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.

Three P’s to Peaceful School Mornings

Lost shoes, lost reports and lost keys, the clock seems to be running on double – THE SCHOOL
YEAR BEGINS. No, I am not peeking into your house, but many parents describe this kind of hectic
morning to me.

As a mother of seven grown children, I know mornings can be hectic. Since I survived and also
since I am a Professional Organizer, here are some tips to ease the beginning of each day by
planning, purging and paper handling…

Create a Plan
Get the family together over a dish of ice cream and brainstorm for ideas to meet everyone’s
needs. Listen to each person’s input. The kindergartner’s suggestion may be the best.

Routines keep everyone calmer so the night before…
• Set out planned breakfast items
• Everyone, including Mom and Dad, pick out clothes for the next day
• Divide the house into sections – each person takes an assigned room and spends a few minutes
returning items where they belong
• Take a few minutes in the evening to come together and discuss plans each family member has for the
next day
• If Mom and Dad get up 30 minutes earlier and get dressed before the children get up, it allows time to
handle any problems that arise

Purge, Purge, Purge
This is the time to simplify.

Help young ones go through their room and eliminate the old stuff. They will probably be
willing to throw out many of last year’s school papers. The ones they want to keep can be put
into a sentimental box.

Share old toys with the needy. Sorting through their room is often overwhelming for children to
do. Sometimes it is too stressful for a parent and child to do together, so possibly an older
sibling, aunt or grandparent could help them. As a professional organizer, I also work with
children and since I am a “neutral person,” this works out well.

This is also a good time of year for parents and children to organize their closets so that
selecting clothes to wear will be easier.

Tame the Papers Problem
Have a plan for incoming and outgoing papers. It is not so important what you do with a piece
of paper but that you do follow the plan consistently.

Place all papers that need to be signed in a specific, designated area, possibly a basket near
the door that everyone comes in.

Have a system so children know where their papers will be the next morning. For example, you
may return the papers to them or they may be by their place at breakfast. It is not so important
what you do but that you do it consistently.

Keep papers needed for future dates in one place.

Have one location where everyone writes upcoming events, giving each family member a different color pen to use.

Simple Steps to Organization
Plan a routine, give everyone something on the evening To-Do List, decide how school papers will be
handled, and take the time to purge rooms and closets – these are all simple steps we each can
take to help our families be less stressed on mornings during the school year.

Getting your children off to school is more than just getting them out of our door and into the school’s
door. We want them to feel loved, and we also want to have time to listen to our children as they talk. It is
important to be able to give them a hug and smile as we part for the day. Allow some extra time, because
the unexpected will happen – but with good planning and simple organization, we can handle the
unexpected without unnecessary difficulty.

A Mini New Year

For many of us, September is a “Mini New Year”.  Summer is over and now we are refocused on our business and personal To-Do Lists.

Here are ways to get a jump-start!

1.  Clutter-free & Organized will come in and work with you to quickly cross projects off your To-Do List.

2.  Need a plan?  Schedule a few phone coaching calls to help you plan a productive and stress-free September through January.

Get started today!  Grab a pen and write down the three things in your business and personal life that keep you awake at night.

Business                                               Personal

1.                                                         1.

2.                                                         2.

3.                                                         3.

Call me today to talk about your goals for the “Mini New Year”.

Time Management When Children Are Home

Did I have a big reminder of how little you get done with a 2 year old at your feet!

My granddaughter Ava and I were spending some special time together. By 11 o’clock that morning, I finally
had the kitchen cleaned up from breakfast.

I had a big laugh when I thought about what I teach on procrastination. You may have heard me use the illustration about emptying a dishwasher: Emptying the dishwasher is a 3 -5 minute project, so it is just as easy to “Do It Now!” and get the job done. But you can count on that being an hour project or more when you have a little one helping, interrupting, and causing you to stop and play.

About the time the kitchen was cleaned up, it was time to start lunch. Nap time (hers) was when I finally put on my make-up and real clothes. After all, I needed to look presentable. We were going to the hospital for Ava
to see her new, adopted baby sister.

Having raised 7 children, I had to stop and think how much it helped when the older ones had
assigned chores like emptying the dishwasher. I remembered when my 3 boys were small, we would laugh and say that we didn’t worry about the house getting broken into. If the would-be burglar didn’t break his neck on all the toys on the sidewalk, he would end up falling over all the ride toys in the living room. Someone once asked me what my decorating style was and I said “toys, toys and more toys.” Actually it has never changed – now there are cat toys scattered on the floor.

I may be an organizer but children come first. Organization should support you and not control you. Little ones grow up so quickly. I find it hard to believe my youngest is 35. Given the choice between organizing and spending time with your children, my recommendation is to spend time with your family!

Organizing Tip 1. Put family first in your life – you can empty the dishwasher later.
Organizing Tip 2. There is a funny side to almost everything – lighten up!
Organizing Tip 3. No one expects you to be SuperMom. It is better to be super-loved.

Schedule Some Downtime This Summer

How many autumns have begun and you’ve said, “Summer has gone by in a blur and I didn’t even enjoy it, I was so busy at work”?

Before we know it, we will be looking at fall leaves. It is not too late to make changes that can make our summer fun, relaxing and invigorating.

One of my clients says she can’t break her habit of working late, and that leaves her no time to do extra things with her children. We decided the best cure was to plan an activity and tell the children so she was obligated to leave the office.

Are you saying to yourself, “But I need to work late to get things done?”

I too can be proud of my accomplishments when I stay in my office late into the evening, but if I am honest I’ll admit that I wipe out that productivity by being tired and sluggish the next morning, even if I am sitting at my desk. Is that also true for you?

To quote Canadian time management specialist Harold Taylor, “Working long hours makes you good at one thing — working long hours. It does not increase either your efficiency or effectiveness. Any anticipated increase in personal productivity is usually offset by a lower work pace, additional error, more frequent self-generated distractions, decreased creativity, and a decline in energy and motivation.”

So how do you enjoy this summer?

Get out your calendar and write down on specific days specific things you want to do. Call others and make a commitment with them to do these things. Giving yourself downtime will not only be good for your health and give you a more positive outlook in life, but it will also be good for your business and career.

How many of us get our best ideas in the shower when we are relaxed? Don’t be surprised if brilliant ideas come to you when you are at the pool or in the hammock. Jot them down and relax again.

While we are on the subject of balance, sleep habits must be addressed. Short-changing your sleep is totally unproductive. Science News reports, “People who get by on a modest sleep deficit are often not aware of their shrinking thinking capabilities and don’t feel particularly drowsy.” Studies show that being tired can decrease our productivity by as much as 35 percent. Michal Skalski of a sleep disorder clinic in Poland reports, “Someone who sleeps little is under permanent stress.” The bottom line — if you want to be more productive, get a good night’s sleep.

Just a reminder, when you are doing something for fun or relaxing, turn off your cell phone. The world will not come to an end if you are not connected to it. In fact you will relax more and have real communication with the real people you are with. Isn’t that what life is really about?

It is not too late to make this summer full of great memories. Take a few minutes and think about what you want this summer to look like and get out your calendar and make definite plans.

Remember, having a balanced schedule will make you better at your job in every respect.

Conquer That Overwhelmed Feeling

Does your To-Do List make you feel overwhelmed?

If so, make a list of what you need to do.  Then for each item, ask yourself: “What is the Next Step?”

We can usually conquer the “Next Step” without being overwhelmed.  It is when we think of all the steps to be done on a project that we get paralyzed and then do nothing.

Doing the Next Step will get you started.  A very appropriate quote puts it nicely: “A job begun is a job half done.”