The Importance of the Last Five Percent

time management emptyHow many almost-finished tasks do you have on your to-do list right now? For some reason, we tend to do all the difficult parts of a task and then leave the last details unfinished. Lucky for us, when WE do this, we don’t have millions of football fans watching us around the country. Watch what happened when Utah forgot one small detail at their game against Oregon this Saturday…

In the video, you can see Utah almost score a touchdown, but the player drops the ball in celebration before he actually crosses the goal line. Oregon picks up the ball and runs 100 yards the other way for a touchdown.


Our almost-completed tasks may not be that public (or embarrassing) but they can really slow down our time management.

Why do we save the last 5% of tasks until the last minute?

1. We want it to be perfect. Keeping a task “not quite done” gives us the option to come back and fix something later to make it better.

2. We’re lazy. A large task might be intimidating enough to schedule it into our day, but once it’s become a small task, it’s easy to infinitely put it off until later.

3. We lose momentum. If we’re forced to stop a task before we’re done, sometimes it’s hard to get back into the groove of it to finish up.

This week, take a look at your to-do list. Do you have any tasks that are 95% finished? Make it your goal to see them through to completion…before someone else picks up the ball and gets the credit!

Speaking of college, check out “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” for the high school or college student in your life! The holidays will be here soon and it makes a great stocking stuffer.

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

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The Simple Secret to Overcoming Procrastination

time management nowHave you procrastinated this week? A huge reason we procrastinate is because we see big tasks on our list and assume we don’t have time to tackle them right now. This week, I was faced with a large task that had been on my list for a while. I FINALLY crossed it off my list by doing this…

Large Tasks and Small Tasks

Large tasks can always be broken down into smaller pieces. When you see a big task on your list, your first thought is, “Oh goodness, that will take forever. I’ll have to do that later.” But when you see a small task, it’s easier to think, “I can easily knock that out in 10 minutes or so.”

My Decal Dilemma

My sister in law gave my daughter some adorable Monkey decals to put up in her room. They are really cute, but come in about 100 small separate stickers that need to be put together on the wall to make the desired scene. (And they are in no particular order on the sticker sheet. Of course not. Why would they be.)

After a long day of work, the last thing in the world I want to do is spend a few hours sorting through all these stickers and applying them to our textured wall, which is definitely NOT sticker friendly. So this big task kept being added to the “later” pile.

One at a Time

Finally, this week, I decided the decals needed to happen…one sticker at a time. Every time I walked into her room, I placed one or two decals on the wall. It took about 30 seconds. It became sort of a game. Over the course of the whole week I watched the scene grow until FINALLY, yesterday, I put the last sticker on the wall.

As I stood back and admired my work, I was reminded that I can replicate this process with other tasks in my life.

How are books written? One page at a time.

How are presentations put together? One slide at a time.

Your Action Plan

What BIG task are you facing this week? Stop putting it off, and instead, break it into smaller pieces. What will you be tackling this week?

Do you have a procrastinating STUDENT in your life? Why not get them “The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival” on today!

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

How To Stop 5-Minute Tasks from Taking Over Your Life

Time Management 5 Minute RuleThe “5 Minute Rule” is one of my favorite pieces of time management advice to keep your to-do list trim. “If it takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now!” However, how do you ensure that your day doesn’t become an endless barrage of short 5-minute tasks and you never get any “real” work done? It’s a valid concern. Check out these three tips to let The 5 Minute rule help your time management.

1. Set aside “focus blocks”

In The Time Diet, everything you do is either a Meat, Vegetable, or Dessert. If you’re focused intently on a Meat when a 5-minute task comes across your desk, try keeping it on your desk until you finish your train of thought. Then, before you reward yourself with a break, tackle the 5-minute task. Sometimes these tiny little Vegetables can be a great way to break from our Meats while still remaining productive.

2. Monitor your procrastination

Sometimes people search for tiny 5-minute tasks to do when they are really procrastinating on something else. (For example, a light bulb has a greater chance of being changed in my house if I’m trying to avoid writing my dissertation…) Be honest with yourself when assessing these tiny tasks. Are you doing them because they are important? Or are you just trying to avoid doing something else.

3. Make a process for your interruptions

If you’re continually interrupted with the same short little task, how can you create a procedure to handle these interruptions? Can you send calls straight to voice mail when you’re working? Can you create a signature file outside your office door to sort through at the end of the day? Can you post a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” on your door or in an email? Use your creativity.

Taking care of little tasks quickly is important, but so is keeping your focus. With some discipline and planning, you can keep your to-do list trim, while still maintaining your concentration.

