Tag Archives: Jones Loflin

Time Poverty Is Half Of The Issue

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

An article in the Economist entitled, “Why Is Everyone So Busy?” got my attention with the term “Time Poverty.” The word “poverty” is one I don’t use often because I most often think of those “living in poverty.” Listening to my mother and father talk about growing up during the Depression is what I think of when I hear the word poverty. Seeing the conditions that many in the world live in is my visual of the word. So, I wasn’t completely comfortable when I began learning more about this term, “Time Poverty.”

Then I had to remind myself that the word poverty, according to Merriam Webster, means “scarcity or dearth of something.” I can work with that. However, I was still a little perplexed because unlike financial or food poverty, we are all provided with the same amount of time each day. So, I googled time poverty to get a better understanding of the phrase. Turns out that it has its origins way back in the 20th century to describe individuals who were financially wealthy but had little leisure time. Now we’re getting to the bigger issue.

When we speak of time poverty, I think we are really saying that there is a scarcity of something we want in our work or life. In many cases, it’s not that there isn’t sufficient time; the challenge is that we have made (and continue to make) other choices with that time. Maybe I’m still stuck on my original thoughts about poverty. If someone is living in poverty, they do not have the money or food to sustain life at a certain level. When it comes to time, we all have the same amount; it’s just how we use it that makes the difference. Granted, some people have control over more of their time than others.

I bring this up because I think to accurately solve any issue you have to correctly identify it first. To simply say you are suffering from “Time Poverty” doesn’t address the full challenge you’re facing and seeks answers in trying to find more time… which there isn’t. A more comprehensive approach is to specifically identify where you are sensing a scarcity as it relates to your daily activities or desired goals. Some examples might include:

  • Focus poverty
  • Time with family poverty
  • Personal time poverty
  • Professional growth poverty
  • Creativity poverty
  • Sleep poverty

Once you have identified your specific poverty you can take any number of specific actions to address the area. They include:

Evaluate your current choices of how you are using your time. Where could you spend less time on something to give you more time for the area of scarcity?

Revisit your priorities. Because of limited time resources we have to make choices about where we want to excel and where we are willing to fail, or at least not be the best.

Determine if this is a short term or long term poverty situation. As I wrote about in my article, When A Lack Of Balance Is Okay, there are times when we have to expend more resources in one area than another. A work assignment that creates “personal time poverty” for a few weeks is one thing. Work requirements that have been creating this type of poverty for a year are yet another.

In all the articles and blogs I read about time poverty, I found a strikingly similar solution in all of them: Start where you are. Like most people living in the “other” type of poverty, there is nothing that can be done about the past, and they don’t know what the future holds. Our greatest opportunity lies in what we do in the next moment to improve our impoverished situation… whatever that poverty may be.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

-Asian Proverb

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, try out his SoundviewPro course: The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Doing Nothing Is Really Something

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

In our activity-obsessed culture, the idea of doing nothing is not considered a positive thing to do. Oh we talk about relaxing and disengaging, but even those moments of idleness are incessantly interrupted by the ding, chirp, or ring of an electronic device. The tide is changing, however, and there is now mounting evidence that we need these moments of what I call “sacred idleness. Forbes had an excellent article on the subject just a few months ago.  I’ve taught the general benefits of taking an “intermission” in my work life balance training for several years, and am always looking for more neurologically-based facts to support the value of doing nothing.

Enter the book, Autopilot: The Art And Science Of Doing Nothing, by Andrew Smart. It’s an intense read about how the brain works when we are actively working on tasks versus when we are idle. While the author’s goal is to show how doing nothing improves our creativity, the information is beneficial to any of us who are trying to figure out how to enhance our focus and increase clarity in our lives. Some of Smart’s findings include:

