Making Time Now To Save Your Career Later

Time Management Career.pngDid you learn something new today? What was the last “skill” you added to your LinkedIn profile? Have you made the time to keep a connection alive recently? I read an article today that caused me to ask myself those questions, and it inspired me so much that I stopped scrolling through Facebook, got off the couch, and wrote a blog about it.

Yeah, it’s been a while

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s been a while since my last blog. I recognize the irony in a time management blog being super late, but I decided I needed to follow my own advice. We are never “too busy” to do anything. We all have the same number of minutes in the day, and as each one ticks by, we choose how to spend them. I have not chosen to spend them blog writing recently.

I’ve taken on about a billion other side projects (and, oh yeah, had that second baby) and other things have been more important. I decided, that rather than fight writer’s block every weekend and try to conjure up a blog when I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll post less frequent, but better blogs. So just know, that when you see a blog from me now, it’s because I really REALLY wanted to write it and felt inspired to share some wisdom with you. That’s how I feel right now.

6 Ways to Future Proof Your Job

I read an article today called “6 Ways to Future-Proof Your Job” and it really spoke to me. Sometimes I wonder why I relish my “side hustle” so much. “Oh goodness” I think. “Why can’t I just go to work at 8, leave work at 5, and then just….be…in between those times.” But this article reminded me why I love it so much.

When you pursue side projects, you stay educated, you make connections, you keep yourself fresh, and you never feel complacent. The article makes a great case for WHY to do those things, but what it doesn’t mention is that all of these things take TIME.

Finding Time To Learn

Yes, keeping your skills sharp takes time, but it’s time well spent. I like how this article makes it clear that what we do outside of our jobs is also….our job. It’s our job to keep learning. It’s our job to stay curious. It’s our job to pursue our passions both in and out of the workplace. It’s not an “extra” thing, it’s THE thing.

I’m not advocating we work 24/7, because goodness knows, I need some Netflix sometimes. For example, Frank Underwood is doing something super devious RIGHT NOW on House of Cards but I have no idea what it is because I’m writing to you all right now instead. (No spoilers!!!! I’m only on season 2.) Family time is a must. “Me time” is a must. Relaxation is a must. But those things don’t have to be completely separate from being curious.

Take the family to a museum.

Read a book on the couch.

Heck, watch a documentary.

Learn something. And don’t be afraid to apply it. Meet someone, and don’t be afraid to learn more about what they do. I want to be better at this. Thanks for the reminder.

Love Emily’s Blog? You’ll love her books! Check out her latest: Time Management Workbook For StudentsTime Management Student Workbook

 

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How to Save Time with Great Trainings

time management training.pngAre you an expert at something? Or do you know even a little bit more about a topic or process than your fellow colleagues? Then you have probably been asked to put together a “training” before. Make sure this training is not a colossal waste of everyone’s time by keeping the following things in mind.

Training is a Tough Job

First off, remember that people who teach or train have usually gone to school to study this. They have spent years studying in both a classroom and on the job about learning principles, adult learning theory, motivation, assessment, classroom management, etc. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, it’s totally normal.

You know training isn’t your strong point, but you also know that everyone looking at this meeting invite is rolling their eyes thinking “oh great, THIS will be such a waste of time.” You don’t have to go get a teaching certificate to prove them wrong. Just design your training with these three things in mind:

1. What exactly do you want them to DO?  (Not KNOW)

Many times you’ll be asked to “teach everyone about XYZ” in your training, but that’s not what your boss is really asking for. What he/she really wants is for you to teach everyone about XYZ and then train them on what to do with that information. How to apply it, how to process it, how to use it to inform their decision making. Simply “knowing” something in the workplace isn’t all that helpful. Knowing how to apply that information is.

 

2. Have them practice what you want them to DO

Once you’ve identified and communicated what it is you want everyone to be able to do, you’ll save everyone a lot of time later by having them practice that process at the training. If you merely tell people how to do something, everyone will come back to you later with questions after they try to do it on their own (if they even remember what you said.) If you build a simulation or practice into your training, then everyone can learn by doing, which will not only ensure they are completing the process correctly, but also make them more likely to retain the information.

