Posts tagged hijacked time
Why relaxing isn't relaxing

The schools in my area are on spring break this week. I am working and, starting tonight, watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. When spring break begins, I feel a sense of relief and success. One reaon is that I’ve made it two-thirds of the way through my son’s school year. Another reason is when there is a school break or a holiday, people are less anxious about their legal issues. I receive less e-mail and fewer phone calls which allows my day to feel more fluid and less disjointed.

Most weeks are not disjointed. Life, in general, feels more disjointed. Our attention is rarely on one thing at a time. It isn’t from multitasking, rather it is because there is a “high” that comes with seeing new information.

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When you wake up

This is the time of year when decisions for healthly behavior is at extremes.

At one end, I could be intentional about my health choices and reap the benefits. At the other end, I could ignore all sign pointing to healthy behavior and repeatedly hit snooze because it is cold and no one will notice.

As the seasons change, we are forced to change.

In the summer, there are longer days, better weather, and more choices. It is more difficult to eat healthy this time of year because there is less produce in season. The days are shorter which makes early morning workouts a drag because the sun never comes up. After work is just as difficult. It is a challenge to exercise outside because it is colder and darker. In Iowa, we are experiencing days of cold and rain followed by days of cold and rain. It feels like a formula for seasonal affective disorder.

Small habit goals can make a huge impact

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Save your (brain) cells

People want your attention.

Take a moment and look at your surroundings. If you are outside, there are billboards, vehicle graphics, political yard signs, and sale signs. If you are inside, there are magazine covers, flyers, and reminders. If you are online, there are digital ads, newsletters, mass e-mails, and pop-ups.

Someone wants you to do something or buy something.

There are college degrees, careers and companies whose job is to get one product or person to stand out in front of another.

How does this relate to saving brain cells?

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When you feel overwhelmed

You make thousands of micodecisions every day.  The time you get out of bed.  The amount of cream in your coffee.  The length of your shower.  Along with microdecisions are macrodecisions. Do you get your child a tutor? Do you tell your boss you are behind on a deadline?  Do you hire an expert to do your taxes?

The combination of thousands of microdecisions and proably dozens of macrodecisions each day can build up to feelings of overwhelm.  As you age, it gets worse.  You have to pay more attention to your health and food (or feel the side effects).  You have more assets and debts to manage.  You have increased caretaking responsibilities.

Sometimes I feel overhwhelmed to the point of mental paralyzation.

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Clever way to stop thinking about work

Service professionals bill by the hour. Most attorneys bill by the 1/10 of the hour. It is the only way they get paid for their work.

When I am drafting, researching, and writing notes on a case, I bill for my time.  Typically I am in front of my computer when I am doing these tasks.

What about the time I am thinking about the case, but am not "working"?  For example: (1) the drive home from the office; (2) when I try to go to sleep; (3) when I exercise; or (4) when I take a shower.  Should I bill for that thinking time?

When I realize I am thinking about work during non-work time, my first instinct is to take my mental Whack-a-mole hammer and whack the thoughts so they leave me alone.  This isn’t very effective at making the thoughts go away. 

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Recipe for work happiness

You don't have to look hard to find a motivational quote. 

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do" - Steve Jobs

How about a do this/get that work strategy.

"Sharpen the saw" by Steven Covey.  Preserve and enhance the greatest asset - you!

There are rows and rows of books in the stores on ways to find happiness in your work -- thousands if you go online.  

The issue I have with these quotes is they address work happiness at the macro-level.   If you love what you do, you will do great work.  Let's be serious, there are always parts of work that you don't want to do.

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Improve your work performance

I'm starting my fifth work week after the holiday season.  December is always slow because my main areas of practice are family law and wills.  It makes sense that, in December, people would not (1) be interested in spending money on an attorney; and (2) start a custody action or think about what happens when they die.  But I digress.

After my 2-week holiday vacation, I was not prepared for the huge influx of e-mails and prospective client requests.  I was, however, excited (and relieved).  Then two weeks later I realized I had hopped on the treadmill of a reactive approach to work.

I let emergencies, not of my own doing, take priority of my plans for a productive day.  These reactive decisions would affect the rest of the week.  When I would finish helping with the emergency, I would remind myself not to do it again.  And then, I did it again.

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Start chunking (and get more done)

As I have stated in prior blogs,  e-mail should never be the first thing you do in the morning.  Even when you diligently follow this rule and recognize the benefits are worthwhile, you can still get stuck.  

Each day, all day long, we complete micro tasks that involve making a decision.  More tasks equals more stress.  When your day involves macro tasks, stress elevates.  The tasks on your to-do list are no longer on the same level.  For example, one day I had 1 task that would take 90 minutes, a handful that would take 30 minutes and several that would take 10 minutes or less.  The 90-minute task required full attention and was intellectually challenging.  A few of the 10-minute tasks were also intellectually challenging.  Sprinkled in were follow-up calls and basic document drafting.  

 

 

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Want a productive and satisfying work day?

Starting the business day with a plan is part of successful time management.

But how do you know if your plan for the day is focused on what your business needs right now?

Is the work you enjoy first on your list?  Is the work that will generate client satisfaction on the top of your list?  What about generating revenue? 

Setting out on your workday adventure is about prioritizing - but how you prioritize is also important.  And the flexibility to adjust your priorities is a skill that is often avoided.

At the end of my work day yesterday, I put my priorities in place for today.  This morning, they got reorganized.  

This is a result of taking my business vitals every morning.  If I do it everyday, it only takes 10 minutes.

Here are the vitals I take before I start my journey for a productive and satisfying work day.

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When did we start giving e-mail so much power

I was in college when e-mail first started to become a method of communication available to any person who could get on the internet super highway.

Four years later, "in the year 2000",  I started work as a graduate assistant when I began my graduate school education.  As a manger of several groups of people, I used e-mail as my primary method of communication.  Looking back, I don't remember e-mail being used to voice gripes and grievances, probably because I would see them in person that week and it would be awkward for them.  

In 2004, ten years ago, I worked for a non-profit membership corporation.  I was the liaison to several committees which met in person once a year, otherwise, we did all the work by conference calls, e-mail or individual phone calls.  

I remember losing sleep about not responding to a customer or committee member's e-mail to me the same day I received it.  There was, however, no way for me to get through 100 e-mails a day and also get work done.  I tried to prioritize who I responded to, and in what order, by using a colored flag system - red meaning a reply is urgent.

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