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Career Column: Manage Your Mind and Manage Your Time

You've delayed filing those letters? Your job search will be put-off for another day? No ideas on paper yet for the new marketing strategy that you need to try? Like a mosquito that bugs you, a time management problem is something you would squish in order to be more effective - if only you could. Often people swat at it too late, like they're late with so many things and events in their lives. They're bitten by the time management bug. What to do?

Managing time daily really means managing the mind throughout the day. In this article, we won't look at sophisticated project management tools, forms or tips for delegation. Instead, you'll be asked to look inside yourself and modify your thinking. We'll do this by briefly addressing three important practices that can be used to direct the mind.

1. "Be still and know."
Just like a mosquito bite, what starts out as an invisible sting the night before, can swell to a big and itchy problem by the time we look at it in the morning. So try this on for size. While in bed at the end of your day, quiet your mind by taking three deep breaths. Count them. It's hard to focus on useless self-chatter when the mind is focused on the act of counting and breathing. Continue to breath steadily as you begin to picture yourself actually doing one important thing you know how to do, but have put-off doing. Allow yourself time to get a clear image and let your subconscious mind absorb this action image for several seconds before letting it go. This practice of quieting yourself before sleeping may allow you to busy yourself in more productive ways upon arising without having to think about your actions so consciously. And, like counting sheep, this practice of counting breaths may help insomniacs like me... for an added benefit.

2. "We have met the enemy, and they are us."
Procrastination, putting off until later what you could be doing NOW, is a huge time management issue. Yet it's simply a symptom of a struggle -- a struggle within us to act on what is desired rather than what is needed at the moment. In the work setting, the needs of the company mission must be met before personal desires are met. Be your own commander. If you can't put self-command in your mind to do it now, it's not as likely to get done. Manage yourself and manage your time. One ongoing plan of attack is to stop and ask yourself, aloud in your work space if need be, "What is the best use of my time right now?" For most people there is a clear and present opportunity, rather than a danger, that jolts us into immediate action.

3. "Think in blue and white."
Among the strengths of the great thinkers and managers of our time is the practice of thinking on paper. If you can't mange yourself, you probably can't effectively manage anything or anyone else. So use paper to help you manage - plan, organize and remember - better. Some people put pressure on themselves to plan and remember details in their heads, as if they will be criticized for having a poor memory otherwise. But the best minds put thoughts in writing. Writing uses different areas of the brain than speaking or hearing. Use your brain to full advantage by thinking in blue and white (or whatever color of ink or lead you choose.) Just think on paper. It's a practice you will find to be more and more valuable when the ole' memory does actually start to fade; and for most of us, it will do just that.

The benefits of squishing a time management bug goes far beyond the obvious advantages in the workplace. They can include improved levels of personal fitness, healthier family finances, and even improved relationships. If you try the tips above, the thinking that underlies them just may help you to throw out the old and bite into some new strategies for a better day and a better you - as early as tomorrow.

Debi Carter-Ford is a professor of psychology and consultant to management in the areas of applied psychology and employee training. Questions and comments may be sent to careers@dunsonandassociates.com.
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