What do you do when you think you have too much to do yet have so little time? In this episode, Jones Loflin emphasizes why time management is important. Jones is an internationally recognized speaker, corporate trainer, and author. He helped many Fortune 500 companies develop and deliver practical solutions that specifically address the complex needs of an organization such as time management, focus, motivation, and work-life balance.
Prior to all of this, he served as the “Trainer of Trainers” for the best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese? Jones discusses some common reasons why we don’t get everything done on our to-do list and shares some tricks for actually accomplishing them. He also reminds us that proper time management leaves no facet of life neglected and unaccomplished. Are you ready to stop and reevaluate what needs to be done in your life?
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Building Time Management Skills When You Have Too Much To Do With Jones Loflin
We are talking about too much to do because that’s what’s going on with a lot of people. They’re too busy, too much to do, overwhelmed. I’m excited because, on this show, we’re always bringing on the best guests to talk about cutting-edge tips, hacks, and ways to look at things that are different that give you the edge up and help you to manage this too much to do. I’m excited to have Jones Loflin on. He has made it his life’s work to deliver powerful ideas and practical solutions to individuals and organizations who are struggling with too much to do. His books are described as illuminating and his presentations as unforgettable. In his many years as a speaker and trainer, he’s helped countless people to regain confidence in their ability to achieve greater success in work and life.
Jones’ innovative solutions on leadership, change, and time management has attracted the attention of organizations around the world including Federal Express, Choice Hotels, Toyota, Raymond James Financial, State Farm, and even the United States military. Prior to becoming this internationally recognized speaker, Jones was an educator. His past works include serving as “Trainer of Trainers,” for the best-selling book Who Moved My Cheese?. Jones is also a co-active coach focusing on the areas of leadership, change, and time management with his clients. He’s a member of the National Speakers Association as well as the Association for Talent Development. Jones, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Penny. I’ve been excited about the opportunity. I love the list of topics that you address and the variety. I find that in my world, it’s not always about trying to get improvement in one area. If I can pick a nugget or two from lots of different types of podcasts or interviews, I find that serves me well. I’m glad to be here.
Why are you dedicated to helping people with too much to do? Was this a major issue for you in the past?
Many of us in the learning and development world start out with, “I’m struggling with this. How do I find something that works for me?” I’ve always been a huge fan of time management. In the late ‘80s, I was one of those people who carried around the brown FranklinCovey planner. There’s even an updated version of that, but it was beyond that. It was this whole idea that “We’ve got this limited resource of time, why time important is important, and how do we use it as effectively as possible to accomplish what’s important?” It’s always been a struggle for me. I began to figure out some solutions that worked for me. I started offering them to other people. That became a book, training programs, and those things. That was my journey to getting here.
You know the struggle with time. Why are we focused on time?
Because it’s a limited resource, but we treat it like it’s not. We don’t plan our days as efficiently and effectively as we could. We subconsciously sometimes go, “I’ll have time for that later. I’ll get to that later.” There are always these things that come along that fill up that space that we were going to use for something more important. We’re relegated to Stephen Covey’s old saying, “We’re focusing on the urgent and not the important.”
The focus on time creates scarcity mode. Shouldn’t we be focused on our outcomes and what we want to achieve? When we’re focused on time, it creates more stress.
You couldn’t have said it better. It does. If we were focusing on outcomes and how we were going to use that time, that’s one thing. When we’re constantly looking at, “I’ve got fifteen minutes. I’ve got an hour,” or we’re looking at the time component, it does create this sense of hurry for us. A lot of times, it isn’t healthy in getting to those most important things.
I could argue both sides. A lot of times, we think that we have so much of it that we squander it away. It’s interesting and important to be thinking about what our relationship with time is.Time is a limited resource but we treat it like it's not. We don't plan our days as efficiently and effectively as we could. Click To Tweet That’s a great statement. What’s our relationship with time? Do we look at it as an asset or do we look at it as a liability? It is both. It’s not one or the other, but many times we’re looking at it as a liability. We’re overly concerned about how we use it at the moment and not looking at the bigger picture of planning out our days and our weeks to get our highest priorities accomplished.
