Showing posts with label Manage Time. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manage Time. Show all posts

Friday, March 5, 2010

Good Habit: Take the weekend off!


Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week. - Joseph Addison
Had a very successful entrepreneur tell me that taking the weekend off was like a miracle. She experienced the energy of starting the week fresh. On Monday, she took care of issues that she'd been hanging onto for weeks. She felt more creative.

Stephen Covey calls it "Sharpening the Saw" in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.  Michael Gerber tells us that our work is not our life.

Sometimes you have to work weekends. Most times, I'd argue that you don't. Making up for an unproductive week on the weekend won't serve you well.  Get your work planned out and connected to your calendar and then use time off to recharge. Make me happy. Heck, there might even be a few other people in your life who'd be happy to see more of you as well!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When grief upsets your work/life balance equation.

I wrote this post in January, never sure if I'd publish it. Yesterday, I learned that someone special in the world died, unexpectedly. As another friend described, it was "devastating".  Just as in my post below, I'm freshly thrown off track. So I decided to post after all. Hopefully someone will find it valuable. Here tis. Too long, as usual.
If you've worked with me, you've heard me rail against anger as a "waste of time and energy". Grief, and the sadness that comes with it, is different. Right now, grief is part of my story. Recently I connected the dots and realized that grief is a time management issue. Grief is a time bandit!
Without a lot of background, a relative has at last been give a year's timeframe to live. He has had a tragic life, the choices he made brought him to this point, and yes- by many criteria, it is a "blessing".  His quality of life is poor. Still, there is grief and sadness as I go through this time.
I need to choose how to be with this grief over time. I know that because I did a lot of spinning in November and December, before I acknowledged grief as an extra variable to consider in my work/life balance equation. I was energized by a great autumn, had a lot of plans for 2010, and I was determined that this wouldn't impact my plans. Right. Instead, I basically shut down. I've been gone. Didn't follow up with leads, missed appointments, etc.
A coaching conversation finally woke me up. I was talking with someone who had to revise goals to account for an unexpected illness and recovery. I made the point that recovery takes time, that it's appropriate to be realistic and account for that, even though it meant delaying the action that defined "success" to my client. Sometimes "success" is about being as healthy as possible, and doing what you can and want to, not what you "should". Turns out, I'm in the same boat!

Here's my approach, perhaps there's something you can use as well:
  • Take extremely good care of myself. Be healthy. Physical and mental health are a priority.
  • Ask for help. Support structures come in a lot of flavors: friends and family, therapy, a neighbor who walks my dog, on and on. Spend time with the people who give me energy.
  • Be clean and current in my relationships. Be there, but honest. Be aware of my own boundaries. Make sure that I have no regrets.
  • Be practical. Schedule white space. Leave days open. Outsource or delegate where I can.
  • Stay where the energy is. Don't do things if I don't have the energy for them. Be aware of "flow".
The most important thing is giving myself permission to move energy to the "life" side of the work/life balance equation. I'm kinder to myself. I feel relieved. I have permission to redefine success.

I'm fortunate to have the luxury of choosing to work less. Whether or not you have the wiggle room to take care of a crisis by working less, it's important to recognize the impact and account for it in the best possible way. Pay attention to what's really going on. You might not be able to take the same approach I did, but you can be clear in your intentions for dealing with whatever it is that might be knocking you off balance.  Make choices about what you do and don't handle. Do what serves you well.

I didn't face my facts. Sometimes, despite your best intentions- you might have to change your work/life balance. Give yourself permission. If the fact is that everything is not OK, do what you can to make your way through in the best way possible for you. Remember the airplane/oxygen mask instruction, and take care of yourself first. When it's time to rebalance, you'll be ready.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Use it or lose it- what've you learned this year?

Shelfware. MP3 audio. E-files. CLE course material. An offer of free coaching or consult. Chances are you have a relevant resource at your fingertips, but you've forgotten about it. December is a good month to revisit what you learned, to be sure that you're using what you know! I make my living because knowing what to do isn't the whole story about success- success also requires action, applying what you know on a consistent basis. If everyone did what they learned in seminars or read in books or heard from experts- I wouldn't be adding any value!

