The Power of 5 More Minutes

Big tasks can really suck. Thinking about them, finding the motivation to start them, finding the time to finish them, all of it. But I found a not-so-secret way of dealing with them while running over the past few months.

I know what you’re thinking. “Really Emily? Another blog that has to do with running?” Let me remind you- I’m the least athletic person you know, So any principle, any advice, any system that makes me want to go outside and do semi-strenuous physical activity should, in theory, make you do whatever it is you’ve been putting off as well. So you’re welcome if you read this blog and then go on to invent time travel, or whatever your big goal is.

Going the Distance

Lately I’ve been trying to run longer distances, and turns out, it’s really hard. Here’s the thing though, it WASN’T hard in the beginning. My regular running routine was to run for 30 minutes and then stop. One day I thought, “Hm….could I do 35 minutes instead?” Then when that became my new norm I pushed myself 5 more minutes, and when THAT became the new norm I upped it 5 MORE minutes. Over the course of a few months I was capable of running 60 minutes- one whole hour- at a time.

But that, unfortunately, isn’t the end of the story because a funny thing happened when I started to run for an hour at a time semi-regularly: an hour started feeling like the absolute longest thing in the world. While you’d think it would be getting easier, it felt like it was getting harder.

A Mental Game

I started to look down at my watch, see that only 10 minutes had passed, and second-guess myself. “50 more minutes?! I can’t do that! How can I possibly do that?!” My legs seemed to take a cue from my brain and became tired. Not because they actually WERE tired, but because I was convincing myself that they should be. This hobby was quickly becoming un-enjoyable and I needed a new plan.

How do I harness that excitement from a few months ago when I was working up toward a goal? I wasn’t tired then, I was anxious to see if I could push through to a new milestone. I needed to bring back that thrill of “just 5 more minutes!”

5 More Minutes

….so I did. Here was the new plan: every time I went out running I had to start with 30 minutes and from there, all I had to do was commit to 5 more minutes at a time. At each 5 minute internal I gave myself full permission to stop if I couldn’t keep going and would not consider it a failure. This was a mental game for sure, but one that I knew would make running enjoyable again.

It worked! Inevitably, during the first 30 minutes I think “ok, I’m going to stop at 30. That’ll be it. I’ll be too tired, it’s fine” and once in a while I do stop, but most often I keep going. Sometimes I make it to 45, sometimes 50, sometimes 60, but when I do reach those longer distances I do it without the sense of dread I was feeling before.

Using It In Our Work Lives

So how does this apply to our Time Diet productivity in our work lives? Remember, everything we do is either a Meat (difficult) Vegetable (easy) or Dessert (fun.) If you’re putting off a giant Meat task that’s been on your to-do list for a while, maybe you wrote down something too big.

Step 1: Break up larger Meat tasks

We put up a mental block when we stare at a big task. Even though we KNOW the little steps that make up a big project, it’s really hard to see them through the enormity of the finished product. Don’t forget to break up your Meat tasks into smaller chunks. Yes, it makes for a longer to-do list but you’re much more likely to actually start a big task when you can easily see the smaller components you need to do. These smaller components are like the “5 more minute” chunks I started running.

Step 2: Give yourself permission to stop

When you’re in the middle of a big task, give yourself permission to step away. “Step away time” not only leads to less frustration, but if it’s a creative project, you may even find you get your best ideas when you’re not staring at a blank screen trying to think of them. An important note to remember, however, is that you lose the freedom of step away time when you choose to procrastinate. In the beginning, you have total control over when you start a project, but as the deadline gets closer and closer you have less and less control over your work timeline.

Step 3: Give yourself permission to keep going

Likewise, if you’re really “in the zone” of a task, give yourself permission to keep going, even if it wasn’t planned in your schedule. When you’re in a beautiful state of flow on a project, it can be really hard to get back into it a few days later so if you’re feeling the creative juices flow, run with it. You never know when you’ll get that motivation back.

As for me, I think I’m going to stick with this new running plan for now. I really want to sign up for a half marathon in December, but I have to figure out a different chunking strategy before then. If you’re curious if I’ve personally found benefit in applying this mentality to other things, the answer is “yes” I definitely have. I’ve been knee-deep in presentation design recently and if you’ve ever stared at a one paragraph description of an amazing training you promised to give….and then looked back at your blank PowerPoint slides you know the feeling I’ve been up against. But the “5 more minutes” strategy has really helped push me through, by breaking up the work into tiny bite sized tasks and tackling them systematically.

