UncategorizedElizabeth Bowman, Productivity Consultant

May 27, 2013by Frank Love0

Podcast Episode:
“There are not enough hours in the day.” “Where does the time go?” and “Who has time for romance?” You’ve heard the clichés … now hear some solutions. We’re talking with a time management consultant …on this edition of Frank Relationships.



Guests: Elizabeth Bowman
Date: May 12, 2013

Frank: There are not enough hours in the day. Where does the time go and who has time for romance? You heard the clichés, now here’s some solutions. We’re talking with the time management consultant on this edition of Frank Relationships.

Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com. Once again, I’m joined by the brains of the operation. What’s up, Dr. Gayl?

Dr. Gayl: What’s up, Frank?

Frank: Day in and day out many of us struggle with the opponent that refuses to go away, if we’re lucky. The ever so present time, demands are endless, the kids, work, sleep. It can seem overwhelming. So much so, that we may feel as though our relationships are suffering and that’s where my guest comes in.

Yep, she’s the owner of Innovatively Organized, a Seattle-based productivity company that works with overextended executives, teams and companies to implement solutions that include time management training, office space design and organization and business operational support to help them become more efficient and effective.

If that sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you, she’s a time management guru and she’s here to school us on making the best use of ours, so that we and our relationships thrive. Well, ladies and gentlemen please welcome to the broadcast, Ms. Elizabeth Bowman. Greetings.

Elizabeth: Yes, good morning. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Gayl: Good morning.

Frank: Well, Ms. Bowman. Is it even possible to regularly feel accomplished at the end of the day?

Elizabeth: That is a great question. It’s one I get very often. You’re definitely very able to feel accomplished at the end of the day, but part of the reason that I work with people and enable them to feel that accomplishment is because we implement true systems for them to have a place to track all the things that they have to balance and ensure that they have a place to really check things off. But I have them myths some things that we are going to debunk today of exactly what happens in somebody’s day, because about 99 percent of us always go to bed at night, feeling like we still had more to do.

Dr. Gayl: I’m so glad you’re going to debunk those myths, because I’m an agenda whore. I have everything written down in two places and in my phone, so we need some help with some executive functioning issues.

Frank: And I’m glad, because I could use a boost of my self-confidence, because I’m one of those people that goes to bed everyday feeling like there’s something I missed or something else to do and “Oh, whoa is me.” It does happen. Even to Frank.

Dr. Gayl: Wow.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and believe me, you’re not alone. It happens to most of us and it doesn’t matter if you’re somebody working at home or if you’re somebody working at a big corporation, it doesn’t really matter your level, it doesn’t matter who you are. But really time is something that we all get 24 hours. I don’t have a magic solution. I teach a lot of training and people always want to know the magic answer to add more hours to their day and get more stuff done, but I can’t actually do that. What we can actually talk about is how to use the hours that you have much more wisely.

Frank: Well, let’s start with the basics. What is time management?

Elizabeth: Time management, as most people think, is not just managing to a clock and it’s not just managing the hours you have. Most of the time, with time management, it’s really managing your tasks and your projects and your commitments and your appointments and it’s making sure that all of those things, all the stuff that takes up your time, all fits into a day. And time management actually requires a lot of goal setting and a lot of prioritization. And so, the way I describe time management the most is that time management is all about decision making and making the proper decisions and then executing on those decisions that you’ve made.

Most of the time when a lot of us are feeling very overwhelmed, by all the stuff on our to-do list, we’re feeling overwhelmed because we haven’t yet made a decision of, “What should I be doing first” and “What should I be doing second.” And instead, everything looks like the highest priority all at the same time and a lot of people get very overwhelmed and just aren’t sure where to start, and so we end up wasting more time than we actually should.

Frank: Do you have to plan to plan?

Elizabeth: Yes, you do. You do have to plan to plan time management. The reason it’s called management is because it takes effort. It’s not something that you can just do on a whim. Believe me, people aren’t born with an organizational bone that allows them to just know right off the bat how to manage their time.

It is a learned skill that anybody can learn and implement. A couple, for example, needs to learn how to not only manage their time, but incorporate that with the other person and make sure that you’re both managing time the same way; you’re communicating about it. And whether that’s a team at work or a couple at home, it doesn’t matter, but you have to think about your time affects other people’s time.

Dr. Gayl: Is there such a thing as over-commitment?

Elizabeth: Yes there is. An over-commitment tends to happen by certain personality types, actually.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: Over-commitment, we tend to find a lot with people that are much more extraverted, because they want to be the people person. They want to be the one who’s in charge of every meeting. They want to be the one that’s talking to people, they may over-promise stuff. And what tends to happen, when we over-commit is that we haven’t attached a time value to all the different things that we’ve committed to.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Frank: What’s the best way to learn good time management skills and when is the best time? Now, that’s what I really want to know. When’s the best time? Can you start teaching a two year old? What you got there?

Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s all kinds of studies that have been done that actually prove that the biggest difference between an “A” student and a “C” student–when you’re going through grade school, middle school, high school–the biggest difference is knowing how to manage time so that the A student’s the one that tends to manage their time and know how to turn in assignments well and estimate the amount of time a homework assignment’s going to take, so that they get it done better. That’s the biggest difference between an “A” student and “C” student.

