How I Won By Failing

my first 5kI wrote this blog at the top of a hill while trying not to vomit. Well, that’s where I thought of the title anyway. This year, I started running. And if that doesn’t impress you, then you don’t know me very well. I am the least athletic person I know. In elementary school kids teased me about my inability to do a cartwheel. In middle school basketball games, my dad paid me a quarter every time I actually touched the ball. In high school I got a varsity letter jacket…in marching band. Please do not let my poise on the keynote stage fool you. I know my strengths. The gym ain’t one of them.

My Running Journey

So I want you to keep my physical fitness “history” in mind when I tell you that on September 14th, I put on the only pair of athletic shoes I have ever purchased and started running. I used an app called “Couch to 5K” and you guys, it does exactly that. In 3 runs per week for 9 weeks it took me from behind my laptop, to the starting line of my first 5k race.

I only had ONE goal: Don’t. Stop. Running. I didn’t care how long it took, I just wanted to finish the race without walking and I did. I finished in just over 32 minutes, which isn’t horrible for a new runner, and I was pretty proud of myself.

Next Goal

Then I needed a new goal. I decided if I could do my first race in 32 minutes maybe I could try a bit harder and do the next in under 30. This time, I “trained” a little more (meaning I Googled “how to run faster” and begged my athletic friends for help.) I slowly made progress.

After 6 more weeks I found myself on the starting line of race #2. This time, I was wearing real running clothes, had a distance tracker talking in my ear, and had TWO goals: Don’t stop running AND finish in under 30 minutes.

Race Day

Off we go! The entire first mile was up a steady hill. Psh. Nailed it. By mile marker 2 I was barely even tired. My app told me I was making great time. I was going to do it!! But by 2.5 miles I had a side cramp AND another hill to go. I was the delirious lady muttering “don’t stop…don’t stop…don’t stop” the whole way up the hill. When I got to the top, I didn’t know how I was going to finish. I felt like I was going to throw up. I knew I’d gotten caught up in the excitement of the race and had overdone it. I knew I needed to stop but couldn’t bear the thought of missing one of my goals. I knew that many runners here were using this 5k as their warm up to the marathon the next day. I was failing at their…..WARM UP.

I glanced at the photographer on the side of the road and thought, “You know what? He really doesn’t look like he needs to pick up a passed out runner today…” So….I stopped. I stopped running and caught my breath as I counted to 20. As I counted, I looked over at the curb and thought, “Who cares. I already missed my goal, I might as well just sit down.”

Slow Down to Speed Up

I ALMOST sat on that appealing block of concrete, but, I kept going. Mostly because that photographer was still standing there and I didn’t need a picture of my failure to show up on the internet somewhere. I started running again, a bit slower, but feeling MUCH better. As I rounded the bend to the finish line, I saw the finish clock click over to 28 minutes.

Are you kidding me?!?!” I thought. “I was on track to finish in 27 minutes and I blew it by stopping? The second number in my time could have been a 7 and now it’s going to be an 8?” But then, as I crossed the finish line I realized that I WASN’T on track to finish in 27 minutes. I was on track to pass out at the top of that hill. Stopping enabled me to finish. Knowing when to slow down enabled me to speed up.

The Time Management Connection

So what’s this all got to do with a time management blog? Plenty. We find ourselves at the top of that hill all the time. We push ourselves. We think that if we do just ONE more thing we’ll get there (wherever “there” is.) We think one more hour of work, one more Saturday at our computer, one more skipped lunch break will finally get us caught up so we aren’t drowning anymore. Success requires hard work, persistence, and dedication, but it also requires a frequent step back, a break, and some “time away.”

How many times have you been at your breaking point with a task, stepped away in frustration, only to succeed much more easily next time with a clear head? What if that step away time wasn’t viewed as a failure? What if we viewed it as just part of the process? A natural part of moving forward? It’s truly what The Time Diet is all about. We can’t expect to push ourselves 24/7, then expect ONE 3-day weekend to somehow reset all the stress from the past 6 months.

