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 to Win At Your New Year’s Resolution

Time Management New Years ResolutionIt’s that time of year again. The time of false hopes and broken promises. (a.k.a. New Year’s Resolutions!) This year, don’t waste your time with a resolution that won’t even last until the New Year’s Eve party is cleaned up. Follow these three tips to increase your chances of keeping your resolution and making it a habit.

1. Choose One

We have so much we want to change! It can be tempting use our (temporary) New Year’s motivation to fix everything at once, but this wastes your time. You’re better off putting all your time, energy, and focus into overcoming one obstacle. Then, use your satisfaction as motivation to tackle something else.

2. Plan Your “How”

A resolution is just a thought in the air until you have a plan to complete it. “I want to spend more time with my family” is a nice thought. “I want to get to work half an hour earlier each day so I don’t have to bring work home on the weekends” is a plan. Don’t make a resolution without also making a plan to complete it.

3. Pick a Partner

Making something a habit is the key to keeping your New Year’s resolution, but until it’s a habit, it’s helpful to have someone to hold you accountable. Trying to lose weight? Ask a friend to go on the journey with you. Trying to stay organized? Ask a colleague to conduct a “desk inspection” once a week. It’s not enough to just tell someone what your goal is. Unless you have a specific procedure in place for that person to hold you accountable, they’ll forget about your goal just as quickly as you will.

Happy New Year readers! See you in 2014!

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

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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Are You Sabotaging Your Goals Before You Start?

Time Management Goal SettingDo you share your goals or keep them to yourself? Your answer to that question might affect whether you achieve your goals or abandon them in the graveyard of good intentions.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy telling people about your goals because it adds accountability. My Facebook feed is evidence that I am not alone in this belief. Scrolling through my updates on January 2nd, I was faced with countless goals, promises, and resolutions from my friends of everything from weight loss, to business aspirations, to habit breaking. In my time management seminars, I advocate for loud and proud goal-sharing as a way to strengthen your motivation, commitment and accountability. It worked for me, I’ve seen it work for other people, and I believe in the benefits.

Then I came across this TED talk about goal setting that caused me to question my belief. Essentially, Derek Sivers says that telling people about your goals makes you less likely to achieve them because the act of articulating your intentions satisfies your desire to follow through with them. In other words, telling other people you’re going to get organized makes you feel more organized, and therefore have less of a sense of urgency to actually get organized.

Interesting.

I find it difficult to accept that goal sharing is never useful, because as I said, I’ve seen it work countless times, but Derek presents a strong case. Instead, I offer these tips to share goals effectively.

1. Tell Your Friends How to Help You

When we share our goals, the assumption is that the people you tell can help you. Don’t just assume. Ask for a specific action. For example, instead of telling your friend, “I’m going to exercise every day,” say “I’m going to exercise every day, and if you ever hear me complain about it, please pull me off the couch.” Or “I’m trying to grow my business this year, so when you see me, please ask how it’s going to keep me accountable.”

2. Find a Friend With A Similar Goal

Friends and family are great support networks, but sometimes the best support comes from people who are working toward the same goal as you. Seek out friends and family who are striving to accomplish the same things and ask if you can sit down together and develop a plan. This provides both support and accountability.

3. Share the Results

If you’re afraid that public goal setting will make you less motivated to follow through, start with just sharing your results. When you accomplish a goal, no matter how small, tell your close friends and family. Sometimes we’re afraid to do this lest it be construed as bragging, but there is a difference between bragging and celebrating. Telling a friend what you accomplished, and what you plan to do next can provide support and encouragement to keep going. For example, “I finished this week with an empty inbox! Next week, I’m going to work on staying more focused while I’m working.”

Incidentally, it is my one of my goals, to give a TED talk some day (similar to the one in the video above), but I suppose now that I’ve told you about it, I can kiss that dream goodbye!

Got a comment? Leave one! I’d love to hear it.

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

What Marathon Are You Running Today?

Time Management MarathonWhen was the last time someone gave you a medal for a job well done? We don’t always get a chance to celebrate the results of our hard work, but when we do, it is certainly a feeling to relish. Just because we don’t always get a trophy, or a certificate, or even a pat on the back in recognition of our work, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our successes on our own and reward the time we’ve put in to make it happen.

