Set Time Limits for Your Tasks

Katie Corbett holds the book "52 Small Changes"

By Katie Corbett

 

A few years ago, I bought a latch-hooking kit. Latch-hooking involves hooking pieces of yarn into a frame to make a colorful design; my kit will be a cupcake pattern when finished. The grid of squares on the frame that need yarn hooked into them total 1600 in number. The only way I was able to make headway on that large project was to spend chunks of time on it, and limit those chunks to 45-90 minutes each.

 

The book, “52 Small Changes for the Mind,” by Brett Blumenthal, says that limiting the amount of time spent on a task can make its completion easier. Here are some questions to ask yourself about tasks to time-box.

 

  • What am I putting off?
  • Do I have a project that I fear is too big?
  • Do I have small windows of time available to me?
  • Do I have a deadline that feels looming?
  • What projects keep getting pushed to the bottom of my priority list?
  • When I look back over this time, what do I hope to have accomplished?
  • Do I have any projects at the back of my closet or under my bed?
  • What potential projects might I have that I keep forgetting to do?
  • What tasks do I see as a time suck and how can I limit my time spent?
  • What can I do to get started today?

 

I hope these questions have helped you think of a few things you can do to move forward on activities that you enjoy or projects that may have stalled. I find these questions helpful to ask myself each quarter as I’m deciding what business projects, hobbies, and social activities I would like to spend time doing in the future.

 

I’d love to find out what you’ve decided to start working on. Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away at my latch-hooking project.

 

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Keeping the Mind Fresh: The Importance of Taking Breaks

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

I recently rearranged my schedule from working five hours per day, five days per week, and am now working three eight-hour days per week. Since I’m working these longer days, I find it necessary to take small breaks to get everything done. What? Doing nothing helps me do more, you ask? The idea might seem counterintuitive at first, so stick with me.

Author Laura Vanderkam, in her book, “What the most Successful People do at Work,” explains that taking occasional breaks is a great way to stay fresh and keep your mind sharp. When I take a break, I do one of the following:

• Turn my chair away from my computer.
• Go say hi to a coworker.
• Grab a snack.
• Send a text message to a friend.
• Check social media for five minutes.
• Walk around the office.
• Step outside for a breath of fresh air.
• Make a cup of tea.
• Think about a word puzzle.
• Read a chapter of a fiction book.

My breaks usually don’t last longer than five or ten minutes, and they work wonders for my productivity. Writing is intense brain-work, so giving my brain time and space to think about other things ensures that I don’t forget an item on my editing checklist or miss an important idea or quote to include in an article.
Next time your brain feels stuck, try one of these break ideas. Even if you have a lot to get done, taking breaks will give you the mental space to do everything efficiently and effectively. Got an effective break idea to share? Feel free to post it in the comments.

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An Unexpected Time to Build and Nurture Relationships: The Morning

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

Building and maintaining relationships is essential for happiness. (Researchers have done studies on it and it’s true!) In those hours between waking and heading off to work, I’ve discovered it is possible to work on relationships with others.

In the book, “What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast,” time management expert Laura Vanderkam suggests many ways to develop relationships in the early hours of the day. Here are some I have found success in doing.

• My husband and I discuss our plans for the day together while we get ready.
• While I’m waiting for something, such as the bus to come, or for my water to boil for tea, I send text messages to friends I haven’t connected with in a while.
• If I have a longer swath of time available, I might call my mom for a quick chat.
• If, during the night, I remember that I wanted to get in touch with a specific person, I add their name to my list of things to do for that day.
• I went to a networking breakfast once, and while I’m not usually in a chipper and talkative mood in the morning, I was able to follow up with connections later in the day.
• One of my friends and I text almost every day, and our first texts are usually sent in the morning.

Vanderkam recommends a family breakfast, since evening meals can be hectic with all the after-school activities children have. We don’t have kids yet, but if we ever do, I plan to try this.

What are some ways you have optimized your morning time for relationships? Leave ideas in the comments.

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Setting an Alarm to Keep Track

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

My morning routine is composed of a lot of activities: eating breakfast, prayer, exercise, and reading for personal and professional enrichment. With all these things going on, I still need to make sure I get out the door on time for work or other planned events.

In Laura Vanderkam’s book, “What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast,” she suggests filling your morning time with things that matter to you before the priorities of others take over the day. I knew I didn’t want to forego any of the activities I was doing to give myself a lighter morning schedule, so I explored the ways alarms could be used to help me keep track of time.

• I set an alarm on my phone for when I need to start getting ready.
• It goes off every five minutes, so I can judge how long it takes me from the time I begin to get ready and when I actually walk out the door.
• Since I like to turn my phone off at night, I bought a small, travel alarm clock so I can set an alarm before bed anywhere I’m sleeping.
• My e-reader has a timer on it, so I can set the timer for a specific amount of time and know when I need to stop reading.
• Both my braille display and computer have clocks on them, so if I want to write in the morning, I can do so while still keeping track of time.

What devices in your life have alarms built into them? How can you use those alarms to effectively get things done and be ready on time? Let me know in the comments.

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