When Getting Sick Isn’t In Your Schedule

Time Management when sickThis week I decided it would be a good time to get sick. I carefully planned for it in my schedule so that no plans would be disrupted and everything would still be accomplished….

Right. Because that happens. Sick never comes at a time that would be “convenient,” it happens right in the middle of a hectic day when you just don’t need one more thing to go wrong. Here are three tips to deal with your to-do list when your health just isn’t happening.

1. Pick What You Won’t Do

When we get sick we have to accept that try as we might, we simply won’t be able to do everything we hoped for. We then have a choice. We can pick which tasks we will let go so we can focus on having energy to do the important ones, or we can allow the illness to decide for us.

I made the mistake of trying to do everything starting with the first appointment on my calendar, even though the events later in the day were more important. By 3:00, the illness decided I was done being productive. Oh how I wish I had rested in the morning so I would have had a tiny bit of energy for later.

2. Ask For Help

We never want to be “that person” that is a burden on our colleagues, but I assure you, unless you’re calling out every week, your co-workers would rather pick up a tiny bit of extra slack for you than have you come in and contaminate the whole work space.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help when you need it. Have you ever said “no” to a sick colleague? Exactly.

3. Acknowledge it Early

Sometimes we try to ignore sickness and “power through it” hoping if we don’t acknowledge the obvious, it will somehow go away. Recognize the early signs of sickness and start taking better care of yourself right away.

We like to think that we can wish away a cold or a stomach bug by simply never taking our nose away from the grindstone, but it’s far better to take a step back now than be stuck in bed later.

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How To Hold a Time Management Garage Sale

PrintAre there things on your schedule that are cluttering your day? Are they getting in the way of things that actually matter to you?

This week, I cleared out all the clutter in our house and had a garage sale. Getting rid of the extra junk was so freeing, but I realized that I probably had some clutter lurking around my to-do list also. Have you held a “time management garage sale” lately? Here are the four steps:

1. Take an inventory

Much of what we do all day happens on autopilot, so we don’t realize how we’re really spending our time until we look at it. This week, pay close attention to how you spend your time and how long you spend on each task. Sometimes tasks that we think only take a few minutes, actually consume hours of our week.

2. What is important to you

Take this opportunity to reexamine what’s important to you. Is it family? Friends? Is it spending time outside? Is it having a salary that supports going on yearly vacations? Is it eating dinner at home every evening? Is it the satisfaction you get from your job? Reflect on what’s important and how it aligns with your goals.

3. Do they match?

Now, revisit your “time log” from the week. Does how you spend your time match up with what’s important to you? You might not love your job, but if it’s moving you toward a more broad career goal, maybe it’s fine. You might realize you’re spending way too much time on email when instead you could spend a few extra minutes enjoying your morning coffee. Or perhaps you say that being active is important to you…and yet you put pretty much every other obligation in front of exercising.

4. Ditch it

Just like my house only has room for a finite amount of “stuff,” we only have time for so many things during the day. If we fill it with things that don’t either give us enjoyment, move us further toward a goal, or better the world in some way, we’ll have less room for the things that actually matter. Don’t live your life on autopilot. Make purposeful decisions with your time and change course when needed. Put those unwanted tasks out on your driveway and let them be someone else’s problem.

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Are You More Than Your Job?

time management work life balance“So, what do you do?”

That’s one of the first questions we’re asked when meeting someone for the first time. The answer usually entails some sort of job or profession. Basically, whatever brings in money and pays the bills. However, this week I thought a lot about why it’s our job that defines who we are – the snapshot of a person’s life we choose to ask about. I don’t have answers, but I do have ideas. Read on.

My Vacation Epiphany

I spent the past week in Costa Rica (which I would highly recommend by the way, but that’s an entire novel unto itself.) The people there are very friendly and I answered the “where are you from and what do you do” question frequently. After a while though, I didn’t enjoy answering it. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I was trying to escape work this week, not think about it.

Why do we ask what people do? My first thought is it’s because that’s how we spend a significant portion of our time every day. It also gives clues to our personalities and interests. “Oh you’re an engineer. Cool, you must like math.” “Nursing, how interesting, you must like helping people.” But I also feel a little weird about making someone’s occupation the number one thing I care about in a brief, “let’s get acquainted” conversation.

What Makes You Happy?