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How I Wasted 10 Months Before This 5 Minute Solution

Time management face palmWe’re all brilliant and capable people, but is your desire to do things yourself actually wasting time? This week I finally realized that a trivial thing I was trying to fix myself was really only a 5-minute job when I had the proper resources. Go ahead and read the Schwartz Saga of the Vacuum and see if you can relate…

The Saga of the Vacuum

November 2012: Buy first Dyson vacuum. Rejoice at its amazing cleaning power and cheap Black Friday price.

January 2013: Vacuum stops working. Dan and Emily are sad. Go back to using old vacuum for the time being.

February 2013: Emily pokes at the vacuum trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Has no success. Leaves it for Dan.

March 2013: Dan fiddles with vacuum. Does the same things Emily tried but with more sound effects and angry noises. Has no success.

April- October 2013: Place Dyson vacuum in increasingly awkward and in-the-way places in the house, hoping that one day we’ll be tired of tripping on it and figure out how to actually fix it.

November 2013: Emily Googles “How to fix the brushes on my Dyson vacuum.” Retrieves an awesome YouTube video that reveals the secret button to press and screw to turn that makes this problem go away in less than 5 minutes.

November 2013: Emily is revered as a repair goddess in her home by her husband and two adorable puppies (this last part may or may not be factual.)

And there you have it. I waited almost a year with a broken vacuum because I didn’t want to ask someone else how to fix my problem. What problems are you putting off because you’re too proud to ask for help? What processes are taking you twice as long because you haven’t sought out the right resources?

What can you do THIS WEEK to take care of a problem you’ve been putting off? Ask an expert, get a friend’s help, seek your colleague’s advice. Make this the week that you find a better way!

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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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Are Your Goals Gathering Dust in Your Closet?

Time Management ClosetDo you have “nice” clothes sitting in your closet that you never wear because you’re waiting for the right special occasion? (Men, if this is a foreign concept to you, it’s definitely a thing, and we women do it all the time.)

Perhaps you also have dreams and goals, both big and small, that you want to accomplish…some day. What are you waiting for? There is no perfect time, perfect occasion, or hand delivered invitation letting you know when the time is right. No, the perfect time is now.

My Fashion Fiasco

Last week, I dug through my closet for something “special” to wear out and found a dress wrapped in a garment bag. “Oh perfect!” I thought. “I’ve been saving this dress!” I had only worn it a small handful of times since I bought it 4 years ago as it seemed far too nice to wear for just any ol’ date night or dinner party. I proudly tried it on and looked in the mirror…

…and sighed a deflated sigh. It wasn’t in style anymore, nor did it fit right. When I bought it, I felt cutting edge and stunning because it fit like a glove and was definitely “on trend,” but now it looked tired. The time to wear this dress was 4 years ago, not now. I had missed my opportunity while waiting for “someday.”

What Are You Saving for Some Day?

What do you want to do that you’re putting off until someday? I can go buy another dress, but life opportunities don’t work like fashion. Once they are gone, they’re gone. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you the time is right, allow me to be that person. Make time in your schedule today for something you’ve been putting off.

(And go wear those nice shoes and the perfect pants. Tomorrow is not any more special than today.)

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The Real Reason You Weren’t Productive Today

time management frustrationWe’ve all looked at a lengthy to-do list and wondered, “What in the world should I do first?” Sometimes, however, we know what we should do first, we just don’t want to do it because it’s difficult, time consuming, or worst of all…we’re scared.

When we’re scared to do something, we never actually admit it to ourselves. Instead, we come up with wild excuses to put it off. Try these three steps to conquer your fears, boost your productivity, and finally do those tasks you know need to happen to reach your goals.

1. Tell Someone You’re Scared

It’s easier to make up an excuse for procrastinating rather than admit that we’re afraid to fail, or doubt our own abilities. Verbalizing those fears to others can help us see how unfounded they truly are. Hearing it said out loud helps us admit that we’re putting something off because of fear, not because of the other excuses we’ve imagined. Plus, if you tell a close friend or family member, he or she can remind you why you do have the skills to accomplish what you need to and that the only thing holding you back is…you.

2. Pinpoint What You’re Scared Of

Once you realize it’s fear that’s holding you back, try to pinpoint exactly what it is you’re scare of. Are you scared of being told “no?” Are you scared of losing money? Embarrassing yourself? Wasting your time? Pinpointing your fear can help you address it more directly.

3. Determine What the Reward Could Be

Once this scary task is completed, what will you gain? A new job? More clients? A sense of accomplishment? More money? Pride? Happiness? Defining the reward gives you motivation and helps you realize how “silly” the fear is compared to the reward it could produce. For example, are you really willing to give up a chance at a better career because you’re afraid of being told “no?” Are you really willing to give up on a great opportunity because you’re afraid to pick up that phone, or send that email, or start that project?

