Time management

Purposeful Days

07 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

In order to manage your time well, you only need to make the best decision every moment of every day. The question is how to make those best decisions. Some of the most effective people plan and execute their day based on well thought out goals that are specific and measurable.

It is difficult to be disciplined enough to write those specific goals and keep them top of mind. However, sometimes even more difficult is truly being excited and passionate in spite of the pressures of the day. That passion and excitement exists when your goals are aligned with your personal vision and purpose.

A purposeful day does not necessarily mean it was, or was not, hectic or stressful.

What do you need to accomplish today to feel successful and fulfilled at the end of the day? What is that important to you? Much of your day may be filled with urgent tasks, but you may not feel content unless you spend some time on the more important and less urgent activities.

Dr. Buckminster Fuller tells us that each person looks out into the world and sees things that “need to be done” and we need to go do those things because no one else sees the world exactly as we do, and if we don’t do these things, they will never get done.

What do you see that needs to be done? And are you making progress every day?

Each one of us can only work so hard day after day unless we are working toward something, and for a purpose, even if it will take some time to see results.

If you are not energized by what you are doing every day, maybe it is time to revisit your passion and purpose. One of the most effective ways to do this is to make your “What bugs me” list. For me, my list contains many situations where people are not living up to their potential, are wasting their talents, their time or their resources. I am most energized by the days where I can help people work towards discovering greatness and potential in themselves and others.

What bugs you? And what do you see that needs to be done when you look out into the world? Are you making progress in those areas in big and small ways every day?

Plan your day. Execute the plan. Evaluate the day. Be sure the evaluation is based on not only someone else’s goals, but also the purpose and vision you have for yourself.

Best Meetings – Small Scope, Big Expectations!

10 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

Have you ever been to or led a meeting that ran really long in an effort to make it through the whole agenda?  Or one that ended on time but most agenda items, including the ones you were interested in, were never addressed?

Every time you have several people in a room, you have multiple priorities, opinions, preferences and styles which will ensure that nothing will get done as quickly as you might be able to do alone.  However, the richness of those dynamics is worth the tradeoff, but your expectations must be realistic.

First, you must expect people to want to share their opinions and concerns, and time must be built into the agenda for that to happen.  If they are expected to simply sit and listen, then that must be communicated ahead of time to avoid frustrations.  If you’d like to guide their participation, add specific bullet points to the agenda to do so.

Then, you must define the scope of the meeting to be small enough to realistically be completed.  People like to walk out of a meeting feeling successful.  If your expectation of what you can complete in 45 minutes is always too high, and nothing ever seems to get resolved, your participants will get frustrated and productivity will decrease further.

Consider what you expect to accomplish; then break it into parts.  You wish to discuss Project A.  Project A has many parts.  Maybe the scope of the first meeting is to identify the main parts of the project, the key activities, define the milestones and the responsible people.  The responsible people could get together at a future meeting to discuss their individual accountabilities and timeframes.  Keep the scope manageable within in your meeting timeframe.

Small scope does not mean small expectations.  When you discuss Project A, your expectation may be that it is approached from several new directions, everyone contributes to identifying key activities, each person excitedly accepts a key role and milestones are clearly defined – which is a challenge in many companies.

In order to realize those expectations, they must be communicated prior to the meeting in a written agenda, and possibly an invitation phone call; must be reiterated in the agenda and at the start of the meeting, and revisited throughout the meeting as they are accomplished.

A small scope in no way means that very little will be accomplished.  It simply means that you will do an amazing job of discussing, brainstorming and working on results relating to a small piece of a larger puzzle.

If your meetings appear unproductive, remember Small Scope, BIG Expectations!

Getting out of a Conversation

14 Dec
by Bridget DiCello

This is certainly the time of year for parties, events and gatherings!  And while it’s good fun to visit with friends and family, in the business setting, the professional who attends a good deal of events probably does so with a business agenda in mind.  While still enjoyable, the event also turns into an opportunity to build current relationships, initiate new connections and discuss business opportunities.

When you wish to accomplish those objectives, getting “stuck” in a non-strategic conversation can be a problem.  Just like making sure you don’t miss anyone on your Christmas card list, it’s important to make sure you see all those people important to your success this time of year.

