Don't Give Away "Me Time!"

“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”  Raymond Hull When you block out time for yourself, make sure you know what you want to get done during that time.  When you have blocked time that is not specific, then it is easy to give it away.  You want to be able to see what you have to get done so that it weighs on you and you see it as important to accomplish.  Then when someone else asks you for something or wants to take your time from you, you have a frame of reference to make an informed decision as to giving up your time or keeping it. 

You can also suggest an alternative time to help them.  I suggest to clients that they create “unofficial office hours.”  This is time in a day that is unscheduled that you can suggest to people as a good time that you will get back to them to help them or they can get back to you.

Posted on May 2, 2011 and filed under Personal Productivity.

The Impact We Can Have!

How much do we impact someone’s life?  On March 17, 2011, my father Ralph, at age 93, unexpectedly passed away.  My world for the past several weeks has been shaken, as we were quite close and I miss him dearly.  Now I could be cliché and remind people that we need to appreciate each and every day we have with our family and friends; or that we need to stop and take time to enjoy our surroundings and “be in the moment” when we are spending time with someone.  Sometimes we just need to stop and let work wait.  Or how when a crisis or event, such as death, occurs, it is amazing how our priorities and those of our friends and family shift and we have time to spend with each other.    But I’m going to refrain from these commonly used, though quite meaningful sentiments.

As I have been thinking about my father, I spoke to several people about his professional career in radio, as a general manager of WBOS A.M. and F.M. radio station in Boston.  I realized how much of an impact he had on many people’s careers.   For example, he started the career of a California music producer/supervisor involved in such TV shows as “Dallas”, “Knots Landing”, & “Falcon Crest“ and movies like,” Gods and Generals”, “Sea of Dreams” and many, many more.  In talking to David recently, he said, “I owe my career to your father.”  And quite a career he still enjoys.

He championed the careers of several local Boston TV and radio personalities, including Arnie “Woo Woo”Ginsburg (well-known disc jockey inthe Boston radio market from the mid-1950s to the 1970s); John Henning (TV Newsman); and Ron Della Chiesa, a fixture on public radio broadcasts hosting live Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts and his own show, playing only Frank Sinatra.  He, too, credits his career to my dad. 

My father also started sports talk radio in Boston in 1970. My dad overheard some guys talking about sports in a restaurant in downtown Boston.  He approached them and asked them, if they would like to do a sports talk show and have listeners call in and talk to them.  5 days later, these inexperienced sports lovers were on the air, taking calls – thus the start of “Sports Huddle” with Eddie Andelman.  Mr. Andelman’s career continues today as he is a well-known radio personality in Boston.  And his son’s have a popular TV show, the Phantom Gourmet.  They may have been able to have a show without the influence of their famous dad but who knows…?  And if their dad didn’t get his radio career start…well again, who knows? 

It is like the holiday movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Our lives touch so many people’s lives, knowingly and unknowingly.  We can influence a person by a kind word or taking a chance on someone by giving them an unexpected opportunity.  We may never see or know how we’ve touched someone’s life but that’s OK – that’s what makes it so special. 

What ways do you influence or impact those around you, either obviously or perhaps in a more subtle ways?  No matter what, we all impact each other and hopefully we can affect those we meet and those we know and love in a way that is positive –we can change a stranger’s life or that of someone we see every day.  We all change the world.  And my  father did, through his career in radio, World War II heroism, love of his family and music, sense of humor, and so on--in ways too many to count with very little fanfare.

Posted on April 13, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

D.A.F.T. – Don’t get daft over email!

 When I was coaching a client last week, email became our topic, specifically his inbox.  His mailbox was filled to the brim and to do’s that needed to get done, established in the emails he was receiving, were getting lost in his inbox.  He also would read an email without doing anything with it, only to reread it a day or two later or a month or two later, and so on.  He was wasting lots of time scrolling through his emails! I shared an acronym with my client that has helped many clients with their paper clutter. This formula works for emails as well:   DAFT

Distribute or delegate (forward)

Act on it

  • What is the very next step? Determine what action needs to be taken when you are reading the email.
  • When will you do it? 
  • Put the action into your planner or Outlook or wherever you put your to do’s on the calendar day that you will do it. 

File it – make sure your files are set up so that it is easy to retrieve emails & their attachments

Trash it - just delete it

NOTE:  It will help you to acknowledge the receipt of an email message and let the sender know when you intend to respond in full.  You may avoid additional interruptions (phone call, voice mail, a second email, and so on).  And the sender will appreciate knowing that you did indeed receive their message.

Using DAFT will help keep your email inbox uncluttered and you won’t miss a step with emails that require action.

