Texting While Talking: Why Do We Do It?

Time management textingYou’re having a conversation with a loved one, colleague, or friends. Suddenly, you notice their gaze turn down to their lap or table. They continue to nod at what you’re saying, but you’re aware that they are distracted. Pretty soon, you see your competition: a smartphone, it’s screen glistening in the sun, almost as though it’s mocking the fact that it has now replaced you as the focus of this person’s attention. I call it Communication Distraction, and it’s not OK.

When we try to do two things at once, our attention is split and we aren’t focused on either of the tasks at hand. People are starting to realize that multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but for some reason we don’t really think of texting as multitasking…or trying to do ANY two forms of communication at the same time for that matter.

Typing an email while on the phone, texting while in a meeting, both of these scenarios are examples of multitasking, and they are both rude! Not to mention the fact that distracted communication is not effective and therefore, not good time management.

How do we prevent Communication Distraction? Be more aware of your communications. Focus on the conversation you’re having and who you are talking to. When you find yourself a victim of Communication Distraction, you don’t need to return the rudeness, but perhaps you say something like, “Did I catch you at a bad time? I’m sorry, I can try again later if you’re busy right now.”

We can work together to help prevent distraction and make communication more personal again.

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How Time Killers Can Make You More Productive

Time management social mediaWe all know what it feels like to be sucked into a Time Killer. What starts off as a “quick glance” at Facebook, quickly becomes an hour long time indulgence we didn’t plan for. We can bemoan the time they waste, or we can analyze what keeps us addicted to these platforms for hours on end and use it to our advantage.

Here are three ways to harness the power of Time Killers to be productive:

1. Keep your next task in front of you
Why is it so easy to binge watch Netflix? Because the next episode pops up before the credits for the last one are even done running. Use this same concept in your productivity. It’s very easy to stop working when you finish a task and you can’t remember what to do next. Writing all of your tasks on one consolidated to-do list helps keep the next task in front of you so you can keep your productivity streak going.

2. Make it easy to work
You’ll notice that on social media, the interface is designed to make it easy to keep you hooked. It’s very easy to friend, like, follow, etc… You don’t have to search very hard for those buttons. Similarly, don’t make yourself search for a space to work. Giving yourself a comfortable, pleasant place to be productive will help make you want to use it!

3. Get your friends involved
Part of the allure of Time Killers, particularly social media is the thought that a friend might have commented on something witty we posted. We enjoy getting feedback from other people, so bring them into your productivity too. Don’t go it alone. Involve your friends and coworkers in your goals to help hold you accountable.

We ultimately must face the fact the work just isn’t nearly as FUN as Time Killers are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make productivity as easy as possible.

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How Google Robbed Me of My Saturday

Time Management GoogleOK folks, we need to have a discussion about what I call the “time management rabbit hole” AKA Google. You know what I’m talking about. It starts off innocently enough, asking one simple question to find a seemingly simple answer. Then, pretty soon it’s 4 hours later, you have 23 tabs open with more articles and opinions than you could ever hope to read in a lifetime…and you still don’t have an answer.

If you’re thinking “Wow, it’s like Emily knows my life,” you’re right, I do, because that was my Saturday and I think I figured out what I did wrong…

Lost in the Reviews

We’re thinking about buying a new refrigerator. Naturally, I want to get a good price on a quality appliance, so I thought I’d just nose around on a few sites to see what people are saying about different brands. This quickly became my entire day.

“This fridge leaks,” says one person.

“This one broke after 3 months,” says another.

“This appliance is seriously the most amazing thing I’ve ever owned in my life,” says someone else.

…all talking about the same model fridge.

Too Much Information

As I poured over all the reviews, discount appliance sites, and home improvement stores, I was under the illusion that I was getting “smarter” about refrigerators, but at the end of the afternoon I realized that while I knew more information, I wasn’t necessarily coming any closer to making a decision.

