How Whole30 Helped My Time Management

Time management Whole30My New Year’s resolution was to eat better. (I know. I pride myself on my originality.) I suppose I’m fortunate in that my problem wasn’t a love of super sized McDonald’s meals or an addiction to Krispy Kreme donuts. My problem was time.

Now, before I go any further, I need to emphasize strongly that this is not a blog telling you how to lose weight. I deal with that confusion frequently with just the name of my website, (“oooo The Time Diet! Is she going to tell me how I can take inches off my waist by looking at a clock more?) and I recognize that writing a blog about an actual diet might only add to that confusion. So I just need to trust you, dear reader, that if at any point in the following paragraphs you start to think “hm, did Emily start writing a healthy eating blog instead of a time management one?” you will stop yourself and say “No. Bad self. If Emily ever started a healthy eating blog that would mean she’d probably have to give up her frequent consumption of cheese and ice cream and we all know that ain’t gonna happen.”

Now, where was I…

My problem with eating was the same that many people face- I didn’t carve out any time to think about it. On Sundays, I meal plan healthy dinners for my family that I can make quickly after a day of work. I get healthy lunch makings for the kids so they can have  lovingly prepared, well balanced meals that they refuse to eat at school. But I never plan for ME.

My Problem

When I caught myself running out the door one morning with a rolled up tortilla for breakfast and 5 frozen chicken nuggets in a baggie for lunch I had to stop myself. Nothing makes you take a hard look at your life quite like 5 frozen chicken nuggets sitting in your purse.

I realized at that moment that my bad eating habits didn’t have anything to do with “not eating enough fruits and veggies” and everything to do with “not making time to PLAN my fruits and veggies.” I knew I needed a change.

After researching a few different healthy eating plans, I settled on Whole30. If you’ve never heard of Whole30, it’s basically an eating challenge where you eat nothing delicious for 30 days and try not to cry. (Technically, it’s no dairy, no added sugar, no alcohol, no grains, nothing processed, and a whole bunch of other rules you can read about on the Whole30 Website)

I like that there were rules. I do well with rules. I liked that it was a defined time period, not a life long commitment. I can do anything if it’s only for 30 days, I’m quite sure. I also liked their “stop complaining and eat the damn carrot” attitude they have on their website. It’s sassy. I like sassy people.

Healthy Eating Takes Planning

After 2 hours of being on Whole 30, I realized just how little time I had put into planning what food I was going to put in my mouth. With all of these rules in place, it’s impossible not to plan. When I walked into the grocery store, I had to know what I was going to eat, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next 7 days. I also found, surprisingly, that the prep and planning didn’t take as much time as I thought it would. Here are some things I did to cut down on time:

1.Use cookbooks and recipe cards

This might sound obvious, but it seems that half the stress and time of planning involves remembering what types of things you have available to eat. With a cookbook, I can easily flip through the pages and say “do I want this one or this one? This one or this one?” I also wrote down on a piece of paper 10 things I enjoy eating for lunch or breakfast so when I’m planning and shopping I can say “I want to eat this, this, and this for the week. Done.” I know it sounds like such a simple and obvious thing, but storing that information on paper rather than in my brain took far less time and freed up a lot of “hard drive” space for other things.

2.Get better food storage containers

Again, this may sound trivial, but it really helped. A huge part of success was prepping/chopping a lot of things during the weekend to have during the week. For example, cutting up a bunch of red pepper to throw on salads, boiling a bunch of eggs to eat as snacks, etc. Literally every food blog ever says to do this, but I never really did, in part because I didn’t have anywhere to put them. My old Tupperware collection was a travesty to kitchens everywhere. Nothing matched, no lids fit, etc.

Prepping became so much easier, faster, and more satisfying when I got a new set of storage containers. Everything was the size I wanted. Everything had a lid. Everything fit nicely in the fridge. None had someone else’s name from 3 lifetimes ago Sharpie-d on the bottom.