That said- my message today is that you might be overlooking something valuable that you already own. Block out some time on an afternoon when you need a break. Survey the material that attracted you at some point in the  year. Pick up the book. Reread the article. Skim the newsletters. Review the AV. Maybe there's something you skipped because it wasn't relevant at the time. Maybe you thought you'd get back to something when the timing was right. End of year is a right time.

Review the resources you've already invested in, use them- or if you have something better or they aren't valuable anymore, lose them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stuck? Got vision? Got focus?

Thinking about a tweet recommending a business coach as: "not the same old, same old business coach - she's a professional ass-kicker".  I'm inspired to say a word about ass-kicking. It's not for everyone. Some great coaching clients have kicked their own selves black and blue to no avail by the time we have our first conversation.  Don't think you have to be kicked into doing what it takes to have a life you love.  There's another consideration, as well. Asses often get kicked right down the wrong path, or catapulted right over some very nice possibilities.

If you're stuck, take a look at where you are in three areas:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Do? Or, not.

Does your "to do" list keep you up at night? Handle it. If a thing is worth doing, it's worth giving a deadline. Any task that will take more than about fifteen minutes should go onto your calendar, with time blocked to get it done. Use "to do" lists for small tasks that you want to remember and limit the shelf life of "to do" items to a day or two.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Missing a "Fake" Deadline Can Have REAL Consequences

Have you ever postponed a deliverable or delayed a court date because you weren't ready? Even though you had plenty of lead time? I can't tell you how often I've heard lawyers talk about blowing through internal deadlines because they weren't "real". I'd like to ask for a shift on that perspective- any deadline you set in order to ensure that you complete a task is real. There's no such thing as a fake deadline.

If you have a deliverable with a beginning and an end, it's a candidate for "projectizing". What I mean by that is to break the final product into smaller chunks and establish milestones for completing these mini-deliverables. In addition to milestones, you need to block time on your calendar to get the work done.

The only way to be sure you'll deliver on time is to estimate what work needs to be completed, and when. Establish internal deadlines and manage to them if you want to meet your external deadlines. Take them seriously, the consequences of missing them are all too real!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hate writing office processes? Try this tip to get started!

I'm big on process-izing. I suppose the correct term is systematizing. Whatever term you use, it's the notion that if there's something you do or produce regularly, it pays to create a repeatable process.

This post isn't about how to create a process, but the basic idea is:
  1. Define the "process" specifically: where it starts and ends

  2. Document needed steps, timing of steps, dependencies, resources or approvals, etc.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer planning reality check: work/life RE-balancing!

If you don't plan June, July & August, it's altogether too easy to "wake up" in September wondering how the heck you're going to get back on track and meet your goals by December! These three months aren't a conventional "quarter" in more than one way. I advocate standard quarterly reviews with analysis and course correction, but I think it's time to recommend a special summer supplement as well.

Whether or not you have kids out of school, it's easy to derail in the summer months. I see three main contributing factors:
  • schedule changes and unpredictability- yours, your clients', your colleagues', your vendors'
  • forget spring fever, summer fever shows up on a weekly basis for some of us & it's harder than ever to self-motivate
  • play gets a higher priority; maybe it's the residual effect of all those "what I did on my summer vacation" essays.
Create a summer plan that takes these factors into account and you'll have a better chance of entering September positioned for a strong year end.

So what am I talking about? Let's make it very simple. It's the end of May. Pull out or pull up or print out your monthy calendars for June/July/August.

First- account for the exception items that show up in the summer:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Waiting until ___? Don't.

Don't wait, that is. Think about the phrase "I know I want to ___ but I'm waiting until___." If there's something that you want or need to do, don't wait for ideal circumstances. Get into action.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've done a number of intro calls with referrals who were exploring coaching. These are mini coaching calls because it's a lot easier to have someone experience coaching than it is to explain it to them.  Something that's come out strongly and consistently is that "waiting to take action until" some event or circumstance is a waste of time and energy. I'm hearing people talk about regrets. It's what I'm feeling passionate about right now.

The most familiar analogy is health. Don't wait until Monday to start going to the gym. Polish off a bag of M&M's? Don't wait until tomorrow to start eating more healthily. The important thing is to take more steps towards your goal than away from it. To start doing the right thing once more than you stop.