The Time Diet is all about balance. A delicate balance of meats (difficult things), vegetables (easy things) and desserts (fun things.) Of course some days will be more “meat heavy” than others, but we need to schedule those desserts frequently, even if they are short, or we risk throwing up and keeling over at the top of that hill (or whatever the analogous time management version of that is.)

The Future

I finished my 2nd 5k in 28 minutes 24 seconds- more than a minute and a half under my goal. I came in 432nd place out of 2,100 people who ran that day. The winner finished in 15 minutes. I have friends who run full on marathons like it’s no big thing, but I still strut around my living room like I’m the next Usain Bolt because this WAS a big thing for me.

I’m going to keep running. I have another 5k in February and want to do a 10k and MAYBE up to a half marathon eventually. I’m also going to keep up the insane pace at which I live my life, because I thrive on it, but I’m also going to continue to rest, frequently, since there is always another hill coming up and I’d like to be ready for it.

You Can Do It Too

Want to start running? I bought this Couch to 5K App these ASICS running shoes and signed up for whatever 5k was 9 weeks from when the shoes arrived.

Are you a student looking to improve your time management? Check out this awesome time management workbook to help bring balance and order to your hectic schedule.Time Management Student Workbook





Are you an adult with a crazy life looking to balance it all? Check out The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management

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Thanks all! See you at the starting line.

Why “Doing Nothing” Can Take A Ton of Work

time management getawayDuring the workweek, we long for the weekend. Visions of kicking up our feet in an exotic locale holding a drink with an umbrella tease us while we respond to the same email we’ve already answered 5 times. When we dream of that relaxation scene, we forget one very important fact…

…that “relaxing getaway” took a lot of time and work. It often takes work to do “nothing”, at least if you plan to do nothing somewhere that isn’t your home. But here is the thing- it’s totally worth it.

My Weekend

As anyone living in Phoenix can attest, it is a thousand bazillion degrees in the summer (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) We wanted to get out of the heat and relax in a cooler climate. Our friends found an adorable cabin in the mountains just a few hours away and the escape from work and the heat was too tempting to pass up.

Then came all the planning. This escape required finding and coordinating the right weekend, creating and shopping for a meal plan, packing up 10,000 things into our SUV (did I mention we have a toddler? Yeah, we have a toddler) and finding a place for our dogs to stay.

After coming home from a long day of work only to be faced with an empty cooler and a jigsaw puzzle of food that was simply not meant to all fit in that tiny space, I thought to myself, “Why are we doing this again?”

All Worth It

Then, relaxing in the mountain air I remember. “Oh right, THIS is why we went through that hassle.” Good, fun things in life sometimes come with hassle and planning. If we never took the time do deal with the hassle, we’d miss out on a lot of “Desserts” in our Time Diets.

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Brilliant Time Management Advice My Grandma Gave Me

time management grannyA few days ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with my Grandma (“Granny”) on the phone and she told me what my blog needed to be about this week. Remember, no matter how many degrees you hold or how much experience you have, your grandma is wiser than you, so you should generally listen to what she has to say. That’s why, this week, I present time management wisdom from Emily’s Granny…

Make Time For Family

According to Granny, we should never become too busy to make time for family. Whether it’s a note, a call, an email, or even a visit, family connects don’t happen by accident. We have to purposefully protect time in our days, weeks, and months to make them happen.

For me, this is tough because my family is spread out all over the country. Visits are expensive and logistically challenging. Instead, I used to reserve weekends to call family and friends. Now, weekends have become hectic too ever since our little peanut, Avery, was born. So I’ve revised my plan.

Now, instead of listening to the radio on my way home from work, I use the time to call family or friends. It’s 30 minutes every day that I know will be there and it’s a great way to clear my head from work and catch up with the people I love.

Save Your Communications

Granny’s other piece of advice: save the letters people write to you. We hardly write letters anymore, and when someone takes the time to do so, save it in a special place. You may not want them now, or even next month, but years from now you’ll be glad you saved these precious communications.

Your Challenge

This week, I challenge you to make time to reach out to your family, wherever they may be. And if you’re fortunate enough to still have your Grandma in your life, write her a letter. She’d love to hear from you.