Has it ever worked for you? Let me know!

For speaking engagements or public speaking coaching, contact Emily@TheTimeDiet.org

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

Popular Time Management Book

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.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

How I Plan to Get More Sleep This Week

time management sleepWhat do you do just before bed? I usually fall asleep reading…on my phone…OK fine I’m checking emails…and by “emails” I mean I’m scrolling through Facebook and writing comments in my head to the ridiculous things I’m reading that I would never actually post. This week I read an article that made me want to change my behavior.

Never Enough Time To Sleep

This month’s USC Trojan Family Magazine had a fascinating cover story about sleep. The researchers pointed out that very few of us get the 7-9 hours of recommended sleep. I’m guilty of that too. I tell myself there is just “too much to do” but that’s an excuse I make for myself.

I spent 40 minutes browsing around on my phone last night before I decided to go to sleep. That’s more than 4 hours of missed sleep over the course of a week.

How it Affects Us

The article goes on to point out how our diminished hours of sleep affect us, including depression, health problems, and the fact that a staggering 1 in 5 serious car crashes are related to inadequate sleep.

In addition, the article cites another study which found teens who read a printed book before bed slept better and awoke more rested than those who read on a tablet before bed. Interesting. So here it what I take from all of this.

My New Sleep Plan

I complain about two things: I don’t have enough time to sleep and I don’t have enough time to read. This week, I’m going to solve both of those problems by making my bed a digital-free-zone. I’m going to sleep earlier and if I can’t fall asleep I’m going to pull out a book…like…one with pages…and read. Wish me luck!

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

My Focus Increased With This Small Change

time management changeFocus. It’s the time management epitome of productivity we all seek to achieve. This week, I found a surprising way to achieve a greater level of focus, and it started with something I initially dreaded…

My “Big” Change

This week I moved my desk. I wasn’t looking forward to it, mostly because I have a ton of STUFF that needs to move along with it. After all the schlepping, and after my space was all set up, I realized that the placement of the power outlet meant it would be easier to put my computer monitor on the other side of the desk than it was before.

If you’re a detail-oriented person like me, you know that is HUGE! I’m now turned differently in my chair, looking a different direction, looking at different things, seeing a different part of my desk. But a funny thing happened as I began to work this week..

…I noticed that the move made my more focused.

A Change of Scenery

We know a change of scenery can be just what the brain needs sometimes to tune out distractions, but that change of scenery doesn’t need to be something as drastic as a trip to Maui. (Though my desk move didn’t come with a Mai Tai, and for that, I’m disappointed.)

This week, what small change can you make to your working space that will shift your environment? I bet your focus increases like mine did!

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

How To Speak so People Will Buy Available on Amazon from Emily Schwartz

Public speaking book

In Defense of The Dress

the dressIf you’re reading this blog sometime in the near or distant future, let me set the stage for you: in February 2015, someone posted a picture of a dress on the internet and social media exploded. People disagreed on what color it was. Families were torn apart. Marriages ruined, households were forever divided. (Possible exaggeration)

No sooner had the Facebook comments started, than the cynics began shouting, “What a waste of time! We have more important things to talk about!” From a time management perspective, I’d like to offer an alternate opinion.

My Thoughts

Do we have more important things to talk about? Absolutely. Does that mean we can’t sometimes use our time to engage in debate about something more frivolous than politics, religion, or current events? The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Social media in itself can be a real Time Killer, but I noticed something interesting about the “dress debates.” A lot of them happened offline. My sister called me to say, “OK, this dress thing, we need to discuss.” I overheard it talked about at coffee shops, college campuses, and dinner tables.

Could Be Worse

I’ll also argue, that of the other frivolous conversations out there, it’s not too bad. We’re not discussing a celebrity wedding, divorce, or scandal. It’s not vulgar, inappropriate or disgusting. This dress simply got people asking each other if they saw things the same way they did, and at its core, I’m not certain that’s such a frivolous thing anyway.

So, in summary, yes: I’m kind of sick of hearing about “The Dress.” But before we cynically dismiss it as a waste of time, let’s just be amused by the fact that the internet all came together one week to argue about something silly, and we all deserve a break from the serious once in a while.

#WhiteAndGold

 Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Titles from Emily Schwartz available on Amazon right now!

