Tag Archives: Time Management

If You Have to Return Your Cable Equipment in Person, Outsource It

If You Have to Return Your Cable Equipment in Person, Outsource It

Cable companies don’t make it easy to quit. And one of the most annoying things about canceling cable is having to return the cable box in person. You take time off to go to the facility, wait in line, and, even after your number is called, it can still be a pain. Finance writer Libby Kane offers a simple solution: pay someone to do it for you.

Kane explains how she outsourced the task:

This might be obvious to you. But it wasn’t to me. It felt like a stroke of genius when I realized that for $20, I could hire a TaskRabbit to show up the morning of my move and ferry my cable box (along with my old cable box that I had never gotten around to returning when they were upgraded) back where it belonged. It took 10 minutes to coordinate and I got a $20 off coupon for booking my first task, meaning it didn’t end up costing me anything at all.

Your own mileage may vary. For example, if the wait is especially long (it once took me well over an hour), the tasker may charge more. Cable companies are undoubtedly aware of how difficult they make it, but outsourcing the task, if possible, is a smart move.

On a similar note, I recently switched Internet providers, and while they initially told me I’d have to return the box in person, I politely insisted they give me an address to send the equipment, and after a few tries, it worked. I had to shell out cash for shipping, but it was a small price to pay to avoid Hell’s waiting room.

For more, head to Kane’s full post at the link below.

The smartest thing I did to lessen the chaos of moving house cost me only $20 | Business Insider

Photo by Mike Mozart.

How a Calendar Actually Sabotages Your Time Management Efforts

We all struggle with time management, and we all want to know the best ways to conquer our schedules. In this video, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economics professor at Duke University and friend of Lifehacker, says the calendar definitely isn’t one of them.

http://lifehacker.com/im-dan-ariely-…

As Ariely points out in the video, a calendar almost always misrepresents how much time you actually have. If you look at your calendar two months out, you’ll marvel at how open it looks. But in reality, you have just as little “free time” as you do now. Combine that with our amazingly piss-poor ability to predict the future, and we’re still struggling to manage our time two months from now.

Calendars are great for tasks that take 1-2 hours to complete, like meetings. The thing is, most of the things we want to accomplish in life are (thankfully) not meetings. For bigger, more meaningful projects, ditch the whole “let me pencil this in” rhetoric. Instead, imagine what you need to do if you were to accomplish whatever it is you want to by next week. This way, you start doing mental Tetris to figure out what you need to cancel or shuffle around (if possible) in your schedule to make that happen.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/how-i-built-be…

A behavioral economist explains how your calendar is messing up your priorities | Business Insider

When2Leave Sends You an Alert When Traffic Dies Down

When2Leave Sends You an Alert When Traffic Dies Down

Depending on when you leave the house, traffic can vary from manageable to an absolute nightmare. When2Leave helps you leave at the best time by sending you an alert when traffic dies down.

This web app is especially useful for people who actually have some flexibility with their schedules. You simply type your origin and destination into the app, then tell it to notify you when the route falls below whatever amount of time you desire. It’ll tell you what the average and current traffic time is for the route.

When2Leave Sends You an Alert When Traffic Dies Down

It’s only available via your browser, though, so you have to be at your computer to get the alert. It would be even more useful as a mobile app, but it works well if you’re on your computer. If you’re at work, for example, and trying to figure out the best time to leave at the end of the day, the app will send a pop-up telling you that your route is within your time frame.

Of course, you can always check Google Maps for updates, but this offers a more automatic alternative than refreshing Maps every so often. Check it out for yourself at the link below.

When2Leave via Product Hunt

When2Leave Sends You an Alert When Traffic Dies Down

When2Leave Sends You an Alert When Traffic Dies Down

Depending on when you leave the house, traffic can vary from manageable to an absolute nightmare. When2Leave helps you leave at the best time by sending you an alert when traffic dies down.

