24 May

Where Does the Time Go? (The Results Might Surprise You.)

By Kimberly DorrisGraves’ Disease & Thyroid Foundation

At the April 6th luncheon for ONE, Jill S. Goldsmith, JD, LAC, NCC of JSG Executive & Leadership Coaching, presented on “Getting Beyond The Juggling Act”:  Successful Strategies To Improve Productivity & Thrive at Work.”

As the only full-time employee at a nonprofit organization, I found many of Ms. Goldsmith’s recommendations to be helpful, including:

  • Avoid last-minute time crunches by always asking, “what can be done NOW”?
  • Create 90 minutes of “white space” in your schedule each day to work on high value projects.
  • Check email for 30 minutes at a time three times per day. (Ms. Goldsmith noted that “checking email is not a healthy start or end to the day” – although I am finding this easier said than done).
  • If you are a “control freak”, this creates a bottleneck. Consider what others on the team could do without you – as well as whether you have the right team members.
  • In order to avoid encroaching on others’ personal time, use the draft box to save emails composed outside working hours.

One issue that really resonated with me was when Ms. Goldsmith asked audience members to consider what we could shift/eliminate/change in order to gain more time.  One particular process immediately came to mind.  I review Google alerts daily on issues involving thyroid dysfunction and autoimmunity.  In an effort to get through my inbox quickly, I often end up starring the email alerts or bookmarking the articles for later review. Then I end up touching the article four more times: once to read it, again when I’m updating our social media sites, yet again when I’m working on our monthly enewsletter, and then a fourth time in preparation for the our monthly support group meeting.  I’m working on a new process to filter those alerts into a separate gmail folder, with the idea that I won’t pull up the articles at all until I have a block of time to read and digest the information, schedule social media posts, add the link to a draft enewsletter, and print a copy for my next support group meeting.  (Feel free to check in with me to ask how it’s going).

Ms. Goldsmith also challenged attendees to complete a time-tracking project for two weeks.  She recommended tracking in 15-minute blocks and rounding, but I tend to have a larger number of small to-dos, so chose to track start/stop times for all tasks.

At the conclusion of the two weeks, one fairly depressing statistic was that I spent over 4 hours just dealing with technical problems.  My gmail and contacts stopped playing well.  A cloud sharing system was suddenly unavailable.  A login quit working.  A perfectly useful Facebook feature disappeared with no warning.  I haven’t figured out a solution, but perhaps a better approach would be to come back to the tasks after a while to see if the issue resolves on its own, rather than wasting time banging my head against the wall (or keyboard).  But the other results were more encouraging.

First, how I started my day was important.  Fifteen minutes of meditation in the morning made me feel calmer, more focused, and more productive throughout the day.  Starting the day by diving into my Twitter feed, not so much.  (And let’s not talk about the morning I accidentally tripped off my home security alarm).

Tracking blocks of time really forced me to stay on task, as I didn’t want to close out one activity on my log and start another!  For example, while writing a fairly complicated newsletter article, I needed to do a Google search to pull up one particular reference.  However, at the top of the search results was a brand new article on hyperthyroidism.  (Look!  Something shiny!)  Without the time-tracking project, I probably would have pulled up the new article, read it, hopped over to our Facebook site to post it, then started replying to comments on Facebook.  And by the time I eventually made my way back to the original project, I would have needed significant time just to get back on track.

Are you finding yourself wishing you could get more done in less time?  Perhaps you could make process improvements in your own workday – or even tackle Ms. Goldsmith’s time-tracking challenge.  The results might surprise you!