Why do we get “stuck”?

§ There are a lot of people who are not good at getting into conversations, so they don’t want to leave the security of the one they are in.
If this is you…get out there, make eye contact, shake a hand, go get food or drink – but get comfortable getting into conversations.

§ Maybe the person with whom you are speaking does not think you have learned enough about them and their company yet!
If this is you, this is a major networking mistake.  Ask more questions about the other person to build a relationship.  Talk less and you will be considered much more interesting.

§ The person who you are speaking with is not there to make multiple connections, just to socialize.
If this is you, more power to you – enjoy yourself, but also open the door for the other person to leave if they are looking for more concrete results from their attendance at events.

§ You don’t want to hurt their feelings by cutting off what they are saying.
If this is you, realize that many people will speak to fill the silence, and may be relieved if you end the conversation.


How can you politely get out of a conversation?

§ Start with a thank you such as:
It was good talking to you…
I’ve enjoyed our conversation…
I was surprised to learn (something you learned about them…)
I hope your (vacation, business venture, event they mentioned) goes well…

§ And finish the sentence with something that says you are thinking about them.
I will let you go mingle and meet some more of the attendees.
I’d like you to meet… (Identify someone you want to introduce them to and take them there.)

§ Or finish the sentence with something you need to do.
I’m going to go try that delicious looking food.
I’m going to go get myself something to drink.
If you’ll excuse me, I see someone I need to catch up with.

There is no requirement that you stay in a conversation for as long as it can possibly last.  Especially in a business setting, most people have objectives in their head for what they’d like to accomplish.

Have you ever felt “stuck” in a conversation?

Time Consuming Conversations – Time Wasters or Absolute Best Use of Your Time?

21 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

One of the biggest time wasters in your business day is time spent talking with other people!


One of the absolute best uses of your work time is productive conversations with people important to your success!

Where is the difference?  Working productively with the right group of people is the key to multiplying success.  However, people are social creatures, who often fear something new, who wish to preserve their self-image and self-confidence, and don’t always get to the point in a conversation.  Therefore, if you wish for your ‘people time’ to be productive, it must be done purposefully.

Schedule appointments to talk.  If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully.  If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time.  And they may do the same with you.

Set expectations ahead of time.  If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda.”  Set a time and day on your calendars, even 15 minutes from now, to give each person time to “have their first reaction” and to prepare for the meeting.  Have the conversation ahead of time:  “When we speak, I will… and you will.. in order to accomplish [goal, task or decision].”  This works both up and down the chain of command.

For example, “I’d like to talk to you about the production logs.  How about Tuesday at 1pm for 30 minutes?  Before then, I will review the log for my areas of concern.  And you could review the log compared to last month’s as well as looking for overall opportunities for improvement.  When we sit down, we’ll go though the last two months, each sharing our observations.  Does that work for you?”  Make sure you get their commitment to the agenda you suggested.  If they don’t agree, edit or change it so that you can both prepare appropriately and not end up arguing about the agenda during the meeting.

If someone comes to you and wants to talk right then, tell them you are right in the middle of something, would like to be able to give them your full concentration and are wondering if you could come see them in 20 minutes.  Then, ascertain from them what it is they need from you when you come see them.  This asks them to think through the results they desire (which they may really not have done yet), and allows you to prepare as well, saving you both time and potential frustration.

Get very good at asking questions.   In these situations, you want to remain in control, specifically of making sure something productive comes out of the conversation.  Gladly take that responsibility.  In order to do that you need to ask questions from the standpoint of genuine curiosity to see where they are coming from and how that relates to what you are trying to accomplish.  With the information you gather, you can then notice excuses, frustrations in the form of roadblocks, and cries for attention that can get in the way of productive discussion.

When you talk, you share information.  You rarely can change anyone’s mind by talking.  By asking curious questions, you get the other person talking.  When they talk, you hear how they are really thinking.  When they talk, you can prompt them to consider your point of view.  Help them to get to a conclusion, considering what you value.  When they talk is when they think through things and may change their mind as a result.

It’s up to you to work to understand the other person.  The difficulty with having a conversation is that it is with a person – who has their own feelings, experiences, biases, expectations, etc.  The first thing they say is rarely the whole picture – as it is for you.  Ask your questions.  Give them time.

