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As a time management consultant, I'm often asked what are the top mistakes I see people make. Here are, in no particular order, the first five of my top ten:  

1.Being a slave to your blackberry or cell phone: You know you have become a slave to your blackberry or cell phone when, almost every time it rings or buzzes, you jump and answer it. Cell phones and mobile email systems can be wonderful tools, but only as long as your control them (i.e. you decide when and how you will pick up and answer). Otherwise, they become a phenomenal time waster eating up to several hours a day. A client of mine, just by deciding to check his email every hour instead of every time his blackberry buzzed, reclaimed a full hour of productive time every day.  

2)Working by emergency: Many clients call me for help because they feel overwhelmed, and find that they never have time for what they really want to do. More often than not, it turns out that those clients work by emergencies. In other words, they take care of the things that scream at them the most and forget about the less urgent tasks until they, in turn, become emergencies. The problem is that most emergencies don't start out as emergencies, they start out as projects or tasks on a to-do list, that got pushed back until something happens to transform them into emergencies. Furthermore, when taken care of before they become emergencies, they often require less time, energy and resources that they do as full-fledged emergencies. Stopping work by emergencies to take care of your projects in a timely manner makes a dramatic difference in your available time – not to mention your stress.  

taxtime

3)Not sleeping enough: This might sound surprising in a list of time management mistakes list, but the fact is that sleep is critical to making the most of your time. When tired, we all think and do things more slowly, and are much more likely to make mistakes. Studies have actually shown that sleep deprivation has effects very similar to alcohol. It would never occur to us to get drunk on the evening before an important client presentation, yet we don't think twice about staying up until two or three in the morning to finish the presentation handouts... The result the next morning is not much different, except for the hangover.  

4)Not using a task list, or using an inappropriate one: In my years as time management consultant, I've seen everything from no task list at all ("it's all in my head") to tasks lists 10 pages long. The sad reality is that most task lists don't work because they are too long or too short; not prioritized; too complicated; or simply in the wrong format or medium for their user. On the other hand, a well thought-out task list, adapted to your needs and style, is an extraordinarily effective tool to plan, prioritize, save time and increase your effectiveness. Quick example: A client was spending about an hour each day updating their overlong task list, never finishing their priorities. After some simple re-tooling, the update time fell down to less ten minutes, and my client found their effectiveness sky-rocket.  

5)Not taking time to sit back and look at the big picture: No matter your occupation, it is very easy to get caught up in the "doing" of things, and consider thinking time a waste, "because there are so many things to do." Yet taking a step back on a regular basis to assess the big picture of your life, career, or current project, and taking some time to plan your next steps, before diving back in the daily grind, makes all the difference between being busy (i.e. doing a lot of things) and being effective (i.e doing the things that matter), even on a day-to-day basis.  

In my next post, I’ll share the other top five time management mistakes that most affect your ability to use your time effectively.  

Yours in Daily Mastery,
Karin



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