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Time Management: A Fresh(er) Look at Some Classic Tips

Posted on November 2, 2009 by Suzanne

I came a cross an article in The Wholesaler about time management and thought that I would share some thoughts on a few of the points that Peter Schor listed in his article. First, here’s a link to the online version: The Wholesaler, page 32. Most of his points are pretty obvious, but some of them really stuck out to me.

The Never-ending Inbox

In the article he states “E-mailing — Block off times to process your e-mail. Twice per day should be sufficient. Avoid the temptation to check e-mail frequently.” In an eCommerce company I know the first thing I thought about this suggestion was “Pft, yeah right…twice a day my eye.” My email is ALWAYS open. Heck, I dedicate a screen to my email..., but I do see the value in this idea, especially if it is “fused” together with this suggestion: “Quickly process the paperwork that hits your in-box.” This works perfectly for me.  Schor recommends using “R.A.F.T” to help you file through you inbox in a timely fashion wherever it may be.  “R.A.F.T” is an acronym the author uses to file and process paperwork. R=Refer to another person.  A=Take Action. F=File it. T=Trash it. My “hybrid” suggestion, for eCommercers in a predominantly paperless environment is to quickly process emails that hit your inbox, and restrain yourself from checking your personal email to no more than twice a day.

Breaking Bad Habits

Another Point he makes, “Identify bad habits" — Make a list of bad habits that are stealing your time, and sabotaging and blocking your success. Then work on them one at a time to systematically eliminate them from your life. Remember, the way to eliminate a bad habit is to replace it with a better one.” My bad habit and worst enemy: Procrastination. It’s followed me all though college and still sometimes effects my daily work, though not on the same level as it affected my schoolwork. I’m sure there are other bad habits that I have, but I’m also 99% sure they stem from my ability to procrastinate like no other. Some ways that I have tried to overcome my procrastination in the past is to make a list of things that must get done in that given day, which Schor mentions earlier in his article.  It really does help to see everything that has to get done and it gives you a goal to work toward. I will also be using “RAFT” to further combat the never ending battle with my nemesis.

Just say No

And my personal favorite: “Say No” — We say “yes” to others because we want to please others. But when eventually we can’t continue, we let them down and feel guilty. Both parties suffer. Recognize that a genuine desire to please often prevents us from saying “no.” FINALLY! Someone said it.  I know that there are not enough fingers and toes in the world, ok that might be drastic… but there are definitely not enough in Gordian Project to count how many times I have said “yes” when I’m screaming “no”.  I don’t have a good solution on how to say no without the other person being upset, but I do have a reasonable recommendation (provided the person you are dealing with is "reasonable"). If you are confronted with this situation and a co-worker is asking you to do something that is in line with the company’s goals, add it to your list of priorities where it makes the most sense. If the request is out of line with the company’s goals, tell them no and explain your reasons.

Don’t forget: We will never get caught up, but understanding that alone can help reduce your stress and increase your productivity. It’s a weird thought, I know, but there is always tomorrow, and we all know that if it doesn’t get done today it will be there tomorrow. So why stress?


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Do You Know What the Big Picture is at Your Company?

Posted on August 25, 2009 by Suzanne

I recently moved into a new role at the Gordian Project, and as I was trying to wrap my mind around my new responsibilities I had a rather candid conversation with my manager about how as a team leader I should be making decisions on a higher level, and that those decisions should be based on “the big picture” for the company.  I realized, that in my previous position I didn’t really allow myself to think critically or pursue ideas that could help the company as a whole because I felt like there were too many other daily tasks that I had to accomplish.  I had a job to do, a task to complete, and that was my role.  I was finally able to take the blinders off and see the bigger picture for the first time.  But how do we lose sight of the big picture in the first place? Is it really because of the position we hold or is it a habit we get ourselves into?

We all have our own opinions on the questions above, but I think it would be helpful (for me at least) to make some of the solutions visible so we don’t “put the blinders” back on.

  1. Keep a list of your high-level ideas.  Keeping a list of your ideas can help in a number of different ways.  It can help with organization and focus, especially if you are directly working on one of those ideas, because we all know interruptions are going to take place at some point.  It can be a self-esteem booster when the idea well seems to be dry; and it can be a great tool to show what you’ve accomplished and what can still be done.  It may also be useful to organize your list by short term and long term ideas.  This way you are able to see what can be accomplished quickly in order to jump start improvements and capitalize on any low hanging fruit.

  2. Ask yourself “How will this affect the company?” Ahh... those that don’t enjoy their jobs are thinking of Office Space right now; I happen to have a different opinion but can enjoy the humor none the less. By asking this key question you should be able to determine if the idea is something that will be helpful or something that could be put on the back burner.  When asking yourself how the idea will help the company it will open the door to a number of other questions, including but not restricted to: How it will affect the bottom line? How it will affect a process currently in practice?  How it will burden or improve other departments?  How it supports or hinders current or upcoming projects or paths? These questions can help determine if you put your idea on the short term or long term list or toss it out all together.

  3. Keep thinking forward.   Continue to research and think about new and inventive ways to help your company improve.  Thinking forward will keep you stay fresh and relevant in an ever-changing business climate.

These tips can be used regardless of the position you hold in your company.  The bottom line is that we all have an effect on what happens at our workplace.  Sometimes we feel useless and unable to help, but this is simply not true.  It’s really easy to go to work and do what you have to do, but wouldn’t the work experience mean more if we remembered that we can make a difference in how our company performs?  I hope the blinders come off earlier for others, we spend a lot of time in the workplace, we may as well gain visibility and make it worthwhile.


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