Steven Johnson recently wrote about Social Traffic Jams. This is where you go out for a short predefined task- like picking up the milk from your nearby store but you meet your neighbor and a conversation ensues causing you to be late at your next appointment. This doesn’t just happen in suburban neighborhoods where you are likely to see your neighbors. It happens every day in the halls of every company- a 2 minute bathroom break can turn into a 30 minute discussion on the Mets collapse. It also happens at car pool pickup. At the cleaners. At the gym. Every task can take longer than expected when confronted by a traffic Jam.
The problem isn’t just that you’re late to your next appointment. The problem is that your friend can get offended at the curt conversations and worse you may miss out by not taking the conversation to it’s logical end (so how did he end up saving $40 a month on cable?)
Here’s some tricks I use to avoid social traffic jams:
1. Schedule Gaps
It’s always risky to schedule multiple tasks too close to each other. Like my friend who scheduled his son’s PT appointment right after the first day orientation. He was forced to leave school even though his son was having a fun time. We all do it, trying to be more efficient, but it gets us in trouble. The solution is to put flexible time between appointments. Just have a plan in case you don’t overrun on your first appointment (start the next appointment early? read? eat? take a walk?). My friend could have checked out the park next door to school.
2. Travel Off Peak
For me shopping time isn’t social time. I try going to the store at off hours. The lines are shorter and it’s less likely I’ll get side tracked.
3. Divert the Traffic
Schedule the person for a more convenient time. You might say, “I’m so glad I ran into you but I need to run. Come on over Saturday afternoon- I really want to catch up.”
4. Use Car Pool Lanes
Do your tasks with a friend. Realize it will probably take you longer but commuting time will be more fun and you may learn something (there’s such a thing as microwave ready frozen pancakes in 20 seconds?!?). Plus when you’re with a friend you have an easier “out” from the next jam, “I’m here with my friend Joe, I don’t want to hold him up. Let’s catch up on…”
5. Check the Traffic Report
Before you head out, check the time. See if the timing is bad. Is that when the school bus comes so you’ll see your neighbor outside? Is it when coworkers are coming back from lunch? Push off your task a few minutes and avoid needing to give excuses or be unfriendly. I’m not suggesting you become anti-social, just that you have your social contacts when you’re not going to need to cut it short.
6. Respect Time
Always try to be on time. This way if you tell people you need too go, they understand. They know that you’ll be on time when meeting with them.
Recently Daily Blog Tips asked a question What is a Blog? The answer is it doesn’t matter. To someone who hasn’t heard of the concept it’s just a new/easy way for a person to publish content on the internet. That’s all you need to know. When you come across a website it wont matter to you if it’s a blog, wiki, microblog, social website, 2.0 site. All that matters is if it’s delivering what you need. If it is, then subscribe or check back often otherwise it’s called trash.
The problem with the web is that it introduces many ways to waste time- it’s up to you to take the good and leave the bad. Usually Daily Blog Tips is a very informative site, but occasionally even good sites do bad things- but don’t count them out for it. If they make it a pattern though, you should decide if it’s worth it.
Now let’s not waste more time with this- go back to being productive.
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If your to do list is getting longer than the Five Books of Moses, this technique will save you time and headaches.
Finish The Job
End what you begin, or you begin your end
With corporate downsizing and the need to impress, your to do list is constantly growing. There are many tricks out there to help you shorten it, but I’m proposing the most obvious: Finish the Project! How many items on your to do list are in progress- you’re almost finished, but not quite? Finish projects after you start them.
Take this scenario: You’re buying a present for your significant other’s birthday. You don’t want a repeat of the “all I can find is dead flowers” incident. Being the thoughtful, productive person that you are, you’ve thought about exactly what you’ll get her since her last birthday. You’ve bought the present a month in advance. All you have to do is wrap it. The first two weeks you figure you still have time. Before you know it the day has arrived you need to scramble to find time to wrap it. So you look for the wrapping paper, but where is it- another five minutes before you find it. Scotch tape- where’d that go? Every step brings new obstacles..