Now, there’s also studies that you’re beyond being a “C” student, part of it is just plain laziness and that’s something that is very different. A lot of us equate laziness with procrastination, but it’s not, it’s very different; two different things. And one of the things that we see often, when it comes to procrastination, for example, is that a lot of professionals and individuals, for that matter, tend to procrastinate, because they’re actually perfectionists.

Dr. Gayl: Exactly.

Elizabeth: There’s this huge myth out there that if you’re a perfectionist or you seem organized, well you must be able to manage your time, and as you just mentioned, and chuckled along, being a perfectionist actually hurts you when it comes to time management. It hurts you in two different ways; it hurts one, because most perfectionists never want to start a project.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: They don’t think they can get it done perfectly and so it procrastinates until the last minute. And the second way that it hurts is that a lot of perfectionist have the tendency to hyper-focused in newer projects, in newer tasks and into even washing the dishes and will go above and beyond and spend way too much on something and then they’re wasting time that way.

Frank: Now, you mentioned them being hyper-focused, compare and contrast that with multi-tasking.

Elizabeth: Okay, multi-tasking is one of those myths that I want to debunk. Right here, right now, multi-tasking is a time waster. There’s been brain studies done that actually show that multi-tasking doesn’t actually exist. What actually exists is people that try to jump, every 10 seconds, from one tasks to the next task; back to the first task, then to the second task, then to the first task, then to a third task and they’re jumping back and forth.

So, as much as possible, you want to batch things together. The best example I can give for any household is to go and check your mail at the foot of your driveway.

If you check your mail every single day, brought it in your house and sat down and paid a bill that arrived that day and handled it, it’s going to take you much longer to do that and then jump to something else and then come back and do something else with the mail and then jump to cooking dinner verses hauling the mail into your house once a week, for example, and then paying your bills once a week, all at once. Because then you can get into your routine, you can get into a habit and you’re pay them faster.

Just a little thing like that is good. Yes, thank you for asking about multi-tasking, because it is one of the biggest myths out there when it comes to time management.

Dr. Gayl: Do multi-taskers ever get anything done?

Elizabeth: They can certainly get things done, they just get them done a lot slower.

Frank: And it just seems faster, because you’re switching assignments or tasks often.

Dr. Gayl: And doing so many things at one time.

Elizabeth: Right. Yeah, it seems a lot faster, because when you’re multi-tasking your adrenalin is rushing, because you have a heightened anxiety over trying to get things done and not dropping a ball, verses actually being in a place where you’re batching things and going through your list in a much faster pace. You don’t have any stress and then it doesn’t feel the same way.

Frank: I often find that multi-tasking is also a way of being more shallow with dealing with the different levels of a thing. So, as you multi-task, you can’t really sit and maul over something and find new depths of solving the problem, because you’re dealing with the shallow, top level surface stuff. Do you agree with that?

Elizabeth: When most people are multi-tasking, I don’t typically differentiate that they’re doing the shallow stuff, but I certainly understand what you’re saying. Most of the time what we see when we’re working with people and they tend to be multi-tasking is that they’re just not focused.

Frank: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And I think that’s what you’re talking about–

Frank: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Is that they’re not focused to get really deep into tasks. So, when we work with people we tend to break tasks on their to-do lists into the heavy brain items or the things that require a lot of focus and a lot of thought and maybe less distraction.

You can only complete that task when you’re in a place with no music blaring in the background and kids not running around and things like that, verses tasks that are what we call the “light-brained tasks” and those are the things like, “Hey, I just need to respond to an email to tell somebody if I’m available to have lunch with them tomorrow or not.” And those are the types of things that don’t require a ton of focus.

You would never want to spend 30 minutes writing that email back, to say “yes” or “no” to whether or not you’re available for lunch. And so, we try and help people prioritize, by which items require focus and which ones don’t.

And even in peoples work places, we actually create them a sign for their desk that says, “This is the two hours they’re going to spend on their focus items. Please don’t interrupt,” because interruptions are one of the things most people can’t control that hurts your time management and it doesn’t matter anywhere. You could be at the grocery store and get interrupted and then lose your train of thought of what you’re suppose to pick off the shelf and take home.

Frank: Yeah. Okay, two very similar but different questions. One, what’s the best way to learn good time management skills? And what’s the best way to teach them?

Elizabeth: Great question. I tend to think that in order to learn time management, it is a practice makes perfect, so you really have to dedicate yourself to learning new habits. It’s very similar to learning math and how to add and subtract. You don’t just go to a math class once and just learn that two plus two is four, you really have to practice, because a lot of that gets ingrained in you over the years and you just start to know those things. And time management is very much the same.

You have to have an awareness of the concept, but then really practice them. The biggest difference between a person who is organized and on top of their tasks and their time and a person who’s feeling overwhelmed, overextended, like there just are not enough hours in the day–the biggest difference between them is the person who is organized, they’ve just built their routines and their habits and they’re able to use those habits to consistently stay on top of things. And even though, 80 percent of their days may go as planned and 20 percent of them go haywire–we all have those days that just don’t go as planned and you’re not going to follow any type of task list or stay on track–those people that have a consistent system, it’s almost like they have a safety net to come back to the level playing field.