 

3. Decide how much of the process is important

Once someone learns how to do something, they may find their own way to do it. That’s OK! If after a training, someone is able to get the same result in the same amount of time by doing a different process, don’t be too quick to call it out as “wrong.” There are usually multiple ways to get to the same result so if their process doesn’t leave out crucial steps, then who cares if it’s a little different than the way you do it. Successful trainers give enough structure to make sure all steps are completed accurately, but give enough freedom for learners to work they way that’s easiest for them.

Get More Help

 

Want me to look over or help you with your training? Good news! I offer in-person coaching (in the Phoenix area) and over the phone coaching. Everything from tweaking an existing training, to coaching your delivery, or completely writing it for you. Email me at Emily@TheTimeDiet.org or check out my “public speaking services” for more info.

 

Just Say…Yes?

time management say yesOver-committing is a huge time management problem. I find myself constantly telling perfectionist over-achievers to “just say no” when faced with the offer of a new responsibility. However, when I say this, a tiny part of me winces because I know that a lot of the cool things I’ve done in my life are a result of just saying YES. I think I’ve figured out how to balance these two answers…

Why We Over Commit

Just to be clear: over committing is a terrible thing. Sometimes we say Yes when we very much need to say NO instead. Here are a few examples:

  1. We don’t want to let the other person down

Sometimes we say yes because we really like the person asking for the favor and we don’t want to let them down. Here is the problem. If you say Yes to something you don’t have time for, you’re just going to end up letting this person down anyway, except it will be MUCH later, giving the person little time to develop a back up plan. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human.

  1. When it’s not your job

There is a difference between being helpful and being taken advantage of. If a colleague at work asks you how to do something, absolutely be a good coworker and help them out! But if you find yourself consistently doing someone else’s job, direct that coworker/customer to the appropriate resource or person. You don’t want to let your own work slip while doing someone else’s.

  1. When you don’t know how

Sometimes we KNOW we should decline a request, but we don’t know how! We’re afraid we’ll sound rude so we say yes to just make it go away. You train people how to treat you and if you always say yes, that’s what people will come to expect. If you know you can’t handle the request, be clear, kind, and direct while declining.

What About Saying Yes?

Those are some situations it’s entirely acceptable to say no. Here is one when you should say YES.

…when you’re scared.

Sometimes we’re faced with an offer that we decline because we “don’t have time,” except that’s not the real reason. The real reason is we’re scared. We’re scared it will have been a waste of time. We’re scared we won’t know what we’re doing. You never know where those things are going to lead until you take a chance.

A few examples from my life

  1. I saw an email last year from my synagogue looking for cast members for their annual play. I initially dismissed it as an “I don’t have time” situation, but then I realized I was just nervous I wouldn’t know anybody so I signed up anyway. It was SO much fun! Sure, it was one evening a week, but the enjoyment I got out of the experience far outweighed the time commitment.
  1. During my PhD studies a professor asked if there were any volunteers to teach an online class on Garage Band. I had used the program before, but knew NOTHING about teaching online and was really scared that I would fail. Year later, it has been a wonderful experience, I’m learning SO much about teaching in an online space, and it’s led to many other cool opportunities.
  1. After one of my workshops a few years ago, an attendee came up to me and said, “Emily, I don’t really need help with time management, but I REALLY want to learn to speak like you. Do you do public speaking coaching?” My first thought was “um, absolutely not. I have no idea why I’m good at this let alone know how to teach you to be good at it!” But instead I said “Why, yes I do!” Now, three years later, I know exactly why I’m good at speaking and have gotten really good at coaching others to do the same. Thanks random workshop attendee!

And finally, one that didn’t pan out:

In my graduate studies, I saw an ad asking for people to have a regular column in the school newspaper. I was a little nervous about the time commitment, but it sounded like a cool opportunity, so I applied and got the job. Except…it didn’t turn out to be a cool opportunity at all. I kind of hated it. It didn’t lead to anything else and the newspaper ended up completely changing its format the next year anyway. Bummer. But really, what’s the worst that happened? I wasted a few hours of my life while improved my writing skills? Oh well.

 Take Away

Moral of the story: learn how to say No when you need to. Learn how to YES when you need to. Constantly evaluate your priorities and make sure you’re doing things that support them.

Like the blog? You’ll love the books! Check out these titles by Dr. Emily Schwartz

Time Management for College Survival

The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management

How to Speak so People Will Buy

 

Busy: The Worst 4 Letter Word

time management four letter wordBusy. There are many four letter words I don’t want my children to say, but “busy” ranks at the top of the list. We have a cultural obsession with the word busy, and it needs to stop. Busy just means you’re filling time. It conveys nothing about results, efficiency, or productivity. Here are a few ways we can start to shift our value system away from busy.

