Monthly Archives: Jan 2015

Discomfort of Influence

Discomfort of Influence

Having influence is NOT always a bed of roses!

Along with influence comes a certain unavoidable degree of visibility, where you start living in a kind of fishbowl and are held up to a level of keen observation, and even criticism, that you probably weren’t used to before.

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5 Hard Earned Time Management Lessons

I’ve learned some time management lessons after years of struggling to manage time better. And because these lessons learned in life have the potential to completely revolutionize the way you think about managing your time, this article will be one of the most important you’ll read. Without any further ado, let’s talk about these 5 hard earned time management lessons.

1. Make Lists

Drawing up lists for everything is a very effective time management method. You can have a list on which only major projects are added, and then work your way through it. A sub-list of things to do today helps you stay focused on the most important projects.

While having too many lists, or too many items on each list, can be a problem, it is easily solved by setting priorities and deciding what goes on your list. Unimportant tasks that have no bearing on your long term goals should be ruthlessly eliminated. Writing down your list is helpful because you can cross off items as they get done. This gives you a sense of completion that reinforces your behavior of sticking to the list.

2. Clear Away Clutter

Organizing your files and workspace can be a precious time management lesson. Look at the items that clutter up your home or office. Do you really need to keep those papers, documents, sales brochures and other material? If not, get rid of them. Or keep digital copies and eliminate the physical clutter.

While this may be hard work, it is very rewarding when you get done. You’ll often be able to destroy 75% of papers, bills, receipts and other things without significantly impacting your work or efficiency.

3. Take Control Over Your Schedule

To organize your time, you must first realize what is holding you back. One of the powerful time management lessons the years will teach you is that nothing is wrong with you, or out of control – it’s just the way things work, at their own speed and in their own nature. Getting frustrated about it is wasteful. Instead, take control of as much as you can.

Manage your email, voice mail, phone calls and in person meetings. Avoid interruptions, and factor in time wasted on unexpected delays into your work schedule. Pick specific times of the day to tackle particular tasks. Unless you schedule work, it never gets done.

If your project seems too big to complete, break it down into smaller chunks and then begin working on the first chunk. Sooner than you realize it, you’ll get everything done.

4. You Can’t Do Everything Yourself

You may like to think of yourself as being capable of handling everything on your own. You might even think others cannot do as good a job as you will. And you may be right, too. Except that, by going it alone, you will significantly limit the nature and amount of work that you can get done.

If you get others to help you out, you’ll achieve more. You may have employees, volunteers or friends who can tackle specific elements of your work. By making a list, and then delegating chores to your team members, you free yourself up to concentrate on other important things.

5. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

One of the time management lessons that’s hard to learn is that it isn’t always your fault. Even if you spend a lot of time training yourself in more efficient time management, there will be times when you slip up. Piles of paper will accumulate on your desk. Your email inbox will get cluttered. You’ll fall behind on your deadlines. Others will dump their work on you, forcing you to shelve your important projects until later.

Don’t beat yourself up. Things will change and improve, as long as you stick to the time management lessons you’ve learned and keep on implementing. If you don’t give up, you’ll get better at managing your time. Just remember the 3 important Time Management Tao principles:

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Cause – Or Accident?

Cause and Effect - Destiny

Connections? Linkage? Who can tell?

This happened years ago.

I posted a tweet. Jeanette saw it. Acted. Went to Haiti. Met Elaine. Now, they’re great friends.

Connections happened.

Jeanette Joy posted about it.

But how much of it was causal?

What if… ?

What if I hadn’t tweeted about Frank’s Caring House project?
What if Jeanette and I weren’t connected on Twitter?
What if she hadn’t seen my tweet (she has over 100k followers)?

Or…

What if she hadn’t taken action on it?
What if she hadn’t gone to Haiti?
What if the circumstances that brought Elaine there hadn’t happened?

And finally…

What if they both were different kinds of people?

What If… ?

Would this connection have developed anyway?

I’ve asked myself this kind of question for years, mostly in context of my work as a heart surgeon for children.

How much of what we do is causal in determining outcomes?

How much is sheer accident?

How much is part of an intricately woven, enormously complex whole?

