Gini Dietrich

Time Management: A Challenge to Make You More Productive

By: Gini Dietrich | January 13, 2014 | 
142

Time Management: A Challenge to Make You More ProductiveBy Gini Dietrich

The new normal.

Doing more with less.

Logging 15 hours a day in the office.

Never shutting your computer down.

Working through weekends.

Having dinner with your family and then getting back on email.

Eating lunch at your desk.

Trying to figure out the elusive time management.

Do any of these sound familiar?

We are in a race to outdo one another in how busy we are and it’s harmful not only to our mental stability, but to that of our productivity and even our physical well-being.

Society Expects Us to Always Be Working

In some cases it may not be up to you.

When I began my career, I had to bill a minimum of 7.5 hours every day and put another 15-20 hours a week into new business. By the time all the administrative work (traveling, expenses, time entry, meetings) was included, I easily worked 80-100 hours a week.

It was required to get promoted and I didn’t know any differently.

Back then, email was just beginning to infiltrate businesses and you certainly didn’t have the opportunity to work from home.

So, every Saturday, I’d join the rest of my team in the office while we worked on the things we didn’t accomplish during the week.

I have very fond memories of that time with my team. We were all in it together and we had a great time. We played just as hard as we worked…and the play time was always in the office.

Our time management was rewarded based, literally, on the sheer number of hours spent in the office.

Now, when I think back on it, the bubblegum blowing contests and pulling pranks definitely could have gone away in favor of getting our work done during normal business hours.

But that wasn’t the culture and you certainly couldn’t make partner by not being in the office six days a week, even if some of that time was spent screwing around.

It was how I was trained and what I grew accustomed to. So much so, in fact, in the early days of Arment Dietrich, I expected the same of my team.

As it Turns Out, We’re All Busy

Today, of course, we’re dealing with unemployment rates that don’t seem to want to decrease (I read an article last week that said unemployment is finally down simply because people have stopped looking for jobs) and, for those who are employed, having to do the jobs of two or three people as business leaders remain skittish about the economy.

It’s a cycle and it will eventually change, but right now we’re all busy…and we’re not afraid to answer the “how are you?” question with how busy we are.

Clay Morgan sent an article around to our team that talks about this phenomenon.

In “Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are,Meredith Fineman uses the example of preparing to go on a date. The guy who had invited her out said he was “crashing on deadlines” and asked her to make the dinner reservation.

Never mind the fact she should have told that guy where to stick it, that behavior makes it sound like he’s so much more busy than she is and his time is way more valuable. He can’t even make a dinner reservation to impress a girl?

What is the world coming to?

We are all busy. Maybe you have a house full of young kids or you’re launching a start-up or you travel Monday through Thursday or you work for an organization like I did at the beginning of my career.

Whatever it happens to be, we all have 24 hours in our day (until Adam Toporek and I can figure out how to start auctioning off extra hours) and we all have the same amount of time to get things accomplished.

Time Management Challenge

But, here’s the deal: The longer you spend staring at your computer screen, the worse off you are. Our bodies were not built to spend 15 hours a day working.

In fact, we can really only focus on something for about an hour before our bodies and minds need a break.

During that time, we tend to wander over to Facebook or Twitter or visit one of our colleagues, but heaven forbid we go for a walk or go to the gym or even go out for lunch.

Society has become such that that is frowned upon and keeping insane office hours are what’s rewarded.

But I have a time management challenge for you.

This week, tell yourself you do not have the weekends to do any work and that you have to get it all accomplished in a mere five days.

If you’re really serious about it and don’t give yourself that extra two days, I guarantee you will get everything done because you will be focused. You won’t spend an hour on Facebook because you know you can’t make that hour up later.

Or maybe you tell yourself the computer doesn’t open after dinner. Or you’re not staying in the office past 5:30 p.m. Or you’re going to sleep in an extra hour (this is one I could use). Or you’re going to take a lunch break to exercise. Or you do something productive with that 15 minutes you have until your next meeting.

Try it. For one week.

It goes against everything we’ve been taught to believe. Certainly there is no way we can do more in fewer hours.

But not only will you get more accomplished, you’ll be less stressed, less hurried, and less harried.

And then, the next time someone asks you how you are, you can answer with, “refreshed,” or “productive,” or “fantastic.”

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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142 Comments on "Time Management: A Challenge to Make You More Productive"

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ClayMorgan
2 years 4 months ago

Great comments. For years I was the same way and at some point in the news biz, I had to finally just set some parameters for my sanity if for no other reason. 

Rest and recreation are just as important to productivity as hours. Even Genesis 2:2 states that on the seventh day God rested. 

My time PLAYING with the kids, working on my stamp collection, taking a walk, or watching a movie with my wife are just as important to my productivity as is the time I actually put in working. Took me a long time to figure that one out.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

ClayMorgan It took me a long time to figure it out, too. Our minds need a break!

EnMastBusiness
EnMastBusiness
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich I love this Gini. I’m talking a lot about this with folks now.

LSSocialEngage
2 years 4 months ago
I love the philosophy of being held to and rewarded based on deliverables and goals accomplished as opposed to hours clocked in. Working from home has been great for me in terms of increased productivity and setting the limits you talk about in this great post. Certainly beats fighting the bad weather and traffic for 2 hours each way to get to the office and then spend another hour in the office complaining and hearing complaints about the weather and commute from colleagues to only then sit down to get started and then stressing about how many billable hours you… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

EnMastBusiness I think we did what we had to to survive the Great Recession. Now it’s time to settle down.

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago
As ClayMorgan mentions, I think spending your formative years working in the media can really mess you up. I know it messed me up. Everything is frantic and frenetic. The pace is insane. And the hours are brutal. You learn that that’s *normal*, and you train yourself to work that way. It’s very difficult to change when you leave the media biz.  I always tell people “When you love your job, working that hard, or checking in and/or responding to things after hours isn’t really *work*” – but that’s not true, is it? It is work. And it’s time you’re not spending,… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

LSSocialEngage Man! I don’t miss that, either! It was easily 9:30 or 10:00 before you accomplished anything. I’m with you…love the productivity working at home provides.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay When I first started on this quest, I scheduled exercise time. Then it eventually became a habit and I sometimes yell at Jess for booking me so solid, I don’t have time for a break. It will become habit and I will be here cheering you along!

LSSocialEngage
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay ClayMorgan ginidietrich Best of luck Lindsay! You can do it! Exercise in the day certainly makes me more productive and definitely refreshed.

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

LSSocialEngage belllindsay ClayMorgan ginidietrich  The biggest thing I’m missing this winter is *walking*!! Having never had a dog before, I can’t believe how much I enjoyed and benefitted from those hour long walks with Hank. The weird weather this winter, so much ICE, has really made walking with him difficult if not downright dangerous! Winter can’t be over soon enough for me!

Sean McGinnis
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay ClayMorgan ginidietrich I’m not sure it has much to do with the industry so much as it has to do with the model.

Law is the exact same way Lindsay – in terms of the expectations at law firms. The expectation was that wou billed a minimum of 2200-2400 hours a year. And since not every hour you were at work was billable, the result is ridiculous hours worked, a high burnout rate, explosive suicide ratesd compared to other industries and the worst job satisfaction rate of any industry I’ve ever seen.

LSSocialEngage
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay LSSocialEngage ClayMorgan ginidietrich Weird winter? Hello, understatement. Lindsay make it end already pleeeaaseee! I’ll pay you 🙂

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich I wish my new UP band would hurry up and get here! LOL

jasonkonopinski
2 years 4 months ago

This post ties in perfectly with Laura Petrolino’s contribution to The Three Things re: habit. Heaven knows I have my share of bad habits reinforced over the years, but it really is all about choice.

Like  belllindsayand ClayMorgan, I’ve certainly trained myself to work rapid-fire, and as I’m slowly learning, it has a definite human cost. Time management has always been difficult for me. My mind switches gears so quickly (SQURREL!), I get overwhelmed — and it stinks.  For me, buckling down and setting firm self-imposed deadlines is an important first step.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay I hope it’s not green!

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

jasonkonopinski And, I would say for you, focus. I know it’s one of your goals this year. So we’ll keep reminding you. Focus, focus, focus.

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich It better NOT BE! LOL

@jason_
2 years 4 months ago
I admit I’m guilty of quite a few items on ginidietrich’s list. I’ve been trying to do a better job of this lately after my daughter made the comment that I’m always working on my MacBook. After that I decided to halt whatever I’m working on to spend time with my daughter because that’s what is most important. Work can wait. Working from home would be a dream come true for me. I can’t imagine what that would be like to just get up and boot up my computer and get to work. I’m sure that it has pros and cons,… Read more »
corinamanea
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay True Lindsay. Unfortunately when we are in our 20s, we imagine ourselves as super humans. Later, we start “paying” for not taking care of us and our health. 
The tricky thing is that without health you cannot be near productive, nor anything else. The sooner we learn that being healthy, exercising on a regular basis (it´s on my this year list) and taking time for ouselves to simply enjoy life, the better professionals and humans will be.

corinamanea
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay True Lindsay. Unfortunately when we are in our 20s, we imagine ourselves as super humans. Later, we start “paying” for not taking care of us and our health. 
The tricky thing is that without health you cannot be near productive, nor anything else. The sooner we learn that being healthy, exercising on a regular basis (it´s on my this year list) and taking time for ouselves to simply enjoy life, the better professionals and humans will be.

