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 Helping Managers and Salespeople Thrive in Turbulent Times Vol. 1, #5, May 2003 
in this issue
  • Time Management? Give Me A Break!!
  • About Jim Schaffer & Associates

  • Greetings!

    This month we discuss what to do when there's just too much to do.

    Just click "reply" to send along your comments at any time.

    Best regards,

    Jim Schaffer
    President, Jim Schaffer & Associates

    P.S. Let's get practical! In the coming months, I'd like to show you how to apply ancient philosophical principles to solve even your most difficult work challenges. So let me hear from you: what are they? All questions will be treated anonymously. I'm not interested in your names and companies — only your pain!

    Time Management? Give Me A Break!!

    "If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,
    This is the best season of your life."

    — Wu-Men

    It's May and we're busy building momentum, humping hard against that time soon to come when the beaches beckon and our voicemail messages get as much attention as a Wi-Fi hotspot in Caribou, Maine.
    Meanwhile, thanks to the market realities that have caused support staff to shrink even as revenue growth imperatives continue to increase, we find, sadly, that we absolutely must do more with less.

    But how, in this relentless atmosphere, do we manage our time? How do we make sure, as the months march by, that we get everything done?

    I'm always amused when asked if I teach time management seminars to my business audiences. For one thing, I don't believe in the entire concept of time management (not even sure if I believe in management altogether, but that's a subject for another newsletter).

    There is no such thing as time management — there is only how we choose to process our lives. As my Dad once said in the 70's, when presented with an unexpectedly high bill for a car repair: "I can either get completely aggravated and pay the money, or just send in the check and forget about it — either way, I'm paying the money."

    Look back over your careers and I think you will see that what really needed to get done at any given moment got done. The rest either got done later or never really needed doing in the first place. How you felt as the process was taking place, however, directly correlated to how effective you were.

    Being productive is a matter of paying attention. If you are aware of what your mind is focusing on moment by moment and learn how to gently bring it back to the task at hand, you cannot help but increase your output.

    So — time management? Fuhgeddaboudit! But there are some steps you can take to be more productive and spend less time feeling stressed about your workload.

    The first is — relax! Counterintuitive, no? But it works. For the past fifteen years, I've been using a visualization designed specifically for a busy work day that always seems to do the trick. Just hit the reply button and shoot me a quick email and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

    Here are some other things you can do to get more done with less angst:

    1. Stop obsessing. When you find yourself thinking about the same tasks again and again or realize you're spending more time worrying about not getting the work done than actually getting it done — stop. Close your eyes and take deep breaths for 30 seconds. Try to laugh at the inflated importance you're giving to all of this. Or think about something that gives you pleasure. Or feel grateful that you are alive, ambulatory, and still eating at least three meals a day.
    2. Take a break. People were not built to work ten or twelve hours in a row. Most traditions honor this. In Judaism, there is an afternoon service called "Minchah" which serves as a break from work and a reminder of the blessings that exist in the "bigger picture" of our lives. On the secular side, when I lived in Greece during the summers of 1970 and 1971, those little breaks lasted 3 hours and involved an extended nap. (Can you imagine?)
    3. Work according to your own natural rhythm. Pay attention to your body. If you feel yourself losing energy, stop for a moment and eat something light and healthy. Or drink a glass of water. Similarly, if you know that morning is really your time of greatest power, earmark your most challenging tasks for early in the day. Save rote tasks and easy phone calls for the afternoon.

    4. Make sure — even in a crunch — it's a rich experience. That richness occurs only in your own mind. If you decided a busy day is an aggravating grind- — guess what? It is. If, however, you decide it's kind of cool that you're pushing hard to get stuff done and you and your colleagues are buzzing around one another and bumping into each other with all your warts and dysfunctionalities and isn't that just like the average family? Voila — appreciation for life in all its messy fullness!

    Remember, you're not getting anywhere — you're already there. It's your choice how you live those precious moments. Relax, practice controlling where you will or will not place your attention, and develop an appreciation for the rich, complicated, funny and sometimes unpleasant exercise we call an average work day, and I promise you will get more work done without resorting to one of those artificial "time management" systems (you can throw away those bright magic markers and multi-colored folders they gave you at that last seminar).

    Life is neither a race nor a treadmill but, as both the Buddha and Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields wisely knew, a seesaw. Here's how Fields sums it up in her song from the Broadway show of the same name:

    "First you're up, down, up, down,
    As your life goes by, you're either low or high,
    So what if you never get anywhere,
    It's still been one hell of a ride."

    See you at the playground!

    To listen to a clip from Seesaw by jazz great Mark Murphy, click here

    About Jim Schaffer & Associates

    Jim Schaffer & Associates helps management teams & salespeople stay focused, get results and keep high morale — regardless of what may be going on around them.

    Copyright 2003 by Jim Schaffer & Associates.


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  •      email: jim@jimschaffer.com
         voice: 617-332-9105
         web: http://www.jimschaffer.com