And so, you asked how do people learn and get trained on time management. And one, engaging with the time management consultant, like myself and my team, is really important because we not only provide training and seminars, but we also work one-on-one with you, with your team, with your spouse, with your family. We work with you to customize time management solutions and systems that will be easy to keep up.

One of the other big myths of time management is there’s not a one-size-fits-all.

Frank: Right.

Elizabeth: There’s not a perfect solution that I can just rattle off and say, “Here you go. If you do these five things, you’re going to be super organized–”

Frank: You’ll be fine. Right.

Elizabeth: And time will never bother you. It doesn’t work that way, because we actually do an assessment and take into account your role, your personality, external factors, all kinds of other things that go into it.

What type of technology are you engaging with, because that affects your time management. And so, we come up with, “Based on best practices, here’s a accustomed solution for you,” and then help you maintain and build those habits over time, because that’s what really makes the difference.

Dr. Gayl: Ms. Bowman, in my profession, oftentimes children are diagnosed with ADHD, that have difficulties planning an organization and they have problems with executive function with their frontal lobes. It sounds like just having you and your company come into a school system or with a family, would be the answer. Do you specialize in things of that nature?

Elizabeth: I’m not certified to work with those that have ADD or ADHD. I have done a lot of training on it. It is a special interest of mine, but I’m not technically certified. But I will tell you, even adults and executives that we work with, a lot of them have ADD; some are seeing professionals and some are medicated, some aren’t. There’s a whole range. But what we find is that we work well helping them, because we’re able to set up a structure that works for them.

One of the things we take into account, for example, when we’re studying up a time management system and helping to teach it to an individual is, we take into account if their more visual or their more analytical. There are time management solutions to fit every need right now and so, sometimes we make sure it’s color coded and it’s a very visual system.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: Or maybe a very tactile system. Other times it just needs a very linier list. You need to have a place to capture everything.

But the number one thing that I would say for anybody, it doesn’t matter who you are, the number one thing that we always do is we make sure that your to-do list, your tasks are out of your head. Because if you’re trying to juggle them in your head, it doesn’t matter who you are, you could be the most organized person out there, you’re going to miss something and you’re going to go to sleep at night with your to-do list rolling around in your head and causing more needless stress.

Dr. Gayl: Right. And when you say something tactile visual, do you recommend having it written down, do you recommend having it in your phone? What’s your recommendations for people?

Elizabeth: That’s a great question. It’s one of the things that we assess and sometimes we actually have taken people off of technology and said, “You know what? Your to-do list should not be on your iPhone, for example. It should be on paper.”

Frank: You did that when? What would cause you to tell someone that?

Elizabeth: Sure, that’s a great question. What would cause us to say that is, if they actually relate to the tasks as they put pen to paper. And we have found there are certain clients that will remember a task, they’re going to relate to it better, if it’s written in red ink at the corner of the page, verses when they all look the same on their screen.

Now there are technology solutions, such as actionmethod.com, such as trello.com that actually give you a visual representation on a digital device instead of it being a true list. They almost look like sticky notes on your screen and they look like color coded blocks on your screen for every task, instead of the traditional to-do list.

Dr. Gayl: It probably depends on how people process information.

Elizabeth: Yes, it does. Definitely.

Frank: And what about teaching time management, particularly, let’s say to our children? How do we do a good job with that?

Elizabeth: One of the big things that we do and we work with students, for example, and children, is making sure that you have a clock that actually has hands on it that are moving, because as strange as it sounds, when it comes to time management, children today are growing up in a society where all of the clocks are digital and so they just flash time at them. So they might look up, they might see that it’s 4:15 P.M; they’ll go back to playing a video game or running around or doing homework and then they look up again and it’s 6:00 P.M. And to them it’s just a time that’s flashed in front of them verses seeing time move. And so, the biggest thing is make sure you have clocks that have hands on them, make sure you have timers around and start teaching how to estimate, how long things take.

So, even if it’s young kids that are playing with toys and they’re toddlers, you can still start to teach them time management, like counting often and indicating how long it takes to put something away or how long a game takes. All of those things start ingraining in us that time moves and its finite thing.

Dr. Gayl: Have you had incidences where you had to teach parents how to manage their time so that they can manage their child’s or their children’s time better?

Elizabeth: Yes, we definitely had this situation. We actually had a couple that we worked with and they hired us to help them manage the family’s time, because they had a son who had just started his freshmen year in high school and everything seemed to work really well with their homework routine, then getting assignments done and everything seemed to fit into the day when he was in middle school.

And then all of a sudden, their son started high school and they found there were more extracurricular activities afterwards, the homework assignments were longer, the parents hadn’t adjusted their schedules to allow for different timeframes for things to happen. They had called originally to figure out how to manage their son’s time.

They wanted us to work with him. We started to work with him and then realized, really the parents–

Frank: Yeah.

Dr. Gayl; Needed time.

Elizabeth: Yeah, they weren’t managing their time and so they were almost setting up their son for failure. And I know that sounds harsh, but they kind of were in a way, because they weren’t aware. And to be honest, they didn’t have the skill set.

