Archive for January, 2011

Time Management Challenges: Too Much Information!

Time Management Challenges: Too Much Information!

What does your daily mail look like? I don’t mean just your email, but also your snail-mail. How much of it is junk? How many trees were lost to all that we throw away each day?

 Between the mail, emails, radio and television plus whatever newspapers or magazines you read – online or off, there is just too much information to handle each day. It is time consuming and frustrating when you can’t remember where you read that tidbit you wanted to share because your mind has traversed numerous information sources.

Information is essential. The form in which it comes in not the issue – it’s the amount! Handling the abundance of information requires some good habits. Computers were supposed to have reduced the paper usage. Do you really think they have since it is so easy to generate and distribute more information more efficiently? And too many people email the person in the next office instead of talking to him. After a series of email discussion points back and forth, the amount of paper it takes to capture the information is greater than ever – assuming one prints it for a “CYA file.”

There are a few habits you can develop to help you manage information:

Printed Information:

  • You have choices here: Dump It, Delegate It, Do It or Delay It!
  • Try to handle it only once.
  • If you don’t have time to deal with it at the moment, file it in an appropriately labeled file: Reading, Up Coming Events, Follow Up, Needs Immediate Attention, etc.
  • This will help you clear your work space and let you retrieve the information quickly when you need it.
  • Don’t forget about File #13: Trash. 

Develop criteria for what you should keep and what to toss.

  • Analyze your printed information to see what you can combine, eliminate, shorten or modify to capture what you need.
  • Develop routines and procedures that simplify the way you work. Schedule time to read the information you have saved.
  • Schedule work sessions to deal with the information.
  • And finally, remember to clear out your files at least once a year!

Electronic Information:

Your email inbox is full. You have saved emails in a number of folders. Your computer is bogged down! What’s a person to do?

Some emails are worth saving – either in a “folder” or as a hard copy, which means you have to handle that also.

  • Do you go back to those saved in folders or do they just sit there holding space?
  • If you saved an email for a specific reason, use or log that information as soon as possible so you can delete it.
  • This will require you to have a logical system for capturing and storing important information.

What about downloads: MP3 files, PDF documents, video files, webinars, etc.?

  • Do you find time to listen or read them again?
  • Is there a way to capture the key points you need to keep?
  • Should you burn them to CDs or DVDs or a thumb drive?

You have a number of choices with electronic information. The important point is that you must decide what to do with each piece and act on it. Just like printed information, it will begin to pile up!

Ask yourself: Is this information really going to be of value to me? 

To manage the information that crosses your desk, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Will I really use this information?
  2. When will I use it?
  3. Where should I keep it so I can retrieve it when needed?

Next Step: Catch yourself spending too much time handling information. Either give yourself permission to continue for a specific amount of time and move on or ask yourself: “Is what I am doing right now getting my closer to completing my goal(s)?” 

Remember: you are in charge of your time!

Time Management Challenges – Poor Habits

Time Management Challenges – Poor Habits

We all know we have bad habits! Actually, we have many more good habits than bad. It is just that the bad ones stand out or cause us grief in some way. One of the greatest challenges to managing our time and activities lies in not giving in to our bad habits: time wasters, failure to organize our lives, procrastination, etc. You get the picture. And can probably add a number of things to this list.

What is happening in your head when you know you are wasting time and just cannot make yourself stop?

  • Are you avoiding something?
  • Is there a fear of failure?

If you just don’t want to do the task, figure out what is the blockage to action. Ask yourself: Why? In fact, ask yourself “why?” five times!

In the Root Causes Analysis process, we ask “why?” at least five times. For example:

  1. Why am I avoiding the task? Answer: I am concerned about getting the right outcome.
  2. Why am I concerned? Answer: I will look like I don’t know what I am doing.
  3. Why will I look like that? Answer: I am supposed to know how to do this without help.
  4. Why should you know how? Answer: I stated that I could do it without help.
  5. Why did you say that? Answer: Because I wanted to prove I was ready for the promotion.

So the there is a deeper motivating factor here! If you claimed you had the knowledge and experience to take on a greater challenge, but have self-doubt, a fear of failure to meet expectations may be the reason you can’t get yourself started on a task. It is more comfortable to avoid it by making yourself “busy.” Being busy without results that matter will not serve you well in the end.

Sometimes it is a matter of being on overload – too much to do and not enough time. This is especially true when there have been so many cutbacks and shifting of duties and responsibilities.

What finally motivates you to get the task done?

At some point you will run out of time. The deadline is looming and you HAVE to get it done! There are even people who claim they like to let things go because they work best under pressure. They think they are more motivated by the pressure of the deadline. Actually, they are forced to focus on the task because time is running out! They can no longer avoid getting the job done. This creates more stress for the individual and those around them.

Your Action Plan:

  1. Create a list of habits that are working for you and a list of habits that are working against you.
  2. See if you can sort out those that are keeping you from achieving your best level of performance.
  3. Then consciously focus on eliminating them one at a time.

Remember: It takes working on a habit at least 21 days to make it stick. Work on one at a time so you can maintain your focus and commitment.