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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

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Have You Fallen Into the Deadly Trap of Time Management?

time trap

We devote so much time and energy to improving our time management. There are websites, blogs, educational programs and entire shelves in bookstores dedicated to this very topic. After all, time management is the “holy grail” of happiness and success, right? We think it’s what allows us to do it all and do it well, take on more projects, get that raise and provide for our family. But what I’ve recently come to find is that the entire concept of time management is one big lie.

Controlling time, by any means, is simply not possible. There are things we do to make ourselves feel like we are in control. These things, like waking up early, working faster, skipping lunch breaks and staying up late may insulate our happy little bubble of managed time, but there are no more hours in our day and everything comes at the sacrifice of something else.

Technology has only aggravated this problem by making us feel like we can be ever more efficient with our time by being hyper-connected and multitasking every hour of the day. We think that if we can get more done today, that tomorrow will be less hectic, that tomorrow we will have time for our hobbies, that tomorrow we will be less stressed and more happy. But tomorrow is a moving target and every day is just as busy as the one before because we simply aren’t able to manage time.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few of life’s truths that have helped me to recognize the deadly traps of time management:

We can’t manage time; we can only manage ourselves regarding time.

As I said before, time management is a lie. We can’t manage time; we can only manage ourselves regarding time. We aren’t in control of time, but we are in control of our actions. How we choose to use the time we’ve been given every day is the most critical decision we have to make with our lives.

Rather than missing the forest for the trees by worrying about how we can answer more emails in a day, worry about why we even want to be answering so many emails in a day. Look at the bigger picture of your life and begin to prioritize what will matter most in the grand meaning of your existence.

You don’t “have” to do anything.

Another one of time management’s deadly traps is overwhelming ourselves with everything we “have” to do in a day. When I looked back at my Google calendar from a year ago, it’s interesting to see everything I packed into my schedule and marked with a star as a “must do” task.

What would have happened if I simply didn’t get to it that day, that week, ever? Minor consequences, if any. I have to constantly resist creating additional and unnecessary pressure in my life. We all do. If you feel like there is so much you “have” to get done today that you can’t meet a friend for lunch or take off an hour early to see your son’s soccer game, closely evaluate these tasks again and you’ll be surprised as to how this new mindset will show you how things can – and will – wait.

You will never have more time.

No one is able to “make time,” they must prioritize. We all have the same number of seconds every day so when someone says they’ll try and make time for that tomorrow, you know that it’s simply not a priority.

Another trap is saying you will take on a task when you have more time. You will never have more time. You must either do less or do it faster to make room for something else in your life. Again, it comes down to priorities.

It will never take just a minute…half hour…hour.

This time management trap is one of the most subtle and therefore extremely sneaky. It’s being unrealistic with how long it will take you to complete a task. We begin our busy day with a task list orchestrated by the minute only to find that we are constantly falling behind and chronically late. Does this sound familiar? It’s likely because you think a task will take half the time that it actually requires and so you overbook your day and scramble to get back on track. This is a frustrating and stressful life to live.

Start tracking the time it takes you to do common tasks to gain a better sense for how much time they require. This will help you to manage yourself regarding time.

Only in very rare instances does something have to be done “now.”

This final time management trap is the one that really gets under my skin because it’s the result of someone else trying to manage your time for you. Your boss, co-worker or spouse asks you to do something and insists it has to be done right now. Does this sound familiar? We all know that person who feels like everything they have going on is urgent and you should drop everything you’re doing to make it a priority. Yet, once we do complete the task, they don’t even touch it until the next day, or week, or at all.

Don’t get caught up in someone else’s urgent trivialities. It’s a power game and their effort to control you since they likely feel out of control with other aspects of their life. Directly question if it truly is something urgent; make them justify it. Then, push back. Let them know you have other things going on and matter of factly state that it cannot be completed until next week. I always say that if everything is urgent, then nothing is urgent. Learn to identify those people who “cry wolf” with your time.