I’m glad you’re bringing up the teaching and asking about schools, because it’s a core belief of mine and my team, that time management is something that can be learned by anybody, but unfortunately it’s not right now, being taught to all of our students, to all of our citizens, essentially. It’s not being taught like math and English and reading, the way it should. Time management affects everything.

Dr. Gayl: Right. I find that it’s not being taught at home, particularly. At school with children, it’s very structured. At this time you have math, at this time you have English, you go to gym at this time. However, at home, or in some homes, it’s very structure free, so it’s difficult to switch back and forth between having one structured environment verses having one that is kind of go with the flow.

Elizabeth: Right. And that’s exactly right. It’s being taught at the schools, but it’s being taught at the schools right now in a way that some students can skate by and just react–

Frank: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Because it’s a much more controlled environment.

Dr. Gayl: Exactly.

Elizabeth: So, they’re not necessarily managing their time, they’re just fitting into the time that’s already set aside for them.

Dr. Gayl: Right. And so at home, if they aren’t taught properly, then, as stated, at school they’re being controlled and so it doesn’t carry over, because it’s not in each environment, in each setting.

Elizabeth: Right.

Frank: Excuse me. I’d add the time management piece with also fiscal responsibility and that’s not being taught at home in many cases and nor at school. Now we learn math, but fiscal responsibility only spending the dollar you have in your pocket or only spending 75 cents of that dollar, that’s something that crosses all ages and race, everything. The problems are all over the place.

Elizabeth: Right. And I can’t speak to financial teaching or anything like that, but it is very similar and one of the things that you just brought up Frank, that does make it more similar is, most of us are never taught not spend that entire dollar or spend more than we have.

With time it’s very similar. Let’s just take a work day, if you have an average eight hour work day, you don’t want to fill it up with eight hours worth of tasks, because you need to have buffer time or the unexpected to happen.

You need to have some buffer time to just read your email or maybe with a lot of executives, we actually have to put it on their schedule that here’s when they’re going to read their email, because they have to spend time managing that. It’s not something that just fills in a crack.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: It’s something you have to be very intentional about and most of us are taking our eight hour work day and saying, “Okay, here’s my to-do list for the day.” I see it all the time. I walk in and I say, “Okay, let me see your to-do list,” when they say they don’t have enough time. And what I find is most people have multiple lists, first of all, written all over the place and then they might have even created a list for Wednesday, lets just say, and they’re going to say, “Yeah I’ve even created one. I have this great habit. I walk in the morning and I write down exactly what I’m going to do that day and I put it on my list, but the problem is I never get through it all. I never check everything off before I leave. I always run out of time.” And I’m sure you’ve never seen this, right?

Frank: Yeah, right.

Dr. Gayl: And you know the difficulty that some people have–myself included. I work 10 hour days, four days a week, but if I don’t get some things done in those four days, I’ll go in on my day off to try to get the extra things done. So, it’s like, “Okay, I’m working 10 hours, but am I actually getting it done; getting it all done and fit into that one day?”

Elizabeth: Yeah, I couldn’t have even said that better myself, to be honest, because what we’re finding is most of the people that end up calling us are people that want more hours in the day. They can’t get every thing done and they’re working nights, they’re working weekends. They’re taking work home with them and after the kids go to bed, they’re pulling out their laptop again and continuing to work and it just feels like this never ending cycle that they can’t get ahead of.

And what happens is, for us, is we actually start with that to-do list, like I mentioned and we’ll take a look at it and say, “Okay, that’s wonderful that you wrote everything down on Wednesday. And here’s all the things that you’re going to do,” and because writing it down, getting it out of your head is the first thing. I love when I already see that. But the number one thing that’s missing for most people that comes to time management is they’re not taking that list of all the things they have to do on Wednesday and putting time estimates next to all of it.

Dr. Gayl: Right. That’s very important.

Elizabeth: And they’re not prioritizing. Yeah.

Dr. Gayl: Now, have you seen a difference–and I’m starting that there is, what’s the difference between a single person’s time management verses someone that’s married and has a family?

Elizabeth: It’s a great question. I don’t have any true statistics on this, but in our experience–

Dr. Gayl: Right, what have you observed?

Elizabeth: What we’ve seen is a single person and their time management, they tend to let their tasks and their time just bleed into various areas, so there’s a lot less structure, because they don’t have as many constraints around them.

Dr. Gayl: Do you find that they over-commit?

Elizabeth: Not necessarily, because being somebody who over-commits is more a personality, because we find that whether it’s a couple, a family or whether it’s a single person.

Dr. Gayl: Okay, so when you say bleed, what do you mean?

Elizabeth: When it bleeds, what I mean is they don’t have as many hard and fast things on their calendar. They don’t get ready in the morning and at a certain time in a certain way to get the kids on the bus in the morning.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: They can actually sometimes get ready in 45 minutes in the morning and sometimes just let it go for two hours and they want to have that extra cup of coffee. It’s almost like their time doesn’t seem to matter as much, but they have still complain about the same things; about being overwhelmed and not having enough time verses a family or a couple. What we find with their time is they’re trying to balance more if not the same things, but they have very, very taxed timeframes, and so they have to get certain things done at certain times. They have to get the kids on the bus at a certain time. If they’re sharing like a master bedroom, let’s just say, and getting ready in the morning, they have to coordinate who’s doing the shower and when, who’s making coffee.