You've heard this advice before. I write with the hope that someone who hears it now sees an opportunity she might have discounted. Maybe it's not exactly the right time to do something, might be a little messy, might be less efficient than if you wait- but do it anyway. Sometimes starting is the hardest part. Get it behind you. Don't set yourself up to regret time spent waiting until...

You'll see more connection to my coaching in the blog this year- last year I burned out because I was trying too hard. I was very aware of topics I wanted to make sure I covered, of giving you actionable material, of redundancy, etc. I had a bit of "coach in a box" going in my head, though I'm not sure it showed! This year, I'm not going to edit myself so much. We'll see what happens. (are you there, John Boy?)

I suppose I'm going to have to stop externalizing the interior monologue too, or, maybe not...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ramp Up by Gearing Down?

Stephen Covey would call it "sharpening the saw". I call it "rejuvenate & refocus". Whatever you call it, take the time to take care of yourself this month. Celebrate the progress you made this year, and then start ramping up- perhaps by gearing down.

Here's what I'm not doing this month:
  • Getting all tied up in what I'm told I "should" & shouldn't" be doing vis a vis online marketing and relationship building (turns out this was a significant energy drain for me, entirely self-inflicted)
  • Feeling forced to post, tweet or update my status and stressed about making each interaction "valuable" and unique
  • Changing my website copy
  • Filing anything to read later, email or paper
  • Worrying about holiday cards, shopping or baking I'm never going to get to
  • Feeling guilty about "wasting" time
  • Making commitments that interfere with my rejuvenate/refocus priorities
  • Regretting anything I can't change
Here's what I am up to this month:
  • Coaching, doing some extra pro bono
  • Throwing things out
  • Learning - reading list below
  • Playing with ideas
  • Thinking about what's important, what isn't; what works for me, what doesn't  (yup, not planning, not making lists, just thinking about my focus)
  • Figuring out how to get healthier - is 2009 the year of ice skating?
  • Connecting with people I miss and people who inspire me
  • Staying in the now
  • Wasting time
  • Blocking January so I know what it looks like (& don't have to worry about it while I'm in this December hiatus)
My current reading list:
  • Meatball Sundae & Tribes, by Seth Godin. I've skimmed them, but I want to read and rethink my business at the same time.
  • Reality Check, Guy Kawasaki's latest, which I've already sent to two clients because it was such a great fit for our coaching topics. I love this book, I want to spend time with it. (It's fun! It's educational!)
  • Change or Die, by Alan Deutschman. I want to check in briefly for another look at his methods and examples of change. Some great "keys" to changing. Validates coaching.
  • The Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam. OK, this is pure fun and inspiration! I'm hugely interested in changing all of my speaking materials to visuals. Not as easy as you might think. This book's about visual thinking. Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. If all of the text on my website is replaced by hand-drawn stick figures next year, it's because of this book.
  • What Got You Here Won't Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith.  Great book on leadership, great format, actionable, solid examples. I want to revisit for inspiration and ideas. Anything he writes is good stuff.
  • Something new on self-confidence. I do a lot of work on confidence, in one way or another, and I'd like to see if there's anything new out there.  Haven't researched it yet, this might be a book or an ecourse, not sure. Ideas? Let me know.
Give yourself permission (and a mandate) to be good to yourself as the year ends, even if it means ignoring the "shoulds" in your life today. Do what it takes to start the new year with a big intention and lots of energy.

You deserve the best!  Barbara

Monday, November 3, 2008

What to do when it's (truly) impossible to focus!

Tomorrow is election day. Presidential elections are always an exciting time in my family, as we don't all see eye to eye, but there's no doubt this year is different. It's not just the candidates, or the times we're in, but it's also the first election my daughter is following. She'll always remember this as her first presidential election. I'll remember it as the first year I had to be mindful of her political "upbringing". I don't want her to be a kid who just repeats what she hears at home.

At any rate, I can't seem to concentrate on much else. The calendar might as well have two big red X's over today and tomorrow. I'm about 50% productive. Finding it hard to focus on work. Scheduled coaching calls aren't a problem, but everything else- up in the air! I knew I had to do something or the time would be a complete loss. SO- here's what's been working for me today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time Boxing- the OTHER time management technique!

I rant and rave consistently about the need to block your time- but BOXing time can be the technique you need to handle certain tasks. Time boxing is about creating time limits, then boxing an activity into those limits.  Wherever you are at the end of the box- you're done. No exception.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Just want to STAY in your pajamas? The downside of the home office.

