“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
Michael Altshuler, CEO
I have the unique privilege of speaking to thousands of people around the world every year and I correspond with thousands of others through my publications and the emails I answer. These people come from every industry, profession, race, country, and economic condition. But they all have one thing in common: None of them have enough time.
That’s sad because the use of your time determines the quality of your life.
Until you get a handle on your time, the success of your work and depth of your relationships are pretty much left to chance. And that’s unacceptably scary … and totally unnecessary.
(That’s why I’ll be offering my brand new webinar, “Your Time Recovery Toolkit: How You Can Save an Hour a Day at Work and at Home” on August 21st at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Registration won’t open for a few days, but I wanted you to be aware of it so you could put it on your calendar.)
But let me give you a few time tips right now.
1. Do one thing at a time … WELL.
Yeah, I know this will sound old-fashioned to the younger generations who proudly tout their ability to effectively multi-task a variety of tasks, all at the same time. The problem is … the research doesn’t back them up.
According to an article in “Scientific American Mind” magazine, our brains are not wired for multi-tasking. We have a left brain that is primarily logical and a right brain that is primarily emotional. If you’re dealing with an Excel spreadsheet, it goes to the left side of the brain. If you get interrupted in the midst of your analysis by an upset customer, your right brain gets activated as well. All it takes is an urgent cell phone call in the midst of all that and your brain will be on overload. And chances are you’ll make a mistake of some sort in one of those areas.
In study after study, the most successful managers are the ones who do one thing at a time. Indeed, the very best managers complete their tasks sequentially, working and completing one item before going on to another.
Interestingly enough, one of Albert Einstein’s students couldn’t believe that he worked that way. After all, being one of the most intelligent men of all time, he figured he must have a thousand things going on in his mind at the same time. So he asked him, “Dr. Einstein, what do you think about when you’re tying your shoe?”
Einstein replied, “Mostly young man, when I am tying my shoe, I think about the bow.”
Along that same line of thought, to be a great time manager…
2. Keep your focus.
One of the primary reasons you may feel like you never have enough time is because you may be easily distracted. You let every new thought take you in a different direction.
My step mom calls it A.A.A.D.D. or “Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.” That may be true, although I’ve seen the same symptoms in people of all ages. But this is what my step mom sent me.
I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.
I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.
I lay my car keys on the table,
Put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
And notice that the can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back
On the table and take out the garbage first…
But then I think,
Since I’m going to be near the mailbox
When I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my check book off the table,
And see that there is only one check left.
My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
So I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Pepsi I’d been drinking.
I’m going to look for my checks,
But first I need to push the Pepsi aside
So that I don’t accidentally knock it over.
The Pepsi is getting warm,
And I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi,
A vase of flowers on the counter
Catches my eye–they need water.
I put the Pepsi on the counter and
Discover my reading glasses that
I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk,
But first I’m going to water the flowers.
I set the glasses back down on the counter ,
Fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I’ll be looking for the remote,
But I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table,
So I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
But first I’ll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers,
But quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table,
Get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to
Remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day:
The car isn’t washed,
The bills aren’t paid,
There is a warm can of
Pepsi sitting on the counter,
The flowers don’t have enough water,
There is still only one check in my check book,
I can’t find the remote,
I can’t find my glasses,
And I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
And I’m really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem,
And I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail….
We can all laugh at this little ditty, but we could just as easily cry. Because it’s all too close to the truth. To experience the happiness and satisfaction you want in your life, to experience the meaningful achievements you want in your work, you must learn to keep your focus.
It will be a battle. Distractions will do their best to keep you confused, befuddled, and overwhelmed. But it is a battle you must win.
As American poet Carl Sandburg put it, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people (or distractions) spend it for you.”
3. Manage your “gotta minutes.”
I know I’m guilty of this. When I’m running 100 miles an hour and a question pops into my mind, I want an answer right now. So I barge into one of my employee’s offices or interrupt my wife and ask, “Gotta minute?” I may not even take the time to consider whether this would be a good time to interrupt them and their work; I just want an answer now.
Of course, most everyone in my personal and professional lives do the same thing to me. They run into my office, call me on the phone, or send a text with their “gotta minute” request. It seems to be a part of everyday life these days.
Unfortunately, those “gotta minutes,” whether legitimate or frivolous, fall into the category of interruptions. And they’re serious time wasters. According to a survey by Basex, a U.S. technology research firm, you only get 11 minutes to focus on a task before you encounter some form of interruption. And then another 25 minutes are consumed before you’re able to return to your original task with full focus. So it’s no wonder Basex says interruptions devour 28% of the typical professional’s workday.
To manage the interruptions or “gotta minutes” in your work life, you need to establish some guidelines … and follow them. For example, you may:
- Decide to shut off the sound every time a new e-mail comes in,
- Decide to read your e-mail no more than three times a day,
- Decide to reply to all e-mails at once rather than constantly throughout the day,
- Allow some calls to go to voice mail,
- Inform your coworkers, unless something is truly urgent and important, to save up their “gotta minutes” until they have at least 3 of them, or
- Reduce the number of “gotta minutes” you impose on others until you have at least 3 to discuss.
You get the idea. You’ve got to reduce the number of interruptions you allow into your life. Because if you’re not in charge of your life, somebody else will be. And you may not like some of the decisions they’re making for your life.
Decide this day two things you can do and will do to handle time more effectively.
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This “Tuesday Tip” was inspired by Dr. Zimmerman’s program “Take this Job and Love It!” Click the link to learn more about this program and how to Manage Stress, Prevent Burnout, and Balance Life!