Time Blocking for Stress and Time Management

A strategy that I often recommend for stress and time management for my clients, and use myself, is time blocking.  Sometimes I create my own stress by being guilty of “one-more-thing-it is”.  Thinking that I have time to do one more thing before I leave the house means that I’m often panting as I race out the door. The solution is to divide my time into blocks to organize my day.

Here’s an example of a typical day:

  • a trip into town for a doctor’s appointment,
  • followed by a quick drive back to my house to throw casseroles into the oven to heat for a luncheon my daughter was giving 30 miles away (yes, I did cheat by raising the oven temp higher than required),
  • then I made the trip to the luncheon, helped my daughter serve the food, and collapsed in a chair to enjoy what I must say was a delicious meal.

If I hadn’t time-blocked on paper my needs for the day, I would have never been able to meet these deadlines!

In the ADHD Time Management class I taught recently, this was an “AHA!” moment for several – learning to time-block what it will take to get out of the house in the morning.

Stress management is a part of most work days. Today I watched the horses roll outside the window of my country office. And I was able to breathe and relieve some stress.

When speaking to a group of high stress medical professionals, I reminded them that 60 to 90% of visits to the doctor are stress-related. A workable solution? Short breaks to be used for deep breathing. This brief break can change your perspective – mental and physical!

Look at a photo of people you love, imagine a paradise vacation, or, in my case, watch the horses rolling in the field…and breathe!

Organizing Tip 1: Use time blocks to schedule your day.

Organizing Tip 2:  Write out the time blocks on paper.

Organizing Tip 3: Schedule in time to breath and de-stress.

Check my website for more strategies for stress and time management.

planning

The Key to Arriving on Time – “The Gap”

Planning: I am always running late, although I leave on time. The key to arriving on time is planning for “The Gap”.

Standing in your kitchen and saying it is time to leave is not planning for “The Gap.”

The time you actually leave is when you pull out of the driveway and go on your way.

“The Gap” includes the time it takes you to go out the door, get into the car, and pull out of the driveway.

“The Gap” may also include going back to the house for something you forgot, like feeding the cat.

If you allow 10 minutes for “The Gap”, you’re probably safe. If you have children, 15 minutes is more realistic.

Practice planning for “The Gap” and see how you reduce your stress. Make it a key time management tool in your personal and professional life. “The Gap” theory is also key to getting to meetings at work
on time!

I would love to have your feedback on how planning for “The Gap” makes a difference for
you.

Conquering Mind Clutter

We often think of organization in the context of things and possessions, but often it is our Mind Clutter that prevents us from achieving our potential.

Tips for Conquering Mind Clutter:

1. Do a Mind Clearing of all the items on your “To Do List” by writing them down on a piece of paper
2. Next ask yourself how important each is on scale of 1 -10
3. Give yourself permission to delegate or eliminate as many items from your list as possible
4. The items that remain on the list then go on the “Must-Do List” and should be written on your calendar.

Time management will aid in working efficiently to complete your new “Must-Do List.” Block 15-minute uninterrupted segments to focus on a project, and only ask of yourself to complete a task one-step at a time.

Creating Uninterrupted Focus Time Pays Off

Getting individuals to set aside uninterrupted Focus Time is like pulling teeth, but when they do set the time aside, they find the greatest relief.

Are you tired of staying late to accomplish your work or coming in early on Saturday because you are behind?

I know your days are full and you don’t have a minute to spare, but are you open to trying something different?

Do you work best focused for long periods on one project or do you prefer variety in your day?

It was eye-opening for one coaching client to realize that she worked best when focused on one project, not moving from one thing to another. It made a tremendous difference in her time management and productivity.

Another client worked best and stayed motivated by switching tasks but still worked best in blocks of time.

Creating Focus Time is a way to get projects done, finished, eliminated! To do this, you need solid blocks of time. I’m not talking about being unavailable to clients, coworkers or family for hours, but can you schedule a single uninterrupted hour to focus on a project?

It has been said that if we create Focus Time, without distractions from our phone or e-mail alert, we can get four times the amount of work done than if we allow interruptions. This may mean putting a sign on our door that says, “Working on a project. I will be available at 11:00.”

Put this topic on the agenda for your next office meeting. Discuss how each person can get Focus Time. Could two individuals swap time to cover each other’s phone calls? Maybe it would be a good idea to close your door and put a note on it. Remind everyone to respect each other’s Focus Time. Unless smoke is coming out of the air vent, don’t interrupt each other. It takes 20 minutes to wrap our mind around detailed projects and an interruption puts a person back at square one.

Here are some guidelines to help you can get more Focus Time:

– Select a time each day in which to focus, realizing that some days this may need to be flexible.
– Who do you need to communicate with about this time?
– How will you remind others not to interrupt? (examples: by e-mail, a sign on your door, or verbally at staff meetings)
– What will you need to turn to turn off phone or e-mail alert? Do you need to redirect your phone calls?

