Time Management
Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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Time Management

It's not really balanced...

Work-life balance isn’t really a thing. Betty Friedan has been quoted as saying “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.” Balance implies evenness, sameness, a destination. It isn’t.

No one is ever in balance for more than a moment. Perhaps what we are striving for is harmony. In classical music, sometimes the percussion is louder, sometimes the strings are louder, sometimes the brass is louder. There are forte sections where everything is blaring at once and there are pianissimo sections where sound is barely audible. And there are rests, quiet spaces when no sounds are made at all. Just like life! In life, different parts are louder than others at different times, but as a whole, it can be harmonic and beautiful.

When on a deadline or project, work is loud. During times of celebration or sadness, family is loud. While training for a 5K or other personal endeavor, self-care is loud, and when on vacation there are times of quiet and silence. Framing life like a symphony and striving for harmony seems so much more reasonable.

If one were to divide a “life pie” into four balanced parts — work, family, self-care, other interests —  you would be spending an equal amount of time on each portion.  That’s not how life is.  And we know no day, week, or month is ever the same. To think it would be is not realistic. Additionally, imagine how boring life would be if every day and every week were the same.

What would be possible if you gave yourself permission to live in harmony and not strive for perfect balance all the time?

Harmony at Work

The same concept of harmony applies to work as well. If you are only doing unrewarding tasks and projects, it’s hard to stay engaged. Therefore, when creating your task list, consider the importance of putting meaningful things on your list. If all you do are things to please others, you won’t be very motivated to do your best, most productive work.

Traditionally, around Thanksgiving, I write a blog post about our lives being too full, like a Thanksgiving plate. If we fill our Thanksgiving plate with foods to please everyone else, we won’t have room to eat the foods we love. This results in us leaving the Thanksgiving table unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Then later, we eat more pie than we should. If you want to be satisfied, it is important to make room for the sweet potatoes and stuffing, or whatever your favorite Thanksgiving food of choice is.

In life and work, it’s important to make room for the things that matter too. Is it time to pull your passion projects off the back burner? Is it time to stop spending precious time making unimportant things perfect? Is it time to have more fun? With variety, NOT BALANCE, you’re much more likely to be productive.


This is compiled from Chapter 5 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

 

This is not your typical business school goal setting post! It’s about getting clear about what’s important to you.  Because when you know what is important, it is easier to say yes to the things that matter.

Intentions and Not Just Goals?

Goals are useful in some cases. They just aren’t applicable for everything. Considering intentions (how you want to live) expands your possibilities.

Goals have specific outcomes

  • Make profits over six figures this year.
  • Complete the team on-boarding program by June.
  • Lose four pounds a month each month this year.

Intentions clarify how you wish to live

  • I work smart and provide a great service.
  • I live a healthy, happy life.
  • I give my best self to my family.
  • I continue to learn so I can help other leaders grow.

Goals AND Intentions 

Most people have both goals and intentions. To focus on one and not the other is addressing just a portion of what is important.

My clients tell me they need help figuring out how to get all their work done. In reality, work is only part of the challenge. Many say they would like to take time off without worry, spend more quality time with their families, and even have a bit of time for themselves. As you work through identifying your own goals and intentions, you may want to consider more than work. Remember, a key reason to improve productivity is to have a full and better life.

Use the Planning Map Snapshot format below to plan a better 2023

Step 1: Identify Focus Areas — The life areas you choose to prioritize.

  • Focus Areas are the spaces in which you want to spend your time. In a financial budget, you’d have areas such as home expenses, utilities, clothing, food, and entertainment.
  • Your life’s Focus Areas may include business, work, professional growth, personal growth, self-care, family, spirituality, friends, volunteerism, service, activism, or advocacy.
  • Only Four Areas! Challenge yourself to limit your number of Focus Areas to four. When you spread yourself too thin, you end up accomplishing less. When you force yourself to narrow your focus, you do better work and are more productive.

Step 2: Determine Goals and Intentions — The ultimate outcome you are striving for.

  • A few people can state their goals or intentions off the top of their heads. Most can’t.
  • If the answers don’t come easily to you, start by developing your priorities (step 3). Then use your priorities to back into your goals and intentions. While it goes against every rigid business planner’s process, completing your priorities first can help you see exactly what matters.
  • Ask yourself “what is the reason these priorities are important? What is my purpose in accomplishing them?” The answer will bring the goal or intention into focus.

Step 3: Set Priorities — The overarching projects and tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal or live your intention.

