Why 2pm is The Worst Time of Day

Time Management AfternoonIf you, like me, suffer from a mid-afternoon productivity slump, then you’ll appreciate this. (It should be noted that the following verse was written between the hours of 2 and 3pm)

Ode to 2:00

Oh 2:00 I hate you so
The worst time of the day
I get a bunch of nothing done
Much to my dismay

At 9 I’m full of energy
My to-do list is a snap
But once the clock strikes 2 o’clock
I’m poised to take a nap

I stagger to the coffee pot
And blearily rub my eyes
I watch the clock tick slowly past
The number I despise

Perhaps I overate at lunch
That soup and BLT
I know I’ll get my second wind
If I just wait till 3

Then after dark I’ll sit in bed
Wide awake again
Oh why can’t this 2:00 feeling
Come at 10 pm?

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The 3 C’s That Waste Your Time

Time Management To DoSince our time is limited and our to-do lists are long, we can’t afford to have time wasters in our schedule, especially if they also steal our positive energy. Take this opportunity to review how you’re spending the precious minutes in your day. If it includes any of the following “3 C’s,” get rid of them now! You deserve better.

1. Comparing

Having role models is great. Constantly comparing yourself to others to see how you “measure up” is not. There will always be someone who is smarter, richer, or has a fancier job title than you. So what? Judge your accomplishments based on your goals and priorities, not someone else’s.

2. Complaining

Complaining takes away valuable time and energy you could be spending  finding a solution or making the best of a sticky situation. It also brings down the people around you.

3. Criticizing

It’s easy to find the bad in every situation and person. Finding the good becomes easier when you make it a habit. Take a moment to point out the good in something. It takes just as much time as a criticism but puts you in a better mood to plow through the tasks on your to-do list.

Getting rid of these 3 C’s helps free up your time and energy for more useful and productive endeavors. Enjoy!

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This Frog is a Multitasker. Are you?

time management multitaskerThis week I read an article explaining how a certain breed of frog looks for multitasking when selecting its mate. Oh how similar we are to our amphibian friends in our obsession with doing more than one thing at a time!

The truth is, while multitasking sounds important and necessary, we need to separate what is possible and productive from what is eroding the quality of our work. Try these tips to “toad-ally” revamp your approach to multitasking (Ouch. That pun hurt. You’re welcome.)

1. Don’t kid yourself

I can hold a coffee and my computer, conduct a conference call, eat a sandwich, and roll a suitcase through the airport…for about 5 seconds before I fall flat on my face in a puddle of nonfat double shot mocha. Multitasking might be possible, at least for a little bit, but eventually it produces lower quality, distracted work, which can lead to oversight and disaster. Don’t convince yourself that your constant multitasking is producing the same results as focused work.

2. Do many things, but let them take their turn

Just because you fill many different roles and responsibilities, doesn’t mean you have to attend to them all at one time. Sometimes people say, “I have to multitask, I’m constantly juggling multiple projects at once.” Great! But that doesn’t mean you have to jump haphazardly from one to the next and attempt multiple different tasks at once. You can still maintain the appearance of a multitasker by hyper-focusing on one project at a time, even if it means tackling several projects in the same day.

3. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

With the rise of smartphones, people essentially have a small computer in their pockets constantly, which makes multitasking seem much more feasible. Just because you can do two things at once, doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient, productive, and focused use of your time. Before you split your attention, ask yourself: “Am I doing two things because I must or because I can?”

In our on-the-go society, occasional multitasking is inevitable, but the more we strive for singular focus rather than split distraction, the better.

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Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Why Urgent Is Easy But Planning Is Hard

Time Management UrgentWhen you stare at your to-do list, you subconsciously look for three things:

Tasks that are easy
Tasks that are urgent and
Tasks that are important.

When only one task stands out as fitting all of those categories, deciding what to do first is a no-brainer. On the other hand, when everything feels urgent, we have a stressful problem I like to call “Priority Paralysis,” but what about when nothing feels urgent? Here are three reasons an urgent-free to-do list can be a problem and what to do about it!

1. We don’t know what to do first

Urgent vs non-urgent tasks make prioritizing easy, but if “urgent” is the only thing you look for when deciding which task to tackle, what happens when nothing presents an urgent deadline? You don’t know what to do first! This is why The Time Diet is based on categorizing. Pick a Meat task (difficult) Vegetable task (easy) and Dessert task (fun) to focus on during your day. That gives you some parameters to help structure your schedule in a way that ensures you’ll get ahead on your non-urgent tasks while maintaining balance in your day.