This web app is especially useful for people who actually have some flexibility with their schedules. You simply type your origin and destination into the app, then tell it to notify you when the route falls below whatever amount of time you desire. It’ll tell you what the average and current traffic time is for the route.

When2Leave Sends You an Alert When Traffic Dies Down

It’s only available via your browser, though, so you have to be at your computer to get the alert. It would be even more useful as a mobile app, but it works well if you’re on your computer. If you’re at work, for example, and trying to figure out the best time to leave at the end of the day, the app will send a pop-up telling you that your route is within your time frame.

Of course, you can always check Google Maps for updates, but this offers a more automatic alternative than refreshing Maps every so often. Check it out for yourself at the link below.

When2Leave via Product Hunt

This Interactive Tool Calculates How Much Time and Money You Waste Commuting

This Interactive Tool Calculates How Much Time and Money You Waste Commuting

Commuting doesn’t have to be a waste. There are plenty of ways to get more out of it. If you’re curious, though, this calculator tells you just how much time and money you’ll spend commuting in your lifetime.

http://lifehacker.com/5906325/how-do…

Ford’s tool asks you how you commute, how much time it takes you, how old you are, and when you plan to retire. From there, it offers a breakdown of the total time and money spent commuting based on your info. Of course, this only gives you general idea, because some of these factors may change over time.

Keep in mind, the tool comes from Ford, so they’re definitely trying to advertise their initiatives, which you can find after the calculation (some of those initiatives are kind of interesting, though). It also calculates using the British Pound or Euro, so you may have to convert to your own currency. It’s interesting to see these totals, though, and the tool also shows you how much your results compare to the average commuter. Check it out for yourself at the link below, and if the numbers frustrate you, here are some tips for making your commute a little more productive.

http://lifehacker.com/how-can-i-make…

Your Lifetime of Commuting | Ford of Europe

Prioritize Your Tasks by Motivation Instead of Time With Activity Blocks

Prioritize Your Tasks by Motivation Instead of Time With Activity Blocks

Loss of motivation can kill your productivity, but if you can switch things up while you work, you’ll keep yourself fresh and focused. Prioritizing and scheduling tasks into activity blocks that aren’t constrained by time can help.

If you’re looking for a clever way to approach your to-do list every day, author Frank Viola recommends you build one based on your motivation levels, not the amount of time it will take to complete them. Viola explains to Entrepreneur that he makes a daily task list the night before, which contains up to 10 business and personal tasks that are intermingled together to help keep things balanced:

…I’ll chunk large projects into manageable activity blocks that are not based on time at all. I’ll work on that activity until I’m not motivated by it anymore, then I’ll move on to another activity block. This ensures I’m only applying my best ability to every activity rather than half-hearted efforts.

Viola still handles urgent issues first to avoid procrastination, but the rest of his tasks fit into a “tight but loose” schedule. If, for example, you were planning out your day tomorrow, you could list out the 10 things you wanted to get done, then you would organize each item into different blocks or categories. Maybe one block is a work project, another block is busy work, and another is personal to-dos. The next day, pick a block to start with and just get working. When you lose motivation on the current block, switch to a new block, and continue. The key is that you don’t constrain your tasks by time, you constrain them by motivation. You’re still getting everything done, but in an order that’s based on how you feel in the moment, not when you think it should be done.

http://lifehacker.com/5848603/progra…

3 Novel Hacks to Kickstart Your Productivity | Entrepreneur

Photo by Jayel Aheram.

Cope With a Job Loss or Layoff By Volunteering

Cope With a Job Loss or Layoff By Volunteering

Getting fired or laid off can be a frustrating, emotional experience. You’re not sure what to do with your time, and worse, sometimes you start to question your value. Volunteering gives you a productive outlet for coping with the situation.

