I like ideas. I, who typically have the attention span of a 5 year old in a candy store, can spend hours listening to TED talks given by some of this world’s more brilliant & progressive minds on subjects ranging from the left-brained tendencies that kill creativity in America’s
education system to the disappearance of what we consider third world countries. One of my favorite inspirational thinkers is Randy Pausch, commonly recognized for his book, The Last Lecture.  What most people don’t know is that Randy also gave an excellent lecture on time management, which was rather relevant considering at the time he was fighting a losing battle with pancreatic cancer.  Amidst the hustle & bustle and flurry of things to do this time of year, I believe Randy’s advice could be helpful to all of us who feel overwhelmed at times. There’s no way I can summarize his entire speech here, so I’ve extracted three major points that would be applicable to our personal and professional lives:

1)  Effective vs. Efficient

In an ideal world, we will always do the most effective things in the most efficient ways possible. But when we are in a crunch, we must realize the importance of doing the right things as opposed to doing the wrong things right. When starting a task, ask yourself, why am I doing this? What is the goal? Why will I succeed? What happens if I choose not to do it? Filter down to the most important tasks based off your answers.

2)  Procrastination

From time to time, we all suffer from procrastination. The caveat is that we typically don’t procrastinate out of laziness. Parkinson’s Law , the concept that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, impacts the decision to procrastinate a bit, but typically the greatest barrier to being enthusiastic about a task is our own emotions.  Maybe we’re afraid we won’t perform well or will fail. Maybe we have to ask someone for help or information and don’t want to. The important thing is to identify what exactly it is that is keeping you from diving in, and work through the feeling.

3)  Interruptions

This one is a biggie. We lose a lot of time to interruptions whether it’s our email, phone, visitors, etc. Once one’s attention diverts from the task at hand, the average person takes about 5 minutes to recover.  So, turn off those email arrival notifications in Outlook, have set times for those “quick minute” meetings with your teammates, and do whatever else it takes to reduce your interruptions.

I could go on for a long time about to-do lists and having multiple monitors (thank you Daxko for making that standard!), but I’ll leave you with this: if you aren’t sure where your time is going, keep a journal where you track yourself and then make a time budget accordingly. The ultimate goal is to work smart and maximize the amount of fun we can (realistically) have with our time, because time is something we can never get back.

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