3.Have a plan for every item

My old approach to eating was “well, if I have healthy stuff in the house, I’ll be sure to eat it.” I didn’t make time to meal plan, ended up at the grocery store with only a vague idea of what I wanted to eat, threw a bunch of stuff that looked kind of healthy in my cart…and ended the week with a bunch of rotting fruit, and 5 receipts from Chipotle.

A HUGE thing that helped me with this was Fry’s ClickList. If you’re unfamiliar with ClickList, it’s a service that lets you order your groceries online, and pick them up at a time of your choosing at participating Fry’s Grocery. It is certainly not the only service like this, and I’m sure other ones are good too. This finally helped me make time to plan because I literally do my grocery shopping in my pajamas on Saturday nights (I’m real fun at parties, can’t you tell?)

Follow Up

I’ve been done with Whole30 for a few months now, and I’m happy to say that a lot of the good habits have stuck. Not all of them. I still have to snap myself back into shape sometimes, but overall, I find myself purposefully making time to think about what I’m going to eat, which was the whole point of all of this. My big take away was that healthy eating doesn’t just…..happen. It’s a thing that takes time, just like any other important thing in your life takes time, but being efficient about it, and making it a habit, helps make it easier.

 

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Time Management Book for Students

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3 Benefits Gained From Backing Away

Time Management Do Not DisturbWhen we’re committed to finishing an important task by a deadline, working non-stop seems like the responsible option, but it isn’t always the most productive. This week, I took a whole 7 days off from my dissertation. I couldn’t look at it anymore. The words were starting to blur together and I was not making the progress that needed to happen.

Coming back to it after the hiatus has been a wonderful experience. Here is what we can all gain from backing away from a task for a while.

1. Excitement

It’s much easier to work on a project when we’re excited and motivated to do so. Unfortunately, we quickly lose that motivation when we allow ourselves to burn out. If you’re concerned that backing away from a task will cause your progress to slow, consider the time you’ll gain in the long run from your ability to work faster when you start back up again with renewed motivation from the time away.

2. Perspective

If you’re stuck in a rut with a project, stepping away can allow your perspective to shift as you suddenly see things differently and come up with new ideas. Creativity research suggests that time away is a critical step in achieving an “a ha!” moment of creative brilliance. It’s why some of our best ideas happen in the shower, or just as we’re about to fall asleep.

3. Mistakes

Time away allows us to see mistakes we may have missed before. When we’re too close to a project, we start to gloss over mistakes and only see what we want to see. Don’t allow your proximity to a task to interfere with your ability to look at it objectively.

Time away doesn’t always seem like the best option, but I was so glad I stepped back this week. What can you step back from that will help your long term productivity?

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When Getting Sick Isn’t In Your Schedule

Time Management when sickThis week I decided it would be a good time to get sick. I carefully planned for it in my schedule so that no plans would be disrupted and everything would still be accomplished….

Right. Because that happens. Sick never comes at a time that would be “convenient,” it happens right in the middle of a hectic day when you just don’t need one more thing to go wrong. Here are three tips to deal with your to-do list when your health just isn’t happening.

1. Pick What You Won’t Do

When we get sick we have to accept that try as we might, we simply won’t be able to do everything we hoped for. We then have a choice. We can pick which tasks we will let go so we can focus on having energy to do the important ones, or we can allow the illness to decide for us.

I made the mistake of trying to do everything starting with the first appointment on my calendar, even though the events later in the day were more important. By 3:00, the illness decided I was done being productive. Oh how I wish I had rested in the morning so I would have had a tiny bit of energy for later.

2. Ask For Help

We never want to be “that person” that is a burden on our colleagues, but I assure you, unless you’re calling out every week, your co-workers would rather pick up a tiny bit of extra slack for you than have you come in and contaminate the whole work space.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help when you need it. Have you ever said “no” to a sick colleague? Exactly.

