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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 11:12 am

Calm the chaos -- don't say yes to everything

Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette

Many leaders have “to-do lists” that can seem never-ending – sometimes overwhelming, maybe.

It was interesting last week to listen to one of the podcasts that are part of Michelle Pizer’s “Crack the Leadership Code,” where an author and TEDx speaker being interviewed had a slightly different spin on getting things done.

Time management, Jackie Woodside said, is a big misnomer. You can’t manage time, she said; the minutes are going to pass, no matter what you do. But you can manage a lot of other things, she said, including your energy, your priorities and your thoughts.

Woodside is one of nearly 30 people Pizer interviewed, part of a two-week series that included daily emails with two podcasts of 30 to 40 minutes. I’ve been sharing some of the insights.

Pizer’s interview with Woodside was labeled “Calming the Chaos.”

Woodside said planning is one of her best tools. She does a daily debrief, assessing what she’s accomplished and determining what needs to be done the next day. She advocates focus, concentrating on a task for 90 to 120 minutes and then taking about a 15-minute break. She even schedules downtime. “We schedule everything else,” she said.

For leaders – and it likely works for anyone else – Woodside said if you put something on your to-do list and move it three times to the next day’s to-do list, you need to be honest with yourself: You don’t want to do it, so let it go. When lists of unfinished tasks pile up, leaders tend to start the negative self talk about why something isn’t done. It becomes an energy drain.

Let it go. That’s good advice for the tasks people have a choice in doing. I don’t think the interview really addressed how to get through those tasks you can’t cast aside, and don’t want to do but can’t actually delegate them, either.

But the podcast with Woodside was still interesting. Pizer also talked with her about stress. It’s hard to talk about time management without addressing that. Woodside had a simple fix – one I’ve heard other leadership coaches suggest: Learn to say no. You don’t have to commit to everything.

“If you are a yes to everything,” Woodside said, “you will be a no to your peace of mind.”