December 15, 2008
I swear, digital video recorders have changed my life.
May 12, 2008
When is the last time you unplugged, dialed out and took some REAL time off?
We live in a world where, even during our “vacation”, we constantly check back in with the real world to make sure its not falling apart without us on the wheel. At first, you might say that you’ll only check your email once a day, otherwise vacation. Then you find yourself checking it a few times a day, lobbing in a few phone calls to the office and then BANG: You are working remote.
This is not going to heal you from the work stresses and strains that a true vacation addresses.
Researchers indicate that if we truly take one week completely off, the positive effects can last up to a month! However, if we only partially take the week off, still checking in on things, the positive effects last three days. That is a big difference.
When you take your vacation this year, take the time to set everyone’s expectations that you will not be available. Delegate ‘emergencies’ to someone in your office. If you don’t have an admin – ask a coworker to do it for you and promise to return the favor.
Blow everything off but the present moment for your entire vacation. Live in the moment. When you get back home, everything will still be standing -- and you'll be fit and fresh.
April 28, 2008
Today I travel to Las Vegas for a talk tomorrow AM.
The advantage of living on the West Coast is that I still get a working Monday (crammed) in. However, it's pretty crazy, being a Monday. A ton of emails and calls are flying in.
It’s easy to let the flow of incoming information bog me down, if I let it. Last week, there was a great article in the New York Times about the idea of setting aside time each day to check/write and manage email. The article tells the story of H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), who answered over 100,000 letters by hand during his career.
He had a simple strategy: He set aside time each day to answer the letters and totally focused on that, and only that, during that time period. By doing so, he was able to mow through a sea of incoming chatter, and still get his work done.
Today, I set aside time blocks to zero in on projects: Answer email, travel plans, blogging, etc. I blocked out from 8am until time to leave for the airport.
Surprise, surprise, I’m getting in a whole day and still making my afternoon flight.
Compare this with the constant-interruption, multi tasking meltdown approach. That leads to a lot of chores getting half done and that gnawing feeling that you didn’t get to all the items on your today list. So bag the “to-do list” and live by a well thought out calendar of single task activities!
February 28, 2008
Tim Ferriss is right -- we need to take control of our email life!
How many times a day do you check your email? Are you working with a hair-trigger set, where an email can arrive and interrupt whatever you are doing?
Unless you are in the instant-response business (not one I'd choose to be in), you are torturing yourself unecessarily. If you want to take back your life, try this: Check your email three times a day and block out thirty minutes per session to answer them. Try 10am, 2pm and 4pm (just like the old Dr. Pepper ad).
While this might sound scary, you'll quickly find out that you are not missing out on anything except constant interruptions. Eventually, you'll wonder why you checked it so often, and how you ever got anything done!
Buy a copy of my new DVD, The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email Etiquette
February 01, 2008
If you have an unreasonably long to-do list, don't let it overwhelm you.
All you need is a little momentum, a quick win to get your started. I've learned that time management is really a question of energy management. You can mow through almost any task list, much like running a long race, so long as you have 'gas in the tank'.
Often, we dive into our daily lists, trying to tackle the toughest stuff first. We get a little bogged down, the day passes, and we feel like we got nothing accomplished. Reverse that thinking. Look at your list, circle three things that are easy yet important -- and knock them off. Circle two more ez-pezee tasks to tackle right after lunch. You'll find that when you get three things done, you have a sense of confidence. That is when you tackle something harder (creative, emotionally charged, etc.). With some momentum, you'll find that it is doable, and you'll likely get it done. Try this next Monday, and report your results in comments.
Suggested read: First Things First by Stephen Covey
November 26, 2007
How many times have you had a great meeting, then struggled to find the time later to follow up on your action items from it?
I believe that business life is filled with out-of-sight out-of-mind behavior, where meetings end up being 'happy talk' with little real execution. In many cases, it is a time management issue, not an integrity issue.
Recently, I've started a new meetings habit, padding a meeting with 15 to 30 minutes of follow up time. This means that after a meeting or conference call, I have time blocked out to do what I promised to do, including research, networking, writing, etc. I've noticed immediate results from this new technique and on top of that I've delighted business mates with a lightning quick follow up (usually all of them same day of meeting/call).
Try this strategy with your next few meetings, phone or in-person, and let me know how it works for you!