How did we get stuck with all this? Do we have more to do now than we had 10 or 20 years ago? That’s what people are saying that they feel like. What do you think about that?
One of the things is the expectations that we place on ourselves. I’m not one of those people who says, “It’s all because of technology.” Technology had a huge influence on that because the information can pass by more quickly. It can be transferred between people more quickly than it could 10 or 20 years ago. Because of that, it creates an expectation that if I need something from you, you can get it back to me a lot quicker than you could 10, 15, 20 years ago. Something else that happens when we talk about the expectations is, we’re looking around at other people who seem to have it all together or seem to be getting the right things done. We think we have to do the same things that they’re doing. There are a number of things that have gotten us to this point where we feel like there’s so much to get done. The other thing we won’t do is we won’t stop and go, “What is most important to me?”
Why don’t we do it? What’s your answer to that?
The reason we don’t do it is that it seems counterproductive. If I’ve got a busy day, my natural tendency is, “I need to check out the next time. I need to get it done.” As I often say, just because you’re checking the item off doesn’t mean it was the most important thing for you to do. Stopping to examine what would help me move forward? What’s professionally important to me or personally important versus, “I’ve got 37 things to do. I need to get all 37 done.” Maybe not. Maybe if you’d stop and go, “If I get 7, 11, and 15 done, that will move me forward a lot more than getting the other 34 done in my day.”
What’s a tip or trick or hack that you use to help people to remind themselves to do that and to get into that flow?
It’s not anything new necessarily but it all starts with planning your day. It starts by stopping and then looking at how your day is going to go. One of the things that I challenge people in training programs or when I’m coaching or whatever the environment is that never engage with technology before you start planning your day. It seems simple but statistics say that 75% of us or more sleep with the phone next to our bed or technological device. Our first tendency in that morning is to pick it up and then we get caught up in, “I’ve got to get this done. This is happening,” instead of stopping to go, “What have I been trying to accomplish these past few weeks or few months? What’s important to me? Who do I want to be? What do I want to become?” Beginning to then say, “What does that mean that this day should look like?” versus reacting to the urgent, the emails, the messages that are on that device. That’s one strategy.
The one strategy is not to touch technology before you start your daily plan. Do you suggest to people that they schedule it?
As far as scheduling their planning, absolutely. That’s how critical that first thing in the morning or even in the day before or the evening before you go to bed. Schedule that planning time and spend some positive time thinking about what it is that you want to accomplish. Also, reflecting on how the previous day went as you are making your plans to see what needs to be brought from previous days or the past week. That has to be a part of your day. That’s counterintuitive to me because people start their mornings in a hurry trying to get everything done at home. They then rush to work and many times, there’s that first urgent thing awaiting them. They don’t stop and go, “I’m going to plan.” It does have to be scheduled.
When we start in a hurry like busy, we don’t think. We go stressfully into one thing and the next. We’re not purposeful at all. It’s key to get that time to get purposeful about what it is that we want to create and what the results are that we’re looking to achieve.
You hit it well, it’s the purpose. One of the things I teach a lot around. One of the models that I use is you should need to manage your work and life like it’s a circus. In my training program, I’ll ask them, “What’s the purpose of the circus?” Immediately, they will say, “The purpose of the circus is entertainment. I’ll start talking about them.” I said, “If the purpose is entertainment, what acts need to be in the lineup?” They’ll start listing some different acts that need to be in the lineup. I’ll look at them a few minutes later and I’ll go, “You’re absolutely wrong.” I’ll stop them and go, “I want you to think for a moment, what’s the purpose of the circus? What’s the outcome that the circus wants from the performance if you’re the owner of the circus?”
They’ll go, “It’s money. To make a profit.” I’ll go, “That’s the why, as Simon Sinek would say. How do they do that?” They’ll go, “By entertaining.” I’ll say, “Does that change the way you think about the lineup?” They’ll go, “Yeah.” In the same way, it’s critical that we start with purpose. What’s the outcome I want from this day, this week, this month, then began planning what acts or activities need to go into our day to help us move toward that outcome?
