Yellow Bus Rides Again

It’s back-to-school for thousands of local children, and it’s making me a bit nostalgic for my own school days. Sometimes I wish I could hop right back on that yellow bus and head back to school right along with the kids. But being a grown-up has some serious advantages. We get to make the rules! And no more worrying about our prom date, report cards, or what test we have in the morning.

But seriously, back-to-school does means back-to-business. This is the time of year when we all get a little more determined. We say goodbye to picnics, barbecues and vacations and say hello to schedules, PTA meetings, and the faster pace of this season. And in some strange way, it’s a relief to settle into our old schedule.

So for this month, I’ve put together these tips to help all of us stay focused so that we reach our goals for the year. After all, we only have five months until New Year’s Day 2014. Unbelievable. Let’s make sure that the next five months are our most productive yet.

3 Tips To Tame Your Time Wasters

1. Be the master of your inbox.

Email – Get ahold of it before it consumes your day. Check your email two times during the day—early afternoon, and a quick check later in the afternoon, just to make sure you don’t need to put out any fires. Do whatever you can to keep your spam in check. Take time to mark those junk emails so that they don’t clutter up your inbox. Make use of folders and “Priority Inbox” and similar email organizing options.

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning! Why not? Because you should be doing more important things when your mind is fresh and clear. Make the first thing you do something of great value, and that’s certainly not checking email. Tackle your most challenging projects in the morning, and save email for later.

Cut down on your own email use. The less email you send, the less replies you will have to sort through. Make your emails short and to the point. The more clear your email is, the better and more concise your responses will be, and the less back and forth you will have to deal with.

2. Take control of social media.

Social Media – Stop checking your Facebook (insert your technology addiction here) every 5 minutes, or even 10 minutes. Just like your email, only allow yourself to get sucked into social media when you have the time to spare. Because before you know it, you’ll be hooked into watching a YouTube video featuring a camel who walks around saying, “Happy Hump Day,” and all sorts of other stupid, yet entertaining, stuff.

In Zen Habits, they advise: “Focus on the essential. Cultivate your ties in social networks where it makes sense and is beneficial, but don’t let them become second homes. Having many homes adds clutter to your digital world just as it does in your physical world. Remember: It’s Facebook’s job to serve you, not the other way around.”

3. Make meetings worth your time.

Meetings – In my perfect world, there would be no meetings. So the first rule to getting meeting waste under control is simple—don’t schedule unnecessary meetings! Usually most problems really can be solved over the phone, with Instant Messenger, or even with a quick face-to-face conversation, so don’t make meeting happen unless they are ABSOLUTELY essential.

Then, make sure your meetings are very productive and as short as possible. If you’re done in 10 minutes, end the meeting. Most meetings go on far longer than they need to be. Establish a set agenda and stick to it. Make sure the decision makers are at the meeting, or if that’s not possible, make someone with good leadership skills in charge of running the meeting, and keeping everyone on task. The reality is a lot of our meetings are very wasteful, but when we do have to have them, we might as well make them useful and productive.

Well, there you have it, those are a few simple ways to tame the time wasters in your life. Now resist your urge to check Facebook and get back to work! If the kids have to do it, so do we.