Think about this: You can get done in 10 minutes of Focus Time what might take you 40 minutes with interruptions. An hour of focus on a task or project allows you to maximize your productivity, move forward and complete projects. This will have a tremendous impact on eliminating Mind Clutter and shortening your work day.

Finding Time To Do It All – Make a Plan

“Bad news – time flies
Good news – you are the pilot!”
– Michael Altschuh

How true this little short poem is! A plan can make you a better “time pilot”.

Make a plan to save time and get more done! Try standing up to make your plan. You will be more focused and work faster.

Take control of your schedule by listing what you have to do and then put beside each item an estimated time frame. When I do that, it brings me into reality of what is really do-able for that day. When I see I have 8 hours of items to do and only 5 hours of time, it makes me decide what is really important. I use this system in my office and for my personal projects on the weekends.

For bigger projects you may want a Project Action Plan. Go to www.clutterfree.biz/clutterfree-services/business/  to print one.

1. Stand and list the items to do.
2. Put a time estimate for each item.
3. Reality time – look at the time available and then match it with what is most important to accomplish.

You can also click here to print a Project Action Plan.

Does Your Time Management Go Out the Window with Stress?

The other day, I had a really good day working with a client rescuing a room in her home. It did involve over 3 hours of drive time, so all in all, it was a long day. To top it off I had a one hour Mastermind Call and a one hour teleseminar, plus email to do. I could have skipped the Mastermind Call or the class, but was determined to plow through.

Well, I paid the price. I got my calendar days mixed up and called a coaching client thinking maybe she had forgotten our call, only to find out I had jumped one day ahead. She did laugh and tell me it
made her feel good to know I make mistakes, too. What do you do when you push yourself too far?

The icing on the cake was when I had a cup full of cat food for my garden cats and a cup of bird food in my hand – you guessed it, I poured the bird food in the cat dish. The look on the cats’ faces immediately had me fixing that!

I made myself sit down, take a deep breath, and think about how pushing myself and getting out of balance creates more problems. It isn’t efficient use of my time, and I do not have to be Wonder Woman.

Another telltale sign that I have pushed myself too far is when I stop hanging up my clothes at
the end of the day for several days. It’s a sign that my self-care is out the window.

Do you have signs that are reminders that you need to slow down? Please leave a comment to share.
We can all learn from each other.

Organizing Tip #1
Cramming too much into your day throws time management out the window and increases stress.
Organizing Tip #2
Look for the personal signs that tell you to slow down and honor them. Rethink your schedule of priorities.
Organizing Tip #3
Self-care allows you to give more to the people around you – at your job, at home, in the community. Put yourself on your priority list…at #1!

Clear Your Mind’s Clutter onto Lists, Calendar

Mind ClutterMind Clutter results in lost time, frustration, reduced effectiveness and diminished productivity.

Ever approached your work with the thought, “I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start”?

One of the first things I suggest is a “Mind Clearing.” Let the mind relax by capturing all the To-Dos on paper. If some items are like tangled webs, the use of a project-action plan or a white board can untangle them.

Relief is almost immediate, because the mind has space to think and process what is important. Even if you are not in control of the projects you’re assigned, making the To-Do List can be calming. Suddenly there is clear space, freedom to think. This leads to deciding what is most important and to making a step-by-step plan to get it done.

Put work you are concerned about on your calendar even if it is scheduled out several months. Unfinished projects contribute to our mental clutter.

Time management specialist David Allen says: “It is not that we have too much to do. We have too many things left unfinished.”

Creating focus time is a way to get projects done and eliminated from your To-Do List. Do you work best focused for long periods on one project or do you do best with variety in your day?

You can do in 15 minutes what will take you an hour with interruption, so build into your schedule an
uninterrupted hour to focus on a project.

Here are some ways to make sure that hour is uninterrupted:
– Explain to others why you are letting voicemail answer your calls.
– Move to another space, for example, an empty conference room.
– Put a sign on your door that says “Working on a project. I will be available at 11:00.”
– Turn off the email notification and your phone.

An hour of focus on a task/project allows you to stretch your prime time and complete projects. This will have a tremendous effect on eliminating mind clutter. An added benefit could be that you get work done that you normally come in early or on Saturday to do.

Grab a sheet of paper, a whiteboard or your favorite electronic tool to do the Mind Clearing.

Next look at your calendar and schedule some blocks of focus time.

Taking these steps will reduce your mind clutter, leaving you clearheaded and moving forward to accomplish your goals.

Are You Always Running Late?

Do you often find yourself asking, “Why am I always running late, although I think I am leaving on time?” Running late creates Mind Clutter and negative mind chatter.

The solution is to understand The Gap. Planning for The Gap will get you to work and to business meetings on time. Plan for The Gap any time you have a set time you need to arrive somewhere.

You are probably wondering, “What is the Gap?” The Gap is the difference between when you think you are leaving and when you actually leave. Standing in your kitchen and telling yourself it is time to leave for work is not planning for The Gap. The time you actually leave is when you pull out of the driveway and go on your way.

