Why Time Management Relies on Honesty

time management honestyAre you struggling with your time management? You might need to do an honesty check-in. Despite great goals and plans, honest plays a role in time management in two big ways.

Honesty With Yourself

We lie to ourselves all the time. Phrases like: “I’ll just check this ONE email” or “I’ll feel like doing this task tomorrow instead” echo in our heads as we come up with excuses to not finish what needs to be done. Too often we KNOW what our priorities are, but we’ll engineer excuses or succumb to distraction as we avoid doing what we need to do.

You know an excuse when you hear it. Don’t let that little voice distract you from your focus and priorities.

Honesty With Other People

Learn how to say no. When someone asks you to add another thing to your plate, say no if you know there isn’t room. It’s better than saying “Yes” only to let them down later. Be honest. Explain that you aren’t able to give this task the time and attention it deserves. You might even suggest another resource for the person to try.

If saying no makes you feel like a bad person, remember that time is a limited resource and simply wishing you had more doesn’t make it so.

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Why I Don’t Use Reminders on My Phone

time management remindersI am glued to my cell phone, but I don’t nearly maximize its potential when it comes to helping me with time management. This week, I remembered why.

My System

My paper calendar and to-do list are the staples of my time management system. My husband relies heavily on iPhone reminders. When I have something to remember, I’ll pull out my calendar and write it down. He just pulls out his phone and says, “Siri, remind me to go to FedEX at 2pm tomorrow.”

I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous of the ease of his system. It’s quick, it’s convenient, and it feels much more “2015” than my pen and paper. So this week I tried utilizing reminders more than I usually do…

…and I hated it. I have trained myself to look at my calendar when I need to know my schedule. But when I put something in my phone as a reminder, that means I didn’t have it in my calendar. When I looked at my calendar during the day, I didn’t see all of my information there and the reminders caught me off guard later.

Do What Works!

Moral of the story: use the time management system that works best for YOU, not somebody else. You can be open to new ideas as they come along. You may discover a more efficient modification to your system! But if you give something a try and your old system worked better, stick to it.

Remember what your mother said: if everyone else decided to jump off a cliff, would you do it too?

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The To-Do List You Need But Might Not Have

Time Management To DoI’m usually pretty good at keeping my to-do list. I review my tasks, I plan ahead, I methodically check things off, but this week I realized I might need another list in my life.

My College Flashback

I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses this week. (Btw, Nothing will make you feel super old quite like hanging out on a college campus. They ride tiny, florescent skateboards now? Really? Is that a thing?) But anyway, looking around made me think. I saw all these groups of friends hanging out, chatting, laughing, studying in the quad, you know, the scenes college brochures are made of.

I miss that. I miss having all of my friends right there, all the time. Being social didn’t require much work. Want to grab dinner with someone? Great! I’ll probably run into them after class, or in the hallway, or at some club meeting. Social relationships were in close proximity.

Relationships Now

Now it’s different. Now there is work, and obligations, and many of your close friends live in different cities. The ones that live in your city, might be far away. For example, there could be a difference of 45 miles between friends living “in the Phoenix area.” Finding time to be social takes work.

Your To Do List for People

I stumbled across this blog about Time Management worries  from a cancer survivor. She writes about having two different to-do lists: one for things and one for people. I love this idea.

We get so caught up in tasks, that it’s easy to let your social relationship fade into the background. I vow to be better at maintaining my “relationship to-do list.” It’s not easy, but I don’t think most good things are.

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We get so caught up in tasks, that it’s easy to let your social relationship fade into the background. I vow to be better at maintaining my “relationship to-do list.” It’s not easy, but I don’t think most good things are.

Does Background Music Help you Focus?

time management background music“Turn that music down! I can’t focus!” “Well then put some ear plugs in because I can’t focus without it!” Does background music help you focus? That question has been the root of many family, roommate, and coworker quarrels. This week, I had an interesting realization about how music affects my thinking, and I’m curious if you’ve had the same experience.