KristenDaukas
2 years 4 months ago

I worked with a girl at my first “real” job in Chicago who told me that “if you can’t get your job done in 40 hours, you either have too much work or you’re not good at what you do” and I think there’s some truth to that. I have pretty much stopped working after hours and on the weekends unless something critical comes up. Instead, I’m spending time with the family, recharging my batteries and devoting time to my personal blogs. It’s not that I’m not passionate but I’ve found it makes me SO much fresher for our clients.

MartinaPQuinn
2 years 4 months ago
I’m commenting from Ireland – and this post is just as true for Dublin, as it is for cities in the US.  Since the recession here, the length of my working week has definitely increased (and it had been quite hefty prior to that!).  Clients now expect you to do a lot more with a lot less, and there’s a reluctance to say ‘no’ to any request, as the climate doesn’t permit turning down any business.  What rang most true for me here was the assertion that “We’re all busy”.  It seems people are in competition all the time now… Read more »
LauraPetrolino
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay ClayMorgan ginidietrich That first paragraph I could fill in the word ‘politics’ for ‘media’ and it will be exactly the same. And I agree….I spend the first part of my career learning to feel guilty if everything I was doing wasn’t in someway work related….especially if you are a bit type A to begin with, it’s a hard mold to break out of

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

LauraPetrolino belllindsay ClayMorgan ginidietrich …..a BIT Type A…??????

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

@jason_ ginidietrich Jason, I get more done between the hours of 5:30 am and noon than I ever did in a full day at the office. Not that work stops at noon, wouldn’t that be nice! But you catch my drift….

wandawhitson
2 years 4 months ago

On the mark as always Gini. This is an issue that so many of my clients need assistance with.
As someone noted, it is a choice, so its important to understand why we are making that choice then we can change that choice/pattern.  As Gini did, actually schedule time into your calendar.  If it’s in your calendar, you’ll do it.  Another step for success is begin to make change by taking small steps.  We often fail at change because we go all or nothing…..Success is a vision achieved one step at time.  Here’s to more balanced lives!

blfarris
2 years 4 months ago

As much as we don’t want to admit it, we have limits. We can’t keep working and working without breaks. We can’t skip exercise, time with our family and friends, walks in the woods and expect to keep functioning at a high level. It just doesn’t work that way.

It sucks having limits, but it’s so much better to RECOGNIZE them and choose to live within them than to deny them and let the universe slap us in the head every few months.

blfarris
blfarris
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich Just left a comment and shared it on LI. Good stuff.

lizreusswig
2 years 4 months ago
This is so timely – pun intended! I was just having a convo with a good friend about this yesterday…one of the “a-ha” moments we had was that maybe our (collective) desire to be busy is not only about our desire to be productive, but maybe it’s a little bit about our desire to be relevant or important?  Seriously, how many people will be threatened if that email goes out Monday morning versus Saturday or Sunday?  But, it sure makes us feel important to “have” to deal work during off-hours, right? Theoretically, all this amazing technology should enable us to… Read more »
lizreusswig
2 years 4 months ago

LauraPetrolino belllindsay ClayMorgan ginidietrich Ditto! 🙂

Matt_Cerms
2 years 4 months ago
ginidietrich This post really speaks to me due to the fact that I am kind of dragging this Monday morning. Need some inspiration; need a pick me up!  It seems like in every interview, they tell you “don’t think this is some 9-5 job.” In so many industries, it has become cool to stay late and be the one who just doesn’t have time to go out for lunch. If I was a boss, I certainty wouldn’t be setting that example for my team. But too often it goes on, and it needs to change. We need to truly a time… Read more »
RobBiesenbach
2 years 4 months ago
I totally agree. HOWEVER, let me say this. Back when I was in a PR firm and even today now that I’m on my own, if I had an evening or weekend obligation, it would cause me more stress—I’ve got to get everything done by 5! On the other hand, when I knew I had ’til, say, 7, with no other deadline other than when I needed to eat dinner, I found it a lot less stressful. I would take a little more time to chat with a colleague. When a client called I would devote all the time and… Read more »
biggreenpen
2 years 4 months ago
This post definitely hit home with me, for a number of reasons. Two of those reasons are 1) the heartfelt email I got from my 17  year old a few weeks back that said “I know your blog and all are important but you’re always on your computer” and 2) hubs last night saying “you’re always on the computer and you never watch tv with me (never mind that I’ve never been a big tv watcher). But it’s so much more than that …. I know there’s an imbalance between the joy I feel doing all of the “extra” (i.e.… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

