Time Management Revelation in Aisle 1

time management checkoutI’m not proud of this blog I’m about to write. In fact, I debated whether I should even share this experience with you because it makes me feel like kind of a jerk, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has encountered this situation. This week, I almost let my hectic schedule get in the way of my kindness to other people and I’m making a vow to never let it happen again. Here is what happened…

My Grocery Store Encounter

On my way home from work on Tuesday, I stopped by the grocery store. I had finished a long day of meetings, workshops, and phone calls, and had just picked my daughter up from preschool. I was in a hurry to get home and was irritated that I hadn’t made time to go to the store over the weekend.

Check-out Chatter

As I was searching around in my purse at the check out counter, I suddenly become aware of the fact that the cashier was trying to talk to me. “Mm…looks like you’re making spaghetti for dinner! That was my favorite meal growing up.” He then looked over at my daughter, “What do you think little one?”

Now, here’s where I’m not proud of myself. My immediate thought was: “Oh my goodness, I’m here for some pasta and butter, not a conversation. Every moment you spend making adorable small talk with my 3 month old is a moment you aren’t swiping my credit card so I can get the heck out of here.”

Mean, right? But haven’t we all felt like that sometimes?

Snapping Out Of It

I let my brain go down that train of thought for a moment until a snapped myself out of it. Oh my goodness Emily, who are you? Is your schedule really so tight that you can’t allow five seconds to smile at someone being a kind person? To engage in some small talk with a stranger?

We are not so busy that we can’t at least smile at the people we meet during the day. And if your schedule is such that you don’t have a moment for these interactions, then you have some adjusting to do.

I vow that I will be much better at taking a breath and not rushing through every transaction and conversation in my life. I’m not that busy, and I don’t want to be.

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Why I’m More Productive with a Kid and How Non-Parents Can Learn From It

Time management babyAs we awaited the arrival of our daughter this year, I was excited, but also a little nervous. Here I am, a time management writer and speaker, about to face my biggest time management test yet. What if I couldn’t handle the demands of being a parent? Wouldn’t that make my time management advice a little hypocritical? Luckily, little Avery has drastically altered my productivity…in a good way. Here is why…

1. I use Parkinson’s Law to my advantage

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time we give it. Well, now I have far less time for work, which means I’m forced to avoid distractions and work more efficiently. When I had all weekend to finish a chapter of edits on my upcoming book, they took forever to get through. Now, when she’s napping, the dogs are quiet, and I have my office to myself for 30 minutes, I know that I have 30 minutes to get as much done as possible before I go back into Mommy-mode. The shortened time frame is a major focus booster.

2. I’m forced to prioritize

Now that family time has gotten all that much more important, I’ve found it much easier to prioritize my time. Some things that I thought were important don’t seem so anymore. Instead of thinking, “how in the world will I get all this finished?” I find myself thinking: “which of these things should I let go today?” or “does this really matter right now?” The world hasn’t stopped spinning yet.

3. I enjoy my non-work time much more

I now have a much sharper divide between work and non-work time. I thought I was pretty good at balancing my life, but I didn’t realize how much I think about work during leisure time until now. I’m getting much better at shutting off the work switch when it’s time to relax and spend time with my family.

I’m not going to pretend having a 2-month-old tiny human living at your house who is completely dependent on you for everything is easy. It’s pretty much the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve been surprised how it’s shaped my approach to time management in a wonderful way.

And don’t worry. You don’t have to bring a child into the world to change your approach. Just reconnect with whatever that thing is that you care about more than work, and start making it more of a priority.

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The One Thing That Makes You Jump Out of Bed Early

Time management snooze buttonIn my time management coaching, one of the most frequent complaints I hear is, “I just can’t seem to get up in the morning!” Hitting the snooze button 15 times can make us late to work, skip breakfast, and stress us out before our day even starts. It would be easy to get up earlier…if sleep weren’t so darn enjoyable. That’s why I had to find something else to motivate me to jump out of bed at the first alarm. Here is what I did…

I’ve had my eye on a Keurig coffee maker for the better part of two years, but I just couldn’t justify the expense of the daily coffee pods when I can already make good coffee for pennies a day. However, my husband got one for me last month and I have to tell you, my mornings have never been the same.

Excuses

When my alarm went off, I used to sit in bed thinking of which excuse I could use to rationalize hitting the snooze button a few more times. Now when my alarm goes off, I sit in bed thinking which flavor of delicious coffee I’m going to go downstairs and make. It’s an extra motivator to get out of bed and start my day.

What makes you happy in the morning? Is it a run? A special breakfast? A few minutes of quiet time reading the news? It’s no wonder we don’t want to get out of bed when the only thing awaiting us is some sort of work. Scheduling something enjoyable into your morning gives you motivation to get out of bed and starts your day off on a happy note.

I’m not going to pretend that the thought of a delicious cup of coffee makes waking up early instantly enjoyable, but if you can give yourself a little extra motivation to start your day earlier, why not take advantage of it?

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Hurry Up And Wait

time management boredEverything I know about life I learned in my college marching band…

OK, that’s not entirely true, but it makes for a good opening. (Spare your “one time at band camp comments. I’ve heard them all. Twice.) In band, we had a saying: “Hurry up and wait.” It was amusing because every time we had a performance, the staff ran around urgently telling people to get ready quickly…only to sit around for 45 minutes afterwards while we waited for the performance to start. I’ve had this phrase on my mind a lot lately as I’ve thought about the overall pace of my day. Here is what I think it means to me now…

My Mentality

I realized that I live by the “hurry up and wait” mentality. It’s better to be 20 minutes early than 1 minute late. That philosophy has served me well, however, I’m realizing that it can be taken to the extreme.

