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How to Stop Being Tardy for the Party

late

Photo courtesy of Steve O’brien

On my way to lunch with some friends yesterday, I received a text, letting me know they were running about ten minutes late. “No problem!” I responded, and, true to their word, they strolled into the mom and pop café at exactly 1:10pm.

Not only were they only negligibly late (I don’t really consider someone late until it reaches the 30-40 minute mark), but they were conscientious enough to shoot me a text anyway.

I have awesome friends.

With that being said, I do know a few people who run on a schedule that pretty much deviates from every other human being in the modern world. I’m willing to bet that all of you know someone who has earned the reputation as the latecomer in your group of friends.

As it turns out, chronically tardy people aren’t typically showing up late just to get your goat. In fact, many of these people have repeatedly attempted to fix their chronic lateness, but have failed time and time again.  Even when their lateness means being reprimanded at work, arguments with friends, and problems in romantic relationships – being late is much, much more complicated than it seems.

Recently, a study was conducted at San Francisco University, aiming to examine why certain people struggle so immensely with being on time. The results showed some clear patterns. When compared with their on-time peers, the chronically late participants struggled with self-control in at least one area of their lives (overeating, shopping, substance abuse, gambling). They also had a much harder time staying on task in a manner similar to ADD sufferers. Many of them also admitted to some moderate to severe anxiety or phobias, displayed a great deal of ambivalence, and/or an affinity for thrill-seeking behaviors.

The good news is that tardiness doesn’t have to be a permanent factor in anyone’s life. Just like many other psychological issues, there are steps that one can take to be on time more and more consistently. If you or someone you know is always late to the party, be aware the changing this behavior takes time, and a lot of understanding from friends and loved ones. Consider the following:

  • Practice self-reflection and self-awareness on a more regular basis in order to discover what lies behind your chronic lateness.  Figuring out if you’re always late to the same type of events can be telling – the answer might be as simple as situational anxiety.
  • Determine what you consider ‘late’ to be.  Are you always the same amount of time late, or does it depend on the situation?  What types of events do you show up to on time, if any?
  • What do you get out of being late?  Does it give you a rush? Do you like to cause a scene? Perhaps you’re afraid of being the first to arrive.
  • In general, how good are you at estimation? Many latecomers think they can do more than they really can in a set amount of time. You may need to retrain your concept of how much time you really have.
  • How forgetful are you? Another type of latecomer is constantly distracted, loses things frequently, and has difficulty focusing. If this sounds like you, it’s possible that you may have an attention deficit disorder, and you may actually benefit from seeing your physician.

Making the leap from lateness to promptness is a challenge, but one that can be conquered with the right attitude. Setting small, achievable promptness goals will help you learn how to tell time all over again. Your internal clock needs to be re-set, and you can do that by promising yourself to be on time first. Once you’ve mastered honoring your own time goals, start planning to arrive early – everywhere you go. Always leave room for traffic, forgetting something, or getting lost. Before you know it, you might just be the first one to the party!

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The #1 Reason You Keep Procrastinating

Photo courtesy of Sophie

Some people are more notorious than others for procrastinating, but generally speaking, we all know what it feels like to put things off until the last minute. Especially today, with so many modes of entertainment right at our fingertips, staying on top of those less-than-thrilling tasks can be a challenge. While it has been said that “good things come to those who wait,” it’s easy to miss the sweet spot, and before you know it – waiting for the right time can turn into a less-than-desirable habit.

Habitual procrastinators have often been told that they’re lazy, irresponsible, or just plain dumb. The facts point in a different direction, however. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology investigated what exactly causes people to “put things off.”

Have you been called a procrastinator? Are you easily distracted? Have there been times that you’ve made commitments you’ve failed to properly fulfill?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be suffering from what is known as Self-Regulation Failure. And, while it sounds rather Doomsday, the bones of the issue are pretty easy to understand and fix.

Psychologists have noticed a pretty solid connection between procrastination and a high ego. Now how many of you just had a lightbulb turn on? I know I did. I definitely think pretty highly of myself, and have been known to procrastinate, so I can vouch for the connection in my case.

Having an elevated sense of self is fantastic, so if you’re feeling pretty good about yourself on a regular basis, let me be the first one to congratulate you. Don’t even think about changing how great you think you are. You can become more productive on a more regular basis without knocking any wind out of your sails.

