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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of “JoyPowered®,” a book that is gaining in popularity around the world, and I’m here with Susan White, a national HR consultant. Today we are going to explore the topic of time management. Personally, I do a lot of training on this topic, and it’s something I’m very passionate about. Unfortunately, if you were expecting the perfect way to manage your time or for us to give you all the answers on this topic, I think there is no perfect way. But one of my favorite sayings is…because I ran a marathon over 10 years ago, and someone, just a random person in the crowd I heard cheering, said, “You’re farther than you were.” And this always made me think about that in terms of things we do, and how can we be better than we were. And I think time management is one of those issues for most people, that we always think we can be better than we were, we can always pick up a new skill and new tip or trick around this. But I know for many, many years, I would have told you that I was crazy good at managing my time, but what I discovered is that actually, I was getting a lot done, I was checking a lot of things off of my list, and I’ve come to realize it doesn’t really matter how many things we can check off the list, whether it’s one thing a day or 100 things a day, it doesn’t matter what those are if we don’t step back and think about what are our goals and are we checking things off that are helping us to accomplish our goals, short term or long term goals. So it’s not about the number, it’s where we’re getting. Or, as I say, it’s not what you are doing, it’s who are you being. What kind of person are you wanting to be? So as an example of that, let’s just say you set a goal to pass a certification test to increase your skills and your position, then you spend a week without studying, but you check a whole lot of other things off…off of your list. So of course, that happens that sometimes, but I would ask you to think. Is that certification really important to you? Have you really set it as a goal? Have you really defined it something you want to do? And why are you choosing other items over the studying? That is, do you really want to be certified or has it gone to the bottom of your list? Susan, what are some of your techniques or practices that you incorporate into your days a week? I know, as far as I’m concerned, Susan, you seem to have the fastest turnaround of anyone I’ve ever worked with. You must have some good hidden secret in there for us.
I love that we call it practicing time management, because it truly is practicing. I certainly don’t think any of us have perfected it. I…I am pretty maniacal about time. I…I…if you talk to my husband, he would talk about when our kids were little and I was, of course, a working mom. I would not only have, like, a list of everything that had to be done in the morning before he walked out that door, I would associate time with it. So I’d know I need to be out of bed at 5:15, I was going to have to have the babies out by, you know, 5:40 so that I could feed them, change the clothes, on and on. I’ve just really been maniacal about it. But I will tell you, as the years have gone on and my kids have obviously grown up, I think I’m a little more chill. Not a lot more chill. There’s an author out there, I don’t know if you’ve read this book, it’s called “No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs,” and it’s written by Dan Kennedy in 2013. I don’t know if you’ve seen the book, but…
Being an entrepreneur myself at the point at this point in my life, I really…what he talks about resonates with me. One of them is making lists, and I am the queen of a list. I know this weekend everything I need to get done, and I try to put in there kind of your thought about what’s the priority things. I could put in there go to the grocery or, you know, clean the house, and that might be on the list, but the big things might be that, you know, buy the food for the entertaining that we’re going to do on Sunday morning or whatever. And then I still get that thrill when I check off things getting done. Do you do that, JoDee, at all?
Well, I have a different technique that I…although it’s gotten more ingrained in me over the years, when I think back and I started my career, as you remember, in public accounting, so as a young 21 year old who started in the middle of February, so the busiest time of year for a CPA firm, and I was responsible for writing down and recording where I spent my time every 15 minutes of my day.
Oh my gosh.
And it sounds like a horrible thing, but it actually truly helped me to understand the value of my time. I can remember having a discussion that first couple of months of work with a lady in my office who worked part time and she paid to park in the parking garage, and as a brand new college graduate, I thought, wow, I wonder how long I’ll have to work here before I’ll pay to park in the parking garage, because I wanted to save the money and walk from a free…a free lot several blocks away. And she said, I can make more money in pay than I can…I’m not saying that right.
You can make more money working than you can in walking,
Thank you. She could make…
She could make up the parking fee by parking in the garage, by getting in an extra 15 minutes of her day of work. And that really has stuck with me – that was over 30 years ago – to think about how my time is valued and what is more…what is more important sometimes for me to choose and prioritize on what I’ll do.
That is so smart. The second thing that Kennedy talks about in his book is tickle the memory with tickle files. So if I know that I’ve got something coming up, it’s going to be kind of weighty, something that’s going to take a lot of my time, I will – and that there’s follow up – I am really big about calendaring it. I’m calendaring all the work it takes to get the big project done, but then I’ll have a little tickler to remind myself what’s coming so that I don’t get surprised. And I think in time management, that’s one of the things you want, to minimize any surprises so that you don’t miss deadlines.
