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|Organization Tuesday: Late No More! (Tips For Being On Time...Every Time)||Views: 445|
|Feb 28, 2009 7:31 pm||Organization Tuesday: Late No More! (Tips For Being On Time...Every Time)||#|
|Over the past few weeks, we looked at the financial, social and
political dangers of lateness. Today, we'll be examining some
practical solutions to this time management problem. |
Understand why you are often late.
professionals often say they are late because they have so many demands
that they can't get them all done. However, captains of
political leaders and working mothers often juggle multiple
responsibilities without chronic lateness marring their reputations, so
the number of activities can't be the only variable. Instead
making vague generalities, each time you are late, or have been late,
be honest with yourself and analyze what it was you did, or did not, do that led
you to be late.
Is it an EMOTIONAL or
you like working on the computer, searching the web for links that will
entertain and enlighten your blog readers, but you find one-on-one
meetings with your accountant to be awkward and intimidating because
you're not a "math" person. Perhaps you love the social
working with your clients, but dread having to attend continuing
education classes because the academic environment brings back bad
memories. Or, the reverse might be true, and you could love
research and learning, but hate going to meet new clients because of
In each case, you might be ignoring
external cues (like alarms) and internal clues
(like that nagging voice
in your head) telling you to get to stop and transition to the
next task. Persons with ADD and ADHD often report
difficulty with task transitioning, and the skills they are advised to
use work well for any busy professional. First, build extra
transitioning time into your day. That might
mean setting two
alarms, with one notification on the computer popping up to say "Finish
the sentence you are writing; bookmark the site you are on.
time to move on." Use the first reminder to get you
to "clean up" mode, allowing you to back out of the current
quickly and providing ample time to scribble bits of brilliance before
turning your attention completely to the next task. The
second alarm is your "OK, really, stand up and walk away" notice.
Your task transitioning difficulty may be less about intellectual
transitioning than emotional distress.
you avoid being on time for fear you'll have to wait? Does
notion of being somewhere without a specific task to keep you busy make
you feel stressed? Or, do you prefer to avoid social
where you're expected to participate in "chit chat"? If
the case, arrange for
something to keep you busy.
charging your cell phone and
iPod into the day's schedule so that both will be available when you
arrive anywhere. (If you are truly socially-avoidant and
wants to chat, you could even hold up a note saying that you're
listening to the end of a teleclass for which you must stay on the line
to get continuing education credits. The person won't be
offended, and it might be easier to fib than explain that you just
don't like talking to people.
a folder with clipped articles
you never have time to read. Read with a pen or highlighter
hand and mark anything that needs your follow-up. If you don't need the
article anymore once you've read it, toss it out. If you will
need it, mark a note in the upper right corner as to whether it goes to
your tickler file for immediate action or your reference files (and
note which topic). Keep your to-do list of phone calls
handy and return calls while you wait. In all cases,
the anxiety or annoyance you feel at being a little early is easier
than trying to reverse a bad reputation due to chronic lateness.
you lose track of time?
One client's husband used to call to say he'd be leaving for
train "in five minutes", and two hours later, he'd still not have
arrived home. The husband honestly meant to back up and
but something caught his attention, and he began to hyperfocus,
becoming unaware of the world outside his area of concentration.
If this is you, set
and use alarms on your
computer or cell phone
to tell you when you've missed a transitioning time. If you
sucked into the computer, then install a program that actually closes
the browser if you've been using the program longer than you
Are you late because it makes
you feel important?
Don't laugh--the people you keep waiting may be wondering if
think you are more important than they are if you're repeatedly keeping
them waiting. Perhaps, without realizing it, you've
the notion that being late means that you are busy, and being busy
means that you are important. If this rings any uncomfortable
bells, please review what we talked about months ago regarding busy
Could it be a PROCEDURAL
often, professionals assume that they can properly estimate how long it
will take to complete a project, ignoring the elements that could throw
them off schedule: the whims of a chatty client, an
ill client, an internet outage or computer problem, a telephone or
in-person interruption. It's important to review all of your
procedures and make sure you're not sabotaging yourself.