It’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you after a job loss. It helps to take things a day at a time and stay busy. Over at Reader’s Digest, Lori Scherwin, founder of career site Strategize That, suggests volunteering:

Your job situation is your number-one concern right now, and it’s likely all-consuming. “Give yourself an emotional reprieve from any anxiety by spending some time supporting others through their difficult circumstances,” suggests Scherwin. Pick a cause or organization that is meaningful to you and donate some of your time. It will put things in perspective, add value to your resume, and might also help you network and connect with like-minded people.

I did this when I was laid off, and it was indeed useful. For me, the sense of purpose was the most helpful aspect of it. I enjoyed feeling productive again, rather than wondering what I was going to do with my time or my career in general. It was a welcome, productive distraction.

As Scherwin suggests, though, it’s also great for networking and, perhaps more importantly, contributing to your community.For more tips on handling a layoff, head to the full post below.

Laid Off? 8 Ways to Mentally Recover | Reader’s Digest

Photo by Virginia State Parks.

Add Some Breathing Room to Your Meeting Schedule With the Margin Method

Add Some Breathing Room to Your Meeting Schedule With the Margin Method

Back to back meetings can overwhelm your days and leave you with hardly any time to get anything else done. You can give yourself some much needed wiggle room with the meeting margin method.

If you don’t take a break between meetings, you don’t have time to reflect on what your meetings accomplish or set things in motion. On the Study Hacks blog, Cal Newport recommends a simple strategy to keep back to back meetings from eating up your entire schedule so you can keep productive:

Assume you have to schedule a meeting that lasts X minutes. Instead of blocking off X minutes on your calendar, block off (1.5)*X minutes. For example, if you agree to attend a 30 minute meeting starting at 2:00 pm, try to block out 2:00 to 2:45 on your calendar. Similarly, if it was a 60 minute meeting, try to block out 2:00 to 3:30. And so on.

The key is to keep your meeting to its originally proposed length, and keep those extra minutes for yourself to use as needed. You’re not extending the length of the meeting, just the time you blocked out for it. This gives you time to process what was discussed, catch up on things like emails and phone calls you may have missed during the meeting, and get started on the real work to turn your meeting’s ideas into actions. This extra time also lets you take a break if you need it to de-stress, grab another cup of coffee, or have a snack.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-have-a-…

Schedule Meeting Margins | Study Hacks

Photo by George Redgrave.

How to Deal When You’re Overcommitted at Work

How to Deal When You're Overcommitted at Work

You’ve said yes to one or two too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver. Now’s not the time to wallow in regret. Here’s how to get out from under your overwhelming workload.

First, Take a Deep Breath

Most of us have overcommitted before, whether because we didn’t want to be jerks by saying no or because we underestimated how much time or effort our projects would take. We dug this ditch ourselves, and knowing this can make the stress and guilt even worse.

However, you can’t do anything now about having taken on too much, and stressing about your work stress just multiplies it. So the first thing to do is take a step back and get calm. I’ve had panic attacks recently at the mere thought of the mountain of work I had committed to. Often, I felt paralyzed. After researching coping strategies, I found that breathing exercises and other anxiety-busting strategies helped me get focused enough to start fixing the situation instead of fixating on it. It also helps to remind yourself that this period will pass, and you’ll get through it. Now let’s get to work.

Prioritize Your Projects

The next thing to do is take stock of what’s on your plate and those dreaded deadlines. What do you have to do that’s truly important and urgent? Sort your tasks and projects using the Eisenhower matrix:

How to Deal When You're Overcommitted at Work

Everything might seem important, but not everything is of equal importance. Find out what’s really important by grilling your boss and asking your co-workers.

http://lifehacker.com/5877111/how-to…

As for urgent, that’s all the things that have a deadline—and a reason behind the deadline, not just a made-up deadline. For example, filing your taxes is urgent (and important), whereas filing your bank statements isn’t urgent.

Anything that’s not in that number 1 “urgent and important” box can wait, be delegated, or ditched. You can explain those decisions to your boss by emphasizing that you need time to work on the projects that will make the biggest difference to the company.

