The Time Management Rule That Almost Killed My New Book

Time Management Student WorkbookI’m starting off 2016 with some really exciting news! I officially have a new book out starting NOW. “Time Management Workbook for Students” is a little different than my previous publications. This work consists of 30 exercises for high school and college students to not only TEACH time management but help them APPLY it to their lives. It’s basically a teacher/professor/parent’s dream come true. If you’re a teacher or parent of a high school or college student, you’ll definitely want to check this out as supplemental course textbook, or summer homework assignment.

Now for the bad news…this book has been 90% finished for about 6 months. #TimeManagementFail. Here is what happened and what we can all learn from the process.

The Last 10%

I’ve found, that as a general rule, the first 10% and the last 10% of any project are the hardest to complete. The first 10% is difficult because you’re just starting out, you haven’t found your groove yet. That’s understandable. It’s that last 10% that is frustrating. You’re almost done, but for some reason you stop. Some call it laziness, some call it fear of completion, I like to think of it as a nasty trick our brains play on us.

Teachers who use my “Time Management for College Survival” book as a text in their classroom kept telling me they wanted another book that was easier to assign as homework. I worked for months on a workbook that contains 30 worksheets designed to help students with their organization, focus, and motivation. I used feedback from teacher friends and students I’ve met on the road, and was really pleased with the result…except I didn’t finish it.

What Happened

In my brain, I was done with the project. I mentally checked it off the list, but it wasn’t quite finished. Then, the more time that passed, the more I lost track of it. By the time I went to finish it, I wasn’t in the “groove” of that project anymore. I forgot where I left off, forgot my train of thought, and forgot where I was going with the ending.

I finally had to devote a whole weekend to finishing it off. An easy Vegetable task had become a difficult Meat. Here is what I did wrong:

My Missing Steps

I left out steps in my to-do list. I knew I needed to research, outline, edit, etc…but I forgot about the extra “stuff” that goes into a book: coordinating with the graphic designer, assigning an ISBN, formatting, things like that. I didn’t add those tasks to my to-do list and forgot about them until I had mentally checked out.

For your big projects, don’t forget to add those last finishing details to your list of needed tasks, so you don’t end up like me with an awesome project that’s almost done for half a year.

BTW- if you’re a teacher looking for a time management text for your class, I can do bulk Purchase Orders for your school bookstore if you email Thanks!

My Weekend Trick To Finishing House Chores

time management house choresSome days I feel like I work about 6 bazillion jobs (only a slight exaggeration.) I have enough people crowding my inbox and my time during the day, that house chores usually take a back seat until the weekend (reality: until forever.) This weekend though, I tried something different and was really proud of the results.

My problem with house chores is I always build them up to be much bigger than they are. This weekend, I woke up and set a timer for 1 hour. I decided I was going to clean as much of the kitchen as I could in an hour, and then I was done. An hour isn’t too bad, I figured. It’s one TV show, one Southwest flight to LA, one round trip to work.

How I Spent My Hour

I quickly scrubbed whatever I could, had some time left over, so I even dried and put away the dishes. When the timer went off, I looked around and couldn’t believe how much I had accomplished. Normally, this work would have taken the whole morning because I would allow myself to be distracted, but something about the tick-tock of the timer forced me to just buckle down and do it.

What Do You Put Off?

What thing do you put off? What task always ends up last on your list? Using a timer is far from a novel or unique idea, but it’s a trick I always forget to use and am always pleased with the results.

Lest you think this only works for chores, I used the timer trick writing this blog. I gave myself 10 minutes to write my initial draft. It forced me to get sentences down on my laptop and edit them later rather than allowing my mind to drift while I searched for the perfect words. Try using a timer this week, either for work or home, and let me know what you think!

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How One Famous Artist Tackles Unwanted Work

Time Management violinItzhak Perlman, a world class violinist, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week recognizing his lifetime achievement in the arts. I listed to an interview he gave to NPR discussing what got him to this point in life. He was asked about his rigorous practice schedule as a young boy and teen and his answer to these questions made me want to find this man and give him a high five (If that’s appropriate for a 70 year old world famous musician.)

Practice Makes Perfect

When speaking of his practice schedule growing up, he joked to the interviewer that he hated it. “Any child that tells you they love practicing is lying to you,” he continued. He explained that even though he hated it, he came from a small town and like all small town aspiring musicians, he knew the way to “make it” was to perform on the international stage, and that’s the type of hard work required to get there.

I love this.

Work is Work

We look at successful people and assume that they somehow enjoy work, like they have some gene in their DNA that makes them enjoy the arduous, difficult, repetitive tasks it takes to perfect an art. That must be what makes them great. It’s refreshing to hear that they are just like the rest of us.

