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5 simple ways to save time

There are many ways to maximize the effective utilization of time, such as set goals, plan your day, schedule your tasks, delegate and organize your work area. But there are many other simple ways that you should not overlook. Here are five of them.

  1. Don’t rush.  People who don’t have the time to do something right always seem to have the time to do it over again.  Mistakes occur more frequently when a job is done in a hurry.  Take the time to do it right in the first place.  If you can’t get everything done, at least get the most important things done right.
  2. If in doubt, ask. Inadequate communications is a sinkhole for time.  Don’t bluff, ask.  Get your pride from a job well done, not from being able to guess what’s required. Asking is faster than trying to piece together fractured communications.  You are respected for your accomplishments, not your silence.
  3. Write it down.  Writing things down does not mean you are circumventing your memory — you are simply helping it to do its job.  We all need reminders to prevent a myriad of essential tasks from dying of neglect.  The pen is mightier than the sword — and it writes better.
  4. Avoid stress. Recognize you can’t do everything or be all things to all people. Be organized, effective and efficient; but don’t go on a guilt trip just because you can’t do the impossible. It’s not the stressful environment, but your reaction to it, that does the damage. Your health should be your number one priority. Without it you’re of little use to anyone.
  5. Respect the time of others.  If everyone treated others as they themselves would like to be treated, there wouldn’t be the unnecessary personal interruptions, telephone calls, electronic messages and correspondence that most people are experiencing.  Accumulate your questions, concerns and assignments and interrupt others less frequently.
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Organization & time management: partners in productivity.

Organizing is the act of rearranging items that are in a disorganized, cluttered state so that everything can be retrieved quickly with less effort, maximizing both their utility and visual appeal.

Time management refers to increasing both the efficiency and the effectiveness of individuals and organizations through the organization of tasks and events by using tools such as planners and computers, and techniques and processes such as goal-setting, planning and scheduling.

The two activities are interrelated since disorganization normally wastes time. The major difference between organizing and time management is that, in general, organizing deals with things and time management deals with activities that have a time dimension. We organize our desk, our files, our supplies, our possessions and so on.  We manage the time at our disposal, by deciding what to do, when do it, and how to do it.

Time management in any environment, electronic or otherwise, involves working both efficiently and effectively. You are working efficiently when you complete tasks in the best possible way. You are working effectively when you concentrate your efforts on the best possible tasks. What you do is considered more important than how you do it. But when you get organized and work both efficiently and effectively, you are approaching excellence.

Organization has been known to reduce stress, improve memory and recall and conserve energy, and improve focus. With the reduction of clutter, there are fewer distractions and less searching for things or shuffling papers – in addition to a more aesthetic environment.

Organization and time management go hand in hand, and both are essential for peak productivity.

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Be an active listener.


The most important thing you can do when facing a customer, or anyone for that matter, is to engage in active listening. There is no greater way of displaying respect than listening attentively to what people have to say.  Lean forward to show interest. Establish eye contact. Resist the temptation to glance at your watch. Devote full attention to the speaker.

The onus is on the listener to avoid prejudging, daydreaming, interrupting, criticizing the speaker’s delivery, reacting to emotional words and being distracted by the environment.

Focused listening can save time as well as improve communication and personal relationships.  Show interest by giving the person your full attention. Listen for the ideas and don’t be distracted by the way the ideas are expressed. Half listening can waste time, cause stress because you lose track of what has been said, strain the speaker-listener relationship and result in costly misunderstandings.

People talk at roughly 125 words a minute while we listen at speeds over four times that fast. Since our minds must be busy doing something, we go on little mental excursions. We find ourselves thinking about other things. To prevent this from happening, let your “extracurricular thinking” revolve around the speaker’s comments. Think about the conclusions that he or she will probably arrive at, the evidence that supports claims being made, how the opinions stack up against those of other people you’ve listened to. Mentally review the points covered to date. In other words, keep focusing on what is being said at the time.

Limit your own talking, except to ask questions, and don’t let your mind wander. When you do speak, gain the respect of your clients more quickly by speaking more slowly. Since most people listen at only 25 percent of their capacity, you can improve communications by actually using the word “listen” in your conversation.  This periodic reminder will stimulate their listening.  Example: “Listen John, if I were to…..” The use of the word “listen” has been shown to have a positive impact on their listening.