Reward results, not time

We say “smarter not harder” yet the last car to leave the parking lot belongs to the employee who is most “dedicated.” Instead of judging a coworker or employee based on how full their calendar is, judge them on the quality of work completed.

If I typed every email one handed, that would make my work take three times as long, and I’d probably need to stay at work much later than everyone else because I would be so “busy.” Does that mean I’m more dedicated? Or a better worker? Of course not.

That’s not to say every employee who stays late is just a slow worker. Many people are simply overworked and have too much to do with too few resources. Which leads to my next point:

Stop rewarding efficiency with more work

Have you ever found a more efficient way to complete a task, only to find out you’ve been given double the work next time around? Rewarding efficient work with more work isn’t much of an incentive to find faster ways to do things. Continuing to load up employees with work until they reach their breaking point is a recipe for burnout. What if employees who found more efficient strategies earned an extra vacation day instead?

Foster a culture of balance

Your coworker needs to leave half an hour early to pick up his child from daycare. Do you question his job commitment? What if it was to go to the gym instead? Do you question it now? Unfortunately, many employees don’t make time for family or health commitments because they fear they’ll be taken less seriously at work. Wouldn’t it be great if work/life balance was encouraged at work instead of feared?

Reading back through this blog, I realize there aren’t a lot of individual action steps to make this situation better. Maybe because busy is a cultural problem, rather than an individual problem. It takes many small individual steps to change a collective mindset, so maybe we can each be a small part of the solution.

Connect with the Time Diet or read more titles from Emily Schwartz:

What’s Your Order of Operations?

time management prioritiesDo you remember middle school math? Turns out your math teacher knew a thing or two about time management. I’m not talking about ways to pass the time while bored in the back row. I’m talking about the “order of operations.” It’s important for math, and it’s important for your productivity too. I’d like to share my morning order of operations with you.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

In math, we learn that the order we do things matter. That’s why we learn the following order: Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply/Divide, Add/Subtract. You probably learned “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” to remember this. (Math teachers, PLEASE tell me they still teach this. Or am I old now?) If you try to solve an equation by doing the addition before the multiplication, you’ll get a different answer than if you follow this order.

My Morning Routine

Trying to get out the door one morning this week, I realized the same principle applies to time management. It shouldn’t shock you that I’m a pretty efficient person, but with the addition of our second child, I’ve had to adjust a few routines (I had a second baby this month, did I mention that? Baby Zachary was born 3 weeks ago!)

After a little experimentation, this is my new “order of operations:”

  1. Pack lunches for all family members the night before
  2. Get myself completely ready before the kids wake up
  3. Get toddler up and dressed and eating breakfast while husband does the same for baby
  4. Drink coffee while toddler eats breakfast
  5. Play time with both kids including a few books and puzzles before school
  6. Load kids into the car for preschool drop off before continuing on to work. Eat my own breakfast on the way.

Creating Your Own Order

Sounds pretty good right? I’ve been practicing while I’m still on leave so it’s easier when I have to do this for real. Here are two things you can consider while creating your own order of operations:

Priorities

There are two parts to this routine that don’t have to be there, but I put there because they are important: coffee and playtime. I know I could easily throw my coffee in a travel mug and drink it on the way, but I feel like so much more of a complete and relaxed person if I can spend 5 minutes sitting down and drinking out of a real mug. Playtime isn’t technically essential either, but it is to me. It’s important to me to start my day off with quality time with both kids so I make it a priority in my schedule.

What are your priorities? Put those in your schedule first and work around them.

Efficiency

It would be so much easier to stumble downstairs in my pajamas and get ready last, but with a toddler, that’s not efficient. Let me break this down for you non-parents out there.

Time needed to get ready by myself: 15 minutes.

Time needed to get ready with a toddler standing next to me: 1.5 hours

Hence I get ready first before the kids get up. What tasks are more efficient for you to complete first?

You can apply an “order of operations” to any part of your daily life, not just mornings. Do you have a routine for when you sit down at your desk? When you go through emails? When you clean your house? Feel free to share!