2. We’re likely to procrastinate

Another problem with an urgent-free to-do list is that we’re tempted to do nothing! It’s easy to procrastinate when none of our deadlines are urgent at the moment. Remember, if you only deal with tasks when they are urgent, that ensures that you’ll always be faced with a last minute stressful time crunch. Try scheduling “start dates” in your calendar for each “due date.” It’s easy to say we’ll begin something later, but a start date defines exactly when “later” is.

3. We waste time

When we aren’t up against the pressure of an urgent deadline, it’s easy to allow Time Killers to distract us. When people thrive on the pressure of a deadline, it’s often because there is  less time to be distracted and it forces them to focus and work more efficiently. This concept is called Parkinson’s Law, which says that work expands to fill the time we give it. Try removing Time Killers (smartphone, Facebook, etc…) even while you complete non-urgent work so you finish faster.

A non-urgent to-do list is definitely something to celebrate, but not ignore. You’ll never eliminate last-minute time crunch crises, but by efficiently organizing your non-urgent tasks, you’ll be able to decrease the amount of time spent up against a deadline.

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Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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 Productive Things To Do During Commercial Breaks

Time Management TV Commercial ProductivityWatching your favorite show on TV can be a fun, relaxing Dessert in your schedule. I usually advise people to make their relaxing time a work-free zone, but we’ve all had those evenings when we need to squeeze in as much productivity as possible to keep our time management on track.

For me, watching Shark Tank on ABC is a favorite Friday ritual, and I don’t want to give that up just because I have a lot of work to do. The answer? Utilize your commercials! Here are 10 things you can do in a 2 or 3 minute commercial break that will help shorten your to-do list.

1. Manage Your Inbox

We can easily become lost in a sea of unread messages, but under a 2-minute time crunch, we have no time for distractions or unnecessarily complex answers. Eliminating the messages that only require a brief response makes it easier to wade through the more involved ones later.

2. Clean a Few Dishes

I am guilty of putting off kitchen-duties because “cleaning takes so much time.” It really doesn’t. In two minutes you can easily scrub a pot, rinse a dish, or empty the glassware from the dishwasher. Knowing you have a show to get back to makes the work go faster and seem less annoying.

3. Exercise

When we get busy, the gym is usually one of the first things to be cut from our schedule. Maximize those 2-3 minute commercial breaks with some jumping jacks, pushups, or crunches. Sparkpeople.com has a great Commercial Break Workout Routine.

4. Get Your Coffee Ready

As I’m racing out the door in the morning, I inevitably go to grab my coffee only to realize…I forgot to make it. Take a few minutes to get your coffee ready the evening before so all you have to do in the morning is press “start.”

5. Follow-up

We all know that follow-up is key when meeting a new business contact, client, or possible job-lead. Use your commercial break to reach out with a friendly, “great to meet you, let’s keep in touch” email.

6. File Something

Staying organized helps us find our materials faster, but finding time to file the mountain of papers we generate can be tricky. Take a minute to sort the mail, file some receipts, or organize a drawer.

7. Make Your List for Tomorrow

Taking a moment to plan ahead for the following day can help you work more efficiently and with stronger focus. Jot down your plan for tomorrow while waiting for your show to come back on.

8. Pay Someone A Compliment

It’s easy to get caught up in a busy day and never make time to say “Thanks” or “I really appreciate the work you do.” Jot a handwritten note or a quick email to someone you appreciate and know that you’ll brighten his or her day tomorrow.

9. Take Care of a “Meaning to”

We all have those small tasks that linger on our to-do lists forever, but never seem to rise to the level of importance required to actually finish them. Pick a “meaning to” task that you’ve been putting off and knock it out in a few minutes.

10. Catch Your Breath

Even though watching TV is an enjoyable activity, never underestimate the power of just letting yourself….be. Mute the commercials, close your eyes, take deep slow breaths, and enjoy the feeling of doing absolutely nothing for a minute. It’s more beneficial to your stress level than you may think.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Productivity in the Car

Time Management in the carWhen we have a long commute each day, we spend a good deal of our time behind the wheel of a car. Since this time is neither spent being productive nor doing something relaxing, it can end up feeling like truly wasted time. We long to use that time for something other than grumbling about the traffic, or listening to the same cheesy morning show.  However, there is a fine line between a productive driver and a distracted driver. Follow these Dos and Don’ts to be productive without being a road hazard.