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Check out this title by Emily Schwartz: “How To Speak So People Will Buy” Public speaking book

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Why I’m More Productive with a Kid and How Non-Parents Can Learn From It

Time management babyAs we awaited the arrival of our daughter this year, I was excited, but also a little nervous. Here I am, a time management writer and speaker, about to face my biggest time management test yet. What if I couldn’t handle the demands of being a parent? Wouldn’t that make my time management advice a little hypocritical? Luckily, little Avery has drastically altered my productivity…in a good way. Here is why…

1. I use Parkinson’s Law to my advantage

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time we give it. Well, now I have far less time for work, which means I’m forced to avoid distractions and work more efficiently. When I had all weekend to finish a chapter of edits on my upcoming book, they took forever to get through. Now, when she’s napping, the dogs are quiet, and I have my office to myself for 30 minutes, I know that I have 30 minutes to get as much done as possible before I go back into Mommy-mode. The shortened time frame is a major focus booster.

2. I’m forced to prioritize

Now that family time has gotten all that much more important, I’ve found it much easier to prioritize my time. Some things that I thought were important don’t seem so anymore. Instead of thinking, “how in the world will I get all this finished?” I find myself thinking: “which of these things should I let go today?” or “does this really matter right now?” The world hasn’t stopped spinning yet.

3. I enjoy my non-work time much more

I now have a much sharper divide between work and non-work time. I thought I was pretty good at balancing my life, but I didn’t realize how much I think about work during leisure time until now. I’m getting much better at shutting off the work switch when it’s time to relax and spend time with my family.

I’m not going to pretend having a 2-month-old tiny human living at your house who is completely dependent on you for everything is easy. It’s pretty much the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve been surprised how it’s shaped my approach to time management in a wonderful way.

And don’t worry. You don’t have to bring a child into the world to change your approach. Just reconnect with whatever that thing is that you care about more than work, and start making it more of a priority.

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The Busy Addiction and What I Plan To Do About It

Time Management BusyYou know how sometimes you read something and feel the author is speaking directly to you? That’s how I felt this week when I read a blog post called “Busy Isn’t Respectable Anymore.”

In it, the author explains that we glorify the word “busy” as something to be proud of, and it needs to stop. This particular quote stuck with me: “Busyness was just another addiction I clung to so I could avoid things that made me uncomfortable.”

The Addiction

Being busy is an addiction? Oh my goodness, he’s right! And just like any other addiction, it doesn’t happen over night. We become addicted to “busy” as we slowly convince ourselves that it’s our only option. We’re stressed and become focused on constantly doing something instead of purposefully being productive. We get caught up in quantity at the sake of quality and let go of the idea that it’s ever OK to be caught doing…nothing.

The Challenge

Well, I for one am going to accept his challenge of not answering the question: “How are you?” with the answer: “Busy.” I am not going to let that word define me, and I hope you won’t either. We all have a lot of things going on in our lives, but why should we let the sheer volume of things be the focus? Instead, I’m going to focus on being productive. I’m going to focus on enjoyment. I’m going to focus on the slow instead of the fast.

It’s The Time Diet equivalent of remembering to savor the bites you take instead of mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth. So readers, I hope you will take time this week and in the coming year to move beyond the “busy” in your schedule and reconnect with what really matters in your life. It’s a challenge I plan to undertake with you!

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One Way to Avoid Stress This Holiday Season

Time Management HolidayMy mouth has started watering for the massive turkey dinner I’ll be consuming this week, which means the holiday season is officially upon us…and all the stress that comes with it. As the year winds to a close, our to-do lists get incredibly long. Deadlines, holiday gatherings, huge projects we’ve been putting off…they all start to weigh on us and interfere with our holiday cheer. This season, I have one piece of advice for you to try…

Lower Your Expectations

What? Really Emily? That’s the advice you have for us? Isn’t that kind of…depressing?

No. Let me explain.

