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Sneaky Time Management Saboteur

At a meeting this week a colleague got up to leave saying, “My schedule is so crammed, it’s going to be a day!” Teasingly I said to her, “Who booked your appointments?” She elbowed me and grinned saying, “I did of course.”

Personally I go in and out of feeling like I have a handle on my time. I have weeks where I feel as-if I’m the Muhammad Ali of time management with my arm held in the air, “I am the greatest.”

And then there are weeks like last week. I don’t know how it happens but events overtake me and I feel like I’m being run over by a Mack truck. Time gone, nothing accomplished and I sure as heck am not the greatest in the ring – no Muhammad Ali title for me.

Just like a boxer needs to review his moves if he’s going to improve, I need to review what I’m doing if I want to get a handle on my time. After all, time is always the same. The variable is me!

My first assumption was that all I had to do is shorten my “to do” list and I’d be fine – wrong! The real opponent causing me to lose my Muhammad Ali title is what I’m now calling “in-completions.”

In-completions are tasks that I’m walking away from that still require action on my part. You know the tin cans attached to the bumper of cars after a wedding? That’s how my in-completions feel to me, like I’m walking around with all this stuff attached to my ankles slowing me down and making a racket.

In-completions are the voice mail message you pick up only to say, “I’ll call her back later,” or quickly scanning your email and thinking, “I’ll get to this tomorrow.” Or it’s taking a personal phone call when you’re on a deadline. When you give away your time you end up with more in-completions.

Habits create in-completions too. How about always running five minutes late? The sense of urgency that creates spawns other habits. Rushing in the door and tossing your jacket on the chair and your purse on the kitchen island. Racing upstairs to change and leaving a few things hanging off door knobs … you get the idea. Eventually you have to go back and put things away.

Sooner or later the drag of all those in-completions brings everything to a halt. You must give them all your attention because they’re driving you crazy. What’s really important to do now is put on hold. You’re creating more in-completions while you’re taking care of other in-completions. That’s the real definition of overwhelm – having too many in-completions.

The secret of becoming the Mohamed Ali of time management is to manage yourself. How do you do that? Simple. Stop blindly assigning tasks to the future. Become a champion with this simple two step decision-making process for handling life’s challenges: 1) do it now or 2) put it on the calendar.  If you can’t do it now or fit it in your calendar you can’t fit it in your life.

When we assign something to the future it’s time we’re not keeping track of. We end up “booking” 36 hour days and then wonder why we are exhausted and demoralized. We’re trying to do the impossible. Give up your in-completions and stop the racket of all those tin cans clanging in your wake!

Coaching Tips

  1. When someone asks you for a favor answer, “Let me get back to you.” If you can’t figure out where in your calendar you can place that favor politely decline. Otherwise your priorities will become “in-completions.”
  2. In-completions are caused by “rounding off.” “Rounding off” means you do a bit less than what the full task requires, leaving a little bit left to do later. Too much rounding off means you have lots tin cans clanging behind you. Stop rounding off.
  3. Distraction creates in-completions. You set out with the intention of doing one task, get distracted with something else and then run out of time. Now the more important task (which you didn’t do) is left incomplete. Play hardball with yourself and don’t allow distractions to take you off course.

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Anne Marie

Anne Marie Clear

Anne Marie playfully refers to herself as the boundary queen. She loves helping women develop the skills, the confidence, and the security needed to successfully juggle all of the different relationships in their lives while taking good care of themselves too!