April 2006
Christine Lassiter, Editor

Message from Julie

Are you suffering from too much multi-tasking? Over the past 7 weeks I’ve been traveling all over the country, giving speeches, workshops and consulting with individual clients. The universal cry? People are feeling scattered, and overwhelmed with demands and to-do’s. We plunge through our day like octopi—doing 8 things at once. Are we more productive? Actually, no.

Once thought to be a critical time management skill, multi-tasking has been scientifically proven to impair memory, increase stress, and make us LESS productive. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that it takes the brain 4 times longer to recognize and process each thing it’s working on when it’s switching back and forth between tasks.

Multi-tasking does not bring out our best selves –instead, it leaves us feeling exhausted, ineffective, and ultimately, deeply unsatisfied.

So, what to do about it? In this month’s E-Newsletter, I’m going to show you a tool that will eliminate your need to multi-task, and put you back in control of your days. It’s a tool I’ve been teaching for years—but which used to generate mixed reactions in audiences. Lately, everyone LOVES the concept—the Time Map is a tool whose time has clearly come.

Read on to discover how a Time Map can help you reclaim your focus, live in the moment, and ensure you spend your time on what is truly most important to you.

Here’s to rich and satisfying days,


PS. Take our instant-response survey on multi-tasking!

  Julie in the Media: Be on the lookout for...

  Backpacker Magazine – Find time for what you love (May 2006)
  Woman’s Day – “Beat the Clock” (May 2006)
  Women’s World – Ways to organize paper (May 2006)
  Women’s Health – Finding time to exercise (May 2006)
  Working Mother – Help your child get organized for Middle School (May 2006)

Be sure to check out the products at our webstore!!

The “London Plaid” color is in! Sleek and sophisticated, this one is sure to impress. The purseket is one of our most popular organizing tools for women, and it makes a terrific gift too!

Visit the webstore for details

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Are you a Multi-Tasker?

Click here to take our fun survey to see how your answers compare to other readers.

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May Strategy
of the Month

Taking Control of Your Days with a Time Map

A time map is a powerful tool for becoming proactive amid the swirl of demands that come your way. Simply put, a Time Map is a budget of your day, week, or month that carves out distinct times for each of the key departments of your life. Instead of feeling that you have to act on every request the minute it crosses your path, your Time Map guides you, helping you determine whether you have time to handle an unexpected task, how much time you will devote to it and when you will do it. When you don’t have a Time Map, you have no idea what to do when. Every day is a total free-for-all. You just say yes to whatever screams loudest, with no perspective on how to prioritize incoming requests, and when you should be doing things. Of course, this is what leads to multi-tasking...just doing things as they come at you.

A Time Map provides structure to your day -- carving out regular time for what is most essential to you. Rest assured that a Time map can be adapted to your personal style, whether you thrive on routine or variety, whether you have complete or only partial control over your day. Built around your own custom set of priorities and personal style, your Time Map reflects who you are and what is important to you.

Let’s look at a few sample Time Maps so you see what I mean.

WORKDAY TIME MAP – This support person’s day is divided into two reasonable halves, which enables her to calmly juggle the mixture of daily routine tasks, with the many unexpected requests her two bosses throw at her every day. Unless an unexpected activity needs to be completed by noon, she records requests as they are thrown at her, and executes them in the afternoon.

WHOLE LIFE TIME MAP – This high powered lawyer needed to keep her workday and personal life in balance. By setting aside specific time for billable client hours (green), speaking (blue), Pro Bono work (purple), and Self (yellow), she could focus on the moment, knowing there was time set aside for all critical tasks. Notice that her evenings and weekends are also structured to make sure she keeps her personal time in balance as well.

If you want to try Time Mapping, here are some tips to create one that will work for you.

Keep it simple: A structure that schedules you to the minute is far too constricting and impossible to sustain. Limit the categories you are trying to balance your time between to no more than 3-5 broad categories. For a whole life time map-your categories might be Work, Family, Self, Finances, and Community. A work based time map should reflect your core responsibilities: e.g. Strategic Planning, Customer Service, Staff Management, Administration.

Work with Your Energy Cycles: We all have natural energy cycles and moments when we can concentrate better than others. Always try to do your toughest tasks, or the things you tend to procrastinate on, when you’re at your peak energy level – they’ll be much easier then. Also, be sure to factor in the schedules and energy cycles of the people you live or work with when carving out your time Map. It makes no sense to carve out personal quiet time when your kids first get home from school, or when your boss tends to call meetings.

Keep It Visible: In order to stay on track you need to refer to your Time Map throughout the day. Post it on your bulletin board, shrink it down to wallet size, place it in your planner. For every task that crosses your mind or your desk, refer to your Time Map and see where in your schedule it belongs. If you designed it properly, you’ll be surprised to discover that 80% of the time, you can funnel activities to their proper place in your schedule. It takes realizing you don’t have to be in instant-response mode all the time. As long as you have a reasonable time to get back to people, most things can wait a few hours to a few days.

Of course, a Time Map doesn’t work 100% of the time. It is your anchor and your compass in the storm of activity demands, and opportunities swirling around you. A Time Map involves taking control of your schedule – exercising your power to say yes, and no, and be in charge.

On average, your Time Map should work about 80 percent of the time. 20 percent of the time, you’ll have to toss your plans to the wind and deal with the urgency or opportunity of the moment. But at least most of the time, you feel in control, in the moment and fully focused. And life feels back in control again.

So, go ahead...give it a shot...regain control of your days and feel good about what you accomplish at the end of each day.

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Q & A
With Julie
I have always felt that if things were out of sight they were out of mind. At work, I have many piles of paper, but I have always been able to access anything at anytime. I know where my stuff is. The problem is, it can be very unsightly, and sometimes does get out of control and worst of all, it drives my boss crazy. He has a totally different style of working. I have tried filing stuff away, but then I forget what I did with it. I know that it is adding stress to my life, but I don't know how to fix it or improve it. I know that I keep too many things and should be better organized but I don't know what to do. Can you help?? 

-- Karen C.

Dear Karen,
It doesn't sound like you are disorganized. It sounds like you are organized, but messy, and your worries are about people's impression, not the reality. Being organized does not necessarily mean being neat and tidy. If you can find what you need to accomplish your tasks at work efficiently, then you are organized. The solution to your problem is not to get more organized, it is to talk with your boss. Find out if your boss feels that you are productive. If he/she is satisfied with your productivity, but worried about what clients think, then perhaps your actual office can be moved to a less visible location. Remember that being organized is not about how a space looks, but about how a space functions. Give yourself permission to work the way you naturally think and you will work the best you can. Good luck!

Organizationally Yours,

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Mailbag   This is simply a note to thank you for your remarks related in the What Causes Your Clutter? quiz on the OPRAH.com Web site. I took the quiz and received such a positive, empowering answer from you that it practically took my heart away. I am in the depths of disorganization, and so many of the causes you name for my situation rang true. I feel as if I'm literally burying myself alive. My husband and I are remodeling our house while we try to live in it; and each of my parents has passed away, leaving their possessions to deal with--objects once dear to all of us that are full of sentimental attachment. So, I just wanted you to know that your words were most encouraging--at a time when I have few other voices of sympathy or practicality. (This from someone who checked out your book from the library and promptly lost it!)

Best Wishes and Thanks.

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