@jason_ It definitely has its pros and cons, but it’s for sure better than a commute. You can get a good two hours of productive time in that same timeframe. Only problem? Sometimes you don’t get out of your PJs until late afternoon.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay I’ve often considered allowing those of us who work that early to cut out early…but haven’t figured out the client side of things yet.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

blfarris Thank you!

lauraclick
2 years 4 months ago
Standing up and applauding!  Wasn’t there an NYT article about this awhile back too? I think it was called “The Busy Trap”. Our society has become obsessed with “busy” and it sucks.  That’s why, one of my guiding principles this year is to “rest well”. I work much better when I’m rested. Forcing myself to work more means I’m less productive. However, it’s really hard to unlearn that. And, when you’re in the industry we’re in, you’re rewarded for numbers of hours and being “always on.”  I think this mentality has to start at the top. It’s about developing a… Read more »
Randy Milanovic
2 years 4 months ago

OHIO (Only Handle it Once) has been one of the most crucial strategies for myself.

AnneReuss
AnneReuss
2 years 4 months ago
lauraclick *Follows suit, stands up and applauds next to you*  This really spoke to me ginidietrich.  Though as someone who hasn’t experienced the coroporate world/a high demand for hours, I already have seen the benefits of exercising, unplugging on the weekends, etc – so I’m already attached to having a good time management schedule.  But yes, there is a problem with society, because seeing how hard some of you work with great success, I wonder how do you determine what’s too much work and what’s not enough work? Sometimes I feel I should be putting in MORE hours on the computer but… Read more »
Howie Goldfarb
2 years 4 months ago
If you run an B2C social communities it is hard taking weekends off. All depends on the business. But are correct. In the mid-90’s Microsoft was the number 1 company to work for. They worked 18 hour days 6 days a week and half days on Sundays. You would go to the movies with the team during work hours, play pranks, go bowling, all so that they keep you for 18 hours.  I always was good at this until the current work from home with little kid while managing social media era in my life. If I knew I had… Read more »
Matt_Cerms
2 years 4 months ago

We need to truly **value a time management strategy. I told you guys I was dragging…

Digital_DRK
2 years 4 months ago
We are not properly measuring or understanding our ROE (Return on exercise), we know its good for us, however since we can’t see immediate quantitative results such a (bag of $$) we tend to give it less focus or a lower priority in our day to day lives. I also use the argument, “when you’re laying on your death bed” [and I hope that is a long long long time from now for myself and anyone reading this], what moments will you recall with fondness, joy and love? 80-100 hour work weeks? or moments with family and friends, experiencing the… Read more »
BillSmith3
BillSmith3
2 years 4 months ago

Digital_DRK I highly agree on on both counts.

wandawhitson
2 years 4 months ago

Digital_DRK So true!  As one colleague said to me, no one has ever put on their tombstone, I wish I had worked more hours!

Digital_DRK
2 years 4 months ago

wandawhitson  Exactly!

belllindsay
2 years 4 months ago

ginidietrich @jason_ Or wash your face. 😉

Karen_C_Wilson
2 years 4 months ago
I saw a different article about being busy last week (http://www.tylerwardis.com/busy-isnt-respectable-anymore/) and I haven’t uttered that word in reference to how I am since. The truth is, this year has already started out pretty intense, but I’m looking at that intensity differently because I’ve forced myself to not use the word “busy” as a descriptor. I’m less stressed by the work I have to get done already. I’m okay with not taking my weekends completely off, but I do strive to have a balance that allows me to feel refreshed, productive, or fantastic. I definitely didn’t achieve that balance in… Read more »
ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

wandawhitson From a client perspective, one of the things I always counsel my team is to prioritize a client’s needs with an A, B, or C. If the request or “urgent” need comes in after hours or on the weekends, if it’s a B or C, there is no need to respond. In many cases, we have to train those we work with to take time off, too! But, if we instantly respond, no matter the day or time, they come to expect it and that’s not good for anyone.

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

MartinaPQuinn Hello Ireland! You’re right – it has become a competition to see who is the most busy. But we all only have 24 hours in the day so, really, no one is more busy. It’s just in how we put value on our time. The guy asking the article’s author I mentioned to make a restaurant reservation is a great example of that. If a guy said that to me, I say, “Clearly your time is more important than mine so why don’t you keep crashing on those deadlines and I’ll find another date.”

ginidietrich
2 years 4 months ago

belllindsay @jason_ Or brush your teeth.

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