November 20, 2007
A few days ago, I was interviewing Raytheon's CEO Bill Swanson for my new book.
Along the way, he shared a one of his habits with me that blew my mind: He empties his Inbox every day. No email goes unanswered. Moreover, he's made himself available to most employees that need to voice concern or make suggestions. That is an impressive feat, I don't know if I've ever emptied my email Inbox completely.
The reason he does that is because he considers it a part of professionalism and accountability. He's probably right. By letting emails stack up, we prioritize some messages over others and often ignore some completely. If we commit ourselves to an empty Inbox, we may also recover our weekends as well as control over our email life. You can imagine that Bill gives tough love feedback to repeat email offenders that fill his Inbox will unecessary information. If you adopt this policy, you may have to use Bill Jensen's CLEAR system approach.
I'm going to attempt an empty Inbox for the next business week, which of course means that first I need to plow through about three dozen unanswered emails!
November 02, 2007
Last week I agreed to a business lunch meeting on the other side of town.
It took thirty minutes each way and the meeting itself went about an hour. Altogether, I spent two hours chewing the fat and talking about potential business opportunities.
It pretty much ate up half a day, counting drive time.
I could have had a twenty minute phone call and covered the same material -- and saved the day.
For the next few weeks, I'm going to scrutinize every meeting I agree to, how much time the meeting will take and most importantly, if I could accomplish the same thing with a phone call. If I cancel one meeting per week, I'll add back about two days to my business month (that is an extra 10% of my time!).
Recommended: Look at your calendar for next week and find a meeting to cancel and reschedule as a phone call.
September 13, 2007
With football season underway, I thought I'd post this time saving reminder about games.
This applies to big games you want to see, such as a your favorite college team or Sunday/Monday night football.
The sports media gang is smug in their belief that, unlike American Idol, they are TIVO-proof. You have to watch the games in real-time, right?
Yeah, if you are having a social event. But what if just YOU were watching the game? Do you really want to see the Dodge Ram commericals 28 times today??
Here's what you do; Set your TiVo or video recorder to record the game and put an extra hour on the end (adjust the recording seconds to record past the scheduled end of the program). This will protect you if the game goes into overtime.
Now go about your day; shower, go out to eat (where the game is NOT being televised), spend some time with your kids, play your guitar, work in the garden. NOTE: Don't surf the Net, you'll get score updates on any portal on the home page and it will spoil this for you.
You can come back to your TV in about one hour to ninety minutes and begin to watch the game in catch-up mode. If you TiVo through commercials, challenges and inuries -- you'll catch up the game somewhere in the fourth quarter. You'll still probably see the end of the game at the same time as the rest of your friends. You'll just be skipping all the filler, which you'll find is amost 40% of the total time!!!
I've recently resorted to this in watching football because of the new scam around the challenges of plays and the reviews (which are supposed to only take 2:00). If you'll notice, they immediately go to a commercial break when there is a review now. This is not only making the games longer, more importantly, it is creating new ad inventory that did not exist a few years ago! Who is the victim -- you.
So, TiVo the big game and take back a few hours of your life today. Or at least throw a party, so you can talk through and ignore all the useless commercial interruptions.
September 05, 2007
I blogged a few weeks ago about David Lynch's wonderful autobio book: Catching the Big Fish.
His life, much like most of ours, is all about creativity and execution. You come up with an idea, then you make it happen. Most of execution is actually a series of smaller creative ideas, to solve the challenges of bringing the original idea to life or market.
One of the secrets David shares regards time management and creative work. He pointed out that when he's working creatively, he has to allot four hours of dedicated time to work “in flow” for sixty minutes. This is exactly how creative work really works out. You get distracted. You have creator’s block. You stick your toe in the water and at some point, boom, you are creating and it just pours out of you.
Too often, though, we treat creative work like functional work (licking stamps, paying bills, washing dishes, filing papers, etc.) and expect to get almost an hour of flow out of an hour. When it doesn’t happen, we get frustrated and it feeds more creative block in the future.
Recommended: Block out bigger chunks of time this week to dedicate to creative work or solutions. Expect a good deal of it to be wasted by traditional metrics, but measure the quality of the idea or solution when you finish the session. Make all the rest of your schedule conform to your new strategy of over budgeting time here.