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     Tackle Time Thieves

Do you find yourself saying, "I never have time to..."? This is a common statement in today’s busy society. A quote by Cheryl Richardson is the best way to start discussing time: "We use appointment books, electronic calendars, and other elaborate tools in the hope of scheduling our time more efficiently. But these tools just perpetuate the MYTH that we can somehow ‘manage time.’ The truth is, we can only manage OURSELVES."

So rather than talking about time management, let’s talk about organizing time and managing yourself. If a thief is "one who steals, especially by stealth", then what is stealing your time? It might be TIME-WASTERS such as disorganization of physical space, lack of information, agenda-less meetings, or failure to delegate. It might be INTERRUPTIONS from a phone, a person, email, or yourself. It might be an inability to say "no".

Paul Meyers states that "most time is wasted, not in hours, but in MINUTES. A bucket with a small hole in the bottom gets just as empty as a bucket that is deliberately kicked over." So a good place to start organizing time is to diagnose the SOURCE of the small time wasters, interruptions, and tasks calling for your attention. Once you have identified your time-stealing culprits, you can utilize the appropriate tool to take back your time.

For example, if the basis of several time wasters is lack of FOCUS, you may need to implement some discipline. This might be opening a phone conversation by indicating the reason for your call, the desired results, and the amount of time you can talk. This will make you less likely to stray from the purpose of the call. If you have set aside time to work on a task, first you might determine the scope of the job, then you could decide an appropriate amount of time to work on the assignment. By setting a timer, you can either play "beat the buzz" or if it rings and you are doing something else, it is a reminder to return to the task at hand.

People are prone to INTERRUPTIONS whether they are in an office or at home. One effective way to curb interruptions is to set some BOUNDARIES. For instance, if you have caller id, use it to your advantage. You do not have to answer every phone call. Some can go to voicemail. Set similar boundaries with email and only check it at designated times each day.

If you find that you interrupt yourself, consider ways to make your environment more conducive to task COMPLETION. For instance, do you work better with "white noise", in silence, or with music? Do you like to have a large, clear workspace, or will any space work? Lastly, learn to say "no".

Lots of time is stolen when we are doing something that doesn’t need to be on our plate. Two strategies apply here: Drop one activity before signing up for a new one. With only 24 hours in a day, it is impossible to always add and not to SUBTRACT. Develop a stock answer to give anyone who asks for your time. For example, "Can I get back to you in a couple of days? I need to check my calendar before I commit to something NEW?"

Choose one or two of these tools and start to implement them immediately. You will find that you can RECOVER a little bit of stolen time each day.


© 2007 Janice Russell. North Carolina’s first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Janice Russell, and her firm, Minding Your Matters® Organizing, have built a reputation for helping business and residential clients organize their space, items, documents, and time using the flexible structure principle™. Janice’s workshops on topics such as tackling the “no time” trap, perishing paper piles, and stopping “stuff” from being overwhelming are dynamic, informative, and practical. Minding Your Matters® is dedicated to helping people achieve organization with lasting results™ in their personal and professional lives. Janice is highly regarded within her industry. She is Education Chair for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and past president of the North Carolina Chapter of NAPO. Janice is the author of Get Organized This Year! For more information, please visit www.mindingyourmatters.com or call 919-467-7058.

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