Saturday, May 10, 2008

"101 Ways to Make Every Second Count" by Robert Bly, part 2

Making the Most of Your Time
The conclusion of an interview with Robert W. Bly, author of 101 Ways to Make Every Second Count

It’s a common thread that runs through the fabric of most of our lives: Too much to do, too little time. In this second half of our interview with time management expert and author Robert Bly, you’ll learn tips and techniques that can lead you toward more success with less stress -- by making the most of your time.

How do you suggest we manage information overload?

That’s a key problem that leads directly to personal productivity and time management -- there’s too much to read and not enough time to read it. And there are a number of techniques you can adopt to deal with information overload. The major technique is to recognize you have to specialize. Select your area of specialization, narrow your field as much as possible, and then you’ll spend most of your time taking in information that only relates directly to that field of study. Does that make you a less well-rounded person? I think it does. But time is limited so you have o make some hard choices.

Another technique has to do with news and newspapers. Don’t watch the evening news unless you really like it and don’t read the newspaper unless you really like it. When I was a child every man read the paper after work; it was a ritual. But what was he reading? Someone was stabbed, a bank was robbed -- this information is not at all useful to you. It’s not important; it’s similar to TV in that it’s just entertainment. You need to filter that out. I do read the paper every day because I take about 20 minutes for lunch at my desk and I like to read the paper as I eat. But I’m doing two things simultaneously. I can’t eat without doing something else at the same time.

Another easy technique is to let your subscriptions lapse. When your subscription to a trade journal, a magazine or a newspaper runs out, don’t renew. And when it stops if you find you don’t miss it, you’ve just saved a lot of time. If you do miss it, you can always re-subscribe. The bottom line is our time is so limited. Once the time is gone you can never get it back.

How can we use technology to save time?

Technology is a double-edged sword. It’s important to remember that just because it’s the latest thing, doesn’t mean it will save time. Don’t acquire the latest technology simply because it’s standard practice and everyone else has it. Only get the technology if you feel it will enhance your lifestyle or your work style. For example, I got high-speed Internet access in my office. I don’t spend time chatting or surfing on the Internet; I just use it for research, but I knew that the high-speed connection would save me time when I did need to send e-mails and download files. So that was worthwhile.

Another example: I don’t own a cell phone, and that does not interfere with my productivity at all because I don’t travel. I work in a small office in a town about nine miles from my home, so the car ride is only 15 minutes -- no one is trying to reach me as I commute. So for me, it makes no sense to have a cell phone. It would decrease my productivity because it would be another bill to pay and another thing to learn how to use, so I don’t have one.

How does delegating and outsourcing help with time management?

That’s the most important thing you can do. As an example, I’m a freelance copywriter. The only time I get paid is when I’m writing copy for my clients, doing the research to write that copy or discussing that assignment with the client. Those are the only things they pay me for. I don’t get paid to keep my books -- that’s an expense that wastes my time -- so I hire a bookkeeper. I don’t get paid to prepare my tax returns, so I outsource the tax returns.

What are some tips for maximizing personal energy?

The ones I’m going to give are not original but they’re really simple:

Figure out how much sleep you need. Are you a five-hour-a-night person? A nine-hour-a-night person? Determine how much you need -- and get it. If you don’t get as much sleep as you personally need, you won’t be effective.

I don’t like exercising but I do it. I can’t motivate myself so I outsource it to a personal trainer. He doesn’t lift the weights for me, of course, but using a trainer means I don’t have to think about my workout. A large percentage of people don’t exercise at all and that hurts your energy.

For many people, it’s better to eat five small meals than two or three big meals. I’ve found that doing that does give me more energy during the day. It may not work for everyone but one thing that is universal is eating healthy foods; eat right. Don’t eat heavy things that weight you down. And when you’re full, stop eating. Don’t overeat because that just saps your energy.

Pace your work at the right pace for you. If you have too little to do, you’ll have very little energy because you’ll be bored. If you have too much you’ll lock into a panic and freeze, and then you won’t have the energy to move forward. You have the most energy when you have the right amount to do. So figure out how much you can do during a day -- as much as it’s within your control -- and try to schedule in that amount.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer?

If you really want to be productive you have to value your time. By that I mean it actually has to have a dollar figure. Those of us who render a professional service know our billing rate is X amount of dollars per hour, but anyone can estimate an hourly dollar figure for their time. Then, before you do anything, decide if it’s worth it. For example, I was shopping in the supermarket and was reaching for the butter when an older man stopped me and said, “Don’t buy the butter today. Come back tomorrow. It’ll be a dollar cheaper.” In his mind, it made sense to make a separate trip tomorrow to save a dollar on butter. But from personal productivity point of view, my going back the next day to save a dollar would be a waste of time.

So come up with a dollar figure for the value of your work, and then if you’re going to do something, ask yourself if doing it is worth the dollar equivalent of losing that amount of productive time.

Buy this book from 101 Ways to Make Every Second Count

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