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Finding the Balance Between Perfect and Practical

time management balanceWhile watching a Netflix documentary about algorithms last night (yeah, my evenings are that exciting) I couldn’t help but think how so much of what they described in terms of maximizing a computer’s efficiency also applies to maximizing our work day efficiency. If you’ve ever felt like you spend way too much time doing one particular task, read on.

Time Management Algorithms in Our Lives

The documentary defined “algorithm” as a procedure or set of rules a computer follows to complete a problem solving operation. (Example: you type “awesome time management blog” into Google, and Google performs an algorithm to take you to my site.) We have similar procedures we complete to solve problems in our day-to-day lives: how we complete projects, how we respond to emails, how we research a problem, etc.

The film went on to explain, however, that an algorithm’s success has two parts: the extent to which it is accurate and the extent to which it is fast. For example, Google could have the best search algorithm in the world, but if it took half an hour to find a web page for you, nobody would ever use it.

Good Enough

An example was the air traffic control process at London’s Heathrow airport. A complex algorithm is used at the airport to decide when each plane should pull back from the jet way, taxi to the runway, and take off to maximize efficiency. Here is the thing though: the mathematicians know the algorithm isn’t perfect but it works well enough and fast enough that they use it anyway.

The concept is called a heuristic algorithm, and it refers to a process that isn’t perfect, but is good enough because it’s fast and efficient.

What is Good Enough for YOU?

It got me thinking about whether I need to add any “heuristic algorithms” to my life. What am I spending way too much time on in the pursuit of perfection, when in reality, good enough would have sufficed if it was finished three days ago?

Perfect is great, but if it takes too long to get there, it isn’t practical. I recognize that this concept is particularly difficult for perfectionists, and some of us have perfectionist tendencies in one realm of our lives and not the other.

This week, I challenge you to find a healthy balance between perfection and practical. And if you have time, do check out “Algorithms: The Secret Rules of Modern Living” on Netflix.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Are Late People Just Optimistic? Not So Sure

time management optimistI ran across an article this week that made me angry. It basically made the case that people who are chronically late do so because they are optimistic. The tone of the article spins tardiness into a positive quality which made my blood boil. The more I thought about it though, I realized this article also gave me insight into why I arrive early to many places, and it wasn’t the reason I was expecting.

Optimistic People

I’m usually pretty good at resisting articles with tempting headlines shared on Facebook, but I couldn’t resist this one: “Optimistic People All Have one Thing In Common: They’re Always Late.” The article makes the case that when people are late, it’s because they are optimistic that everything will go smoothly in their lives and they’ll be able to fit more activity into an allotted time than they really can.

My punctual side immediately screamed, “That’s not true! On time people are optimistic too! We’re just optimistic while also respecting other people’s time!” Then I thought more about this. When I’m deciding what time to leave my house for a meeting across town, I first check Google Maps for the estimated time, but then think, “What if I get stuck behind an accident?” “What if I can’t find parking?” “What if a street fair has closed a street?” “What if a dog runs out into the middle of traffic and I hit it and have to make sure I have enough time to help get it to a veterinarian?” (That last one is not a made up scenario for dramatic effect. These are actual thoughts that run through my head. Welcome to my life.)

In other words, I assume something will go wrong on my drive across town. One might say that’s being realistic. Another might say it’s being negative. I don’t think anyone would say it’s being optimistic.

Negative or Realistic?

So what is a “worst case scenario” person to do? Do we take a lesson from our tardy friends and go through life with an “everything will be great” type of attitude? I don’t think that’s necessarily the solution, but I personally am going to attempt to re-frame my negative thoughts in a positive light.

Instead of dwelling on all the things that could make me late, I will try to focus on the importance of respecting other people’s time, and using the extra minutes to fire off a few emails or read a few pages in a book should I arrive somewhere early. Does that make a huge difference? Maybe not, but I refuse to believe that being “realistic” requires negative thinking.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

How My Apple Watch Has Helped Me Manage My Time

time management apple watchMy husband is pretty wonderful. He got me the Apple Watch I wanted a few months ago for Christmas. When it was on my wish list, I didn’t think of it as a time management tool, but turns out it has helped me with my focus and productivity in a big way.

My Reasons

When I first laid eyes on the Apple Watch, I wanted it for 2 reasons:

  1. My phone is a little big to carry in my pocket all the time and I often don’t hear it in my purse
  2. My toddler daughter tries to steal my phone any time it’s out.