  • Our brains need to go on autopilot. Smart gives a brilliant analogy of how putting a plane on autopilot allows the pilot to rest and conserve mental energy for higher risks tasks like landing. In the same way, Smart argues, we need to relinquish control of our brain and allow it go where it really wants to go-and let it take us there. Constantly trying to prevent the brain from acting in this manner (i.e. being busy), causes mental fatigue, whereas allowing our brains to wander actually refreshes our mental energy.
  • Idleness brings deeper thinking. Smart writes, “Through idleness, great ideas buried in your unconsciousness have the chance to enter your awareness.” Always being activity -focused subdues these more meaningful thoughts or reflections.
  • Letting your mind wander actually gets you more organized. Smart says that when we “space out,” information in our brain begins to flow more freely between different regions of it. Connections are made that are not possible when we are focusing on the completion of a list of tasks or just trying to get stuff done.
  • Constant activity reduces creativity. One of my favorite sentences in the book is, “As children become more scheduled, more measured, more managed to achieve, and more hijacked by digital media, they become less and less creative.” And couldn’t the same be said of adults? We allow so little time for informal interaction, brainstorming, and just casual discussion in the workplace. Every moment is hyper focused on getting something done… NOW! Ironically, some of the best ideas that move an individual or organization forward come when the focus is NOT on generating those ideas.

So what are some guidelines for doing nothing? Smart’s timeless example is lying in the grass on a summer afternoon, looking up at the clouds. The main requirement is that you not be engaged in trying to complete a task or focus on one external stimulus. This would include getting away from your normal work or life environment with all the reminders of incomplete tasks and all the stuff  you could be doing. I was intrigued to read that having random noise during our down time is okay, and even acceptable. It stimulates the brain to make connections between normally unconnected items or thoughts. Listening to music during our idleness, however, is not recommended. Remember, it encourages you to focus on just one thing (the music) and our goal is to let our mind wander… and wonder. I found some other good tips at Real Simple.

The strongest case Smart makes for being idle from time to time comes when he writes, “….as we organize our lives down to the last second, we are suppressing our brain’s natural ability to make meaning out of experience.” Sounds like a pretty good reason to do nothing.

How could you start building more moments of “doing nothing” into your week?

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, try out his SoundviewPro course: The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Eight Signs You Discount The Value Of Your Time

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

I have a bulletin board at the door of my office containing several items that would probably appear strange to you, but keep me focused. Some items come and go while others have a more permanent place. One is the memorial program for the recent funeral of a friend who unexpectedly died at 53. Another is an adorable “brochure” that one of my daughters created for me to use several years ago. One item that seems to always stay posted is a chart I picked up at a trade show many years ago that charts how financially valuable one’s time is at work, based on 244, eight hour working days per year. Here’s an example:

If you earn $40,000 per year:

  • Every hour of your work time is worth $20.49
  • Every minute is worth .3415
  • In a year, one hour a day is worth $5000

Every time I see this chart I am quickly reminded that I can not allow my day to be filled with activities that don’t give me a solid “return on investment.” When I do waste time, I frequently force myself to do the math on just how much that lack of intention cost me, and how I could have used those financial resources to support or grow my business, or just provide for my family. You can see the actual chart here.

Whether you work for yourself or for an organization, there is no question that there is a cost associated with not placing a high value on your time. If not financial, it might be in diminished quality of relationships, a lack of personal well-being, or just the sinking feeling (and fact) that your most important things aren’t getting done.

Here are eight signs that help me recognize I am discounting the value of my time… and not making a wise investment of these critical resources:

I accept interruptions as the normal mode of work. Whether the interruption is physical (phone or email) or mental (thoughts of unfinished tasks or other things I need to do), there are steps I can often take to create an environment where my higher priority tasks actually get accomplished. I can move to another work area, shut down my email, or just take a second and write down the thoughts that keep hovering around me like pesky gnats. Unfortunately I sometimes foolishly think I can keep all those thoughts in play and still stay focused.

I am too available. Don’t get me wrong. People sometimes need my attention immediately, but if I always drop everything at a moment’s notice, they come to expect it. And once they are trained that way, it’s hard to break the cycle.

I don’t put filters in place. In our book, Getting to It, Todd Musig and I discuss the use of filters in screening out unwanted interruptions or distractions. Simply put, decide what you will allow to interrupt your work BEFORE the interruption actually occurs. What phone call, email, message, or face to face interaction are so important that you would pause work on your highest priorities to handle?

I don’t create an effective task list. If I just haphazardly make a list and don’t prioritize the items in light of which ones will most move my work forward, it’s easy to get “check happy” and just start plowing through the list, finishing the mundane and unimportant. A more effective approach for me is to ask myself, “If I only got 3 things done today at work that are most aligned with my purpose and goals, what would they be?” With those three in mind, I build my day around them.

