Have You Tried This Trick to Cut Out Distractions?

Time Management Protected TimeTell me if this sounds familiar: You have ONE thing that you’d really like to accomplish today. You sit down to do it…only to be interrupted by a phone call. Then you have to rush to a meeting, then you go on a few errands, end up filing the day’s mail…and before you know it, the day is over and your task is left unfinished!

Where did the time go? There is no perfect solution to stop daily distractions, but a trick I learned in my years teaching elementary school certainly can help. Let me explain…

Protected Time

In the school where I taught, reading was a huge priority. However, the hour-long reading block was frequently interrupted by assemblies, testing, the vaccine clinic, etc…so we instituted something called “Protected Time.”

Protected Time was an hour during which no events, tests, drills or other distractions were planned. It was so teachers knew they had that one untouched hour they could count on to focus on reading skills with their students. At first it was easy to see all the problems with this. (How will this affect the master schedule!? How can we be so inflexible!) But when you start looking for solutions instead of problems, it’s amazing how quickly things work out.

Of course reserving some protected time of your own would be much easier if everyone in your work life could agree to the same hour, but remember….solutions people, not problems

Planning Yours

How can you reserve yourself an hour of protected time to work on things that require focus? Can you close your door at work? Turn off your smart phone? Close your email? Let others know that you’re unavailable during that hour? How you protect your time will vary based on your situation, but I urge you to try it.

After all, we work hard to protect so many other things in our lives, isn’t your time worth protecting too?

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Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Questions to Ask Your Unfinished To-Do List

Time Management to-do listOh, the frustration of an unfinished to-do list! Those lingering tasks left without a satisfying check mark beside them. Before you simply roll your unfinished tasks onto tomorrow’s list, stop! Here are five questions to ask yourself when you end the day with uncompleted responsibilities.

1. Why?

What happened that left tasks lingering? Did unexpected situations pop up that took priority? Were you unfocussed? Were you working inefficiently? Taking a moment to analyze the why behind your unfinished list can help you correct the problem in the future.

2. Am I Being Realistic?

Perhaps your list remains habitually unfinished because your expectations are too high. You only have so many hours in the day and you can’t work at your peak efficiency non-stop. You’d never expect to write War and Peace in a day, but maybe that’s what you’re demanding of yourself.

3. Is Everything Necessary?
If the same tasks have lingered at the bottom of your list for weeks…and the world has kept on spinning, are they really necessary? If so, you need to make one of them a focus task for tomorrow and clear it from your plate. If not, get rid of it! Just because you’d like to do something or it might be helpful, doesn’t mean it’s necessary.

4. Have I Said No Recently?

If your list keeps piling up, are you saying “Yes” to too many tasks that don’t realistically fit in your schedule? When was the last time you said “No” to a task? Can’t think of when? Make it tomorrow.

5. What Can I Do Differently Tomorrow?

If you didn’t finish your list today, and you do everything exactly the same tomorrow…you probably won’t finish your list then either. What change will you make to produce a different result? Do you need to wake up earlier? Take an energizing walk over lunch so you’re more productive in the afternoon? Turn off Facebook so you’re more focused?

Come up with a game plan that will put you on the road to success.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Reassess Your Schedule

Is all this stuff I’m doing really worth it? We don’t ask ourselves this question nearly enough and it is one of the biggest problems that lead to being stuck in a time management rut.

Our lives change from year to year, month to month and day to day. We try out new things, explore new ideas and rearrange our priorities. What was important to us two years ago may not still be important to us today. This is why it’s crucial to constantly re-evaluate the things we do and decide whether or not they are still worth our valuable time!

To see if something is worthy of a place in your schedule, you need to weigh the total time an activity takes versus the benefit it provides you. If you find that you’re not getting enough benefit from a task to justify the time you put in…then why are you doing it? It doesn’t belong in your Time Diet. That would be like indulging in a high calorie dessert that just wasn’t very delicious. What’s the point?

My Experience

My school district offers frequent professional development classes in the evenings. In the past, I have taken as many of these classes as I can. They are a great opportunity to learn new teaching skills and I’m able to put the small stipend we get for attending toward my grad school bill! When I saw that a new “Podcasting 101” class was being offered in March, I didn’t even think twice about signing up. Why not? I took these classes last year all the time. Here is the problem- my life is different this year than it was last year and I didn’t think about that.

Last year I was working on my masters, this year I’m working on my doctorate. Last year I was just beginning my journey in blogging, speaking and writing about time management, and now working on The Time Diet takes a significant amount of my time during the week.  Last year taking these district classes was worth it, this year it’s not.  Don’t get me wrong- I still really enjoy learning new things, but my evening time is now better spent working on my research papers and finding new speaking engagements. Theses classes are also offered in the summer when my schedule is far less hectic. That is when I need to sign up for them!

I failed to re-evaluate my priorities before adding another thing to my plate. I ended up spending 8 hours doing something that was not the best use of my time. I will not make that mistake again!

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Learning to Say No

“No, I’m sorry. I won’t be able to do that for you.” Has it been a while since you’ve said that? Do you always find yourself saying “yes” to things you know you don’t have time for? You might need a refresher course in the ability to say “No.”

In time management, there are two ways to find more time:

1) Do the same amount of tasks more efficiently or

2) Do fewer things

We spend a lot of time focusing on figuring out ways to do #1, that we often forget that #2 is also an option. I’m not suggesting you go to your boss and inform him or her that from now on, in order to reduce your stress level, you will only be completing half of your job description. No, when looking for things to cut out, think of those extra favors that people ask you to do. We feel obligated to say yes to all of these things. We don’t want to let others down and we are afraid of destroying our image as a “super human” who can do it all. However, if you truly need to trim down your schedule in your Time Diet, you need to be better at saying no.

Here is the truth: nobody can do it all. Not even you. With excellent time management skills, you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible, but everyone has their limit. The next time someone asks you to do something “extra” that you know will take more time than you have available, use the following tips to help say No:

How to Say No

1) Be Prompt: When saying No to a favor, tell the person as soon as they ask you. It is tempting to say “maybe” in hopes that more time will magically open up in your schedule. This is not fair to the other person. Telling them No right away lets them know you respect their time and gives them ample opportunity to find another person to help them out.

2) Be Honest: You all know how much I loathe the line “I’m too busy.” If you have to tell someone No, don’t use “I’m too busy” as a reason. Remember, the person asking you a favor is also “busy” just like everyone else in the world. We make time for what is important to us and if this favor were absolutely essential, you would make time for it as well. Instead, say something like, “Adding this to my plate right now would really overload me. I’m going to have to say No to this one.”

3) Be Direct: Say No kindly but firmly and then move on with your life. Don’t continue to fall all over yourself with things like, “I’m so so sorry I couldn’t do that for you, it’s been a really bad time for me” or “any other time you need anything at all from me just ask.” Statements like this make you appear as though you don’t value your own time and are not in control of your own time management decisions.

It is also important to remember that if you say “Yes” to favors that you are realistically able to make time for, it makes saying “No” much easier when you need to. You need to find the balance of being the go-to person people can count on and being the person who values their own time and is selective of their tasks.

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