage anyway, you just let him talk. As long as he wants to. Make up the time somewhere else.


One of the easiest ways to instantly make your work take longer is to lose your focus. Constantly checking your email, sneaking a peak at Facebook, looking at all the other tasks still waiting on your to-do list –– all these things distract us from our primary objective: finish the task at hand as efficiently as possible. We lose all hope that the Oscars will be anywhere close to three hours when they start showing seemingly un-related musical numbers and the presenters start deviating from the script. Focus, people, focus!

By forcing yourself to focus and get your work done efficiently, you’ll find that some of your most dreaded tasks really don’t take as long as you once  thought. You’ll spend that extra time thanking yourself for having the discipline to stick to your schedule…and of course, thanking The Academy.

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Worry is the Thief of…Time Management?

When we are stressed about something, we try not to think about it. However, there is a difference between avoiding a worry that is stealing our focus, and putting off a dreaded task indefinitely. One is a healthy way to avoid stress. The other can lead to a time management disaster.

It’ll Get Done!

In college, I had a friend who functioned as sort of a “stress police” for me. Whenever she caught me stressing out about an assignment, she would say, “Don’t worry about it! It’ll get done!”

I think about those words frequently. I want so badly to believe they are sage advice. How nice it must be to simply not worry about the work we have to do and trust that it will just…happen. As I add more roles and responsibilities to my life, I want even more to believe that the “It’ll all get done” attitude is the way to go. I’ve come to the conclusion that the attitude itself isn’t so bad. It’s just missing a step. It’s missing the plan.

Hiding Your Worries

When we are staring down a big, difficult task that stresses us out, we will sometimes try to put it out of our heads and think about other things. This relieves the stress in the short term, but just delays the inevitable. It’s like throwing a sheet over the dishes in the sink. You can no longer see them, but the mess is still there. This isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes you have to throw a sheet over your mess so it doesn’t stress you out while you’re working on other things. However, you need a plan for when to take the sheet off. Otherwise, you have just created a nasty procrastination habit that is going to cause more problems for you later.

When you find yourself worrying about a dreaded task, stop. Either:

1. Start the task now or

2. Create a written plan for when the task will begin

The Plan is Key

Once you have a realistic plan, then you can allow yourself to say, “Don’t worry about it. It’ll get done!” Now, you’re not relying on things to just “happen,” you have a concrete plan for how they are going to happen. Of course, something can always go wrong, but you have little control over that, and we all know how useless it is to worry about something we can’t control. So go ahead! Allow yourself to stop worrying about that upcoming task! As long as you have a plan for its completion.

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Photo Credit: Chanpipat, Free Digital Photos