Respond, rather than react

respondHow much of your day is driven by reaction?

The phone rings, you jump. The email dings, you open it. You get an instant message and interrupt what you were doing to read it. You are sorting your email and dive into someone else’s agenda.

We spend so much energy jumping from one thing to the next with no thought, no consideration and no appreciation of the relative merits of what we are doing. And at the end of the day, we wonder why we didn’t get more done! 

And then we wonder why we feel so overwhelmed?

Remember the old adage – count to 10? There’s a reason for that.

Pausing for a moment, counting to 10 or taking a few breaths will immediately pull you out of reaction, and give you time to consider and respond.

That is far less stressful and far more productive.

 

 

© Terry Monaghan, 2013 ~ All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

Your work habits are costing you…

By Terry Monaghan, 3 October 2012

 

If you aren’t careful, your work habits could easily be costing you dearly.

Costing you what? Time. Money. Energy. Satisfaction. Results.

What do I mean?

Take a look at how you started your day.

Did you roll out of bed and immediately grab your smart phone to check email? Or did you get out of bed and take your body out for a walk (insert your favorite exercise here)?

Did you eat breakfast? And I am not talking about the venti half caff soy no whip extra shot latte on the way to the office.

Did you give yourself some time to review your plans for the day, and set your intentions for the day? Or did you turn on the computer, go straight to email, and spend time dealing with everyone else’s agenda for you?

Do you have time carved out of your day to focus on the most important work you have to do? Or did you think you would fit it in/get around to it once you dealt with the email? How did that turn out?

Did you take a break for lunch, and actually get up from your desk and leave the office to have lunch? Or did you start to eat a sandwich at your desk only to throw the rest of it out at 6pm? Or even more likely – did you realize at 4pm that you still hadn’t eaten?

Do you actually get YOUR work done at work? Or are you staying late or taking it home to finish because you need quiet time and you can’t manage all the interruptions at the office?

I can hear some of you howling – “But, really, you don’t understand! It always goes that way! I have no control!”

Really? If you say so. I happen to know for a fact that it doesn’t have to go that way. I invite you to set up a call with me to find out how to take back control. There are slots available for a Breakthrough Productivity Session – and you can snag yours at TimeTriage.com.

 

© Terry Monaghan, 2012 ~ All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

Time management doesn’t work!

by Terry Monaghan, August 29, 2012

Have you ever wondered why time management doesn’t stick?  You know what I mean… You try this course, read that book, get this app, make lists, use the calendar (digital or paper), schedule, prioritize – and still feel frustrated, overwhelmed and have no time!

Why is that?

I have a theory. I think most books, courses and systems are working on the pieces of the puzzle. But they are only working on the 10% of that iceberg that is above the water line!

And the 90% of the issue that is below the surface is exactly why the pieces don’t seem to fit together, no matter what you do.

We have all had the experience of committing to something – scheduling the time to take care of it – and then completely ignoring our plan. We forget. We get busy with something else. Some emergency is way more pressing in the moment. Our alarm didn’t go off. We got distracted online. Our errands ran long. The phone rang. The kids got sick. We got sick. It rained. The dog ate a sock. Blah, blah, blah.

And then we feel bad. We wonder what is wrong with us that we can’t get a simple task done. We can’t follow a simple plan. We can’t stick to a schedule.

So we stop trying. We decide that ‘it just doesn’t work for us.’

What if it isn’t us? What if it isn’t even the system or structure we are using?

Clearly, there is something else at play here. Some other unexamined commitment is in control of our time and our actions. And until we distinguish what that competing commitment is, whatever we try will have limited impact.

Something to think about: You can’t manage time anyway. If you can, go ahead, manage the next minute and tell me how it goes.

So, if you can’t manage time – what can you manage?

You can manage your energy, and you can manage your actions. And that’s where the next post will start!

 

©  Terry Monaghan, 2012, All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

When is a task not a task?

by Terry Monaghan, August 9, 2012

Do you under-estimate the time something will take when planning your work?

A client said she was discovering that many things were taking longer than she originally thought and had originally planned for. (We were discussing the progress she was making in taking control of her schedule and her results.)

This is not an unusual situation, but I was curious, so I started asking questions. For example, she had blocked 90 minutes to write a blog post, but was finding that wasn’t enough time. I wanted to know why was it taking over 90 minutes to write the post.

It turns out she was:

(1) researching the post,
(2) writing the post,
(3) editing the post,
(4) loading the post up to the blog,
(5) finding just the right image for the post, and finally
(6) publishing the post.

But she was calling that block of time “writing blog post.”

OK, now I see the problem. Like many people, she had collapsed TASK and PROJECT. So, when I asked her to schedule her tasks, she thought she was doing what I said, but in fact she was trying to cram a project into a time slot for a task.

Have you ever done that? And why do you need to keep them distinct?