Do… Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are a great alternative to the radio. If you’re bored of radio’s morning programming, why not use that time to learn something that can help you with your job or hobby? There are podcasts for nearly every industry or interest imaginable. Also, because podcasts are shorter than audio books,  you can vary your listening selections from day to day.

Do… Use Your Hands Free Phone

We could all be better at keeping in touch with friends and family. Our lives get busy and we never find time to chat with the people who are important to us, but with a hands free device for your phone, you can use that idle time in the car to keep those connections alive. I’ve also used the time to make lengthy customer service phone calls. For example, you know you’ll be on hold forever if you have to call and ask your cable company a question. Why not make that call when you literally have nothing better to do?

Do…Record Your Ideas

Sometimes we come up with brilliant ideas while we’re alone with our thoughts in the car. Don’t let those ideas go to waste! Use a voice recorder on your cell phone to capture those brilliant thoughts before they leave your head. I’m sure many grand ideas have been lost when I promise myself I’ll write something down as soon as I get to my destination…and then forget.

Don’t… Check Your Email

It starts off innocently enough. We say we’ll just glance at our inbox at a red light. Then the light turns green and we’re still reading. The roads aren’t too crowded so we say we’ll just finish this one paragraph and put the phone down. Remember, when we keep our eyes on the road, it’s less about seeing the things we expect, and more about being prepared for the things we don’t expect — the car in front of us slamming on their breaks, a child running into the road, a ladder falling off the truck in front you, etc… Taking your eyes off the road to check your email is not worth the risk of an accident. Just don’t do it.

Don’t…Put On Makeup

Ladies, ladies. I know we want to look good, but really, putting on mascara takes only a moment. Just do it at home. It’s bad enough when we’re stuck being people who didn’t see the light turn green while they were powdering their nose. It’s worse when people try to do this while actually driving. If you woke up late, throw your “beauty tools” in your bag and take care of your primping when you get to your destination.

Don’t…Eat Food That Needs Two Hands

It’s one thing to sip coffee or a smoothie on your morning or afternoon commute. It’s another thing to try to eat a three-course meal. I’ve seen people eat everything from yogurt, to cereal to salads while behind the wheel. If 9 of your fingers are being used to hold your food and 1 of your fingers is being used to steer, this is not OK.

Finally, in our busy society of constant distractions, we often complain that we never have any time to just…be. Rather than trying to squeeze an extra few drops of productivity out of your commute, you may find it better to just roll down your window, turn off the radio, and breathe once in a while. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world!

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Three Ways to Ensure You’ll Waste Time on Unimportant Tasks

Time Management TrashcanDo you often feel as though you just don’t have time for everything? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the fact is, you don’t. None of us do. Nobody has time to do everything, we only have time to do what’s important. The difficulty lies in figuring out what is important enough to deserve our time, and what’s not.

Everyone will have different criteria to decide what stays on their list and what goes, but there are certainly some ways that will be more effective than others. Here are three strategies to avoid that will ensure your list is cluttered with unimportant tasks:

1. Spend Time on Things You Think Should Be Important, But Aren’t

I’ve never been the neatest person in the world. Keeping a tidy office and a spotless home are not things that come naturally to my husband and me.  We’ve tried cleaning schedules, chore lists, and phone reminders, but inevitably, we’ll be in the middle of some brainstorm when it’s time to vacuum under the furniture, and it just doesn’t get done. After much fretting about this, it occurred to me: if this were truly important to us, we’d make the time for it. Just because having an immaculate house is important to some people, doesn’t mean it has to be important to us.

I feel no shame in telling you that if you were to come over to our home today and run your hand along the baseboards, they would be dusty. The glass sliding door has a few nose prints on it from where the dogs peer outside. We’ll probably take care of those nitty-gritty things the next time we throw a party, but in the mean time, I am 100% fine with spending my limited time on other things.

2. Spend Time On Tasks That Don’t Produce Results

Habits are great. They help us complete tasks without thinking about them and free up valuable brain power for other things. However, when you’ve allowed an inefficient task to become a habit, then you have a problem. When people contact me about speaking engagements, my natural reaction is to write them back with a lengthy customized message including all of the information they could ever possibly want. I thought this was working OK, until I came across a wonderful book from the National Speakers Association called Speak More!. One of the chapters suggests responding to inquires with short messages that set up a time to speak on the phone.  This both saves time and increases the chance of a response. Guess which method I use now!

Reflect on your habits to make sure they are using your time efficiently and producing the results you want. A great way to do this is to talk to others and be an avid reader. Have an open mind to consider new ways of doing things. Our default action is to do what is comfortable and familiar but that isn’t always the most efficient approach.