P.S. –

I explored this question, “What If?”, in a short story. You may enjoy it. Read it here: click

What If

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How To Beat Procrastination

Procrastination and poor time management are a big problem and concern. You can beat procrastination when you set deadlines for completion – preferably today.

Procrastination is your worst enemy in the battle against wasting time. And it’s a bad habit – one that can neutralize many other good ones, if you let it get out of hand. It is tempting to put off things you don’t enjoy doing. But when those tasks are important, you can end up sabotaging your success.

A definition of successful people is that they don’t like some of the important tasks… but they do them anyway! And that is why they enjoy the fruit of their labor.

Putting off things for later can happen because you don’t like doing a particular task, or because you are lazy/tired/incapable of handling it. That’s no longer a valid excuse – because it is now possible to outsource those tasks to get them done.

My personal approach is to break down projects into bite-sized pieces – and then set out to do one of the pieces, then get it done today. Unless it gets done, I don’t go to sleep! That’s an effective cure against time management procrastination.

Now, this isn’t always possible. But it is still desirable to strive for such a goal – because even if you end up doing less than the task, you’ll still get some part of the project done daily!

Not only that, the very action of doing something every day, moving slowly but surely towards your goal, sets up a positive reinforcement loop that energizes you. And over time, doing your daily tasks becomes a habit – and happens automatically!

Procrastination is your worst enemy in the battle against wasting time. And it’s a bad habit – one that can neutralize many other good ones, if you let it get out of hand. It is tempting to put off things you don’t enjoy doing. But when those tasks are important, you can end up sabotaging your success.

A definition of successful people is that they don’t like some of the important tasks… but they do them anyway! And that is why they enjoy the fruit of their labor.

Putting off things for later can happen because you don’t like doing a particular task, or because you are lazy/tired/incapable of handling it. That’s no longer a valid excuse – because it is now possible to outsource those tasks to get them done.

My personal approach is to break down projects into bite-sized pieces – and then set out to do one of the pieces, then get it done today. Unless it gets done, I don’t go to sleep! That’s an effective cure against time management procrastination.

Now, this isn’t always possible. But it is still desirable to strive for such a goal – because even if you end up doing less than the task, you’ll still get some part of the project done daily!

Not only that, the very action of doing something every day, moving slowly but surely towards your goal, sets up a positive reinforcement loop that energizes you. And over time, doing your daily tasks becomes a habit – and happens automatically!

One of the best ways to beat time management procrastination is to ask yourself what is the best use of your time, right now?

Sometimes the secret to getting things done during the day is to keep reminding yourself of the work that’s ahead. You can do this by having a prioritized list of items that need to be accomplished during the day.

Usually you have multiple tasks that you’re working on at any given time, with each one just as important as the other. Whenever you complete a task, cross it off your list, and then ask yourself “What is the best use of my time, right now?” Based on the answer, move on to the next task.

This way time management procrastination stops being an issue at all. You are able to set goals, decide upon priorities and then execute them masterfully. It’s the core of our Time Management Tao philosophy which is based upon learning how to:

You can learn more about this on the various sections of this site, and from the Ming Vase Time Management guides. For other time management procrastination beating tips, you can also sign up to our free “Time Taozine” ezine by filling up the form below.

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How Time Management Studies Ensure Higher Productivity

Time management studies are used by big businesses and companies, as well as non profit organizations and other large groups who value productivity and efficiency highly. Remember how we were often told, as kids, about how important it is to use time wisely and well? That’s what time management studies can help achieve in large groups or organizations.

Why Time Management Studies?

The essential basis of a time management study is simple. A tracking sheet helps keep a record of how employees spend time. Duties of a person are listed, with blanks into which they will enter the start and end time of activities. The time consumption is tabulated, analyzed, and patterns are traced for specific kinds of activities.

Patterns are the key to studies of effective time management. That’s why most tracking is done for common every day activities, rather than the rarely performed ones. Well maintained records help individuals examine what they are spending time on, and can aid in evolving strategies to deal with interruptions and breaks in concentration.

