“If you don’t make time, you’ll never find the time.”—Author Unknown
TIME MANAGEMENT ADDENDUM
Time is the most valuable of all resources. It is far more critical than gold, silver, oil, and technology. Paradoxically, it is ubiquitous yet finite. It begins life and ends life. It is both the dawn of creation and the last of breaths. It is a fixed asset that no one can control. Time is not only a constant; it is our life support system. We cannot live without it. Since we cannot control it, we must learn to manage time and use it effectively. If you want happiness and success, time management should be one of your highest priorities. Without adequate time, we would have no journey; thus, no opportunity to love, share or communicate.
My first encounter with time management was attending a San Francisco seminar by Alan Lakein many decades ago. He has often been referred to as the Guru of Time Management. Lakein is the author of “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life”. He referred to Sir William Osler as a man who used the metaphor “water-tight compartments”. Dr. Osler said that ocean liners are required to have solid metal doors that close tightly when a ship begins to take on water. By isolating the stricken area, the crew could focus on shutting out any further damage or sinking. He suggested that if individuals could focus on “day-tight compartments,”; without the distractions and interruptions of outside thoughts or influences, much could be accomplished. This focused attention applies to all activities. By paying close attention to people or tasks, we are able to avoid the time-wasters of distraction and inattention. Almost every book, article, and seminar mentioned a need for focused attention. These later became my “call-words” in working with children and parents. I am convinced that Osler had the critical ingredient for not just time management but learning and ultimate success. Sustained focused attention is indeed a magical tool and a very critical element to be discovered and applied on your journey.
“Either you run the day or the day runs you!”—Jim Rohn
It was at this first seminar that the “tickler file” and its relationship to time management were presented. This simple technique was developed in the early 1900s. A tickler file will not only keep your desk clear but assist in planning and pacing your work. During the past 50 years, I have successfully and pleasurably used this relatively simple system. A tickler file consists of a total of 43 files, 31 daily and 12 monthly. It is expeditious and helpful to arrange them in hanging files. Every time a future task is determined, place it in your appropriate day or month tickler file. Place in each month’s folder those activities that occur consistently in the same month each year. In addition, include special birthdates, vacations, and planned events. Each day I open my file drawer and pull the file and its contents of the hanging file with that day’s “tickler file”. It is designated by a number between 1 and 31. Each represents the day of the month. So, if it’s August 16th, I pull # 16, a hanging file that has a large tab with the number 16. Inside it is a manila folder holding all of the activities, files, notes, or paperclip pages that represent the various items and activities scheduled for that day. Typically, there are about 6 to 15 items. I remove them from the manila folder and begin writing a “to-do list”. It is very important to prioritize your “to do” items. Otherwise, your prime time will be rendered wasted because the absolute musts need to be completed first thing in the morning. If not, it is very possible that a latter-day crisis will be averted.
My pre-printed blank “to-do list” consists of two vertical columns. The larger left column allows me to write prioritized activities and the approximate amount of time necessary for completion. The smaller right column lists phone calls and emails that needed to be sent for that day. Then, I pull out my daily calendar. It has one page for each day of the year. It is kept with me at all times so I can write the appointments and outside activities scheduled for any future day. I complete my to-do list by prioritizing the activities and contacts needed for that particular day, along with the appointments in my daily calendar. I schedule the highest and most difficult priorities for first thing in the morning when I am freshest and filled with energy. I make every attempt to tackle all activities and contacts listed on my “to do” list. I transfer the additional abbreviated appointments or tasks to my daily calendar, which remains with me at all times. Using an “ap” or blank template, you can also print these same tools on your phone or tablet.
“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits!”—Thomas Edison
At the end of each workday, it is important to build in decompression time. It is a chance to transition from a highly focused, intense day to a more relaxed interlude. Decompression allowed me to enjoy my favorite friends and family eventually. It’s important to guard your transition and free time. Often to achieve decompression, I’d take the scenic route home; stop by the bank or hardware store. Other times I might go to the library, take a short stroll, go to a shop, have a short one with a friend, or turn up the radio for a sing-along. Catching my breath became a time to enjoy my solitary splendor. It allowed me to forget work, the day’s troubles, and refocus. However, some days were stress-free, then I would drive straight home, already decompressed. I was now ready for a glass of wine or a stroll through the garden, looking forward to a refreshing evening with my loved ones.
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”—Don Marquis
There is an old saying, “If you want a job done, give it to a busy person.” There’s a lot of truth to that statement. Generally, busy people are usually more efficient because they have mastered the time management skills necessary to complete jobs effectively. They represent the Pareto Principle, i.e., 20% of the population complete 80% of the work; put differently, only 20% of the work is accomplished by 80% of the population. Thus, the busy beavers represent the 2 out of 10, who complete 8 out of 10 jobs, while the remaining eight individuals are spinning their wheels, wallowing, and mired in mud. Perhaps with education or mentoring, we could someday have a balance of 50/50. However, you will need to protect yourself from overwork. Learn to protect your time, don’t be afraid sometimes to say NO!