What if instead our first question was “What makes you happy?” or “Tell me about what’s most important to you?” Perhaps these seem a little too personal to share with a stranger and our occupations are a less intrusive way to search for common ground to talk about.

Regardless, I am committed to feeling like more than my job. I am a speaker and an educator, but I’m first a wife, a sister, a daughter, a dog lover, a travel enthusiast, and creative thinker. I feel fortunate to be able to earn money doing work I enjoy, but work is what I do, it’s not all of who I am.

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No Crystal Ball? Then Stop Worrying

time management crystal ball“What if I don’t get the promotion? What if my flight is late? What if my house doesn’t sell?” Our obsession with trying to predict the future takes up a lot of our time and energy. Until you have a crystal ball, that energy is better used elsewhere! Try these 3 tips to stop planning for the unpredictable.

1. Think of Yourself 5 Years Ago

It’s easy to get caught up in the present and forget that our tastes, interests and circumstances change all the time. Think of the person you were 5 years ago. Could you ever have predicted how your life would change in that time? What makes you think you’ll be able to predict what happens in the next 5 years?

2. Identify What You Can’t Control

As much as we wish we could control every event in our lives, we can’t. Identify what is in your control and what is out of your hands. Whenever you catch yourself worrying about a future event you have no say over, stop. Replace the thought with something you can control and redirect your thinking.

3. Embrace Change

Remember, sometimes the best opportunities end up being unexpected surprises that would have never made it onto your preplanned life itinerary.

You never know where an unforeseen path may lead, so embrace the adventure!

Turning off our “worry switch” is not easy. Rely on your support network of friends and family to help point out when you’re wasting time thinking about something you can’t control. This past week, my dissertation adviser caught me in a worry moment and said, “Emily, until you can bring me a functioning crystal ball, I want you to stop trying to predict the future.”

That sounds like a challenge to me!

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Are Your Goals Gathering Dust in Your Closet?

Time Management ClosetDo you have “nice” clothes sitting in your closet that you never wear because you’re waiting for the right special occasion? (Men, if this is a foreign concept to you, it’s definitely a thing, and we women do it all the time.)

Perhaps you also have dreams and goals, both big and small, that you want to accomplish…some day. What are you waiting for? There is no perfect time, perfect occasion, or hand delivered invitation letting you know when the time is right. No, the perfect time is now.

My Fashion Fiasco

Last week, I dug through my closet for something “special” to wear out and found a dress wrapped in a garment bag. “Oh perfect!” I thought. “I’ve been saving this dress!” I had only worn it a small handful of times since I bought it 4 years ago as it seemed far too nice to wear for just any ol’ date night or dinner party. I proudly tried it on and looked in the mirror…

…and sighed a deflated sigh. It wasn’t in style anymore, nor did it fit right. When I bought it, I felt cutting edge and stunning because it fit like a glove and was definitely “on trend,” but now it looked tired. The time to wear this dress was 4 years ago, not now. I had missed my opportunity while waiting for “someday.”

What Are You Saving for Some Day?

What do you want to do that you’re putting off until someday? I can go buy another dress, but life opportunities don’t work like fashion. Once they are gone, they’re gone. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you the time is right, allow me to be that person. Make time in your schedule today for something you’ve been putting off.

(And go wear those nice shoes and the perfect pants. Tomorrow is not any more special than today.)

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How to Wake Up Earlier

Time management morningWhat would YOU do with an extra hour in the day? Would you exercise? Spend it with family? Clean that room you’ve been meaning to get to? One of the easiest places to find more time in your day is in the morning. Unfortunately, we aren’t all chipper morning people who easily bound out of bed at 5am, ready to start the day.  Try these three tips to start your morning before the sun does:

1. Schedule a morning appointment

Getting up early is easier to do when you’re accountable to someone else. Try joining a networking group, exercise class, or book club that meets early in the morning. When I chose a Toastmasters club last spring, I almost opted for the 11:30 lunch break meeting, but instead chose a club that met at 6:30 in the morning. Not only does this force me out of bed earlier, but it leaves my afternoon hours free for other things!

2. Look forward to breakfast

Aren’t you much more eager to get out of bed when you know that a gourmet cup of coffee and delicious omelet are in your immediate future? A luxurious breakfast need not take a lot of time. Take a few minutes before bed and cut up some veggies and chicken to throw into a pan with some eggs in the morning. Or just spend the extra few bucks and spring for the “good” cereal or coffee. Having a delicious breakfast to look forward to can provide an extra boost of morning motivation.