I don’t share my current work activities with others. A favorite moment in one of my training programs is when I work with those who are so frustrated with their boss or coworkers because they keep piling on more work. When I ask them if those bosses or coworkers know exactly what they are currently working on at the moment, the answer is usually, “Well…no.” If we don’t communicate what we are working on that is of value to the organization, the team, or to our own personal success, why is it a problem for them to want to fill our schedules with less important tasks? Even in my office I let Belinda know what I am working on so she can make a more informed decision about when to interrupt me…or not. For a more detailed strategy for sharing your work priorities with others, check out my CARD Techinque.

I don’t put limits on meetings or activities. I hear you screaming, “But Jones I am not always the one in control!” True, and for those situations you can only reflect back to the previous point and remind people that your current work is important and you need to get back to it ASAP. For those other events or meetings where you do have influence, reflect on the time needed for completion and plan with that deadline in mind. I’ve also found that if I tell others of my desired time limit, they will often work just as hard to meet it. Don’t tell them and…. you might as well be burning money. For more about the value of limits, click here.

I let multitasking rule my day. The starting and stopping process alone is like throwing money away with all the lost mental resources trying to regain focus. When I define what “done” looks like for a task (or at least how far I can take it with the information or resources I have available), and then work to that objective, I get so much more of value accomplished.

I’m too lazy to get away from distractions. When I first started writing this blog I had multiple messages vibrate on my phone and a number of notifications light up on my tablet. I hadn’t looked at any of them, but my mind was racing with the thought of, “I wonder who the message is from?” After checking the messages, I moved my phone and tablet out of eyesight, and turned my phone to silent. If I’m working on a new training concept or a keynote address, the last place I need to be is at my desk. There are just too many visual reminders that I could be doing something else. If I see my time as valuable, I’ll make other arrangements to get the right work done.

A poem I read many years ago highlights the incredible value each moment has if used wisely:

I have only just a minute, Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

But it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

-Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, check out his SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

A “Selfie” Of Your Time Management

Today’s guest blog features Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

Selfie

Selfies are everywhere! These self made photos of people doing everything from standing with a best friend to kayaking down a river blindfolded (just wait) are appearing at the rate of one million per day… and that’s the ones we know about. According to an infographic at stylecaster.com, here are some other interesting facts about these portraits:

  • They make up 30% of the photos taken by people 18-24 years of age
  • Selfies are more popular in Australia than any country in the world. Second is Canada and third is the United States
  • 34% of males state that they retouch their selfies while only 14% of females make changes to their selfies before posting

Even world leaders, including President Obama and Pope Francis have snapped pictures of themselves! The picture at the top of this post is one of my favorite selfies, taken with my younger daughter.

All this interest in selfies makes me wonder what a quick and spontaneous “snapshot” of how we are managing our time would look. Would yours:

  • Show you spending time working on our highest priorities, or just switching from one task to another to get through the day?
  • Be more likely to be taken with a friend or loved one… or alone because you keep rationalizing you will have time for them later?
  • Be a generally fuzzy picture because you aren’t sharpening our focus on 3-4 key tasks each day?
  • Reflect a celebration because you stayed focused on that complex assignment and finally finished it?
  • Have you looking exhausted and anxious because you keep denying yourself much needed rest?
  • Be snapped in a spot where you are taking some time for solitude and reflection instead of always trying to cram more and more into each day?
  • Show your children or significant other looking longingly out a door or window or be a snap of them running toward you with a HUGE smile and outstretched arms?
  • Include your phone, tablet, or computer screen showing your 30th post to social media today?

What would your selfie reveal about how you are managing your time?

Learn more about personal productivity at Jones Loflin’s SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

The Olympic Sized Power Of Routines

Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, is our guest blogger today.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, USA rifle shooter Matt Emmons was poised to win his second gold medal. He had one shot left, and only needed a score of 7.3. The lowest score on his last nine shots was 9.3, so the gold was certainly to be in his hands soon. Sure enough, Emmons took the shot, and hit a bullseye… on the wrong target. He was awarded 0 points and finished fourth in this particular competition.

