I put off reading things sometimes, because it’s just too hard.  I procrastinate.  I remember through school being forced to sit in a circle and read the school based Readers Digest.  Then through High School English Literature being forced to read A Tale of Two Cities (My mind still sees/hears  “A Tale of Two Titties”).  I guess it’s put me off reading in detail, of analysing the prose, digesting it, contemplating it.

But in a busy world, we need to process information quickly; we need to assess the importance of information as quick as we can, to decide whether we want to digest it further.  (Goodness it sounds like I’m going to eat it doesn’t it?)

But this skill can be used to assess email priorities, newsletters, meeting agenda etc.  Now I’m not saying it replaces the actual digestion but it enables you to prioritise your reading time.

Some Simple Steps

Speed ReadingThere are some speed reading experts out there, offering courses and classes on speed reading techniques, but I’m going to teach you a few tricks that others have taught me, I hope it helps.

Learn the art of scanning.

Our mind mature mind has the amazing ability to fill in the gaps.  Just take those clever, crazy number plates or texting abbreviations that everyone likes to use.  If you can teach your eye to float over sentences looking for key words, you’ll get the general gist or context of the information.  Take a look at this text:

He knew the moment he walked into the singles bar it was a bad idea.  If you’ve been to one singles bar, you’ve been to them all. Yet, it was the flaming red hair of the woman in the corner that caught his eye and only then did he realise how big his mistake was.  Surely that wasn’t his brand new boss?

By just taking in the key words, you are allowing your brain to fill in the gaps.  In fact, your eye can take in about 3 or 4cm so you don’t need to focus on each word at time, you are probably more likely to be able to take in up to 5 words.  It’s really a way of engaging your peripheral vision more, it’s a soft eye technique (not to be confused with a lazy eye).

Read the first Line.

This is not my favourite technique but it is another good one.  You can read the first few words of a paragraph and the last words or sentence.  You can scan read headings of a document or email newsletter, it will give you the general idea.

Tell your internal voice to “Zip it!”

My primary years must be haunting me but I can remember having to read aloud, word for word, the contents of my book; a painful and embarrassing experience for some.  Or I remember sitting in class, the teacher, beautifully and with such expression, reading the story with expression and poetic pause.  And so, we become used to hearing the words, so much so, that reading to ourselves we have the voice dramatise the words on the page.  Stop it, turn off the voice, hear it in a monotone or sequence of brief words, skip and jump across that page! You can do it!  You can actually understand the words QUICKER than you can say them.  If you want to luxuriate over the lusciousness of your prose, by all means, take your time but otherwise, silence that voice and jump on through it.

Follow the bouncing ball.

It’s not exactly a speed reading technique but it is a way of ensuring the reading process doesn’t slow down.  If you find that you are reading something complex and it takes you a few times to read a sentence over and over, follow your reading with a pencil, book mark or ruler.  It helps your eyes to focus on the words and not accidently read a line more than once.  This is a good technique when you are required to study, understand or learn from the reading.  I guess, one good kick back from those primary school reading years is the technique of reading with the ruler under the text.

I’m sorry, what? What did I just read?  – Get rid of those distractions!

I once asked one of the most organised CEO’s that I knew, what were his techniques for staying on top of his work? One of the great tips he shared was that he would dedicate a whole day to reading.  No phone calls, no meetings, no interruptions.  He would use this time to read industry documents, meeting minutes etc.  It was an economical use of his time but most importantly he eliminated the distractions. Don’t try and read something while watching TV! Just don’t.

So why am I here?  Key word searches.

If you’re looking for a key point of information and you are reading in a digital format, then for the love of god, use the search function.  A blog on a website, a pdf, they all enable you to search key words.  Alternatively, allow your brain to be the search function and seek out key phrases, terms, words or terminology to help you pull out the key information rather than reading the whole document word for word.

Obviously these speed reading techniques are not something you should rest on rely on all the time, however it can give you the opportunity to quickly assess information to be able to prioritise your reading workload, or it can give you the opportunity to decide if the document you are about to read has some value or worth for you to read properly in full.

 

If you’ve found a good technique for speed reading, please share in the comments below.