There’s more to effective listening than meets the ear. It’s hard work. It requires an active participation in the communication process. It takes effort, practice. And it requires that we break habits that have been forming since childhood. One such habit is interrupting the speaker. We want to finish the speaker’s sentence for him or her either aloud or to ourselves. We’re impatient. Sometimes we can’t even tolerate pauses in the conversation. We want to rush in with our own words or thoughts. Even when we are not speaking, we’re frequently not listening. We are rehearsing what we are going to say in turn.

Effective listening can be learned. It requires greater mental application because it is an active skill. But like anything else, the right kind of practice makes perfect. So slow down, be patient, and lend an ear – maybe two.

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When listening, use your eyes as well as your ears.

We communicate with our whole body and our actions and behaviours must be consistent with what we are saying. Although the oft-used figures that came from Albert Mehrabian’s experiments have been convincingly debunked long ago, it is normally agreed that our body language has a huge impact on our credibility when we deliver a message.

Body language is mostly unconscious communication using facial expressions, gestures, body movements, postures and so on – that either reinforce or contradict what we are saying. When it contradicts, it is usually wise to believe the nonverbal clues since they are not as easily disguised as the words. The words are what others want us to believe; but the real meaning is in the way those words are delivered.

When communicating, be aware of whether your arms are crossed or you are avoiding eye contact or frequently glancing somewhere else or speaking in a monotone. If you are telling people you are really enthusiastic about an idea, but there is no enthusiasm in your voice, they are unlikely to believe you.

Talk slowly and distinctly. Don’t rush when you’re asking questions. There is nothing more frustrating than being asked a question and not having enough time to respond. As trainers we are told to follow the 7-Second Rule. Allow at least 7 seconds for the response to a question before continuing with the message.

According to David Niven, in his book, 100 simple secrets of successful people, people rate speakers who speak more slowly as being 38% more knowledgeable than speakers who speak more quickly.

The recently discovered mirror neuron system is now believed to play a major role in our ability to interpret body language. Mirror neurons are those brain cells that fire both when we perform an activity ourselves and when we observe someone else performing the same activity.

Some researchers believe that mirror neurons help us relate, and interpret facial expressions, mannerisms and even the moods and emotions of others. We should be aware of other people’s body language when we are listening to them talk. It could either reinforce our confidence in what they are actually saying or put doubt in our minds as to the truth in what they say.

Effective listeners do not only focus on what a person says; but on the way the person says it. Use your eyes as well as your ears.

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7 habits of proactive people

Proactive means acting beforehand. Taking action in the present will influence things in the future, perhaps even the future itself. So always think ahead. Practice those habits exhibited by proactive people. Set goals. Schedule time for important activities. Plan daily. Use checklists. Review results, continually make adjustments to improve future outcomes. Plan long range. And maintain the right attitude. There is power in being proactive.

Proactive people are always looking ahead at future activities, projects and events and anticipating needs, problems and possible outcomes. Here are seven habits they have acquired that enable them to tackle almost any situation.

  1. Set goals. Proactive people hold planning sessions with themselves as well as with others, and set specific goals for the future. They not only put them in writing, along with deadline dates, they schedule time in their planners to actually work on them. By doing this, they are helping to create their own future as opposed to reacting to unplanned events.
  • Schedule time for important activities. Proactive people use planners as they are supposed to use them – to record future events and to schedule time for priority tasks and activities. By being able to view the future, they are able to anticipate possible problems and act before they can occur. Just looking at an event such as a scheduled meeting in writing, sets your mind thinking about things you will need for that meeting.
  • Plan daily. Ideally you will have scheduled your priority activities a week ahead, leaving unscheduled time each day for those important and urgent tasks and activities that inevitably pop up throughout the week. But you may have to do some juggling in order to fit them all in. Don’t let a priority activity be replaced without first rescheduling it to another time slot. And never replace a scheduled activity with a less important one. Remember that the good is the enemy of the best.
  • Use checklists. Proactive people make up checklists for all repetitive events or activities, such as meetings, travel, conferences, sales calls, workshops and interviews. These checklists are updated if necessary after every event. If anything was missed, it is added to the list so that it won’t be forgotten the next time. Checklists save time and money and prevent errors.
  • Review results. Proactive people don’t just follow through with planned tasks and events, they follow up as well, and make sure the value received was worth the time and effort expended. This ensures that they are indeed completing the 20% of the tasks that yield 80% of the results. Always question whether you are making the best possible use of your time.
  •  Plan long range. Proactive people recognize that it’s never too early to plan, and that planning too late causes crises and time problems. If the Titanic had started turning sooner, it never would have hit the iceberg. Small adjustments made earlier avoid large adjustments having to be made at the last minute.
  • Maintain the right attitude. The most important weapon that proactive people have at their disposal is their attitude or state of mind. In fact, it could be called a way of life. Proactive people wouldn’t think of making a telephone call without first jotting down the items for discussion or going to the supermarket without first making a list of the items they need. They don’t resent looking at a map before taking a trip or reading the instructions before assembling a swing set.