Then, pick your top priority project and focus just on that. Don’t think about the other tasks until you have to, so you can keep your inner calm.

What if everything on your to-do list is urgent and important and you still don’t have enough time? Read on.

Delegate What You Can

Break projects down into the smallest tasks possible and see if there’s any part that can be delegated. If someone can do the job to 70% perfection, delegate it, unless the task is primary to your job. They might not do the job as well as you can, but you need help to get the rest of your work done.

Also, if anything can be done in 2 minutes or less, delegate it. For example, for writing this post, I couldn’t have someone else write my outline or finish my draft. However, once I knew which specific examples I was going to include, I could’ve asked someone to grab me the links on Lifehacker that I needed to insert. It’s a minor task, but every bit of help counts.

If you don’t have anyone to delegate to, consider using a service like Fancy Hands, TaskRabbit, or other outsourcing services. Use them for your personal life as well if your overcommitment at work is causing strain or a time crunch when you’re at home.

http://lifehacker.com/5670934/three-…

Ask for a Deadline Extension

Missing a deadline sucks, but it’s better than not completing the task at all. Ask if the deadline can be moved. Some deadlines probably can’t, if they’re critical projects or other projects depend on the strict timeline. However, you might be surprised by how flexible other deadlines might be. (I had a boss once who created artificially short “deadlines” because he thought the stress was motivating. Once I found that out, the deadlines became much less stressful—because I stopped thinking about them.)

Give your boss as much advance notice as possible that you’ll need an extension, and briefly explain why. You might also offer to hand in the portion of the project that’s already finished.

This applies to freelancers and small business owners too. As a freelancer, I hate breaking promises I’ve made to clients, but thankfully the people I’ve worked with have been understanding. Just don’t do this too often.

http://lifehacker.com/what-to-do-whe…

As a Last Resort, Cancel a Project

If you can’t get a deadline extension or you can’t imagine any other possible solution, it’s time to quit. Maybe you’re just in over your head, but for the sake of your work or well-being, you might have to ditch a project.

Quit gracefully with a sincere apology, taking responsibility for having to cancel. Perhaps offer to make up for it—but only if you actually can, because otherwise you’re just restarting the overcommitment cycle.

http://lifehacker.com/the-best-ways-…

Learn from the Experience to Balance Your Commitments in the Future

Once you get through this rough patch, it’s time to take stock so you can prevent it from happening again. Avoid overcommitting with these three steps:

  1. Estimate time better: Most of us underestimate the amount of time we think a task will take, even if we’ve done the same task before. To make up for this “planning fallacy,” estimate the time for the task, and then double it or even triple it. This will also leave room for any possible setbacks you might encounter but can’t foresee now.
  2. Negotiate your deadlines or buy yourself some time: Your boss or your client might set your deadlines, but that doesn’t mean they’re written in stone. Tell them how much time you can realistically complete the project. If they insist on a given deadline, deal with the deliverables rather than the deadline: Ask what you can deliver by that deadline and what can be moved to later.
  3. Learn to say no: This is the hardest but perhaps most important part. Turn down new responsibilities if they would stretch you too thin or they’re not really worth it. Remember: “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” Even people pleasers can learn to say no more often, politely of course. When you point out how heavy your workload is, most bosses will understand if you have to say no—doing so won’t necessarily wreck your career. It could actually save it. You’re better off saying no than committing to something and then letting others down.

You might be feeling overwhelmed now, but by whittling your workload as much as possible and plowing through your priorities one at a time, you’ll overcome this predicament. And then for next time, be brave and selective with commitments you can realistically keep.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

Why Self Care Is So Important

Why Self Care Is So Important

You’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks. To make room for all of this stuff, you skip lunch, stop going to the gym, and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self care is usually the first thing to go. And that only makes things worse.