I’ve talked at length about how social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc… can turn into serious Time Killers if we’re not careful, but information overload can be a huge waste of time as well. We live in a world where endless information is available at the click of a button, and we’re trained to believe that that’s a good thing, but here’s what I realized today:

My Lesson

Good information is helpful. Excess or unreliable information is a waste of time. The next time you catch yourself falling down the time management rabbit hole of information, stop and ask yourself, “Is what I’m reading helping me make an informed decision? Or do I have all the information I need and simply need to step back and choose something.”

Hopefully you can save yourself a Saturday afternoon!

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The Social Media Song: How to Deal With A Lack of Focus

Have you ever had one of those days where you had the best of productive intentions, only to have them derailed by a lack of focus? Happens to me all the time, so I wrote a song about it – specifically, about how the Internet hates to see me be productive. Can you relate? Check it out:

So how do we fix this problem? If your Time Killer has become such a habit that you’re having trouble regulating it, you might try giving it up completely for a while. For example, go on a Facebook or Netflix fast for a few weeks and then slowly add it back in in a way you can control. Or, do what I do and write a silly song about it. Your choice.

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When the Malaysian Plane is Found, I Can Stop Watching The News

Malaysia.airlinesI usually have a fairly healthy relationship with current events. I read enough to stay informed, but not so much as to become entrenched in the 24-hour news cycle. However, every so often an event comes along that strikes a chord with me and I become obsessed. This week I found that concern and worry about a current event can quickly turn into a consuming problem that affects day-to-day work and peace of mind. I’d like to share the strategies I used to tune it out.

A Shocking Story

When news of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 first broke last weekend, I was shocked, worried, saddened and frustrated. As somebody who struggles with worrying, and had to overcome a dislike of flying to be a traveling speaker, I have spent countless hours convincing myself that air travel is not something to worry about. “It’s safer than driving a car. Planes are inspected every day. They are designed to keep gliding even after engine failure.”

Now that this plane had gone completely missing, I just couldn’t accept that there were no answers. “What happened to all those people? What about their families? Will they get answers? I have a computer that fits in my pocket, a car that senses rain water, but we can’t find a giant airplane?”

My New Obsession

I dealt with this frustration and sadness by reading news articles, EVERY news article that came out. I checked Twitter constantly, I read the USA Today blog updates every few hours. I even read conspiracy theories, wild hypotheses, and crazy speculation. I found myself interrupting my work to check these “updates.” Then I realized three things:

1. There is always something new to read

When our only source of news was newspapers, there was a finite end to the day’s current events. Now, we have the ability to keep reading forever. There will always be a new perspective, new article, or the same article with a new headline. At some point, you just have to stop.

2. Speculation hides as information

When there is no new news to report, people still have to write about something so they speculate. They write about facts that probably don’t really matter, but it fills up a page (er…screen). While I first felt more informed because of my news obsession, I quickly realized I had just spent more time on the internet.

3. News makes distraction seem OK

At first I didn’t feel guilty for allowing myself to be distracted by these stories. This is important! I told myself. Then, I realized that I was just making excuses for my lack of focus. The news had become my new Time Killer, and it needed to stop. I wasn’t doing anything to help and my worry was getting the best of me.

I have decided that I’m no longer going to check on this story every hour. What is your Time Killer you need to let go of this week?

Want more help eliminating your Time Killers? Get your copy of The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management today for $12.99

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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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Which Type of Procrastinator Are You?

We all put things off from time to time, but how to kick the habit depends on why and how you procrastinate. Which of the following 3 procrastinators are you?

The Dare Devil

Time Management DaredevilDare Devils thrive under pressure and live for the thrill of a last-minute crunch time. They find it difficult to stay motivated until the last possible second so they put off their work until the deadline is looming. Then, they work like crazy, forsaking sleep, food, family time, etc…promising themselves they will never do it again.

