Time Management Expert, Event Speaker: Mark Lamendola

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Time Tips: Don't Rush #002

Many people believe a sense of urgency is essential to good time management. That's true, when the sense of urgency is in its proper place.

But one of the keys to good time management is removing factors that inhibit concentration and focus. And guess what one of those is? The sense of urgency.

When you can be relaxed for half an hour and really focus on an activity, you enhance your ability to proceed through it competently and efficiently. But when you feel rushed, you are in an altered state that inhibits your ability to think.

The sense of urgency needs to apply when you are:

  • Planning. Which tasks should you combine, simplify, or postpone? For example, you need to stop by the library, the bank, and the grocery store. But you'd also like to check out the new refrigerators because yours is making a noise. And you are getting close to needing a haircut. This weekend, though, your kid is performing in a play. You've got to make some choices, here.
  • Scheduling. What items should be done first? For example, you've got a major presentation to give four days from now and you've also got that old comic book collection to sort through. Which item takes precedence?
  • Doing gruntwork. Don't piddle. Move quickly. For example, you've got dusting and vacuuming to do. You can make slow, deliberate motions, or you can get your butt in high gear. Racing against the clock makes sense, here.
  • Doing "nonproductive" tasks. You see this every day at work. Joe Schmoe, your neighbor in the cubicle farm, seems to spend most of his day filing papers and processing correspondence. He doesn't get much real work done. But you need to handle your snail mails and e-mails quickly and ruthlessly. You need to save your filing for those times you are stuck on the phone with someone you have to entertain (a boss, a customer, that SOB upon whom you depend in Dept ABC, or anyone who puts you on hold). If an activity isn't one your company can charge a customer for and it doesn't take much real concentration, then do that activity as though you just took a major hit of speed.

Outside of these areas, there are few times when feeling the pressure of urgency is helpful. Taking the time to think through a project, rather than just diving into a flurry of activity, is nearly always the most time-saving approach. Engineers know this from experience. It takes less time to design something correctly than to keep going back and trying to correct defects. You may  have heard the saying, "Never enough time to do it right, always enough time to do it over."

As you schedule your various tasks, allow enough time for you to be able to immerse yourself into the task and do it well. Think in terms of carving out "safe" blocks of time for specific tasks. Don't intrude on that time with "multitasking," and don't feel compelled to answer the phone or check e-mail during that time. Seal yourself off from the world for half an hour and  you will be amazed at the results. You can call this the "sequestering method."

Here's an example to emphasize this concept. I once worked as a magazine editor. In our work arrangement, there were two kinds of editors--subject matter and production. I worked in the subject matter area. Our edited pieces would then go to the production editors for final edits.

I always used the sequestering method. I could sit down with an article for an hour, and produce a polished product that our managing editor said needed no further work. That is, she could hand me a piece, get it back later that day, and just plug it in.

She did an experiment (a few times) where she would assign a similar piece to a co"worker" who never used the sequestering method. He was so frantic in his approach, in his race to get it done, that he simply stumbled over himself. It took him several weeks to turn the article around and get it back into her. And when it came back, it needed extensive work. Both his quantity and his quality were way, way, way behind mine.

We tallied things up after my first year on the job. Here's the score:

  • Total articles completed by me: 108; by him: 16. That's a ratio of 6.75:1
  • Total articles that needed no further work--mine, 108; his, 0.

So by providing myself with the time to relax and dig into the job at hand, I produced 108 end products while my coworker produced zero. The company could have hired 107 more people just like him, and I would have outperformed the entire group.

That's not because I worked any faster. I didn't. I worked smarter, and that's what saved me so much time.



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.