Schedule a follow up conversation if important to them or to you.  Set a time and date and the agenda for that conversation as well.

Top 10 Productivity Tips – A Focused Mind

16 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

With summer officially ready to start next week, have you finished your spring cleaning?  Spring cleaning is not only about pulling out the cleaning products and getting rid of clutter.  These practices are great and can clear your workspace and make you more productive.  However, productivity also comes from a clear head which allows you to be focused and efficient.

Top 10 Productivity Tips – Try them and see if you ‘spring’ forward:

1.  Make the right decision every moment of every day. This is my definition of good time management.  It’s a realization that we make many decisions every day of how to spend our time, whether planned or unplanned.  The more we can make those decisions consciously, according to clear goals, the more productive we will be.  Most people welcome distractions to some extent – as a relief from something stressful, difficult or unpleasant.  Act very purposefully in each moment of the day and pinpoint those times you tend to make decisions to do things not in line with your goals, however small.

2.  Revisit your goals. Dust them off.  Clean them up – do the reality check and adjust the ones that are unrealistic, get excited again about ones that might be a stretch but that you are passionate about, tweak others given your knowledge of the year so far.   And if you never did write them down, do it now.

3.  Identify what must be done this month, this week and today/tomorrow to achieve your goals. One of the best ways to be productive and make the best use of your time is to be focused and plan.  I’m not talking about the strategic five year plan.  I’m talking about knowing the 3-5 non-routine things that you want to accomplish this month to ensure you are further ahead and closer to your goals than when you started the month.  Then, decide what 2-3 things you need to do this week to make that happen.  Then look at your plan for today or tomorrow and decide what 1-3 things you need to do in those 24 hours to move forward on the week’s goals.

4.  Know your Best Time of Day. We all have a time of day where we are most productive.  Are you a morning person?  A night owl?  You only really wake up at noon?  Observe your productivity and effectiveness.  What time of day are you at your best?  When you determine when that is, schedule your most important activities at that time.  Avoid doing trivial tasks or putting out fires during that time.

5.  Schedule your day, week and month. Very few of us have schedules that never get interrupted or rearranged.  But, that is not a reason not to plan at all.  Plot out your month, schedule your week and map out your day.  Leave some “Wing it” time to fit in the little things that pop up.  Schedule a block of time to do the emails, phone calls, etc. that fill your day if you are not careful.  When at the end of the day you have not done everything you wanted to because of fires and interruptions, immediately reschedule the activities that you didn’t do for tomorrow or later in the week.

6.  Get rid of the Things to Do List. They haunt most of us.  Instead of putting something on the list, simply schedule it somewhere in your day or week.  If you cannot find anywhere to put it, that means it is really not important enough to you to get done, so don’t torture yourself with leaving it to haunt you on a list.  You may want to keep a “To Do Someday” List for those things that are great ideas, but are just not a priority right now.  Then, put it away and only look at it periodically.

7.  Schedule appointments to talk. If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully.  If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time.  And they may do the same with you.  If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda”.  More thoughts on that next week…

8.  Do a time log. After you have planned your month, week and day, and taken all the things to do list items and scheduled them somewhere, for just a few days – record what you actually did.  Compare your reality to your plan.  Maybe you need to adjust how you do what you do, become more effective, learn to say no, or delegate more.  Unless you have a good picture of what you are actually doing, it’s hard to have a basis for productive change.   And no, you really don’t know what you spend your time doing until you log it.  Try it and you’ll see!

9.  Stop Procrastinating. Many managers and leaders are procrastinators.  I never believed that about myself until I understood the connection between procrastinating and being a perfectionist.  For the perfectionist, it is rarely ever the right time or there is not enough time to do it right so, “Why do it?”  Not to say that perfectionists are not productive, just that certain things that are new, different or particularly important get put off for the more immediate, urgent and familiar tasks at which they can more easily succeed.

10.  Keep track of information. You may mistake being able to do a lot with being organized.  It’s amazing how much time we spend looking for something, finding information twice, having a conversation or part of it a second time, or sorting through the volumes of information we use to run our business.  Review your systems for collecting, sorting and using information in your business and to develop your team members.  Do they effectively support your mission or do they slow you down?

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