  • The next step is to figure out the three most important things you want to accomplish in each Focus Area. Your priorities should be actionable within the established time frame of your plan.
  • The priority should identify what you will do.
    • Start with an action word such as plan, complete, strategize, or implement.
    • Be concise — provide enough detail for you to understand what you want to do, but not so much you can’t easily grasp the action at a glance.
  • When identifying your priorities, it often helps to prime the pump by asking yourself questions such as these:
    • What project, task, or action is critical to my success or my organization’s success?
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • What would I be disappointed with if I didn’t achieve?
    • What do I need to do to be who I want to be?
  • Was it hard to identify three priorities for each life area? Having too many priorities is more often the problem. Remember, it’s better to do a few things fully and well than attempt many things that never reach completion.
  • While you may only have three priorities per goal or intention, when you consider your four Focus Areas, you will have twelve priorities for the entire year. Completing twelve priorities is a challenging, yet generally attainable target.

My wish for you for 2023 is that you take a bit of time to get clear about what’s important for 2023. I suspect that if you do, you will actually have a happy New Year.


This is compiled from Chapter 7 my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

overcoming procrastination

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people struggling with procrastination. The pandemic has taken a lot out of us, and we are all a bit worn down. When we put off doing what we “need” to do it makes us feel undisciplined and lazy.  The self-compassion experts tell us that just makes things worse.

Instead of beating yourself up, it is much more effective to figure out why you procrastinate. Then you can take positive action to overcome the obstacle. Procrastination is typically NOT about discipline!  When the system is right and you understand what is happening then it takes much less willpower to move into action.

Procrastination Strategies

If simply intending to do the task worked, you wouldn’t be reading this. There are a number of less-typical strategies you can try to see what will help YOU blow through YOUR procrastination obstacles.

Figure Out Why You Procrastinate – There are many reasons people procrastinate. Figuring out your reason(s) is the first step to overcoming them.  Is it self-doubt or do you just need more information?  Do you need more time for the information to percolate in your head, or do you simply need the stress of the deadline to activate?  Are you unclear if the task is important? Or do you just hate doing it?  Understanding the cause of our individual brands of perfectionism helps us move into action.

Make the First Step Small – focus on getting started. Don’t worry about finishing. Set one mini-goal to get you to sit down and start.

Trick Your Brain – Start with an easy task to stimulate your brain. Take advantage of the “pleasure seeking” chemicals and as soon as you finish the easy/fun task move to one of the “harder to complete” tasks.

Identity Motivation –Use a character trait you like about yourself to help you activate. i.e. – I am a learner, I have perseverance, I am a problem-solver. Then ask:

  1. What kind of situation is this?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What does someone like me do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be thoughtful – then you’ll ask yourself – what does a thoughtful person do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be a problem solver then you’ll ask yourself – what would a problem solver do in a situation like this?

Body Doubling – Body Doubling is having a partner share your space to help keep you on task. They don’t need to do anything in particular. Their very presence helps move you to action.

  • Meet a friend at the coffee shop and work on your “hard” project alone – together.
  • Meet a colleague in the conference room and set your Pomodoro timer.
  • Ask a family member to sit with you while you are getting started.
  • Hire a NAPO Professional Organizer or other consultant to work on your project with you

Change Location – A unfamiliar space can provide just enough stimulation your brain needs to move into action. Weather permitting try working outside, a new coffee shop, or even a new location at work or home. Simply changing chairs at your kitchen table may be enough to shift how your brain is processing the environment.

Freak Yourself Out – Creating controlled stress can help. Make a list of the top 3 consequences of not doing this project. Now make another list – top 3 consequences of not doing this project on time. Not failing can help move you into action.


This is a combo repeat blog post with information from Chapter 4 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon.  Next post we’ll look at the burden of procrastination.

Why Am I Procrastinating

Why Do You Procrastinate? You aren’t the only one asking yourself that question! Without an understanding of why you are procrastinating, it’s hard to figure out what to do about it.

I realized this when I studied my own procrastination tendencies. I learned I usually procrastinated when I needed more information for the next step. Once I understood that behavior, it became easier to figure out how I could learn what I needed to know. Procrastination would also occur when I need more time to think before moving into action. Now that I understand my “why,” my procrastination is manageable.

Read through this list and consider which of these causes explain why you procrastinate. It is often more than one.

What Is Your Why?

Self-doubt — Lack of confidence is a real stopper. It makes sense that it is hard to move into action if you don’t believe in yourself, or you don’t believe what you’ll deliver is going to be good enough. You are probably really hard on yourself. It can be helpful to realize everyone has a degree of self-doubt. It’s what you do about it that drives outcomes.

Need more information — It’s hard to do something when you don’t know how to do it. On the other hand, doing too much research is procrastination in itself. The goal is to find the right balance of information to move you into action. Awareness and asking yourself “what else do I need to get started?” is helpful.

Need processing time — Sometimes you just need time for things to percolate. That good idea you had in the shower this morning? It probably wasn’t a new idea. You were creating the space for that idea to come to fullness. Do you do a better job solving the problem after you “sleep on it?” That is good procrastination!