Time Studies At the Office

Unscheduled appointments are an element that often comes to the fore during studies of time management. Some businesses will refuse to see unscheduled clients. Others would take a message, and promise that someone will call back with more information. Each of these approaches save the organization immense amount of focused time to devote to the entity’s primary goals and objectives.

Another factor to keep in mind with these studies is the tendency to make data collection more efficient by rounding up time. Discrepancies creep into the measurement because staff collecting the data don’t count coffee or cigarette breaks, gossip time around the water cooler, or personal calls and tasks. These variables could skew the overall numbers and even lead to wrong conclusions in strategies adopted for better time management.

Time Management for Family

Studies of time management are also important in the private lives of people who work in larger organizations. The tendency to over-schedule children to participate in too many activities can lead to stress. Parents are now moving towards giving kids more spare time so that the family unit does not disintegrate owing to the pressure-cooker environment of overly busy parents and children.

An analysis of time spent can help get a better picture about where your time is being spent, and how to balance the time schedules of all family members, including children. There should be room in your daily routine for all important components of life, such as spiritual activities, relaxation and leisure, and self development.

There is little argument about the fact that time is very precious. Time management studies give us the opportunity to quantify our activities, examine our routines, and schedule things that are most important to fit comfortably into the overall fabric of our daily lives.

Without such introspection and analysis, we risk falling into a rut, and gradually getting into a vicious spiral of lower efficiency. With well designed studies to guide you, it is easier to align your work and life with the tested principles of Time Management Tao:

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Simple Time Management Skills That Transform Your Life

Many simple time management skills will totally change the way you live, work and have fun. You’ll go from a point of being starved for free time to enjoying abundant leisure to indulge in everything you want.

Among the simple time management skills that are most effective are learning how to turn down chores or delegate them intelligently, time your activities to get done efficiently, and focusing only on the most important tasks. Another skill you will benefit from mastering is to chunk your time into blocks.

How to chunk time into blocks for projects?

When you work on a particular task, you get into the ‘flow’ in a few minutes – and that’s broken when the rhythm is disturbed by an interruption. Several studies have shown that barely 30% of people return to the task they were doing if they were interrupted during it.

Worse, even if you manage to get back to it, the rhythm has been destroyed, making it harder to hit your stride and thereby wasting precious time. When you try and get back to the task, you’re starting all over again, and won’t reach the state of ‘flow’ for a few minutes (or hours).

The smart thing to do is ensure you are not disturbed or distracted when doing something important – for at least as long as it takes to complete the job.

Allotting chunks of time (their length depending on the nature of the work to be done) lets you enhance productivity while spending the least amount of time on the job. It is far better to spend 30 minutes undisturbed than 3 smaller time blocks of 10 minutes each on a project.

Coaches who teach simple time management skills talk about the concept of ‘protected time’ – time when everyone at home knows you should not be disturbed. That applies even to little children and only emergencies are allowed.

By clearly defining a block of time during which you will focus exclusively on a task, you increase the chance of completing it, get the work done most efficiently, and free up more time to concentrate on other jobs or have quality time to spend with family and friends.

Also, when you’re engaged upon a specific type of work, and have the tools, applications, material and people you require for it around, it makes the most sense to chunk together all related types of work so that you can optimally leverage available resources and get them all finished expediently.

One of the most simple time management skills is to work with lists. Make a list of the things you need to do and prioritize them by grouping them into 4 categories:

  • A. Absolutely must be done.
  • B. Needs to be done today
  • C. Would be nice to get done
  • D. Needs to be done at some point

You then do the things in the A column first, grouping them into common chunks and finishing them quickly. You then rework the list and do the things that now make their way into the A column and so on.

The list evolves over the course of a working day since things change over time, which is the reason you must re-prioritize it before chunking the tasks into blocks.

Time Management Tao teaches many such simple management skills rooted in the three tenets of knowing how to

Greater detail about specific elements such as learning how to focus can be gleaned from the series of Ming Vase Time Management guides.

And to continue learning simple time management skills, sign up for our free email newsletter – the “Time Taozine”. Join by submitting the form below.

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Inner Conversations

Play Blitz Chess

I enjoy playing blitz chess, where each player gets a total of 3 minutes.  It’s fast-paced, demands total concentration and delivers a quick result.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m undisturbed while playing, I win around half of my games.  But when there’s even a slight distraction, I lose most of the matches.