In the end…

What’s the moral of this life lesson? It’s that the time given to us each day and the number of days we’re given in our life is completely out of our control. We can continue to waste these precious moments trying to find time hacks and ways to cram even more into our days. Or we can stop living the lie of “time management” and starting actually living.

So how should we manage our time? We should take more naps, longer lunch breaks, a long walk and turn off work after reasonable business hours have passed. Yes, there will be tasks left to do, but there will always be tasks left to do. Even if you worked 24 hours a day, there would be something more to fill your time – or you would invent it. You are the only person who can and should prioritize your life. If you don’t work to find a balance, you will simply work and work and work until that becomes the only meaning in your life. And that is a very sad day, indeed.

So, have you fallen into the deadly trap of time management – working longer and harder in hopes that it will make tomorrow less hectic…but it never does? Share your own struggles and triumphs by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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For Better Time Management…Eat A Frog?

frogHere’s a piece of advice that will surely grab your attention, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Mark Twain is credited for this witty and wacky quote, but I can’t imagine he was advising us to actually go out and eat a frog. So what point was he trying to make with this sliver of creative wisdom? I believe Twain was alluding to one of the greatest time management principles of all time.

Tackle your most undesirable task first.

By doing this, you get the biggest road block off your to-do list. It also sets the tone for the rest of the day that anything is possible and it will boost your mood. On the surface, this seems simple and attainable. But when you’re faced with a project you don’t want to start, a phone call you don’t want to make or a house you don’t want to clean, it’s amazing the ways in which you’ll find to procrastinate. To take Mark Twain’s advice one step further, I want to give you several ways in which you can learn to eat – and enjoy – your frog every morning.

First things first

It’s important that you tackle your most undesirable task first, but it’s equally important to do so as soon as you start your day. Having something at the top of your to-do list means nothing if you don’t look at the list before 2pm. The more time we take to build up fear and anxiety over completing a challenging task, the more the molehill starts to look like a mountain. Just as you would rip off a bandage as quickly as you could to minimize the pain, tackle your most undesirable tasks quickly and promptly.

No dessert before dinner

Don’t allow yourself to do enjoyable or desirable tasks until you have gotten rid of the “frog” on your plate. It’s tempting to say, “Oh I’ll clean the house after just one more episode of my favorite show…it will motivate me.” This will only motivate you to find more excuses and to rationalize yourself out of the task altogether. Our mothers were right; dessert only spoils our supper. Instead we need to view these desirable tasks as reward for completing undesirable tasks. Plus, a good dessert at the end of dinner will help to get that frog taste out of your mouth!

Embrace your “Super Powers”

Once you knock the worst task off your to-do list, be sure to take a brief moment to embrace your “super powers.” I’ve found that when I accomplish something difficult or time consuming, I feel like I can take on the world. It’s on these days that I often go on to accomplish many more difficult tasks that I’ve also been putting off. It’s like letting the flood gates open and finally releasing all the tension I was carrying around over this work. Tackling one undesirable task helps me to realize I’m perfectly capable of doing much more. Plus the adrenaline rush from being done is energy that is worth putting to good use!

What “frogs” do you have on your plate right now? Do you agree with Mark Twain’s wisdom or is there another time management technique that has worked better for you? Share your insight!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Advice, Business & Success, Life

 

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The Key to Time Management: Increasing Your Personal Bandwidth

Have you ever had moments in your life when you think “There is no way I will ever be busier than I am right now!” Then months or years later, you take on more projects, a new job or maybe a hobby and you again think, “No, now is the time in my life when I’m at my absolute busiest—I will never be able to fit even one more thing on my schedule.” But somehow we do. And so this gradual adjustment to an ever-increasing list of commitments continues on. It’s interesting for me to think back on times in my life when I felt the busiest and most stressed. My task list of those days now appear mild in comparison to my current schedule – but then again I was a college student who made afternoon naps a standing appointment on my daily agenda.

So how do some of the busiest people in the world continue to take on more tasks and always seem to find the time to accommodate them? I’ve concluded that it’s only possible through the well-refined skill of “increasing your bandwidth.” Just like the bandwidth on your internet determines the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time, we each have our own bandwidth for the amount of work we can individually take on in a single day.