The Gap includes the time it takes you to go out the door, get into the car, and pull out of the driveway.
The Gap may also include going back to the house for something you forgot, such as a bottle of water or feeding the cat. If you allow 10 minutes for The Gap, you’re probably safe. If you have children, 15 minutes may be more realistic.

Once you are at work, planning for The Gap will also help you get to meetings or appointments on time. Just as when you are leaving your house, The Gap includes the time it takes to gather materials for a meeting and tie up any loose ends.

Work through these steps while planning for The Gap:
– What time are you expected to be at your desk? What time is your appointment or meeting?
– Decide what time you could arrive and have a few minutes to breathe and be calm.
– Take into consideration what time you need to plan to leave if traffic is heavy or if you need to gather materials for your meeting or do one-more-thing.
– Determine the time you normally would plan to leave for work or for your meeting.
– Now add 10-15 minutes so you can arrive on time and stress-free.

Another thing to be aware of is “one-more-thing-itis”. This also can make you late for work or for a meeting. You could leave now but that means you might arrive a few minutes early so you think, “ I can do one more thing”. That is what gets many of us, including me, in trouble because the one-more-thing takes longer than you thought or it leads to another one-more-thing.

The key is to be okay with leaving a few minutes early. For those of us who fear that we might end up wasting 10 minutes with nothing to do if we get somewhere early, keep a book or an unread magazine in your car or spend the time reviewing your calendar.

Changing our departure habits takes focusing on the clock and being realistic. Planning for The Gap will get you to work and to business meetings on time. Once I started planning for The Gap, I was no longer pulling out of my driveway stressed or leaving my office uptight. In fact, my whole day went much better. See if you don’t feel the same positive effects.

Being Connected 24/7 is Counterproductive

Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not something people decided — the trend has crept up on us silently like a fog. From the 1960s through the 1980s, many professionals went to work at 8 in the morning and left at 5 in the evening. Work rarely interfered with personal lives, with the exception of physicians.

For many of us that schedule is inconceivable. Some companies now demand you request permission to leave behind the laptop when you vacation. Seventy-five percent of vacationing employees check in by phone or email, some several times a day. As time management consultant and author Harold Taylor notes, “Work is no longer a place you go to and then leave.”

Should we accept this as the new normal, or is there reason to be concerned?

Many studies have concluded this constant connection is creating high levels of stress. And that causes a myriad of other issues including higher risk of heart conditions and problems with concentration and memory that affect work performance. Up to 90 percent of all primary health-care visits are related to stress, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in lost production and $277 billion in treatment for everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of “Crazy Busy,” sees many people who can’t focus, are forgetful and think they have attention-deficit disorder. He labels their condition “attention-deficit trait.” Almost half of all American workers don’t take their vacation days. Apart from the health risks, people who don’t get out of the office tend to be less creative, less productive and, ultimately, less effective. To improve performance, people need to take time off.

Can you take control?

To develop the mindset that technology should work for you will require you change some habits and readjust your thinking. Consider the bottom-line benefits to you personally, to your family and to your career.

Deciding on real motivation to change is key to making the change. Here are some ways you can take back control:
– Set boundaries on how often you check email. If the idea of not being constantly available makes you nervous, start checking your email every 15 minutes and gradually build up to an hour, then two hours. Having your email notification constantly on is death to productivity.
– If you have a project that needs your full attention, turn off all communication devices. You will be surprised at how much faster you will complete the project when you give it your total focus.
– Do you get jittery thinking about going to lunch and leaving your cell phone in the car? A client of mine said she forgot to take in her cell phone to a lunch event and never enjoyed anything so much.
– Take your vacation. Start the year by scheduling time on your calendar.
– Have a no tech day. Resume your hobbies. Often our best ideas come to us when we are having down time.

Trying to be productive by being connected via technology 24/7 is counterproductive. Instead, we increase our stress, make more errors, find it difficult to focus and get our lives out of balance. Start thinking about time management in a holistic way and control technology so it works for you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

Time Management: Reduce Distractions

Time management is a big goal for a lot of my clients. Often, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to finish up what needs to be done. The key to time management is to work in blocks on one item on your To-Do List only.

One of the biggest threats to time management is distractions. What you have to realize is that what you can do in 10 minutes will take 40 with distractions.

Some common time management distractions and solutions:
1. E-mail It can be very distracting if there is a constant flow of e-mail messages coming to you. Solution:
Change your e-mail settings so that it does not auto-deliver. Then you can filter through and answer your
e-mails in small blocks throughout the day.

2. Phone Calls Solution: Turn off your cell phone. If this makes you nervous, set a timer for an hour and
then you can check your voicemail.

3. Desk Paper Stacks Each pile of paper is diverting your mind from working and saying, “Should I be
doing this now?” “Is this more prominent?” Solution: The long-term goal is to eliminate paper stacks.
However, the short-term goal can be to perform a desk rescue.

Any of these can be daunting, but the benefit is to gain back a life and not constantly be at work. With
good time management, this can be a reality.