I love that imagery. Having those types of analogies or visualizations help us to see it outside of ourselves. When we’re part of the problem, we can’t see the problem. It does help us to step outside and see it from a different perspective.
We take it to the next level in lots of ways. We talk about how if you’re going to manage your time, it’s not just around one ring if you want to call it a circus. You’ve got three rings. You’ve got a work ring, self ring, and relationship ring. If you want to manage your time effectively, you can’t think in terms of one ring because you neglect the other two. One of the greatest moments I have had as a keynote speaker is when I said, “How many of you in here would say that the work ring is the most important?” Some people raise their hands. In the other rings, different people raise their hands. I say, “Who’s right?” You have people say, “All three of them are important.” I go, “Good. Here’s the big question, which one do we neglect most often?” Everybody goes, “Self.” It’s such an important moment to understand that time management is not about, “How can I get 47 things done at work?” It’s, that we have to understand that time management is important in all those areas?” because they’re interconnected. They’re not inclusive. We’ve got to manage all three by building great time management skills.
What other tips did you share with the audience to help them with this idea? By putting it into three rings, you give some categorization to it. Maybe it reduces the stress a little bit. Sometimes when the list is without any categories, it stresses a little bit. There’s still so much that they’re juggling with all of these three rings. What are some other key tips that you offer?
One is a tip that’s not from me. It was from a participant in a training program a few years ago. I loved it and I use it often. When I was talking about this whole concept of juggling elephants when we’re trying to get everything done, it’s overwhelming and heavy. One of my audience members said, “I guess you’ve got to ask yourself the question, what are you willing to fail at?” None of us wants to talk about what we’re willing to fail at because we’re going to succeed at everything. It’s such a powerful question. If I’ve got so much going on, what am I willing to fail at? I’m willing to fail at having everything in order in my office. I’m willing to fail at having the cleanest house in the world so that I can succeed at being a great parent or I can succeed at being present with my team members when I’m at work. That’s a strategy that’s important when you start feeling that pressure. I can’t get it all done. What am I willing to fail? They begin to identify some of those things and understand that identifying those things, gives you space at least mental, if not physical, to say, “What do I want to succeed at?”
I love that because it goes back to what you said around the expectations. By asking that question, you’re allowing yourself to shift the expectations of yourself and say, “It’s okay to have lower expectations in this area so that you can live up to higher expectations in another area.” That’s a great connection to where you started on expectations.
It is all about being mindful. You’ve had guests on your show that have talked about that. It’s about you’ve got to stop and think and reflect. Sometimes those jarring questions will help you to do that and to go a little bit deeper into yourself so that you’re not just accomplishing the task, you’re moving your work in life forward.
Jarring questions help you go a little bit deeper into yourself so that you're actually moving your work in life forward. Click To Tweet
Time management: Our first tendency is to pick it up and get caught up in, “I’ve got to get this done. This is happening,” instead of start saying this, “What have I been trying to accomplish these past few weeks or few months? What’s important to me? Who do I want to be? What do I want to become? What does that mean that this day should look like?” versus reacting to the urgent, the emails, the messages that are on that device. That’s one strategy.
Asking questions is simple and yet powerful. To put the right question in there to help you reflect, step back, and evaluate is super powerful. For whatever reason, another simple trick that we forget and we don’t do is ask more questions.
Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers is phenomenal. He talks about the power of daily questions. I have instituted some of that in my own life. When I’m trying to make a change or manage my time more effectively, I find that if I will come up with 3 to 5 questions to ask myself at the end of each day, that helps me to evaluate how my day went and what I need to do differently, especially if I rate myself on that scale of 1 to 10. A phenomenal book that I’ve gained much from was Triggers.
