Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

To-Do, or Not To-Do

 

Is your To-Do list the bane of your existence? Or is it an effective time management tool? Those of us list-makers find that writing things down can alleviate possible memory issues, such as going to the market and leaving without the most important item, or packing for a trip to a beachside resort and discovering you forgot to pack a swim suit.

 

But some people personify the To-Do list and hear it relentlessly nagging with “you should…” or “when are you going to…” If you have a list with countless items and you don’t begin because you don’t know where to begin, you are likely to have thoughts like that run through your head.

 

Why not find ways to effectively manage your to do list?

  1. Categorize items
  2. Prioritize items in each category according to things like due dates
  3. Estimate roughly how much time, and when you can realistically attend to the high priority tasks
  4. Schedule them in your calendar as appointments

 

If you still feel that your To-Do list is more like the Grim Reaper constantly hovering over you than a helpful reminder of what you’d like to get done, how about a Not-To-Do list?

 

In her article “To-Do Lists are Great but Do-Not-Do lists Might Be Even Better for You,” Caroline Liu argues that a Do Not Do list lets you dump (or limit) the things that are keeping you from what’s really important. This list makes you look at all the things that you do do in your day and say, “this is not worthy of my time, I’m not going to do it any more.”

 

The key thing is to NOT. DO. THEM. ANY. MORE.

 

Busy Doing What?

Nobody is too busy; it’s just a matter of priorities. Laura Vanderkam has an eye-opening TED talk on this subject.

What if you could be in charge of designing your days by creating a time budget? You know how to budget your money, right? If you have a regular paycheck and you’re aware of your monthly income, presumably, you know how much goes to rent/mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, etc., and what might remain for saving or random spending. And if you don’t have a regular paycheck, then you really have to budget to stay on top of things.

How about applying the same principles to your calendar? Realistically, how much time can you/must you devote to work? To health? To taking care of your home? To your family, friends, community? You can use your calendar to block time for your priorities in each area. Some things will be high priority items, some medium, and some low. You want to commit to the high priorities as much as is realistically possible. It also makes sense to have both cushions and flexibility. For example, include travel times for appointments, and padding for things that run longer than intended.

Sometimes the best laid plans…, so when that happens consider rescheduling as an option. When something unexpected happens – maybe you get a flat tire on the way to your workout class – look for a place later in the week when you can get a different workout in, and make sure to put it in your calendar.

Of course, a portion of your time needs to be spent creating your time budget and updating it daily. Schedule that too. And pay attention to how long things really take so that you can improve your time budgeting skills.

Three Tips for Managing Holiday Madness

Man in Santa Claus hat loooking depressed about his finances

Have you noticed that the winter holidays are starting earlier each year?

Even as days grow shorter and colder, calendars are filling up with all kinds of festive events and obligations. While our wallets aren’t getting any fatter, marketing for the “big” winter holidays is inescapable. We’re bombarded with ads and invitations to buy, buy, BUY. A whirlwind of parties, shopping, eating, and visiting families engulfs us. It all takes an emotional toll even as they allege good times.

Most creatures practice some form of hibernation during the winter months. In contradiction to nature, we humans rev up the action. You can protect yourself from the physical and emotional stress by following these simple steps:

  1. Learn to say no. It’s not mandatory to:
    1. do everything (Try, “Oh, jeez. Looks like I’m already committed then.”)
    2. see everyone (The above idea can work on this one, too.)
    3. eat whatever is offered (Choose what you really, really want and go for small amounts.)
  2. If you’re experiencing the anniversary of a loss in November or December, give yourself time to grieve.
  3. Try going a week without the newspaper, television, or social media… okay a day. A vacation from advertising and news can make a big difference in how you feel.

 

But if, for whatever reason, the season gets you down…don’t be afraid to see a professional. Help is always available. If I can’t help I’ll do my best to provide qualified referrals.

Three Tips to Avoid Late Fees

Penalty word in 3d letters on a steel bear trap to illustrate punishment, fees or fines for breaking rules

Do you ever procrastinate on paying bills? Solutions exist.

 

The List

First make a list of all your monthly bills and their general due dates. Note that some may be due weekly, while others are monthly or quarterly. Some bills will usually have due dates early in the month while others will be due later in the month. Organize your bills in the order that they need to be paid.

 

Pay Date versus Due Date

This is a place where lots of people screw up. Whether you pay electronically or send in a check, there is a time span between when the payment is made and when it arrives. If you pay online, your bank will usually have a note as to how many days it takes for the money to be transferred. If you put a check in the mail it could be anywhere from two days to who knows when. Scheduling pay dates a week before due dates is generally a safe bet.

