If all your hours are rush, you need a better plan

TIME SAVER

June 05, 1994|By Susan Silver | Susan Silver,Special to The Sun

As a famous Simon and Garfunkle song says, "Slow down, you move too fast."

If rushing makes you crazy, make a commitment to stop doing it whenever possible.

The more we do in our lives, the faster we need to do it. One recent newspaper story reported that even some microwave foods aren't fast enough for some people. If a meal has a two-step cooking process, consumer dissatisfaction sets in, even if the total cooking time amounts to no more than five minutes.

Sometimes we have to rush. Beware, though, if it's a regular habit. In most cases, careful planning can prevent rushing.

Follow your own time clock, but speed it up and slow it down when necessary. If you practice setting realistic deadlines and time frames -- and stick to them -- you will accomplish much more with less rushing.

Be realistic about time by becoming more aware of time. Be honest with yourself about how long an activity will really take. Estimate the minimum and a maximum amount of time a task will take and then allow an amount in the middle.

Things usually take longer than we think (the unexpected almost always comes up). And yet, Parkinson's Law says that work expands to fill the time available, which is to say that if you allow too much time to do something, you'll do it in that period of time. But the opposite is also true; work contracts to fill the time available; it's amazing how much you can get done quickly when you have to -- or when you want to.

* How to finish your work and still have time for a personal life

Everyone experiences an occasional heavy schedule or major deadline. But if you think about work all the time, take work home every night or suffer from insomnia over work-related problems, you need a break.

In fact, you need more than a break; you need balance. Granted, your need for balance will be different at various times in your life, Take that into account, but when you feel you're losing the balance appropriate to your lifestyle and situation, you can take some realistic steps to get back in sync.

For some people, it's helpful to add more structure to schedules. Establish a quitting time each day and stick to it! That's more difficult than it seems for workaholics.

If you must take work home, decide to spend 30 minutes and 30 minutes only on it. If necessary, use a timer.

Make sure, too, you're not just playing a martyr role by taking on too much work or that you're giving in too much to your perfectionism ("No one else can do this as well as I"). Time- management expert Mark Sanborn counters the myth that everything worth doing is worth doing well. He says, "Some things are worth doing well, some things are worth doing very well and some things are just worth doing."

* When too much is just too much

Make an effort to talk openly with your boss or co-workers about your heavy work load. Don't just assume there's no solution.

If you are in an "impossible situation" with an autocratic boss or a highly bureaucratic structure where no amount of organization could help, it may be better to cut your losses and bail out. But many people can use traditional time management tools -- setting priorities, using calendars to organize days and stay on schedule, etc. -- to improve the quality of busy work lives.

Susan Silver is an organization expert who consults and speak to companies nationwide. Based in Los Angeles, she is the author of the award-winning book, "Organized to Be the Best! New Time-Saving Ways to Simplify and Improve How you Work." Available to Sun readers for $11.95 by calling (800) 888-4452 or writing Adams-Hall Publishing, P.O. Box 491002, Dept. Sun, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049.

IN TIME

Do you feel harried, overwhelmed? Call Time Saver. Our panel of time-management experts and people who have just plain been there might be able to help. In future columns, we'll offer some solutions to your professional, home or leisure time-management problems. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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