Public speaking book

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.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

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

Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Three Time Management Hacks

time management hackI’m always fascinated with the creative ways people find to keep themselves focused and reach their time management goals. This week, I spoke with my sister, Gretchen, who shared with me three time management resolutions she had for the new year and the time management goals they were meant to achieve. (When you write a time management blog, these are the kinds of things you discuss with your family.)

Check out her interesting ways of changing her behavior. Could any of them help you too?

1. Put a book near the TV remote

Gretchen wants to find more time to read, but she knows that flipping on the TV to watch Netflix is much more tempting and convenient. Worse yet, as soon as the TV is turned on, it’s difficult to turn off! By putting her book near the TV remote, she’s more likely to use that time to read instead of binge watch House of Cards.

 2. Put the candy bowl away

We all have our Time Killers, those little things that steal our focus while we’re working. Gretchen analyzed her day and realized her Time Killer was snacking. She tells herself she’s hungry, but she’s really just looking for a distraction. To help achieve her goal of staying focused, she’s putting her candy dish away.

 3. Wear a watch

Smartphones are distracting. We know this. But Gretchen noticed that when she looked at her phone to see the time, she was consumed with email and Facebook alerts. Checking the time could turn into a 15 minute distraction. Instead, she’s going to wear a watch and avoid pulling out the phone all together.

This week, I challenge you to ask your friends and family for the creative ways they meet their time management goals. You might find a strategy that works for you too!

Give the gift of time management! The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival on Amazon.com for $11.99

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

NPR Told me I Don’t Have Time To Think and They Are Right

78321193 thinking“I’m so busy I don’t have time to think!” Do you feel like that sometimes? I know I do. The thing is, I realized this week that I DO have time to think, I’m just spending that time doing other things instead.

My Gut Reaction

I’m an NPR junkie, and I heard a story called “bored and brilliant” this week that made me instantly feel defensive. The premise was that because of the instant and constant availability of Smartphones, we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. My gut reaction was, “What’s so wrong with that? Sure, I use my phone a lot during the day, but it’s to be efficient with my work and squeeze every moment out of my workday. I never pull my phone out during family time. This is just another story making technology out to be evil. Grumble grumble grumble.”

Then I listened more closely to the story. The author makes the point that we’re more likely to get our most brilliant ideas when we’re bored, daydreaming, or thinking about something else. Makes sense. That’s why we come up with our best ideas in the shower right?

My Realization

Then it hit me. The shower is one of the last places we still let our minds wander, and when waterproof phones are everywhere, that will probably change too.

Now I notice my aversion to being even the slightest bit bored all the time. Waiting in line at the post office? Pull out my phone. Arrive a few minutes early for a meeting? Pull out my phone. Out to dinner and my hubby gets up to go to the bathroom? God forbid I sit and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant for 90 seconds. That’s 90 seconds I could be using to check my very important email.

There is a very fine line between being efficient, and never allowing your brain any moment of downtime. I’m going to try to manage that balance much better. Because you know what? I DO get my best ideas when I’m not trying. So I’m going to try to “not try” more often.

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips

Do You Do This Before A Meeting?

time management meeting reminderI’m a living, breathing, reminder app. Are you? If I have a meeting with someone, I email 24 hours before to confirm we’re still on for the meeting. I’m like that little digital calendar message that pops up to say, “Hey don’t forget! You’ve got that thing tomorrow!” Even though I’ve done this for years, I’ve recently starting weighing the pros and cons of the practice. Here is what I’ve come up with:

The pros: You’re minimizing your risk of wasting time. If you block off time in your day, or worse yet, drive out of your way to a meeting only to have the person not show, you could have spent that time doing something else. Plus, even the most organized person forgets appointments from time to time and a gentle reminder can avoid an oversight. Finally, a reminder email also tells the other party that YOU didn’t forget either.

The cons: You’re contributing to the world’s epidemic of superfluous email communication. Email is so easy to send that sometimes we end up sending unnecessary messages, making it more difficult for the recipient to find messages that really matter. Reading email has become more like a treasure hunt- quickly sorting out the junk to find the important stuff. If you sent too much email, you might risk being associated with the “junk” and having your important communications glossed over.

My Conclusion

So what’s a person to do? After much deliberation, I’ve decided that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation. I will continue to be a meeting reminder, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts? What do YOU do before a meeting?

Connect with The Time Diet for more time management tips