Think of the well-known saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Us “busy people” know that in order to possibly accomplish all of our given tasks we need to work quickly, efficiently and stay organized. There’s no room for procrastination or second-guessing; we have to keep the projects moving through the pipeline in anticipation of the new projects that will be added to our agenda whether we like it or not. You might be able to think of a few people right now – that when a task is asked of them, they dive in head first with how they will tackle it and are already on step 2 before anyone else has picked up a pen. These are the people who are fortunate enough to have learned the skill of increasing their bandwidth, or gradually easing into taking on more and more tasks so that one or two rush projects thrown in the mix doesn’t even break their stride.

I truly believe we can all learn to increase our personal bandwidth, but unfortunately it’s not as simple as calling up our internet provider and asking for an increase on our account. It can’t be bought with money, it can only be learned through time and practice—and simply getting comfortable with processing more data more quickly. For me personally, this has become a critical component for success in my business. In addition to my continual clients, I receive many one-time projects that come with little notice and a short window of opportunity to say Yes. If I let other projects build up, when this unplanned business comes my way, I’d be forced to turn it down. It has proven invaluable to me to keep my bandwidth as open as possible so that I can always take on these projects. It’s also amazing the way we can adapt to stress and a high volume of work. I’ve found that during slow periods of work, my motivation to tackle even the most reasonable task list diminishes. Yet, when I’m busier than ever, throwing family obligations and even planning a wedding into the mix and I knock these tasks off my list with ease.

At the end of the day, we’re only ever as busy as we make ourselves. You’d be surprised where you can find extra time in your day to accomplish something if you really want to and you’d also be surprised the unnecessary items you can take off your list because they’re inhibiting your efficiency. What’s most important is to never assume you know how busy or how free someone’s schedule is just from looking at them. Just because a busy person can get the task done, doesn’t mean we should expect them to pick up the slack. This might be a golden opportunity for us to practice expanding our own bandwidth and to become a more valuable member of the team.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Business & Success

 

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Beating the Hourglass: My Foundation for Better Time Management

I get asked quite frequently about my “secrets” for time management because apparently I seem to look like I have it all together. This couldn’t be further from the truth and even I have moments of stress, panic and sheer exhaustion. But I have established some guidelines that I regard as my foundation for better time management that I’m more than happy to share. They’re not one-size fits all, but they fit perfectly into my life.

My Office Assistant, Pinot sets a poor example of time management

Keep a Weekly White Board

I keep a white board in my office that’s divided into seven columns for each day of the week.  This allows me to visually map out my “Must-Get-Dones” for each day and set priorities for the week. Moving these tasks from my mental to-do list and to my white board has been a huge stress reliever and organizational tool. I can clear my mind long enough to focus on a single task and when I have time to move on to the next project or if something were to come up and change my plans, I can visually move around my tasks from day-to-day and change them as often as my schedule does. I also find myself completing tasks based on priority not based on ease or interest which I’ve found to be my own personal form of procrastination.

Block Schedule Your Time

All too often I would find myself in the same workday scenario. I would be trying to complete 4 tasks at once, have at least 8 pages open on my browser and be checking my email every 3 minutes. Not only was I not getting anything done, I was also causing myself more frustration and stress. The answer I found was to block-schedule my work time. I focus on what task I need to complete, estimate the appropriate time it should take me and schedule time on my calendar to work solely on that task until completion, just like I would schedule a meeting or conference call. And because I wouldn’t check my email in the middle of a meeting or hang up in the middle of a conference call, I am able to see one task through to completion and find myself with a better quality product in the end.

Be Productive Even When You’re Not Working

No one can be productive for 8+ hours straight. Ok, no HUMAN can be that productive…but we are just that—human. We need to take breaks and my best advice is that when you feel like you need 15 minutes away from the computer screen, take it and make it count. I use my breaks throughout the day to still do productive things that I want to get done, they just might not be work related. I’ll read through a magazine, clean, do laundry or browse Word Press and see what other people are writing about. By using these little breaks to knock routine or housekeeping items off of my list, I’m still gaining that moment of relaxation and mental clarity while clearing even more free time for myself in the future.

