There is a significant relationship between time management and stress management. If you are a better time manager, you experience less stress and if you manage your stress, you are a better time manager. Time and stress are siblings. If they get along, everything is rosy but if they fight, life is pretty is miserable.
I was asked to customize a program for Whirlpool and as the meeting planner outlined their needs, it dawned on me that she was describing predictable stressors tied to time management challenges regularly occurring at certain hours of the day, like siblings predictably fighting over who gets the biggest helping of ice cream. I then designed the table included in this article and led the Whirlpool workers through the exercise of identifying their personal stressors based on the time of the day. We next explored what time principles or stress concepts could be implemented in order to feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. For a copy of this exercise, go to karlabrandau.com
Some universal truths surfaced. Those truths were:
1. Differentiate a Master Task List vs. Daily Task List. Maintain a master task list that contains everything you have to accomplish, including long term project tasks. The daily task list details what you can physically accomplish today.
2. Divide Time Between Interactions and Production. There are two critical parts to your day: interactions and production. It is important to maintain your focus during each. A past president of United Airlines realized that his entire day was just one big interruption so he solved it by staying home the first 90 minutes of each day, doing all of his work and then going to the office and handling the interruptions.
3. Don't Let Deadlines Distort. From a productivity viewpoint, deadlines are good because they move you into action. However, when faced with a simple deadline of getting out the door on time or getting the figures to your manager by 2:00, and you are behind because of the "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" phenomenon, you get that out-of-control anxiety exactly like the dreaded bodily response when you realized the time was up for the Algebra test and you had four problems left. Productivity is freeze-framed. To work around deadlines, always attack the issue early and allow extra time for things to go wrong because they will!
4. Survive Avalanche E-mail. To avoid the oppressive presence of unanswered e-mails takes expertise of the tool, knowledge of how to write e-mails for quick transfer of information and organizational policies that prohibit the proliferation of needless communications. Have a company meeting and make a decision to stop the 'Reply to all' and the 'Carbon Copy' all frenzy. Another quick tip is to set up standards for e-mail subject lines. Putting the client name or project number in the subject line, make it easy to recognize and sort e-mail with the rules wizard.
5. Lunch Time Decisions. Perhaps lunch time, more than any other time of day, brings a plethora of choices: Do I run errands? Should I brown bag it and work through lunch to try to catch up? Should I have fast food? Will the restaurant I really want to eat at get me served promptly? What about a nap? Consider bringing a lunch from home that is low fat, low sugar, and low calorie (I know – that food doesn't taste good) and then taking a short rest. You will be more alert and turn out more work in the afternoon hours if you use the lunch hour as rejuvenation time.
6. Overcome Procrastination. Procrastination is a thief. It robs you of achievement and production. Take the task you have been procrastinating and break it down into instant start-up tasks that can be done in about 5 minutes. Give yourself a definite time of day to sit down and work on the task. Once you are in your chair with the task in front of you and you have complete a 5-minute instant start-up task, you are on your way and as you become focused on the task, you will probably be unaware you have spent the last two hours on the project.
7. Close Out the Day. It may sound weird, but nothing is more important for your daily productivity tomorrow than closing out today. Check off completed items, make note of where to start on 1/2-finished projects, decide what will get your attention first when you walk in the office tomorrow morning, and clean off your desk, re-filing folders and returning e-mail and phone messages.
To facilitate your ability to deal with stressors, I have created a longer version of this article, 15 Sizzling Solutions to Predictable Stressors, in addition to a graph for you to visually record the time of day and the stressor associated with it. Go to http://www.karlabrandau.com/newkarla3/articles/15SizzlingSolutions.pdf, read the suggestions, download the blank table, and for the next five days, record your actual stressors and time management goof-ups then actively look for solutions to each stressor or time management challenge.
After five days of this exercise you should have a pretty good idea of how to cope with what bugs you, eats up your time, makes you lose your cool, and sends you over the edge. Only then can you quiet the time and stress management sibling squabbles.
Karla Brandau, CSP, is an expert in change, leadership and team building in the flat world. She offers keynotes and workshops to move your organization forward. Sign up for her monthly newsletter, From the Desk of Karla Brandau and download free articles by going to http://www.KarlaBrandau.com. Contact Karla at 770-923-0883 for a free consultation or to check the availability of dates to bring Karla to your organization.