My Neighbors

Over the weekend, my neighbors threw a loud, late, outdoor party. (One that sounded like a college frat house, but these guys are in their 40s. Life choices people, life choices. But I digress….) Anyway, in order to sleep, my husband suggested that we turn on some music. I never sleep with music, but I was desperate to drown out the noise, so I agreed.

He turned on some classical music and was asleep within minutes, but I was wide awake. Now, it wasn’t the party keeping me up, it was the music! It was so distracting! I found myself listening to the melodies, becoming startled at a sudden volume change, and becoming more awake instead of more tired.

Background Music and Time Management

I thought a lot about how this applies to time management. When I do workshops for college students and their parents, I’m usually asked to weigh in on the whole “should they or shouldn’t they listen to music when the study” debate. My experience this weekend just reinforces how I always answer that questions:

…it depends.

It depends on whether or not the music is distracting to you. Some people enjoy music as a focus tool. Others don’t. It depends on the person. So remember, there is no right or wrong answer to this question and we all need to be open to other people’s working style.

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Burnout and Time Management

time management burnoutHave you felt burned out recently? It happens to the best of us. We often think it’s a time management problem, but a blog I read recently made me think differently and gave me some good ideas on how to address this persistent problem.

One of my college friends is a science writer and she recently published a blog about burnout called “Battling the Burnout Monster” that really got me thinking. Does burnout happen because we are doing too much? Or because we’re doing too much of a stressful thing? Or because we need a change? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above.

Either way, we too often address burnout as though it’s a time management problem, and I don’t believe that’s entirely accurate. Burnout may be the result of a time management problem, but burnout itself ends up being more of a motivation management problem. I know when I’m feeling burned out it’s not because I’m suffering from a lack of time management strategies, it’s because I’ve lost the motivation to figure out how to apply them.

If I try to address the time problem before the motivation problem, I find my burnout only gets worse. A new calendar, to-do list, or email process won’t magically solve your burnout woes before you take a step back and reassess your big picture goals and priorities. Katie’s blog offered numerous good ways to do that including: unplugging, organizing, exercising, and journaling.

What do you do to take a step back? How do you address burnout?

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Mindfulness for Obsessive Planners

time management mindefulnessEveryone seems to be talking about mindfulness lately. “Be in the moment,” “live in the now,” I’ve seen these phrases grace the covers of so many magazines and self help books that I’ve started to feel a bit inadequate that I’m so BAD at being “present.” If you, like me, are constantly thinking three steps ahead, I figured out how we can be crazy planners and “mindful” at the same time.

Being too “present”

I realized good time management is a balance of being intensely focused in the moment and thinking ahead and predicting the future. If you’re always living in the present, waiting until tomorrow’s problems become today’s problems to solve them, you’ll end up procrastinating. You risk being late, missing deadlines, and being derailed by stressful periods of the year you haven’t planned for.

Too much planning

If you’re too much of a planner, you can’t focus on what you’re doing because you’re constantly thinking “what am I doing next?” You’ll end up with a beautiful calendar and to-list, but a heap of half-completed tasks because you never see things through to completion without getting distracted. This is especially detrimental when it’s time to relax and you simply can’t because you’re thinking of all the work you have to get done tomorrow.

The right balance

No, to have good time management you need to have a balance of living in the present and living in the future. You plan your tomorrow carefully so you can enjoy today when it gets here. Don’t worry planners of the world. We can still be “mindful…” we’ll just have it scheduled a week in advance.

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3 Ways to Quickly Shift Your Focus

time management focusWe think of good time managers as being able to multitask well. Actually, the best time managers don’t do multiple things at the same time, they are just really good at quickly shifting their focus from task A to task B with minimal distraction and transition time. You too can learn to be a professional focus-shifter. Try these tips.

 1. Put the other stuff away

When you’re switching from task to task, put the old task away before beginning the new one. You’ll be far less likely to get distracted if you can’t see any of the materials you were using for your old task. You’ll get a bonus benefit of having a cleaner desk too!