I thought that was a great book too. People can arm themselves by asking more questions. For myself, though some of the coaching that I’ve done and even in my own life, I learned that in the beginning when somebody would give me an assignment as a consultant, I want to please. Everything is urgent. I think if you’ve given me something, I have to have it done by tomorrow. I would have too much to do and be totally burnt out. I realized I could ask a couple of questions to manage expectations and say, “When do you need this by?” How many times did I hear, “I’m going on vacation? I don’t need it until the following Friday?” You’re like, “What?”
Had I not asked that question, I would have rushed it there. I wouldn’t have gotten any response because they weren’t there. They want to get that hot potato off their chest or back and get it to you. If I ask a couple of questions like, “When do you need this by? Can I split this up into different deliverables or different pieces?” Ask 3 to 5 questions on that when somebody gives you an assignment or asks you to do something that you can get clarity. You can also understand what their expectations are, manage them, and set your own more accurately. We have this American thing. There was a book published a long time ago called The Stuff Americans Are Made Of. One of those things is we’re made with a higher sense of urgency. Now with technology and everything, we’ve got to manage that totally.
You bring up such a good point. Managing our time is about communications. It’s not just about the tips and the tricks in managing procrastination and ABC and all that stuff. It’s about how we are communicating with other people. How are we communicating our current workload? There’s a strategy that I try to teach people. It’s okay to communicate your workload. You’re not whining, especially if you’re focused on the organization’s highest priorities. If you’re doing what your boss wants you to get done, it’s okay to say, “Working on this as you’ve asked me to is going to cause me to have to slow down on this,” then asking for help from that position of strength. That’s what your manager or supervisor gets paid to do. It’s to help work that out. Asking that question, “Help me understand which one of these is most important because I want to focus my time and energy where you need me to be.” Many people won’t take that first step and ask the question because they’re afraid they’re looking weak. Your boss already knows you’re not getting everything done because you’re not turning in to stop.
They don’t always know everything that you’re working on. There are matrix organizations where different projects are giving you different things to do and your boss might not be privy to all of that.
In one of my training programs, I’ll ask that question that you said. I’ll say, “What percent of your current workload does the person you report to understand? Of everything that’s on your plate, what percent do they understand?” When I go down the line, it usually averages out to about 50% to 60%. I say to them, “If your boss only understands 50% of your workload, why is it a problem for them to ask you to do one more thing?” People go, “Yeah.”
Why should it be a problem for you to communicate what it is that you have been going on if they only know 50%? I love that. That’s good stuff. We talked about expectations, management of self, and the communication aspect of it. We talked about planning and how important that is. What’s one of the things that a mentor or that you learned the hard way? It’s one of the most important things for you now because of that?
The thing that probably has resonated with me the most, and we put this in the book Juggling Elephants as far as in the story, was this whole idea of taking an intermission and stopping to see how things are going. You talked about how Americans work. We usually work until something breaks. Either we snap at a coworker or we got a migraine or we looked at a four-line email and we don’t have a clue what it said because we’re out of focus. In managing your life like a circus, the whole idea is you’ve got to stop. Da Vinci talked about every now and then, go and have a little relaxation. Remaining constantly at work will diminish your judgment. There’s tremendous power in stopping a strategic stop and saying, “Where am I right now? How am I doing on the work that I’m doing?”
I want to know personally, what did you almost lose or did you lose because you didn’t step back? I would love the readers to know from you personally what it was.
I’ve been self-employed since 1994. I charted the success of my business with lots of different matrices. Every time I got busy working in the business or that whole thing of taking care of all the stuff right in front of me, that’s when my business suffered. It was those moments when I would stop, be strategic, reflective, and go, “How am I doing?” and evaluate my current success. I could then take better steps and choose the best course of action instead of a good course of action. I nearly lost my business in 2000, simply because I was busy. I had a great year in 1999 and felt I need to keep doing the same thing. Often, we won’t stop to reflect on how things are going and what we need to do to improve.
Read more: Importance of Mindset with Dr. Isaac Jones
How many people have woken up because they had a big health scare because one of those rings wasn’t taken care of? They were working excessively and stressed. They’re not breaking themselves and then getting the wake-up call there or the business is at risk where some of your key people leave because you’re not managing your people. It’s key to step back and see where your time and attention are most needed. Is there anything else that you wanted to share?