Proactive people maintain their cool, avoid stress, and never let other people’s lack of planning become their crises. They don’t accept assignments without realistic deadlines, and never accept ASAP in place of an actual date. They are organized, efficient, and respect other people’s time as well as their own.


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Are you feeling overwhelmed?

When we are confronted with multiple priorities, all of which seem to be urgent, we sometimes freeze – like a deer caught in the headlights. It’s a case of paralysis by analysis as we try to decide where to start.

If this happens to you, stop and take a deep breath, and write down all the priorities that currently confront you. As you read the resulting list out loud you will realize that you can’t overestimate the unimportance of everything. If it’s not life threatening, it’s not really that important.

This step is essential because you can’t be effective while in a panic mode.

Once you have convinced yourself that it’s not the end of the world, recognize that you can’t do everything at the same time. Nor can you do all things for all people. So begin the task of prioritizing.

With the purpose of your organization in mind, number the tasks in order of their importance. Don’t be concerned with their urgency unless it’s a tie. It doesn’t matter how urgent the task is if it’s really not that important. It’s important only if it furthers the goals of your organization. Hopefully you already have a written mission statement, policies and procedures, and specific goals for the year. If not, look after that little matter immediately.

If someone drops a jar of pickles on the floor as your store is about to open, you wouldn’t clean up the mess before you open the doors if your purpose included serving customers by selling groceries. Which option do you think would be of greater benefit to your customers, a spotless floor or access to the items they need?

If there are some items on your list that are urgent, but not important, ignore them and they will soon disappear. You can refer to that as “management by neglect” or “planned neglect.” You may find a few that are both urgent and important. By “urgent” I mean if you don’t take action right away, you will lose the goal-related benefit that task would have provided. You must schedule time in the immediate future to see that these tasks are completed. Hopefully there is someone other than yourself to whom you can delegate a few of these tasks.

You will probably find that the majority of the important tasks are not that urgent. You can schedule time to do these in the weeks ahead and still reap the rewards. If you don’t already schedule “appointments with yourself” to get important things done, do so. Otherwise your planning calendar will soon be filled with other people’s priorities rather than your own. It’s a lot easier to say “no” to others when you already have an appointment blocked off in your planner.

No doubt you will want to do them all, even if it’s physically impossible to do so. That’s only natural. After all, they might all be good things to do. But the good things can become the enemy of the best things if they distract you from your purpose for being in business. If you have competent employees, do what you do best and delegate the rest. If your employees aren’t competent enough to do them, add one more item on your list of important items – training. A small company’s success frequently rises to the level of its weakest employee.

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How time is lost.

Microsoft Corporation’s study of people working found that on average, they were interrupted 4 times per hour, and a distracted worker takes nearly a half hour to get back to and continue a task. 28% of a typical worker’s day is taken up by interruptions and recovery time, according to Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. And Peter Bregman, in his book 18 Minutes: Find your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, adds that 40% of the time they did not resume the same task once they had been interrupted.

A major cause of the interruptions seems to be a combination of smart phones and email. According to Mike Byster, in his book The Power of Forgetting, the average working professional spends roughly 23% of the workday on email, and glances at the inbox about 36 times an hour. According to research by Nielson, and reported in the book, The end of absence: reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection, by Michael Harris, the average teenager now manages upward of 4000 text messages every month.

Research shows that social media users spend, on average, one and a half times more time online than the typical web surfer. S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport in their book, 10-minute digital de-clutter, claim the average social media user consumes 285 pieces of content a day, which equates to about 54,000 words – the length of an average novel.

 One third of wired Canadians use Internet-ready digital devices before getting out of bed in the morning, according to a poll conducted by Angus Reid/Vision Critical and reported in the Toronto Star.

Smart phones allow our jobs to follow us out the door when we leave the office. The portable devices allow us to receive and send email and phone calls around the clock. One survey of 1,908 workers, reference in Sam Geist’s Quick Bites newsletter, revealed that 51% of employees stayed in contact with work when they vacationed in summer. 80% left their cell phones on. And 63% said they kept in daily contact.

The ways an individual can consume time is unlimited. During a lifetime, the average suburban driver spends about two years stuck in traffic. Americans spend an average of six hours a week shopping, according to the book All-consuming Passion: Waking Up from the American Dream. And an article in the Rocky Mountain News stated that people spend about five years of their lives waiting in lines. This includes supermarkets, banks, post offices and motor vehicle offices.

But by far, the most time lost is through interruptions, most of which are caused by our propensity for being tethered to our smart phone and unable to resist the call of email. Our increasing sense of time urgency and tendency to multitask could also be catalysts for the interruptions that consume a huge portion of our day.

Regardless, we are the answer to our problem.

Initially, accept the fact that there will be interruptions and allow more time than you think the task will take when blocking off that time in your planner. A one-hour priority task, for example, might be scheduled from 9 AM to 10:30 AM as an appointment with yourself. If the task is expected to take longer than 90 minutes, break it into two 45-minute work sessions with a break in between. Huge projects such as writing a book or revising a procedures manual can be handled the same way — as a series of short work sessions scheduled on an ongoing basis.

Although you can expect interruptions, don’t initiate them or encourage them. During your scheduled work sessions you should ignore e-mail, and engage voicemail, put your smartphone on airplane mode, and even close the door if you have one. Return e-mail messages, phone messages etc. after your scheduled work session.

We also interrupt ourselves when we are suddenly distracted by an idea or thought or get an urge to do something else and so on. It is important to quickly jot these things down to clear them from your mind so you can continue to work on your priority task. One suggestion is to keep a small pad of sticky notes in your planner so you can quickly jot these things down and stick them on the day you plan to work on them.  Or even a steno pad kept handy. The important thing is to have somewhere you can park the idea so you can keep your mind on the task at hand.

If you can muster the self-discipline needed to keep on task, limit the times you check e-mail to 3 or 4 times a day, ignore incoming calls and email or text messages while working on your scheduled tasks, and have as much respect for your own time as you have for others, interruptions will be reduced drastically. And your personal productivity will increase.



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Time Management Bulletin #4

Manage your email through self-discipline.

Handling email is one activity that you must control if you are going to master technology. It seems to be increasing exponentially for most people.

With the mobility of today’s workforce and work itself being more a state of mind than a place that you go to, self-discipline and self-structure are more important than ever.

The age of speed has people accepting as inevitable cell phones ring during lunch hours, e-mail arrives at night and text messages pop up while watching your son’s baseball game. We are allowing technology to control us, rather than the other way around.

Unfortunately to change this requires willpower or self-discipline. I say unfortunately, because self-discipline is not something that comes naturally to most people.

Many people don’t accept responsibility for the impact speed is having on their lives. They blame it on the email, or cell phones that keep interrupting them. It’s as though it’s impossible to ignore email or turn off the cell phone or to schedule specific times to review messages. They think that life is something that happens to them rather than something that happens because of them.

So the first step in controlling our time and our lives is to accept responsibility for what is happening to us – and to decide to change it. Self-discipline or self-control is simply the power to do something when it is easier not to do it. We all have the power but it’s not exercised. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

Self-discipline has a greater impact on how we manage our time than any other strategy. It is needed in order to form good habits, defeat procrastination, stay organized, and to reap the benefits of delayed gratification.

We must make small changes first. Don’t make it difficult for yourself if you initially lack self-discipline. Build it gradually. For example, if you’re checking email consistently throughout the day, decide to check it four or five times a day, at specific times. Say, first thing in the morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and evening. Once you have a routine, cut out the early morning, evening and Sunday sessions – and so on – until you have complete control. You will tend to cheat a little at first, and backslide, and that’s OK. You are building a habit, and if you persist, it will become easier to maintain self-discipline.

Schedule specific times to review your email. Work on that one suggestion, and you will be strengthening your self-discipline at the same time.

Controlling e-mail can be a big time saver.

Assume you check email ten times per day, spending ten minutes each time for a total of one hour, forty minutes. During this time let’s say you can handle 50 emails – either replying, deleting, forwarding etc. Instead, if you check your email four times a day, and spend 20 minutes each time, for a total of 1 hour, 20 minutes, during this total time you would probably be able to handle the same 50 emails. But you have done it in 20 minutes less time.

No matter how small the task, there is a setup time. You have a setup time for both the email (opening the program, clicking in the inbox etc.) and for resuming the task that you interrupted in order to check email.