 2. Cleanse your palate

When you’re sampling new foods, you likely take a swish of water in between bites of new flavors so the tastes don’t all run together. We call this “cleansing your palate” and it works for rapid task changes too. Cleanse your productivity pallet in between tasks by briefly standing up and stretching your legs before changing your focus to a new task. You might even say out loud to yourself, “I’m focusing on something different now.” These strategies help you add mental separation between two very different tasks.

 3. Group similar tasks together

It takes a lot more energy to shift your focus between two tasks when those tasks are radically different from each other. The more you keep similar tasks together in your day, the easier it will be to shift your focus without losing any time.

We can’t more time in the day, but if we learn to transition between tasks faster, we certainly can use more of it!

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Is Work First Play Second Always Best?

time management funNow that I have a kid, I’m constantly Googling for parent advice. (How people survived before Google, I do not know.) I stumbled across the article  “How I Limited Screen Time” about a parent who lets her kids watch as much TV as they want as long as they do their work first.

First Impression

My first thought was, “Yes! This! A thousand times this!” because that’s how I was raised. I’ve played the oboe since I was in 5th grade and I had to practice before I did anything else during the day. 8:00am trip to Disneyland? I guess you’re getting up early because you have to practice first.

Then I thought about it some more. I wonder if that only worked for me because I’m a morning person. I don’t love getting up early to get my work done, but I also DO my best work in the morning because I’m alert and focused. What about people who aren’t alert and focused until the evening? Would they get their work done faster and better if they did it later on when they are more focused?

 Are You a Night Owl?

I know I’m supposed to provide answers in this blog, but I suppose this one is more of a question. I will continue to abide by my “work first, play second” mentality because it has worked so well for me, but if my daughter grows up to be a night owl, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do!

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Life Lessons From a Spider

time management spiderThis morning I destroyed a spider web…for about the 27th time. A spider has decided it really wants to make a home in the corner of our patio and I keep thwarting his efforts. My first thought this morning was, “My goodness, that’s a persistent spider!” At first I decided to write this week’s blog about the power of persistence and diligently applying your time to a task without giving up. Then I had a different idea.

The Real Message

After I thought a little bit more, I realized something: that spider will never successfully build his web on my patio. Ever. Every time he builds, I will continue to knock it down. However, there are numerous places in my yard that I would allow him to stay. In fact, if he were even a few feet higher up on the wall I’d probably let him stay because I’d need a step stool to reach him and ain’t nobody got time for that.

So what are you saying Emily? That being persistent is a waste of time? That we should all just give up on our dreams because they are never going to happen?

Changing Your Strategy

No. I’m saying that knowing when to change your strategy is just as important to your time management as knowing when to stick with it. If you’re throwing a lot of time at something and getting nowhere, maybe you need to rethink your plan. It’s not giving up, it’s called adapting.

So thanks for the life lesson, spider. Sorry for destroying your house, but seriously, give it up already.

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Why Every Weekend Should Be A 3-Day Weekend

time management 3 day weekendI don’t know which government agency decided weekends should only be two days long, but this weekend made me realize we need a change. Please tell me where to send my strongly worded letter of support for the 3-day weekend because I’m ready to write it. Here’s why…

Two-day weekends are too short. You have a huge buildup of excitement on Friday afternoon, then Saturday hits and you want to go places! You have errands to run, friends to see, places to visit, etc. Then Sunday comes and you stay around the house. Maybe you’re cleaning, finishing a house project, or doing laundry. Then as Sunday evening hits, you start to feel the sun setting on your weekend just as it was barely getting started!

This weekend was different. I did all of the things mentioned above, but then I had Monday to do nothing but spend time with my family. No work, no errands, no plans, just enjoying the company of my husband and daughter in our backyard and being thankful for every moment. It was glorious.

On normal two day weekends, there is plenty of family time, but it’s interspersed with work and obligations. There is something very special about having nothing on your schedule and seeing where the day takes you.

I’m going to try to harness that “nothingness” more often, even when I don’t have the extra day to do it. We all need a little more nothing in our lives so we can fill it with the somethings that really matter.

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