Managing Your Time, Managing Yourself, Managing Your Monkeys

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by Helene Cavalli, guest blogger

Our workdays will always be filled with competing priorities, pressing deadlines and emergencies – making it impossible to get everything done. Many of us carry all our unfinished projects or unresolved problems around like monkeys on our backs. Too many monkeys can make it so difficult to concentrate and focus effectively that we can barely get anything accomplished.

Who are the heaviest and loudest monkeys? Usually those that represent unfulfilled commitments or missed deadlines.

Not meeting expectations or failing to make good on our word negatively influences and shapes opinions of us. While it may be that no one is asking for that report or that spreadsheet or that mock-up, the fact that you haven’t delivered isn’t going to be forgotten.

Least of all, by you.

At the end of the day, it’s your reputation that’s on the line. When failing to deliver on commitments made to managers, colleagues or business associates, we jeopardize a critical component of any strong working relationship: trust.

You know what they say: “Years to earn, seconds to break.”

We rely on each other to do what we say we’re going to do. It’s a tacit agreement. When we can no longer depend on each other to fulfill promises, it’s impossible to get anything done. Worse, credibility is damaged and integrity impugned.

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It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants.
The question is, what are we busy about?

Henry David Thoreau

The fact is, we’re often challenged to deliver on time something we’ve promised. When that happens, communicate and take responsibility – before the deadline.

Then start working on time management skills to reduce stress and quiet the monkeys. Here’s a great list of tips from Integration Training:

  1. Record and evaluate how you’re currently spending your time. Are you doing the right things?
  2. Don’t rush. Take it slow and get centered. This actually helps you get more done.
  3. Follow a system. One example is spending 30 minutes on your plan Monday morning, review Friday afternoon with ten minute system checks twice a day. Do what works best for you but be disciplined about sticking to it.
  4. Measure value. Be aware of how every action contributes to a project or goal.
  5. Set up a reminder system. Make a list, set calendar alarms, use post-it notes, scribble on your hand. Whatever works for you.
  6. Make a list. Include everything you want to do and record each item as a single actionable task.
  7. Do one thing at a time. Stay focused. Multi-tasking divides our attention, leading to inefficiency and mistakes.
  8. Manage your inbox. Assign emails to four categories: do it, drop it, delegate it or defer it.
  9. Start with the hardest. Do the hardest, most important thing first. Then everything seems easy.
  10. Be flexible. Build in time slots to accommodate unexpected issues or unplanned needs that arise during the day.
  11. Manage yourself. Get enough sleep, relax and eat properly so that low energy or foul moods aren’t hindering your productivity.
  12. Manage your commitments. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and when. Set manageable deadlines and always honor commitments to yourself and others.
  13. You don’t always have to say “yes”. If you’re always saying “yes”, you’re most likely overwhelmed and carrying around too many monkeys. Delegate, if you can, or ask for help.
  14. Choose the right tasks. Spend your time working on those tasks that are connected to something urgent or important. Remember to invest in yourself with development tasks.

This time, like all times, is a very good one,
if we but know what to do with it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Following these tips can help you manage the monkeys so they aren’t managing you.


Helene Cavalli is a marketing professional for a management consulting firm. She studied Liberal Arts and wanted to be a sociologist. Helene loves foreign films, living in Philadelphia and taking her dog to the park. Follow Helene on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn .

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  1. Excellent. Sasha have to read this.

  2. Surffishkaty says

    I love this.   Especially the Thoreau quote.

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