Today, I had the distinct pleasure of watching some of my friends run the PF Chang’s Half Marathon in Phoenix. I am not a runner, but I do bring a high level of sideline enthusiasm. As I watched them run past mile marker 11, closing in on the finish-line, I thought back to all of the time they had put into training – all of the early morning runs, the hours spent at the gym, and the afternoons spent resting their sore legs on the coach. I imagined how accomplished they felt as they neared closer and closer to finally crossing that finish line that had lingered in front of them through months of training.

I thought about how we’re all running our own marathons in our lives. We’re all working hard each day toward something. We’re all making sacrifices with our time, planning out our work schedule, and wondering how long it’ll be until we reach our goals. But, unlike a marathon, sometimes those goals and the paths to get there are vague and undefined.

Define Your Finish Line

The finish line of a race is very clearly marked, but what about other successes in our lives? How do we know that we’ve ever “made it” and that our hard work has paid off? Nebulous goals like “success” need tangible check points so we can both keep track of our progress and also give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. If you never take your nose away from the grindstone long enough to celebrate your successes, you may find yourself burned out long before you get where you thought it was you wanted to go.

Develop a Training Plan

If you want to run a marathon, there is no shortage of training plans available to help you prepare for a race of that magnitude. However, sometimes your path might be less trodden and more difficult to figure out. That doesn’t mean you can move forward without a plan. A novice runner seeks advice from an expert before developing a training schedule, and you similarly will save yourself time and energy by seeking advice from someone who has experience in whatever it is you want to do.

Bring Your Cheerleaders

When I asked where I should stand as a spectator at the half marathon, I was told to stake out a spot somewhere during the last two miles, because that’s when the runners need it most. Sure enough, when I asked my friend about the race, she told me that she had wanted to start walking, but knew I was going to be standing at the next mile marker and wanted to be running when she passed me. Our friends keep us going when we want to quit. Their encouragement motivates us and keeps us smiling. However, we can’t forget to ask for the support. I am not a marathon runner. I don’t really see it as a spectator sport and would never have thought to come stand on the sidelines, but my friends asked me to and I was more than eager to help out.

Whatever marathon you are training for in life right now, set yourself up for success with the right tools and cross the finish line with a smile.

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Are You Letting Fear Hold You Back?

This week, you will likely see some spooky ghosts and goblins on your doorstep. However, Halloween isn’t the only time we encounter things that scare us. Some of our fears follow us year round and try to both interfere with our time management, and inhibit us from accomplishing our goals. Unfortunately, it will take more than some free candy to make these scary things go away.

We strive to have excellent time management skills to efficiently work toward our goals. Sometimes, even though we know the steps we need to take in order to reach our target, we let our fears get in the way.  Be careful not to let these three fears stop you from reaching your goals.

1. Fear of The Unknown

Even though we may be dreaming of change, the fact of the matter is, it can be a terrifying concept. The unknown is scary. Sometimes it’s easier to put off taking concrete steps toward a goal simply because the status quo is so familiar. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. If you need help taking that first step into the unknown, look around. You probably aren’t the first one to venture down that path.

2. Fear of Failure

Failure is not enjoyable and in an effort to protect ourselves from that horrible feeling, we sometimes avoid trying at all. If we never try, we won’t succeed, but we also don’t run the risk of failing! This avoidance isn’t something we’re always completely aware of. A common method of failure avoidance is to busy ourselves with so many other things that we can tell ourselves we “don’t have time” to accomplish what we know is really important. Remember: we make time for what’s important to us. Failure, while painful to our ego, doesn’t have to be a dead end, but is rather a necessary pit stop on the way to success.

3. Fear of Disappointing Others

Many of us let other people dictate the way we spend our time. We do things not necessarily because we want to do them, but because we think it’s what others expect of us and we don’t want to let them down. Here is the thing: other people don’t care nearly as much as you think they do. People who are close to you just want you to be happy, and people who aren’t close to you are too busy worrying about how everyone else is perceiving them, that they don’t have time to judge how you’re spending your time. You need to devote your time and energy to tasks that support your own goals, not the goals of others.

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