When discussing what happened, Emmons explained that he normally looks at the number of the target through his viewfinder on his rifle, and then lowers his gun. Notice what he said next: “On that shot, I was just worrying about calming myself down and just breaking a good shot, so I didn’t even look at the number. I probably should have.”

First, let me say I can not imagine the pressure faced by any Olympic athlete. As a novice rifle shooter, I struggle to hit the center of the target in my own backyard. And to Emmons’ credit, he did recover from the mistake and win a gold medal in a different competition the next day.

What this story affirms for me each time I see it is the incredible power of routines to help me “hit the right target” in respect to my daily goals. I know that if I get the right amount of sleep, exercise first thing in the morning, and eat a healthy breakfast, I can have a productive day. I’ve followed the routine countless times, but when I stray from it, I am setting myself up for failure. And it is sometimes just the day it was imperative for me to be at my best.

Notice that Emmons said his emotions were what got him out of his routine. Ironically, it’s a routine that helps us perform well under heavy stress. It’s why athletes, military personnel, and anyone else who has to perform well is engaged in continuous training. Deviate from the proven routine… and who knows how things might turn out. It could be the difference from being on the top of an Olympic platform, or watching from the crowd.

As you work through your day, reflect on the routines that you know help you to be productive and hit your mark. Look at developing new ones that could take your work to the next level. Most importantly, recognize that straying from a routine that works can have disastrous consequences… in the Olympics and in the game of life.

Learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin in his SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Accuracy Is Everything

A guest blog with Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer.

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Wyatt Earp is remembered as being one of the most prominent figures in the taming of the  American West. Born in 1848 in Illinois, Earp had a frontier spirit at a young age. He tried, unsuccessfully, to run away from home several times in his youth, but was always caught and returned to his family. In 1870 he married, only to lose his wife to typhus a short time later. This tragedy fueled his desire for adventure even more and he began traveling throughout the West. He was known for being deadly accurate with his guns.

His most famous gunfight came in October 1881 at the O.K. Corral. It was there that he, along with Doc Holliday and others, challenged the wild cowboy culture that pervaded the West. Earp was the only one in the fight to sustain no injury. Again, his accuracy was his true weapon of success.

Asked numerous times about his amazing ability to win gunfights, Earp was often quoted as saying, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.” Some suggest his actual word was “final” instead of “everything.” Earp mastered the art of moving quickly, but with clear focus and direction. No doubt it saved his life countless times.

“It’s easy, and often commendable to be busy (fast), but working on the right things (accuracy) is what is most important on hitting the target.”

While the days of the Wild West are gone (except for maybe Las Vegas), Earp’s quote profoundly resonates with me about the “execution” of my day. It’s easy, and often commendable to be busy (fast), but working on the right things (accuracy) is what is most important on hitting the target. When the smoke and dust of the day’s battle wanes, accomplishment of our highest priorities is what we should see, not just an accumulation of completed tasks.

Additionally, his quote about being slow in a hurry is intriguing. It emphasizes that in the midst of moving quickly, you MUST have a clear plan of action AND outcome in mind. In Getting to It, Todd Musig and I discuss this need to stop, if only for a second, so you can more clearly identify what your most important next step should be. Just continuing to pick up one task, complete it, and then mindlessly engage in another is not the way to maintain the accuracy between what you say is important, and what you are actually doing.

Lastly, Earp’s quote reinforces comments in my recent blog about the power of routines. It’s a learned routine, or habit, that allows us to be “slow in a hurry” by moving through a systematic process almost mindlessly because it’s become a part of our physical or mental reflexive response. If we have to evaluate, over-analyze, fret, or weigh out a choice of action, our opportunity is gone. And with it our hope of improved productivity.

One quick way to slow down and make a better choice of task to undertake is a quick question like:

  • What task, if completed, would give me the greatest sense of accomplishment tonight?
  • Which of my tasks could best be accomplished with the mental and physical energy I have right now?
  • What task would most benefit the productivity of someone else?
  • What’s my “It” right now? (i.e. Important Thing)

Unless you are in law enforcement or the military you will probably not be engaged in a gun battle today. However, your ability to accurately align your daily actions with your highest priorities will make the difference in whether your goals and dreams move closer to reality…or are wounded by your willingness to just be busy.

Where do you need to slow down to be more accurate in your work today?

To learn more about productivity, enroll in Jones Loflin’s course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.