Time Management Tip: The Power of 15 minutes & 5 Things.
As a writer and business consultant, I’m obsessive and protective of my time. Like you, I have 24 hours in one day and want to maximize every minute.
Time is a luxury.
Most people consider social media sites like Facebook and Twitter their biggest time suckers. I use RescueTime to track where I spend my time (and Toggl to track my time) and while I kind of knew this to be true, it’s striking how many HOURS a week I spend on email.
I’m not the only one to be drowning in email and feeling guilty that I’m not responding to people quickly enough. Even worse is feeling like I’m going to miss an important email through all the junk I have to wade through hourly, let alone daily. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, felt the same email stress and came up with a brilliant idea called Yesterbox.
YESTERBOX ~ YES!
You can read the details of how Yesterbox works here but the premise is this:
1) Your “to do” list is yesterday’s inbox. By going through all of yesterday’s emails today, you’re not only responding to everyone who needs a response, but you’re not distracted TODAY with emails coming in, allowing you the freedom to focus at the task at hand.
2) For emails that require a longer response time, you file them into an email folder and schedule a time on your calendar to respond to them.
3) To get through older emails, schedule a time on your calendar and wade through them. Quickly you’ll realize many of them can now be deleted anyway since they’re not timely, relevant, or important.
Bonus tip: Through Tony’s post on Yesterbox, I learned about Pocket. Pocket is an app that saves anything with a web address to “read later”.
I’ve been testing the Yesterbox method this month and it’s been working for me. I’ve still not hit the elusive ZERO in-box but I’m slowly whittling away the emails and cleaning up house. More importantly, I’m feeling more in control of my in-box, which is making me happy. As of this morning, I have 3,104 left to delete, file or respond (obviously this doesn’t include any emails coming in). The biggest challenge for me is resisting the urge to respond to emails as they arrive. I’ve begun informing my clients that I’ll be checking email three times a day (9:00 a.m., noon and 2:00 p.m.) so they can expect a response from me around that time. Or, if it’s urgent, they can text or gchat (which they’ve done and I’m fine with it).
My goal by the end of May is to get to ZERO. Can I do it? I guess we’ll find out come May 31! I’ll have to report in my June e-mail newsletter/blog post.
Last month you may recall that I promised to share some great podcasts I’ve either been listening or have been recommended. My call for recommendations resulting in an impressive (and LONG) list so I’ve been going through them. I’ll share my list next month because I’m only half-way through everyone’s recommendations and I want to share a complete list with you.
As many of you know, I’m working on a book proposal for a memoir on my family’s life as refugees through a program called The Fifth Semester. The process has been going well and I’m so grateful to my mentor/professor Erin Celello who’s been my cheerleader along the process and encouraging me to dig deeper.
My goal was to have a complete book proposal before our program participants meet next week in New York City and while it’s really close, it’s not quite there yet. I’d rather continue to work on it and get it right than rush it to be done. I can’t wait to meet up with my fellow writers to get their feedback on the proposal, too. I’d like to be shopping it out to book agents by summer.
Finally, every month I’ll be giving away a book to one of my email subscribers. April’s winner of V is for Vegan by Kerstin Rodgers was Kj! Know of someone who’d like to subscribe to this monthly newsletter ~ forward this email or have your friend click here.
April 3, 2017
#RightWhereIAm ~ Why this matters
This Month’s Writing Update
Thank you for being here with me. Know it means a lot that you’re taking the time to read this email.
I’ve not shared this with anyone yet but it’s particularly exciting to announce that on Saturday morning, at 6:30 a.m., I wrapped up my #ShittyFirstDraft of my 43 chapter summaries. I woke up before 4:00 a.m. to get it done so I could send it to my professor at The Fifth Semester and get her feedback before our trip to New York City next month.
It stands at 12,455 and 53 pages in length. For those who are wondering, it took me approximately 25 hours to write and do a first round of edits on those chapters. I have no idea if that’s fast or slow or what. I just know that it felt like a long time to me.
I’ve also been thinking a lot this month about why this book matters so much to me and wondering if going the memoir route is a good idea. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to feel like I belong here (and “here” can be here in my house, Chicago, the United States). And if not here, where?
I don’t know if Chicago will be my forever home or not. But as I was writing my chapter summaries, I paused and thought to myself, I’m pretty happy #RightWhereIAm for right now. I loved that idea – right where I am. It’s a double entendre and so fitting that I made it my tentative book title. I created the hashtag to remind me if I post anything on social media that it’s ok to feel good about where I am right now. It may not be where I want to be later in life, but it’s ok for right now. We’ll see where the future takes us.
If you’re so inclined, use the hashtag. I’d love to see where you are right now!
