Posts Tagged ‘time management’

Posted on: March 25th, 2013 by Kristi | No Comments

the non-planner datebook

What organizational product do I see the most of when I visit clients homes?  No, the answer is not calendars, planners and to-do lists.  The product I see the most of is organizing books.  The second most popular find is organizing bins.  The third is calendars, planners and to-do lists. 

Why do I find these items so frequently and in such high volume in clients homes?  The top two were no surprise to me and easy to diagnose.   

  • My clients have a stash of organizing books because they want to be organized.  They are intelligent people and sought out resources.  They eventually came to realize that they simply didn’t have the time to organize on their own, that some steps in the books were difficult to handle emotionally (if it was all about intelligence, I’d be out of a job) and that the steps in the books really weren’t made for their specific situations.  So, I get called in to plan, support and assist.   
  • My clients have a varied collection of organizing bins because they want to be organized.  They are intelligent people and sought out resources.  They eventually came to realize that without a plan, the bins simply displace the clutter.

The third was a little more difficult for me to analyze.  Why do they have so many calendars, planners and lists?  Some are blank, some are partially filled, some are new, some are years old, some are decorative, some are plain, some are small, some are large and some are even electronic.  What became clear was that none were working.  Once again, the products showed a desire to manage their time.  The products showed intelligent people that sought out solutions.  I have come to find that there is no area in which people try to fit into what is popular, current and usual more so than in the area of time management.  People tend to think that one planner or one calendar fits all.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Left-brainers may do well with a typical planner, but right-brainers are more creative and visual.  They need planners that reflect these traits.  What ever happened to writing on the back of your hand?  Well, maybe we don’t need to consider that one, but we do need to consider everything and anything until….it works!  This is one of the services I love to provide my clients.  You don’t have to use a thick planner!  You can use sticky notes, the wall, voice recorders, pictures, index cards, etc…  My August issue of Organization-411 will focus on these creative time management techniques (as well as back to school tips for the parents out there).  In the meantime, check out two of my favorite “planners” linked below.  Also, if this is an area you would like help in, time management is one of the services I provide.  We will work to find what works for YOU!

 

A Favorite Planner for the Creative 


Another Favorite

A Faster Way To Clean Out

Cleaning out is often exhausting work — especially for those who haven't done it in a while. It's easy to walk into a room filled with clutter and become completely overloaded by the task at hand. You try to empty the whole space at once, don't even come close to finishing it all, and end up feeling like a failure  — will you ever be able to see the floor again? Rather than overdoing it (and subsequently paralyzing yourself with frustration and despair), why not set yourself up for success — by tackling just one small pile at a time? If you simply make use of those odd free moments (say, two or three times a day, every day for a week) — you will make a bigger dent in the mess than if you devoted your entire Saturday to sifting and sorting and cleaning out!

  • start a box of items to donate — every time you find something you don't need, toss it in
  • check your desk for dried up pens and markers and throw them out
  • sort through your Tupperware and remove any bowl or lid that's missing it's mate
  • try on clothes you haven't worn in the past year and get rid of anything that doesn't fit
  • gather up a pile of library books / rented videos and return them from whence they came
  • look through your shelves and pull books you'll never read again to donate to the library
  • clean the trash out of your junk drawer
  • remove the extra empty hangers out of your closet and take them to your dry cleaner
  • get rid of old or yucky makeup in your cosmetic drawer
  • put all those purchases you've been meaning to return in a box and schedule an errand day
  • pull out any torn / worn underwear and socks — either turn into rags or discard
  • toss empty bottles of household cleaners, car care items, and gardening chemicals in the garage
  • go through your magazines / catalogs and toss all but the most recent issue
  • throw out expired food from your refrigerator and pantry
  • sort through your recipes and toss those you're never going to get around to making
  • when you unpack your holiday decorations, discard broken ornaments, lights, candles, etc.
  • create a pile of borrowed items to give back to your friends and family
  • clean out batteries and light bulbs that no longer work
  • toss expired items, empty bottles, and used-up grooming supplies in your medicine cabinet
  • put all your “donates” in the car and drive them to the nearest charity drop-off point — now!

