Are You Wasting People’s Time By Mistake?

Time Management KarmaWe’re always looking for ways to do things faster, be more organized, and focus on our work while tuning out distractions. Have you thought about whether or not you’re helping other people achieve those goals too? It’s  a good idea to follow the golden rule of time management: treat other people’s time the way you’d like your time to be treated. Are you wasting people’s time unintentionally? Use these four tips to create good “time management karma.”

1. Google it

Do your homework before asking a question/favor. If the internet can easily answer it for you, try that first! Then, if you still can’t find the answer or need more information, you can at least come to the table with some background research. People are far more willing to help when you’ve already tried to find the answer on your own. (If you’ve never played with the site “Let Me Google That For You“, feel free to do so now)

2. Follow through when you delegate

If you delegate a task to someone, follow up and thank the person for his or her time. Too often, I see people delegate, and then just do it themselves without letting the other person know. Or, the task is  busy work and not truly necessary. Be respectful of other people’s time and only ask for things when needed.

3. Be realistic with promises

It’s hard to tell people “no,” especially when you really want to help and don’t want to let them down, but this only worsens the problem. If you do not have the time to help, say so now, while the person still has time to seek help elsewhere, rather than committing to a promise you can’t keep.

4. If you are late, apologize

Life happens. Even with the best of planning, you’re still bound to be late to a meeting once in a while and keep someone waiting. The best thing to do in this situation is to sincerely apologize and then take steps to not let it happen again. People just want an acknowledgement that their time is important to you. Say something like, “I’m terribly sorry to keep you waiting, I didn’t mean to keep you from other things you have to do today. The whole freeway was closed due to an accident. Let’s get on with business shall we?”

Emergencies and unexpected deadlines come up, but if you take steps to be considerate with other people’s time, you’ll find that they are also considerate of yours.

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Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Why Urgent Is Easy But Planning Is Hard

Time Management UrgentWhen you stare at your to-do list, you subconsciously look for three things:

Tasks that are easy
Tasks that are urgent and
Tasks that are important.

When only one task stands out as fitting all of those categories, deciding what to do first is a no-brainer. On the other hand, when everything feels urgent, we have a stressful problem I like to call “Priority Paralysis,” but what about when nothing feels urgent? Here are three reasons an urgent-free to-do list can be a problem and what to do about it!

1. We don’t know what to do first

Urgent vs non-urgent tasks make prioritizing easy, but if “urgent” is the only thing you look for when deciding which task to tackle, what happens when nothing presents an urgent deadline? You don’t know what to do first! This is why The Time Diet is based on categorizing. Pick a Meat task (difficult) Vegetable task (easy) and Dessert task (fun) to focus on during your day. That gives you some parameters to help structure your schedule in a way that ensures you’ll get ahead on your non-urgent tasks while maintaining balance in your day.

2. We’re likely to procrastinate

Another problem with an urgent-free to-do list is that we’re tempted to do nothing! It’s easy to procrastinate when none of our deadlines are urgent at the moment. Remember, if you only deal with tasks when they are urgent, that ensures that you’ll always be faced with a last minute stressful time crunch. Try scheduling “start dates” in your calendar for each “due date.” It’s easy to say we’ll begin something later, but a start date defines exactly when “later” is.

3. We waste time

When we aren’t up against the pressure of an urgent deadline, it’s easy to allow Time Killers to distract us. When people thrive on the pressure of a deadline, it’s often because there is  less time to be distracted and it forces them to focus and work more efficiently. This concept is called Parkinson’s Law, which says that work expands to fill the time we give it. Try removing Time Killers (smartphone, Facebook, etc…) even while you complete non-urgent work so you finish faster.

A non-urgent to-do list is definitely something to celebrate, but not ignore. You’ll never eliminate last-minute time crunch crises, but by efficiently organizing your non-urgent tasks, you’ll be able to decrease the amount of time spent up against a deadline.

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Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

Are You a Workaholic?

Time Management WorkaholicAre you a workaholic? Do you walk that fine line between loving your job and being obsessed with your job? A workaholic, in short, is someone who is addicted to work, not simply an ambitious person who works hard. Knowing the difference is important.

A hard worker is motivated and driven, but enjoys a healthy personal life as well. A workaholic places work above all other priorities and craves it even when trying to “relax.”   So how do hard workers avoid becoming workaholics? Try these 5 tips:

1. Find a Hobby

It’s easy to let yourself work all day and night when you have nothing better to do. Learn an instrument, write a book, refinish furniture, join a community sports team, or just find an author you love and make a reading list. Facebook and email are not hobbies.