There’s more moving pieces, so they actually have to be much more structured about what they’re getting done when. But the hard part is that at that point, the more people you have involved, you tend to have smaller pockets of time instead of long blocks of time that can grow. Does that make sense?

Dr. Gayl: Certainly.

Elizabeth: Yeah, but it’s more of a personality. So, in terms of over-extending, that’s something that it doesn’t really matter your stage of life or who you are, it’s more a personality type.

Frank: I’ve got a Bowman productivity tip that I want to share. Set rules in your email to automatically filter messages, saving you time and keeping your inbox organized.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Frank: Want to talk about that a bit? We can all relate to email– cumbersome amounts and all of that.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I would love to talk about it. I train individuals and professionals on how to use their email often, because it is the bane of most people’s existence right now.

Frank: Tell me about it.

Elizabeth: Yeah, what we’ve seen happen with email, just in the past five years is that most of us are getting higher volumes of email at a faster pace and it’s something that most of us are behind the eight ball. We can’t keep up anymore, because who wants to sit at a desk and just read and refund email for eight hours a day?

Dr. Gayl: And even when you get them on your phone. Who wants to respond on your phone–

Elizabeth: Exactly.

Dr. Gayl: Every five minutes or what have you?

Elizabeth: What tends to happen is that, because we have all these mobile devices and because we have technology the way it is, most everybody has access to email and we’re now sending more emails and we’re sending them at all hours of the day and night and we’re just trying to keep up. So, we’re constantly looking at them, constantly checking them.

But the concepts that I teach are how to have an empty inbox at the end of your day and because it’s very freeing to know that you’ve at least done a human filter and prioritized your emails correctly and how to actually only check your email at certain times.

We talk about how to set boundaries around your time. The same way you would for somebody in your family, if they watched too much television. You might want to start setting boundaries around that and say, “Well, you can only watch this many hours of it everyday.”

You want to do the same thing with your email. It’s something that we now have policies that companies around how people are supposed to respond to email, tell how much time they’re supposed to take with them, because what happened for so long is that emails were just the thing that fit in between meetings and we fit in between conversations and we fit in between getting our projects done. But it’s taking up time.

When I train people in email, what I usually say–and this will relate to both of you–what I usually talk about is that email has not just become a communications pool, but it’s essentially a task assignment tool, because every email–

Frank: That’s right.

Elizabeth: That we send send, yeah exactly. Every email that we send to each other, essentially–

Dr. Gayl: It’s like an action item.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s an action item, and you both sent me an email asking me some information for this program and the moment I got that, I immediately said, “Okay, well that email now represents five to 10 minutes on my to-do list.”

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: Every email you receive, it’s almost like that email, instead of asking to do something, even saying, “Hey Elizabeth, I want a piece of your time.”

Frank: I want some of your time. Yeah.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: “I deserve a piece of your time,” and there’s a certain way that I train people on how to write emails and write subject lines and write the bodies, so that way you get a response faster.

Dr. Gayl: That’s very good. Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah and there’s a lot of things that you have to think about in terms of everything that you come across, whether it’s social media that you’re interacting with and you’re on Facebook and Twitter or whether you’re reading emails or whether you have to get lots of phone calls. Every single thing that comes in your direction, you want to think about it in terms of, “This is now taking up my time.”

And when you decide you’re going to go look at Facebook, whether it’s on your mobile phone right before you go to sleep at night or something, you have to think about, “Okay, how much time does Facebook deserve?”

Dr. Gayl: And what about-

Elizabeth: Does it 10 minutes of your day or does it deserve two hours of your day?

Dr. Gayl: Right and what about text messages, because I’m such a texter and those kind of fall into the same category more so for me than emails? So what about that? And even like with certain apps like Group Me, do you suggest that you put those to the side too, as if you would if you had a certain time period for phone calls?

Frank: Well, what’s Group Me?

Elizabeth: Exactly. It’s so funny. I teach a lot of training about all the different places that we’re receiving information right now and how to balance that, because that’s where most of us feel overextended and overwhelmed, is that we don’t just have to sit at a desk, log into our email program and receive all these messages and have to balance them. Right? Because your emails are essentially your to-do list, but we now have to log into, on average, 10 to 15 different places to find out all the different people in different situations that our time, and text messages is definitely one of them.

With text messages they typically should be reserved for the more urgent things. That is a tool that most people are just reacting to, because if you reserved it for something like that. But if it’s something that’s not urgent, it’s something that you really could have that conversation over email, you could have it over a web-based meeting or something like that, then you want to try and schedule those things as much as possible. Or you want to try throughout your day, especially if you’re working and interacting with the same people to say, “During 10:00 A.M. to noon is when I’m going to be doing my light brain work. So I’m going to be working on getting through all these emails. I’m going to be working on this type of project. I’m going to be doing this and so that’s when I can handle as many interruptions,” because you won’t be taken away from a deep focus on a project.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: And so, letting people know, “Hey, there’s timeframes for this.” And if you work in a group setting, making sure everybody has the same routines makes it easier and then everybody focuses at the same time and we limit interruptions. But text messages and especially tweets and things like that are things that most of us are just reacting to and because of technology we always have any notifications turned on. But I’m sure you’re experiencing this with your mobile device and many of us all are, even myself–

Dr. Gayl: Yeah, certainly.

