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.

Is Stress Taking Its Toll on You? How You Can Control It

Is Stress Taking Its Toll on You? How You Can Control It

In this bustling 24/7 world today, it is difficult to carve out some quiet space. As working women (a category that includes mothers working at raising their children), each of us has too many lists, too many tasks, too many requests from others, too many expectations and not enough time or energy to meet our own standards of perfection or self-expectations. We fail to cut ourselves some slack as the calendar fills up. We try to be everything to everyone – except oneself!

We schedule, juggle and run through each day and well into the night, we tell ourselves we are coping and have it under control. We are convinced we can live on little sleep, caffeine, grabbing a morsel of food here and there and multitasking – even our conversations. We are aware of the silent enemies of our health: heart disease, various cancers, exhaustion, etc. We tell ourselves it won’t happen to us – or when the thought of the mere possibility of one of these knocking us down comes to mind, we shake it off and say we don’t have time for that!

There is a very sneaky condition that is quietly working against us: stress. Oh sure, we feel the stress. We hear ourselves lose our tempers, raise our voices at the ones we love, forget where we parked the car or why we are even in that parking lot. Certain times of the year such as back-to-school, holidays and family vacations add extra stress even though they are supposed to be fun and special family times.

What we are not seeing is what stress is doing to us. Stress is the body’s reaction to the demands of life. There is good stress; it motivates us and is necessary. There is bad stress to which we react in a variety of ways – both outwardly and inwardly. The real culprit is chronic stress, which can leave us with a persistent feeling of anxiety, anger or frustration and keeps our bodies in a “crisis mode” for long periods of time. It wears us down, interferes with sleep or digestion, and makes us irritable and prone to headaches and other muscular tension.

Chronic stress can exhaust our adrenal glands and throw off the body’s chemical balance. It can cause a drop in melatonin, the sleep hormone, and a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone. This sets us up for what we may think is an “unexplained weight gain.”

Actually, the explanation is stress: the kind of stress we have been pushing down inside because we don’t have time to deal with it. The longer we put off taking steps to manage stress, the more serious the problem becomes. The more we diet and fail to see the pounds dropping, the more frustrated we become, which increases the stress. Now we are caught in the vicious cycle. In the meantime, our bodies are suffering. Our relationships begin to suffer. We don’t even like ourselves. And it goes on and on …

It is time to listen and abide to the old adage: Women, take care of yourselves first so you can take care of the other important people in your lives.

As an over-achieving perfectionist and breast cancer survivor with depleted adrenal glands and digestive distress, I encourage you to:

  • simplify your life,
  • carefully consider the impact of saying “yes” to often, and
  • take care of yourself.

You cannot outrun the odds, so slow down and catch up on caring for yourself. Take time for yourself – now !

Success Strategies-Lessons Learned from Best Practices

Success Strategies-Lessons Learned from Best Practices

Often you count success when the outcome is positive. If the outcome is less than what you expected, it is labeled a failure. In both situations, lessons can be learned. It is important to take time at the end of any task or project to analyze “what worked’ and “what didn’t work.” From this analysis, you can draw out the lessons learned and from those, create Best Practices.

In reality, if the project is a success, you pat yourself on the back and move on to the next assignment. If this is your normal pattern, you are missing out in several areas:

  1. Give the team or other vested parties the opportunity to enjoy the success and share the highlights, challenges, ways they overcame them, etc. This activity will build a bond of trust and cooperation among them. It also allows you the opportunity to gather insight into the project and personnel. Just as important, taking time to discuss the project demonstrates that the organization values their effort.
  2. Even in a successful outcome, there are lesson to be learned. Rarely is a project perfect in all phases and steps. Everyone can learn from others when they share their tactics for overcoming challenges and setbacks. From this knowledge new approaches can be developed and future project teams may be able to avoid repeating the same pitfalls.

Of course, when a project is less than successful, there are always lessons to be learned. However, these lessons require a different approach. The goal should be to determine what worked and what didn’t – not to find blame.

If you start from a position of seeking to blame, you will not get truthful answers.

  • Everyone will tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • They will be trying to protect themselves from the possibility of being singled out and put on the spot.
  • Those who know they were part of the problem may already be punishing themselves.
  • The goal is to gain information so the problem does not occur again.