Get Into a Routine

As a freelancer and business owner, I set my own schedule. I COULD sleep in until 11am each morning or spend the afternoons shopping, but I don’t. I wake up earlier now than I ever did with a desk job. I exercise, eat breakfast and shower just like I would if I were going to an office. Then I use the first hour of my work day to complete routine business-building tasks. I browse the news, answer emails and update my social media. After one hour, no matter what, I stop. I then focus solely on client work and what my white board has laid out for me that day. My goals for the day are already outlined and I know exactly how much time I’ve allotted to complete each one. This structure in my day helps me to move forward and with greater speed and efficiency. Find whatever routine works for you, but stick with it!

Make the Most of Your Mornings

Get up early. Get up two hours earlier than when you would normally feel like waking up. I promise you, this is some of the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to be successful. Those morning hours are ones you’ll never be able to make up for the rest of your day. If you wake up late, you’ll be playing “catch-up” until you finally crash into bed that night. Mornings are your time to knock as much off your to-do list as possible. If a crisis were to strike in the afternoon, you’ll be well-equipped to handle it without it causing other tasks to roll over to the next day. If you work hard enough in the mornings and find yourself with some free time in the afternoon, then that’s all yours! You paid the piper now enjoy it, guilt-free. Run an errand, exercise, check-in with a friend, nap or give into a guilty pleasure. Eventually this “free afternoon” reward will inspire you to want to work hard in the momings and if you use today’s free afternoon to work ahead on tomorrow’s tasks, you can “earn” an entirely free day later that week.

These guidelines aren’t easy or always fun. They take discipline and accountability. But I promise you, you’ll adjust to the early mornings and new routine and will be even more prepared to accommodate the future growth of your business, your family and all of the chaos that comes with it!

 
142 Comments

Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Freshly Pressed, Wisdom

 

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Stop Making Project Management Complicated

Stop Making Project Management Complicated

As a business owner, project management is right at the top of the list of core services I provide to my clients. I ensure the deadlines we set any myriad of communication projects, are met and that at any given moment, I know the status of the project and who holds the ball to move things forward.

This might seem like a complicated process. When you consider I handle 30-50 different projects for clients any given month, you might assume I have a long list of sophisticated (and expensive) project management tools at my disposal that help me keep my head on straight.

But you would be quite wrong.

I’m not living under a rock. I’m well aware that technology has provided us with some great tools, especially those that aim to streamline and simplify project management. In fact, I’ve tried out many of these tools before. However, time and time again I’ve been disappointment to find that although they boast some pretty “cool” features, cool didn’t equate to simplicity. Rather, I found myself losing efficiency (and patience) as I tried to learn the ins and outs of these tools – all in an effort to complete tasks that were pretty simple to complete without this technology in the first place.

Maybe you’re found some tools that have become absolute lifesavers to your work organization and efficiency. That’s great – keep using it! But in this article, I want to examine how sometimes we can fall victim to using new technology just for the sake of using new technology.

In which case I say, let’s stop and be smart for a second.

If a boss or a client is asking you to use a special platform or task management system that is, well…whack, don’t be afraid to push back. Take a closer look at my own experience with project management tools and why I continue to use some of the simplest (as well as most cost-effective) tools out there – and how they work just fine when it comes to keeping a bustling business functioning with ease.

What I Don’t Use

Tools that take up more of my time. The first time I test out a new project management tool, it has to feel intuitive to me. I’m a quick judge of character (or in this case quality). If it feels clunky and complicated, or causes redundancy in my process, there’s no way I will continue to use it long-term.

Tools that charge more than a reasonable fee. With so many low-cost and no-cost tools available, a project management tool must really offer some cool features I can’t find elsewhere, if they expect me to pay for them. Only in rare instances has this occurred, and usually only when I know the efficiency I’ll gain will offset this expense exponentially.

