How One Famous Artist Tackles Unwanted Work

Time Management violinItzhak Perlman, a world class violinist, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week recognizing his lifetime achievement in the arts. I listed to an interview he gave to NPR discussing what got him to this point in life. He was asked about his rigorous practice schedule as a young boy and teen and his answer to these questions made me want to find this man and give him a high five (If that’s appropriate for a 70 year old world famous musician.)

Practice Makes Perfect

When speaking of his practice schedule growing up, he joked to the interviewer that he hated it. “Any child that tells you they love practicing is lying to you,” he continued. He explained that even though he hated it, he came from a small town and like all small town aspiring musicians, he knew the way to “make it” was to perform on the international stage, and that’s the type of hard work required to get there.

I love this.

Work is Work

We look at successful people and assume that they somehow enjoy work, like they have some gene in their DNA that makes them enjoy the arduous, difficult, repetitive tasks it takes to perfect an art. That must be what makes them great. It’s refreshing to hear that they are just like the rest of us.

While they may enjoy their craft, or their profession, or the cause they are furthering, all greatness requires hard, difficult, work at its core, and it’s not necessarily “fun.”

Embracing the Negativity

The next time you’re faced with a difficult task you know needs to be done, and you catch yourself thinking, “Ug, I really don’t want to do this.” Answer yourself with, “…and?” You really don’t want to do it. So does that mean it’s not important? Does that mean you’ll feel more like doing it later? Instead of looking for an excuse, think of Mr. Perlman, embrace your disgruntled feelings, and do the task anyway.

So much of success is made up of consistently doing tasks that might scare us or intimidate us because we know they’ll lead to a desired result.

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The Time We Lose To Waiting

time management waitingLet’s say you have a phone call scheduled for 1:00. 1:05, they still haven’t called. 1:10, 1:15, still haven’t called. 1:18, they finally call and you begin your meeting. What did you do for the last 18 minutes? If you’re anything like me, I bet I know the answer. Nothing. Here is what to do about it.

Why It’s Frustrating

Waiting is frustrating because we’ve already mentally prepared for our new task, the other person just hasn’t shown up yet. We are hesitant to start a new task because that will require changing our mental state again and we’re afraid that we’ll have just gotten started when the person finally shows up.

What To Do

We can make this easier on ourselves by having a list of tasks ready to go that can fill this time. The Vegetable tasks in your Time Diet are good candidates for this role. Remember, Vegetable tasks are still important, they just don’t require the same kind of mental dexterity as your Meats. These are often short, easier tasks that you can knock out quickly. Do those while you’re waiting.

Or, when you’re making your to-do list and you have a big difficult Meat task, break it into smaller chunks so that when you’re glancing at your list for something you can tackle in a few minutes, those smaller pieces look more do-able.

Time Management Karma

Finally, remember the golden rule of time management: treat other people’s time the way you want your time to be treated. It is frustrating when people make you wait. Remember this frustration the next time you’re tempted to leave late for a meeting or appointment. It will also help you remember that sometimes even when we plan to the best of our ability, life still happens and makes us late occasionally. There are times we can also be understanding.

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What Blogging Has Taught Me About Time Management

time management bloggingI’ve written a time management blog nearly every week for the past 4 years. I didn’t realize that the very act of writing the blog was doing amazing things for my non-blogging productivity. Here’s what I discovered.

The results

I write much faster. Everything from emails, to summaries, to project descriptions to formal proposals. I’m able to get my ideas down on paper much faster than I could in my pre-blogging days. Not only am I faster, but I’m more concise. I get to the point more quickly and it’s boosted the response rate of my written communication.

Before blogging

Before blogging, I had the tendency to be verbose and include long run on sentences of excess information, but there is no time for that in blogging. In a blog, you need to get your information out in a few hundred words so you need to make each one count.

Blogging has also helped my writer’s block. I used to stare at a blank screen for a while waiting for inspiration. However, when writing a weekly blog, I don’t have time to wait for inspiration. Sometimes I have to just start writing and see what comes out. This process usually kick starts some ideas and I can pull something good out of the random pile of sentences.

My recommendation

I recommend that everyone write regularly. Whether it’s a blog, or a personal journal, or poetry, or letters to a friend, written communication is such an essential tool and our writing skills only get better with practice. Do you have your own blog project? Tell me what it is!

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3 Reasons We Overschedule Ourselves By Mistake

time management overscheduledFaced with a packed calendar? Wonder how it happened? We don’t mean to schedule too much into our day, but sometimes it happens anyway. Here are three ways to stop over-scheduling yourself.

  1. Be realistic with how long tasks take

Your one-hour class at the gym doesn’t take an hour. You need to add getting ready and travel time. Your 30 minute meeting is only 30 minutes if it starts on time. When scheduling your day, plan for the real amount of time tasks take so you don’t over-schedule.

  1. Trust others to help you.

If you want something done right you need to do it yourself. Are you a believer in that mantra? Then you’re probably over-scheduled because you refuse to let others help you. Before you can work on delegating, you must first develop the trust that delegating is worth it. Let go of the notion that everything must be done your way. There are many “right” ways to do things and having it DONE is what’s important.

  1. Learn from your mistakes

How many times have you said yes to too many things, found yourself stressed, vowed to never do it again, and wind up in the same position 6 months later? Learn from your mistakes. If you over-scheduled yourself once, don’t accept the same combination of tasks again. Learn to say no.

Nobody is a super human capable of cramming more than 24 hours of work into a day. You’ll frustrate yourself trying!

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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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