For many years I have attended time management seminars, read books and articles, and began teaching short courses on time management. In the process, I have concluded that by using bona fide time management shortcuts, the average person can save a minimum of three to up to six weeks of valuable time each year. This can be accomplished by simply changing work habits and employing time-saving techniques. So plan your work and work your plan. By working smarter, you will always have something to look forward to. And, at the very least, you will have achieved greater efficiency and productivity. Then, when Friday afternoon arrives, you’ll clear your desk and prioritize your upcoming week, so you can enjoy a work-free weekend with those you love and enjoy.
“If you snooze, you lose, and if you snore, you lose more.”—Phyllis George
Remember that your past experiences will assist you in determining the challenges and changes you will need to face in your future. Now is your opportunity to change and reconcile your past time management transgressions. You will be less shocked by time inefficiencies that are replaced by time effectiveness. Utilize as many time management techniques below and remove the shackles of the past. Start writing your punch list of future fun. By having this extra gift of time, you can recharge your batteries and plan your next trip, buy a new outfit, attend sports events, sit on the beach, go fishing, play tennis, take a bike ride, or a cruise. You will now have more time to fulfill even your most secret desires.
“We can only control what we do with our time…“—Art Sobczak
TIME MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES
There are two major types of time killers: people and paper. People time killers include phone calls, interruptions, unexpected visitors, meetings, electronic devices, and appointments. Paper time killers include correspondence, files, mail, contacts, and reading material. Thus, these two major time killers create our biggest time wasters due to: lack of time management systems, poor planning, indecision, downtime, inefficiencies of start and stop, high tech devices such as cell phones and computers, distractions, poor telephone behavior, and unclear communications.
Please remember that studies indicate that the first hour of work is the most productive hour of the day. Time is your ally and friend, not your enemy. According to researchers, most people during that first hour make the least errors; have 150% more energy than the rest of the morning and 200% more energy than the afternoon. Below are other suggested timesavers that deal with these time killers. These time busters should save you at least 30 to 60 minutes per day:
Get a good night’s sleep. Get up two hours before you begin work. Unfortunately, people often get up late and start their day rushing.
Use your home or local gym to exercise at least 15 minutes a day before leaving for work. It burns off excessive hormones, increases metabolism, and enhances efficiency.
Establish a “tickler file”, as mentioned above. It takes about two hours and includes 43 file folders and hanging files. This file takes up approximately 8 inches of a file drawer.
Review your “tickler file” daily, establishing a prioritized “to-do list”. Include activities and phone calls. Schedule each day in increments of no more than 45 minutes. Try to switch tasks after each 45-minute increment.
While commuting, relax and listen to instructional tapes, music, news briefs, relaxation exercises, etc.
Get to your office 30 minutes before you are scheduled to begin work. Don’t be on time, be fashionably early. Set an example! Before you do anything, including your Email, plan your day.
You may have paper stacked on your desk, bulging filing cabinets, or items needing filing. Develop superior trash basket skills! Eliminate clutter! Desks should be cleared and filing cabinets purged regularly.
A relatively neat office represents the semblance of organization. However, avoid perfectionism; can also be a time-waster. As long as the number of your errors does not become unreasonable, relax and do the best you can without being perfect.
Do a job right the first time. Spread it out on your desk, stay focused, and chained it to your desk until it's done!
Handle a piece of paper only once—stop recycling the same paper! Unless there is a compelling reason to delay, make a decision immediately and move on. There is an acronym that summarizes your action with each piece of paper.-- F. A. R. T.-- Let the gas out by either Filing it, taking Action, , Referring it, or Tossing it. Use color folders to identify the level of importance. If it’s urgent, put it in a red file. If it’s important, put it in the green file. If it’s a low priority, put it in a yellow file. Then place them in your tickler file based on the date needed.
Arrange your desk space for easy access to files, drawers, and priority equipment.
Write precise, clear, short memos and Emails.
Speed-read and skim; when reading things, read them like a newspaper.
Date magazines when received; read the table of contents; if possible, tear out articles for later reading. Read the magazines within 14 days of receipt date; if you don’t, dispose of them. If your conscience won’t allow it, donate them to charity.
If you have staff, have a 5 to 10-minute standup staff meeting with no chairs and no coffee. Allow just enough time to review your day and expectations for that day briefly.
