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Thursday, July 12, 2012

To Be Successful, Manage Your Morning

I don’t know about you, but when the calendar turned to July 1st, I was asking, "What happened to May and June?" And does anyone else feel like you just get your day started and the next thing you know it’s time for dinner? What’s happening to make our days spin by so quickly?

Obviously it has nothing to do with the changes in nature. The earth is still spinning at the same speed – 24 hours. The problem seems to be with how well or poorly we are managing our time. Our expectations for a 9-to-5 work life, with weekends spent relaxing with family or a good book seem to have all but vanished. Instead, our expectations have morphed into an addictive world of 24/7/365 information and connectivity and an illusion that with all this information and technology we can do more. I refer to an illusion because even with all the gadgets we can surround ourselves with, the clock still ticks 60 times for every minute. Other things may be changing, but the human capacity element of this equation is still the same.

Is it Time to Reassess Your Time Management Practices?

Since I offer time management workshops to my clients, I’m very careful to not be a hypocrite; on one hand espousing great techniques for managing balance and order in your schedule, while on the other spinning out of control trying to catch up with my own commitments and projects. But every now and then even the doctor has to take a step back and check on healthy habits.

Recently Fast Company.com published an article by Laura Vanderkam, a nationally recognized journalist and author of the book, What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. I’m sure all of us have attended a time management workshop at some point, and have tried to develop and incorporate new habits into our lives based on the techniques shared. Changing habits can be a difficult task. Like with any behavioral change, it’s easy, especially when stressed, to fall back into old routines. So as Laura suggests, periodically monitoring how you’re doing is a good practice to maintain in order to sustain the changes you are interested in.

When I saw Laura’s article I was intrigued, because clearly I needed to take time to assess what I’ve got going on if I’m missing entire months! And she’s right: For most people the early morning hours are a great time to get things done. Mornings usually offer the best window of opportunity for time with minimum interruptions – which we know is a major derailer of our efforts to manage our time.

Personally, in an ideal world, I like to get my 4-mile walk started about 6:30 a.m. This works for me because it allows me time to get in my exercise before some ‘emergency’ wakes up, it provides me a guilt-free schedule that doesn’t cut into my work time, and I get the added benefits of ‘quiet time' - being with nature, renewed energy, and an opportunity to think about how I will organize my day when I do get to my desk. But as we all experience, the world doesn’t always offer the ideal.

In the past I’ve written about time management and suggested techniques such as:
  • Turn off your email pop-up feature when you’re working on your computer so you aren’t inviting interruptions.
  • Put an ‘away message’ on your phone and computer to help others manage their expectations of when you’ll get back to them.
  • Schedule ‘out of the office’ time to work on major projects or chunks of work where you need to be totally focused due to content or schedule.
  • Be mindful that more hours worked does not equate to better productivity; in fact, at some point overtime hours transform into less productive time.
  • Multi-tasking doesn’t make us more efficient; in fact, studies are confirming what we intuitively experience, all those tasks are really interrupters for each other. Best to do one thing at a time.

Here are a few additional points from Laura to help you, if you are interested in reassessing how you start and manage your day:
  • Track your time – To improve how you’re spending your time you have to know what you’re doing with it right now. Be aware of the decisions you are making and the reasons behind what you think you have to do.
  • Picture the perfect morning – As you are visioning how to spend possibly the best hours of the day, consider what you would enjoy doing, as well as utilizing some of this time for personal and professional growth.
  • Think through the logistics – Create the plan and assemble what you need for success.
  • Build the habit – Laura’s 5-step process to optimize a behavioral change: start slow, monitor your energy, attempt one habit at a time, and reward yourself.
  • Tune up as necessary – This is an important step, not to be overlooked. As you step back and reflect on what’s working and not working with your time management practices, be willing to let go of the rituals that no longer work and replace them with others that fit your current life.

So What’s Next?

Change is continuously happening and that change is impacting the way we work and play. We can’t assume the routine that worked for us last year or last week for that matter, is the optimal routine of what we should be doing tomorrow.

In organizational planning, we conduct assessments of the current requirements, consider the needs for the future, and work on plans to close the gaps between the points in time. The same process works for personal change. Consider what you’re doing now, what’s working and not, and how you vision using your time in the future. Once you’ve got a handle on what needs to change, the appropriate actions will become apparent.

If you’d like to read more specifics about Laura’s tips, check out her Fast Company article. Healthy living requires a balance of time for work, play, spirituality, family, friends, ourselves and community - not in any particular order. It’s a constant tug-of-war to find the ‘time.’ However, initiating and monitoring good habits can make it possible.

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. Please share your thoughts below. If you found this article helpful, I’m very happy for you to pass it along to others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A King, SPHR, CEO and Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about changing individual and workplace practices and can help you navigate a plan for successful change. Contact Debbie for more information: Debbie@evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Larry Lewis
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