Elizabeth: Where I could go into a meeting, be in a meeting for an hour and when I’m in a meeting. Just like talking to you both right now, I’m not checking my messages. I’m not responding to texts and things like that. But the moment I come out of the meeting, I’m going to open up and see, “What are all the different things that I’ve received? Who wants my attention?”

Frank: Yeah.

Elizabeth: “Who deserves my attention?” I’m going to prioritize how I’m going to respond in different ways and different orders, but we need to act like that even when we’re not in a meeting.

Dr. Gayl: Right. Right.

Elizabeth: Does that make sense?

Dr. Gayl: Certainly.

Elizabeth: Even if you’re not in a meeting, you still need to block off time. And I will tell you, that’s the hardest concept and the hardest thing for most people to do. And even going back to students and how do they manage their time, the hardest thing is just self-regulate your time.

Dr. Gayl: Yeah, it’s very hard, especially when you’re tied to your device.

Elizabeth: Right. And setting your device aside for an hour and focusing on something else, what typically works, it doesn’t necessarily work right now. Five years ago it did. But it doesn’t work anymore to tell somebody to only check your email in the morning at lunch and at the end of the day, because we’re just in a society right now that demands and expects a more timely response typically. And so, the best guidance that I can give for the majority of us is to check your email, check all of your incoming messages, whether it’s text messages, social media messages, wherever you’re getting all your information, check it for the first 15 minutes of every hour–

Frank: Interesting.

Elizabeth: See what you have. Spend that time not necessarily responding to everything, but immediately looking at it all and prioritizing it.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: Instead of putting it into buckets of, “Here’s the stuff that I have to do today. Here’s the stuff I have to do by the end of the week and here’s the stuff that I need to do next week.” And even from all those different devices you want to separate it and spend the first 15 minutes of every hour doing that. Spend the next 45 minutes of the hour going through in order, “Here’s the stuff I have to do today, so I’m going to get all that stuff done.”

Once you get that done, you’re going to move on to your “this week” and get as much of it done as possible. But you’ll know that things won’t fall through the cracks, if you go through prioritize and then tackle.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: And you have to continually, consistently repeat that over and over.

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You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with Productivity Consultant, Elizabeth Bowman, about creating process sees that help us take care of the important stuff, including our relationships. Ms. Bowman, please tell our listening audience how they can reach you and use your services.

Elizabeth: Oh, I would love to. So, again my name is Elizabeth Bowman, I’m the President of a lovely consulting company called Innovatively Organized. You can reach us at innovativelyorganized.com and even though our office is located in Seattle, Washington, we have clients all throughout the U.S.

We do virtual productivity sessions, virtual time management help, whether you’re a busy professional, whether you are somebody that needs help for your family at home. And you can also check out on our website at innovativelyorganized.com. You can go on our website and sign up for free. Pick a time slot and we will answer any question you have.

We’ll give you a free 15 minute phone call. You pick the time of your choice and I would love to talk with you. And also I will mention, we have a lot of free training resources on our website that are recorded.

We do an online webinars often. We record them. They’re available on our website. So one of the one’s I would highly suggest for all of you listening is Time Management 101. It’s a 30 minute downloadable course on our website and another one that’s called, Online To-Do List, which is another 30 minute training that you can download. Both of those are going to give you, one, time management concepts for you to implement and then online to-do list training is going to give you our top favorite apps and applications that work, depending on your personality type. And so, definitely check that out. Again, I’m Elizabeth Bowman and our site is innovativelyorganized.com.

Frank: Tell me about the Messiest Desk contest.

Elizabeth: Oh, I would happily tell you. We host, as part of our company every January, an annual contest where we are on the search for the messiest desk in Seattle. Because we’re located in Seattle, we’ve only done it here. We are looking to expand it, however. We actually take nominations for people. You can recommend yourself or somebody else.

Whoever has the messiest desk, what you win is, we partner with various vendors for office supply products, furniture for your office, scanning services, all kinds of different stuff and you win a makeover of your office; the physical space. Get your desk organized and not neatened and cleared off, but truly organized and we set up some great systems for you that keep it that way.

This year we had over 3,000 people voting on it.

Dr. Gayl: Wow.

Elizabeth: It’s really fun. What we do is we let you nominate yourself, you can nominate somebody else. Our team narrows it down to the top five messiest desks that have been nominated and then we open it up for a week in January for the public to vote.

So you get to pick who you want to see win and then we do interviews with the winner, interviews of people around them, because we want to find the most deserving.

This year in January, we had a fabulous woman who was nominated. And she actually is a teacher, that not only teaches elementary school herself, but she also has a side consulting firm, where she teaches people how to be better teachers.

Dr. Gayl: Oh, that’s nice.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and at the same time has a two year old son that she is taking care of and was in grad school to–

Dr. Gayl: Wow, no wonder she had a messy desk.

Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. And she’s in grad school to learn how to be a principal and what was really awesome, she won the contest, was nominated, got the most votes.

We worked with her. We helped her office feel much more paperless and get it set up, so that she can actually work in there, study for some of her exams. And by the time we finished the project, she had actually gotten a new position at a job and had been promoted to be the assistant principal of the school instead of a teacher.

Dr. Gayl: Wow, that’s awesome.

Elizabeth: And so–

Dr. Gayl: It kind of sounds like one of those home improvement shows, like Hoarders or something where you guys go in and revamp the whole environment for the worker.

Elizabeth: Yes, exactly. Thank you for asking. We did a play-by-play on our blog and on our website of it, exactly what happened with this contest and how the person is nominated, how they won. We kept track of the transformation. So, definitely go check that out on our website, innovativelyorganize.com, and you can read all about the messiest desk in Seattle.

Dr. Gayl: Right. You guys need to open up that up worldwide. I can use some help. Well listen, let’s talk about grad school. I had piles and piles of papers when I was working on my dissertation. Talk about how overwhelmed a person can become when their space is messy.

Elizabeth: Oh, certainly. We do a lot with space planning as well as time management and the reason that we want to help somebody organize their physical space and optimize it, is because as a productivity consultant, we look at everything through the lens of “How can we save people time.” And having an organized work space saves you a ton of time, because you’re able to find what you need really quickly, you don’t waste time searching for documents and you’re also able to put things away.

Everything has a home and my background is in engineering. I have an industrial engineering degree.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: And so, I not only want to make sure everything has a home, but we actually make sure everything has a flow to it. I want to know how things arrived at your desk. How you’re processing them and how they exit and make sure that we have storage solutions along the way and we have retention policies that are easy to manage.

I’m not somebody who sets up your desk or your work space, so that and it’s one more thing you have to worry about. One more thing you have to manage and feel overwhelmed by. I want to set it up so that it’s super, low maintenance, easy to use and has a flow that if you can get the right things done, you don’t have to spend your time moving papers and trying to find stuff. You can spend your time checking things off your to-do list and in an organized space.

It’s really, really important to have that space, because what we find is the paint color on the wall, the fact that your desk is cleared off, will increase your productivity.

Dr. Gayl: Right. Because oftentimes, I always say I have to prepare myself in order to work–even now, in order to write a report. You have to prepare yourself and get everything settled and organized. And one of my co-workers stated that, “It might be a mess, but I know where everything is,” but looking to someone on the outside, it’s like what’s what? What pile is what pile?

Elizabeth: Right. And it’s so true when we go into new spaces to work with somebody, I know I cannot just start touching things and moving them, because some people actually know what’s in all those chaotic cluttered piles.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: And if I started moving them, it would mess up their supposed system.

Dr. Gayl: Right. Supposed system.

Elizabeth: Exactly. But I will tell you there’s all kinds of statistics. Forbes magazine, for example, did a study. I think it came out in 2011. They did a study about people getting promoted at work and what they found was a cluttered desk, whether the person was producing more and getting their work done, faster and better than other people–if they had a cluttered desk that physical representation would actually hurt them when it came time for a promotion.

Frank: Wow. I thought it would have been the other way around.

Elizabeth: No, because what happened is if you have a cluttered desk, there’s a perception–

Frank: That you’re overwhelmed.

Elizabeth: From your peers or your management is that you can’t take on more, because your plate’s already too full.

Dr. Gayl: Right.

Elizabeth: And it’s a double-edged sword, however, because I’ve often met with clients that say, “No, no. I don’t want my desk to be organized. I just want you to help me manage my time, because if you organize it, you get rid of the piles. People will start giving me more.”

Dr. Gayl: Right. They will.

Elizabeth: Yeah, they do it on purpose and not do that, and so I do a lot of training at companies with an entire team in the room together and we get all that stuff out and talk about if your desk is organized, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do.

Your to-do list and your calendars are the things that you should be sharing with people to indicate what’s on your plate or not instead of trying to hide behind clutter.

But yeah, it does, a cluttered desk can definitely affect promotions. It can affect what happens in the work place and how you’re perceived by others. Whether you like it or not and whether it’s a reality or not, it is a perception that’s out there.

Frank: Any thoughts on feng shui?

Elizabeth: I’m not as trained or familiar with feng shui. I leave that to the experts. I think it’s the engineer side of my brain. Just kind of goes against it, to be honest, but I know there’s a lot of value in it and so I have resources I recommend to my clients that are interested. I am just, myself, not the right person for that.

Frank: What are some of the stresses that you’ve seen as it pertains to time management in relationships? Are there people who come to you that are married, that are almost at wits ends on how to deal with one another and the kids and all that kind of stuff?

Elizabeth: Yes. I know he needed to bring this up, because of the topic of your show. What’s really interesting is that amongst my team, we tend to talk about a couple of our clients or situations, when we get phone calls. We tend to have people that like to report their spouse or report their significant other as the culprit and we get people that will call us and say, “I need you to come out, because my wife or my husband or whoever, they have time management issues. Come fix them–”

Frank: Right.