Tools that clients don’t want to use. If I expect clients to use a project management tool, it better feel effortless. In the past, I have worked with a few contractors who tried to impose their project management tool on me and my clients. The result? We wouldn’t use the tool and would just email them. I know…I’m part of the problem. But really, the tools were clunky and sending an email was SO much easier…for everyone. The solution was obvious.

Tools that take more effort to explain than use. The last thing I need to add to my inbox is an influx of emails from clients who can’t figure out how to use a tool or technology I’m asking them to use for a project. I’d rather just have them email me their question or piece of the work – it would be a lot more seamless that way. If a tool adds extra steps or induces more questions, I can certainly do without it.

Tools that could potentially backfire or cause more harm than good. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t blindly trust technology. You can ask nearly any business owner and they will have a horror story of how some type of technology they were using either broke, malfunctioned or exposed sensitive data to the world. For this reason alone, I like my simple tools that really can’t mess things up, even for clients who you might swear are trying very, very hard to do so. I like resilient technology, and yes, sometimes this equates to the more simple technology.

What I Do Use

  • Google Docs – For collaboration and sharing.
  • Google VoiceGoogle Voice – For free phone lines in different area codes, and customized voicemails all from one cell phone.
  • Gmail – For email that is clean, simple and intuitive.
  • Boomerang – For scheduling emails to go out at a later date, so I don’t have to remember everything.
  • Doodle – For scheduling a meeting with multiple people – and busy schedules.
  • Microsoft Sticky Notes – For easy and accessible list making that doesn’t require yet one more login, or internet access.
  • QuickBooks – For the sanity of my tax attorney. But really QB makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • DropBox – For file keeping and sharing. I’ve been using it since day 1 of starting my business.
  • Hootsuite – For the most reasonably priced social media scheduling and monitoring platform that allows me to post on behalf of all my clients, even when I’m on vacation.
  • FreeConferenceCall.com – For a free, dedicated conference call line that makes me look like a boss….even when I’m calling in from my couch.

Yes…that’s really it. And I pay about $250 per year for everything.

The bottom line is that you need to find out what works for you. There’s no harm in exploring new technology and other options that might offer you something additional that you need beyond these free or low-cost resources. However, when it comes to the type of tools you use for project management, don’t be a sheep. Just because someone else suggested it or another company is using it, doesn’t mean it will be of equal help to you. Always do your own research and come to your own conclusion.

What type of tools have you found most useful for organization and project management? Are they fancy and sophisticated or simple and low-cost?

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on December 10, 2018 in Business, Entrepreneurship, Life

 

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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Business & Success, Time Management

 

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What Building a Home Has Taught Me About Project Management

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

I feel fortunate and excited to announce that we are just two months out from the completion of our new home. Building a custom home has been a long-time dream that was made possible only through sacrifices and hard work from both my husband and me as well as through many generous and talented people in our lives.

It’s been quite a process that I can only describe as thrilling, overwhelming, humbling and surreal. It required meeting at least once per week with our project managers to make countless decisions and to attempt to balance a budget that was expanding faster than our toddler during a growth spurt.

Although each home our builder creates is custom from start to finish, there is a clear process in place that keeps things moving while allowing for adjustments to be continually made as needed. It’s quite impressive! My husband’s background is in civil engineering, so he had a better understanding of how this whole “construction thing” worked. Still, it was an equal learning experience for both of us.

And I learned a lot.

As a Public Relations consultant, I often play the role of “project manager” for my clients. I scope the project, divide tasks, manage budgets and meet deadlines. While the soft skills of PR are different than the hard skills of the subcontractors working on our home, I found many similarities as to how they effectively approached each project.

Through our personal home building process, I developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a good project manager and how to advocate for your client’s best interests. Of course I want to take this knowledge and use it to benefit my own clients. Here are the most valuable lessons I now plan to further incorporate into my own business:

The decision to start a project is only the first of countless decisions

When we made the decision to build a custom home, we took a deep sigh of relief that this variable was now a known. However, it’s foolish to praise yourself too much for this major life decision. It’s merely the first of countless others you must make to complete the project. The best piece of advice I gained from this experience was to stay committed to (and interested in) the project – even when there are setbacks and standstills.