3. Acknowledge it Early

Sometimes we try to ignore sickness and “power through it” hoping if we don’t acknowledge the obvious, it will somehow go away. Recognize the early signs of sickness and start taking better care of yourself right away.

We like to think that we can wish away a cold or a stomach bug by simply never taking our nose away from the grindstone, but it’s far better to take a step back now than be stuck in bed later.

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**SPECIAL PROMOTION**

Time Management for College SurvivalGraduation is around the corner! For a limited time, sign up for my online class “Time Management for College Survival” for 20% off. Either purchase for yourself, or purchase for your favorite student. Lifetime access to 9 lecture, helpful worksheets, and advice that WORKS. Use this link and enter code “TIMEDIET20” at checkout. This is only for the first 20 people and only for a limited time so sign up today!

How To Live in The Moment

Time Management in the momentLet me start by saying I find the title of this blog to be extremely obnoxious. We talk about “living in the moment” as though there is some magical state of being in which we soak every ounce of meaning and appreciation out of each minute of each day.

Big announcement – my husband and I are expecting our first child in June. When people find out, they always offer a hearty congratulations followed by something to the effect of  “Better enjoy that sleep while you can!” or “Appreciate every moment! It won’t last.

While I enjoy the sentiment and I don’t doubt its truthfulness, the pressure to “appreciate harder!” during this pregnancy is getting a little insane.

Needless to say, I’ve given a lot of thought recently to “living in the moment” and have found these three tips to be helpful:

1. Engage Fully

We feel so pressured to do multiple tasks at a time, but I’ve found that fully engaging with whatever it is I’m doing has helped me appreciate the “little things.” For example, when you sit down to eat lunch, don’t feel the need to be also scrolling through your email or catching up on the news. It’s been helpful for me to devote my whole self to doing an enjoyable or relaxing task for a shorter period of time than to try to split my attention.

2. Avoid the Count Down

Do you ever feel like you live from one big milestone to the next? I began feeling like I was living from one countdown to another. “I just have to get through the holidays” then “I just have to get through to the Spring” etc…When we get into this linear way of thinking, we forget to look around and enjoy what’s happening now. One of my favorite quotes is “Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” and I try to think about that daily.

3. Practice Daily Reflection

I’ve tried to devote a minute or two before I go to bed to thinking through the events of the day. Not by re-hashing the problems that occurred, or second-guessing my actions and decisions, but by finding the happiness and the joy in what happened. It’s hard, and sometimes I don’t want to find the time to make happen, but it’s worth it in the end.

Finally, let’s not put so much pressure on ourselves to live each and every moment to the fullest. Once I stepped back and stopped trying to “appreciate harder,” I was free to enjoy the small things while looking forward to all the new experiences still to come.

**SPECIAL PROMOTION**

Time Management for College SurvivalGraduation is around the corner! For a limited time, sign up for my online class “Time Management for College Survival” for 20% off. Either purchase for yourself, or purchase for your favorite student. Lifetime access to 9 lecture, helpful worksheets, and advice that WORKS. Use this link and enter code “TIMEDIET20” at checkout. This is only for the first 20 people and only for a limited time so sign up today!

 

 

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I Crossed This Off My List This Week

Time Management ChecklistSaturday was February 1st. Not only was it the beginning of a new month, but it marked a deadline I have had lingering in my head for a while. I finally accomplished something I’ve thought about for weeks and I’m afraid I simply won’t get the credit for it I deserve. So what did I do?

…I took the Christmas wreath down off my door.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, unless you’ve also put off a tiny task for way longer than you’d like to admit. We all know we should adhere to The 5 Minute Rule: if it takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

I’m not even going to pretend that this Christmas wreath was affixed to the house in any sort of complicated manner. It was on a nail. One silly nail. But every time I passed by, I found some excuse to do anything other than take care of the stupid wreath.

