Posts tagged time management
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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Stay in your lane

One of the main reasons I blog is to work through a problem or situation, reflect on an experience, and to have personal accountability when I make a recommendation (which is pretty much every blog post).

One of my personality traits is to make sure everyone is happy.  I am a peacemaker and problem solver no matter where I am.  I don't like people to feel uncomfortable or disregarded.  I don't like to leave a situation in unrest with no plan to fix it.  Trying to make sure everyone is happy comes with the disadvantage of trying to have the answer for everything and be everything to everyone.  

I learned, with practice, how to say "I don't know" and, even more specifically, to say "I don't know everything".  That doesn't stop me from wanting to know everything or following up with "I will find out".  

Here are a few ways I can support someone and stay in my lane.  

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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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More faces. More books.

On Saturday, I did a media cleanse.  A media cleanse is something I made up.  A “cleanse” is more commonly associated as a method of food elimination and intestinal, uh, stimulation.  Merriam-Webster defines the word cleanse as “a very restrictive short-term diet primarily intended to remove toxins from the body”.

My scope of the media cleanse was the elimination of news and social media for a calendar day.  I did it the weekend before the election to keep my sanity.  At that time, it was mostly elimination from Facebook and Twitter, i.e. social media.  Since then, I have become a subscriber to the New York Times and have easy access via my iPad.  I find myself binging on news and social media when I get home after work.  When it started to creep into my workday, I did a call for accountability partners to join me in a media free day.

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Save tons of time with your e-mail

Today, I realized I was spending an unnecessary 3 seconds for each e-mail I drafted.

Here was the culprit phrase "Let me know if you have any questions."

In my blog, I have offered different approaches for managing e-mail to prevent it from consuming your work flow.  Add this one to your arsenal.

This week I had a littered inbox, so I asked myself a few questions about my approach to e-mail.
(1) Why am drafting e-mails as if they were going to be published in tomorrow's paper?
(2) Why do I have to cover every single question that has yet to be asked?
(3) Can I draft professional e-mails with fewer words and achieve the same effect?

To keep things simple for this post, I am going to give you a single challenge -- amend your e-mail sign-off.

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No apologies

Apologies are overused, they impose guilt, and drain your time and energy.

Not only are apologies overused, they are often followed by an excuse.  Example: "I'm sorry I didn't get you called sooner, I was [fill in the blank]."  If you start an e-mail or phone call this way, you've just wasted valuable time thinking about the apology and stating it.  Additionally, you have lowered your confidence and self-esteem.  To make it worse - apologies are not effective for either person;  your groveling apology doesn't make you feel better and it has a small, if any, affect on the other person.

Apologies should be reserved for mistakes.  You missed a meeting.  You overlooked a deadline.  You returned a phone call a month after the voicemail.

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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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My little book of distractions

There is no question that advertisers and social media generators are perfecting the art of getting our attention.  Personally, I can never just read one BuzzFeed list.  

I consider myself a recreational user of marketing with technology.  During a casual conversation, a term was used that needed no explanation - "Link Bait".  As I review "news" stories, I recognize this scandalous method and yet, I still want to click on the link. After all, I can't be in the dark about the hot or not list of the '90s heartthrobs. 

Then there are the daily distractions of your e-mail inbox.  No one can plan how many e-mails, their length and their level of required attention that will populate this enigmatic box.


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Learn to say "I don't give out my e-mail address"

You know the drill - you go to pay for something at a retail store and they ask for your phone number or zip code or e-mail address.  They ask the question like it is the most natural thing in the world.  They imply that your transaction won't happen unless you provide this information.  They expect that you won't question their motives and won't engage in anything confrontational related to their question.

It is getting worse; I don't know if there was a national memo to all the retailers of America but when I was shopping in the Plaza in Kansas City a store clerk asked for an entire profile before you got to give them money for the sale - full name, address, e-mail and phone number.  I heard my friend reply with all of this information and it was everything I could do to not yell "stop giving away your privacy".  I was up next.

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Protect your inbox

E-mail has evolved to the point of being able to be your free secretary.  Yet, it is easy to view it as one size fits all.  I think this happens because no one tells you how to manage your e-mail (other than when you've exceeded capacity).  

Today, I'm going to share a theme that will be a common denominator for my blogs on time management.  "Protect your time."  

There are more blogs and books for how to manage your e-mail than minutes of the day.  To stay true to my theme of "Protect your time" I am asking you today to "Protect your inbox".

If you opened your inbox right now (because it should be closed so you can get work done), there are likely several e-mails that include addressees of more than just you.  Examples are newsletters, listservs, advertisements, promotions, blog notices, Facebook notices - you get the picture.

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