As fluffy and indulgent as the phrase “self care” may sound, it’s just a few basic habits that are crucial to your functioning. Most of us grew up believing that the more you sacrifice, the bigger the reward. In high school, for example, I once signed up for a debate tournament and forced myself to stay up all night preparing. I figured pushing myself to the point of exhaustion had to pay off. Of course, the next day, I was so exhausted I could barely form coherent sentences, and I tanked.

The point is, it’s easy to take the “hard work pays off” adage too far, to the point that it becomes counterproductive. Your abilities are worn. Your skills aren’t as sharp. You lose focus. You might think you’re working hard, and maybe you are in some ways, but you’re not working efficiently.

Self Care Isn’t Just Important, It’s Crucial

It’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because when we’re busy and overwhelmed, even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. So actually taking time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with friends? That just feels like slacking.

That mindset backfires, though. Self care actually helps you make progress faster for a few reasons:

http://lifehacker.com/the-three-type…

Sometimes I treat self care as a reward. I’m so hungry I can barely think, but I’ll force myself to finish a batch of work before I eat lunch. What I’m really doing is making my job more difficult by allowing myself to run on fumes.

In other words, self care is not a reward. It’s part of the process. Sometimes we get so used to “rewarding ourselves” with lunch or even a trip to the bathroom, though, that we forget exactly what it means to take care of ourselves.

http://lifehacker.com/self-care-isn-…

Make Time to Eat Well and Exercise, Even If You’re Busy

It’s easy to neglect exercise when you’re overextended because, well, exercise requires time, energy, and often a change of clothes or trip to the shower. It’s daunting, messy, and uncomfortable.

It’s important, though, so you want to make time for it in your daily routine. Consider teaming up with a workout buddy or a group to hold yourself accountable. If you’re busy, try an app like Sworkit. It suggests specific exercises and routines based on how much time you have, even if it’s only five minutes. Or, find a gym that’s close to work, or better yet, along your commute. This way, you get a workout and you beat traffic. Of course, no matter how busy or unmotivated you are, sometimes you just have to get up and do it.

http://gawker.com/yes-you-can-17…

Everyone wants to eat well and find food that’s good for them, but it’s hard to cook or plan meals when you’re busy. When I have three deadlines on my tail, I’m much more likely to reach for leftover pizza rather than make myself a salad.

It’s also hard enough to eat healthy in a world filled with processed food, though. Start small, as our own Beth Swarecki suggests. Do you want to eat less sugar? Control your carb intake? Focus on one area at a time rather than trying to overhaul your entire diet at once.

Also, sometimes eating junk feels like self care. I often “treat” myself with a handful of Oreos. Nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, but in contrast, I think of healthy food as the enemy, so I don’t eat it as much of it as I should. This really involves changing the way you think about eating well entirely, but you can start by experimenting with healthy foods you might actually like, and not trying to force yourself to eat stuff you hate just because it’s healthy.

Practice Good Emotional Hygiene

The physical aspect is obviously important, but when a lot of people talk about self care, they’re talking about emotional health: dealing with stress, anxiety, sadness, depression. And that’s probably because we tend to ignore it more. As psychologist Guy Winch asks, “We brush and floss but what daily activity do we do to maintain our psychological health?”

When you’re feeling any kind of intense emotion—stress or anger, for instance—it helps to take a quick break to process it. What exactly are you feeling, and why? It might help to run down a list of feeling words to help better pinpoint your emotion.

For a long time, when I’d feel anxious or stressed, I’d work right through it, frustrated the entire time. For example, if my boss asked me to fix something I worked hard on, I’d get upset and stressed out, rush through it, all the while beating myself up for being a failure. I was hurt and frenetic—not the best conditions for getting stuff done.