See how easy that was? Wink

Strengths And Weaknesses

When delegating a job, keep in mind the person's talents, area of specialization, and schedule. And set yourself up for success by delegating to someone who can actually complete the task! Handing a job off to a person who is missing a key ingredient (time, skills, resources, experience, or willingness) will only frustrate you both. Also keep in mind that the quickest way to turn someone off to a delegated job is to give that person an assignment that is substantially below his or her skill level. Delegate a project to the most junior person who is capable of successfully completing the job — it's silly to waste $30 an hour on an administrative assistant when a $10 an hour temp could complete the work.

When choosing which jobs to farm out, you need to remember that delegation can be used as a very effective training and educational tool. Delegate interesting projects in addition to drudgery — especially if you are trying to groom a new assistant, up-and-comer, or someone you want to be able to take on more and more challenging tasks as time goes by. Frankly, you will wear your team members out and dampen their enthusiasm for assisting you if you only give them the “dregs.” You want delegation to serve as an opportunity to help the other person grow and expand their skills, as well as a way for you to get menial chores done. If you challenge your delegees today, you'll keep them interested in the work — and also be able to give them more difficult assignments in the future (without worrying that they will be overburdened!)

Delegating The Right Way

In order to delegate successfully, you need to follow a system — one that keeps both you and the delegee on track. Let's start with your side of things, as the delegator. When you assign a project to a colleague or employee, how do you remember exactly what you asked of them? When you gave them the job? Your agreed upon deadline? There's nothing more frustrating than handing a job over to someone and forgetting that you delegated it, or when you delegated it, or when it was due back to you. You can keep track of what projects you give to whom by keeping a simple delegation log, in which you record these important details. This is especially important when you've delegated multiple tasks to numerous different people. Simply review your log each week, see which items should have been completed, and follow up with your folks. You'll find yourself facing fewer missed deadlines and experiencing a lot less stress. The last thing you want when you delegate a project is to wake up at 3 AM thinking, “Oh no — did I ask my web master to update my newsletter yet, or not?” We all suffer from mid-life Alzheimer's at times, so write it down!

But you also need to create some structure for your delegee. Don't ever hand a job off with the instructions, “I need this back when you finish.” Give your delegees a firm deadline along with the assignment. Although the ultimate responsibility for completion of the job lies with you, you don't want to waste all of your time chasing after someone saying, “When will you be done?” Similarly, you shouldn't have to guess what kind of a finished productyour assistant will hand you when the final deadline comes around.Communicate the exact result you expect before you delegate the job and agree on a goal with your delegee.That might seem obvious, but few people do this really thoroughly — and they pay the price later. Giveyour helpers enough information to go on so they don't have to keep coming back andasking you for more information every step of the way. The whole pointbehind delegation is to save you time — and that doesn't happen ifyou're always on the phone or in meetings clarifying requests.

Bite-Sized Is Better

It can also be overwhelming to a delegee for you to hand them a huge request and expect them to manage their time effectively without a little guidance. And you certainly don't want to wait until two days before the deadline to see what kind of progress your assistant is making. It's better to set milestones for completing each phase of the project. When you break a job up into smaller “bite-sized” pieces, it's much easier for the delegee to handle, you have set up a series of natural follow-up points throughout the project, and you can check in with your team member at each sub-deadline for a status report.

A lot of people fail to follow up on delegated projects until the very end because they don't want to seem pushy or overbearing. Of course, there is a fine line between checking in and micro-managing. Once you feel the person has a firm grasp on the expected result,allow your delegee enough freedom to decide how to accomplish the job.Delegation is about letting go of a task you didn't need to do in the first place — and as long as it is completed in a satisfactory manner, who cares HOW it was accomplished? But on the other hand, you shouldn't have to guess how far along a delegee is in a project, at any point in the process. Ask your people report their progress at regular intervals — these milestones are the perfect excuse for a meeting or written report. This allows you to discuss any problems the person has run into, any additional resources he/she might need, and make any adjustments to your project schedule.

Don't Squash Their Enthusiasm

No one likes to work hard on a job for someone else and receive none ofthe glory. So be sure to give credit where credit is due!People often think that the only real motivator in this world is money, but that's simply not true. It's been proven that people are more likely to break their necks to do a good job in return for intangible rewards like praise than they would even for a raise or a promotion. Your delegees will work harder for you in the long runif you give them a pat on the back — don't be stingy with the compliments when you feel that a job has been well-done. I promise that you won't give your folks a swelled head, just a swelled sense of accomplishment and pride in their work (and an incentive to help you out again in the future!)