Well, if she just devoted that 90 minutes to writing, she would have written enough material for 2 or even 3 separate blog posts. She would have kept herself in the flow of writing.

When you break your projects into the separate tasks, you can make huge progress even when you only have little bits of time available. But when you collapse the two – you might not even start because the whole project seems so overwhelming and you just don’t have the time!

How do you know what is a task, and what is a project? Well, the simplest definition: A task is a single action. Anything that requires more than one single step is a project.

Plan a party is a project. Set the date for the party is one task in that project.

Productivity tip: Go back over your “task list” – make a note of where you are collapsing tasks with projects. See if you can batch the tasks that are similar.

I promise, you will get MORE done that way.

 

©  Terry Monaghan, 2012, All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

101 things you can do (or stop doing) to give yourself more time [part 3]

by Terry Monaghan, on July 23, 2012

How is it going? Have you enjoyed the first 50 tips? Did any of them surprise you? Are you still feeling overwhelmed?

All of the tips have been tried out in the field, and they really do produce a breakthrough in productivity.

Well, hang on – here are 25 more! Try some of them – I promise they will help you with getting things done!

(Remember, you can send me tips you haven’t seen yet. What are your favorites?)

  1. Do something you love to do
  2. Hire someone to do your taxes (save you time AND money)
  3. Find a dry cleaner who will pick up and deliver
  4. Use a personal shopper
  5. Get a personal assistant
  6. The post office will pick up your packages!
  7. Get your regular household items delivered
  8. Order office supplies online
  9. Try meeting by phone or Skype or videoconference vs. in person
  10. Get your groceries delivered
  11. Block out time to focus
  12. Have your assistant monitor your email
  13. Use as much technology as you are comfortable with
  14. Hire someone to run your errands
  15. Hire someone to clear your house
  16. Hire someone to do your laundry
  17. Give up your to-do list
  18. If it isn’t scheduled in time, it isn’t happening!
  19. Schedule regular activities for the same day/time each week
  20. Create a weekly magic list – who will you reach out to? What will you create?
  21. One hour a day marketing (every single day) will have a HUGE impact
  22. Set aside a regular time for follow up
  23. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse/significant other (or social time if you are single)
  24. Do something that scares you
  25. Take time to laugh!

More to come…

(c) Terry Monaghan, 2012, All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

 

101 things you can do (or stop doing) to give yourself more time [part two]

by Terry Monaghan on July 4, 2012

Are you still feeling overwhelmed?

Are you ready for a breakthrough in productivity?

Still wondering how to get things done?

Did you like the first 25 time saving tips? Well, hang on to your hat – here are the next 25 …

  1. Open snail mail once a week
  2. Put junk mail into recycling immediately
  3. Do your grocery shopping online
  4. Keep ONE calendar (you have ONE life)
  5. Keep a notebook handy for dumping your mind
  6. Keep a notebook handy for notes during the day
  7. Remember to schedule preparation time for meetings or conferences
  8. Remember to schedule debrief time for meetings or conferences
  9. Regularly give yourself time to think
  10. Delegate as much as you can
  11. Getting from place to place takes time, plan for it
  12. Use an e-reader – you can read while you are waiting for something else
  13. Plan your meals
  14. Do all (or most) of your meal prep and cooking once a week
  15. Do regular computer backups
  16. Have a clear process for handling your email
  17. Debrief your day
  18. Don’t let other people’s emergencies distract you
  19. Take care of yourself first
  20. Review the next day’s agenda at the end of the day
  21. Keep your keys / glasses / sunglasses / purse / briefcase in one consistent place
  22. Get very clear about your strategy – what is the point of what you are doing?
  23. Set up your work space to work!
  24. Build your life support team
  25. Be sure to set aside time for your family

I’d love to hear what YOUR best tips are!

(c) Terry Monaghan, 2012, All Rights Reserved

Want to use this article in your ezine or website? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, an ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

Where will you carve out time?

It stands to reason that if you want different results, you may have to do some things differently. Many of us find that to be an intimidating idea – because we think we may have to change everything – and that is just an overwhelming thought.

But, what if you only changed one thing? What if the one thing you added was one block of time each week devoted to one of your goals? Notice – I did not say one block of time each day – I really mean one block of time each week! And it doesn’t have to be a large block of time.

What if you set aside one hour each week to work specifically on one of your goals. Yes, only one hour! Do you have any idea what you could accomplish if you devoted one hour to it each and every week? Well – if you devoted one hour each week to reading for example, you would have read more than 10 books by the end of the year. Which, by the way, is way more than most people will do!

What if you set aside that one hour each week to make calls to your clients, prospects and contacts? I am not talking about having long conversations – just a quick touching base type of call. You could easily reach 30 people during that one hour (and leaving a message counts as reaching them). What do you think you might be able to create if you knew that you would reach out to 1500 people over the course of the year?