Be realistic about how
much you can do in a day.
You can't know how much you can accomplish in a working day until you know how long something takes.
It's silly to think you can return three phone calls in 10
minutes if each conversation requires lots of handholding,
brainstorming and attention. Conversely, you can easily leave
three detailed messages on voicemail in that time, specifying exactly
who you are, why you are calling, what information you need and so on.
realistic about how
long something takes to do.
Time yourself for
every project. Your blog. Your laundry. Your drive to a
location in midday vs. rush hour traffic. There are very few
things that take "just two minutes": filing away a
few papers (assuming you have a working system), using the
room, straightening your desk. Almost everything else in your
will take thought, planning and precision. Even if what you
"creative", if you have other obligations, you have to decide to create an
official end time so that you can move on to the next task.
it helps to look at your thinking process, because sometimes you
replace your intellectual process with an emotional/psychological one:
- Do you procrastinate
because you believe a task may be time-consuming or because you want to
believe (contrary to what you know intellectually) that it will not
take too much time or effort?
- Do you plan extra time for contingencies (getting lost,
dealing with heavy traffic, etc.) or assume
everything will be fine?
you actually block your time on a calendar, planning your tasks for the
day or week so that if a problem pops up, you can "lift" a planned task
out of its home in your schedule to move it somewhere else?
you treat time as it were amorphous, trusting that your gut will lead
you to the next appropriate task?
paper, in your PDA, wherever, but make sure you write every appointment
down. No matter how good your memory is, never merely trust
Think "Trust, but verify", and make it possible to prevent
conflicts. If you have a Noon appointment on one side of town
a 2 p.m. appointment on the other, it's unreasonable to expect that the
first appointment won't start late, that there won't be traffic or that
other difficulties might not arise. It's better to schedule
things each day but accomplish all of them than to schedule more things
and embarrass yourself (and frustrate others) by being late to half of
Be aware of how long something takes to do, including
buffer time in between tasks for travel, bathroom breaks, food breaks,
mental gear-switching, checking messages, etc.
Stick to your plan.
Do you think you can do just
one more thing? Stop. If it's not on the plan,
it's not going to happen. Do you allow interruptions
to happen without stopping them in their tracks? If
back and read our prior Business Consortium posts on interruptions here
living according to your gut. If you have spent
believing that living by a clock or calendar makes you less
creative, you must disabuse yourself of that notion right now.
The greatest writers and artists all acknowledge that a schedule
ensures that they have time, focus and resources to accomplish
their tasks. What art can the greatest painter
create if he's out
of canvas because he's failed to lay in a supply or shrouded in
darkness because he forgot to pay the electric bill?
of all the little things.
Do you ever run out of gas? Put
filling your gas tank as an assignment on the calendar. Do it every
Wednesday after lunch without fail. Put oil changes and
general car maintenance on the calendar, too, and make such upkeep as
much a part of your life as brushing your teeth. Is
office too cluttered for you to find things? Make an
with a professional organizer and/or schedule 15 minutes of office
organization into the end of every day so that you start each workday
with a sense of calm instead of chaos.
Build buffer time into your schedule. Always
research two ways to get anywhere. Keep a cell phone charger
your car, extra batteries in your trunk, and the phone numbers of the
people you're meeting written write in the appointment box in case you
have to call to warn them
of impending delays.
Be honest with others.
ever lie about being late. People will think less of you for
making up a convoluted excuse involving chicken trucks, the Pope and a
high speed car chase than they would for being a bad time manager.
Let them know you are striving to improve your time skills,
and apologize genuinely for inconveniencing them.
I'd be happy to offer specific solutions to any challenges
anyone has been experiencing with chronic lateness, time management or, as always, any organizing-related issues.
Julie Bestry, Certified Professional Organizer®
Best Results Organizing
"Don't apologize. Organize!"
Visit http://www.juliebestry.com to sign up for Best Results For Busy
People: Organizing Your Modern World, a newsletter
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