Time Management Expert, Event Speaker: Mark Lamendola

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Time Tips: Getting an Early Start

Too much to do, and not enough time to do it? Yep, happens all the time. Again and again. Ever wonder why? There's a short list of causes for this scenario. But rather than address all of them here, I'm going to address the most common one.

To understand what the others are and how to overcome them, contact me to present to your group. Let's take a quick look, now, at that common cause of time deficit.

Let's say you have 10 weeks to complete a particular task that takes 12 hours. How do you normally approach this? Nearly everyone will wait until they have about a week left, and then schedule those 12 hours in. They will then congratulate themselves for allowing more than enough time.

A problem arises when they begin the task, only to discover they need another resource to complete it. Or, they discover they are too tired to work at their best on it and it takes more than the 12 hours it would have taken had they been at their peak.

Or they have something else come up--perhaps an emergency. Or, they'd like to do something else, but can't because this block of time is now used up for this project. The result? A feeling that there's not enough time to do the task, because you are now running into time conflicts.

The cure for this is to start the task early. Get the ball rolling. Just divide the task up into smaller subtasks, and start doing them. If you run into a problem, you have more time to address it. If you thread all of the component subtasks of your projects throughout your calendar, you will provide yourself with more time cushion.

You can also look at a given subtask, decide you're not up to it right now, and just do it later. Rather than work at an average 60% competence (which is probably typical), you work at an average 80% competence. This means you get more done. But, the relationship isn't linear. Working at 80% average competence doesn't mean you are getting just 20% more done. With higher competence, you have increased creativity and decreased mistakes. Your overall efficiency might increase by a factor of five or even ten.

People have argued with me about this, claiming "I am always at my peak competence." To which I can only reply, "OK, you're right." I say that because there it is a complete waste of time to argue with someone who takes such an arrogant and self-defeating viewpoint.

This technique of matching your tasks to your ebb and flow of performance is simply a way to take advantage of the cycles nature imposes on us. To fight these cycles or to pretend they don't exist is simply a way of embracing underperformance.

In 2004, I gave an interview to PC World (there are quite a few interviews with me piling up--just Google search and you'll find a fairly long list) on my usual topic--time management.

The issue the writer was exploring was that people appear to be living with unrealistic deadlines. They sell concert tickets on e-Bay with only two days left until the event. Or, they try to sell a bunch of furniture only a few days before they are moving.

And, this kind of 11th hour modality is becoming more the rule than the exception. The reasons for this are complex and many. But, one reason is the brain rewiring brought on by our sound-bite, television, video-driven culture. People simply have very short attention spans compared to even 20 years ago.

One of the best things you can do is use time as your ally. In a recent column in Fast Company, Seth Godin suggested leaving early to be somewhere by a certain time. Pack ahead of time, don't putter around before you start on your way. Ever notice how many people are driving like maniacs or running to get into the airport? You can bet they weren't moving very fast or thinking very far ahead to prepare to leave for the airport.

I juggle several dozen projects at any one time. Some of these are not due for completion until way, way out there--and so I have plenty of time to do them.

Nonetheless, I get an early start. This way, I can match my peak output to the work. I'm not always at my peak. Some days, I'm tired. Other days, I'm harried by a constantly ringing phone.

You see, I realize there will be interruptions, downtime, and distractions. So, I allow for those. The way to do this is to break work down into small chunks, and then schedule the chunks so you make progress over time. Start as early as possible, and you will finish without rushing at the end.

The quality of your work will reflect this, but so will your mental and physical health..



Do you want to radically improve how well people in your organization make use of the limited number of hours in each work day?

Contact me to arrange a time when we can talk about a presentation: mark@mindconnection.com. Why arrange a time? So I can give you full attention during the call. There's a really powerful time management tip. Ask me why it works.