If you’re a great time manager all year, there is no reason you can’t also be a great time manager during the holidays. The thing that changes seems to be our expectations. I’m reading a fascinating book called Stumbling on Happiness and the author mentions that humans are the only animal to think and make predictions about the future. We spend vast amounts of time envisioning what the future should be like, and then become extremely disappointed if it doesn’t pan out that way.

When is this ever more true than during the holidays? We’ve spent all fall crafting a picture-perfect holiday image, looking forward to knocking everything off our to-do lists, curling up by a roaring fire with our care-free do-nothingness, sipping some eggnog and listening to the rain fall lightly on our back porch.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals or look forward to certain things about the holidays. I’m saying stop being so hard on yourself when things don’t happen exactly as you envisioned. There might still be a few things on your list that cling there through January. The eggnog might be apple cider because you got to the store late and the guy in front of you grabbed the last jug. It’s OK.

This holiday season, let go of perfection. And also, let go of your smartphone for a few minutes while you’re at it.  Put your impossible expectations to rest and accept that you’re going to finish what you can, doing the BEST you can, and that’s going to be good enough. Find time to relax with your friends and family, even if it doesn’t end up looking like something straight out of a holiday TV special.

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Are You More Than Your Job?

time management work life balance“So, what do you do?”

That’s one of the first questions we’re asked when meeting someone for the first time. The answer usually entails some sort of job or profession. Basically, whatever brings in money and pays the bills. However, this week I thought a lot about why it’s our job that defines who we are – the snapshot of a person’s life we choose to ask about. I don’t have answers, but I do have ideas. Read on.

My Vacation Epiphany

I spent the past week in Costa Rica (which I would highly recommend by the way, but that’s an entire novel unto itself.) The people there are very friendly and I answered the “where are you from and what do you do” question frequently. After a while though, I didn’t enjoy answering it. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I was trying to escape work this week, not think about it.

Why do we ask what people do? My first thought is it’s because that’s how we spend a significant portion of our time every day. It also gives clues to our personalities and interests. “Oh you’re an engineer. Cool, you must like math.” “Nursing, how interesting, you must like helping people.” But I also feel a little weird about making someone’s occupation the number one thing I care about in a brief, “let’s get acquainted” conversation.

What Makes You Happy?

What if instead our first question was “What makes you happy?” or “Tell me about what’s most important to you?” Perhaps these seem a little too personal to share with a stranger and our occupations are a less intrusive way to search for common ground to talk about.

Regardless, I am committed to feeling like more than my job. I am a speaker and an educator, but I’m first a wife, a sister, a daughter, a dog lover, a travel enthusiast, and creative thinker. I feel fortunate to be able to earn money doing work I enjoy, but work is what I do, it’s not all of who I am.

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Are You Going Too Fast?

Police StopIn our fast-paced world, we have so many factors asking us to speed up, do you have anyone encouraging you to slow down? Or do you live each day pedal to the metal hoping your schedule doesn’t come crashing to a halt when it becomes too much? I was reminded yesterday why paying attention to the speed limits in your life is so important.

A Less Than Speedy Weekend

This weekend, I drove 6 hours to California for my good friend’s bridal shower. That’s a lot of time by yourself in the car for both thinking, and making sure you don’t get a speeding ticket on the open desert highway. As I passed a car on the side of the road being written up by highway patrol, I thought to myself: “Yeah, I bet that guy is pretty upset, but he’d be even more upset if he’d kept speeding and gotten in a horrible accident.”

Even though I’m irritated when I see a cop parked behind a bush with a radar gun, clearly trying to catch speeders unseen, I’m glad they are there, telling us all to slow down before we hurt ourselves or someone else.

Who Are The Cops In Your Life?

Then it occurred to me. Who are the “cops” in our work lives who tell us to stop going so fast? Who reminds us to take a break, stop overburdening our schedule, and let go of a pointless pursuit of perfection? Sometimes it’s a friend, a spouse, or a child. Other times it’s a bad cold, a headache, or a forgotten deadline.

Whoever the highway patrol in your life is, listen to them. It’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of tasks and ignore the warning signs of a dangerously fast-paced schedule until it’s too late. Just like speed limits are meant to slow us down before we cause and accident, we must also keep our schedule at a reasonable pace before we hit a wall of stress, illness, or both.