PLAN-PLAN-PLAN-- remember one hour of planning saves two hours of execution. Try to have a checklist or agenda available before making calls or having appointments. Remember, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Maintain good communication relationships with your colleagues, attorney, CPA, professional associates, etc. Take them to lunch once every 3 to 4 months. Try not to spend that time getting free advice!
Take breaks… Coffee, exercise, meditation, or if absolutely necessary, hideout in your car, bathroom, or library.
When appointments are late, or you’re waiting in an office, do low priority activities like reviewing invoices, prioritizing paperwork, or reviewing correspondence.
To complete higher priority tasks, reserve a minimum of 45 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted work time each day. Don’t accept calls or interruptions. If necessary, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign outside your door
Don’t rush; it reflects poor personal planning and distracts from good human relations. Being late or rushing displays poor organization and creates unnecessary stress. One late appointment can put you behind for the rest of the day. Likewise, being nice to one late arrival means being rude to all those that follow. When things go awry, don’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy, such as “I should have stayed in bed and never gotten up this morning” or, “I knew this was going to be one of those days.” Simply restart your day!
A huge time waster is called “DOWNTIME” -it is a reactive and counterproductive response rather than pro-action. Downtime includes: worrying, anger, depression, daydreaming, blaming, complaining, retribution, game playing, or dwelling on the past or future. Downtime serves no useful purpose; it simply a series of ruts that delay progress
Ride your energy peaks by determining if you are a lark or an owl. Work on your highest priorities during your peak times. Remember, the first hour of work is generally the most productive hour of the day. So do the toughest jobs first.
Don’t be afraid to take a “cat-nap”. Optimally, it should be for 15-20 minutes. Some of the most productive individuals, such as Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin, relied on “cat-naps”.
Use a dictating device or notepad to jot down ideas or reminders. Dictate personalized messages and feedback to your staff and colleagues so that they can be transcribed later. These messages can be recorded during travel time or when the thought occurs.
Utilize sleep time to solve problems. Assign a problem to your subconscious; you may be surprised to find yourself waking up with a solution. Keep a paper and pencil on your nightstand
Break down a job into bite-size pieces. How do you eat an elephant?----One-piece at a time. Examples include projects, tax-preparation, reports, speeches, etc.
To avoid being late to appointments and also allow for traffic and enough time to review your “gift of time folder”, leave an extra 15 minutes early.
Practice deep breathing during your drive or public transportation time, especially during commute traffic.
If you expect a challenging meeting listen to a humor audiotape as you travel to or from.
Consider waiting in a bank, doctor’s office, or on “phone-hold” as a gift of time. Use it to relax, plan, read, go over mail, or meet someone new.
Paradoxically, the telephone can be either a time savior or a time killer. It speeds communication, resolves problems, expedites honest feelings, and relieves stress. However, it can be a stress producer, distractor, and major time waster. Carefully select your best time to either send or receive calls. Avoid telephone bullies and long-winded intruders. Unless they are the highest priority, group calls or return them in the prescribed time in priority order. Do it during your least productive time. Cut off all calls when they reach diminishing returns….”I know how precious your time is, so let’s summarize….” Or, “Oops, my 11:30 appointment is here….”
Blaming others does not resolve problems. Avoid blaming. It is poor role modeling that allows others to copy and repeat your behavior.
Worrying is a huge time waster. Remember, 90 percent of your worries never come true!
Decisions and actions solve problems, not fear, inaction, or worrying. Facing difficulties when they arise does not allow them to fester and grow. Thoughtful, decisive action saves gobs of time!
Consciously decide to forget the trivial without a tinge of guilt. Forget the unnecessary; it’s called “Selective Neglect”.
In hiring personnel, choose the most competent applicants. Take as much time as necessary to select the very best fit for your staff. It may take a great deal of upfront time but saves hundreds of hours later at the backend.
Resolve personnel problems as soon as you possibly can. Unresolved problems can become major time wasters.
Utilize humor as much as humanly possible. It’s magical music to the soul.
Don’t forget to eat nutritious, low-fat meals, exercise, reflect, and get a good night’s sleep.
Although perhaps politically incorrect, I must admit that one of my most productive places to read, review, or consider a proposal is the toilet seat. I find it very quiet and relaxing.
Do not allow gadgets to control you. According to research, the average person checks his phone at least 15 times/day and sends 40 text messages /day. Monitor your time by scheduling your phone, Emails, texts, and other potential interruptions. Unless for an emergency, avoid mixing your work time with your personal time and vice versa!
Keep your head up and treasure every moment. Time waits for no one.
Remember that life is a balance of work and play. Do you work to live? -----or do you live to work? Keep your life harmonious and balanced between family, work errands, social activities, and community service.