Here’s what generally happens: A person with a relatively high ego agrees to a certain task sometime in the future. The main reason she agrees to complete the task (be it a favor, freelance project, or work commitment) is because she feels she can accomplish anything. Which she is statistically probably right about.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

As the deadline for said task approaches, she may suddenly see the task as above her capabilities, or out of her range of expertise, so she puts it off. If she manages to complete the task but fails to do it well, she considers herself a failure.

Because of her sense of failure, she then begins to procrastinate on more and more action items, until practically everything in her life is put off until the absolute last possible second. You see, she’s afraid to fail again.

If this sounds like you, becoming aware that this phenomenon is occurring in your life may actually be all that you needed. You’ve already got a good sense of self-esteem. Keep agreeing to demanding tasks like you’ve always done in the past, only instead of fearing them, embrace the element of challenge that they bring to your life. Try to glide easily over the little bumps along the way as you complete difficult assignments in a timely manner. As long as you apply yourself and continue to give your all, failure isn’t even an option.

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Simplify Your Life. Is it Really that Simple?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley

It’s the latest thing. All of the coolest grown ups are doing it and shaking their heads with pity at those who just don’t get it yet.

Simplifying your life: Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

There’s been a slow phase-out of the fast paced, jam-packed, overscheduled lifestyle people were leading a decade ago, at least if they planned on keeping up with the Joneses. These days, zen habits and mindful living are definitely on the rise, and the word Stress has become a six letter pariah - nobody wants it around except psychotherapists and pharmaceutical companies.

Those of you who are still embracing the overly busy and complicated lifestyle that’s so “yesterday” might as well open your front door and invite that undesirable pariah in for brunch. Even worse, if your life is in a state of overwhelming chaos, you probably won’t even notice Stress until it’s gotten good and comfortable. By that point, it will have made quite a mess of your life and will be extremely difficult to get rid of.

Simplicity: Is it right for you?

The process of making life manageable is different for everyone because the changes you may want to make will be specific to your needs and the current level of discord you’re experiencing. However, if you’re determined to overcome Stress permanently, there are some basic starting points that will help you to move toward a simpler life, and anyone can do them.

Kickoff to a more laid-back lifestyle with a crystal clear understanding of what is most important to you. Take some time to write out your priorities so that you can align them with the level of simplicity you’d like to achieve. Once you are sure of your top priorities, you’ll be able to go about organizing your life in the way you’d really like it to flow.

If you find that you’re overwhelmed by your life more often than not, you probably have a daily routine that’s not aligned with your priorities. The key is to set up a functional schedule that finds you spending the most time on tasks relating to the things that are most important to you.

Simplification: Is it really just that simple?

Because our world is so full of enticing distractions, of course it’s not that simple. An important part of living more simply is not allowing yourself to get sucked in by too many things that aren’t on your priority list, especially those that are useless or even contrary to your goals.

After you’ve found a way to fit the most important parts of your life into a simple weekly schedule, be sure to allocate a large percentage of the remaining time toward activities that fall somewhere between ‘priority’ and ‘useless.’ Allowing yourself ample opportunities for leisure and down time are vital components in living a simpler, more enjoyable life. As an added bonus, they’ll also help you stay more focused when working toward your goals (items on your priority list).

Along with creating a less complicated/more focused daily routine, you’ll also want to de-clutter your home, car, and list of friends, which involves getting rid of things that just aren’t working for you anymore.

Simple? Not even close. Worth it? Totally.

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11 Ways To Do More of What You Love This Year

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Malik

“This year is the year I’m going to make myself a priority.”

That is what I said to myself last year at this time, and the most important thing I did after that was follow through on my promise to myself. This year, you can do it too, no matter what difficult situation(s) you’re dealing with at the moment. It is extremely important to find ways to do more of what you love, and you can start by using the list below as a guide. I promise you that you won’t regret it.