While they may enjoy their craft, or their profession, or the cause they are furthering, all greatness requires hard, difficult, work at its core, and it’s not necessarily “fun.”

Embracing the Negativity

The next time you’re faced with a difficult task you know needs to be done, and you catch yourself thinking, “Ug, I really don’t want to do this.” Answer yourself with, “…and?” You really don’t want to do it. So does that mean it’s not important? Does that mean you’ll feel more like doing it later? Instead of looking for an excuse, think of Mr. Perlman, embrace your disgruntled feelings, and do the task anyway.

So much of success is made up of consistently doing tasks that might scare us or intimidate us because we know they’ll lead to a desired result.

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The Time We Lose To Waiting

time management waitingLet’s say you have a phone call scheduled for 1:00. 1:05, they still haven’t called. 1:10, 1:15, still haven’t called. 1:18, they finally call and you begin your meeting. What did you do for the last 18 minutes? If you’re anything like me, I bet I know the answer. Nothing. Here is what to do about it.

Why It’s Frustrating

Waiting is frustrating because we’ve already mentally prepared for our new task, the other person just hasn’t shown up yet. We are hesitant to start a new task because that will require changing our mental state again and we’re afraid that we’ll have just gotten started when the person finally shows up.

What To Do

We can make this easier on ourselves by having a list of tasks ready to go that can fill this time. The Vegetable tasks in your Time Diet are good candidates for this role. Remember, Vegetable tasks are still important, they just don’t require the same kind of mental dexterity as your Meats. These are often short, easier tasks that you can knock out quickly. Do those while you’re waiting.

Or, when you’re making your to-do list and you have a big difficult Meat task, break it into smaller chunks so that when you’re glancing at your list for something you can tackle in a few minutes, those smaller pieces look more do-able.

Time Management Karma

Finally, remember the golden rule of time management: treat other people’s time the way you want your time to be treated. It is frustrating when people make you wait. Remember this frustration the next time you’re tempted to leave late for a meeting or appointment. It will also help you remember that sometimes even when we plan to the best of our ability, life still happens and makes us late occasionally. There are times we can also be understanding.

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What Blogging Has Taught Me About Time Management

time management bloggingI’ve written a time management blog nearly every week for the past 4 years. I didn’t realize that the very act of writing the blog was doing amazing things for my non-blogging productivity. Here’s what I discovered.

The results

I write much faster. Everything from emails, to summaries, to project descriptions to formal proposals. I’m able to get my ideas down on paper much faster than I could in my pre-blogging days. Not only am I faster, but I’m more concise. I get to the point more quickly and it’s boosted the response rate of my written communication.

Before blogging

Before blogging, I had the tendency to be verbose and include long run on sentences of excess information, but there is no time for that in blogging. In a blog, you need to get your information out in a few hundred words so you need to make each one count.

Blogging has also helped my writer’s block. I used to stare at a blank screen for a while waiting for inspiration. However, when writing a weekly blog, I don’t have time to wait for inspiration. Sometimes I have to just start writing and see what comes out. This process usually kick starts some ideas and I can pull something good out of the random pile of sentences.

My recommendation

I recommend that everyone write regularly. Whether it’s a blog, or a personal journal, or poetry, or letters to a friend, written communication is such an essential tool and our writing skills only get better with practice. Do you have your own blog project? Tell me what it is!

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3 Reasons We Overschedule Ourselves By Mistake

time management overscheduledFaced with a packed calendar? Wonder how it happened? We don’t mean to schedule too much into our day, but sometimes it happens anyway. Here are three ways to stop over-scheduling yourself.

  1. Be realistic with how long tasks take

Your one-hour class at the gym doesn’t take an hour. You need to add getting ready and travel time. Your 30 minute meeting is only 30 minutes if it starts on time. When scheduling your day, plan for the real amount of time tasks take so you don’t over-schedule.

  1. Trust others to help you.

If you want something done right you need to do it yourself. Are you a believer in that mantra? Then you’re probably over-scheduled because you refuse to let others help you. Before you can work on delegating, you must first develop the trust that delegating is worth it. Let go of the notion that everything must be done your way. There are many “right” ways to do things and having it DONE is what’s important.

  1. Learn from your mistakes

How many times have you said yes to too many things, found yourself stressed, vowed to never do it again, and wind up in the same position 6 months later? Learn from your mistakes. If you over-scheduled yourself once, don’t accept the same combination of tasks again. Learn to say no.

Nobody is a super human capable of cramming more than 24 hours of work into a day. You’ll frustrate yourself trying!

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Why Time Management Relies on Honesty

time management honestyAre you struggling with your time management? You might need to do an honesty check-in. Despite great goals and plans, honest plays a role in time management in two big ways.