 

If you’d like more tips like this, be sure to sign up for my newsletter CLICK HERE or follow my BLOG

 

About the Author:


Barbara Clifford - The Time TamerBarbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a  Time Management Expert and Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia.  She has spent over 20 years working in stressful,  time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing.  She has always had a burning passion for making sense of things. She seeks knowledge around systems, processes, gadgets, apps and stationary for whatever will organise the working world.   Barbara is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional clarity.  Barbara’s professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services. For more information visit 
www.timetamer.com.au or follow Barbara on twitter @barbclifford.

 

Click HERE to learn more about my 7 Step System for Time Management & Productivity

Ride the Crazy Train“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.”

Andrew J. Bernstein

We started a conversation last week with Time Stress, one of Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress. This week we move to Anticipatory Stress that some people feel continually overwhelms them in almost all areas of their lives. We will discuss how to better manage the common pressures that result from being in this stressed state.

Some people carry a label that says “worry wart”, they continually worry about what could happen in the future. It can be focused on a specific future event or it can be undefined or even vague in nature. These people usually see the glass as half empty and continually feel stressed about what COULD HAPPEN in the future.

Positive visualisation sessions focusing on what will be created as the positive and successful outcome you want is an extremely effective and powerful tool.

This morning I attended a meeting in the city at 9.30am and visualised that I would get a parking spot, on the street, out front of the building where the meeting was being held. The result of my positive visualisation was… the parking space was there when I arrived.

Meditation is a wonderful relaxing tool that is extremely empowering and it allows you to relax. For over twenty years I ran 10 km almost every morning, and now I walk 6km three days a week and swim a km three days a week. This exercise has been and continues to be my time to meditate. You do not have to sit with crossed legs in a yoga pose to meditate. While doing exercise I love in a relaxed mode my mind goes into a beautiful meditative state.

Fear of what lies ahead often springs from a lack of confidence and the fear of failure. Setting yourself an action plan as well as a backup plan can greatly reduce any anticipatory stress that you may have felt in the past.

This blog was written by John Hinwood and republished here with his kind permission.  See more at:  Stress to Strength.

workplace-stress-stressed-at-work-l“Stress is the negative whirlwind of emotions that gets imposed on top of our stimulation and engagement.
Andrew J. Bernstein

I’m commencing the New Year with a conversation during the month of January looking at Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress. Each week I’ll discuss one of the four types of stress that affect our lives in some way and how to better manage these common pressures.

Time, invariably the lack of it, is one common thread that appears to connect those who find themselves suffering from stress. Most stressed people are ‘time poor’.

Time management is easy for some of us in life and difficult for others. For me personally, it is a major stressor that I have to constantly work on each day in my life. I constantly find that I have too much day and not enough time to complete the daily schedule I have set myself. I constantly need to come up with innovative solutions.

In life, whether it’s a stay at home parent or a corporate executive, worrying about deadlines or rushing to avoid being late to collect the kids from school or making an important meeting can be a major stressor.

Ways to Manage Time Stress

  • Create To-Do Lists for your daily tasks with time lines. Be realistic!
  • Create an Action Program for managing several tasks at the same time
  • Allow more time than you anticipate is needed. I call this my ‘Contingency Time‘ and it is a huge stress reduction tool.
  • Prioritisation helps you separate tasks that you need to focus on now from those you can safely put off to another day.
  • Check your energy levels, are you more productive in the morning or the afternoon? Once you identify which it is, load your day accordingly so your production is high when you are really feeling ‘switched on’.
  • Your energy levels will assist you in either starting your day early and finishing early, or starting late and finishing late. You choose.
  • Using the magic word NO! Declining certain tasks that can be better handled by others or handled by you at a later time, becomes very empowering. Being NICE does not serve you if it creates stress in your life.

You are now ready to start your own personal time enrichment plan to see time stress as a thing of the past.

This blog was written by John Hinwood and republished here with his kind permission.  See more at:  Stress to Strength.