This applies to my clients, whether we are working on new website content, implementing a social media strategy or creating marketing materials, remember that all of these projects will require many, many decisions. If you are not in a position to give the project the attention it requires, consider whether now is a smart time to begin the project altogether.

A picture of the stone in progress.

A picture of the stone in progress.

Know Your Critical Path

In construction, there is a clearly outlined critical path of smaller tasks that must be completed in a specific order and meet specific deadlines in order to keep the project as a whole on track. The importance of knowing your critical path applies far beyond construction alone.

I now have a renewed appreciation for beginning each project with a shared understanding of its critical path so that the client and any outside vendors are aware of the valuable role they play and how their deadlines affect so many others.

Be prepared for setbacks – and to hustle to make up time

So often the phrase that runs through my mind on projects is “I’m hurrying up only to wait.” What I mean is I often feel like other people involved in the project delay critical pieces and then when they finally deliver, they expect an immediate turnaround from me. You can surely see how this would be frustrating.

Through home building, I have learned that this is far from a unique problem. Whether it’s Mother Nature or another subcontractors holding up the show, inevitably other workers will be expected to expedite their results to make up for lost time. And sometimes this rush is for nothing as other factors hold up the next piece of the project anyways. Frustration – yes this is a shared feeling across all projects regardless of size or industry!

“Now” is always the best time to voice a concern

One day on site, my husband was walking through our home and had an idea to make the opening to our dining room even more “open concept.” This would, however, require cutting down the existing framing that had been put into place not a day or so sooner. We hesitated, considering the small inconvenience this would cause a worker; however, our project manager quickly spoke up. Within the next few minutes, the wood was cut back and repositioned to create the larger opening. That’s all it took at this point in the project.

What I learned was had we waited until there was drywall in place before voicing our concern, the fix would have required far more time and manpower. Worse, we may have chosen to live with the wall as it originally was and always wondered “what if.” From this example, I gained the lesson that right now will always be the best time to voice a concern. Waiting until you send the project to print or hit send on the email is too late. Speak up now – and don’t worry, people will be sure to weigh the pros and cons for you if the request is going to require more than just a few minutes to correct.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

The framework provides structure, but the details provide character

Finally, the process of building a custom home gave me an appreciation for both the framework and the finishing details. While I was happy to finally break ground, I wasn’t overly excited about a big cement hole. Nor was I particularly excited to select an HVAC system or frame out our low voltage wiring. When I finally got enthusiastic with the project was when I was able to select things like the marble for our kitchen or the style of our built-ins.

I realize now, more than ever, that these less than exciting details will be the ones that keep me comfortable in our home throughout the years. I may not always see them, but I will certainly appreciate the value they add. The framework and more technical details to any project may not be artistic, but they are necessary for achieving the end result. The details are where you truly define character and add personality. Regardless of what gets you excited, both must work in unison to deliver a functional and attractive finished product.

What other pieces of advice on project management could you add to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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Turning Freelance into Fulltime: Establishing Professionalism

This blog begins a series of 5 posts which will attempt to outline and address a very valuable lesson for any industry or any career. To say I’m excited to share this information is a gross understatement. Reading any post on my blog, you will see I’m passionate about sharing my life experiences with as many other entrepreneurial hopefuls as I can. This special series “Turning Freelance Into Fulltime” could very well one day become a best-selling book or feature article in Fortune (we can all dream, right?), but for now it’s solely for your benefit and inspiration.

If you’re currently freelancing a set of skills or have at least thought about it, this can be the critical first step toward starting your own business. I invite you to join me each week as I share the 5 most important components needed to prepare for a successful transition from freelance to fulltime.

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Establishing Professionalism

Business card professional imageLaunch a web site.