A Faster Way To Get It All Done

Most people's days are so filled to overflowing with responsibilities, that there's is almost no way to get it all done in the hours available. Some things (like work and school and appointments) eat up big chunks of your day, and you have little control over when or how they happen. Others can be squeezed in whenever you've got a few free minutes here or there. The trick to successful time management is making effective and productive use of “micro-moments” — little chunks of time scattered throughout your day, in-between the other bigger commitments. Instead of watching TV, why not get something meaningful accomplished? Any time you can cross a to-do off your list during one of these normally “wasted” periods of time, you're one step ahead of the game.
  • wrap and mail a gift you've been meaning to send off
  • pay the bills that have been sitting on the counter waiting for your attention
  • clean out a cabinet or a drawer that's been driving you up the wall
  • repair a ripped hem
  • respond to a couple of emails or return a few phone calls
  • set out your clothes for the next day
  • make tomorrow's lunch today
  • sew a missing button
  • tackle a small home “fix-it” project (tighten a screw, hang a picture, etc.)
  • do the dishes and wipe down the counters
  • run the vacuum or sweep the floor
  • throw a load of laundry in the washer or dryer
  • put away a pile of clutter that's been staring you in the face for too long
  • clean out your purse, briefcase, or backpack
  • read that magazine article or book you haven't had time for
  • schedule an appointment you've been putting off
  • sort through your incoming mail, separating to-do's from trash
  • reorganize your CDs or DVDs in categorical / alphabetical order
  • gather up outdated magazines and newspapers to put in the recycling

See how easy that was? Wink

Reality Check

It's incredibly difficult for folks to admit that they can't do everything themselves. Well,  guess what — you can't! And I don't know that you'd want to, even if you had the time. Some activities are unpleasant, outside your range of expertise, or just not what you want to spend your time on. There's nothing wrong with bowing out, as long as you can find someone else to take care of it. The not-to-do list helps identify those chores, errands, and daily responsibilities that can (and should) be delegated. This is assuming that we're talking about a job that even needs to be done in the first place — if not, let it go and move on!

Unfortunately, most of us don't realize how close to the edge we are until it's too late and we're about to fall off the cliff. The key to creating a successful “not-to-do” list is awareness –paying attention to what you do, how long it takes, how often you doit, and whether or not you get some benefit from that particularactivity. However, we spend so much of our days on autopilot and in astate of overload, that simply trying to recall how you spent yesterdaymorning can be a real challenge!

Keep a notepad handy, and record your activities for a week. You don't have to log every second of your day (“8:00 — got up / 8:05 — used bathroom / 8:15 — had breakfast” isn't going to help you be more effective and efficient!) But if you can start tracking your work responsibilities (a paid job, housework, or whatever fills your day), travel time to and from activities, and any other external responsibilities (committee meetings, carpools, volunteering), you will begin to see places where you can trim and tighten your schedule through delegation. Make a note of what you are doing — such as “checking e-mails” or “cleaning oven” or “buying groceries.” Then, estimate how much time you have spent on that particular chore (don't forget travel and prep time). Later we'll look at whether this action needs to be done at all (!!) and whether it needs to be done by you. But for now, that's the start of your “not-to-do” list.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

When you were a kid, you probably didn't think much about what it took to earn money — you just asked for what you wanted and somehow, mommy and daddy made it happen. You didn't worry about what stuff cost, and you didn't understand when someone told you it was too “expensive.” Then you got an after-school job or started working for your allowance — and I'll bet you became a lot more discriminating about what you did with hard-earned cash!