Instead, I now try to set aside a minute to acknowledge my feelings, even if it’s just admitting to myself that I feel rejected. I simply stop what I’m doing, walk away for a second, and pinpoint my feeling. Acknowledging it serves a practical purpose. For one, it forces me to slow down and think more rationally. It’s like taking a break. It also keeps my emotions from taking over even more. My boss tells me to fix something and I feel rejected, but now I know that. So when I start to tell myself I’m a failure, it’s a lot easier to remind myself, “you’re not a failure, you’re just feeling rejected about this project right now.”

http://lifehacker.com/5919897/take-m…

Keeping a journal is a good idea, too. It’s cathartic. And in a study from the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment researchers found that journaling for 15–20 minutes helped study participants cope with traumatic, stressful, or emotional events.

It sounds very touchy-feely, I know, but that’s sort of the point of emotional hygiene. You want to take time to deal with your feelings so you can control them and get back to work. Controlling them means acknowledging and understanding them.

http://lifehacker.com/why-you-should…

If your emotional pain is especially difficult to manage, you might consider finding a good therapist or counselor. If you can’t really afford one, try dialing 211, the FCC’s line that connects you to local community services.

Protect Your Schedule

A few years ago, I was consistently working 50-60 hours a week, and predictably, I was stressed, irritable, and unfocused. This is common, according to research from John Pencavel of Stanford University (PDF). He found that after about 50 hours of work, employee productivity and output plummets.

Protecting your schedule often means learning to say no to things, which can be tough. Wharton professor Adam Grant suggests:

The Deferral: “I’m swamped right now, but feel free to follow up”

The Referral: “I’m not qualified to do what you’re asking, but here’s something else”

The Introduction: “This isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I know someone who might be helpful”

Of course, sometimes you just have a boss or manager that asks for too much. In that case, you may need to schedule time to discuss your workload and your responsibilities. It’s easier said than done, and not all bosses will understand the need for self care, unfortunately. However, it’s a better option than simply continuing to say yes.

http://lifehacker.com/5795113/say-no…

Maybe you’re the one squeezing too much in your schedule, though. One way to combat this is to add empty events in your schedule. This way, if a task takes longer than expected or something else comes up, you’ve budgeted the extra time for it.

Finally, squeeze some time in your schedule for yourself. Create some down time in your schedule to devote to activities you enjoy: reading, catching up on game highlights, looking at the clouds. Block that time in your calendar, too. Then, do everything you can to defend that time.

http://lifehacker.com/defend-a-porti…

Spend Your Time (and Money) on What Matters

Sometimes being busy feels good. When I was working 50-60 hours a week, I felt successful just because I was constantly working. I wasn’t necessarily getting anywhere, though. It was the illusion of progress. In fact, I put off a lot of goals I wanted to accomplish in exchange for the satisfaction I got from crossing stuff off my to-do list. Sometimes, real progress means being unproductive. It can be hard to put tasks and obligations on hold, but sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do in the spirit of self care.

Focus on the “one big thing” each day that will make you feel accomplished, as business coach Mark McGuinness suggests. This way, you’re aware of what really matters to you, which makes it easier to prioritize your time accordingly.

And your money is a lot like your time. We all spend it wastefully every now and then, and that’s to be expected, but ultimately, you want to spend it on what matters to you. When we’re stressed, it’s common to spend mindlessly. That usually makes things worse, because money is a huge source of stress for a lot of us.

http://lifehacker.com/5857142/the-co…

Learning to manage it is another way to embrace self care, and you can start by creating a budget with a purpose. Even if the purpose is getting out of debt, it helps to declare why getting out of debt is important to your bottom line. Maybe you want to travel. Maybe you want to feel secure. Either way, make the goal about you, and not only will you feel better about it, you’ll also be more apt to stick to it, and therefore less stressed.

Taking care of your basic physical and emotional needs should really be the backbone for getting stuff done, but ironically, self care is usually the first thing to go. If it’s gotten to the point that you’ve perhaps even forgotten what it means to take care of yourself, these points should help you recover.

Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári.