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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.

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Time Management Bulletin

 How to Decide

Mark McCormack, in his book, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School (Bantam, 1984), gives some good advice on decision-making.  He claims that many times we actually make a decision without realizing it, even as we are still trying to come to grips with it.

His advice: instead of laboring over the pros and cons, flip a coin.  Heads you do; tails you don’t.  Now how do you feel about the result?  He claims you may be surprised to discover that your emotional reaction settles the issue for you – confirms what you consciously know.

Life Balance

Life balance involves making wise choices, and remembering that people are more important than things.

Notes

  • Stress is added when sleep is subtracted.
  • It’s difficult to cram new information into a sleepy brain.
  • If you bury your mistakes, they will teach you nothing.
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How to keep on top of your work

The more things in your life that you leave undone, the more anxiety and stress you experience. Completed work does not produce stress. People feel great and are energized when they get things done. It’s the uncompleted items that distract them and drain their energy.

If you simply don’t care whether something gets done or not, you’re not under stress either. I’ve never seen a children have anxiety attacks because they hadn’t cleaned their room yet. But in the business world, such an attitude would hardly be conducive to a successful career.

Being a responsible adult does have its disadvantages. We do care about the multitude of things that should be done. And if we have more to do than we have time for, how do we get out of this Catch 22?

The first thing you might do is to write down everything that you think you have to do. When items are reduced to writing we don’t think of them so often. They no longer pop into our minds unexpectedly, causing incessant anxiety.

The next step is to decide which ones can be eliminated without having a significant effect on our business results or our career or personal or family well-being. Most people have a multitude of things that they feel should be done drifting in and out of their minds. Capture them and delete them before they delete you. Once you have decided not to do them, they can no longer be a vehicle for stress.

Of the remaining items, quickly do those that will take less than five minutes to complete. This does not follow the recommended time management principle of doing the most important things first, but it will sure make you feel good to see all those crossed-off items. And with most of the items off the list, you are able to focus on the ones that are important.

Your list may still not be down to a manageable size. If not, see which items can be delegated or outsourced. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Then prioritize the remaining items. Schedule time to work on the high priority tasks – those that will have significant impact on your personal and organizational goals. The more urgent ones should be scheduled earlier in the week. If they are huge, time-consuming tasks, break them down into chunks. Blocking off two or three hours each week to write a complicated but essential report, for instance, will see it completed within a month or so.

Finally, put the remaining non-priority items on a weekly To Do list, either in a week-at-a-glance paper planner or your electronic handheld device. Be realistic. Don’t cram them all onto a “Things to do today” list. Spread them over the ensuing week or two. If they don’t all get done, it’s no big deal. You have already blocked out the time to work on the ones that are really important.

Basically, you are getting the brief, easy-to-do items done, delegated or deleted quickly, and you are blocking off time in your planner to work on those items that are important. Blocking off time in the future to work on specific tasks or projects is referred to as “scheduling.” The balance of the items, those of minor importance, can be added to a “To Do” list, where they will likely die a natural death if you never get the time to work on them.  This happens because scheduled tasks are commitments, while listed tasks are just intentions.

If after all this, a few things still don’t get done, rest assured it’s not your fault. Your job is to do what’s possible, not what’s impossible. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Worry or anxiety weakens your immune system as well as your executive skills, and leaves you open to energy loss.

Making choices do consume energy. The frontal lobes of our brain are constantly weighing the pros and cons of every bit of information, trying to determine the best choice. But once the choices have been made, the stress disappears, and it is no longer an energy drain.

 

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Change your habits and you change your life

How much of your life is habit? Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit, quotes a Duke University researcher who in 2006 found that more than 40% of the actions of people performed each day were not actually decisions, but habits.

More recently, Joe Dispenza, in his book, You are the placebo, maintains that by age thirty-five, 95% of who you are is a set of memorized behaviors, skills, emotional reactions, beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that function like a subconscious automatic computer program.

Change isn’t easy. One study found that only one in nine people who underwent heart surgery were able to change their lifestyle, and even these people were motivated by the threat of possible death. According to John Ratey, author of the book Spark, statistics show that about half of those who start up a new exercise routine dropout within six months to a year.

To change your behavior, you have to start by changing your thoughts, according to Joe Dispenza. It’s your thoughts that determine your choices, which in turn determine your behaviors, and ultimately how you experience life.

It takes effort to change since you have only 5% of the conscious “you” to chip away at. The 95% that is already set in its ways. But you are the master of your brain, and when you repeat a thought or an experience often enough, your brain cells are making stronger connections in the direction you want to go.

You are consciously forming the habits that you really want, and creating a new life in the process. It’s difficult to break firmly entrenched habits or behaviors. To make it easier, you may want to consider the following suggestions:

Make changes gradually.

According to MJ Ryan, author of This year I will …, when we try to make changes that are too aggressive our system tries to maintain the status quo by swinging in the opposite direction. This is the reason that strict diets don’t work. It is the same with the application of time management ideas. Too many changes introduced at once decreases the chance that you will stick to the changes long enough for them to become a habit. So make one change at a time.

Do it together.

Weight Watchers have found that people who use a support group are three times more likely to lose weight than folks on their own. When attempting to break a habit, it helps to have someone to be accountable to. This “buddy system” can be applied to both job and lifestyle changes.

 Replace a bad habit with a good one.

It’s a lot easier to build a new habit than to break an old one. So don’t focus on breaking the old one. Instead, form a new habit to replace it. You will form the behaviors that you reinforce, and the old ones will fade away from disuse.

Piggyback a new habit on a good habit that is already established.

To more easily form a habit, anchor it to an old one that is firmly entrenched. For example, if you are already in the habit of walking first thing every morning, and you want to spend 20 minutes every day learning a new language, you might take your books with you in a backpack when you walk and spend twenty minutes studying in a coffee shop on the way home.

Without doubt it takes determination and effort. But remember, while you are forming the habits, you are also creating a new life in the process.