 

So-what-is-the-PomodorosIf you know anything about Italian language, you’re probably wondering how the ‘tomato’ technique could possibly enhance your time management skills. The Pomodoros technique has less to do with tomatoes and more to do with strategies for lengthy tasks that can quite often result in fidgety minds and short attention spans.

Created in the 1980s by Italian Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro technique has soared in popularity and is one of the most commonly used and referred to strategies for time management. As with anything, this method isn’t a one size fits all strategy and won’t work for every individual,  however, it is still worth taking into consideration if you find yourself struggling with time management.

The basic premise of the Pomodoro technique is using time efficiently. This is always easier said than done, but with this technique you actively break your time down into sections. For every project that comes up throughout the day, you budget your time and take periodic breaks. For example, work hard for twenty five minutes and enjoy a five minute break. It doesn’t sound like rocket science, but without this active thought process the technique will not work.

Frequent breaks keep the mind focused and fresh. For long and intimidating to-do lists or projects, the Pomodoro technique helps you to achieve goals faster by forcing you to focus and adhere to strict timing. Without structured timing, the mind wanders and procrastination and distraction occurs. By constantly timing your activities, you become accountable for what is achieved in the structured time frame.

The Pomodoro technique focuses on 25 minute intervals. It is recommended to use a kitchen timer or something similar to have a physical attribute of the time assigned to each task. You set the timer for 25 minutes, work productively and effectively for this time frame, and then reward yourself with a five minute break. Each period is called a ‘pomodoro’ and after each interval you then mark your progress with an X. It is also worth noting how many times during the ‘pomodoro’ you felt distracted or fidgety.

By using a physical representation of time, such as a kitchen timer (or purchasing an official Pomodoro timer shaped as a tomato), you are able to see the time ticking before you and work to achieve your goals before the buzzer goes off. Then, once the buzzer does go off and you have completed the tasks, there is a genuine feeling of satisfaction for having used your time productively.

The best thing about the Pomodoro technique is that is free and easy to try. There is absolutely no harm in trying this technique and you ultimately have nothing to lose by giving it a go. The technique has been known to reduce procrastination in those who are often at risk of becoming distracted when a task seems too long. By breaking time down into sections, each part of the task feels more achievable and manageable.

Have you tried this technique?  I’d love to hear how you went with your comments below.

Brian Tracey is a great advocate of effective Time Management.  Here is one of his great little video gems.

brian tracey

 

In summary, you’ll learn why you should:

1. Prepare in Advance.

2. Schedule Your Time.

3. Start Early.

4. Improve your Organisational Skills.

5. Increase Your Productivity.

6. Consider Air Travel Productivity.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Stuffing-two-things-up

Effective time management is so important in today’s hectic modern society.

People are constantly on the go dealing with so many different priorities all the time. Particularly with the dominance of smart phone technology, it can be difficult to ever really switch off and have separation between work and personal life.

Because of this, we often feel like we are constantly in a juggling act of impossible multi-tasking just to get everything done. While it can feel productive to do many tasks at once, it is actually degenerative to mental and physical health to multitask too often.

In fact, moving from task to task can actually mean that you are being less productive.  We think that we are saving time by doing a million things at once, but this can actually be slowing us down. Each task that we set out to achieve requires a specific mindset. Doing multiple tasks at once can hinder this thought process. It is much better to pay your bills, and then attend to the emails waiting for you. Otherwise the thought processes can intersect and confuse the understanding of the task. For example, if you have four bills to pay and seven emails to reply to, you have eleven tasks. Ordering these tasks 1 – 11 sets out a structured pattern on how to attend to each task. Jumping from task 3 to 6 then back to 1 and then to 11 confuses the order and requires more energy and concentration to remember the step you are up to. A distracted mind can often lead to more mistakes, which is exactly what we want to avoid.  There is a real cost to your productivity when you keep switching tasks.

Quite often, the reason we multitask is because we see a back log of tasks that are waiting for us and we stress. Of course it is natural to stress when sorting out so many different aspects of life. But if you think that trying to type a text while unpacking the groceries and thinking about the household chores that need be done is going to reduce stress, it might be time to think again. Breaking time down into categories and sections is more effective than multitasking. Give different tasks a certain priority number and attend to them in order. Ultimately, each task on your mind isn’t going anywhere. You can try to scramble three tasks at the one time, but it doesn’t save time. If you do each task properly and take it one step at a time, you’re still completing the same three things. The only difference is that the latter approach means you can focus properly and not feel completely frazzled about doing three things at once.

So next time you’re trying to text and walk or flicking through twenty tabs open on your internet browser, have a think about what you’re really do. Take time to do one task properly and dedicate your energy to one thing at a time to really get the best out of everything. After all, you want to live in the real world, to be mindful, to be present and enjoy the moments of life without being caught up and stressed about doing everything at once!

I very much want to hear your thoughts and feedback on multitasking, please add your comments below.


You probably  know this scenario well.  Are you like me? I sit down to work on a task.  I just need to get organised!  And suddenly I find a million other things that I need to do. Maybe its walking the dog in some lavish park in Brisbane, cooking a four course dinner, having a cup of the finest tea, or just wandering around in circles in desperation to avoid the task at hand.

Procrastination has found its way into many lives and it tends to weave a web of self-destructive tendencies that take away our chance to be productive. Procrastination might be there convincing you that you’re too tired, too busy, too stressed or in need of something else before you can complete a task. So now is the time to get procrastination under control and take back your will power to complete tasks without distraction.

  • Deadlines and goals

    will help you to complete a task on time. Give yourself a set time frame in which you want to get something done and have goals or milestones to mark out different stages of the self-imposed time frame so that you know when you are achieving goals.

  • Focus on smaller goals

    so that you’re not intimidated by a huge, daunting large task. Break your tasks into smaller time periods and focus on one thing at a time.

  • Change your environment

    if you feel like you are becoming stressed or anxious. Take your work with you to a new place, whether it’s a change of room in your house or office or going to a café. Even taking a small break and going for a walk to get a change of scenery can increase productivity.

  • Tell other people about your goals

    so that you are more determined to meet them. Make sure you are completing goals for your own benefit, but invite family and friends into the process of how you are going about achieving goals. Having support will encourage you to stay focused.

  • Focus on the end point

    and visualise the future you want to achieve. Think clearly about where you want to go and how this task is going to help you achieve that. Keep that image clear in your mind and allow it to inspire you to work hard.

  • Reward progress

    that you make along the way. Don’t be afraid of extrinsic motivation and if that chocolate bar or fun social event on the weekend is going to encourage you to work harder, let it be a way to avoid procrastination.

  • Re-clarify your goals

    to make sure you are staying on the right track. If you have been procrastinating for a while, you might have lost sight of what you were actually trying to achieve before the procrastination. Take another look at your long term goals and get back on track.

Ultimately, the most important and effective way to eliminate procrastination is to find the motivation to just sit down and get it done.

What tips do you have to avoid procrastination?  How do you stay on top and avoid distraction?

Forced smile

In my line of work, people come to me because they are feeling crushed by having so many different projects. In our new modern world we are impacted by so many different kinds of technologies (thank you social media and smartphones!) duplicating the different places where we can focus our attention.

There is an associated stress that comes from switching topics so rapidly throughout the workday.

A recent study found that in a working environment, people switched between simple activities such as phone calls and emails on average of every three minutes and five seconds, although roughly half of them are self-interruptions.

However an interruption can be beneficial if it matches the topic of the current task at hand. But sometimes incubating an idea or task (sleeping on it) allows your brain to rest and to revisit the task with clarity.  I think this is most beneficial when you want to write an angry email.  You write it, re-write it and spend lots of energy and time on it.  Leaving it for a while and coming back to it you will find you have calmed down a little and able to write something professionally and succinct (or can avoid sending it at all!)

Any kind of automatic task that doesn’t require a lot of thinking normally doesn’t have too much of an impact.  Such as “Hey, did you send that letter yesterday?” or “Can you quickly sign this?” The key here is that they are a short impact with little brain power.

Of course, t’s generally going to be counterproductive if you’re working on one task and you’re interrupted on a completely different topic. It’s a major brain shift that requires significant brain power. You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were.

However, the happy middle ground is when you can cluster work into similar style events, a phone call, a document on a similar subject is quite normal for people to switch between.  And typically we switch between those styles every 10 and a half minutes.

82 percent of all interrupted work is completed on the same day, BUT it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to each task.

As expected, the psychological cost of switching is that there is significantly more stress. In addition to higher levels of stress, workers can also experience increase in frustrations, mental effort, feeling of time pressure and mental workload.

Interestingly, when people are not interrupted they worked slower. Perhaps this is because when people know they can expect interruption they work faster to compensate. When you know you’re going to be continually interrupted, you compensate by working faster.  I don’t know about you but that sounds like a stressful environment!  It creates the sensation of just not being able to keep up. It creates what some call “invisible work”: the work that your colleagues and managers don’t see, the extra work you have to get done just to keep up with the demands of your working environment.

Many people are required to really sink their brain into complex problems or analysis of work.  If people are switching projects every 10 and half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply or creating a work flow.  This is really bad for innovation.

The best solution to preserve your productive time is to quarantine yourself for blocks of time.  Whether you stay at home, switch off your phone, ignore your email or but a blanket ban on your colleagues in the office.

My advice to those that can’t keep up is to limit your web usage and be disciplined about when you check your emails.

Now be honest, have you read this start to finish or have you done another task at the same time?

 Time

You may delay, but time will not.

Managing your time is a hot topic and really it’s because effective time management is quite achievable but only through conscious effort.

Recently I got very ill for around 2 weeks.  I think it was my body telling me to slow down.  Ironically, as The Time Tamer I was fitting lots and lots into my time, but not actually scheduling any rest and recover time.   Time management doesn’t mean you have to keep yourself engaged all the time.

A typical day involves so many responsibilities like working, leisure, eating, shopping, communicating and relaxation. If you want to manage to complete all activities in a single day, then you need to consider the time required for every action. I’m a firm believer of a time and place for everything.  You may have to examine what is your instinct vs what is important. Are you a procrastinator, achiever or an overachiever and what causes you to procrastinate?  What are you passionate about or good that you will always over achieve in?

Ask yourself:

Am I a morning person or am I an evening person?  (Click HERE for a video on time mapping.) When are your peak times?

What is my motivation to accomplish my tasks?

Am I going to be journaling my tasks and schedules?

What amount of self-control do I have today to not message, chat and Facebook when I am working?

 

So what’s your personality type ? Are you kind of the person who will sacrifice much to achieve your targets? In all business you need to look at return on investment.  It’s not just about money you invest but time you invest.  Does it yield result? How much can you push your limits? (Be mindful not to push too far)

 

What’s your schedule? Is your schedule SMART. It’s important to have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals. Only if your plan is S.M.A.R.T, it will be great for your project or company. What you need the most is a schedule that you cans stick with and which suits your business. I always tend to see extremes, someone that doesn’t have a diary or someone who has 3 or 4 (a calendar at work, a calendar at home, a diary, an electronic diary and a planner!)

 

Are you taking frequent breaks? This is probably my biggest mistake.  I don’t allow my brain or body time to relax.  Today I had a very stressful day.  It was only stressful because I had lots of little challenges one after the other, but it was a prolonged level of sustained stress that boiled and bubbled away.  I needed to leave one contract to head to another.  I didn’t want the stress of one environment impact upon the client I was about to see.    Rather than busting myself to work right up until the last minute to squeeze work in, I decided my deadline for tools down to give me enough unwind time.  Thankfully, I decided to spend just half an hour on some meditation (I chose Tai Chi out on the lawn.  I’m sure my colleagues found it amusing).  Even if you work in an office or work from home, ten minute power naps, a scented candle or listening to your favourite songs can be great ways to de-stress your overworked mind. Small things like exercise, may help you progress through the day. We often underestimate the power of an exercise and walking. Small things like this help you a lot in your work life.

Please remember in most organizations the things we schedule are the things we get done.

If you’d like some simple tips on how to save time in traffic and reduce stress, watch this little video on some tips to apply.

 

If you’d like more information on the seminar I attended go to: http://www.stresstostrength.com/

Let me know what tips or tricks you have to save time in traffic.