As a freelancer, you’re often caught in the awkward limbo of working a fulltime job while living this second life on the side. How much time and energy should you spend on creating a professional image for your freelancing work when it’s not yet your bread and butter? My advice is – a great deal. When a prospective client asks for more information or a sampling of your work, it’s easy and convenient for you to send them a link to your web site. When I first started, I used an extremely clean and simple template on Weebly.com. The web templates are as easy to create as a word document and Weebly hosts your site completely free (which was right in my price range when I first started). Although I’ve since outgrown Weebly as my business grew, I highly recommend it as a starting point for any other freelancers. When you’re ready, you can purchase a domain name to personalize your site further. The bottom line is that a web site shows prospective clients that you’re serious about your side business and the quality of work you put into fostering this business is a good indicator of the level of work you’ll also put into their projects. Once you’re ready to take the leap into fulltime entrepreneurship, you’ll be that much further along in your process of developing a business web site.

Create business cards.

It’s never too soon to have a professional looking business card for your freelance business. When you have the opportunity to talk to someone about your business and they show an interest, you want to be able to give them something that allows them to be immediately in touch with you or to find out more about your work. A business card does just that. It’s also discrete in that you can easily slip someone your card and shift the conversation so you’re not stuck feeling like all you do is talk about this “side job” you have. I remember the first business cards I created. I ordered the minimum amount from VistaPrint.com using one of their pre-made designs. When they arrived in the mail and I saw my name alongside my business’s name on that little card, I felt that first jolt of energy that entrepreneurs live the rest of their life for.

Designate a professional email.

Once equipped with a web site and business cards, you’re now in need of a professional email designated for your freelance work. I still encounter many well-established businesses that skip this step and it’s noticeable. If you bought a domain name for your web site, you can usually create an email at this same address such as John@JSmithDesigns.com. First, this type of email address is both neutral and easy to share in that it uses your name and your business and not something awkward like 2Hot2Handlexoxo@yahoo.com. I can’t imagine a perspective client could overlook this red flag and not question the professionalism and legitimacy of your work as well. Second, a professional email is a nice accompaniment to your business cards. Finally, if someone misspells or misplaces your web site URL, they can easily find it by following what’s listed after the @ (I use this technique quite often to verify web addresses even now).

Include freelancing on your resume and Linkedin.

Even though your freelancing business is only a side job at the moment, there’s no reason to exclude it from your work experience. It says many valuable things about you. First, you have a specific skill set of a high enough level that multiple people are interested in contracting you just for this work. Second, you are organized and proficient with time management to be able to juggle a side business along with a fulltime job. Finally, you’re a leader and an entrepreneur to not only get a side job, but make a side job – which could very well become your sole business with enough time. Be sure to include this wherever relevant. I added my freelancing Public Relations work to Linkedin profile and my resume and received quite a few connections who were intrigued by this work. They key is to find the balance between promoting your work but not in such a way that it becomes a conflict of interest with your fulltime job. I assure you, there is a balance that can be reached!

An Extra Snippet: Do you need to incorporate?

While we’re at the very beginning of how to turn your freelance business into a fulltime career, now is an important time to cover the issue of how and when to incorporate. I waited about a year and a half into my own freelancing before I woke up and did this. And it was only after a brutal tax return that I saw the value in doing so. Once you start bringing in frequent income from clients that averages over several hundred dollars for each project, I suggest talking with a CPA or a tax attorney in your area. I was connected with a very sharp tax attorney who saved me from a bad tax year and set me up right away as an S-Corp. There is a cost associated with incorporating your business (especially if you do it the right way) but you easily earn that back the first year you file this side income as a corporation rather than an individual. Yes, there are online programs like LegalZoom.com that can get you started, but it can be a complicated process and I wouldn’t mess around with the IRS. Talk in person with a local professional who can advise you and apprise you of all of the decisions that will come your way as a new business owner. Never once did I hear of someone who regretted this extra effort!

Stay tuned as the “Turning Freelance Into Fulltime” blog series continues with: Getting Your Name Out There

 
 

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