  1. Create “Me” time. Make a conscious decision to schedule time that is specifically designated to doing things that you enjoy. To ensure that your “Me” time activities are honored, put them on any calendars that you share with your significant other or family members who require prior knowledge of what you’ll be doing in the near future.
  2. Participate in activities that feed your soul. Take some time to analyze what things give you the most enjoyment. If you’re finding that you don’t seem to have enough time to do all the fun things you used to do – prioritize. Quality really does win over quantity in this case.
  3. Live in the now. Putting mindfulness practices into action in your life will increase the number of things that give you intense pleasure. When you get good enough at mindful living, even the simplest activities will bliss you out.
  4. Love the one you’re with. Simply put, look for the happiness that already exists in your day-to-day life. Falling in love with your spouse all over again or getting to know your children on a deeper level are two examples of finding joy right in your own home.
  5. Get proactive about being productive. Train your brain so that you have the most effectual habits and productive routines, leaving you with more free time for leisure activities.
  6. Learn to let the word ‘no’ come more easily. Saying ‘no’ can be quite a challenge for some people, but consistently saying ‘yes’ to everyone’s needs but your own will leave you overscheduled and overstressed.
  7. If you were dealt a bad hand, trade in your cards. If too many things are making you unhappy in life, you’re highly unlikely to derive much pleasure out of anything. It’s never too late to make changes – even significant ones.
  8. Share your enthusiasm with your loved ones. Try to get your family members excited about the things you love doing. If you can get them on board, you’ll get less complaints and demands for your time.
  9. Ask, and ye shall receive. Sometimes, you simply have to ask for time to do the things you love. Try it and see what happens.
  10. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. As I recently told my son, “Never give up on something you really want.”
  11. Read This Year I Will… This book will help you follow through on your promises to yourself, giving you the skills you need to attend to your happiness.

In an ideal world, you’d be doing what you love and loving what you do every day. However, if you can’t do both (all of the time, anyway), take action to ensure that you spend time doing what you love as often as you possibly can.

 

 

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A Five-Step Approach for Effective Multi-Tasking

Photo courtesy of Leo Chuoi
Working from home has afforded me the ability to spend more time with my children. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, by no means is working from home easier than working outside of the home.  My previous job allowed me a quiet, organized desk with all necessary documents within easy reach, but it also took up 10 hours out of every day. Working from home affords me the luxury of spending more time with my family, but requires my brain to work more efficiently in order to multi-task.

While many people – not just working parents - often wear more than one hat simultaneously, few can do it seamlessly. Effective multi-tasking is considered an oxymoron by some, but with this reasonable five-step approach, it can be done, within limits.

  1. Plan, plan, plan.
    This is the single most important piece of advice when it comes to juggling multiple projects and people at the same time. Split your day into segments dedicated to appropriately grouped responsibilities, and adhere to the plan.
  2. Leave personal items for later.
    When I first started working from home, I often got sidetracked by non-urgent items. Now I schedule an hour at the end of every day for tasks that don’t need immediate attention so that I can dedicate more of my brain power to paying projects.
  3. Learn to “let go.”
    While this may seem like the opposite of following a strict plan, effective multi-taskers delegate some of their responsibilities. In my case, I assign many house duties to my children, with specific instructions to ensure that the jobs are done right. They invoice me for their work, and I hand out paychecks. This allows me to delegate while also teaching the value of hard work.
  4. Work in layers.
    The human brain isn’t naturally wired to actively focus on too many similar tasks at the same time. However, you can complete multiple tasks together, as long as they are relatively simple and use different areas of the brain. Completing auditory and physical tasks simultaneously works well because they aren’t wired on the same brain pathway, and they won’t cause you to burn out.
  5. Perfect the art of focusing.
    Multi-tasking is not for the weak minded and should only be performed when you are well-prepared. You can slowly “train” your brain to juggle, but only if you are working at your best. If you find yourself unable to focus on what you’re doing, you’ve combined too many things, and you’ll need to subtract a task so that your work doesn’t lose quality.

Naturally, certain tasks simply do not allow for multi-tasking and must be completed separately in order to receive your full attention. Regardless of your situation, however, you can learn how to use your time more effectively. It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on a rock solid plan to bundle your work in layers, your brain will become more efficient, leaving you to enjoy more hours out of every day focused on life.

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The #1 Way to Completely Ruin Your Weekend


Photo courtesy of Crock TeesIf your ultimate goal is to have the worst weekend of your life, keep reading. If you want to spend days repeatedly fixing your own mistakes, you totally wish you were me right now. Don’t worry – I will tell you exactly how you can totally ruin your weekend BUT, in the interest of self-improvement, I’m also going to be forced to tell you how to enjoy your weekend instead. Just in case you change your mind.

It all started out innocently enough. I wanted a swimming pool in my backyard, but I couldn’t afford the kind that is installed by pool professionals. If I had that much extra money, believe me, that is what I would have done. BELIEVE. ME. However, when I pulled up my bank account balance on the internet, instead of numbers it simply said, “Do it yourself.” Hmmm.