Not bad for one hour!

Where will you carve out the time?

Because, really, without a life, what’s the point?

(c) 2010, Terry Monaghan

Want to use this article in your ezine or website?
You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, a free weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

Back to the basics

Have you ever noticed that there are certain times of year that fly by? And other times just drag on forever? Summertime seems to be one of those times – alternately flying and dragging. Mostly flying though.

Have you already gotten summer brain? You know what I mean: it’s hot, it’s mid-July, everyone is on vacation (even those still at work), and it seems like there is no point doing anything because nothing is really going to get done until September.

I was thinking about some work I was doing with a client last year on planning. We were meeting in early June, and school was almost out for her kids. She wanted to create a great plan for the summer – one that allowed her to have a vacation as well as get all the work and other stuff done without being a stressed out maniac.

As we were talking, I started asking about what had to be done to get the kids ready for school in the Fall. At first, she was confused and didn’t even want to talk about that.

After all, school wasn’t even out for the summer yet, and I was asking her about the next school year!

But as we looked in more detail, it became clear that if she didn’t think and plan now for the end of the summer and the start of the school year, she would be that stressed out maniac sooner than she wanted to be.

In early June it can look like September is months away. And it is. But remember, summer flies by and September comes far sooner than we’d like.

By taking a little time right then, she was able to arrange the back to school medical checkups quickly. She also pulled together the rest of the paperwork the school always wants, and which always can’t be found in August.

So, when school let out the next week, she was able to take her summer long vacation with absolutely no concern about what had to be done when she returned. It was already planned, scheduled and would be waiting for her when the time came.

Planning. A schedule that works for you. These are two of the fundamentals I keep coming back to. They establish a foundation on which you can build your business, and your life. Without that foundation, you are building sandcastles. Beautiful to look at, and they can be quite elaborate and impressive. But not stable. Not lasting.

You can get a jump on everyone by taking a little time to refine your plans, to re-define your schedule, to look at how things are getting done.

When was the last time you inspected your foundation?

Shameless plug: I am re-running my Productivity Basics teleclasses in late July and early August. There will be two session on developing a schedule that works, one session on planning, and one session on taking control of your email. Details are available at EVENTS.

In the meantime, have a great summer – but remember – time flies!

(c) 2010, Terry Monaghan

Want to use this article in your ezine or website?
You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, a free weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

Is an empty inbox even possible?

Did you know that studies indicate most of us in business are spending up to 3 hours a day just trying to deal with incoming email? This time doesn’t include doing any of the work associated – just trying to get through the inbox. And if your email pushes through to your BlackBerry or iPhone it can be even worse!

3 hours a day equates to over 19-1/2 weeks a year – just trying to get through the inbox. No wonder it seems to be so overwhelming.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is just insane. I remember when I first heard those statistics. I realized that I was not spending any where near that amount of time dealing with my email, and I didn’t think I was the only one. I went on a hunt to identify what others were doing to manage this, and found we all had something in common.

It’s no big secret – we had all established a process and protocol that we use to manage our email. This process and protocol has just a few parts to it. And, if you implement even one of the steps, you will see an immediate result.

Here is my six step process:

  1. Establish protocols. When will you check your email? How quickly will you respond to incoming email? Make no mistake, if you don’t establish your own protocol, one will be established for you by default. The default is what we now have – 3 hours a day (or more) treating email as if it were some form of instant message, and allowing ourselves to be continually interrupted by incoming messages.
  2. Set up some rules to divert email you don’t need to see immediately. I have rules that move newsletters into reading folders, and other rules that move messages sent to a particular email account (yes, I have more than one) into its own folder. So what actually ends up in my inbox is already somewhat sorted.
  3. Turn off the feature that automatically checks for email every 5-10-15 minutes. (That is the push.) Instead, pull the email in to the inbox at the time you set to check your email.
  4. Turn off that shadow popup (or sound) that notifies you of new mail. Studies indicate we get interrupted, on average, every 6-8 minutes throughout the day. And, it takes us up to 10 minutes to re-focus on the task we were working on when the interruption occurred. That math doesn’t work! So, eliminate the interruption.
  5. Process your inbox systematically. I like to think of the inbox as a place where items land and the action is to sort. The inbox is not a place for things to live. The goal is an empty inbox at the end of each sort. Here are some sorting criteria that work well:
  • Read and delete (you don’t have to do anything else)
  • Read and respond (simple acknowledgment or one line response)
  • Read and schedule for future action (including delegating)
  • Read and file

I said six steps – so what is the last one? Stop treating email as if it were instant messaging. We have developed a culture that treats email as if it all required an instant response. Stop! You can put an automatic response on your email that alerts people to your rules and protocols. This will manage their expectations regarding when you will respond and can give them a way to contact you if something needs to be dealt with quicker. Trust me, they won’t get upset, and you won’t receive five more emails asking why you didn’t respond to the first one.

