Archive for the ‘time mangement’ Category

Personally, I do not make New Years resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions. They make people feel warm and fuzzy. It’s nice to feel warm and fuzzy sometimes. The problem with resolutions is that most people drop them by the end of the month – some people simply state the resolution and never even really try. Do you know many people join gyms in January? A lot!

If you want to get organized this year, whether it is for your home, office, car, purse, or brain, I have a challenge for you.  Write down the resolutions. Post them up somewhere prominent. Put them in your planner. Tell your friends and family.  But don’t just stop with stating the resolution – turn it into a goal and turn that goal into your reality. Set manageable deadlines and milestones.

If you want to “get organized in ’09” stop being so broad. What do you want to organize? Even if you feel like you want to organize “everything,” list what everything means to you – your home, your office, your paperwork, children’s rooms, the garage, the basement, family photos.  List out what you want to do so you have a better picture of what is ahead of you.

You can NOT do everything at once – even if you have nothing else to do with your time. So break down the work. What is your goal for January? The office? Okay, great. So maybe at the top of your January calendar page you write “Goal: Organize my office.”  The next thing you should do is decide what you can do each week to get you closer to that goal. For example:

  • Week 1: Filing all papers so that all 2008 stuff is out of the way and I have fresh files for 2009
  • Week 2: Organizing all office supplies and making sure I purchase the appropriate ones so I have everything I need.
  • Week 3: Getting everything out of the office that does not belong in the office
  • Week 4: Rearrange the furniture, have a cleaning crew come through, creating a marketing plan for 2008, etc.

While “organize everything” and “organize my office” are broad goals, these narrowed down sub-goals are practical, achievable goals. Of course, you can break it down further. For week one, a daily goal could be to spend 15, 30, or 60 minutes a day filing (based on how much paper you have!). Of perhaps your goal is to schedule someone to come in during week one and do the filing for you. Perhaps you’ll hire a Professional Organizer. Maybe during week 4 you will with a feng shui expert, a cleaning crew, an interior designer, and a marketing consultant who can have you create a system for marketing your business.

This same formula can work for every area you want to organize. Just scale it appropriately. Maybe you spend a week cleaning out your car and set daily goals: toss all trash, buy a receipt organizer, buy small baskets for the car and talk to the kids about only having as much stuff in the car as will fit in the basket. When everyone gets out of the car, they put all of their stuff into their container. Purchase a mobile organizer that holds notebooks, pens, calculators, etc.

If you want to achieve your goals, whatever they might be, you have to do more than simply stating them. Take action. Start now while the calendar is fresh and there is optimism in the air. If you start planning now and work toward your goals, you will achieve great success this year.

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What is it that you want out of life right now? A successful business? A romantic partner? An organized home? A vacation?

Are you living a life that reflects what you want for yourself and what you value? Not sure? Try this:

Grab a piece of paper, a journal, or open up a new document on your computer. Ask yourself, “what’s taking up my time?” Make a list. Here is an example of things you might include: work, time with your spouse or kids, time with other family, time with friends, volunteer commitments, spiritual development, errands, home improvement, etc.

Examine your list. Your list reflects who you are – but is that who you want to be?

What do you want for your life? Do you wish you could adopt a dog, yet you have a schedule that keeps you away from home 18 hours a day? Do you share with your friends how much you want to have a “special someone” in your life and yet you don’t leave room for dating? Or maybe you are already in a relationship, but you aren’t taking the time to cultivate and nurture it with your partner?

Take time to carefully plan out what you can scale back on or cut out entirely so that you can create room in your life for the things that you want. Go to the next step: now that you have created the time, what else do you need to do to bring those things into you life?  Just because I took two weeks off from work does not mean that I have the resources to take a trip to Argentina. Most likely I’d need to put in more hours at work for a short time, curb any unnecessary spending, apply for a passport, and so on.

While it can be nice to fantasize, wouldn’t you love to turn those flights of fancy into reality? How can you turn these things you want into tangibles? How can you get your time to reflect your values and the things you really want?

  • Decide what you really want.
  • Figure out what you need to do to get what you want.
  • Turn that list of things you need to do into goals and priorities.
  • Create milestones and deadlines for your goals.
  • Tell people you trust about what you want to create accountability and support for yourself.

You won’t get what you want by sitting around on your butt all day – unless what you want is more time to sit on your butt. Dream about it, but make sure you back those dreams up with actions. We’re given 24 hours in a day. Leverage your time and create the life you want.

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The concept of “working at home” is nothing new. People have been working at home since the dawn of time. The ever changing world of work and business has seen an increasing number of people working from home, and there are no signs of that changing any time soon. Writers, independent sales reps, freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs, and employees whose companies permit telecommuting are just a small sampling of the kinds of people working from home these days.