Unfortunately this happens all the time- a project can’t be marked completed because a small detail isn’t accomplished. The solution is simple- complete the project while you are working on it.
Don’t Start Unless You Can Finish
There are always many cool projects you can take on. Don’t do it unless you know you can schedule time to see it through completion.
By finishing all projects that you start you will seem more reliable and capable in all aspects of your life.
The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest
We all know about the power of compound interest (at least we should). Basically you take a few dollars and put it away for a few years and the interest you earn earns interest. Before you know it you have much more than you started with. Can you apply the same concept to time? That’s the question asked to Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Workweek. Unfortunately he doesn’t provide an answer. But we all know the answer is obviously yes- investing is one of the principles of success. Here’s six ways to compound time:
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Get rid of the easy tasks so someone else does it for you. Need someone to do payroll try a company like ADP then all you need to do is spend a couple of minutes sending them your data and they take care of the rest.
Some tasks are too complex or personalized to outsource- instead you can insource it (delegate). Train someone to do your job inside your organization or family- a few minutes of training or direction can give you huge dividends in the long term. Sometimes just asking is all you need to do.
Invest a small amount of time to get a machine/computer to do your job for you. This is why I love computers. They have the potential to do exactly what you need you just have to tell it the right way. It may require a special program, a special setup or even some programming but if you find the right command your computer will do your work for you and will never complain.
Investing in learning time is crucial. Sometimes learning simple techniques can end up saving you much time in the long run. Learn how to type faster. Learn advanced features of your word processor. Just Learn.
If you’re the guru in your house or your office, you’ll often get all kinds of requests- each of which takes you away from what you need to accomplish. The solution is to invest time to teach the person how to do it themselves. So go ahead: Teach your kids to pick their own close. Teach your coworker to run a report you created. As the saying goes “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”
When there is a system to your actions it makes it much easier to succeed. Think about a recipe- it tells you exactly what you need to do. For projects that you create look into making it systematic. It takes away complexity and limits the risk of problems.
With the Success Blueprint youâ€™ll always know what youâ€™re supposed to be doing and what needs to be done next. Itâ€™s a formula that helps you succeed. Your machine works for you invisibly even if you arenâ€™t actively working on it.
This just shows the value of time don’t waste it. Do you have any techniques to compound time? Let me know below.
I always try to break down every concept to it’s basics. It makes it easier to learn and excel at. I’ve been eagerly following Francis Wade and his 2Time system as it breaks down time management to 7 basic habits: Capturing, Emptying, Tossing, Storing, Acting Now, Scheduling & Listing. I think these are core concepts that you should read about (see below) but are there more? What about delegating/followup?
Randy Pausch, a beloved college professor, is terminally ill with Pancreatic cancer. He wrote his “Last Lecture” entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. Over six million people have viewed the lecture online. He went on Opera and delivered a shorter version. Pausch is really inspiring. Interestingly he’s more proud of his lecture Time Management. He even posted the power point slides. If anyone needs to manage time well he does.
He mentions lots of ideas that you’ve seen on these pages: start with a dream, make plans and turn it into to do items. Break your to dos down (next actions) and do the “ugliest” thing first (the hardest). Use Covey’s 4 quadrants: Do the “important, not due soon”. Keep an empty inbox. File everything away. Use 2 monitors.
He also has some not so obvious tips:
On your desk have only one task in front of you- no distractions.
Get a speaker phone- now you can be productive when on hold
Keep calls short; stand during call
Start by announcing goals for the call
Don’t put your feet up
Have something in view to do next
Have an excuse readyÂ to get off the phone. Prepare something fun to do after the call so you are motivated to finish quickly.
Group calls: 11:30am (before lunch) and 4:30pm (before quitting time) so people will not stay on the phone long.
Write hand written thank you notes
Office Logistics- Make your office comfortable for you, and optionally comfortable for others
You don’t find time for important things, you make it