Finishing Unwanted Tasks

This week, I had a presentation to prepare for my PhD program that definitely tested my time management. Completing this presentation was both the most important and least appealing thing on my “Choose-To List.” As you know, that is a common and dangerous situation. What do you do when the task you least want to do is the task you most need to do?

Stop Substituting

When faced with a task we don’t want to do, our first inclination is to just do something else instead. I caught myself doing that yesterday. I didn’t want to work on my presentation, so instead I did some grading, cleaned my house, worked on some different homework, and went grocery shopping. All of those things also needed to be completed, however, none were as important as my presentation. I substituted tasks I should be doing with tasks I’d rather be doing. That’s why at the end of the day, I didn’t feel as productive as I could have.

Make it Enjoyable

Sometimes we need to go out of our way to make a dreaded task more enjoyable. You all know about my love of Starbucks. I went out and bought myself a Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino to sip while I’m working on my presentation. Nothing seems quite as terrible when you have a delicious cup of happiness next to you!


The single best way I know to motivate myself to do something it to visualize it being completed. In this case, I visualized myself crawling into bed at night and thinking, “Wow, I don’t have to worry about the presentation anymore! It’s all finished.” It’s not going to become any more appealing to work on, so I might as well just finish it now and be done with it. Half the stress of finishing work comes from worrying about finishing it. I was going to worry about my presentation until it was done. The sooner I finish it, the sooner I can stop worrying about it and my stress level decreases.

This week, take charge of your unwanted tasks.  Visualize them being finished, do everything you can to make them more enjoyable and stop substituting them with other, less important things. Your productivity will thank you.

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Technorati Keywords Time Management, Efficiency,

Photo Credit: Naypong



How to Tackle Huge Projects

In The Time Diet, I frequently say how important it is to break up your “meat” tasks and set small goals for yourself to stay motivated with your time management. Yesterday, I stumbled across an example of exactly why this is true. In keeping with The Time Diet analogy, I appropriately found this example on a restaurant menu.

On Friday night, my husband and I went out to dinner. I saw “sliders” on the menu and thought that little mini hamburgers sounded delicious.

“No,” I thought to myself. “It’s way too easy to eat too many of those!” One hamburger has about the same meat as two sliders, but nobody eats just two sliders! They are so little, you end up eating more meat than you realize.

Then it dawned on me. The same is true for time management!

When we have a huge “meat” project looming, it can be overwhelming. (We’ll call this the “hamburger”). However, if you break up that same work into smaller projects and spread it out over time, you won’t feel like you’re working as hard. You’ve essentially turned your big “hamburger” into “sliders.” You’re completing the same amount of work, but instead of tackling it all at once, you’re nibbling at it.

How to Break up Work

When you are dividing your work into smaller parts, remember to do the following.

 1) Plan in advance
It is important to divide your big project into smaller chunks as soon as possible. The longer it stays in your head as one huge task, the more you’ll begin to dread it.

2) Construct a timeline
Write in your calendar when you plan to complete each chunk of work so you’ll have it done by the deadline.

 3) Stick to your timeline
Creating a timeline for your work doesn’t do any good if you don’t hold yourself accountable to the checkpoints you set for yourself.

Good luck with your Time Diets this week!

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Photo Credit: Grant Cochrane

Time Management Lessons from College Football

In the fall, the desire to watch college football all day long on Saturday really challenges my time management. Sitting in front of the TV, sporting my jersey and eating hot wings sounds so much more appealing than grading projects for class. However, yesterday I realized that we can actually learn a lot about time management by watching college football.

4 Time Management Lessons on the Football Field

1. Don’t Risk a “Delay of Game”
It may be tempting to wait until the last second to run a play, but if you wait too long, you’ll be charged a 5-yard “delay of game” penalty. With our work, we may have our reasons to procrastinate, but is it worth the risks if our deadline’s “play clock” runs out?

2. Play All Four Quarters
How many games have you watched where the team looks great in either the first or fourth quarter, but ends up losing because they played poorly the rest of the game? The same is true for our work. We need to spread out our energy. Push too hard in the beginning and you’ll burn out. Save it all for the end and it’ll be too little too late. Pace yourself, find your rhythm and ride that momentum in for the win.

3. You Can’t Always Wait for Perfection
If the quarterback doesn’t immediately see an open receiver, he has to quickly make the decision to either run the ball or throw it away, lest he get sacked behind the line of scrimmage waiting for the perfect pass to open up. When we are working, there comes a point when trying for perfection becomes a waste of time. If you consistently miss deadlines for your boss because you were striving for an unattainable level of perfection, you may find yourself being “sacked” as well!

4. Make Time for Motivation
Do you think football coaches spend every single second they have with their team running plays? Of course not. Coaches recognize that their players need inspiration and make team building and motivation part of the locker room experience on game day. Make time for your own motivation. Take time to connect with your “team.” It will make your work time infinitely more enjoyable and productive.

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Picture Credit: Ron Almog

The MultiTasking Dilemma

The more things we have on our plate, the more likely it is that we try to multitask as a time management strategy.  We work while we eat, we eat while we drive and we have conversations via phone, email and IM all at the same time.

Doing two things at once seems like a great way to get things done faster, but I’ve learned there is some interesting research that proves otherwise.  This is particularly true when you are trying to do a “Meat” task in your Time Diet that requires a lot of thinking.

A 2005 study published by The Procedures of the National Academies of Science found that doing too many things at once can be detrimental.

When people multitask while doing something like reading, listening or studying, they store the information they learn in a different part of their brain than people who choose to only focus on one thing. Non-multitaskers store it in a part of the brain that easily recalls information later. Multitaskers store their information in a part of the brain that is more difficult to recall in different situations.

Basically, if you multitask on something difficult, you’re still going to get your work done, but you’ll have a more difficult time remembering it later.

How to MultiTask Effectively

So, what do we do? Sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day! We can’t finish everything if we don’t double things up.

Save the multitasking for your Vegetables. Remember, the Vegetable tasks in your Time Diet are the easier ones that don’t require as much intense thinking. If you simply must multitask, save it for the Vegetables that aren’t very difficult to do.
For example:

Folding laundry and talking on the phone- perfect combination!
Filing papers and skimming your email- great!
Reading a report and messaging with a friend….not the best idea.

Then next time you catch yourself trying to multitask with difficult and important things, remember: it’s better to find a few extra minutes to focus on one thing so you do the best job you can and don’t have to find time to re-do it later.

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Time Management, Efficiency,

Photo Credit: Master Isolated Images