While I was making my way to the book section in the January issue, my eye was caught by some lengthy material that seemed to be about dieting. Dieting is not managing time. However, remember that procrastination, a major aspect of time management, is a self-regulation issue and similar to overeating (as well as gambling and trouble with managing money). I've found that a lot that's written about these other problems with self-regulation can be used to address managing time.
Say, for instance, the shortie Oprah article Bad Habits? They're Actually Solutions. (Sorry, the Oprah Magazine website doesn't carry a lot of its print content, so no link for you.) Deborah Grayson Reigel is referred to in it. Grayson Riegel argues that bad habits are solutions we come up with for dealing with some other problem. They're just not very good ones. "Diet Coke provides energy when you're tired; fast food saves time when you're too overscheduled to plan, prepare, and cook a meal;" The trick is to identify the problem your bad habit is solving and then come up with something better to replace it.
A True Life Example From My True Life
Don't think this bad-habits-as-solutions-to-problems business can possibly relate to time management? When I read that article, I immediately recognized a former bad habit in myself. And, of course, I'm about to tell you all about it.
I used to spend an hour to an hour and a half in the morning going to a couple of news sites and Salon and then playing several hands of on-line solitaire before I started to work. I would often play solitaire until I won. A couple of times. This was pre-Facebook and Twitter, by the way. I rationalized this by describing it as being part of my pre-writing process. I needed this to relax. Then I would work, work, work.
I was unable to shake that behavior until I was working on the Time Management Tuesday project and started reading about transitional time. Transitional time is that time we need to move from one project/activity to another, especially if it requires a big mental shift. Spots of transitional time occur off and on all day. If you work outside the home, you need to transition to the workplace once you get there and then transition again when you get back home after work. If you've ever dealt with kids getting home from school, you've probably seen big transition issues with either unpleasant behavior or exhaustion.
In my particular case, that bad morning work habit wasn't so much about procrastination as it was about difficulty making the transition to work. I was able to replace all that on-line reading and game playing with fifteen minutes of office clean-up each day. I seem to like that and appreciate the benefit. It got something positive done, and I was able to slip into work afterward.
This past year, I tried replacing the fifteen minutes of office clean-up with a twenty-minute writing sprint. Disaster. Everything fell apart, and I was back to a troubled transition. I'm doing office administration again now and much happier with it.
I still need to come up with a new behavior for the end of the work day, when I tend to blow off time checking out various sites on-line. This month I'm trying to "reward" myself for the end of the workday with a short yoga practice. I've been having trouble fitting that into my life, anyway, and I find transition time to be one of the few ways we really "find" time that we can do something with. Jumping up from the computer to get onto the yoga mat may take care of my afternoon transition.
So, think about your bad work habits. You know you have at least one. What is it actually doing for you and how can you replace it with something better that will do the same job?