The Solution

One reason people thrive under pressure is it becomes easier to tune out distractions during crunch time. Are you more likely to check your email and glance at Facebook when you’re working on an urgent deadline or non-urgent one? Exactly. Remove distracting Time Killers so they don’t tempt you. Then you’ll be able to work with the focus of an urgent deadline without having to actually live so close to the edge.

Time Management ProcrastinatorThe Rationalizer

Rationalizers are experts at convincing themselves that their work doesn’t have to be done right now. They will find excuses, make bargains with themselves, or downplay the importance of a deadline.

The Solution

Excuses are harder to make when your goals are staring you in the face. Why are you working so hard? Who inspires you? What are you trying to achieve? Make sure the answers to those questions are top of mind when you’re working. Post your goals near your workplace. Seek out people you admire and constantly remind yourself of the important motivators that drive you.

The Overwhelmed Ostrichtime management ostrich

Sometimes we have tasks that are so monstrous, it seems we never have time to start them. When we see the task on our to-do list we skip right past it, hoping it will just go away if we don’t look at it – the time management equivalent of burying your head in the sand.

The Solution

Break a large task into tiny chunks and write those chunks down on your to-do list. Don’t even write the big task at all. It’s too intimidating. Then rejoice in the satisfaction of crossing those little chunks off one by one. This helps accomplish large tasks in 20 or 30 minute time periods since realistically, you can’t always devote a whole day to accomplishing a huge task.

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Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Would You Survive the 24-hour Smartphone Challenge?

I am addicted to my smartphone. There, I said it. Every time I pull it out of my purse, I feel like a 5-year old on Christmas morning. I slide my finger across the unlock screen in gleeful anticipation of finding this oh so fabulous symbol:Time management gmail

So many fun and exciting things could be waiting behind that tiny icon. Will it be a new gig request? A new book sale? Somebody commenting on my witty Facebook status? Or perhaps just a solicitation from a store I shopped at once and never plan to visit again. The possibilities are endless.

My Challenge

When I need to focus, I put this magical device out of reach so it won’t be a distraction, but recently I’ve noticed that it’s started to distract me during non-work activities as well. When I found myself scrolling through Facebook in the middle of Yoga class one evening, I knew I had to do something! I needed to prove to myself I could stand to be less connected to the technology in my life. That’s why I decided to spend 24 hours away from my smartphone. Here’s how it went:time management email

6:35am: Wake up. Immediately grab for my phone to check my email. Try to rationalize why it would be fine to put the challenge off to another day. Realize that’s exactly why I need this in the first place. Remain resilient.

9:00am: Realize I still need to check my email today. Get out my laptop and spend 30 minutes doing that. Realize it was far more efficient to do it all at once rather than gradually over the course of the whole morning.

11:30am: Get frustrated with work. Almost crack and pick up the phone. Stay tough and keep working.

12:15pm: Feel the desire to “check-in” on Facebook and let everyone know what a lovely lunch I’m having with my husband. Realize that nobody really needs to know that, and I’d rather focus on having a great time… without my phone.

2:00pm: Want a coffee and wonder if there is a Starbucks around. Try to justify the use of the phone because technically the GPS feature wasn’t what I was trying to avoid with this challenge. Realize I don’t need to spend the money or the calories. Avoid the coffee.

4:30pm: Get a text message. Debate whether texting should be included in the ban. Call the person back instead. Personal communication for the win.

7:45pm: Need to unwind. Pull out phone to scroll through the news. Figure I’ve made it this far, so maybe I can quit a little early. Stop myself. Pick up a magazine instead. Print journalists around the world rejoice.

The point of this blog is not to say we should not utilize our amazing communication tools. I’m going to go back to using my phone: email, texting, web browsing, GPS, etc…I will not, however, forget the importance of disconnecting every once in a while. Just because we have the ability to be constantly connected to everything, doesn’t mean we should. Sorry smartphone. I’m going to pretend you’re “dumb” every now and then.

