Around the World of Time Management

April 3, 2011

Since embarking on this blog journey just a couple of months ago, I have discovered a number of other bloggers who are far wiser than I.  Here is a brief tour of some of my favorite time management experts in the blogosphere:

South Florida-based writer Cindy Krischer Goodman maintains the Work/Life Balancing Act blog for the Miami Herald.  Her primary target audience is moms who work outside the home, but Cindy has a lot to teach readers of both genders and in all stages of life about everything from organizing your desk to using social media at work.  Her blog incorporates some of her well-researched articles for the print edition of the Herald.

Follow Cindy on Twitter at @balancegal.

Time management consultant Francis Wade of Kingston, Jamaica dedicates his blog, 2Time, to sharing “edgy, new ideas for getting yourself unstuck from a time management rut.”  His posts are always insightful and offer great food-for-thought on how to better manage your time.  The 2Time site also features some wonderful podcasts and video interviews that are worth checking out.

Follow Francis on Twitter at @fwade.

Like me, Mike Arieh Medina of Mati City, Philipines is a busy graduate student trying to juggle multiple priorities.  He chronicles his journey on his blog, Grad School Jungle.  Mike covers many facets of the graduate school experience, but it’s clear from posts like “5 Time Saving Tips” and “Top 10 Time Wasters” how essential good time management is to his success as a student.

Grad School Jungle is also on Facebook.

Author and project management expert Dr. Mike Clayton of Southampton, U.K. (isn’t that where the Titanic departed from?) recently released his fourth book, Brilliant Time Management and has developed a nice blog on the same subject.  There, he offers readers easy-to-follow practical techniques for overcoming challenges like procrastination and multi-tasking.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @mikeclayton01.

With 17 books under his belt, Harold Taylor is one of Canada’s most renowned time management experts.  His Taylor Time Blog focuses primarily on the importance of prioritizing, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy work/life balance.  Based on the bio posted on his site, it sounds like he learned those lessons the hard way.   

Follow Harold on Twitter at @haroldtaylor.

And then there’s little old me in Memphis, Tennessee, “green” with envy that these wise people have mastered the skill of time management, and at the same time grateful that they are willing to share their hard-earned wisdom with me on their blogs.

I’ve started a Twitter list of time management gurus and am always looking for more people to add.  So please let me know: Where in the world are your favorite time management bloggers?

Thanks to Grant Smith for guiding me through the process of embedding a Google Map into my blog.


I Get By With a Little Help From My Colleagues

March 13, 2011
For this week’s dose of time management wisdom, I decided to do some offline crowdsourcing and turned to some of the most productive people I know: my talented colleagues at Sedgwick CMS.  They were kind enough to share their insights and tactics for staying organized and on deadline.  Meet…

Lu Crowder

Lu Crowder, a strategic project manager who oversees a number of company initiatives.  She travels a lot for business and pleasure and stays busy keeping up with her four active grandchildren.  Lu recommends to:
  • Protect your time: I’ve learned so much from working closely with Lu, but perhaps my all-time favorite is that “inefficiency on your part does not consistute an emergency on mine.”  Don’t let others who are less organized than you monopolize your time.
  • Leverage technology: She is a heavy user of folders and sub-folders in her Outlook inbox and electronic documents, which helps her spend less time searching for things.  Lu also uses e-mail discussions to minimize the need for timely face-to-face meetings and long conference calls.
  • Delegate: This can be tough to accomplish without being bossy, she says, but it allows others to learn and grow and frees her up to focus on other things. 

Jason Hood

Chief Legal Officer Jason Hood has a lot on his plate, including managing our active legal department and spending time with his wife and two children.  He uses tools like Franklin Covey’s day timer and desk file sorter to stay organized.  He also suggests:

  • Set goals: Jason’s refreshing management style includes asking his employees to carve out one big professional goal and one big personal goal each year.  He then works to support them in both areas.  You can focus on maybe 3 or 4 goals at a time, Jason says, but not 12.
  • Be flexible: Accept that your best-laid plans will go often astray.  When interruptions do arise, address them and then get back to your original goal, or replace it with a new one.
  • Discipline: Schedule time for the things you really don’t want to do.  Power through to get them done, rather than procrastinating by accomplishing five smaller and less important tasks.
  • Write things down: Jason puts his task list to paper so that it’s not constantly scrolling through his head.  He also tries to journal what he achieves each day to give himself a sense of accomplishment and clear his focus for tomorrow’s tasks.
Joe Labetti

Joe Labetti is a regional account executive who is notorious for having the cleanest desk in the office.  His secret: never touch a piece of paper twice.  It’s a mantra he learned from an old boss that remains central to his approach to work.  For example, the only papers on his desk at any given time are those he is acting on that day.  After something has been handled, it either gets filed or thrown away.  The same holds true for his e-mails–messages stay in his inbox for no more than a day.  The rest are sorted into folders.  Joe warns against falling into the trap of moving piles of paper around (a.k.a. story of my life), as he finds clutter very distracting.  How does he keep up with it all so efficiently?  Structure and organization, he says. 