On analyzing this, I realize that it’s because of inner conversations.

As I make my moves, I’m constantly talking to myself.

  • Silently voicing my attack plan.
  • Remarking on the other person’s moves.
  • Even egging myself on when I see a weakness to exploit in the position or structure of my opponent’s pieces.

When someone talks to me in the middle of the game, that inner conversation is disrupted.

Once broken, it’s hard to find the thread again – and that leads to defeat.

The same kind of inner conversations happen at other times.

Like while I’m browsing Facebook. I’ve suddenly become conscious of how my thoughts flow.

Sometimes, I’m commenting to myself about the awesomeness (or stupidity) of someone on my network.

Other times, I’m drawing inferences based on stuff they share or post.

And from time to time, I catch myself unintentionally comparing my life to their’s.

These inner conversations leave an impact.

When I return to whatever I was doing, energized and inspired, I realize it’s partly because of the conversations that just went on inside my head.

And when I feel apathic, tired and weary about my work, that’s also a consequence of the latest inner conversation – with myself.

They’re insidious little things, those pesky ‘silent chats’.

They often have dramatic, even deadly effect.

They need to be controlled and dominated for greatness and accomplishment.

Gaining control – and domination – over your inner conversations is probably the single most important thing to drive you forward to your goals.

It’s also a lot harder than it appears.

It takes focus, concentration and dedication.

I’m going to work harder at it… starting right now, with my next game of blitz chess!

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Uncertainty

Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a part of growing up.

Everyone is uncertain about the future. What’s going to happen tomorrow? Next month? Next year? Will it be good? Or bad?

There are only questions – never answers.

While it may not be so obvious, everyone is also uncertain about the past. Not so much about whether something happened, but about whether (or not) it was good, bad or neutral.

The only thing that is NOT uncertain is the present.

Right now.

You know what’s happening. You have the power to choose. You have time and opportunity to act on that decision.

Is that why they call it “present”? Because it’s a gift?

Taking action in the face of uncertainty – of outcome, or intent, or usefulness – is an act of courage, optimism and determination.

It signifies your intent to make things happen.

It’s your puny effort to become Fate’s rudder, turning the ship of your life in the direction you want to set sail.

Lending it power and impact are your dreams.

Dreams span a wide spectrum. There are two poles.

At one end are the “How nice it would be if…” kind of dreams.

How nice it would be if

  • I won the Powerball lottery
  • I had been the one who founded Facebook
  • I went to Stanford business school
  • I married Bill Gates’ son!

Y’know, the ones where you sit and wonder how life would be if you met or knew X, got or won Y, went to or entered or arrived at Z.

The dreams which you don’t (or can’t) do much aboutbut look forward to with all your heart.

Day dreams, really. Fond hopes. Wishes.

You need a fairy Godmother to make them come true!

At the other end of the spectrum are the “I’ll get it done, or die trying…” dreams.

These are fired by passion from your heart. They are driven by a deep-seated purpose, stuff that characterizes you existentially. Fierce motivation that’s inspiring, empowering and self-defining.

  • I work with families where parents (and grandparents) commit to giving their all to help little children with life-threatening birth defects survive – and thrive.
  • I work with small business owners who try, and fail. Get beaten down, and get back up. Who keep on trying – and eventually succeed.

These dreams need action. They involve making choices. Require extreme discipline and persistence.

And they are guided by optimism that flies in the face of pervading uncertainty.

Many dreams fall somewhere between these two extremes.

But you’ll always sense them as being closer to one or the other.

And you’ll adjust your attitude, action and affect towards making them come true.

Your passionate dreams will always be different from anyone else’s – and so they’ll matter more deeply to you than to others.

Even dreams powered by fiery passion don’t always last forever. The constant uncertainty sometimes takes a toll on them.

But remember this.

No meaningful achievement was made with absolute certainty. Great inventors, scientists, physicians, entrepreneurs, leaders – all of them faced the same uncertainty that you do today.

The difference between those who succeeded, and the others who did not, is their ability to stick onto pursue their dreams despite their uncertainty about ever making them come true!

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