“It’s better to be 20 minutes early than 1 minute late” only matters when there is a consequence for being late. When being late means missing an important deadline, an airplane, or your best friend’s wedding…rushing to be early matters. However, when being late is not a problem, rushing just for the sake of rushing is stressful.

Does Everything Need a Deadline?

I realized that I do this. Sometimes I set arbitrary deadlines for myself because that’s how I operate best. Then I hurry hurry hurry to meet the deadline, when in reality, being a few minutes (hours, days, etc…) late wouldn’t really matter. I end up stressing myself for no good reason.

Do you do this too? I talk about how setting your own deadlines can be a good motivator, and that’s true, but I’m going to be careful about what types of tasks I set deadlines for.

Not everything needs to be done in a hurry. This week, I’m going to try to be better about slowing down. Or next week. Whenever I get around to it.

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Does The Phone Go Next To The Knife or Fork?

Time management for dinnerWe use technology to speed up our lives, but does it end up slowing us down instead? We have coffee machines programmed to turn on when we wake up, apps to find the quickest route to our destination, email so we can quickly communicate with the world, etc…We use all of this with the assumption that it’s making our lives faster, but I read an article this week that challenged that notion in an unexpected way.

It Started With a Picture…

This week, we celebrated our anniversary dinner at a trendy restaurant. When the delicious food showed up, I did what any self-respecting restaurant patron would do…I took out my iPhone and snapped a picture. After all, in two years how would I remember that I ordered a scrumptious kale salad if I didn’t take a picture of it? My husband chuckled and sent me the following article: Slow Service Demystified

The nutshell version of this article is that an NYC restaurant was getting complaints about slow service, so they checked surveillance footage to see what was going on and it turns out, the customers were wasting time and distracted with their phones, which stretched out their dining time.

My Own Observations

Now, I’m not one to believe everything I read on the Internet, so who knows if this situation actually happened, but it has made me do a double-take at restaurants. True or not, I’ve noticed that my use of a phone does significantly lengthen my dining time, and not in a relaxing meaningful way, but rather in a distracted way.

I take my phone out to snap a picture…and then notice that I have an email…and then I want to check in on Facebook…and then check my phone a few times to see if anyone has commented on my check-in…and then notice an article on my USA Today app that I haven’t read…and pretty soon my food is here and I hadn’t even noticed.

I Promise!

If I’m going to linger at dinner, I want it to be because I’m enjoying good food and company, not because their WiFi is slow. So, I’m making a vow to start enjoying food and stop making my cell phone a permanent place setting. I encourage you to do the same!

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How Time Killers Can Make You More Productive

Time management social mediaWe all know what it feels like to be sucked into a Time Killer. What starts off as a “quick glance” at Facebook, quickly becomes an hour long time indulgence we didn’t plan for. We can bemoan the time they waste, or we can analyze what keeps us addicted to these platforms for hours on end and use it to our advantage.

Here are three ways to harness the power of Time Killers to be productive:

1. Keep your next task in front of you
Why is it so easy to binge watch Netflix? Because the next episode pops up before the credits for the last one are even done running. Use this same concept in your productivity. It’s very easy to stop working when you finish a task and you can’t remember what to do next. Writing all of your tasks on one consolidated to-do list helps keep the next task in front of you so you can keep your productivity streak going.

2. Make it easy to work
You’ll notice that on social media, the interface is designed to make it easy to keep you hooked. It’s very easy to friend, like, follow, etc… You don’t have to search very hard for those buttons. Similarly, don’t make yourself search for a space to work. Giving yourself a comfortable, pleasant place to be productive will help make you want to use it!

3. Get your friends involved
Part of the allure of Time Killers, particularly social media is the thought that a friend might have commented on something witty we posted. We enjoy getting feedback from other people, so bring them into your productivity too. Don’t go it alone. Involve your friends and coworkers in your goals to help hold you accountable.

We ultimately must face the fact the work just isn’t nearly as FUN as Time Killers are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make productivity as easy as possible.

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Our Newest Time Manager

Newest Time ManagerThey say “good things come to those who wait,” and this weekend I found out that’s true. This week I’m taking a break from your regularly scheduled programing because Friday 6/27, after 9 months of waiting, we finally welcomed our daughter, Avery, into the world.

Loyal followers of the blog will appreciate that not only did baby girl show up right on her scheduled due date, but she only kept mommy waiting at the hospital for 4 hours. She’s a great time manager right from the beginning!

This week we have taken a pause from our crazy lives to appreciate love and family. I hope that you’ll join me in doing the same! See you next week

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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 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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A Golden Rule of Time Management

Time Management golden ruleThe ability to say no is a skill we all need, but knowing when to say no can be even more important. This week I was reminded of one of the golden rules of time management that keeps our schedules trim and our minds focused. Here is what happened..

Saying NO

At a board meeting last week, one of my friends informed everyone of a really cool business opportunity that came her way. We were all impressed and congratulated her, until she mentioned that she wasn’t going to take it because it didn’t fit in with the mission and focus of her business. If I was impressed before, I was amazed now.

Saying no is hard. We’re trained to say yes to everything because we never know where things will lead, and at the very least, it’s a good thing to add to the resume. But after casting a wide net of opportunity, we need to focus in on the things that are most important to us, and that means saying no to the things that aren’t.

Time is a valuable resource and every moment we spend on something beyond our focus is one moment we can’t spend on the essential activities that will propel us forward.

Think of It Like Shopping

If saying no is still difficult, think of it in terms of money and shopping. If you were out shopping and saw a pair of pants you loved, but they didn’t fit, would you still buy them? Probably not, because you’d rather use the money to buy something that does fit and that you’ll actually wear. Think of your time in the same way. You have limited time and need to save it for the things that best fit  your focus and priorities.

Remember this golden rule of time management: if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

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Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students