Right. I didn’t actually realize you use that method, too, Susan, but I…for me, clearly, my most effective process of practicing time management – I like that word, too – is putting things on my calendar. And I think it does a couple of things. It actually schedules your time. There’s a book out there by Sally McGee called “Take Back Your Life,” where she said they did a study at Microsoft, that there is a 75% greater chance an action will be completed if it’s scheduled on your calendar versus tracking it on a to do list or on your…or in your head. That, to me, is amazing. A 75% greater chance. Now, granted, do I move some things around on my calendar? Of course I do. If I’m rescheduling things every single day, obviously something is not working, but I don’t have to rethink every day, “What do I need to accomplish?”, because I’ve got things on my calendar and I’m reprioritizing or adding things on my calendar on a regular basis. To me, that’s everything from accomplishing a big work project, to reminding myself to send a birthday card to someone. It goes on my calendar and it gets done.
Yeah. Makes good sense. All right. The third thing that Kennedy talks about is minimized meetings. So, honestly, I like meetings. I like being with people. I love that connectedness. But sometimes it does waste time, and so I really do try to be thoughtful before I schedule a meeting with someone. Is this something that we can communicate back and forth by email, by text, or a quick phone call, or do we really need to set up a meeting?
Right. That’s probably a future podcast idea, to talk about effective meetings, right? Because I think so many times, meetings can be a waste of our time, because so many meetings we attend are ineffective, right? So, not only what you said, sometimes we just need to pick up the phone and we don’t need to schedule a big meeting, but if we are having one, we need to think about how to make them the most effective. So.
No, I agree. His fourth idea is block your time, which is really similar to what we’ve said before as we do our tickler files. But the fifth one, which I really…I think I’ve always done this, but I hadn’t thought about it from a business standpoint. I certainly did it from a personal standpoint. And that is profit from odd lot time, meaning take with you any project you’re working on, take with you anything you mean to read or you need to read, some of that stuff that you just got to get done. Take it with you, because odd lot or odd opportunities may come up. Maybe you’re going to pick up someone and they’re running a few minutes late. You can whip out your project, that you can really make progress on things you need to by making sure you always have it with you and taking advantage of those odd lot times.
Right. I love that too. I know an easy one for me is that I’ll schedule phone calls if I know I’m going to be in my car. So when I can’t get things done to type or send emails or to work on a project, but I know I can be returning phone calls or talking about things that I don’t need to be writing down or on the computer, that’s a huge time saver for me, to schedule calls in my car.
You know what, JoDee, I think I’ve talked to you more in your car than I ever have you in your office, so you really do make that work for you.
And it is good time for me. A technique that I had actually heard about many years ago, recently, it has resurfaced for me and I’ve discovered more people using it. So I’ll admit I haven’t practiced it a lot. I’m just starting it. But I thought it was a fascinating technique to explore for people. And it’s called the Pomodoro Technique. That’s – if you want to Google it – it’s P-O-M-O-D-O-R-O. And it’s a time management method that was developed by Francisco Cirillo in the late 80s, and it’s the concept of using a timer to break down your time. And you can, if you want to Google that and learn more about very specifically how they suggest you use it, they’ve got some pretty strict rules on how to do it, technically. But what I discovered…I initially, when I heard and read about it, I thought of it as a way to encourage you to get something done. So let’s say you have a big project that you want to work on and you set your timer…the technique suggests you set it for 25 minutes. Personally, I think you can set it for however you want. It’s the concept of setting a timer that’s most important. So let’s say you set the timer for 45 minutes every single day to work on a project for 45 minutes, and the timer actually cut you off from doing it, to say I need to focus on this for 45 minutes, but I can only focus on it for 45 minutes. But recently, when I was training on this topic, someone in my class said she used this technique solely for all of the things she didn’t like to do, and one example she had was cleaning up her kitchen, and she would set her timer for 15 minutes and say I’m going to get everything cleaned up that I can, but I’m only going to spend 15 minutes, because I hate cleaning up the kitchen, but it was a way for her then to get something done she didn’t like to do and not spend a lot of time on, but it also…she was continued to be amazed in how much she could accomplish in 15 minutes.
That’s terrific. I’d probably set it for three. But I think that’s worth trying.
And it might be three minutes more than what you had done before. I think it’s actually a great procrastination technique. Right? So if you were procrastinating about doing something and said, okay, I’m only going to do this for 15 minutes. But again, my original thought was maybe it’s something you love to do. Maybe it’s, I’m going to sit down and read a book, or I’m going to call someone and brainstorm with them, but to shut you off, to say I can only brainstorm for 15 minutes or I can only read this book for 25. So I think it can be very powerful tool either way.
JoDee, I…you remember Chris Hoyt, who’s the owner of Apprenace?