3. Give Yourself the Leftover Time

There is no leftover time. Period. If you’re waiting to first finish all of your important tasks before giving yourself a Dessert from your Time Diet, you’ll be waiting forever. There is always one more thing that can be done. Instead, schedule your Desserts frequently into your day, even if they are short and bite-sized. How you spend your time is a reflection on what you feel is important. What does that say about the value you put on yourself if “you” tasks like hobbies, exercise, a walk with your family, or time with your friends never makes it off the bottom of your priority list?

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

What Your Shopping Says About Your Time Management

Standing in the middle of Best Buy at 2:00am on Black Friday, I couldn’t help but think of time management. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, or a desperate attempt to occupy my mind with something other than the constant stream of shopping carts running into my ankles, but as I watched everyone around me pile heaps of electronics into their carts, I began to analyze their shopping strategies. By watching them shop, I realized I could also make a pretty good guess as to how they manage their time. What does your shopping strategy say about your productivity?

1. The Lost Puppies

A few people wandered around the store as if they were waiting for someone to point them in the right direction. They picked up an item, looked at it, started to put it in their cart, and then put it back down. These people have clearly never been Black Friday shopping before. It doesn’t work like that. As soon as you put it down, someone else takes it. Most of these people left the store empty handed.

Just like these shoppers didn’t cross any gifts off their shopping list with that strategy, they are unlikely to ever cross anything off their to-do lists either. Rather than tackling a big, important task, they start smaller, less-important tasks instead. These people are good at preparing to work, but not as skilled at actually beginning. Don’t let this happen to you! Pick your Meat, Vegetable, and Dessert priority tasks for the day and move forward. Preparation is great, but if it never leads to execution, your productivity will stall.

2. The Kid in the Candy Store

These shoppers can hardly contain their excitement. They haphazardly grab items off any shelf that says “sale.” They may have come into the store with an item in mind, but their carts are full by the time they reach it.

Whereas “sale” signs distract these shoppers from their shopping mission, Time Killers distract them in their time management. They may have had a productivity goal for the day, but they let Time Killers like Facebook, email, snacking, T.V. and texting distract them from their goals. Don’t let Time Killers throw you off track. Remove these distractions before they steal your focus.

3. The Planner

These people are a force to be reckoned with on Black Friday. They know exactly what they want and what time to show up in order to get it. They’ve mapped out the store in advance and go straight to their desired item without any detours. They get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, leaving the other shoppers to fight over the scraps.

This is the kind of laser-like focus that also achieves success in time management. It’s important to know your priorities for the day and don’t let Time Killers, or other tasks on your list distract you. By getting the task done quickly and efficiently, you have time left over for relaxation without the stress of your impending workload. This kind of focus takes discipline, but it pays off.

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3 Crucial Things Busy People Know

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Even though that statement seems so backwards, we all know it to be true. People with packed schedules always find the time to squeeze in one more thing. But is it possible to harness that level of efficiency without a crammed calendar? Absolutely. You just have to learn the time management secrets that busy people know.

1. We have more time than we realize

Much like people on a diet account for each calorie they consume, busy people account for each minute of their time. They know about Parkinson’s Law, that work expands to fill the time we have available, and therefore don’t give themselves two hours to get ready in the morning, or an hour and half to check email. When they sit down to work, they work efficiently and with the utmost focus, eliminating Time Killers that try to make their task take longer.

2. Don’t wait to want to do something

Sometimes there are tasks on our list that we aren’t looking forward to doing. When we don’t want to do something, we put it off hoping we’ll feel more like doing it tomorrow…as though enjoyment of a task was a necessary prerequisite. Busy people don’t think like that. They know their time is limited and it’s better to just do undesirable tasks now and get them off their plates and off their minds.

3. Put your head down and start grazing

Busy people know that worrying about a big workload is a waste of resources. Remember the story about the two cows:

“Two cows were both faced with an immense pasture of grass to graze. The first cow looked around and said, ‘Oh my goodness. There is so much grass here. How will I ever get through it all?’ While the first cow stood and worried, the second cow said nothing, and put her head down and started grazing.”

If we spend less time worrying and more time doing we not only lower our stress level, but we find that worrying was taking up a lot of time and energy that we could have spent on being productive.

The point of working efficiently is not to make time for even more work. The point of working efficiently is to get our work done quickly, so we can have more time for the enjoyable Desserts in life that are truly important.

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