How many years have you made New Year’s resolutions? How many years have you accomplished your New Year’s resolutions? Over the years, I’ve identified three common mistakes people make when they resolve to change in the next year.
1. Failure to make a plan with clear steps
“Lose weight.” “Get organized.” “Travel more.” These are some of the most common resolutions people make. They’re also “amorphous blobs of undoability,” as David Allen would say. Every goal starts out with the desire to achieve something. But a goal without a plan is just a wish.
2. Failure to prioritize getting it done
To paraphrase Barbara Sher, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.” The year you write your first novel will not also be the year you’re planning your wedding, moving across the country to start a new job, and training for a triathlon. Yet all of those things and more can easily happen in one lifetime. The key is to focus on one thing at a time and follow through with your plan by making your goal your priority. Personally, I find it helpful to envision what my year is going to look like in terms of things like upcoming life events, what will be going on with my family, current finances, trips that have been booked, etc. before deciding what goal makes the most sense to prioritize.
3. Failure to check in periodically
New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being abandoned by February. Making a goal you don’t think about again is unlikely to be achieved. When was the last time you were assigned a huge project at work that no one ever asked you about again? In addition to making a plan with steps, and prioritizing doing those steps, evaluating your success periodically is essential.
There is a snowball effect with these three pitfalls. The first failure of not making a plan with clear steps leads to the other failures because it’s hard to take action when you don’t know exactly what that action looks like. The snowball effect works the other way around too – making a plan leads to following through and following up.
When it comes to goal-setting, I’m a big fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals. There are some variants for what S.M.A.R.T. stands for. My favorite is:
I recommend turning your New Year’s resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal by answering questions for each letter, but in a different order than the acronym.
1. What exactly do you want? (specific)
2. Is now the best time to work toward this? (relevant)
3. How will you know when you’ve attained it? (measurable)
4. What actions will you take achieve the goal? Is this plan something you can realistically do? (achievable)
5. When will you take the steps? What is a realistic deadline you can set to have accomplished the goal by? (time-bound)
What do you want to accomplish in 2018? Leave your New Year’s resolution challenges, successes, and questions in the comments. Happy New Year!
The further along in school you are, the more complicated your homework becomes. Juggling research papers, group projects, routine math homework, study time for tests and more is increasingly challenging as you make your way through school.
For a student that prefers electronic devices over paper calendars and notebooks, there are many ways to manage your homework projects on a smartphone. In this day and age, most people take a smartphone everywhere they go. This makes phones excellent planners because they are a convenient and reliable place to make a note of something when you first hear about it.
Keep a master homework list in your phone's Memo or Notes feature
A “master to do list” is a complete list of every thing someone needs to do. It’s a great way to remember everything going on so nothing slips through the cracks. Having a complete list of all your classes and the homework for each is an easy way to keep track of it all.
It’s important to have only one list like this, rather than writing bits here and there in various places. That way the master list becomes a reliable source of information, and you build a habit of always putting homework related information in one place.
Schedule your homework into your calendar
Estimate how long your homework will take and schedule it into your phone’s calendar app like you would a doctor’s appointment. Scheduling a specific time to do something is a classic time management technique.
Some calendar apps have the ability to let you schedule a reminder when you create the event. If you’re new to making appointments with yourself, it’s a good idea to add an alert to go off a few minutes before you need to start. Set the alarm early enough to give yourself time to quit what you’re doing beforehand and gather your materials.
Use the myHomework app
This is a fantastic free app for managing your schoolwork. It’s available through the iPhone App Store, Mac App Store, Chrome Web Store, Google Play, Kindle Fire, and the Windows Store, so you can get it on a wide variety of devices. You make an account inside the app, which means you can use it on your phone on the go and then use it at your desk on your computer if you wish.
You can input your tests, class schedule, and all outside class work in the app. It also allows you to rate assignments by priority, set up reminders, and see a calendar of all your classes and due dates. There is a premium version of the app you can buy for a few bucks that allows you to attach files, not see ads, access decorative themes, and more.
There’s also version of the app for teachers called Teachers.io, If your teacher uses it, you can find your class in the app and have resources, assignments, and announcements synced within your myHomework app.
I’d love to hear about your homework planning challenges and successes. Please share your stories in the comments. Your experiences and ideas can help other readers change their habits and learn something new.
It can be hard to be productive when your desk is covered in paper. Clutter has a way of making people feel stressed out, distracted and/or overwhelmed. When this happens, it’s a good idea to invest some time in organizing the paper around you so it doesn’t slow you down.
Paper can be one of the most time-consuming things to organize because every sheet is a decision. Am I going to attend the event on this flier? When will I file this claim? Should I call about this $5 charge I don’t recognize or is not worth my time? This is one of the big reasons why people accumulate paper so fast. However, there is a relatively quick way to organize the paper on your desk and set up an organizing system so your desk doesn’t get covered in paper again.
The trick is to sort into five broad categories first and then sort some of the piles into subcategories afterwards. This prevents you from having 20 piles of paper take over your office and finding yourself in the middle of an all day project you didn’t plan time for. This method gives you multiple opportunities for stopping points without a big mess.
To begin, move the bin you use to discard paper next to your desk before you start sorting. The most basic categories for sorting any kind of clutter are Keep and Get Rid Of, so that is the first thing to decide about each piece of paper.
Category #1: Trash/Recycle
When you decide to throw something out, put it directly into the trash or recycle bin as you sort. Make a pile of the paper with sensitive information that you want to shred next to the bin.
Category #2: Shred
After you’re done sorting all the paper, put the Shred pile in a box labeled “To Shred” so you don’t mix it up with other paper later. Schedule a time in your calendar to shred the paper yourself or take it somewhere to be shredded. From now on, collect all paper you want to shred in that box and shred it when it’s full.
Category #3: Take Action
This is paper you’re keeping because it pertains to something you need to do.
Some common examples are:
Category #4: Refer To Later
This is paper you want to keep because you want to look at it later.
Some common examples are:
Category #5: Supplies
Supplies are blank paper products like legal pads, unused envelopes, craft paper, computer paper, sticky notes, etc. Only keep what you use frequently on your desk. Trash or recycle any that are crumpled, dirty, or otherwise not useable. For supplies in good condition, give away the ones you don’t think you’ll use and put the rest where you have other office supplies.
Your first stopping point for this project will depend on the volume of paper you’re dealing with and how much time you have left after sorting into the five categories. I recommend boxing up the shredding and putting away supplies right after you’ve sorted all the paper into the five categories.
The Take Action pile is where the urgent and important paper is, so I recommend sorting it next. My favorite thing to do with this kind of paper is to store it in a container that holds paper vertically on top of the desk, with categories like:
Everyone’s categories for action paper will be slightly different. The examples above are some common themes to inspire and guide you. Don’t forget make time to deal with action paper on a regular basis.
The Refer To Later pile will also need to be sorted and put away at some point. My favorite way to store this kind of paper is in a filing cabinet, with exceptions for certain kinds of memorabilia. Being organized is a lifestyle choice, so keeping things organized requires diligence.
I’d love to hear about your desk paper organizing challenges and successes. Please share your stories in the comments. Your experiences and ideas can help other readers change their habits and learn something new.
One of the hardest parts of time management can be figuring out how long something will take so you can plan accordingly. The good news is it’s a skill anyone can get better at with some awareness and practice.
The first thing to be aware of is people have a tendency to underestimate how long it will take to do something they’ve done many times, and overestimate how long it will take to do something they’ve never done. Things we do all the time blend into our lives, whereas unfamiliar tasks can be daunting.
One of the most common things people forget about when planning their time is transitions. Here are a few examples of frequently overlooked transitions:
All of these things usually take longer than one minute, but many people seldom plan much longer than that for transitions.
One last thing to be aware of is sometimes we make time guesses based on how long we want something to take, rather than how long it realistically takes. The road to unhappiness is paved with unrealistic expectations, so do your best to make time estimates based on experience rather than wishes.
Even if you think you have poor time management skills, there is probably at least one area in your life where you are already correctly estimating how long something takes. Getting to work is often one of these things.
It’s important to most people to be on time to work, so many people figure out how long it takes to get to work through a combination of planning and trial and error. The first day of work people usually guess how long it will take them based on some kind of similar experience, or look up their path online and maybe consider factors like how long they might have to wait for the bus and how bad traffic might be. After seeing how late or early they were on the first day, they plan accordingly for the next day. By the time they’ve had the job for a week or so, they know they must leave their home by a certain time to avoid being late.
Applying this same concept consciously and methodically will show you how long any task will take. Here’s how:
For a simple task that doesn’t vary much, such as taking a shower or unloading the dishwasher, timing it 1-3 times will be sufficient.
For something more complicated like getting a research paper done, first break it down into smaller tasks like deciding the specific topic, finding books at the library, assembling an outline, writing the first draft, and editing it into a final draft. Guess and time each of the parts separately. The details of what happens during a trip to the library or sitting down to write a paper can vary a lot, so these are the kinds of tasks that I recommend timing three or more times. The more variable a task is, the more times you need to time how long it took.
Like any skill, practice is the key to getting better. The data you collect by logging how long things take will help you plan for the tasks you’ve logged, and it will bring to light your unique patterns around guessing time and how long it actually takes you to do things. This awareness will help you more accurately estimate familiar and unfamiliar tasks in the future.
I’d love to hear about your time estimating challenges and successes. Please share your stories in the comments. Your experiences and ideas can help other readers improve their skills and overcome obstacles.
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Lubbock, TX 79490
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