Don’t dismiss the highway patrol in your life. Let them slow you down and help you out. Going 65mph might not get me to California as quickly, but it will get me there in one piece, which is what I hope for the end of my workday as well.

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3 Ways to Find Balance in the Busy

Time Management BalanceWe all strive to live a “balanced” life, but what does that really mean? Living a balanced life is more than just physically removing yourself from work once in a while.

Balance has just as much to do with your mental state as it does the hours in your schedule. If you’re thinking about work 24/7, it doesn’t really matter that you “allowed” yourself to go out to dinner with friends on a weeknight, or splurged on that 3-day weekend getaway. Try these three tips to allow yourself to mentally let go of your work on a regular basis.

1. Enjoy “Guilt-Free” Desserts

When you take a little time for yourself, do you feel guilty? An enjoyable Dessert task in your Time Diet is hardly enjoyable at all if you spend the whole time berating yourself for not being productive. Instead, broaden your definition of productivity to include doing things for yourself and recharging your batteries.

2. Ditch Your Connectivity

Just because you can take a moment to check your work email while out to dinner doesn’t mean you should. Allowing yourself to be constantly connected to work via your smartphone makes relaxing difficult.

3. Make Enjoyment a Priority

Do you only allow yourself to enjoy the “left over” time at the end of the day when you’re exhausted and worn out? Make Desserts a priority in your calendar just like everything else. It’s easy to work late and skip your favorite yoga class because there “isn’t enough time,” but remember, we make time for the things that are important to us.

Motivated and driven people are naturally going to worry about their job “off the clock” from time to time, but the more we can strive to compartmentalize that worry and turn it off once in a while, the better.

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Are You a Time Management Carnivore?

Time Management Lion-Do the most important task on your to-do list first.

-Everything on my list is important.

-What now?

When I started The Time Diet almost three years ago, my goal was to combat this type of thinking. The “priority paralysis” described above causes stress, unfocused work, and forces people to somehow decide which is more important:  finishing a task for work, or taking time to relax and do something enjoyable.

With The Time Diet, I took importance out of the equation in favor of balance. I teach people how to label their tasks as either a Meat, Vegetable, or Dessert and choose a balanced selection of tasks each day. I’ve found, however, that the definition of Meat Task has morphed a bit, and it has created far too many time management carnivores. If you feel like all you do are Meat Tasks, let me help!

A Meat Task is Something Difficult, Not Just Important

In The Time Diet, your Meats are your difficult tasks, your Vegetables are your easier tasks, and your Desserts are your enjoyable tasks. The importance of a task has nothing to do with how it’s classified. If you look at your list and everything seems to be a Meat, ask yourself: “Is everything on this list really of equal difficulty?” Perhaps you are falling into the trap of labeling tasks with urgent deadlines Meats, even if they are easy to complete.

Meat Tasks can Have Vegetable Components

Even if you are staring down a big, difficult Meat task, it’s unlikely that every single component of that task is difficult. Learning to break up big tasks into much smaller pieces allows you to appropriately label easier parts as Vegetables.

A Vegetable for You Might be a Meat for Someone Else

I hesitate to give too many examples of Meats, Vegetables, and Desserts because the designations change drastically from person to person. If writing comes easily to you, drafting an email or a memo might be a simple Vegetable, but to those who struggle to find the right words, it might be a formidable Meat. For a fitness enthusiast, going to the gym might be an enjoyable Dessert, but to others it might be their least-desirable Vegetable.

Finding Your Balance

Remember, the whole point of The Time Diet is to ensure that your schedule consists of a balanced diet of Meats, Vegetables, and Desserts each day so you don’t become overwhelmed with difficult tasks and neglect to make any time for yourself. Learning to properly label these tasks requires practice, and the discipline to remain focused while working through your list. Thank you readers! I hope that The Time Diet has played at least a small part in helping you conquer your time management goals.

For a more detailed explanation of The Time Diet time management system, check out “The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management” on

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