It’s easy to see how senseless this type of procrastination is when someone else is doing the procrastinating, however, I’m guessing there is a task on your to-do list RIGHT NOW that’s been sitting there for months and would take less than a few minutes to complete.

Is it something for work? A task around your house? An email you’ve been meaning to send? A phone call you’ve been meaning to make?

Do it today.

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How To Stop 5-Minute Tasks from Taking Over Your Life

Time Management 5 Minute RuleThe “5 Minute Rule” is one of my favorite pieces of time management advice to keep your to-do list trim. “If it takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now!” However, how do you ensure that your day doesn’t become an endless barrage of short 5-minute tasks and you never get any “real” work done? It’s a valid concern. Check out these three tips to let The 5 Minute rule help your time management.

1. Set aside “focus blocks”

In The Time Diet, everything you do is either a Meat, Vegetable, or Dessert. If you’re focused intently on a Meat when a 5-minute task comes across your desk, try keeping it on your desk until you finish your train of thought. Then, before you reward yourself with a break, tackle the 5-minute task. Sometimes these tiny little Vegetables can be a great way to break from our Meats while still remaining productive.

2. Monitor your procrastination

Sometimes people search for tiny 5-minute tasks to do when they are really procrastinating on something else. (For example, a light bulb has a greater chance of being changed in my house if I’m trying to avoid writing my dissertation…) Be honest with yourself when assessing these tiny tasks. Are you doing them because they are important? Or are you just trying to avoid doing something else.

3. Make a process for your interruptions

If you’re continually interrupted with the same short little task, how can you create a procedure to handle these interruptions? Can you send calls straight to voice mail when you’re working? Can you create a signature file outside your office door to sort through at the end of the day? Can you post a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” on your door or in an email? Use your creativity.

Taking care of little tasks quickly is important, but so is keeping your focus. With some discipline and planning, you can keep your to-do list trim, while still maintaining your concentration.

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Win At Your New Year’s Resolution

Time Management New Years ResolutionIt’s that time of year again. The time of false hopes and broken promises. (a.k.a. New Year’s Resolutions!) This year, don’t waste your time with a resolution that won’t even last until the New Year’s Eve party is cleaned up. Follow these three tips to increase your chances of keeping your resolution and making it a habit.

1. Choose One

We have so much we want to change! It can be tempting use our (temporary) New Year’s motivation to fix everything at once, but this wastes your time. You’re better off putting all your time, energy, and focus into overcoming one obstacle. Then, use your satisfaction as motivation to tackle something else.

2. Plan Your “How”

A resolution is just a thought in the air until you have a plan to complete it. “I want to spend more time with my family” is a nice thought. “I want to get to work half an hour earlier each day so I don’t have to bring work home on the weekends” is a plan. Don’t make a resolution without also making a plan to complete it.

3. Pick a Partner

Making something a habit is the key to keeping your New Year’s resolution, but until it’s a habit, it’s helpful to have someone to hold you accountable. Trying to lose weight? Ask a friend to go on the journey with you. Trying to stay organized? Ask a colleague to conduct a “desk inspection” once a week. It’s not enough to just tell someone what your goal is. Unless you have a specific procedure in place for that person to hold you accountable, they’ll forget about your goal just as quickly as you will.

Happy New Year readers! See you in 2014!

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Why Santa Claus is an Excellent Time Manager

Time management santaIn a few days, millions of children will anxiously wake up and rush to the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought for them. It’s a good thing Santa is an excellent time manager so he can ensure everything is finished on time! Here are three time management lessons we can take from the jolly man in red:

1. He makes a list and checks it twice.

Notice that Santa’s naughty and nice list doesn’t consist of multicolored post-it notes carelessly strewn about the North Pole. He keeps everything organized in one place so he can easily find it.