 

Alert, Alert

If you’re income varies, have you noticed that institutions don’t like it when you try to pay a bill with money that doesn’t exist? Alerts can help with this. With online banking you can set alerts to send you an email with your balance daily or weekly. They can also let you know when a check posts, when you have a low balance threshold, and more. This is great information whether you are paying all your bills yourself or using automatic deductions to handle the job.

 

Finally, tips are only good ideas without implementation. So schedule a chunk of time in your calendar each week to be used for bill pay. Make it an appointment. If something that feels more urgent comes up, make sure to reschedule to a time within 24 hours.

Time Will Tell – Tools that Organize your Thoughts & Time

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Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You have a great idea in the shower and then forget it by the time you’re dressed.
  • A task you thought might take an hour actually takes three.
  • You sometimes get so caught up in one thing that you’re late for something else.
  • Prioritizing your schedule to address all your To Do’s feels impossible.

 

Solutions exist. I like things to be simple and easy to use so these three tools have passed muster. They are Aqua Notes, Time Timer, and Planner Pads.

 

www.myaquanotes.com says, “If you find that some of your best ideas and insights are generated in the tranquility and solitude of the shower…then AquaNotes® is for you! These waterproof notepads help you capture and preserve your ideas before they’re forgotten!” The 40 sheet, refillable pad suctions to your shower wall and even comes with matching pen.

www.timetimer.com has a line of timers, watches, and applications that helps you stay on track. Set the amount of time you want to spend on a specific task and have a bright visual of the time gradually elapsing so you know when you’re getting to the finish.

www.plannerpads.com has both paper and electronic easy-to-use systems that help you organize, prioritize, and schedule in ways that make sense.

 

Even the websites are user friendly. Check them out. Let me know if you start using any of them and tell me about your experience.

The Last Newsletter You’ll Ever Read

newsletter blog

Okay, this is not a promise. It’s more of a thought exercise.

What motivates you to read newsletters?
Do you look forward to useful tips, new information, special offers, upcoming events?
Do you open and read all the newsletters that arrive?
Do you anticipate the arrival of any of them?
Do you delete any unread?

I don’t know your situation, but I receive newsletters from people I barely know as well as from colleagues. Reading takes time and for most of us, our time is valuable.

There are three newsletters I read every time. Invariably they contain information I can use. A few others are interesting to me on occasion and I briefly scan them. And for the rest…there is a link at the bottom of every newsletter that lets you “unsubscribe.” (I hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot here).

So if time management is a concern for you, deciding how you can best use your time is important. If you are already using your calendar and focusing on your priorities (some of you know these are your “big rocks”) when and where do activities like reading newsletters fit for you? Deciding what’s important is important. If the information or education that arrives in a newsletter could have value, great. Look at your schedule and see when you have some time you can set aside for reading.

My intention is to provide a useful tip to you every month, along with a notice or two. If there’s something you’d like, please let me know. My goals is to give you information and tools you can implement.

Newsletter tips not enough? Contact me for that complimentary coaching session I offer.

Who’s in Your Head?

Does this ever happen to you?
Before leaving for an appointment this morning, I checked my email one last time (just to make sure nothing urgent came in. Then, before I knew what I was doing, I opened one that had an intriguing subject line. Wouldn’t you know it, the article had information I was interested in pursuing. I clicked the link that took me to the website that had a list of “helpful resources.” As I scanned the list noting several articles and sites I’d like to check out the “adult voice” in my head reminded me that I had an appointment to get to and that the resources would still be there in the afternoon. Sometimes my eagerness to pursue something interesting gets the best of me. Fortunately, I have more than one voice in my head.
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Eric Berne developed a theory of Transactional Analysis. He said we have three ego states – parent, adult and child. The parent state is the one that creates the “should” that make us feel so guilty. Everyone has this part and it can be relentless. Then there’s the child state. When we’re functioning from this place we’re either resisting the parent state, maybe even being oppositional, or we’re just into having fun. The place you want to come from is the adult state. When you’re there your decisions are not based on what you should do or what’s fun, but on what makes sense.

How do you know what makes sense for you at any given time? One way is to have a future check with an “if…then” conversation (yes in your head). i.e. “if I do this now here’s what is likely to happen as a result.”

