If you were to ask any of my friends, “What are some of Chris’ positive traits?” (notice, I wrote "positive," without that adjective, you might end up with a litany of not so praiseworthy qualities), I’m sure “being organized” would be in the top 3. Or, as my friend, Kitty, likes to ask, “Are you getting orrrganiiized” — it’s a long, drawn out pronunciation and this is the closest phonetic spelling I could come up with — but I’m sure you get the idea.
In any event, yes, I love to be organized. My shirts are hung by shade of color and fabric, as are my pants. Everything in my dresser, including t-shirts, shorts, socks, underwear, etc. are folded in such a way that I can see each item in rows (think packaged sliced bread), I make my bed every day...the list goes on and on. But, at the same time, I do not have OCD — yes, my sweaters are folded with tissue paper in between, but each fold is not very precise, and sometimes, I’ll leave a few dishes in the sink and the recycling bin can overflow. I always say that I’m organized just enough to keep me calm and sane, but not so much that I need to be medicated.
However, even though I am organized, I still occasionally have problems with time and task management. I’m a guy who lives in his head, so one thought, can lead to another thought, to another, and pretty soon an hour has flown by and I’ve achieved nothing on my “To Do” list — although, I have to admit that writing this blog is helping with being disciplined.
Since my last few posts have been bathed in seriousness — the death of my mother, 9/11, aging. Immigration, discrimination, etc., I decided that this week, I wanted to focus on a topic in the Personal Growth - Action Plan category. Hence, my lead up to time and task management.
Right from the start, I want to tell you that time management doesn’t really exist — or in the words of Rabbi Mahler in an episode of Seinfeld, “It’s a myth like the Yeti, or his North American cousin, the Sasquatch.” We each have 24 hours in a day and 525,600 minutes in a year. That will never change. So, instead of time management, think about it as self-management, because, in essence, it’s you that needs managing, not time.
In a salary.com survey, 89 percent of respondents acknowledged that they wasted time every day at work. Thirty-one percent wrote that they wasted 30 minutes to an hour each day, while 16 percent waste up to 2 hours a day.
In my research, It seems that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet has a blog or an article or a research paper focused on time and task management with tips to get you back on track. So, instead of another long list, I cherry-picked a few of my favorites, and I’ll include some links at the end with more detailed lists if you’re interested.
- Utilize Your Own Prime Time
There are times when you function better than others — you might be a "morning person," or a "night owl," or, you might get your burst of energy in the late afternoon. Knowing when your best time is and planning to use that time of day to get tasks done (if possible), can be quite effective.
- “No” Is Not a Dirty Word
Don’t be afraid to say “no” to someone or something that diverts you from the task at hand. And furthermore, don’t try to take on more than you can handle. Choose your priority and stick with it.
- Be Ruthless With Your “To Do” List
In a similar vein, start your day prioritizing and cutting down your list. As I wrote earlier, there’s a finite amount of time you have per day, yet you can have an infinite amount of work (or at least it seems to be infinite). Start with the most important and urgent task and then go from there.
- Focus Is Key
Many people are multi-taskers, which can be fine as long as you’re not overloaded. If you are having a difficult time getting your work done, put deep focus on the project you’re working on. Turn off your phone, logout of Facebook, close the distracting tabs on your browser and focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be much more productive.
- It’s All About the Timing
Estimate how much time each portion of your task will take and keep track of what the actual time is. You can use the timer on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can schedule blocks in Outlook, Google Calendar, and other calendar programs. There are also a number of apps that can help you keep on track. A simple app is Egg Timer, which is an online countdown timer. You just enter the amount of time and it will beep at you when the time is up — a great way to track your time spent on a project.
Or, you can utilize something more sophisticated that provides a technique, like Pomodoro. Pomodoro is a program that breaks your tasks into focused time blocks (25 minutes is standard). When the alarm goes off, it’s time for a 5-minute break. After 4 cycles, you take a longer break.
The benefits of the Pomodoro Technique come from the frequent breaks, which help your mind regain focus and calmness. The focused time blocks also force you to adhere to fixed limits, so you’ll be encouraged to complete a task more quickly, or in the case of a large task, spread it out over a number of Pomodoros. There are a variety of Pomodoro apps on the market, find one that works best for you.
- Give Me a Break
Yes, you have a lot to do, but as with the Pomodoro technique that has breaks built in, it’s important to take small breaks. Stretch, get a snack or drink, clear your mind with meditation, or find a place to close your eyes and take a beat. You’ll come back to the task refreshed and energized.
In his blog, Leo Babauta sums it up this way. He writes, “The problem is having too much stuff to fit into a small container (24 hours). If we look at task management and time management (self-management) as simply a container organization problem, it becomes simpler. How do we fit all of the stuff we have to do into our small container?” His solutions are: Simplify your tasks and learn the art of letting go. In essence, it’s about prioritizing your “to do list,” so that you will be able to complete the most important tasks, and understand that it’s ok to drop things that you thought were important, but on reflection, realized that was not the case.
Thank you for taking your valuable time to read today’s blog. Now, get back to work!
Here are some resources if you’d like to delve deeper into the subject.
- 11 Time Management Tips That Work, balance.com
- Tips for More Effective Personal Time Management, nyu.edu
- 20 Quick Tips For Better Time Management, lifehack.org
- 30 Time Management Tips For Work-Life Balance, forbes.com
TIME TO DINE: Cooking for Joan
This week, I decided to bring you a lunch dish that’s suitable for a fancy “luncheon with the ladies,” or served on sandwiches when you’re packing a lunch for a day at the beach or the park. I think this recipe is from Ina Garten (and if not, it’s a very close replica). By using bone-in, skin-on chicken, you get all of that amazing flavor from a roast chicken, but without the fat from the skin. Enjoy!
Curried Chicken Salad
Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 1 hr | Makes: 6 | Difficulty: Easy
- 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann’s)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup chutney
- 3 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 large stalks)
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice (or shred with your hands) the chicken into large bite-size pieces.
For the dressing:
Combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well. Add the celery, scallions, and raisins, and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Add the cashews and serve at room temperature.
**image courtesy of Tester Media