Posted on March 14, 2011 and filed under Personal Productivity.

Helping Kids Get Organized!

Several years ago, I had the privilege of being asked to participate in a student mentoring program by one of my clients.  It was a snowy day in mid-December, right before the holidays when I arrived. The students from the middle school had also just arrived and were anxious to find their mentors.  Some of the mentors hadn't arrived yet and you could hear the students asking, “Where is so-and-so...? “  You could tell they were looking forward to seeing their mentors and the mentors were just as excited to see their mentees. After a luncheon, I presented a short program on organizing and planning: self-management!  I asked many questions and the kids responded eagerly. We discussed the importance of being organized, planning, and balancing the “have to do’s” and “want to do’s.” 

They all received calendars and pens and we talked about how to use the calendar to plan both the “have to’s and the want to’s.”  We also look at long-term projects, like book reports, and the benefits of planning ahead and not waiting until the last minute. 

We chatted about the significance of recognizing accomplishments and acknowledging when you've worked hard and completed something.  When I asked them about some of their achievements, the answers came back fast and furious, -- passing tests, completing projects, reading books. 

There's always one scalawag in the crowd.  I called on a young man who was enthusiastically waving his hand.  I asked, “What was your accomplishment? “  His reply,” I kissed a girl.”

 At the end, the kids headed back to school on their bus. One of the Federal Reserve mentors told me how much he enjoyed the program and wanted to show me what his mentee had given him for the holidays.  He said it wasn't the gifts that were important to him, but the effort the student made choosing and wrapping each of 3 gifts.  This mentor’s face told the whole story about the importance of giving of yourself -- he was moved and touched and so was I. 

As I started offering webinars for students, I've realized how important it is for our children to really be able to take control over their calendars and their schedule and the importance of really feeling a sense of accomplishment when they get things done.  As parents, our recognition of their accomplishments also matters – a lot. 

Learn more about our student webinars:  Students in grades 4-7 can get organized. March 16, 7:15 p.m. (EST) Student Webinar: Escaping Your TimeTraps for Students!

Posted on March 7, 2011 and filed under Parents.

Widening Our Lens

The other evening, we attended a concert at the local high school.  The concert was part of an exchange program with a group of young students from China who were here in Needham, MA to spend time with students in our schools and in our homes.  Because my son wasn’t in the concert and we weren’t a host family, we didn’t bring any cameras.  The concert was magnificent.  The students had worked extremely long and hard to perform a 90 minute program, including singing, playing musical instruments and dance. 

 What I did notice, during the concert, were all the cameras that were taking pictures and videos, all trying to find the right shots throughout the performances.  There were so many hands -raised, holding up some kind of device to capture these special moments.

I was wondering, and maybe because I didn’t have a camera in-hand, do we miss something when looking through the eyes of a camera?  Or trying to watch a performance or exhibition or event when we’re trying to focus on what’s in front of us but at the same time trying to hold the camera steady and on our “target” in the viewfinder? 

Can the feeling and excitement in a room be captured in our pictures or videos?  Or does our lens create a tunnel view where we don’t see the bigger picture of what we are watching?  As we work each day, it is important to have focus and tunnel vision to get things done.  But our companies and even if we have our own business, need to place importance on of the bigger picture; it is vital to the survival of our business. 

So there is a place for our tunnel view of work and life but it is essential to remember to widen the view of the lens to not miss out on the panorama that life presents to us each and every day. 

And even though I don’t have any pictures or videos of the children from China performing, my memories are vivid; not just of what I saw with my eyes or heard with my ears, but of the warmth I felt in the auditorium that emanated from the Needham families and the special visitors from far away.

Posted on February 21, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Saying a Positive "No"

I concluded an email the other day with the following:  Wishing everyone safe driving in the snow.  Being able to back up on the ice is a handy skill to have in getting down narrow streets!  A colleague asked if this was a metaphor for backing out of a commitment or a potential commitment.  I didn’t mean it at the time but the email did have me saying that I would not be able to participate in what was being asked of me:  to help plan an event. 

 To stay productive and focused on priorities, it is ever so important to be able to say no.  Bowing out of your commitments that don’t make the most of your talents or interest is often a key to focusing your time.  Other helpful suggestions:

  • Define the list of your priorities; when you are in tune with your priorities it makes it easier to say no; it also help in being able to say yes.
  • If someone asks you “on-the-spot”  to work on something or be on a committee, etc. , tell them you need to check your other commitments and will get back to them -- don’t feel pressured in the moment to say Yes.  Think about it.
  • Think about the implications and what is being asked of you. Get as much information about the commitment as possible; ask the right questions
  • Say thank you before saying no; remember being asked is a compliment.
  • Don’t make a lot of excuses when saying no and never use the excuse of being too busy.  Everyone is busy!  You might say that this is not a good time for you but please consider me in the future.
  • Offer an alternative solution:  suggest someone who may be available or offer to take a smaller role, remaining less involved.