It's the same with time.  Very few people really know what their time is worth, in concrete financial terms. They just go through their day on autopilot, wondering where the hours go. Until you recognize that your time is intrinsically valuable, you will never be able to make informed decisions about where your effort is best spent.  Here's a general guide illustrating how much an hour of your time is worth, and how just one hour a day (spent poorly or wisely) adds up over a year's time:

YOUR
ANNUAL INCOME
WHAT ONE HOUR
IS WORTH
ONE HOUR PER DAY
FOR A YEAR
$25,000 $12.61 $3,125
$40,000 $20.49 $5,000
$50,000 $25.61 $6,205
$75,000 $38.42 $9,375
$100,000 $51.23 $12,500
$125,000 $65.10 $15,884
$150,000 $76.84 $18.750
$175,000 $89.65 $21,875
$200,000 $102.46 $25,000
$250,000 $128.07 $31,250
$300,000 $153.69 $37,500
** Based on 244 working days per year

You can always look at delegating in terms of the biggest financial payoff. When I hire someone to take care of an item on my not-to-do list — and I pay them $25 an hour while my hour is worth $60 — I'm coming out ahead. The same is true when I can hire someone to do a task in a half hour that would take me 3 hours to complete. I can be focusing on higher priorities — things that feed my soul or grow my business or let me know I'm alive — without worrying that the work isn't being done.

Look At Costs Versus Benefits

Have you ever caught yourself spending a lot of time on a very low-payoff activity? Low-payoff doesn't mean worthless. This task might actually need to be done — like addressing 1,500 envelopes for a business mailing or cleaning all of the window screens in your house. But it's not something that will immediately and drastically improve your quality of life. And it might be a hugely time-consuming activity, where the rewards you will reap don't even begin to compare to your investment of time and energy. Most of these low-payoff jobs really serve as maintenance — but if left undone, they can erode away at your home, your career, your health, your peace of mind and cause serious problems down the road. That makes these chores perfect candidates for your “not-to-do” list — items that really need to be completed, but not necessarily by YOU. Here are some of the most common suggestions I hear from my clients — see which resonate with you as being potentially delegable:

  • house cleaning
  • grocery shopping and meal preparation
  • paperwork (filing/mailings/organizing)
  • errand-running
  • yard work and landscaping
  • home maintenance and car maintenance
  • follow-up with clients (phone calls/e-mails)
  • travel, meeting, and event arrangements

Of course, you also have to ask if you really enjoy the work. Even though I could probably find someone else to maintain my website for me, I love the process of creating new pages, bringing ideas to life, and watching my baby blossom and grow. It is time-consuming, but I'm filled with renewed energy each time I sit down and add a new section to the site. So the payoff for me comes as a sense of satisfaction and a continued outlet for my creativity — and that is priceless, regardless of what my hour is worth. On the other hand, my sister loves gardening. She finds it incredibly relaxing to dig in the dirt and watch a tiny bud explode into color. Lawn care is pretty much my idea of hell — so I would probably hire someone else to take care of my shrubbery and flowers (if I had a yard!) It's all a matter of what energizes you, what fills your life with joy, and what you look forward to doing. If an activity fits this description, keep it for yourself and find other less-pleasurable chores to include on your not-to-do list.

Is This The Best Possible Use Of Your Time?

The final question I ask my clients when setting up their lists is, “What's the best possible use of your time at this exact moment?” Americans in particular tend to focus too much on the daily grind (paying bills, keeping the house clean, writing reports, etc.) and too little on our real priorities. Those many details may seem urgent at the time — but if you look at the bigger picture, that they really aren't all that pressing. And it's sad when we end up missing out on the important things in life (experiences and relationships) because we're so caught up in the minutiae. Do you really need to be organizing the garage, or spending time with your kids at the park? Is it a higher priority that you decide how to arrange the chairs at the upcoming sales meeting, or that you develop a strong agenda and provide guidance during the group discussion? Will you benefit more from zoning out in front of the television, or taking a walk around the neighborhood with your spouse? Ask yourself where you will get the biggest bang for your buck. That should be where you focus your attention, and let someone else handle the rest.

Once you've made a list of items that you would love to delegate — who do you hand them off to? You have so many options! Just remember, you aren't in it alone. You simply have to decide whatyou want to delegate and then be willing to ask for help. At home, you can get your family involved in the act (see my dear hubby doing dishes?) Kids and spouses are just as capable of handling those daily chores as you are! At the office, don't be afraid to ask a co-worker for some assistance — and offer to help out the next time he or she needs a little bit of a break. Also make use of your support staff (administrative clerks, assistants, and other assorted minions) — that's what they are there for. If you don't have these sorts of support networks to call upon, hire an independent contractor or freelancer to help with household and business tasks that you don't have time for. You might also think about developing a local co-op for sharing those time-consuming domestic (trading off on cooking, cleaning, errand-running, or child care) — or set up an informal swap with a neighbor.