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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.”