At the GP/Solo conference in Santa Fe next month, there's a presentation called Pajama Practice: Lawyering in a Home Office. Obviously I don't do any lawyering, but I do work from home. Not usually in pajamas, which are inconvenient when I have to walk the dog. My office is a separate space; it looks like an office. I have a second phone line and the Fed Ex guy & gas meter reader know not to ring the bell because I work over the phone. It's an office. But it's at home. And now and then, I don't want to go to work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What makes time blocking work? You.

First- know there are lots of "how tos" that aren't in this post. Time blocking is just one time management tool. You can learn ways to manage interruptions, to prioritize, to delegate, etc. Implementing time management techniques requires commitment and consistent reinforcement.

There are 5 key requirements to making time blocks work for you:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Time Blocks- Single Best Time Management Technique

In the time management class I led recently, I learned that time blocking is a case where a picture is worth a thousand words. First- the words.

Time blocking concepts:
  1. You get more done in significantly less time by focusing. Multi-tasking is inefficient; it takes 50% more time to do something when you are multi-tasking.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Free Up 9 Hours of Productive Time

Front page, Saturday, June 14, NY Times: "Lost in E-mail, Tech Firms Face Self-made Beast". The article discusses how the use of email has "fractured" attention spans and hurt productivity. Intel and other companies are heeding the research and conducting workplace experiements to assess the problem and generate solutions.  A Besex study in the article concluded that 28% of a typical information worker's day is consumed by interruptions that aren't urgent or important and by the time it takes to get back on track. Those numbers support the return on investment companies can expect if they can learn to manage such interruptions as unnecessary email messages.

In my time management coaching with lawyers, I use the statistic that it takes 11 minutes to handle and recover from an interruption.  11 minutes before you return your focus to the work you'd been doing.  Lawyers usually say they have 10-15 unnecessary interruptions a day. At 10 interruptions, you've lost about 9 hours a week. The NYT front page article supports that number. Clearly, lawyers can also expect a decent return on any investment made to control interruptions.

One tactic the tech firms are pursuing involves creating software; for example, a utility that prevents you from checking email during a certain period of protected time. However, they've also had good results from the same technique that I teach- time blocking. Time blocking is simply blocking time on your calendar and protecting it from interruptions. In the article, companies created "quiet time" by hanging laminated cards to announce that interruptions should be limited. The results were "huge", according to an Intel engineer.

Creating time blocks for focused content work and other specific blocks for checking email and voice mail is the first thing I address with clients. It works, even if you only stick to it 75% of the time- which is about where I am. If you try it, it will add hours to your week. GUARANTEED! Time blocking is the first and best way to start seriously addressing work/life balance.

Last Monday, I wrote about becoming a toleration-free zone. This week, time blocking is the topic.  June is about planning to get the results you want to see at the end of the year. Create time, create focus and get into action.

Keep working on your tolerations list and start blocking time to get more work done without losing any personal time at all. (note- feel free to use the new time for fun, too!)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Feeling overwhelmed? The 4 C's to taking a break.

I've talked to so many people this week who are feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Organized people are locking themselves out of offices and homes, wearing their yoga shorts inside out to the gym (yup), forgetting to pick up children, running late for everything - you get the picture.

Friday, May 9, 2008

What are your office hours?

You aren't exactly overbooked, so why should you have office hours? Two reasons:
  1. You need to be able to tell clients and other professionals what hours you work.
  2. You need to have a boundary or target work schedule to help you manage work/life balance.
Your work hours may change as your professional and personal life changes.

Friday, June 1, 2007

It's Friday, manage next week now! (works on Monday too...)

Too many hours in the office this week? Pissed off you didn't get to the gym this week? Start managing.
  1. Block 1/2 hour on your calendar today to review the past week and plan the next.

  2. If you didn't get the work done this week- think about what derailed you. Either cut it out- or plan time for it next week. Create a strategy to prioritize and stay on top of things going forward.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Making time…what’s on your calendar?

Monday morning. What are you up to this week? What's important? Anything urgent? If a truly important, urgent situation arises- where can you change your schedule?

Don't know about you, but I can't manage time. I can't make it go faster or slower,