2. Unplug

Just because we have the ability to be constantly connected doesn’t mean we should. Looking at your smartphone every 5 seconds not only destroys your ability to focus, but it makes your work take longer and allows work to encroach on your personal time. This week, I am taking the 24 hour smartphone challenge during which I will go a whole day without my little addicting pocket computer. Subscribe to The Time Diet to read about my experience next week!

3. Delegate

“If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” That phrase is responsible for so much wasted time and stress. You are a not a super human and you don’t have to do everything yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make the time investment to set up that helper for success.

4. Learn to Say No

We hard-working types have a hard time saying no because we like helping people and we know we have the ability to do so. Just because you have the ability and the willingness doesn’t mean you have the time.

5. Make a Stop Time

In my time management trainings, I tell procrastinators to make a “Start Date” for each “Due Date” in their calendar. Workaholics don’t have a problem with starting. They have a problem with stopping! When you sit down to be productive, define your work parameters by setting a stop time when you will allow yourself to stop thinking about work.

Achieving that elusive work/life balance is tricky, especially for work hard working, motivated people, but it can be done!

Looking for a time management book that will help add balance to your day? Check out The Time Diet: Digestible Time Management on Amazon and Kindle!

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The Dos and Don’ts of Productivity in the Car

Time Management in the carWhen we have a long commute each day, we spend a good deal of our time behind the wheel of a car. Since this time is neither spent being productive nor doing something relaxing, it can end up feeling like truly wasted time. We long to use that time for something other than grumbling about the traffic, or listening to the same cheesy morning show.  However, there is a fine line between a productive driver and a distracted driver. Follow these Dos and Don’ts to be productive without being a road hazard.

Do… Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are a great alternative to the radio. If you’re bored of radio’s morning programming, why not use that time to learn something that can help you with your job or hobby? There are podcasts for nearly every industry or interest imaginable. Also, because podcasts are shorter than audio books,  you can vary your listening selections from day to day.

Do… Use Your Hands Free Phone

We could all be better at keeping in touch with friends and family. Our lives get busy and we never find time to chat with the people who are important to us, but with a hands free device for your phone, you can use that idle time in the car to keep those connections alive. I’ve also used the time to make lengthy customer service phone calls. For example, you know you’ll be on hold forever if you have to call and ask your cable company a question. Why not make that call when you literally have nothing better to do?

Do…Record Your Ideas

Sometimes we come up with brilliant ideas while we’re alone with our thoughts in the car. Don’t let those ideas go to waste! Use a voice recorder on your cell phone to capture those brilliant thoughts before they leave your head. I’m sure many grand ideas have been lost when I promise myself I’ll write something down as soon as I get to my destination…and then forget.

Don’t… Check Your Email

It starts off innocently enough. We say we’ll just glance at our inbox at a red light. Then the light turns green and we’re still reading. The roads aren’t too crowded so we say we’ll just finish this one paragraph and put the phone down. Remember, when we keep our eyes on the road, it’s less about seeing the things we expect, and more about being prepared for the things we don’t expect — the car in front of us slamming on their breaks, a child running into the road, a ladder falling off the truck in front you, etc… Taking your eyes off the road to check your email is not worth the risk of an accident. Just don’t do it.

Don’t…Put On Makeup

Ladies, ladies. I know we want to look good, but really, putting on mascara takes only a moment. Just do it at home. It’s bad enough when we’re stuck being people who didn’t see the light turn green while they were powdering their nose. It’s worse when people try to do this while actually driving. If you woke up late, throw your “beauty tools” in your bag and take care of your primping when you get to your destination.

Don’t…Eat Food That Needs Two Hands

It’s one thing to sip coffee or a smoothie on your morning or afternoon commute. It’s another thing to try to eat a three-course meal. I’ve seen people eat everything from yogurt, to cereal to salads while behind the wheel. If 9 of your fingers are being used to hold your food and 1 of your fingers is being used to steer, this is not OK.

Finally, in our busy society of constant distractions, we often complain that we never have any time to just…be. Rather than trying to squeeze an extra few drops of productivity out of your commute, you may find it better to just roll down your window, turn off the radio, and breathe once in a while. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world!

Connect with The Time Diet for even more time management tips!