Stop Overscheduling by Cutting Options

 

Cross designed by Diogo Trindade from the Noun Project

Cross designed by Diogo Trindade from the Noun Project

If you want to get more done, don’t wait until tomorrow to get your time management in-line. Start today, right now, by planning out what needs to get done and setting a hard schedule for it.

Over at Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Grace Saunders gives us two insightful tips for how to better manage our time in order to get everything done that we need to:

Unless you make a conscious effort to change your behavior, poor time management today will only lead to poor time management tomorrow…

Eliminate future options

Challenge yourself to find specified times during your workday to complete your commitments. Look at your project list and estimate approximately how long it will take you to get certain items done. For example, if you have a presentation at the end of the month, determine how long it will take you to gather the information, put together the presentation, review it with your team, and run through it. Then assign specific times in your schedule between now and the presentation for you to complete each piece.

The other approach Saunders mentions is to decrease variability in your schedule. That is: set a schedule for your work and stick to it. Doing so ensures you get done what you need to get done, as well as making it easier to do what you need to now rather than later.

These approaches work by disabling psychological loopholes where we say we want to do something, that we’ll get to it later, but when the time comes to do it we find ourselves either too exhausted or distracted to get it done. This leaves us feeling like we either have to play catch-up or like we’ve failed, causing us to put off other tasks until a future time, endlessly repeating the process.

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Related: Science Says You Should Only Check Email at Designated Times

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How to Deal (or Not Deal) with Phone Calls

No Phone by Scott Lewis from The Noun Project

No Phone by Scott Lewis from The Noun Project

Do you get pissed off whenever someone asks you to setup a “quick call” to chat? Gary Vaynerchuk bets that you do:

We have gotten to a place where everything happens on our time. You watch the TV show when you want to watch it, not because it airs on Wednesday at 8 (7 central). You text because you can respond to that person on your time.

In a thoughtful tirade against phone calls, Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot, left some important takeaways for how to deal with phone calls (and by extension, meetings), including:

To avoid the awkwardness around small-talk, try to outline what the topic of the conversation is going to be.  It makes you feel less guilty for transitioning into the purpose of the call.

Use email to get your high-level thoughts communicated first, and then use a phone call to add a personal touch or to have a higher bandwidth conversation.

If your work requires phone calls, that’s understandable. But remember that more often than not, synchronous communication puts you in a reactionary state. Don’t feel obligated to answer the phone every time it rings; what’s urgent isn’t always important.

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Learn the Rules & Then Break Them

dp_wrongtheory4_f

Scott Dadich’s spread for an article on Ridley Scott in Wired Magazine.

Editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine Scott Dadich says it’s time to start getting it wrong. In the field of technology design, we have figured out how to do it right. We have beautiful, sleek devices that are an ease to use – and it’s getting boring:

…once a certain maturity has been reached, someone comes along who decides to take a different route. Instead of trying to create an ever more polished and perfect artifact, this rebel actively seeks out imperfection—sticking a pole in the middle of his painting, intentionally adding grungy feedback to a guitar solo, deliberately photographing unpleasant subjects. Eventually some of these creative breakthroughs end up becoming the foundation of a new set of aesthetic rules, and the cycle begins again.

Dadich emphasizes that it’s not about throwing out design rules and starting from scratch. You need to master the rules so you can effectively break them. In his work for Wired Magazine, Dadich would apply his ‘Wrong Theory’ in small ways by only breaking one or two rules to regain visual interest. He would make large images small, overlap graphic and type and put headlines at the end of stories. Our future lies in failure as Dadich states, “…only by courting failure can we find new ways forward.”

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Use the Restroom Test to Make the Most of Conferences

Toilet Paper designed by Collectif Intro from the Noun Project

Toilet Paper designed by Collectif Intro from the Noun Project

Being shy or introverted doesn’t mean you can’t network like a pro at events. Over at Atomic Spin, Phil Kirkham gives us three tips on how to get the most from a conference or event. Our favorite is The Restroom Test, a way to check how well you’re doing at mixing and mingling with your fellow event-goers:

Take a walk to the restroom and back and see how many people that you did not know previously nod in recognition or say Hi. By the second day of the conference, I could count on getting at least 5 nods of recognition during my walk.

Even if you’re not overly shy, conferences can be intimidating thanks to the sheer number (and talents) of those around you. If at the end of the conference, you still find yourself among only strangers, it’s a good indicator that you’re not making the most of your time there. At the heart of it, Kirkham’s Restroom Test is a great way to not only help measure the number of new people you’re meeting during the event, but also to strengthen your memory of them. 

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Paul Jarvis: Find Your Rat People

rats

Illustration of Paul Jarvis’ rats

Web designer and author Paul Jarvis wants you to find your “rat people.” These are the people who are passionate about the same things as you, in Jarvis’ case, that’s pet rats. Not everyone is going to have the same interests and that’s perfectly alright. However, stay away from those who insult you because of who you are.

The ones who think your work is useless or worse, disgusting don’t truly matter. Their dissension should fall on deaf ears because they’d never support you, pay you or join your secret club. When you give up trying to please everyone your work becomes much more focused and valuable to the people that matter.

Your rat people get what you do and love it. These are the people you should look for as clients, have on your mailing list and friend on social media. Too often we let the client decide if we are the right designer for them when we should be questioning if they are the right client for us. Jarvis reminds us, “for your creativity to support you, you need to find your 1%. Your rat people.”

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Recover from Failure with a Deep-Tissue Post-Mortem

Stones by Roberto Notarangelo from The Noun Project

Stones by Roberto Notarangelo from The Noun Project

Creative professionals who practice rapid iteration believe in the mantra of “fail fast, fail often.” And while quickly bouncing back from mistakes is essential to accelerated progress, not adequately reflecting upon failure can prevent complete recovery. Sometimes, deeper reflection is needed.

Founder and CEO of “failure consultancy” Fail Forward, Ashley Good, recommends performing what she calls a “deep-tissue post-mortem” to thoroughly recover from failure:

Our tendency in times of failure is to try to figure out what caused it, fix it as soon as possible and move on. That undermines the depth of learning that’s possible.

Good suggests asking the following questions to get started:

Try to figure out why the failure happened. What assumptions were made? What experiences led to it? That really deepens what you can learn from the experience. Also, listen to other perspectives on what happened. I often bring together different stakeholders in the failure to talk about it. If you bring five people together, you’ll get five different stories about what went wrong.

Don’t just sweep the failures under the rug and move on. Take some time to sufficiently prepare yourself for when you will, inevitably, fail again.

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For Better Ideas, Use Your Blank Space

Outline designed by Diogo Trindade from the Noun Project

Outline designed by Diogo Trindade from the Noun Project

Intentionally leaving part of an idea blank can actually make it more engaging. Over at Harvard Business Review, author Matthew E May describes the benefit leaving intentional spaces in our work creates:

When we respect the white space — or when we intentionally create by removing just the right thing in just the right way — we allow others to fill the void, adding their own interpretation and impact. In fact, I’d argue that some of the most engaging ideas have something purposefully missing. Limiting information engages the imagination

There is nothing more powerful than the ability of the human mind to create meaning from missing information. Whatever form your idea takes–strategy, product, service, startup–if you want it to “tip,” you might just want to make it more about less.

A great example of this strategy in action would be working on a story — for a novel, or a project storyboard — and creating only the beginning and the ends. Presenting the story to your peers allows them to generate their own ideas for what happens in-between, ultimately creating a more powerful story than if you had otherwise come up with it entirely, from beginning to end, on your own.

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