Honesty With Yourself

We lie to ourselves all the time. Phrases like: “I’ll just check this ONE email” or “I’ll feel like doing this task tomorrow instead” echo in our heads as we come up with excuses to not finish what needs to be done. Too often we KNOW what our priorities are, but we’ll engineer excuses or succumb to distraction as we avoid doing what we need to do.

You know an excuse when you hear it. Don’t let that little voice distract you from your focus and priorities.

Honesty With Other People

Learn how to say no. When someone asks you to add another thing to your plate, say no if you know there isn’t room. It’s better than saying “Yes” only to let them down later. Be honest. Explain that you aren’t able to give this task the time and attention it deserves. You might even suggest another resource for the person to try.

If saying no makes you feel like a bad person, remember that time is a limited resource and simply wishing you had more doesn’t make it so.

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Why I Don’t Use Reminders on My Phone

time management remindersI am glued to my cell phone, but I don’t nearly maximize its potential when it comes to helping me with time management. This week, I remembered why.

My System

My paper calendar and to-do list are the staples of my time management system. My husband relies heavily on iPhone reminders. When I have something to remember, I’ll pull out my calendar and write it down. He just pulls out his phone and says, “Siri, remind me to go to FedEX at 2pm tomorrow.”

I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous of the ease of his system. It’s quick, it’s convenient, and it feels much more “2015” than my pen and paper. So this week I tried utilizing reminders more than I usually do…

…and I hated it. I have trained myself to look at my calendar when I need to know my schedule. But when I put something in my phone as a reminder, that means I didn’t have it in my calendar. When I looked at my calendar during the day, I didn’t see all of my information there and the reminders caught me off guard later.

Do What Works!

Moral of the story: use the time management system that works best for YOU, not somebody else. You can be open to new ideas as they come along. You may discover a more efficient modification to your system! But if you give something a try and your old system worked better, stick to it.

Remember what your mother said: if everyone else decided to jump off a cliff, would you do it too?

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The To-Do List You Need But Might Not Have

Time Management To DoI’m usually pretty good at keeping my to-do list. I review my tasks, I plan ahead, I methodically check things off, but this week I realized I might need another list in my life.

My College Flashback

I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses this week. (Btw, Nothing will make you feel super old quite like hanging out on a college campus. They ride tiny, florescent skateboards now? Really? Is that a thing?) But anyway, looking around made me think. I saw all these groups of friends hanging out, chatting, laughing, studying in the quad, you know, the scenes college brochures are made of.

I miss that. I miss having all of my friends right there, all the time. Being social didn’t require much work. Want to grab dinner with someone? Great! I’ll probably run into them after class, or in the hallway, or at some club meeting. Social relationships were in close proximity.

Relationships Now

Now it’s different. Now there is work, and obligations, and many of your close friends live in different cities. The ones that live in your city, might be far away. For example, there could be a difference of 45 miles between friends living “in the Phoenix area.” Finding time to be social takes work.

Your To Do List for People

I stumbled across this blog about Time Management worries  from a cancer survivor. She writes about having two different to-do lists: one for things and one for people. I love this idea.

We get so caught up in tasks, that it’s easy to let your social relationship fade into the background. I vow to be better at maintaining my “relationship to-do list.” It’s not easy, but I don’t think most good things are.

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We get so caught up in tasks, that it’s easy to let your social relationship fade into the background. I vow to be better at maintaining my “relationship to-do list.” It’s not easy, but I don’t think most good things are.

Does Background Music Help you Focus?

time management background music“Turn that music down! I can’t focus!” “Well then put some ear plugs in because I can’t focus without it!” Does background music help you focus? That question has been the root of many family, roommate, and coworker quarrels. This week, I had an interesting realization about how music affects my thinking, and I’m curious if you’ve had the same experience.

My Neighbors

Over the weekend, my neighbors threw a loud, late, outdoor party. (One that sounded like a college frat house, but these guys are in their 40s. Life choices people, life choices. But I digress….) Anyway, in order to sleep, my husband suggested that we turn on some music. I never sleep with music, but I was desperate to drown out the noise, so I agreed.

He turned on some classical music and was asleep within minutes, but I was wide awake. Now, it wasn’t the party keeping me up, it was the music! It was so distracting! I found myself listening to the melodies, becoming startled at a sudden volume change, and becoming more awake instead of more tired.

Background Music and Time Management

I thought a lot about how this applies to time management. When I do workshops for college students and their parents, I’m usually asked to weigh in on the whole “should they or shouldn’t they listen to music when the study” debate. My experience this weekend just reinforces how I always answer that questions:

…it depends.

It depends on whether or not the music is distracting to you. Some people enjoy music as a focus tool. Others don’t. It depends on the person. So remember, there is no right or wrong answer to this question and we all need to be open to other people’s working style.

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