To create an environment in which people want to work together for continuous improvement, approach it as a problem-solving session – with the emphasis on “problem-solving” and not on blaming or punishing. Your goal is to gather information to improve the process for a successful outcome the next time.

A) Analyze what happened – not who did it!

B) Ask for what was learned

C) After gathering input from everyone’s perspective, create Best Practices to avoid a repeat situation.

Once Best Practices have been determined and agreed upon, be sure to communicate them across the department or organization so others may benefit as well. Make a habit of reviewing each project with those involved to maximize future success.

Meeting Your Client’s Needs With Customer Satisfaction Awareness

Meeting Your Client’s Needs With Customer Satisfaction Awareness

At a wedding I attended recently, I observed a perfect example of failing to meet your client’s needs. I have seen this many times, but this time I found myself frustrated and irritated. It doesn’t matter if it is a band or a DJ; I have repeatedly seen this failure to service the client.

Specifically, in the case of a band or DJ, the objective is to entertain the guests and keep the party exciting and fun. That means keeping people on the dance floor. After all, they are hired for the music they provide.

I find it most frustrating to watch a music provider play what THEY want even when there is no one on the dance floor. It seems to me that they should be tuned into the fact that they are ineffective at achieving the object. Apparently, they don’t get it.

The problem of the empty dance floor (for which someone has paid good money) can be solved by noticing what type of music brings the guests out of their seats. For example, a slower dance often brings the older adults as couples like a slow dance. In fact, several in a row would keep them there for a while. After that, a series of fast ones to liven it up and get the young crowd going. When they wear out after four or five songs in a row, slow it down again and a different crowd will hit the floor.

But this rarely happens! One slow one, then an evening of loud fast ones seems to be the norm of the music vendors – even when the dance floor is void of dancers for hours! There are people wanting to dance – just not to what they are playing.

So how does this relate to business?

Pay attention to your audience:

  • If the customer isn’t participating, perhaps you are not meeting their needs.
  • Change what you are doing to change their reaction.
  • Avoid the one size fits all syndrome – everyone is unique.
  • Confirm their expectations – don’t assume you know.
  • Ask for feedback – then take action to give beyond expectation service!

Remember you are working for them. Just showing off your talents without regard to the clients’ expectations and desired outcomes will not make you successful. Not only is the person or organization who hired you watching, so are all of those on the sidelines. They will judge the quality of your services by what they experience. If word-of-mouth advertising is the most effective, then you must pay attention to everyone’s reaction and satisfaction. You don’t know who will be sharing their experience with your service.

You can pass out a boxful of business cards and chat up everyone in the room, but if they don’t enjoy the experience with you, there will be no additional work there. Now is the time to provide the highest level of customer service possible. That means serving the customer’s needs – not yours! If you meet your client’s needs, your needs will also be met!

Are Your Relationships “Up in the Air?”

Are Your Relationships “Up in the Air?”

Have you seen George Clooney’s latest movie: Up in the Air?

I found it to be a very interesting view of the importance of relationships. Although, if you read the reviews on the YouTube.com link to the movie trailer, it seems that most people didn’t “get it!” Maybe because they are still too young to understand that going through life alone and showing the world one’s independent strenghts are not necessarily what brings joy to life.

George ClooneyIn the movie, Up in the Air, George Clooney plays the role of Ryan Bingham, a business man who spends his life flying from assignment to assignment. With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him.

Since he is on the go constantly, he does not make time to establish and nurture relationships. In his particular business, he does not need to – or want to – make strong attachments to others. He doesn’t spend much time in his office so he hasn’t even have developed strong relationships with his colleagues.

As for his family … Well, to him relationships are not important. In the end, he begins to understand what he has missed all the years he has been focused on accumulating “frequent flyer miles.” If you missed the point of the story, maybe you are also missing the importance of building strong relationships – both in your business and personal life!

Business is really about relationships. Networking is about building relationships. Managing people is about relationships. Leading is about relationships. Coaching and mentoring are about relationships. You see, it is all about developing and nurturing relationships.

In order to build strong relationships, you must be interested in others. Recognize the world does not revolve around you. Learn to engage others in conversations about them. Listen to what they are saying and connect with ways you can help them solve a problem or introduce them to a person or service they are seeking. When you reach out and others, you are building the keystones to successful relationships: Trust, Respect and Rapport.