This week, I challenge you to make time for at least one thing that scares you. What will you accomplish by casting fear aside and tackling those important tasks that will propel you forward?

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The 5-Minute Rule in 3 Easy Steps

Time Management 5 MinutesLook at your to-do list. Have you been staring at the same tiny tasks, day after day, putting them off until the infamous “later?” What if I told you those tasks are actually wasting your time? The time spent worrying about, making excuses for, and dealing with the consequences of a tiny unfinished task greatly outweigh the time it would take to actually finish it. This is why I’m a huge advocate of The 5-Minute Rule:

If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now

Not later, not tomorrow, now.

You can give it a try today. Pick a tiny “Vegetable” task from your list you’ve been putting off, and ask yourself these three questions:

1. Will this be any easier to do tomorrow?

2. Is there any reason I can’t do this right now?

3. Will this take more than 5 minutes of my time?

If the answer to all three questions is “no,” then go finish that task right now. In fact, when you’re finished, email me ( and let me know what you did! I would love to know what this blog inspired people to do.

My “Battery” of Excuses

I’ll share my example of The 5-Minute Rule from this week. The battery in my garage door clicker died a week ago.  When I come home, I pull into the driveway, get out of the car, open the garage manually, get back in the car, and drive in. A huge problem in the grand scheme of life? No. But every time I did it, I was annoyed. I was annoyed that I haven’t taken 5 seconds to get a replacement battery out of the drawer and change it, but by the time I get inside, I’m distracted with a million other things to do and the thought of going back out into the garage seems simply absurd.

My excuses were fabulous: “I’m sure those batteries are lost by now,” “It’s always so difficult to get the back of the clicker open,” “ I already took my shoes off and I don’t want to step on a scorpion in the garage” (a real consideration in Arizona!) Finally, I said, enough! I write a time management blog and this behavior is simply unacceptable.  I started the stop watch on my phone and went to change the battery. When all was said and done,  2 minutes and 30 seconds had elapsed. 150 seconds. Why in the world hadn’t I done that sooner?

What will you accomplish using The 5-Minute Rule? Drop me a line and let me know!

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Procrastination, Peeps, And Why Both Are OK Sometimes

Time Management PeepsThe day after Easter is a pretty fabulous day on my calendar. It is the day that my local grocery store puts Peeps on sale for 75% off. I suppose I use the sale to justify eating those glorious, sugary, terribly unhealthy marshmallow chicks once a year.  That’s why I put off buying them until the last minute before they clear off the shelves. Now, doing anything at the last minute makes me a little uneasy, what with being a time management speaker and all, but I’ve found that sometimes a little procrastination doesn’t hurt, especially when you have a good reason. That advice saved me hours of time this week. Allow me to explain:

To Procrastinate or Not to Procrastinate

I have a grant proposal due tomorrow. Not wanting to put it off, I sat down to start it earlier in the week, and immediately became frustrated. Words and ideas just weren’t coming to me. I stared at the blank computer screen, occasionally typing a mangled sentence or two, and then immediately deleting them because they made no sense. I was not at all in the right mindset to conjure up brilliant thoughts and began to realize that writing a 10-page proposal could easily take me all day at this pace. This was torture.

I closed my computer telling myself I would come back to it later, but that didn’t feel right. “I’m procrastinating!” I thought. “I should just do this now and be done with it.” But as the minutes ticked by and my document continued to remain stagnant, I knew I was wasting my time. I would have to give “do it later” a shot. (Besides, NPR said it was OK.)

Coming Back to it Later

Over the next couple of days, I wrote down a few scattered proposal ideas that came to me while doing other things. I woke up on Friday morning feeling inspired and took a look at the ideas I had written. The picture of what I needed to do was all starting to become clear, and I sat down and hammered out 5 solid pages pretty much without stopping. After getting a strong start, doubling that number proved to be no trouble at all.

Had I continued to work on the proposal the first day I tired, I probably would have finished it, but it would have taken hours. I had the luxury of time and needed to step away from the project for a while and come back to it later. Was I procrastinating? Sure. But it ended up working out for the better.

What’s The Point?

The point of this week’s blog is not to say that you should always stop doing things when they become difficult and put them off until later. The point is that sometimes procrastination can be justified. Whether you are waiting to buy your favorite once-a-year sugary snack for a few pennies, or waiting for a spell of writer’s block to pass, there are times when waiting until “later” can pay off. Just don’t make your last minute solution a habit.

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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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