2. He delegates

Santa could try to make all those toys himself, and thus ensure that they were all made his way and to his standards, but then he wouldn’t have time for those important administrative tasks, like list-checking, travel-planning, and cookie-eating. Santa delegates effectively to his team of elves to make sure everything gets finished efficiently in time for Christmas.

3. He thinks outside the box

Imagine how much longer present-delivery would take if Santa had to fuss with keeping keys to each house and letting himself in through the front door! By using a more creative approach, the chimney, he’s able to speed up his process and finish it all in one night.

Now, some would argue that if they had 364 days to prepare for one project, they’d be great time managers too. Point taken. But regardless of what your job is, I sincerely hope that you are taking time to slow down and enjoy your family and friends this Holiday Season, and are ready to work efficiently and productively in the new year so you can always find time to relax and enjoy the important things in life.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Time Diet!

Did Santa bring you time management help this season?  Check out The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management for $12.99 on Amazon.com.

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How To Hold a Time Management Garage Sale

PrintAre there things on your schedule that are cluttering your day? Are they getting in the way of things that actually matter to you?

This week, I cleared out all the clutter in our house and had a garage sale. Getting rid of the extra junk was so freeing, but I realized that I probably had some clutter lurking around my to-do list also. Have you held a “time management garage sale” lately? Here are the four steps:

1. Take an inventory

Much of what we do all day happens on autopilot, so we don’t realize how we’re really spending our time until we look at it. This week, pay close attention to how you spend your time and how long you spend on each task. Sometimes tasks that we think only take a few minutes, actually consume hours of our week.

2. What is important to you

Take this opportunity to reexamine what’s important to you. Is it family? Friends? Is it spending time outside? Is it having a salary that supports going on yearly vacations? Is it eating dinner at home every evening? Is it the satisfaction you get from your job? Reflect on what’s important and how it aligns with your goals.

3. Do they match?

Now, revisit your “time log” from the week. Does how you spend your time match up with what’s important to you? You might not love your job, but if it’s moving you toward a more broad career goal, maybe it’s fine. You might realize you’re spending way too much time on email when instead you could spend a few extra minutes enjoying your morning coffee. Or perhaps you say that being active is important to you…and yet you put pretty much every other obligation in front of exercising.

4. Ditch it

Just like my house only has room for a finite amount of “stuff,” we only have time for so many things during the day. If we fill it with things that don’t either give us enjoyment, move us further toward a goal, or better the world in some way, we’ll have less room for the things that actually matter. Don’t live your life on autopilot. Make purposeful decisions with your time and change course when needed. Put those unwanted tasks out on your driveway and let them be someone else’s problem.

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No Crystal Ball? Then Stop Worrying

time management crystal ball“What if I don’t get the promotion? What if my flight is late? What if my house doesn’t sell?” Our obsession with trying to predict the future takes up a lot of our time and energy. Until you have a crystal ball, that energy is better used elsewhere! Try these 3 tips to stop planning for the unpredictable.

1. Think of Yourself 5 Years Ago

It’s easy to get caught up in the present and forget that our tastes, interests and circumstances change all the time. Think of the person you were 5 years ago. Could you ever have predicted how your life would change in that time? What makes you think you’ll be able to predict what happens in the next 5 years?

2. Identify What You Can’t Control

As much as we wish we could control every event in our lives, we can’t. Identify what is in your control and what is out of your hands. Whenever you catch yourself worrying about a future event you have no say over, stop. Replace the thought with something you can control and redirect your thinking.

3. Embrace Change

Remember, sometimes the best opportunities end up being unexpected surprises that would have never made it onto your preplanned life itinerary.

You never know where an unforeseen path may lead, so embrace the adventure!

Turning off our “worry switch” is not easy. Rely on your support network of friends and family to help point out when you’re wasting time thinking about something you can’t control. This past week, my dissertation adviser caught me in a worry moment and said, “Emily, until you can bring me a functioning crystal ball, I want you to stop trying to predict the future.”

That sounds like a challenge to me!

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