Remember, it’s the well-organized turtle that plans and manages his/her time. Turtles run circles around the hare that is constantly stopping and starting while wasting huge chunks of time. It is the hare who is constantly distracted at each turn, functioning without a plan or directions. Don’t be like the White Rabbit who is always late for a very important date. He lives a frenzied existence, never able to relax and enjoy life. Work smart so that you can play hard!
Be sure to include several different things to look forward to throughout each week and month. Review your week. Make sure you have built-in family activities, professional activities, cultural activities, or personal time in your schedule. Please remember that the family is the most important factor for personal stability and happiness. Give them quality time and attention. So, plan personal time. Being a role model may be your only claim to perpetuity!
“Anything that is wasted effort represents time. The best management of our time thus becomes linked inseparably with the best utilization of our efforts.”—Theodore W, Engstrom
One rather sagacious individual defined a meeting as “An organized group that keeps minutes and wastes hours.” Another philosophical cowboy suggested that a meeting was “like a herd of steers, a point here and a point there are many bull in between.” Here are some helpful suggestions regarding meetings:
Only hold a meeting when absolutely necessary. You should determine whether the purpose of the meeting will meet the needs of those involved. Most meetings are not necessary; they should be intended primarily for input and decision-making.
Dissemination of information should be in the form of memos or Emails, not meetings.
Remember that an hour of planning will save two hours of meeting time.
Estimate the cost of a meeting by the number of hours and the dollars per hour paid per person. Then, decide if you still want the meeting
Don’t have regularly scheduled meetings. Sending correspondence is far more expeditious.
Prepare a typed agenda listing the nature of each item (e.g., is the item for discussion, brainstorming, decision, or additional action.) Distribute the agenda in advance so that all will be prepared. Be careful to state the purpose of the meeting.
The meeting should be focused on thinking and sharing. Encourage participation, but try to estimate the amount of time that each agenda item will take. Try to stay within that timeframe. Set a time limit for the meeting. And, if possible, adjourn the meeting before the agreed-upon ending time.
To expedite meetings, schedule them before lunch. Promote participation, but use diplomacy and firmness to keep the meeting moving. Exercise, strong leadership, and if necessary, have a rotating Sergeant at Arms.
Have the last person that arrived take the meeting minutes. The minutes taken thus far can be passed on when a late arriver joins the group.
If necessary, have your secretary interrupt the meeting at the prescribed time or signal. Or indicate your next appointment is due shortly. You may need to establish a double cut-off point or excuse yourself by saying, “I need to leave in five minutes to make my next appointment.”
Reserve social activities for lunch or after hours.
Close your meeting with a brief summary.
Reserve social activities for lunch or after hours.
There are a number of time management publications available. Alan Lakein’s book, “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life,” might be a good one to start with.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t fear spontaneity! It should be reserved for moments of intimacy and excitement with loved ones and friends. Efficient time managers are also the most successful time wasters. It is a contradiction of terms? Not really! Rest periods and vacations are enjoyed only after productive, satisfying work. Time management makes you productive and self-satisfied. When you decide to waste time, it will not be because the matter is beyond your control; it’s because you want to. Gone are the guilt feelings and remorse. A good time manager works smart, plays hard, and loafs with a clear conscience. I recommend this type of life without any hesitation. I believe you will want to live this way too. It is only a matter of time!
“Somebody’s boring me; I think it’s me!”—Dylan Thomas
In the body of this book, I made reference several times to boredom. Since it is very relevant to time management, I have added this short review to its addendum. I was recently reminded of boredom by a story of Julia Ward Howe, an outstanding American patriot. She wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and attributed much of her vitality, success, and motivation to her remarkable grandmother. She nostalgically recalled the words of her late grandmother saying, “Julia, I can excuse almost anything you do, except one thing, her grandmother continued, “I can excuse you for being naughty and even for telling a fib now and then. But never, never, as long as I live, let me hear you say the word you are bored.” As you might recall, I shared those same words with my own children.
Boredom is one of the poorest excuses for inaction that one can possibly conceive. Not only is it counterproductive, but it reflects fear of action, lack of creativity, dependency on other’s direction, and an escape from reality. It represents a potentially large deficit in productivity. As Julia Ward Howe’s grandmother knew, it was one of the evils of time management. Boredom represents a severe lack of motivation, purpose, and lack of imagination. As Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said in his book on positive thinking:
“Almost every day, I hear people say that they are bored with their work. Such people lack imagination. Nothing need be humdrum. You can find excitement in any job.”
There is so much to be gained by pro-action instead of inaction. The satisfaction that you obtain from a proactive stance is immense. It will fill you with invigorated spirit and move you closer to your personal goals. It will move mountains and tame bullies. Being proactive is the ultimate time management technique because it eliminates downtime and replaces it with energy, enthusiasm, and ultimate success.