Buying the pool and supplies was easy and kind of fun! I loaded a shopping cart with all kinds of pool rafts, tester kits, and chlorine tablets. I brought everything home (including the pool) and Operation Pool Fail began! I was given the title of Director and Chemical Engineer, due to my physical limitations, and I quickly led the rest of the family…into a weekend of pure torture.

  • Day 1 

    We built that pool so fast I think we broke a record somewhere. There was much back patting.

  • Two Hours Later 

    Directions? We were supposed to follow those? The pool began to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and we decided to start all over using the directions. We crafted an ingenious DIY tarp trench to allow for speedy pool drainage, and still waited all night for the pool to empty. (We did go to sleep, though.)

  • Day 2 

    We dismantled the entire pool we had assembled the day before so we could level out the ground underneath. This is emphasized in the directions.  We discovered an additional 87 other errors due to our poor planning and we had to work all day to fix them.

  • Day 3 

    We built the pool for a second time in sweltering heat and nearly dehydrated ourselves (ironic since we were building a pool). We became covered from head to toe in bug bites because no one thought ahead and bought some OFF!  After much sweat, some tears and a whole lot of kicking ourselves, we collapsed to ground and swore that we would do better next time.

Do yourselves a favor and learn from my mistakes. If I learned anything this weekend, other than which bug bite cream works best and that I do NOT look good with hat hair, it’s this: the nitty gritty particulars of proper planning are much more preferable to witlessly winging it. By investing time in formulating a solid plan before starting a project, you’ll not only save time in the end, but you’ll also save your sanity, and possibly, your weekend.

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5 Tips to Help You Stop Procrastinating – Guest Post

{Today’s post was written by Hollie Butler, a loyal DailyPath reader.}

Photo courtesy of Robbie Howell
We’ve all been there, of that you can certainly take comfort. Who hasn’t had a project, chore, or simple task that sits undone on their To Do list for days, weeks, or even months?

I consider myself a master procrastinator, and I’ve bought far more books on this topic than I’d like to admit to, but in the end I’ve discovered that fooling the mind works better than changing it. Complex mental exercises aimed at changing your tasks into “want to” instead of “have to” simply don’t work. As we all know, there are things in life we don’t want to do, and we have to do them anyway. Pretending otherwise just wastes your time and distracts you further.

A better strategy is to just use a little trickery to get yourself going. Here are my five favorite tips:

1. Put on music, an audio book, the radio, or the television. When it comes to household chores or tasks that require minimal focus, the mind is the enemy. It will quickly list for you all the reasons you hate drudge work, and all the more useful things you could be doing (see #4). Putting something on in the background can shush that voice down and settle us into our work.

2. Ask a friend to sit with you. They don’t even have to be doing the work with you. I have a good friend who will come over and park herself in a chair while I organize a room or finish a project. After a couple hours the place is sparkling, and I feel tired but happy, with a renewed sense of connection.

3. Set a timer.  If the task feels desperately undoable, start with just ten minutes. Before you begin, think for just a moment on what the first necessary action is, and then either keep that in your mind, or, if you’re too frazzled, write it down. Then set the timer for ten minutes, and get to it. Relax, breathe, and don’t think ahead. When finished, calmly ask yourself what the next one is, and then do that, and continue in this way until the timer has dinged. Pat yourself on the back. Whatever amount you got done, even if it was small, think how much energy you’ve spent avoiding this! And now you just put ten minutes toward getting the job done! Do that a few more times and you might surprise yourself.

4. Keep nearby a list of things to come back to. It’s astounding how often we dive into a project only to be derailed over and over in the first few minutes by thoughts of things that are more important that we should be doing instead. If this is you, keep a piece of paper and a pen nearby, and whenever one of those thoughts pops up (“Oh! We need dog food!”), just write it down, and then go back to what you were doing. You’ll be amazed at how well this can help you regain your focus.

5. Create a simple reward. It won’t make you happy about your task, but it will give you something to look forward to when it’s over. I often reward myself with a half hour of uninterrupted reading. Pick anything you love but don’t make time for.

Hollie Butler is a former massage therapist who is now writing her first novel in Seattle. When she isn’t playing the ukelele, she likes to experiment with vegan cooking for her husband and two kids. Find out more about Hollie at saltwater.holliebutler.com.

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