3. Lay off the Snooze Button

Set your alarm clock for the time you “no really” want to be up. Setting it earlier and allowing yourself to hit the snooze button 4 times will just decrease the amount of restful sleep you get and allow yourself to linger in bed for longer than you planned.

Like most things in your schedule, getting up early only becomes part of your routine when you do it regularly and form a habit. Don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult the first week or two. Just stick with it, and enjoy the new-found time in your day!

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3 Ways to Celebrate Success

Time Management CelebrationsYOU are amazing and have accomplished incredible things. Have you stepped back and appreciated that recently?

Sometimes people are hesitant to celebrate success because it takes time, and they’re afraid they’ll become complacent with their accomplishments and lose the drive to keep moving forward. If we never lift our noses from the grindstone, we risk facing burnout, stress, and ultimately slowing our pace of productivity. Try these three steps to propel your motivation and energy forward while celebrating your past successes.

1. Write it down

Write down five things you’ve accomplished in the past year. They don’t have to be huge undertakings, just something that required some work and dedication. Treat yourself to a “Dessert” you enjoy, be it a hobby, a relaxing afternoon, or special meal. While you’re enjoying this Dessert, think of all the hard work that led you to that point and appreciate how good it feels to know you’ve accomplished something worthwhile. If these were team accomplishments, bring your coworkers in on the celebration!

2. Improve while still appreciating

Looking back at past successes is not only a chance to see how far you’ve come, but also see the opportunities for future improvement. Be careful not to brush off past accomplishments because they now seem small or trivial. Remember, those small, early successes are the foundation on which you continue to build.

3. Recognize success in others

We all know how difficult it is to take time to appreciate our work, so help others out with that process. Take a moment to tell your friend, colleague, or family member what a great job he or she did on a recent task. This doesn’t have to be a formal hand-written note. It could be as simple as stopping someone in the hallway and giving heartfelt recognition of a job well done. Appreciating success in others will also help you appreciate success in yourself.

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My Journey Into Gray

Time management careerThey say that in order to get high blog traffic, your best bet is to make your blogs short with a catchy title. And don’t write about yourself too much because then the readers won’t be able to see themselves in your words. This blog breaks all those rules. I apologize. I hope you’ll read it anyway and share it with your friends because I believe this message is vital to living the life you want to lead and I wish someone had shared it with me earlier.

Black and White

When deciding how to spend our time, it’s easy to look for the black and white options. I will either pursue this career or that career, this path or that path, this choice or that choice…as though life were always that dichotomous. Sure, our time is limited and we can’t do everything, but our opportunities aren’t as cut-and-dry as we’d like them to be. If we’ve chosen to accept black and reject white, we might miss out on all the potential gray has to offer. Adopting the “gray philosophy” has changed my life and opportunities dramatically and I know it can for you too.

My Journey Into the Gray

I spent the first several years of my professional life with black and white tunnel vision. I have a degree in education, so I became a full time teacher in a public school district with a good reputation. Then I decided to get an advanced degree in education with the hope of teaching college at a small school in a small town and then move up to a large school in a large town. That’s the well-trodden path that others have forged for me. If you do A, B, and C then X, Y, and Z will happen.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that path, but I realized I was on a straight freeway when I was really looking for a curvy backroad – the kind that might lead to a dead-end, or right back to where you started, but could also lead to an amazing scenic overlook you never expected. That’s when I decided to start my own consulting business.

I did not jump in with two feet with the “sink or swim” mentality that some entrepreneurs recommend. I put my toe in the water with a blog and a few workshops here and there while continuing to teach full time. As my business grew and I quit my teaching job to pursue my doctorate, I felt pressured to keep my worlds separate. “Nobody outside of teaching cares about my teaching background,” I thought, “and nobody in education will understand the opportunities I’m trying to explore outside the classroom walls.”

I thought I was on two very separate paths but I’m now starting to see that they aren’t separate at all; I’m just forging my own in the middle.

New Possibilities

Since leaving the classroom, I have continued to grow my consulting business with both students and adults. I use my expertise in education to coach college students on time management and speak to high school and college audiences about how to succeed. I became a consultant with a bank delivering financial literacy seminars to student and adult audiences. I also travel around the country delivering professional development workshops for a non-profit that offers adaptive assessment software to school districts. And I teach music as an adjunct professor at Arizona State University. And I sell my three books on Amazon.com as I’m writing my fourth.