The fewer times you check email, the more time you save. An added benefit is that you won’t be telling people by your actions that you respond instantly to every email you get. If you do, they will expect it. We train people how to treat us by our actions and habits. Control your email and you will go a long way in controlling your time. You will be eliminating a large source of stress and getting out of a reactive mode.


Most e-mail messages are not urgent.

Timothy Ferris in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, claims he checks his email no more than once per week. He insists that any lost orders or other problems are overshadowed by his gain in efficiency. Personally, I wouldn’t go to this extreme. But two or three times a day does not seem unreasonable.

To Do lists

Don’t let prayer be the last thing on your To Do list.


On the sillier side …..


Storage space for unused and unneeded stuff. $65 a month or one lifetime fee of only $20,000.


iPhone that never rings, telemarketers who never call, and co-workers wo never interrupt.






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Time Management Bulletin #3

Is the Internet making us stupid?

We tend to ridicule those who print articles from the web instead of reading them in electronic format where they may be accompanied by links to supporting information, images and videos. But according to Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to our Brains (Norton, 2010), studies by psychologists, neurologists and educators find that when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.

Links are particularly distracting, and studies show that jumping between digital documents impedes understanding. Comprehension declines whether or not people actually click on them.

According to Carr’s book, the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory (short-term memory) to long-term memory. But a bottleneck is created since working memory can only hold a relatively small amount at a time.

When we are swamped with information, links, images, and advertising, the information spills over, so to speak, and doesn’t make it into our long-term storage. It’s like watering a house plant by continuing to pour on more water without giving it a chance to soak in.

But when we read books for instance, we transfer information a little at a time into long-term memory and form associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

Principles of delegation

Don’t always delegate to your best people. Use delegation to strengthen weaker employees.

Never delegate what you can eliminate. Only delegate important, challenging tasks to your staff.

Follow-up; but don’t hover over. Encourage initiative and creativity.

Evaluate results, and allow flexibility in methods.

Delegate; don’t abdicate. Remain a resource and keep them on course.

Praise in public; criticize constructively in private.


Quotes from the eBook, “Time to be Productive,” by Harold L Taylor

“Time management is not doing more things in less time; it’s doing more important things in the time that we have.”

“I feel we are accomplishing little more than we have always accomplished. We’re just doing it at a higher speed. The time saved is being used up by interruptions and trivial activities.”

“All successful business owners need to get out of their day-to-day busyness and make time for long-range planning.”

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Time management Bulletin #2

A balanced life requires planning.

Regardless of whether we are on a flexible hour system, or we’re a telecommuter or a frequent flyer, the line between work and personal time has become blurred. We can work in the evening, in a car or at a ball park. Work is no longer a place but a state of mind. Vince Poscente, in his book The Age of Speed (Bard Press, 2008) agrees that the boundaries that once dictated how we spend our time have become blurred or non-existent. Instead of three distinct segments of time – work, home and leisure – we have ended up with one large space filled with a mixture of work, home and leisure. You should stop thinking about work as a place you go to spend 8 or 9 hours a day, but as something you do. And much of it could be done anywhere.

It is just as important to schedule time for family, solitude and leisure time as it is to schedule business meetings, appointments and other business activities. We should be continually asking ourselves if the total time we are spending with our family and loved ones is in line with how much we value them. Schedule your work around your life; don’t schedule your life around your work. Otherwise work may spread throughout our entire day and crowd out our personal activities, putting our lives out of balance.

Even sleep and physical exercise might have to be scheduled as they continue to get squeezed by both work-related and family-related activities.

Most people don’t need help knowing their priorities; they need help living their priorities. And the greatest help is offered by a planning calendar, where time can be allocated in advance to work, personal and family priorities. A “To Do” list is not a time management tool; it’s a memory tool. You need a schedule of timed activities, not a wish list.

You need commitments, not just intentions.

 Busy or lazy?

Busyness is a form of laziness inasmuch as you don’t even have to think about priorities; you simply keep doing whatever comes along.

Value vs. volume.

The value of the work you do is far more important than the volume of work you do. According to Florida State researchers, top performers tend to work no more than four and a half hours a day.

Individual productivity.

Your personal productivity aids company productivity only if the work you do helps further company goals and aligns with the company’s mission.

Check e-mail less often

According to Adam Alter, in his 2017 book, Irresistible, 70% of emails are read within 6 seconds of arriving, and by one estimate, it takes up to 25 minutes to become re-immersed in an interrupted task.