Give it a try this month and see what happens in return. Here is the link to movie clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m-Da8Tz4_E 3 if you haven’t seen it yet. If you read the comments at the bottom of the link, see if you can relate to them or if you can see the bigger picture about life.

You can learn more about developing more meaningful relationships by registering for the Members In-Circle Community in the column to the  right. You will gain access to a variety of resources to guide you toward enhanced personal and professional relationships.

Leadership Challenges and How to Deal With Them

Leadership Challenges and How to Deal With Them

When I heard President George W. Bush at his final press conference as President, I thought of the many challenges that leaders face. Regardless of your party of choice or your opinions about his presidency, one could hear a real clear message about leadership. Those of us who have held leadership roles – especially the one at the head (where the buck stops!) could relate to the message.

I am not referring to his accomplishments or disappointments. Nor am I referring to his reactions to reporters questions – both positive and negative. I could hear in his voice the frustration of what he could not control and how it impacted the decisions he made. Being the President or any leader does not mean everything will follow your vision and plan for success.

The situations are unique to each leadership role. The pressures vary with the importance of the position. There are several things that all executive leadership roles have in common:

1. You Can’t Please All of the People All of the Time

It is humanly impossible to satisfy everyone even some of the time. Many people think they have a “better way” or would have “done it differently.” It may seem to some that there is a better way. When you are sitting in the position to make the decisions, you must believe that you have gathered the necessary information to make the best decision you can at the time. And accept that it will never be the perfect decision for everyone.

2. People Will Judge You on Your Acts of Omission As Well As Those of Commission

It’s the old “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” issue. Not only can you not please everyone, you cannot accomplish everything you would like to accomplish. Again you are criticized for what you did and could have done differently as well as what you failed to do. There is a limited amount of human energy available to put into any position and leaders seem to maximize their use of that energy into their vision. The challenges are never ending. And the praise for effort expended is nearly non-existent. But you certainly hear what you should have done!

3. You Can’t Do It Alone

There is no greater stage to demonstrate the need for a supportive team than when you are in an executive leadership position. This is also true if you are a team member or a family member. If you try to “do it yourself” most of the time, you risk not have buy-in and support of others. People need to be involved and feel a sense of commitment and satisfaction. Leaders need to build a team. Team members must be honest with their leaders when asked for feedback or input. No leader wants to appear as the Emperor with no clothes!

4. You Need a Tough Skin

This is not to suggest that leaders should be insensitive or domineering. Not at all! You do need to not take everything personally. If you feel wounded – stabbed in the heart – by words and actions of others, the stress of the position will take its toll on you. Just because a leader takes a tough stand or appears cold and calculating, don’t be fooled. The leader has probably spent many anxious hours consulting and mulling over the situation, possible outcomes and consequences. Since we often associate compassion and feelings with weakness, leaders have to maintain the aura of authority while demonstrating concern for others without losing the support of followers.

5. It Is Lonely at the Top!

No one – even if they are your most loyal supporters – take on the responsibility you do as a leader. No one feels the stabs of negative feedback as you do. And no one feels the sense of accomplishment for a job well-done like you do. Few people will give you honest feedback, but they will discuss it with others – both positive and negative. And as President Bush and others have said: Only history will tell the real story of your turn at the top.

Regardless of who is holding the office of President of the country or an organization, we have a duty to respect the office. While we may not like the decisions made or the personality of the individual, the office itself commands respect. Any person who accepts the responsibility of such a position believes they are doing the best thing for the organization and they have something to offer. By working with the leader, we can contribute and influence the decisions or direction of the organization. Being contrary only adds additional distractions and takes energy away from leading. Followers who are non-supportive of their leader do not help the situation and cause negative energy and outcomes.

Each time we enter a new administrative era on the national level, let us all respect the office of the Presidency. We need good leaders to be willing to take their turn at the top. With constant badgering and personal attacks, why would anyone want to leave a high level corporate position to take on the role of President of the United States? The same holds true in our organizations, be supportive of those who are willing to give talents time and talents at the expense of their business and family obligations.

In most organizations, you do not have the opportunity to elect or select your leader. And leaders don’t always have the opportunity to select their teams. By respecting the leadership position and committing support to the mission and vision of the organization, everyone will benefit. If you are not the leader, be a team player – even if you did not get to pick your captain! One day you will be on the other side of the desk.

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