time-management

Who moved my lunch?

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Lunch-meetings!

Lunch-and-Learn!

We’ll provide pizza!

Brown-bag-seminars!

Oh, you think you’re busy and dedicated? We’ll I’ll see you a full calendar and raise you a lunch: “Well, I’m free at noon….”

Is lunch under attack? For a long time, I’ve made it a habit not to schedule lunch meetings, or expect them of others, four days a week. If I stay at my desk, I will work, I will answer questions, I will dribble food on my keyboard, and I will go home to my family and be crabby and exhausted. So I take lunch at the gym. I do reserve one lunch a week to spend as I choose. While there are  a few people who trump my no-lunch-meetings rule, that list is short.

Gym-lunch started out of necessity for me. With kids and a busy job, it was the only time of the day I could consistently exercise. But here’s the really neat part: I’m not the only one. I see a lot of familiar faces and co-workers there, and they’re all pretty awesome workers. I keep my workouts short, eat a quick bite when I get back, and we’re off to the afternoon!

I have a theory about this – the midday workout gets you refocused, gets you through the afternoon slump (often without coffee!) and even if nothing else goes well that day, you’ve done something good. Kind of like making your bed first thing in the morning.

Over time, it’s become easier to just stick with this habit instead of constantly looking for time to exercise in a schedule that doesn’t easily make room for anything “extra”. In theory, it’s pretty easy to establish this kind of habit.

1. put it on your calendar

2. respect the time

It’s the second one that’s hard. Having a workout partner helps a lot – someone who’ll be expecting you, on time, who will be late for something else if you let “just one more task” creep into your designated time.

Finding a research partner, a reports partner or someone who’s trying to make time for something compatible with your goal could help make anything routine – the key is that the other person’s habits will affect yours, so choose your partner wisely.

As for lunch, I believe our workplace sets the tone for a lot of our activities – after all, most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else – so what habits are you cultivating at work and are they contributing to an effective workplace or a stressed-out workplace?

Why you should do your worst task first today.

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

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I came across this Mark Twain quote last weekend and it struck a chord. One of the habits I have had to overcome (okay, I’m still working on it!) is procrastination through productivity. I’m mean really, nobody wants to eat that frog first thing in the morning, right?

Yesterday morning, I got to work at 7 am. I am not normally the earliest-arriver at my office. My philosophy is to be fully present and to work really hard while I’m at work – no coffee breaks, not too much chatter, focus on the work. That allows me to preserve time at home to be with my family and to have other interests. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but that break between work and home is important to keeping us motivated and fresh.

Yesterday was different. I had a few tasks that required my undivided attention at work and it’s summer. For one more week there are no busses, no evening meetings, no after school activities. Home felt cared-for.

So I went in – yawn – early, to eat my frog.

When you’re putting off that big project by doing a million little things, sending emails, filling, organizing your office instead of tackling that one big unpleasant task you need to focus on? That’s productive. But it’s still procrastination.

Here’s what usually happens. I finally decide to deal with whatever I’m putting off. I make time, I make myself do it, and when I settle in, I realize one of two things: 1) I’ve waited so long to examine the task that there’s something I’m missing and now it’s too late to get it/do a good job (this can sometimes result in a 9pm trip to the hardware store) or 2) It turns out that it’s much simpler than I had built up in my mind.

Lucky for me, yesterday’s task was simpler than I expected and I ended up having an hour to work, uninterrupted, on other projects. I felt centered and focused for the rest of the day which made me less stressed and more able to go with the flow of the day.

In our busy world, it’s easy to feel like our time and attention are constantly divided. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to structure your day and your time, how to disconnect, and how to focus. When we’re able to incorporate some of these skills into our planning, it can help us focus on what really matters.

Like frogs.