I love the line of questioning. My takeaway is reminding ourselves how important planning is to make each day effective and understanding that we can’t get it all done. That one statement alone, “If I can’t get it all done, what’s the most important to get done?” It’s aligning our daily activities to those outcomes instead of failing to plan because we say, “I’ll have time later.” Time is a limited resource. This is why we must never forget to understand the cost and demands of quality time.
That’s the one thing that everybody can definitely take away. Put it in your calendar and plan every day, every week, and every month. It’s that little bit of time that you put into planning that helps things to go smoother. It reduces stress and keeps you purposeful. It’s critical. Jones, thank you for being here and sharing. I know it’s a tiny tip of the iceberg of all the great strategies and tips that you have. Thank you for sharing.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for the work that you’re doing to help all of us take back our time.
Do you have a website or a place where people can find you and get more information, have you come speak or any and all of the above?
The best place to start is JonesLoflin.com. They can go there and find all kinds of resources and more information about me. They can also check out my YouTube channel, Jones Loflin. There are over 180 videos of three minutes or less that help gives you some tips and ideas on time management. It comes out once a week and doing it every week. There’s one that came out about how to better manage your energy level to make sure you’re fully present in the moment.
I always say energy is everything and you’ve got a lot of it. You can tell that’s contagious. I agree and people should check out that video. That’s where the day starts. It’s the energy that you bring to it. Thank you, Jones.
It’s my pleasure to be a part of your show. Thank you.
Thank you for being here because it’s your time and energy that is invested wisely. You are planning because you’re following this show and other shows that are going to help you to work smarter and not harder. The goal is to be smarter in what you do and how you approach it. There were a lot of great tips in this interview. I want you to take a moment to plan, what is one action that you’re going to take as a result of what you learned? What are you going to do that’s going to make something more consistent that’s working but not all the time? What’s something new that you haven’t done that’s going to make a difference? Maybe it’s asking that question when somebody gives you an assignment or a couple of questions at the end of the day. Whatever it is, write it down and put it on your computer so that you’re ready to take action. Schedule a time that you can take the first step that you’re going to do to implement that. We’ll see you in the next episode.
- Who Moved My Cheese?
- The Stuff Americans Are Made Of
- Juggling Elephants
- Jones Loflin – YouTube
About Jones Loflin
Jones Loflin has made it his life’s work to deliver powerful ideas and practical solutions to individuals and organizations struggling with too much to do. His books are described as “illuminating” and his presentations as “unforgettable.” In his 24 years as a speaker and trainer, he has helped countless people regain confidence in their ability to achieve greater success in work and life.
Jones’s innovative solutions on leadership, change, and time management has attracted the attention of organizations around the world. His client list includes Federal Express, Choice Hotels, Toyota, Raymond James Financial, and State Farm as well as the United States military. His international clients include Saudi Aramco, Gillette, and Aramark Canada.
Looking for ways to expand the reach of his message, Jones chose to become an author. Always Growing offers fresh strategies to lead whether you have been leading for two days or two decades. Juggling Elephants is a witty and profound parable about one man’s search for a better way to get everything done. The book is available in the US and over 14 countries. He is also the author of Getting The Blue Ribbon, a unique story offering simple strategies to get better results. Getting to It is considered a field guide to accomplishing what is most important.
Prior to becoming an internationally recognized speaker, Jones was an educator. His past work includes serving as the “Trainer of Trainers” for the best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese? Jones is also a Co-Active coach, focusing on the areas of leadership, change, and time management with his clients. He is a member of the National Speaker’s Association as well as the Association for Talent Development.
Jones believes the key to success is being passionate about certain things in life, including family, spiritual beliefs, career and relationships. One of his favorite quotes is by Zig Ziglar: “Go as far as you can see, and when you get there you can see farther.”
Jones is grateful for every opportunity to work with individuals and organizations seeking better results. He lives in North Carolina with his wonderful wife Lisa and their two perfect daughters.
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