Dr. Gayl: Because it’s not my fault.

Elizabeth: No, and so we actually are not marriage counselors, although when it comes to time management it tends to seem that way.

Frank: I’ve got a co-host like that.

Dr. Gayl: So do I.

Elizabeth: It’s interesting where we actually won’t work with somebody unless they’re ready for a change, because it’s like calling up. If I called up a professional fitness trainer and I said, “You know what? My husband just needs to work out. Can you come and make him do that?” It just wouldn’t work until he’s ready.

Frank: I don’t think that’s quite how it goes. It’s more like, “Hey, my husband’s a fat slob. Can you come whip him into shape?”

Elizabeth: Exactly. It’s very interesting, but I will tell you that once both people in the relationship are open to making changes, we can work with both. And it’s the same way, even at work places. We work with a lot of executives and we have to work with their executive assistants and that’s a relationship.

Frank; Yes, it is.

Elizabeth: We have to talk a lot more. Not just about your to-do list or single to-do list, but how past relates to time, relate to communication, relate to delegation and that comes into play in a household with relationships as well.

Frank: Can you delegate effectively to a spouse? Is it even possible?

Elizabeth: It is possible as long as you have the tools. Technology’s made it possible. You have the tools set up and you have the expectation set and you’ve communicated, “Here’s how we’re going to delegate stuff. Here’s the types of things we’re going to delegate.”

You can’t just leave at random to-do list lying on the kitchen counter without telling somebody why it’s there and things like that.

Frank: So, in terms of a relationship in a radio format, can you get your co-host go get you a cup of coffee? “Hey, how do you suggest that kind of delegation?”

Elizabeth: Well, getting a cup of coffee might not be–

Dr. Gayl: You get an assistant.

Elizabeth: You might not want to send that through a to-do list app or collaboration software, but that might be something you need to talk about and who’s doing what and when it’s going to happen. But in terms of just handling your radio show and all the tasks and things that have to happen with preparing the guests that you have and getting the timeframes and booking the studio and all of that, all of those tasks should be in a shared place for both of you, so both of you can see– you can see who’s doing what, who’s on top of it. And it also holds both of you accountable for things as well.

Frank: I want you to tell us a productivity success story, but before you do that, I’m going to give another Bowman productivity tip. When someone gives you a business card, make notes on the back to jog your memory later. Notes might include when you met, what you discussed or a potential relationship.

Now from there, let’s get a success story to round out our show to let folks know that they can be helped and how you helped them.

Elizabeth: Sure. I will give you a very clear success story. I work with lots of professionals and individuals, but I worked with one in particular that owns an automotive shop and it was fabulous to work with him.

He ended up engaging our services, because he was overwhelmed. He was like, “I just cannot get everything done.” He was working too many hours and his first granddaughter was just born, wanted to spend more time away from work in this automotive shop where he owned it and was in the office setting of it, managing it. He wanted to be able to spend time with his family, and especially his new granddaughter.

And what we were able to do is actually help him figure out tools for him to delegate tasks, make sure that we were getting all of his tasks out of his head, because the number one thing that was slowing him down and why he wasn’t able to delegate, is he had staff, he wanted them to do stuff, but he was holding his entire to-do list in his head.

Nothing was captured anywhere. It wasn’t written down and when we started working with him, I said, “Let me see your to-do list. Let me see your calendar. Let me look at your email. I’m going to see how many devices you have, all kinds of stuff. And he said, “Oh, I don’t believe in to-do lists. I don’t like them. They don’t work for me and I don’t like calendars. I just arrive to work and I just dive right into doing stuff.”

And so, both of those things, we actually had to talk to him about the positives of having those resources and those tools and how it could help him communicate and delegate to his team, because once everything is out of your head then you can organize it, then you can prioritize it, because if you’re holding it in your brain, for example, you don’t necessarily think of the right thing at the right time to tell somebody and it’s much more difficult.

So, I will tell you the success with him is we were able to get a lot of tools and systems set up. We were able to get his team on board, the delegations started happening and what we found is he was working tons of over-time and long hours. He’s now only there six hours a day and he’s there to hang out with his granddaughter and he’s the afternoon babysitter for his daughter, which is kind of cool.

Frank: Very nice.

Dr. Gayl: Great story.

Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships. We’ve been talking with Productivity Consultant, Elizabeth Bowman, about creating processes that help us take care of the important stuff, including our relationships. Last time, please tell our listening audience how they can reach you and use your services.

Elizabeth: Oh, I would love to talk with any of you out there. If you are overwhelmed and looking to get more things done in your day or get the right things done in your day, then you can find me, Elizabeth Bowman, at innovativelyorganized.com. And I would also suggest following us on Twitter. Our Twitter handle is iorganize, where we have daily productivity tips that are out there for you to share and to read and look at. So again, innovativelyorganized.com and I’d love to see you.

Frank: Along today’s journey we’ve discussed how to teach time management, space planning and the messiest desk contest. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had talking with Productivity Consultant, Elizabeth Bowman, about time management and optimizing systems.

I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity and the information. As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that will help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook/relationshipflove, on Twitter at @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, keep rising. This is Frank Love.

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