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« 10 Motivation Challenges & Fixes | Where Did the Time Go? »
Tuesday
Jun262012

Ask the Expert: Julie Morgenstern

Julie MorgensternThe conversation continues with our popular “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog.  So far this year, we enjoyed great dialogues about clutter with Lorie Marrero, letting go with Geralin Thomas, next steps with Yota Schneider, and change with John Ryan. This month, I’m excited to bring you prolific author and organizing guru, Julie Morgenstern to share her wisdom about time management.

Julie and I met almost twenty years ago when I attended a NAPO-NY chapter professional development workshop she organized on closet design. Since then, Julie’s become an internationally recognized expert in the organizing field and authored many books that have become industry “must reads.” My deep appreciation and thanks goes to her for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about Julie.

Julie Morgenstern, dubbed the “queen of putting people’s lives in order” by USA Today, is an organizing and time management expert, business productivity consultant, and speaker. A New York Times bestselling author, Julie’s five books are timeless reference guides that are insightful and jam-packed with innovative strategies. She has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Business Week. Julie has made frequent appearances on national television and radio programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and NPR’s Fresh Air.  You can connect with Julie on Twitter, Facebook, blog, or website. Check out Julie's line of planners and notebooks on Levenger, part of the Circa notebook series.

Linda:  You are internationally known as the “organizing and time management guru” What are your best strategies for successful time management? 

Julie:

  • Capture all your to-dos in one place. The biggest mistake people make in managing their time is often quite mechanical—including the habit of scattering their to-dos and appointments among a variety of systems. Decide on one planning system (paper or electronic) and keep it with you wherever you go.  Record 100% of your calls, appointments, and to-dos. This reduces pressure to remember, and enables wise choices when prioritizing. 
  • Schedule “when” you will do things. A to-do not connected to a “when” simply doesn’t get done.  Schedule tasks into your planner on the specific day you intend to do them. Add a time estimate next to each item to ensure do-able days.
  • Use the 4D’s to lighten your load. Good time management means focusing on the highest and best use of your time.  Proactively streamline your workload (at work and at home) by applying the 4 D’s: Delete (discard tasks), Delay (reschedule for a more appropriate time), Diminish (create a shortcut), and Delegate (give to someone who can do it better, faster or good enough).
  • Group similar tasks. Batching tasks boosts efficiency, and minimizes the time and energy lost when constantly switching gears. Group DO’s separate from CALLS— separate WORK tasks from PERSONAL ones.  Identify the core activities you are juggling your time between (e.g. client service, strategic planning, sales, administration), and create a Time Map that designates regular time for each of those roles—and you’ll find that you will get significantly more done, in less time, at a much higher quality of output.
  • Plan tomorrow +2 at the end of each day. People who plan their day find that time stretches—they get much more done, feel less stressed, and avoid getting caught up in unnecessary crisis. Close-out each day by spending 15 minutes reviewing what you completed and your schedule for tomorrow plus 2 days beyond that.  A 3-day arc gives you the necessary perspective to adjust your balance as needed and mentally prepare for the upcoming days.

 

Linda:  Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Why do some of us have so much difficulty managing our time?

Julie:  The single most common obstacle people face in managing their days lies in their very perception of it. Most people think of time as intangible.  Unlike space, time is completely invisible. You can’t see it or hold it in your hands. It’s not something that piles up or that you can physically move around. Time is something you feel, and it feels utterly amorphous. Some days go whizzing by while others crawl painfully along. Even your tasks seem hard to measure—infinite and endless in both quantity and duration. As long as time remains slippery, elusive, and hard to conceptualize, you will have difficulty managing your days. You need to change your perception of time and develop a more tangible view of it. You need to learn to see time in more visual, measurable terms.

Once you understand that time has boundaries, you begin to look at your to-dos much differently. Tasks are the objects that you must fit into your space. Each one has a size, and arranging them in your day becomes a mathematical equation. As you evaluate what you need to do, you begin to calculate the size of each task and whether you can fit it into the space. When you start seeing time as having borders, just as a space does, you will become much more realistic about what you can accomplish, and much more motivated to master various time-management tools and techniques to help you make the most of your time.

 

Linda:  What has been your toughest personal time management challenge?

Julie:  As a creative person, I tend to be someone who hyper-focuses on whatever I am doing, and sometimes, as a result, I lose all sense of time, as I am so engaged with whatever problem I am solving.  This can happen when I am writing, or designing, or am highly engaged in a meeting with someone.  The good news is people and projects get my undivided attention.  The challenge is it’s hard for my staff to interrupt me when I am in the middle of something.  I employ a variety of techniques to stay on track—planning everyday at the end of the day before—and making sure I define the outcome of every working session before I start—so that I stay focused on just the primary goal of that time commitment.

 

Linda:  If you found yourself with an unexpected extra hour on a particular day, how would you spend that time?

Julie:  Probably for something fun and relationship oriented—call or get together with a friend, go for a walk, stop by a museum, go to the park.   

 

Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

Julie:  Just that mastering time management is not a static process—it is a lifelong skill, dynamic, changing as your own life, circumstances and interests evolve.  You can also tackle your learning in phases and stages.  There’s freshman time management and graduate time management. Everyone, at every point in their lives can benefit from stopping to reflect on their relationship to time, the choices they are making, and what they can do differently to create more meaningful and satisfying days.   

 

Thank you, Julie for your wonderful insights and strategies about time management. I’m sure many people will appreciate your concept that time management is not a static process. This brings hope, particularly to the time-challenged. I invite all of you to join Julie and me as we continue the conversation. What are your time management challenges? What works or doesn’t work for you?

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Reader Comments (47)

Love these strategies for time that give specific ways to help, especially planning +2. It gives you a heads up on what is coming down the pike. Thanks Julie and Linda!

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Thank you, Linda, for bringing Julie's very helpful time management techniques to your site. I especially like the idea of thinking about time differently. I certainly find that if I have an entire day that is not scheduled I get much less accomplished. Thanks again!

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShar

@Ellen- Always great to hear your voice! Julie's +2 tip is excellent. The idea of seeing that 3-day arc to get a better handle on the total picture, makes a lot of sense.

@Shar- Welcome to the conversation. I know exactly what you mean about being more strategic with time through planning. More gets accomplished that way. Thanks so much for joining us.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi Linda and Julie,

What perfect timing for me to read this, as I was going over my to-do list on my large dry eraser board for the month of July earlier this morning! I never thought of scheduling "when" to do things on the list and certainly will try start doing that, as a more effective way of scheduling my time! I find time slips through the cracks when I'm around family and friends, and even clients, but when I'm alone, I get things done much faster. The 3-day arc is a great idea..or maybe 5 days?!

Thanks for sharing the info!
Cheers,
Elisa

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElisa Cashiola

@Elisa- Great to hear your voice! So glad that this post was timely as you are in the midst of reviewing your to-do list. Wonderful that you noticed Julie's tip about factoring in the "when" to accompany the "what." Let me know how it goes.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

I loved this interview. Selfishly, I am happy to know that some of the tools and strategies that Julie suggests I use. I am a big scheduler -- not only blocking out time to get certain tasks done but what I will do in that time exactly. really raises the productivity level. Wonderful interview Linda and Julie. great tips shared.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

I very much enjoy this series of interviews: there is always something to be reminded of or re-learn that makes my daily life flow more effectively. I am a big fan of letting go and staying conscious of doing so; your work provides the reminders of HOW to do it a little every day.
thanks Linda
sarah xx

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersarahwaldin

Fabulous! Slowing down to put a "when" on a to-do instead of leaving it in a holding pattern has made the hugest impact for me over the past few months. Thanks!

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShelley Molitor

It's been quite a while since I read Time Management from the Inside Out and it's interesting to see how many of these strategies I have put into practice!

I have a question for Julie, if she doesn't mind answering it... I've attended and delivered workshops on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator where a question similar to "If you found yourself with an unexpected extra hour on a particular day, how would you spend that time?" was asked to demonstrate how individuals with different personality type preferences respond. Julie, do you know your MBTI type?

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Linda and Julie: This post is chock-full of fantastic ideas. I especially love your concept of freshman time and graduate time management. Brilliantly put! That concept resonates with me particularly because I believe that time management (like work/life balance) is a process rather than an end-goal. Thank you so much for this superb post. -- Dr. Laura Hills, Blue Pencil Institute

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Laura Hills

@Leslie- Isn't it great to know that Julie's time management strategies are ones that work for you too? Fabulous! Assigning the "when" seems to resonate with many.

@Sarah- Most appreciate your encouragement and positive feedback. You've touched on the idea of making a "little" progress each day whether that's for letting go, managing time, or being present. Small steps, big overall effect.

@Shelley- The "when" attached to the "what" is also working for you. That's fantastic, especially that you've noticed the difference in the last few months. A slight tweaking of your habits are giving you great results. Go Shelley!

@Janet- Love your question to Julie about MBTI. Would love to know more. Are there consistent responses to certain personality combinations?

@Laura- Like you, I also love Julie's idea of freshman and graduated time management. It reinforces the idea that this, like life is a process. We learn, improve and clarify along the way to create a full life designed to fit for us.

Many thanks to all of you wonderful people for adding your unique perspectives to the conversation. You make the conversation lively and wonderful.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Questions such as "You arrive at work and are told you have an unexpected day off. What would you do?" are often asked to help participants identify themselves as preferring extroversion or introversion. Introverts will usually choose a solitary activity, such as reading, whereas extraverts may decide to call a friend.

I am not sure whether the other type preferences come into play, but it seems likely that a Feeler might be more apt to do something to benefit someone else, but a Thinker might focus on getting something done - especially an xSTJ.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

These are interesting distinctions, Janet about the choice an introvert vs. extrovert might make with the "found" time. I'm wondering if it might just depend upon the circumstance too. For myself, I can imagine choosing a solitary experience if I was in need of some quiet, or a friend related activity if I wanted more social interaction.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, another great interview and it's always so good to hear from experienced professionals.
As a mother and wife I juggle so much to keep all going and still have personal time, as a professional I also need to manage my time well to be able to fully serve my clients and to feel authentic in my example to them.
My favorite advice in this interview is the reminder that learning IS a lifelong process and time management is a learned skill. Also, that for every to-do there must be a "when".
Thank you for this great series of posts!

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Helena- You remind us how many elements we have to juggle between family, business and personal time. The idea of being "authentic" as we manage our time enables us to model good time management skills both for ourselves, our clients and our children. A true learning process for all. As always, it's great to hear your voice and unique perspective. Thank you for joining the conversation.

June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, for some it might depend on the circumstances, but I would nearly always default to a solitary pursuit. Not sure whether it's my Introversion, or my strong Judging preference that keeps me from being spontaneous - likely the combination!

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Janet- Introversion, huh? You are so NOT introverted in the social media channels. I guess it's a great arena to exercise the other muscles. What's striking is how well you know yourself...that given that "found" time, you would almost always choose a solitary pursuit. And that is the essential part...self-awareness and understanding. Because if we don't get that part, it makes it nearly impossible to manage the time we have.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you Linda and Julie! Great article!

For me, capturing everything in one place, time activating my to-dos and recognizing that time management is not a static process, are the key elements for being effective. By nature, I don't see time as something tangible and I, too, tend to become absorbed and hyper-focused in my creative activities. I have to remind myself that completing what needs to be done actually frees up my creativity because I don't have things lingering, occupying my subconscious.

I've learned, over the years, that my artistic side has to make friends and accept the support of my practical side and vice versa. When the two aspects work well together, they make quite the dynamic team:-)

You ladies make a great team too! Thanks again.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

We're getting off the topic of time management now, but I think social media is a wonderful tool for introverts, who prefer communicating in writing over face-to-face and often aren't comfortable standing up to speak in front of a group. Since you didn't know that I'm an introvert, you probably didn't realize that I manage a blog called Introvert Retreat either!

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

You are full of surprises, Janet. Love it!

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Yota- It's always wonderful to hear your voice. I love your description of how you've figured out how to allow your artistic and practical sides to support each other so that you can complete what needs to be done and free-up your thoughts to let creativity shine. Just beautiful.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great post Linda and Julie! I especially love this tip: Plan tomorrow +2 at the end of each day. I tend to plan in the morning...but love the idea of doing this at the end of the day...and looking two days ahead. Must give that a try.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAby Garvey

Thanks for joining us, Aby. How wonderful that you plan every morning. I wonder how things will shift for you when you try planning at the end of the day and incorporate the +2, as you mentioned? I'm looking forward to hearing how the experiment goes. Keep us posted.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks for the great interview. I bought and read Getting Organized from the Inside Out and actually referred to it in a workshop for my previous (not related to organizing) career years before becoming a professional organizer. It is still one of my "go to" books for anyone looking to get organized.

It is no surprise that I follow many of the principles Julie shares here. I am a big fan of one planner/calendar and writing down everything. If anyone does not have a planner, get one and start using it now. It is the best thing you can do to start getting organized. Write down/enter everything. Including the time (even if it is just 15 minutes) you plan to spend getting organized. = )

BTW - my last Myers Briggs rating was ESTJ. Me an extrovert, shocking!

-Kim

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim Oser

Fabulous addition to the conversation, Kim! Thank you for joining us. I love the pre-organizing days connection you had with one of Julie's books and your consistency about planner usage.

Not surprised by your MBTI rating. I'm of the Extrovert persuasion too...an ENFJ.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Loving the introvert time management connection. Introverts MUST schedule down time. It is without a doubt how they generate energy. Thanks for sharing this insight.

June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Linda, I'd have bet my lunch money that you were NF. :-)

June 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Ellen- Isn't it fascinating how a discussion on time management ideas has morphed into the connection with Myers-Brigss understanding? Perhaps that deeper understanding of who we are at the core can help us to figure out how to best use and manage our time.

@Janet- Am I that transparent? Guess so. Not a bad thing. :) ... See what you started, Janet? Love the shift in the conversation. Fabulous!

June 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

This conversation has been so fun! I am also an introvert, but I love to speak (weird?). Although there is no wishing, whining, or wallowing allowed for my clients (!), mastering personality and styles and having a menu of tools appropriate for different styles is now a priority of mine. I had a client get stuck recently until I switched one of her tools. I was blessed with a correct guess and with having a great tool available. Don't really want to be there again!

June 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShelley

Superb expert interview! Julie has an obvious talent for organising time & offers some great & fresh thinking. My earliest ventures into time & life management were with the classic works of Covey, so its good to read something that both differs yet still make good sense. I enjoyed the 3-day arc idea, as well as the importance of putting a when to your to-do's - such a great reminder, as the lovely Helena Alkhas also pointed out.

Bravo Linda & Julie for bring this engaging topic to us all.

June 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrant Willcox

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