Most people in the working world have experienced having some sort of manager or boss in relatively close proximity who can pop in at any moment to see what they are up to. It’s safe to say that for many people, this is what helps keep them on their toes. But what about those of us who work from home at least part time? I spend the majority of my time in someone else’s office, but when I come home, I still have writing deadlines to meet and things to do for my own businesses.

What can we do when the couch (or in my case, the bed) is calling our name? How do you resist the urge to explore everything the internet has to offer? Here are some suggestions to managing yourself when no one is watching.

Man looking into file

1. Get dressed for work every day. It doesn’t have to be fancy – unless you are meeting clients and that is what is expected. Get in the habit of viewing working from home as any other legitimate work environment. Take a shower, get dressed, drink your coffee, eat breakfast, or whatever your normal routine would be if you were leaving the house.

2. Keep work and home separate. Do the best you can to keep home life and work life separate. While you are working from home, remember, the key is WORK. Dedicate a room, or a least space in a room for working. Don’t work in bed. Create a space specifically for work – get in the habit of realizing you are at work. If other people are at home during the day (house mates, spouse, kids, other relatives), close your door. Send the message that you are at work. An open door sends the message that people can come in at will and interact with you.

3. Set office hours. Maintain those boundaries. Act as though you are at work – because you are. Return personal calls on your lunch break or when you are done with work for the day. Save the housecleaning for later. When work hours are over, enjoy your time with family, friends, or time alone! Sure, you’ve got some leeway, if you were working in an office or store, you’d turn off the lights and head home. Do the same thing at home. Wrap things up and walk away until tomorrow.

4. Plan your work day. Create a to-do list for the day. What absolutely has to get done? What else needs to be accomplished but is less pressing? Set up a mini-road map for the day to provide some structure for yourself. Yes, even artists can use a little structure. I’ve had plenty of artist clients!

5. Create a schedule that works for you. One of the benefits to working at home. If you aren’t a morning person, start a little later, or do tasks earlier in the morning that get your warmed up for when you are at your peak. Perhaps you start the morning with a few non-essential tasks because you know you hit your peak at 11 and you can power through something really important then that will take more of your focus and energy.

6. Take breaks. Take a lunch break. Get up and stretch your legs once every hour or two. Take breaks during times your typically feel sluggish. Use that time to check personal emails or play around on the internet during this time.

7. Create a healthy work environment for yourself. Make sure you have adequate lighting. Get a comfortable chair. Buy a plant. Listen to music that isn’t distracting – avoid mellow sleep inducing music, songs that bring down your mood, or music that makes you want to get up and dance every two minutes. Find the balance between upbeat and out of your seat. Tidy up your work space at the end of the day so you don’t dread starting work the next day because of the prep work you have to do just to get started. Getting started is tough enough as it is – don’t make it harder for yourself.

Working from home can be great as long as you can manage your time. For some of us, working from home can be a luxury (I know it would be for me!), so it is important to make sure that boundaries are put in place so that we get things done. This is important across the board regardless of who you are – but it is really horrible if you convinced your boss to let you work from home twice a week and you get nothing done on those days!

Are you a person who works from home? What struggles have you faced? Which habits and practices work for you?

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“I’m out of time.”

“I don’t have time to do that.”

I have said those phrases countless times and I’m sure at some point in your life, you have as well. When our schedules are filled to the brim and we feel like we are overwhelmed with commitments, there is often a struggle to find personal time. Whether it’s time to exercise, cook healthy meals, read a novel, or play tennis, we tend to put taking care of ourselves behind taking care of others. I used to think that 24 hours was just not enough time. But when you stop to think and focus on the fact that we are given 24 full hours in a day – that really is a lot of time! How we choose to spend our time determines whether or not we feel like we have enough of it to begin with.

Finding time to do the things you want to do and finding the time to take care of yourself can take some disciple. If you have not done it already, map your commitments. Figure out what your priorities are and really get a sense of what is important, urgent and (honestly) required of you. What can you delegate to others? If your kid is 15 years old, maybe its time he made his own lunch. When your kids are hungry on Saturday afternoon, they sure do know where the food is! School days are no different. Get them to pitch in. If you live with roommates, set up a housekeeping schedule.

What’s that? Oh you’ve tried all those things? And you still don’t have enough time? Well, here are some more suggestions:

  • If you often find yourself running late, start making small changes to help you get to where you need to go on time.
  • Plan your day. While you do not need to schedule every minute of the day, laying a foundation helps you get things done in less time. A little more detail can be found in this video clip.
  • Use your commute time to listen to audio books. My mind wanders, so this doesn’t work for me. I’ve asked people if they find audio books to be a useful tool to help them get through books on their “must read” list, and almost all of them said “yes!” So give it a try and see if it works for you.
  • Simplify your routines.
  • Make the most of your lunch break. If you typically find yourself working during your lunch break, stop it! Enjoy your meal, take a walk, get some reading done, or schedule your annual check up.
  • Say no. Respect yourself and your time. If you are feeling maxed out, or someone is asking you to do something that you’d really rather not do, say no! The world will not end.

