Pezzano Mickey & Bornstein May 2019

MAY 2019

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Perspectives PMB

MAKE YOUR TIME YOUR OWN Time-Management Tools to Improve Your Life

I’ve read quite a few time-management books through the years. There’s constantly a new take on the topic, probably because we never have enough time. Like many people, I often wish I could multiply myself to get everything done. I’ve tried different ways to manage my time. As a young associate fresh out of law school, I found myself juggling assignments from multiple supervisors, which made it difficult to prioritize my tasks. I vowed to put my head down and plow through the work as quickly as possible. Looking back, that approach led to unsustainable stress. Since then, I have tried more structured methods of prioritizing tasks to manage my time, in both my professional and my personal life. “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” –Stephen R. Covey The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method popularized in the late 1980s. The title comes from the tomato-shaped timer which the author used to manage his time in college. The technique involves breaking work down into 25-minute intervals, separated by 5-minute breaks, in order to heighten focus on tasks. Although I don’t subscribe to this method, I can see the potential benefit, especially for students. One of the time-management books I enjoyed was “Getting Things Done,” by David Allen. An entire productivity movement has been built around the principles outlined in “GTD,” in which Allen recommends organizing tasks into both short- and long-term plans. Whenever a task presents itself, if it can be done in two minutes or less, just do it immediately to get it out of the way. Work that requires more time

should be put onto either a “next actions list” or a list of long-term goals. Basically, if something that needs to be done pops into your head, promptly write it down on one of your lists so that it will not be forgotten. Getting tasks out of your head and onto paper (or your PC, tablet, or smartphone) will also help you to reduce stress and focus on getting your work done. I have tweaked the GTD method of time management, since I found that my “to do” list itself was becoming unmanageable. I discovered that unless a deadline was imminent, certain tasks would get bumped in place of concrete events on my calendar. So, I switched my strategy. Now, if something needs to get done by a particular date, it goes into my calendar immediately and is inserted into an available time slot. Occasionally, a task does get bumped for unexpected events, but if that occurs, I simply reschedule it to a later time, and it does not get deleted from my calendar until it is completed. What about long-term goals? They are also calendared, sometimes on a weekend, and are scheduled to repeat in monthly intervals so that they are not forgotten. It is much easier to use the calendar technique of time management if you utilize modern technology, of course. I would not suggest this method if the only calendar you are comfortable using hangs on your fridge! No matter what method you use for time- management, your plan will be useless if you allow yourself to be sidetracked by the many distractions we face on a daily basis. While social media has connected us to others, it is also a major time suck. Studies have shown that the average American adult spends more than 11 hours per day looking at a screen. What do we have to show for those 11 hours? It is wonderful to catch up with family on Facebook, but once

we are logged on, the lure of interesting photos, videos, and articles can turn what we expected to be a 10-minute break into a two-hour hole in our day. You can never get that time back, so finish your priorities before getting pulled in! While we may become distracted by social media, technology also provides many tools for taking control of our own schedules. There are several excellent time management applications and websites out there that can help you organize your life.“Rescue Time”is an app that measures howmuch time you are spending online, broken down by category (social media, entertainment, news, etc.) The“Be Focused Timer”and“Remember the Milk”applications help track your work and manage tasks. You may also want to consider turning off all email and text notifications to avoid losing focus. You do not need to have a career outside of the home to benefit from implementing a time management system. Stay-at-home parents and those enjoying retirement would also benefit from using their time more wisely. Students should certainly learn time-management skills as early as possible. While unstructured days now and then are necessary to recharge our batteries, too much unstructured time leads many to experience a sense of uselessness and hopelessness. Get yourself on a schedule for laundry, groceries, meal-planning, and all of life’s mundane tasks. Once you focus all your attention on the task at hand, you will find that you have more time left over to pursue the activities that give you joy. Ingrain this attitude in your children, and they will be more likely to find success and happiness in life at a young age. –Lisa Pezzano Mickey

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