…ok, ok. Three reasons. It’s the cool thing, and I’m a sucker for the appeal of Apple, and if you try to tell me there is a smarter non-Apple smart watch out there I will politely nod and smile, and go back to my MacBook Air, iPhone 6, Apple TV ways.

But I digress.

A Productivity Solution

After using the Apple Watch for a few months, I discovered an interesting productivity side benefit. I’m used to keeping my phone out when I work. I’m on the go so much, that my cell is my primary mode of communication so I never want to miss a call.

When my phone is out, however, I’m all too tempted to go on Facebook, or check the weather, or scroll through the latest news stories, or do any of the other 10,000 things we do on phones now that aren’t texting or phone calls.

Now that I have the watch, I keep my phone out of sight and I’m far less distracted! I know that if I get a call, my wrist will buzz and I won’t miss anything. I disabled the email alerts so the only thing that comes through are texts and phone calls.

Your Turn

Don’t have the couple hundred bucks for a tiny phone you wear on your wrist? No big deal. You can do the same thing and put your phone out of reach while you’re working, but I probably never would have taken that self-discipline leap, or realized how helpful it could be, without the watch pushing me there.

So what about you? Do you feel the need to stay in communication but can’t stand distracting allure of your smartphone? How do you balance the two?

Have you checked out the newest book from Dr. Emily Schwartz?

Time Management Workbook for Students– a teaching or parenting tool for high school and college. Get it on Amazon.com today!

Time Management Student Workbook

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Procrastination or Good Excuse?

time management starsAre you waiting for all the stars to align in order to start a dreaded task? Sometimes we procrastinate on a task without realizing it. We say we have good reasons for not starting our work, but if we dig deeper, we notice those “reasons” are really excuses. Learn how to tell the difference.

What Are You Waiting For?

Picture this, you’re staring down at your to-do list, and see a task that’s been sitting there for a while. You “want” to start it, but insist that you should wait until you’re less tired…or you’ve heard back from 3 more people, or it’s not raining, or not Monday, or not Friday, etc… Does this sound familiar?

We have to realize there will NEVER be the perfect set of circumstances to be productive. There will always be a distraction, or one more piece of information you could have had, or bit of research you could have gathered, but at some point you have to admit you have enough to start and just…start.

Questions to Ask

Instead of asking “Do I WANT to start this task today” ask yourself “CAN I start this task today.”

Notice the question isn’t “Do I have time to FINISH this today?” Sometimes we put off large tasks forever because we don’t think we’ll be able to finish it in a day. Break these tasks into smaller pieces so you can tackle 1-2 hour chunks at a time.

If you look for excuses, you’ll find them. If you look for reasons to be productive, you’ll find those too.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

4 Time Management Strategies for Finding a New Job

time management job searchWe’re not even two weeks into the new year, so you’re probably still going strong on those new year’s resolutions. Did you resolve to find a new job? If so, you might be a little overwhelmed with the magnitude of that decision. Don’t despair. This year might be just the time to move your career to the next level, so don’t waste another second. Follow these four steps to streamline your career searching process.

1. Follow up

Before you start cold calling companies, maximize your network to see who you may already know that’s connected to a potential employment opportunity. Reach out to past colleagues, classmates, even past professors, to see if they can help connect you to a potential job. Most people are eager to help their friends and would welcome the chance to pass along an opportunity. Becoming active on LinkedIn is another way to quickly see which companies your friends and acquaintances represent.

2. Save all cover letters

For most jobs, you’ll likely need a unique cover letter that addresses specific qualifications of each job description, but that doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch each time. Scan past cover letters to see if you can re-use portions, or even adjust a few sentences to make the letter fit each opportunity.

3. Don’t get lost in the listings

With the popularity of online job postings, it’s easy to get “lost in the listings” and spend hours upon hours browsing for possible opportunities before preparing application materials. The quickest way to get serious about your job search is to start applying. Each time you tweak your resume or write a new cover letter, the processes gets easier.

4. Assess if you need a new job

Before you pour hours and days into a new job search, make sure you really want one. Perhaps what you really need is a new project at your current job, or to distance yourself from a specific colleague. Minor frustrations become big problems when left unaddressed, so make sure to look for solutions in your current situation before deciding to take the leap.

Finally, remember that finding a new job is daunting, but exciting! Savor the feeling of starting a new chapter in your career and best of luck.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips.