“Unexpected Benefits of good personal management”

March 19, 2010                                      In my March 15th entry I noted (below) I have become more reliable and accurate in my email sending and receiving, a result of putting email-time slots on my calendar that I use daily.

               A second benefit is I find I have more time to think about current events in my life and the life of my family.  I also find I have more time for planning.  

               A third consequence I enjoy is, I find my creative mind is more active and comes up with more ideas in more areas. I expect this is because my mental “ram” is not jammed with things to worry about nor is it always running on “overwhelmed

              A quote I heard recently: “If you are remembering things in your mind (your mental ram), you are remembering those things in the ‘wrong bucket.’”

              Have a great day!

Business challenges impacting training

Feb 28, 2010

?          Many HR and Training departments tell me they experience these challenges when attempting to schedule training events

  1. 1.       TIME – Who has the time? Funny that now time is more critical than money. Everyone’s time-plate is completely full.  How can we add even more to an already full plate? Something has to give!


Some thoughts: Use a-synchronous on line training to offer the training maximum self directed access to the training. Keep face to face sessions focused to what must be done face to face allowing other parts of the program to be done in self –study time. Maximize online synchronous training to offer flexibility in the training location.


  1. 2.       SUPPORT – Will my manager, my business associates, or my customers actually “let” me attend the training without interruption? I wish they would! Knowing they will try to pull me out of the training session at the most interesting time, what can I do to keep them at arm’s-length without alienating them?


Some thoughts: A bit of assertiveness on the part of the training attendee will go a long way. Do on line training in a training lab away from your desk. Hang a note on your cubical “In training”. Shut down your cell phone. Close off the email alert on your Outlook. Do not dual task the time in training with other out of training business.


  1. 3.       RATIONALE – Is there a business rationale for the training? In many companies, there are clear rationale and need for the training outcomes on the job. How do I bring the training outcomes I just learned to life on the job?


Some thoughts: Build an action-application plan during the training session. Allocate at least 15 minutes a week on your OUTLOOK calendar to “work” the plan. Get some agreement from your manager for application time for the learning that the company just paid for. Get some agreement from your manager for some expected benefits to the company for the successful application of some of the learning points.  


For me the driver for the successful application of a training event, supported or not by management, is my own personal values. When the application is in support of my life values I am most likely to put in the effort to make the necessary time and effort investments.



How to: prevent admin captivation

January 25, 2010 from Hong Kong

                                                                   How to: prevent the Captivation of Administration

                                                                                           “Preventing administriva”

             For me, guarding involves 3 things:

  1. 1.    A personal value: “connecting to people is critical:” Without being values driven the workload in my life would easily prevent me from taking the time to connect. In the past though I did from time to time make an effort to connect, it never persisted over time so I am sure it came across as not genuine.
  2. 2.    I use strong time/life management skills: I use the skills to schedule critical actions in my life as well as important activities. Critical ones always seemed to get done, but the important activities seemed to linger and wear at me on a never ending “to do” list.
  3. 3.    I constantly develop strong conversation skills, often referred to as leadership styles. Though many of my connections are not management connection, many are management connections. I use the skills to be effective and efficient in those conversations for the benefit of all concerned. In guiding a 3000 person organization, often by email, I need to be precise and clear.

               Am I better at overpowering the “captivation of administration” now?  My 3000 person organization, which I lead, is a test of my abilities. I am still able to get the administration done, though I do not do it all myself. A lot of my “overpowering” is done via email and phone as I live a “remote” life from the office. Indicators that the “overpowering” is working: we exceed the goals and more and more people volunteer to do a bit more to get the job done.

                              I am a work in progress.

Insight from Buenos Aires

Oct 12, 2009                        Further insight from Buenos Aires

                I was presenting the same time management program in Buenos Aires as was noted in the Sep 30th entry. Again, the ‘unloading’ of the mental ram was a high value concept from the program.  The “oh my God, I have so much to do” syndrome, and the thinking about the ‘so much to do’ really weighs heavily on the mind.

                What if, worry and anxiety was so prevalent that many organizations were genuinely underproductive due to its ‘loading’ down of the mental ram.   Freeing up the mind while staying present in the required activities is a big value added for many people.

Insight to how personal power evolves

Personal power happening: Oct 2, 2009

Take a few minutes to read the following article by Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal.  Not only is the tip powerful but her diagnosis of how the tip really makes the tip work is worth pondering.

Put your free time reliably in existence on your calendar and make your future happen:

Here is a tip where the focus of integrity is to yourself and your significant others: those few who often get the short end of available time.

It was 4 p.m. on a recent Friday—a time of the week when I usually relax and leave the rest of my to-do list to finish over the weekend. But as this recent weekend approached, I kept pushing myself, heart pumping, to get to the bottom of my list of planned tasks for the week.

After years of working on and off throughout most weekends, I was trying a new approach by taking off at least one entire day every weekend this month, away from reporting, writing and all other work. Early on, I hated it. As simple as it seemed, sticking to a time-off plan stressed me out at first. What I didn’t see right away was that my little test was forcing me to improve the way I work.

Amid layoffs and burgeoning workloads, it seems, working any time, all the time, has become a habit. A survey of 605 U.S. workers last spring by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time and on weekends; more than half blame “self-imposed pressure.” Now, new research suggests some have reached the point where a paradoxical truth applies: To get more done, we need to stop working so much.

Work & Family Mailbox

Down Time

Sticking to a schedule of predictable time off can lead to improved productivity. Here are some steps to get started:

  • Agree on future goals with your boss and coworkers.
  • Plan for deadlines far in advance
  • Set, and focus on, top hourly, daily or weekly priorities.
  • Cooperate with coworkers to back each other up.

A groundbreaking four-year study, set for publication in the October issue of Harvard Business Review, seems to confirm that getting away from work can yield unexpected on-the-job benefits. When members of 12 consulting teams at Boston Consulting Group were each required to take a block of “predictable time off” during every work week, “we had to practically force some professionals” to get away, says Leslie Perlow, the Harvard Business School leadership professor who headed the study.

But the results surprised Harvard researchers and Boston Consulting executives alike. Working together to make sure each consultant got some time off forced teams to communicate better, share more personal information and forge closer relationships. They also had to do a better job at planning ahead and streamlining work, which in some cases resulted in improved client service, based on interviews with clients. Boston Consulting is so pleased with the outcome that the firm is rolling out a similar teaming strategy over the coming year on many new U.S. and some overseas projects, says Grant Freeland, senior partner and managing director of the firm’s Boston office. “We have found real value in this,” he says. “It really changes how we do our work.”

Other companies are putting the brakes on work in other ways. At KPMG, a professional-services firm, managers use “wellness scorecards” to track whether employees are working too much overtime or skipping vacation, a spokesman says. At Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law firm, “workflow coordinators” review attorneys’ hours to avert overload.

And at Bobrick Washroom Equipment, North Hollywood, Calif., a 500-employee manufacturer, staffers are expected to leave in time for dinner. “If you walk around here at 5:30, there are going to be very few lights on, and that’s what we expect,” says Mark Louchheim, president. He sees family dinners together as important to the well-being of employees and their children, and he also believes setting limits on work motivates people to work smarter.

In the Boston Consulting study, most of the four- or five-member teams were asked to guarantee each consultant one uninterrupted evening free each week after 6 p.m., away from Black Berrys and all contact with work. Each team held weekly meetings to talk about the time-off plans, work processes and what consultants called “tummy rumbles”—gut worries or concerns about their project.

Requiring hard-driving consultants to take time off was “nerve-racking” and awkward at first, says Debbie Lovich, a Boston Consulting executive who headed one of the teams. Some fought the idea, claiming they would have to work more on weekends or draw poor performance ratings.

But the point of the experiment wasn’t to eliminate the “good intensity” in work—the “buzz” from constant learning and “being in the thick of things,” Harvard’s Dr. Perlow says. Instead, researchers targeted “bad intensity”—a feeling of having no time truly free from work, no control over work and no opportunity to ask questions to clarify foggy priorities, she says.

Ms. Lovich adds: “We wanted to teach people that you can tune out completely” for a while and still turn out good work. The work itself became the focus, “because if you know a night off is coming up, you’re not going to let things spike out of control,” she says.

After five months of predictable time off, internal surveys showed consultants were more satisfied with their jobs and work-life balance, and more likely to stay with the firm, compared with consultants who weren’t part of the experiment. As word spread, other consultants began asking to join the study, Ms. Lovich says. And some clients told researchers the teams’ work had improved, partly because improved communication among team members kept junior consultants better informed about the big picture.

Bobrick Washroom Equipment’s policy to get workers home for dinner came as a shock to Janice Blakely when she joined the company years ago after working “long, long hours” at an energy concern, she says. Seeing staffers at Bobrick leave by 6 p.m., “I thought, ‘Wow, this is not normal.”‘ But in time, the policy “made me look at my performance and tighten up on what I’m doing,” says Ms. Blakely, a marketing manager.

Mr. Louchheim, the Bobrick president, says that employees who habitually stay late may be revealing poor work habits. “We worry about whether they can delegate properly and prioritize their work,” he says. Adds Chris Von Der Ahe, a Korn/Ferry International recruiter who works with Bobrick: “People who do well there are well organized and able to plan their work well.”

Dr. Perlow says an individual worker can get similar results “by challenging oneself to say, ‘I’m going to cut off’ ” work at a certain time every day or every week. ” ‘Now, how am I going to get work done in the time I have?’ This is meant to open your eyes to the possibility” that the way you work can be changed.

In my own experiment, I have managed to keep at least one weekend day work-free so far this month. This has forced me to put proven time-management principles into practice: Plan blocks of work time and stick to the plan; set short-term deadlines to keep work from spiraling out of control; and keep up with email daily, to avoid backlogs.

The rewards have been surprising. On one recent Monday, after an invigorating weekend of working out, attending church and watching college football and hiking with friends, I quickly solved a work problem that had baffled me the previous week. Asked to assess my work this month, my editor, John Blanton, said my columns have been fine. “I’d say, from our perspective, start enjoying your weekends,” he wrote in an email.

This, I hope, will get to be a habit.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com


Enlightenment from Sao Paulo

Sep 30, 2009                         Enlightenment from Sao Paulo

               Last week I was in Sao Paulo presenting a program on time management. It really is a personal power program. As I was working with the participants, it became very clear that the maximum benefit toward personal power from this program is helping the participants unload the “mental ram.”

               When we attempt to keep a lot of thoughts, activities, to-do things, numbers, on our mind in active memory, we are loading down the what I refer to as the “mental ram.” If those things that we are trying to keep in memory could be put somewhere ‘reliably in existence’ then the mind could be freed up to do something that it is really good at: processing information and creating new ideas. Our companies hire us predominantly for our ability to think. If those thinking processes are loaded down then our key contribution to the company loses some of its ability.

               By freeing up the ‘mental ram’ by taking things off the mind and putting them reliably in existence is a powerful way to be more productive on the job and a lot less stressed: perhaps two sides of the same coin.