I’ve been working hard to change my mindset. Instead of complaining that I don’t have the time, I stop myself as soon as I realize what I’m doing. I pause. I ask myself, “what have I signed myself up to do that I don’t really want to do? Which of these projects doesn’t bring me joy? Which meetup group is not that important to me?” When I ask myself these questions, there is always something I can take off my schedule that is not as important or interesting as I thought it was when I raced to get it on my calendar.

Try asking yourself similar questions if you feel like you just don’t have enough time. Where can you make room?

This article was featured in The Nineteenth Edition of the Carnival of Improving Life and the July 28,2008 edition of the Carnival of Self-Mastery.

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Being late has consequences. That was an obvious statement, right? People who struggle with being on time realize that it is a problem. Not only is being late stressful for the person who is late, but it upsets other people and effects how they that person.

If you struggle with being on time, here are my suggestions for some small changes you can make.

  • If you tend to use the same about of gas each day, pick a regular day to refill your tank. OR try filling up your tank on your way home from work – that way when you jump in the car in the morning, you won’t be late to work because your tank was empty and you had to stop for gas. If your local station is like the two closest to my house – you can expect a long wait between 7 and 9AM.
  • Keep the things that have to go with you when you leave the house near the door – keys, purses, backpacks, briefcases.
  • Pick out your clothes and pack your lunch before you go to bed.
  • When scheduling appointments and meetings, schedule in the commute time.
  • Set your clocks a few minutes ahead – or have someone else do it for you. My mom used to set her clocks ahead, but then she’s just subtract the amount of time and say “well, I really have five more minutes – that clock is fast.” So, without her knowledge, I set the clock a little faster. That way, she didn’t know if the clock was one minute or 10 minutes fast. Choose responsibly. If your teenage brother or eight year old daughter sets your clock an hour fast – or sets the clock back – you won’t be too happy about that.
  • Set multiple alarms if you have to. When I was back in college, I had two alarms. I think my roommate did too. I kept my cell phone next to my pillow and kept my alarm clock across the room. My cell phone at the time let me set multiple alarms, so for example, I’d set it for 7AM and then 7:05AM and have the alarm clock set for 7:10. Try putting your alarm in a place that makes you get out of bed to turn it off. And make it loud enough that you can still hear it!

It takes time to create a habit, don’t just try these tips once and give up. Keep trying!

Being on time can help increase the amount of respect people have for you. I lead a few different groups (mainly business networking) and I definitely notice who is always on time and who is always an hour late. When you are on time, people see you as professional, dependable, and responsible. Being on time is also a sign of respect, on your part, to the people around you.

Further Reading:

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Plan your day before you start reading emails or checking voicemails. Take 10 to 20 minutes at the start of your work day to figure out what you need to get done and by when. Set priorities and realistic goals. Make sure the things at the top of your to-do list for the day are things that absolutely need to get done today. Work your way down the list with things that can be done at a later date toward the bottom of the list.

Make sure the items you add to your list contribute to your overall project or business goals. Planning your day before you get inundated with emails and voicemails is a great way to establish some direction and lay a foundation for the day. Even better – if you can make the list the evening before, you’ll be ready to get right to work as soon as you arrive.

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(Published in the CAM Green Solutions Newsletter, June 18, 2008.)

Dealing with work related emails (as well as personal ones) can become less frustrating if you make sure to make these tips part of your email reading routine:

Answer email promptly. Avoid allowing your email inbox to get cluttered. In many ways, dealing with email is like dealing with papers and other physical things – you save time by handling it as few times as possible. When reading emails, go ahead and take a moment to respond to the sender while information is fresh in your mind.

Flag things to follow up on. If you can’t respond right away to an email for a particular reason (you need to do further research, you need to talk to someone else, etc), flag the email for follow up. Gmail let’s you “star” emails, which is a method I use for personal emails to highlight things I need to follow up on. When using Outlook, you can flag an email and assign a follow up date to it – a reminder will be placed on your calendar, which makes it less likely you’ll forget to respond to the email.

Delete messages instead of storing them. As mentioned above – keep your emails from becoming clutter. If you’ve responded to an email and the issue is resolved, go ahead and delete the emails. If you think you might need a paper trail, create folders to store the emails in. One thing I love about Gmail is their archive feature. When I am finished with an email, I archive it, clearing up my inbox. But, if I ever need to search for an email, or any content within it (like a phone number, address, or something else), I just use the search box to enter what I am looking for. Folders and archiving are best used for emails you might have to reference again. If the email really isn’t important (old newsletters, invites for meetings that have already passed, etc) – go ahead and delete it!

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