You know, I was…
He was on our podcast.
That’s right. And I had asked him recently, so, you know, you seem to manage time really well, any tips you have for us? And, you know, what he said is time is really not your most limited resource. Focus is. The brain really only has about four hours of really strong focus time in a day for writing, coding, problem solving, you know, all the heavy brain activities, so you really want to think about that. Use your time wisely and really schedule each day. You know, what four hours am I going to really spend on getting quality problems solved?
I love that concept. And if you remember, Susan, on our podcast about working remotely, we talked about this concept a little bit, although I love his specifics of the four hours. But we talked about thinking what time of day do you…does your brain function best, or what time of day works best for you? So thinking now, if you only have four hours, what…what time do you want those four hours to be? Does your brain work best for you in the morning, does it work best in the afternoon? I know, for me, when we talked about working remotely, it was thinking about, initially, I made a lot of appointments in the morning and tried to work in the afternoon, and I’d catch myself on a little nap, so I decided I would work on projects in the morning and make appointments in the afternoon, and that seemed to work more effectively for me. I know Chris also had mentioned that he tries to have two days a week where he doesn’t schedule any meetings, and I think that can be hugely powerful, but Susan, I’ll admit, for seven years now, I’ve…I’ve tried to do that and I don’t seem to have the discipline to make it happen for even just one whole day, but I still think it’s very powerful. Or, again, as we talked about in working remotely, thinking about having a theme day. So in Chris’s case, it was no meeting day. But it also could be…your theme could be schedule all my meetings days, or do all my sales calls, or all my project work on Tuesdays or Wednesdays or whatever it is. So I think anything you can do to create a system for yourself that can hold you accountable and that you can create habits around, I think can be the key to managing your time.
I think you’re right, and I also believe that every so often you need to change things up, because if you keep using the same tools the same way, you’ll get the same results. So you know, listening today, if there’s any idea here that you haven’t tried before, try it. And talk to other people who you see that seem to be managing their time really well. Get their hints, get their tips. I think it keeps it fresh and will constantly help you improve your practice of time management.
I love that idea, too, but I do suggest thinking about only one at a time. So if you walk away from this podcast thinking, I’ll use the Pomodoro Technique, I’ll have meeting free days, I’ll put things on my calendar, whatever it might be, if you try too many at one time, then it’s frustrating and you tend not to make anything work. So pick one of those to see if it works for you. I know when I think back in my early career, I never have thought of myself as a procrastinator, but I did really struggle in thinking about getting a big project done. And by big I mean even thinking that I had something to do that might take me eight hours or 16 hours. And I would think, okay, what day can I work on this where I can focus my entire day, because I need eight hours to do it? And of course, Susan, those days never came. Right? So I couldn’t grasp the concept of breaking the project up into smaller pieces, into two four-hour sessions, four two-hour sessions, or eight one-hour sessions. And that, which seems so simple to me now, was a real aha moment for me in my career, to think about breaking projects down into segments.
I’ll tell you what, after today’s discussion, I’ve got a project that is really due in August, and I really have been avoiding it. I’m going to do the Pomodoro. I gotta go home and see where my timer is.
Just even on your watch or on your microwave.
You’re right. All right.
Right? We have all kinds of timers. That’s interesting, though, that technique did come from an actual…you can actually buy a…pomodoro means tomato in Italian, and you can actually buy a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that…because that’s what the guy invented it used. So you can actually buy a pomodoro timer.
I know what I’m going to ask for for my birthday.
That’s good. Back to the concept of that both of us use to schedule our time on the calendar. I have found, too – and tell me if you think this works for you – that by scheduling time on my calendar, it has trained me, even subconsciously, or…or not intentionally so much, but to be better at estimating how long projects take me.
Ah, you know, I schedule things on my calendar, but I haven’t even thought about stepping back and…then I could go back and look and see, I spent seven hours getting to this particular part of the project. That’s a great insight.
Yeah, to me, that’s been very powerful, to…to break that up. So I think that is something that people struggle with, though, is not being able to estimate how long a project might take. I struggle with that. And of course, sometimes we just don’t know, right? We just don’t have any idea how long. I know when I tell my story about when writing the “JoyPowered®” book, I scheduled time on my calendar for four hours a week from January to June, not having any concept of whether that was too little or too much time. But for me in that situation, I just decided that was the amount of time I was going to devote to it and I hoped I could finish it in that time, but it was something I learned. Right? So sometimes I think we can procrastinate or avoid the project because we don’t know how long it might take, but just getting something on your calendar to break that can get you going.
Yeah, looking forward. You’re further today than you were before.