You can develop the habit of listening to the adult voice in your head that suggests behaviors that make sense. This is really preferable to being cowed by the tyranny of “should“ or the voice that doggedly resists being told what you must do or be. Of course, it does take time to develop and maintain a habit. Having someone to hold you accountable will help you succeed.
You can do it yourself with commitment and a tracking sheet, find an accountability partner, or better yet, work with a coach.

Who do you know that would love a half hour phone coaching session as a holiday gift? My gift to you when you book your own complimentary session before November 30th.

Check out the Artful Coaching Facebook page for tips and information
And please do “like” us there!

Wait Your Turn

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Does this ever happen to you? You have a thought, but before you can act on that thought another thought bumps the first thought and gets in front of it, and you start focusing on the second thought. Then as you’re attending to that new thought, you remember something related and start thinking about what to do with that. And you realize — wait a minute, wait a minute, what’s going on, and you pause to gather your thoughts. You notice the first thought wandering around and you start to bring it back to the front before another interruption can occur.
This happens to many of us from time to time. It happens to people who are not linear thinkers with frequency. People who are creative thinkers, divergent thinkers, those with ADHD often have so many thoughts vying for attention at the same time that it can be difficult to prioritize and focus on just one thing at a time.
Like right now, I’m writing this article, but ideas for another writing project keep intruding, as does an impulse to take my dog for a walk, and wondering if the mailman has delivered the mail yet.

One possible solution involves using a timer.

* Decide on something you want to/need to do.
* Determine how much time that task might require and how much time you’re willing to devote to it at a particular time. E.g. This afternoon at 3 p.m. for 30 minutes.
* Schedule that in your calendar (if it fits, of course).
* Gather everything you need plus a note pad, and clear things that might be distractions.
* Set the timer for 30 minutes and commit to it. Really.
* Write anything that pops into your head as a different “to do” on the pad so you’ll remember it later.
* At the end of the 30 minutes decide what’s next, continuing with what you were doing if you haven’t finished, or moving on to another task that now has a higher priority.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, sure, that won’t work for me,” you may be right. It’s only a possible solution. Try it. Make adjustments. If it works make it a habit.

Wait, Wait, Just One More Thing

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Ever get pulled into an online story and know you don’t have time to read it all? Or see an intriguing headline posted on your landing page or on some other page you’re visiting? Maybe you’re working on a project and if you can just do that “one more little thing” you can put it away for the day.

When this happens you get time blind. This happens to us non-linear or divergent thinkers all the time. When you get very focused on and involved in something, it’s as if time doesn’t feel like its passing. In fact, you may not be aware of time at all. The downside is that spending that time “right now” can make you late for something you’ve already committed to doing.

Those fifteen minutes you spend reading an article on line causes you to walk out the door to an appointment fifteen minutes later, or have to skip something important, like maybe your breakfast. Wouldn’t you like to find ways to make time boundaries work for you?

It is possible to save online articles and bring them with you so that when you’re sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, or on your lunch break at work you could read then.

Two options that help you save web pages for later reading are “Readability” and “Pocket.” The Readability site boasts “Readability turns any web page into a clean view for reading now or later on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.” And at GetPocket.com you’ll find another version of the same option. The exact article is right there when you have the time to read it.
Now all you have to do it remember to bring your phone when you leave!

August is a vacation month for many. Are you someone who finds it challenging to keep up with your goals and habit during and after breaks? If so, it might be time for a coaching check in. Call for a coaching session if you feel your momentum flagging. Single check in’s only $25 for a half hour telephone session through August 31st.

“Getting Organized for Non-Linear Thinkers” — six week classes are scheduled to begin again this fall.
Tuesdays –starting 9/8 from 7 to 9 p.m. through West Contra Costa Adult Ed
Mondays –starting 9/14 from 7 to 9 p.m. through Piedmont Adult Ed.

Check the school sites for registration information, and be sure to register early.

Planning Saves the Day

desk calendar

Can using a calendar change your life? You bet it can. How would you like to design your days, weeks, and months so you can focus on the people and things that are most important to you?

Chances are that you have tasks in commitments around work, home, family, friends, health, finances, community, maybe personal growth or creative expression are high priorities for you.

Here’s how you design your week. Think about each of the areas. What do you want to or need to do in each of the areas this week or this month? Some things you will want to attend to daily, like job or kids, some things maybe weekly like paying bills, and other things further out like getting together with friends twice a month. It might be possible to combine areas such as taking an art class or exercise class with friends, or being on a team that plays ball weekly.

Some things will be recurring and you schedule those first. Then put in the other more flexible things thinking of them as appointments. Check your calendar every morning and evening to make any updates or other changes and you’re on your way to be in charge of your time.