This is what you can expect: As I write this, I average around 250-300 incoming emails every day. I check the email generally twice a day – in the morning, and towards the end of the day. Each time, I spend no more than 30 minutes (and usually quite a bit less time) sorting, responding and scheduling action. Then, I turn it off till the next time.

A few years ago, I took a vacation to Ireland with my brother and sister. Every hotel we checked into had computer access. My brother and sister were checking their email every single day. I didn’t. I was on vacation. Instead, I had already scheduled my first day back as a catch up day. I came home to 894 new emails in the inbox (many others had been diverted). After two hours, every single one had been read, sorted, and scheduled appropriately. And I was caught up on what had been happening while I was away.

Give it a try. It works every single time.

(c) 2010, Terry Monaghan
Want to use this article in your ezine or website?
You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, a weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.

Solutions to managing overwhelm

In my last post, I listed some of the major factors contributing to the pervasive sense of overwhelm most of us are struggling with. To review, some of the major factors were:

  • Looking for things
  • Your email
  • Interruptions
  • Meetings
  • Poorly defined processes

All of which was sucking up more than 100% of our time! And creating an unwinnable game in an unworkable environment.

So pick your head up off the desk. Below are some proven strategies to allow you to wrangle that overwhelm into a more manageable state.

What can we do?

So, what can we do? I am going to give you some simple solutions to address each of these areas. While they are simple, they are not necessarily easy to implement – but any one of them will produce a measurable result immediately!

Get organized

What can you do to reduce the time you spend looking for what you need (the document, the file, the phone number)? Get organized. Set up your physical space to work. Close your eyes and picture your primary work space. Got it? Good. Now, let me know – is it set up in such a way that it invites you in and allows you to get real work done? Or is it set up in such a way that it compels you to run screaming from the building? Or somewhere in between? The easiest way to do this is to work with someone else. Let’s face it – if you knew what to do to get organized, you would have already done it. And, I want to clear up one thing here – having a neat office does not necessarily mean you have an organized office. Some of the most organized people I know have untidy offices – but everything has a logic to it, and they can find what they need exactly when they need it.

Establish a process for dealing with your email

Set a specific time each day when you check your email. Turn off the function that pushes email to your computer or smart phone. When it is time to check, pull all the messages into the inbox.

Go through and sort everything in one pass. Don’t try to sort some and work on some – for now just sort. Some quick sort criteria –

  • read and delete (you don’t have to do anything else)
  • read and respond (simple acknowledgement or one line response)
  • read and schedule for future action (including delegating)
  • divert – create a rule to automatically sort it into a separate folder (newsletters, etc) that you can access as you have time

Shifting from checking your email every 3-7 minutes throughout the day to checking 2-3 times a day alone will free up two hours of time, on average, immediately!

Stop treating email as if it were a form of instant message!

Managing interruptions

Dan Kennedy says ‘if they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you.’ Consider tackling your most important task of the day before you check your email, and your voicemail. Don’t be afraid to close your door (and put a sign on it if you need to) so you can focus on your work. The world won’t end if you let your phone calls go to voicemail. You can manage people’s expectations by recording a clear message letting callers know when you may be returning calls, or setting up an email auto-response that lets people know how often you will be reviewing messages – so you won’t get 6 messages asking why you haven’t responded to the first.

If you may only have 45 minutes of productive time in the day, why not get that 45 minutes in and your most important actions done first thing – before anyone has a chance to interrupt?

Meetings

What is the intended outcome of the meeting? Can it be accomplished with a phone call? If so, then do that and save yourself a lot of time. If you must have a meeting be certain there is a clearly stated outcome, an agenda and a firm starting and ending time. And create clear action items coming out of the meeting. A meeting that doesn’t produce action items was probably not necessary.

Ineffective processes

Don’t be afraid to ask ‘why’ when you find yourself wondering if the way something is being done makes sense. Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better, simpler way to get the same result? Are we using our technology to the fullest? Often, we are too involved in what we are doing to step back to see if there might be a better way. If you find yourself operating over top of a sense of frustration and anxiety, you may want to take a step back and look at what is being done and how it is being done to see if you can tell where it has fallen apart. An outside pair of eyes is great here, too.

In summary, the keys to managing overwhelm are taking back control in those areas that you actually can control. You can set boundaries. You can schedule your time. You can plan your work. You can establish processes and protocols for how things get done. And you can recognize that we have created an environment where it is just not possible for one person to get it all done. So, choose what you will focus on (and choose what’s most important to you), and move forward.

To your success!

Terry Monaghan

Want to use this article in your ezine or website?

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What a free weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results then get your free tips now at www.TimeTriage.com.