What are some of the toughest things any executive or serious careerist battles in career transition? To find some answers I reached out to Jeff Davidson of Jeff Davidson who is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and has written 56 mainstream books. I wanted to talk to Jeff. His partial creds? He’s considered a key authority on time management, making nearly 800 presentations since 1985 to clients such as IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. He has authored 60 books including “Breathing Space,” and the recent Amazon highly rated “Simpler Living.”
John: In Breathing Space, you offer a “life audit” to help us de-clutter, reclassify, and rethink the way we are doing things. How and when do we stray?
Jeff: You stray once you begin believing you have to have the latest and greatest, and not following your own path. It is okay if, for one day, you are not hyper-competitive. It’s okay if you spend one day organizing, moving files around, throwing out what you don’t need, collecting your thoughts,
centering yourself, and achieving your own sense of balance. You get a day here and there to do that.
If you believe that you need to be on all the time, then you are in for a big fall. We are not designed to be on all the time. Light and dark matter; people used to sleep when it got dark and arise when it got light. Midnight used to be the middle of the night. So get proper rest, have proper
nutrition, align your ducks, and make sure that you are truly aiming for the
high-priority targets. It takes mental and emotional strength to let go of
the rest, but it’s necessary because we simply don’t have time.
I saw a clever phrase a couple months back that said, “You can do whatever you want, but you can’t do everything.” Today, you can do whatever you want, you just can’t do it all. You have to pick. I have two books on the topic. Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society is an easy-to-read book. It’s about 200 pages, but the print is big. You can flip through one page at a time and it will walk you through the big-picture concept of how we all got into this constant, time-pressure jam, and how to get ourselves out of it.
The second book is called Simpler Living. It takes you through your home, room by room, space by space, drawer by drawer, and tells you exactly how to reclaim the spaces and places in your life. I’ve found that if you reclaimÂ the spaces, perceptually, control of your time and of your life tend to
John: How can we be less cluttered and more productive, whether it’s a report, a project, or something else? What are some of your secrets? Have you inventoried your life and adopted the precepts in your books?
Jeff: While I’m aware of my own deficiencies in terms of carving out breathing space and maintaining simpler living, and to me it seems as if the downtime I suffer is enormous, my friends and associates tell me that I’m closer to “walking my talk” than most. So I must be doing something right concerning balance.
Now specifically, to get to the nitty-gritty of personal productivity issues: One of my books is called the 60 Second Self-Starter, and that is a second edition of a book that was called the 60 Second Procrastinator. In that book I listed 60 brief tips, ways to avoid procrastination.
The essence is this: Sometimes it pays to procrastinate a little before beginning a big task, if the procrastination is handling tasks that you would otherwise have to do. There’s some benefit in that, and you proceed to a mental clearance. I’ve lowered the blinds, I’ve sharpened the pencils, I’ve emptied the wastebaskets, I’ve handled two correspondences, I’ve returned the phone call. The self-promise I’ve made is that when I’ve finished those things, I’ll begin on the big task.
If before beginning the big task, you handle unimportant tasks that truly represent dawdling – such as walking down the hall, getting a candy bar, flipping through a couple magazines – now you’re stuck with the both low-level tasks that have to be done at some point, and that big task you’ve
been putting off.
So in some instances, procrastinating does help because it gives you mental clearance. Now, the reverse is also true. Sometimes simply diving into the larger task and ignoring all else is the best way to go.
How do you determine whether to get clearance by doing the low-level but important stuff first, and then the big task, or whether to just jump into the big task? It all comes down to how you feel at any particular time. What’s your energy like? What’s your focus like? Did you already labor on
that task the day before? If so, it’ll be easier today to jump into it without doing the lower-level stuff. Did you get good sleep? Are you in a good frame of mind? Did you get clarity over what you need to do today?
One of the ways to get clarity for today is to arrange your desk and itemsÂ the night before you leave the office. If you leave the office withÂ everything where it ought to be, so you can be at your best the next day,Â you’re going to have less downtime.
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