Time is at a premium for most of us and while this isn’t an article on time management, per se, it is about how to be a better organizer (which, for me, means less wasted time trying to find stuff). Check it out here. I love the idea of having a junk drawer! I’m still working on dialing down the visual diet and possibly imposing a digital diet.
I’ve been listening to podcasts now for several months and really diggin’ them. One recent find, through someone who’d reached out to me on Twitter because she’d seen an article I’d written about writing programs to help women and girls find their voice, is Women Transcend. Although she only has about a dozen segments, I binged-listened to all of them this week and I feel like it’s a nice continuation to my Women’s Studies classes from my college days.
I’ve been mining my friends to learn which podcasts they love so I can add more to my playlist. I’d love to hear your favorites! Please email me to let me know what you tune into regularly.
Know of anyone who'd like to receive these kinds of emails? Please forward this one to them or encourage them to sign up for the e-newsletter here. The next e-newsletter will reveal the winner of the book giveaway so stay tuned. If you're a subscriber of the newsletter, you're automatically entered. Make sure to open the email so you can see if you're the winner!
Until next time,
PS - please don't forget to share your favorite podcasts with me! I'm going to be writing a blog post with my favorites and would love to include yours.
Earlier this year I mentioned that I worked with a business coach to help me fine-tune my goals for 2016. While I've always been very self-motivated, I felt that I needed an outside perspective to help me identify opportunities where I didn't necessarily see them anymore and figure out what I needed to set aside to make room for new opportunities.
Fast forward to almost the end of the year and I'm proud to say this was, by far, my most successful business year. Why? Because I focused.
Each year that I've worked, either for a corporation or running my own business, I've developed a business plan for myself. I cannot sit still. I feel like there is so much to do, see, and experience, that I want to go see, do and experience. I want to learn new things, challenge myself, and meet new people. I want to tinker with problems, brainstorm solutions, and figure out ways to make things better or get the word out about something neat or important. My problem wasn't that I wasn't good at what I was doing, it was that I wanted to do too much in a short amount of time.
Andrea King Collier, my coach and friend, is a great listener and was able to hone in on this issue almost immediately. When I showed her my "goal" list in December, I'm pretty sure she thought I was nuts. We talked through each and every one of those goals and she reminded me that I didn't need to complete everything in one year and to choose my top five.
TOP 5 GOALS
Once we determined my top 5 goals for 2016, and shelve the rest for 2017 or 2018, it feels like my plate was empty. How could I only focus on 5, I thought? I'd get so bored and quickly! But Andrea persisted. By just focusing on those 5, I'd be able to actually complete them and hit it out of the park.
So whenever an opportunity for a new writing assignment came my way, or a new client wanted to work with me on marketing, communications or PR work, I went back to my 5 goals. Did this opportunity fit with any of those goals? If not, I declined the opportunity.
And, that, my friends, is how I ended up making this my best business year ever: by declining opportunities. Or, more accurately, the wrong opportunities.
I'm currently working on my goals for 2017 and while they're not quite yet finalized, my big goal for next year is to work on a book. It's been on my Goals List for years and I think I'm at a point in my life that I'm ready to embrace the project and process and see where it takes me. I'm going to be working with someone to help me through this process (because I strongly believe in surrounding myself with the best in the business and learn from them) and we begin in earnest the first week of January. Perfect.
As I look toward the last month of the year and wrapping up some client projects and writing assignments, I can't help but take a moment to think about all of the people who played a part in helping me get where I am today. I plan to reach out to them in December to thank them.
Sometimes this year feels like a blur because it went so fast, but it still felt great.
Did you meet the goals you set for yourself and your work this year? What do you feel you did well and what do you plan to do to improve in 2017?
It's the beginning of another week and I'm feeling on fire. Ever feel like the groundwork you've been laying over several years are finally starting to come to fruition?
Being a writer sometimes feels like a no-sum game. Except it isn't. And when things happen, we're tempted to say it's luck. Except it isn't. It's weeks, months, years of solid work and commitment.
I often get asked by aspiring writers how to break it into this business. I'm honest with them and sometimes that's not what they want to hear.
Like any creative field, writing is hard. It's emotionally draining at times, often demanding and sometimes fruitless. But like any creative field, or anything we put our minds to, the more one practices her craft, the better she'll become.
For some of us, writing is something we gain immense pleasure. I love reporting. I love writing about people and their stories, some of whom have never told their story to a writer. That's exciting and I'm humbled by how open some people are when I interview them.
This morning I filed a story with one of my "bucket-list" media outlets. Initial feedback from my editor was solid and she commented on my reporting work. That makes me happy because I worked hard on this piece and the reporting wasn't easy.