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Time Management – Step #4 of 4

time expandedThis is the last step in our understanding of the perception of time and how we can best manage it.  Step #4 is learning how to expand time.  Most us have a narrow view of time – that is, we simply look at the seconds and the minutes that make up each hour…and the hours that make up each day; however, we should also look at how much we can pack into each of those hours…or how we can ‘expand’ our moments within a certain time period.  This final step of learning how to best manipulate time and manage it accordingly requires a great deal of creativity.  Mastering this technique will definitely separate the great leaders from the good leaders.

So, how can you expand time?  Well…it’s all about using all of your senses to experience each and every day.  In other words, become more aware of the importance of each minute and look for ways that you can experience a moment more indepth or how you can have a more meaningful experience regarding a specific time period.  Think of it this way – if time is wider, then you can fill it up with more things and take more from it as well.  Maybe this is similar to multi-tasking, but in a sense that you maximize all of your senses to experience a wider, fuller moment.  One example would be those individuals who enjoy rising early in the morning so that they have time to make coffee, read the paper and just take in the beauty of the morning before they begin the routine of getting dressed and out the door to work.  They are expanding time – using their senses to capture the moment.

Even though we can’t stop time or add extra hours to our days, we can alter how we experience and perceive the time we’ve been given.  If you can your relationship with time into a positive one, then you can experience a liberating life that allows you to focus on the important things.  So…as you can see, there’s a lot more to time management than just prioritizing which meeting you need to attend.  If you learn to measure time correctly, understand how circumstances affect your perception of time, determine how to best control your perception of time and learn how to expand it…then you’ll have a full grasp on how to manipulate the limited time we have so that you can be more productive, efficient and successful.  Try it out and see what happens!!   Also…be sure and follower me on Twitter – @craigholloman.   Have a great day!

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Time Management – Step #3 of 4

time manipulationContinuing to look at how we view the time we are given, Step #3 is about controlling your perception of time.  In Step #1, we discussed how to measure time correctly; and in Step #2, we looked at circumstances that affect our perception of time.  So now, we need to identify ways that we can control our perception of time.  That is – how can we speed it up or slow it down?  So, the saying of “Time flies when you’re having fun” may not be true in all cases because we all have a different interpretation of “fun.”  Scientists have already determined there are ways that we can manipulate our perception of time…to the extent of even conducting research on a new drug that will be able to alter our minds and our perception of time.  I am not certain that I am ready or willing to go as far as popping a pill to modify my perception of time, but there are other ways I believe you may be able to accomplish the same goal without the induction of drugs into your system.  So, take a look at these ideas:

  • Do Something Outside – Taking a walk, going for a hike, swimming, etc.  These allow you to breathe some fresh air (which is good for you too, by the way) and helps you escape from watching the clock.  Being relaxed and focused on the scenery and environment around you will often tend to make time tick by rapidly.
  • Talk on the Phone – Getting enthralled in a discussion with a family member or close friend will also  make time go by quicker than you think.
  • Read a Book or Watch Television – Depending on how focused you are on the book or television show, your perception of time could go either way here.  The more in-depth and involved you are, the faster time will fly by; otherwise, it could slow to a snail’s pace.
  • Listen to Music – Sometimes, listening to music will slow down the pace of time and allow you to truly relax and enjoy a moment.  This activity tends to slow the pace of time down somewhat.
  • Regulate Your Emotions – Research indicates that whenever we put forth an effort to try to suppress or enhance our emotions, then our perception of time is stretched out.  This self-regulation of our emotions is one form of manipulation that can impact your perception of time.

All in all, we must remember that time is relative.  Albert Einstein explained it best when he said, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”  As a manager, if you can master the art of manipulating the perception of time – then a whole new paradigm will evolve related to productivity and organizational effectiveness.  Check back later for the last step related to time management – learning how to expand our awareness of time.  Have a great day!

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Time Management – Step #2 of 4

time fliesIn Step #1, we looked at how we should use both quantitative and qualitative elements to best balance and measure time.  Today, in Step #2, we consider how circumstances affect our perception of time.  We’ve all heard the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”  Well, that’s not 100% scientifically accurate…BUT…there is some truth in it, especially related to our perception of time.  According to the experts, time seems to move a little faster when we are enjoying ourselves and are more focused on the details of our work; however, that same time seems to slow down considerably when we are anxious, unhappy or anticipating something.  For example, spending a great afternoon at the beach seems to go by so quickly for me because I am enjoying the scenery and relaxing…but if I am waiting for a call back from the doctor with results of a medical test, then it seems time just stands still.

Marney Makridakis explains in her book about Creating Time, that “time moves faster when something else supersedes our inherent attention to time.”  Therefore, for me – when I am more focused on relaxing and enjoying a vacation, time tends to move super fast…or when I am up against a hard deadline and I am so focused on the details of getting things completed, time slips away very quickly.  So – how can we better manage these circumstances that affect our perception of time?  It’s not easy.  It may help to begin by simply making a list of those circumstances in the past where it seems time moved quickly for you…and a list of those events when time moved very slow.  This will help you to better understand those moments and/or events that allow you to be more relaxed or focused, versus those times that you are overly anxious or full of anticipation.  Then maybe you can take steps to grasp how you are viewing the use of your time each and every day.

Personally for me, when I take a road trip of any significant distance, it always seems that the travel time to get there is much longer than the travel time to return.  This is because I am in a state of heightened anticipation when I am going, more-so than when I am returning. So, I look for things that will relax me or keep me focused – like listen to music or mentally plan out work items – so the drive doesn’t seem so long.  Make your lists and consider those circumstances that impact your perception of time – then adjust it as you wish.

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Time Management – Step #1 of 4

timeMost of us at some point have said “I wished I had just a little more time.”  Time is that all important factor for us in getting things accomplished.  It’s stable, unchanging, consistent, dependable – yet we still repeatedly think that the clock moves at lightning speed on some days, and at a turtle’s pace in other moments.  So within this posting and the next 3 postings, I want to share with you four critical and different steps in how you can manage time and be a little more effective in your daily routines.

Step #1 – Measure Time Correctly

For the most part, a majority of us tend to measure time in a quantitative manner – like the numbers on your clock; but, time can also be measured in a qualitative manner, as well.  It’s those qualitative measurements that will be the most important in the long run.  So, instead of looking at how long it takes to accomplish a task, look more closely to see what qualitative measurements were accomplished, such as:

  • How much did you learn?
  • How much satisfaction did you feel?
  • How focused were you on the details?
  • How did the productivity affect your attitude or outlook?

I know this idea may seem a little strange, but remember you don’t need to completely abandon those quantitative manners to start measuring in qualitative terms.  It actually takes a combination of both – quantitative and qualitative – to balance the measurement of time in a way that you feel as if you have maximized every single second of the day.  Let’s take sleep for example:  I would much rather have 5 hours of good, sound sleep than 8 hours of tossing and turning.

It’s similar when evaluating our time – even though we are aware of the passing of each minute and hour, it’s the quality of those moments that really make a difference in how we perceive the passing of time.  So, what adjustments do you need to make to start balancing how you measure your time on a daily basis?  Check back this week for Step #2 for suggestions on what circumstances may be affecting your perception of time.  Have a great day!!

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4 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Employees

encouragementMost of us do have a life outside of our employment.  Sometimes our work gets in the middle of our life events – such as kids ballgames, doctor visits, school plays, graduations, etc. and we have to adjust to participate; however, sometimes, our life events creep into our workplace, as well.  Given the current state of our economy, increased home foreclosures, difficult relationships, challenging family members and more, it’s easy to understand how workers have these things on their mind even while at work.  Most times, we never know what’s going on in the personal lives of our employees or those around us.  We never know when just a simple word of appreciation or encouragement might be the highlight of someone else’s day.

So, here are a few quick tips to implement into your managerial regime while you’re at work…and maybe, just maybe, you will make a huge difference in the life of at least one employee:

  • Be Attentive – Watch for signs from your employees that something is going on.  Things like tardiness, lack of performance, bad attitudes may be just a symptom of a deeper issue.  Also, be certain to really listen to your employees when they come to you.  Listening will help you determine in what areas your staff needs encouragement.
  • Be Positive – Focus on the positives instead of the negatives.  If you always expect the worst, that’s probably what you’re going to get.  So, look for ways to highlight the positive aspects of projects, employees, and teams.
  • Be Genuine – Don’t give ‘canned’ encouragement to your employees.  Saying ‘Way to go!’, ‘Good job!’ or ‘You can do it!’ can come across as a bit insincere and meaningless.  Find other ways to encourage your staff by asking follow-up questions like “how were you able to do that?  I knew you would.”  These types of responses tell the employee that you are really listening and are in-tune with what’s going on with them.
  • Be Real – You owe it to your employees to be direct and straight-forward without glossing over reality.  Every day can’t be all roses and rainbows and unicorns.  Make your employees aware of specific hurdles they may be facing at work, but then give them the tools to overcome those hurdles.  Being in the loop of what’s going on within the organization and knowing how it may affect them will give your employees more encouragement than you may realize.

Applying these four simple tips will help you to become a better person, a better manager and a better encourager to those around you.  And…just maybe some of that encouragement they receive at the workplace will carry them through those life events when they need just a little nudge to make it to the next day.  Have a great day and go mark your spot!!  Catch up with me on Twitter too – @craigholloman.

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Is Your Cell Phone Damaging Your Professional Image?

cell phoneThe world has evolved at a rapid pace in various technological fields over the last decade, but none so much as the use of cell phones and smartphones.  While the ability to communicate with any person around the globe in mere seconds from a single device that rests in the palm of your hand is an awesome convenience, it might also be encouraging you to act in an unprofessional manner when you are around others.  The use of cellular devices is so common nowadays that it’s very possible our subconscious directs our behavior about when, where and how to use it.  We are all guilty of falling prey to the spell it casts over us each and every day…even to the point of becoming completely anti-social with your co-workers, bosses, employees and even friends and family members.

As a business professional, it’s important that we are aware of the way (or perceived way) we utilize our cell phone.  Some people must have it with them at all times, while others may choose to leave it on the charger for an extended period of time.  Some think they must respond to text messages immediately, while others may go for days without responding at all.  Regardless if you fall into one of the extremes or somewhere in between…you could be damaging your professional image.  So, here are just a few reminders and challenges (to some of you) that will help to maintain your professional behavior in the presence of your cell phone:

  • Stay Away from Others – No one wants to hear your conversation about how Aunt Louise forgot to feed the dog last night.  So, keep a distance from other people if you must talk on your cell phone while in a public area…or even in your office cubicle.
  • Keep Your Voice Level Low – As we learned in elementary school, remember to use your inside voice while talking on your cell phone.  Keeping your distance from other people won’t help if you can still be heard 50 yards away.
  • Never Use the Speaker – One thing that’s worse than having to listen to you talk on the phone…is having to listen to the other person talk back.  So, don’t activate your speaker while around other people.  It is truly an annoyance to everyone…including the person you’re talking with on the other end.
  • Be Respectful of the Environment – No matter how important you are…or think you are, there are certain places you should never use your cell phone — but we all see it happening every day – and even I am guilty of it in some cases.  So just to be clear – here’s a brief list of places that should be considered ‘off limits’ for talking on your cell phone:  restaurants, elevators, bathrooms, taxis, museums, weddings, funerals, movie theaters, airplanes, places of worship and…of course, during the weekly staff meetings at work.

This week, be more mindful of your surroundings and more respectful of others by practicing some of these cellphone techniques.  Doing so will show others that you are a true professional in and out of the office!!

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4 Basic Steps for Quality Customer Service

customer serviceIn most organizations today, customer satisfaction is a critical performance measure regardless of what type of product or service you provide to the consumer.  Even government-funded services (which are usually free to the consumer) weigh customer satisfaction very heavily when measuring performance.  The one key factor in increasing the customer satisfaction rate is customer service.  That’s why we have seen a significant increase in customer service trainings within businesses and organizations over the past decade.

Over the years, I have seen my fair share of good and bad customer service…and I am certain you have, also.  From the drive-up window at your favorite fast food spot to the service counter at the post office, there’s certainly a varying level of customer service.  Here are a few simple elements that your customers want to see:

  • Professional Appearance – Seems simple, right?  But you would be surprised how many times you go into a business and the first person you see looks like they’ve been hit by a truck.  Being dressed professionally and having a clutter-free work space will speak volumes to your customer that you care about yourself.  Think about it…if you don’t care about yourself, do you really think the customers feel that you care about them?  One single item that can improve your professional appearance – a smile.
  • Acknowledgement – Let the customer know you recognize they are present and then listen to their request.  After all, they ARE your customer, right?  Greet them appropriately by name (if you know it) and then inquire on how you can be of service to them.  A simple acknowledgement goes a LONG way.
  • Quick Response – Take action immediately on the customer’s request.  If it will take a while to provide a final product or service, then at least keep the customer updated on the progress of their request.  One of your goals should be to reduce wait time or eliminate it all together…because in today’s fast-paced world, no one likes to wait.
  • Follow-up – Be sure the customer received the service/product they requested.  Whether it be through a customer-satisfaction survey, a thank you note, or a quick question before they exit your business – always make certain that you inquire about the service that was provided.  This step will greatly increase your chances of a repeat visit from the customer (that is, if their experience was a good one).

Just applying these four simple steps as you deal with customers will increase your customer satisfaction levels.  Even if the customers don’t get exactly what they requested, the process of being professional, acknowledging them, responding and following up should create a satisfactory experience for all involved.  Take time this week to implement these elements and see how your customers respond.

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