Need stress — Many people use deadlines to create enough stress to move into action. In last month’s blog post on stress and productivity, we learned about the correlation between stress and performance and that without enough stress, we don’t move into action. Deadline stress can be your solution to getting work out the door. If this is your choice, stop beating yourself up and accept who you are. One warning here: Do you hear yourself saying, “I just didn’t have enough time to do the job I wanted to do?” Some people use procrastination to self-handicap. Delay becomes an excuse for not turning in their best work, or even a way to avoid feedback.

Lack of clarity  —When you’re not clear what is important, you end up spending time on low-value tasks and putting off or not doing important work.

Distaste for the task — It’s hard to be motivated to do a task that you hate doing. If this is the case, consider alternatives. Can you delegate this to someone on your team? Can you pay someone else to do it? Can you take it off your list?

Perfectionism — Does the need to be perfect keep you from doing what needs to be done? We’ll look at this in more detail in future blog posts, but remember – perfect is the enemy of done.


This is an exert from Chapter 4 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon.  Next post I’ll share strategies to help overcome procrastination.

The brain cannot do its best productive work when overstressed, anxious, or under threat. 

Productivity, Stress and Flow Brain Model

A lot is written today about stress and anxiety. We know exercise, meditation, and good sleep help reduce stress. However, little is discussed about the effects of stress and anxiety on our productivity. In a nutshell, the brain cannot do its best productive work when overstressed, anxious, or under threat. (Excerpts from Chapter 3 of Productivity for How You’re Wired.)

Here’s the neuroscience:

Neuroscientist Paul MacLean’s Triune Brain Model provides a straightforward model to understand the impact of fear and stress on the brain in conjunction with evolution and the hierarchy of brain functions. MacLean describes the brain in terms of three regions:

Brain Stem: From an evolutionary perspective, the brain stem is the oldest part of the brain. It controls bodily functions without thought or effort. This part of our brain operates on “autopilot.”

Limbic System: Next in evolutionary age is the limbic system. This is the emotional center of our brain. It is home to the amygdala, the part of the brain that houses the fight, flight, or freeze response. We have some control over our emotions, but under threat or too much stress, the amygdala automatically “hijacks” our thinking brain and takes over.

Prefrontal Cortex: Newest, and least on autopilot, is our Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), our thinking brain. It is here we plan, anticipate, think, and learn. The PFC is where innovation and creative thought occur. It houses our working memory and supports our ability to organize information and draw conclusions.

The PFC and the amygdala compete for control of the brain. When we are our most productive selves, we are functioning from the PFC. However, when there is too much stress, anxiety, or fear, the emotionally driven amygdala kicks in. We move from thinking and being productive to a fight, flight, or freeze state.

When under treat, anxious, or overstressed, our productivity tanks because we’ve moved from our thinking brain to our emotional brain.

Flow

Doing one’s most effective work occurs when a person is in flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the architect of positive psychology’s flow state, defines flow as “a powerful and rewarding psychological state that makes extra effort seem worthwhile.”

When in flow work feels like play, time flies (and stands still,) and productivity soars. To be our most productive selves, to be in flow, we need to function from our PFC, our thinking brain.Finding Productivity Flow

When under too much stress, anxiety can be paralyzing. You may relate to that feeling when you get a note from the boss saying “come see me,” or a long-time client calls and says “can we talk?” Just when we need to be at our best, we freeze up and our emotional brain takes charge.

Without enough stress, the brain struggles to move into action. Waiting until the 11th hour to begin a project causes enough stress to move the brain into productivity flow.

Strategies for Getting and Staying in Productivity Flow

The emotional limbic brain almost always wins unless we learn how to manage it. To be in productivity flow we need to employ strategies to help us manage the stress.From overstressed to productive

Knowledge is power! When you start to feel anxious or lose focus, it’s empowering to stop and think — I know what’s going on here. When you realize that what is happening in your brain is the normal physiologic stress response, you can take back control. Deep breathing, a walk, or other calming activity can help, but sometimes simply understanding what is happening is enough to pull you back into productivity flow.

Productivity for How You're Wired

I am so happy to share with you that my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired is out!

It truly has been a labor of love.  My most sincere hope is that it will help people work and live better.

Many have asked how they can buy the book. It is available on Amazon.  If you like it, I hope you’ll leave a review.

As a loyal subscriber, you’re invited  to my Virtual Book Launch Party and Book Signing.  It will be on Wednesday September 28th between 4pm and 7pm Eastern Time.  Please put it on your calendar and plan to drop in for as much or as little time as you like.  I have some fun activities planned.  We might even play a game…with prizes!  For those of you who want your books signed, I’ve figured that out too.  I think you’ll love it.  (Zoom link to follow).