 Whatever you are being asked to do, make sure you think first and think again before saying yes.  Ask yourself, “If I click yes in responding to this email will I regret sending an affirmative response. Will I wonder what I was thinking?”  If that answer is yes, then say no! 

 Remember, the roads (especially in the east) are treacherous – so go forth very carefully and guard one of your most valuable assets – Your Time!

Posted on February 7, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Does Anyone Ever Arrive Early for Meetings?

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it - Franklin P. Jones I chair a committee for a nonprofit and the other night was our rescheduled (due to snow) monthly meeting.   This month our meeting was to begin 15 minutes earlier than our past meetings.  In various emails that I sent out, I highlighted and highlighted, reminding folks that our meeting would begin at 7:15 p.m. Because I had carpool duty, I picked up my son and some other children at 6:00 p.m. and drove home through heavy traffic.  Got home, made sure everyone had dinner and turned around to leave for my meeting.

I arrived only a few minutes early.  I truly feel compelled to be on time because of what I do for a living.  It goes with the territory and as chair, I need to be on time.  

I settled into the room that we would be meeting in, not our usual meeting room.  7:15 p.m., 7:20 p.m., 7:25 p.m. …still no one.  I was thinking to myself, of course, because I was the only one there, “If I can be on time and have to travel the farthest distance, why can’t anyone else be prompt?” As I was waiting in the foyer, looking out to the parking lot, in hopes that someone would arrive, I noticed a piece of paper on a table in the room we usually meet in.  I thought that someone may have left me a note so I checked it out. 

There was a slip of paper on the table that had a quotation on it from Rabbi Hillel, “Judge not thy friend until thou standest in his place.” Perhaps this was some divine message meant for me at that exact moment.  After reading it, I took a deep breath and smiled.

Posted on January 27, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Falling Shelf Creates Opportunity

When I was in my kitchen the other day, I heard a loud crash from upstairs. I ran to see what the noise was. To my dismay, a shelf in my office had broken and all the contents fell to the floor.  At first I was dismayed to see everything strewn about on the floor. But then I realized I had a golden opportunity to finally put this stuff where it belongs.  It has been an eyesore in my office for quite some time and this was now my moment to take it on.  I don’t have many eyesores but this one was a doozie. I gathered all of it up and carried it downstairs. I tried to keep it in one or two piles as I put it out on my kitchen island. I needed to find a place to spread things out as I picked up each item, one at a time. 

One of the best ways to go through a pile of stuff is to keep it in a pile, going through each item one at a time and have space to spread out as you sort and categorize.

 I began sorting and sorting more until I had six or seven mounds of school papers, pictures, artwork, vacation memorabilia etc.

This is an arduous task and one I personally don't care to do (or it would be done on an ongoing basis).   But now, I am making great progress.  I started putting our vacation memories and pictures in my photo books, which is actually fun.   But on the flipside, throwing things away that are unnecessary to keep is freeing.

Posted on January 24, 2011 and filed under Clutter.

Self-Checkout and the Cell Phone

The other day, in the self-checkout line of the grocery store, the person in front of me was all set to pay and be done.  However, the cell phone attached to her ear was causing this "finish and pay" transaction to go on and on and on.  The shopper was paying more attention to the phone call (of course) than to the money she was trying to insert into the various available slots.  The line behind me was getting longer and I could feel my patience drifting away.  Do I think that she cared about her lack of efficiency or lack of manners?  No, not really.  But I do wish she was more aware of how are actions and their affect those around yes.  Absolutely!

Was this an isolated incident?  Unfortunately, no!  How I wish that we were all more aware of our actions and how they impact those around us.  Don’t you? 

Also, as in this instance, multi-tasking (and research has proven it) reduces our productivity and efficiency.  You know, from experiences and I know from mine that this is so. 

Multi-tasking is overrated while being mindful of others is not!

Posted on January 17, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

TimeFinder Starts a Blog!

In recent months, I have moved out of my comfort zone in many ways.  I’ve started offering Webinars both corporate and for students, post to my web site, Tweet and now a Blog!  I love sharing ideas and tips but I also love learning from my clients and those who read my newsletter.  This blog is a place to discuss or vent – anything from management and leadership strategies to work-life balance, time & planning, organizing, accomplishing goals and much, much more.  Join me and blog with me!  I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted on January 16, 2011 and filed under TimeFinder.