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5 Ways to Tune Out Your Social Network While You’re Working

Time Management Social NetworkIn today’s distraction-heavy world, staying focused while we work is tough. Social networking sites in particular are very good at stealing our attention and interrupting our time management.  They have all the makings of a perfect Time Killer: easy to access and difficult to look away. Those of us who enjoy being on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… have a tough decision to make. How in the world do we continue to use these sites but remove them from our mind while we’re working? Start with these 5 strategies.

1. Log out

Many of us choose to keep ourselves logged in to our social network. This makes it all too easy to check Facebook “just for a minute” while we’re trying to work. Instead, log out of these sites and make sure your computer does not auto-save your password. This way, you will be less tempted to snoop on your news feed when you should be focusing! The extra step of having to enter your username and password can be just the deterrent you need.

2. Work Offline

If your work doesn’t require the use of the internet, shut it off. Remove the temptation all together. I turned off the WiFi on my laptop before starting this blog post, and it has done wonders for my focus. Not only that, but my battery isn’t draining nearly as quickly as it usually does!

Time Management Smartphone3. Put Your Cellphone Away

Smartphones are great in that you always have a mini-computer in your pocket, but they also make your social network a distraction everywhere you go. To avoid mindlessly  scrolling through Twitter during every spare moment, put your cell phone out of reach when you need to focus on something. If you can’t deal with the separation anxiety that causes, try removing the  short-cut button from your home screen.

4. Pick and Choose

The first social network I took part in was MySpace. Then I got a Facebook, then a Twitter, then a YouTube Channel, and now I’m venturing into Pinterest-land. These have been great tools to grow my business, but personally I try to only pick a few to use regularly. It takes time to remain deeply involved in every social network available. Choose your favorites to stay involved with, and relegate the rest to “once a week” status.

5. Dedicate Time

At the proper time and place, social networking can be a fun Dessert in our Time Diets. Rather than glancing at YouTube only when you’re trying to do something else, give it some dedicated time in your schedule. Maybe it’s the way you unwind for a little bit at lunch, or what gives you a quick laugh after a stressful day. If we don’t allow ourselves time for these indulgences, they’ll just creep into our schedule when we need them least!

Number of times I checked my smartphone while writing this post: 0
Number of times I wanted to: 5,782,506.

How do YOU keep your social network from distracting you? Got a comment? Please leave one!

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Schedule Your “When”

Time Management Start NowOften when we say we “haven’t gotten around to” something, what we really mean is that we haven’t committed to a deadline and tried. When a boss or supervisor is checking up on us, we’re forced to finish our tasks, but when we are only accountable to ourselves, we can sometimes allow too much leeway. This is why creating a deadline and making a commitment are half the battle. Make this the week that you schedule your “when.”

“When” before “How”

When our schedules are already bursting, we don’t like to add more things to them. It doesn’t seem like we’re able to fit anything else into our day, so we wait. We put off tasks that are important to us at the expense of tasks that we owe to other people. It’s difficult to figure out how you’ll find time to do something if you don’t first set a goal of when. Once the when is established, the how comes much more easily.

My Deadline

As part of my doctoral degree, I have to take three written exams. There is no set date these are offered. Students are supposed to schedule them whenever they feel “ready.” I have been waiting for the day when I wake up and feel “ready” to regurgitate all of the knowledge I’ve acquired in the past three years, and that day has yet to come. My days are full as they are and I don’t have large blocks of time at my disposal to study for these exams. This week, I realized the only way I’ll ever finish these tests is if I just schedule them.

The last week of January, I will be taking my first doctoral written exam. My “when” has been established. Over the next month and a half, I’m going to figure out the “how.”

Schedule Your When

Have you been putting off something that’s important to you or that you know needs to be done? What are you waiting for? Take out your calendar, pick a day, and make a commitment. Putting it in your calendar makes it real and forces you to start constructing a plan. Until you add it to your schedule, your task is just an idea. Turn your idea into an obligation.

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Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos.net