That’s right. That’s right. Procrastination, by the way, is the number one time waster. I ask that question a lot to my classes, and people usually guess social media first, or then electronic games or TV, which…I think all three of those can be time wasters, but it’s procrastination. So it’s not only the concept of thinking that you’re not getting the project done, but it’s the time in your head you’re thinking about how you need to get a project done. So just the mere act of procrastinating is taking up time.
And what an energy drain, right? Just get on it.
Right. One of my favorite books – which is very, very short, so if you’re not a big reader, this is a super quick read – by Brian Tracy, it’s called “Eat That Frog,” and he talks about the concept of if the worst thing you have to do all day is eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and then it’s over with and the whole day just seems better. But if you think all day long about how I’ll have to eat that frog, I’m gonna have to eat that frog, oh my gosh, I bet that frog tastes terrible, then you’re wasting time all day long thinking about eating the frog and not getting anything accomplished either way.
That’s a…that’s a good tool, as well. All right, well, let’s move on to listener email. In addition to being able to call us on our JoyPowered® hotline, listeners can send us questions and topics via JoyPowered® on Facebook or Twitter. Here is a recent question we received from Sharon and Iowa. She said, “I am interviewing for a new role, and I have an upcoming vacation. Should I tell them in the interview about the vacation, wait until I get an offer, or wait until I start working and then ask off?”
Well, I do have a strong opinion about that. I really believe you wait till you have the offer. Until they fall in love with you, you really don’t have anything to negotiate. But when you have that offer in your hand, that’s when you say, “I’d be delighted to come. I just need to let you know that I’ve already booked and paid for this cruise,” or whatever vacation it is, “Is that something that we can agree upon I’ll be able to do?” And I’ll tell you, at that point, they want you, and the odds of them saying yes…it’s far more likely. Now, I wouldn’t wait till after I started, because your power of negotiation is over. They have you. What about you, JoDee? Would you approach it any differently?
No, I would approach it the same. And I’m pleased that Sharon asked this question, because I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me this question over the years, that they have a plan. And I think many times, it’s because people are afraid to ask the question and they’re afraid to ask it too early in the process. As…Susan, as you said, it’s not really appropriate or an issue to talk about it too early, but it can put them in a bad position later. But don’t be afraid. People realize people have plans. Right? Don’t not take that scheduled vacation or miss out on that family reunion because you were afraid to ask. Of course, many times, you might…it might have to be unpaid time off, depending on how the vacation or PTO time accrues, but I would encourage you to ask the question as soon as you receive the offer.
Totally agree. Hey, we had another question from a listener. It was Beth from Lima, Ohio. She wants to know some ideas on how to keep sick employees away from the office. I think they call that “presenteeism,” right? Instead of absenteeism.
Right. So I did a little homework on this, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 41 million people in the U.S. workforce don’t receive paid sick leave. I was so surprised by that number, Susan, I found that fascinating.
Makes me sick.
Yeah. Touche. So, many people come to work sick because they can’t afford not to work.
Or they have vacation plans. They don’t want to use up their vacation time for sick time. So my my best advice to you, Beth, is to think about offering paid sick time to your employees so that they can take it, and it might be well worth the expense of paying for it than to have someone come into work and the next day have six people off sick because the first person came into work sick. So I bet there’s some data out there that supports that by paying for sick time, you actually come out ahead.
I have to agree with you. The fact is, if you care about your employees, you don’t want them there when they aren’t physically, mentally able to perform. And then as you say, JoDee, they’re there. They’re breeding more germs, and they’re, you know, populating illness, potentially, in your workplace. So Beth, I hope you really can help your management rethink the not offering of sick time.
Right. So in our in the news segment, there is some good news for 2017 college graduates that said average salaries in the U.S. for these new graduates are at an all time high. According to a recent study by The Hague Group, they analyzed salaries of 145,000 entry level hires in the United States that said they will make an average of $49,785, which is 3% higher than just a year ago. Susan, I don’t know about you, but my first job out of college, I was thrilled out of my mind to be making $17,100.
I am so impressed. I was at $12,500. You’ve always been a high achiever, JoDee.
Funny how we remember that number. But that…actually, that number is 14% higher than those who graduated just 10 years ago in the recession and then didn’t change for several years during the recession, so it’s had a pretty nice bump there.
I’ve seen some reports, although I didn’t bring them with me today, about expectations for salary increases in 2017. They’re really predicting over the next year that the average increase will be in the neighborhood of, like, 3.69%, which is much higher than we’ve been seeing over the last several years.
Right, which has been more like two. Right?
Or just over two. So please tune in next time. And thank you for listening today. If you missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all of our episodes for free at iTunes, Podbean, or Google Play by searching the word “JoyPowered.” If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or to give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We love to have listener questions and comments.
Good luck in improving the humanity in your workplace.