Where in the world is the manual for that career path? Where is the black and white? What do I tell people when they ask, “What do you do?”

I have no idea where this “path” will lead, but I do know that if I had continued to view my life as a series of black and white options, if I had continued to believe that teaching in the K-12 classroom was the only thing I could do with a degree in education, I would have been blind to so many exciting opportunities.

Expand Your Own Tunnel Vision

Your career path probably isn’t as narrow as you think it is. Don’t let your focus on one path blind you to possible detours and side streets that could lead to slightly different and new possibilities. Just because it isn’t “typically” done doesn’t mean it can’t be. Don’t be afraid to waste your time on an activity or opportunity that doesn’t fit the mold. Be creative. Be open to new things. Most importantly, find what you love doing and then find a way to get paid for it, even if it means taking the road less traveled or forging your own path. (See how I waited until the end for the trite Robert Frost poem reference? Go ahead and admire my restraint.)

Thanks for making it all the way to the end! I’d love to hear your comments. Either comment below or email me at Emily@TheTimeDiet.org. Thanks friends! Now go enjoy your week and feel free to tip-toe off the path and see where it takes you.

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Are You Losing Time After Your Vacation?

Time Management VacationSummer vacations are wonderful! Coming home from summer vacations? Well, that’s a different story. After a relaxing week of fun, coming back to the harsh realities of work can seem daunting, stressful, and a bit overwhelming. Try these tips for a seamless transition back to real life so you can maintain your feeling of relaxation instead of drowning in “vacation recovery” upon your return.

1. Tidy Up Before You Leave

Nothing screams “back to work!” quite like a messy home and office. Before you leave for your marvelous trip, take a moment to organize your work and living space so it’s ready for your return. As you’re throwing things into a suitcase, cleaning is the last thing on your mind, but that pile of unsorted mail, heap of dirty laundry, and stack of clutter on your desk makes it difficult to ease back into a productive mindset.  Make tidying up part of your pre-vacation planning.

2. Minimize Jet-Lag

If your vacation took you across several time zones, you might lose several days to the groggy effects of jet lag when you return home. While some of those effects may be inevitable, minimize them by getting back to your home time zone as quickly as possible. Get in bed when the local time says you should, and find as much light as you can in the morning to help wake you up and get you back on track.

3. Un-Pack Right Away

You may not want your vacation to come to an end, but it’s difficult to return to business-as-usual when your suitcase takes up permanent residence in the middle of your room. Even though you’re worn out, unpack right away to get back to your normal routine as quickly as possible.

Vacations are an enjoyable “Dessert” in your Time Diet. Don’t let the post-vacation slump stop you from taking them in the first place!

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Everything You’ve Heard About Working From Home is Wrong

Work from home time managementOK, well maybe not everything, but after spending a substantial part of the past year working in my home office, I’ve found that a lot of the “work-from-home” time management advice out there should be refined. Here’s how I would elaborate three common work-from-home tips I hear frequently:

1. Set Regular Hours

Yes, it’s important to define your work hours, lest your work day consume your entire life, however, those hours don’t necessarily need to be the same that they’d be if you were working a “traditional” job. If you find it difficult to start work at 8, break at noon, and end at 5, try something different. I get my best work done in the morning, so I work from 7:30 until around 1, and then take a break for a few hours before starting back up again around 4. That schedule varies wildly based on the day of the week. The key is to keep “work” time separate from “play” time. When and how you choose to schedule those times is completely up to you.

2. Network

Working from home can btime management handshakee extremely isolating, but the word “networking” sounds so formal. You don’t need to go to a conference, or join a weekly networking group and wear a sticker name tag to converse with others. Just talk to people (Facebook doesn’t count). Invite a friend out for lunch and talk about your current projects. If you see the same people in line at Starbucks every day, find out what they do.

3. Define Your Work Space

Again, this advice sounds good in theory, but in reality, being forced to work in one spot all the time is one of the detriments to a traditional desk job. A change of scenery can help keep your focus sharp. It’s important to have an office as a starting point and as a place to keep all of your files, but if you get restless, move somewhere else. Sometime I’ll work on my balcony, or at the kitchen table, or in the living room. My only two rules are that I never leave work out when I’m done unless it’s in the office, and that I never ever bring work to bed. Bedtime is for relaxing.

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