Melisa Spencer

Attorney Melisa Spencer is a busy working mom of two young children.  Her biggest challenge is the work/family balance that so many of us struggle with.  Her tips for staying afloat include:

  • Find stable childcare: “I’m not functional if my kids aren’t taken care of,” Melisa says.  Knowing that her children are in good hands gives her the peace of mind she needs to focus on work.
  • Schedule what’s important: Keeping an up-to-date calendar in Outlook helps her prioritize and manage her time each day.
  • Work on yourself, not just work: Meeting personal goals can be even tougher than succeeding at work, but it’s important to remember that you are a person too.
  • Master the art of delegating: It’s ok to admit that you can’t do it all by yourself.  Enlist help where you can.

Tom Pfingstag

Tom Pfingstag, director of program management, is without a doubt the most cheerful person in the office, so he must be doing something right in the area of work/life balance.  Tom recommends:

  • See the big picture: With so many distractions from phone calls and e-mails, we end up taking care of a lot of small tasks that don’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things.  Stay focused on what really matters.  Don’t confuse what you want to get done with what really needs to get done.  Think to yourself: What’s the most important thing I could be doing at this very minute?
  • Decompress: No one can work 24/7.  We all need to relax once in a while to sharpen our focus.
  • Know how you work: By trial and error, learn what motivates you and what makes you more efficient. 

Like Tom Pfingstag said, no one time management model works for everyone.  Chances are that, like me, you work with some really smart people who have different time management styles.  I learned so much from my conversations with these five individuals and highly recommend that you do a little crowdsourcing of your own.  Get up the courage to ask your colleagues about their time management secrets, and then try them on for size.  Some will work for you, others will not, and that’s ok.  You can learn from the experience of others and make it your own.  As Jason Hood said, no matter how good you already are at something, there is always room for improvement.

What have you learned about time management from the successful people in your life?   

The Dreaded Smartphone

February 21, 2011

I have resisted getting a smartphone for a long time.  I know that I’m in the minority of my generation, but I’ve always considered time away from my computer to be a welcome respite from the demands of my nagging, overloaded e-mail inbox(es).  My doesn’t-do-anything-but-call-and-text cell phone has served me very well for a number of years.

Enter: the BlackBerry.  (I’d take a picture of it for you, but the camera is inside the device.  Not sure how that would work.  It looks a lot like this one.)  My employer recently gave me a company-issued BlackBerry so that I could monitor and respond to urgent communication and PR situations.  Unfortunately our director of corporate communications is out on medical leave for a while, so I recognize the business need for a backup emergency contact, but that doesn’t make me any happier about my new toy.

I’ve had good reason to resist jumping on the smartphone bandwagon.  In her study on technology, sociology professor Noelle Chesley found that frequent computer, Internet and cell phone use leads to feelings of increased work load and an accelerated pace of life.  As the wise man Ferris Bueller taught us, life moved pretty fast way back in 1986, before we were all weighed down with mobile devices.  Why would I want to make my life move even faster still?

Technology consultant Dr. Sam Ladner discovered through her study of interactive agency workers that devices like BlackBerries have created a “new norm of continuous availability” and the “expectation of hyper-responsivity to work. . . . Mobile technologies complicate the ability of workers to act as autonomous selves in their private lives.”  (Cue the Carrie Bradshaw voiceover) I couldn’t help but wonder: Between work, school, and personal obligations, wasn’t my life complicated enough without technology invading every single moment of my private existence?

A friend of mine once referred to her BlackBerry as a wireless dog leash.  Sometimes the flashing red light on the front of my BlackBerry, which indicates that I have a new message in my inbox, feels like something tugging on my neck, pulling me away from whatever else I’m engaged in. 

Andrew Flanagin, Katy Pearce, and Beverly Bondad-Brown examined the dangers of communication technology use, including the downside of technology distractions.  They cited findings that:

  • 70 percent of all e-mails are answered with 6 seconds
  • 81 percent of people have their e-mail open at all times during the workday
  • 55 percent of people open new messages immediately, regardless of what they are working on
  • People lose as much as 20 percent of their workday dealing with distractions like incoming e-mail 

I practice a number of these unproductive habits too (being an overachiever by nature, my tendency is to want to respond to e-mail as quickly as possible), but I certainly can’t afford to lose one-fifth of my worktime to disruptive technology distractions.  Here are some helpful tips (some of which are adapted from the work of Pervin Shaikh) for not letting your mobile device run your life:

  • Carve out a set amount of time for checking and responding to e-mail.  Be sure to distinguish what’s urgent from what’s important.
  • Resist the urge to respond to e-mails immediately on your personal time unless there is a real emergency
  • Don’t check your e-mail right before you go to sleep, especially on the weekend.  This could interfere with your ability to achieve restful sleep.
  • Take some time each day away from your mobile device, whether that means turning it off for a little while or leaving it in the other room while you spend time with family and friends.
  • And seriously, take a break from texting and e-mail while driving!  It’s common sense, but it might just save a life.  And that’s way more important than anything you might find in your inbox.

Smartphone users: How do you balance the expectation of an immediate response with your need for time away from technology?

(Special thanks to Dr. Kris Markman of the University of Memphis communications department for introducing me to the three studies referenced above.)