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The 10 time management tricks for Millennials

Extract from ‘Don’t Say I Never Told You’ Series 2

-A guide to life from a loving father to his millennial daughters

1. The 15 second rule for short term “to do” actions

I am a member of a dining club and I need to pay fees at each dinner I attend.  It is a task I always leave to later, until I get chased up and am embarrassed into action.  Murray, a successful businessman, told me about the ‘15 second rule’.  When you realise you must do something you have 15 seconds to take some action or resign yourself to having to think about it again, some other time. 

I researched this suggestion and found that the prefrontal cortex holds a thought for 15 seconds, these thoughts are like “the brain’s Post-it notes”, and they fall off if you do not action them. 

I am now an avid follower of the 15 second rule.  When working on an important ‘rock task’ I am normally focused enough to avoid these thoughts.  However, when working on general issues, if a thought crosses my mind, I now ask, “Do I want to complete this easy task or think about it again?” Invariably I do the task.

2. Learning to say “No”

Zoe Chance in her book, “Influence is your superpower - how to get what you want without compromising who you are” has pointed out that far too often we have become a ‘people pleaser’ scared that “No” might offend.  She recommends that for 24 hours you say “No” to everything. During this exercise you will find out that it does not bother people as much as you had thought and sometimes your involvement was not necessary in the first place.

Frances Booth author of “Distraction trap: how to focus in a digital world” makes some very valid points.

“Learning when and how to say no is a way of valuing and managing our time.”

“When we say no to one thing, in effect we’re also saying yes to something else.”

Tips for saying 'no'

  • Avoid an instant answer, listen carefully and ask questions.  Are they trying to move a monkey on their back to your back. As Booth says, “ Pausing before responding uses far less time than it takes to backtrack.”

  • Does it pass the “I would get started tomorrow if I had the chance test?” If does not it probably does not fit within the organisation’s critical success factors or your current “rocks” and it will not be more interesting in three or four weeks time.

  • Always know how many projects you currently have on and realise if you say “Yes” to a new project one or maybe two projects will need to be reassigned or abandoned.

  • Is the person ringing you a ‘time waster’, one who does not respect others time, cancels meetings at a drop of a hat, is the kiss of death to a project?

  • If “No” is the right answer let it remain a “No”. Practise your response:

    • “I don’t think I am the right person because______.  Have you thought of ________.”

    • “That’s very interesting but I don’t have the time right now. My workload frees up by _______.”

    • “If I took that on I would have to abandon a couple of my projects to make room.  I thus reluctantly decline.”

3. Move to a stand-up desk with three screens

One common response I find when asking workshop attendees who have three screens, if they would go back to working with one or two screens is a resounding “Hell, No!”

In this picture you see that I have a stand—up desk with three screens.  The middle one being my laptop.  I would have four, except it would cut out my sea view.

If you have only one or two screens you are driving a model T Ford in the 21st century.  Try three screens for a week you will never go back.  Please note I am not suggesting that you use one for your emails.  I have suggested in the third series that these are to be reviewed only two or three times a day starting at 10.30 am.

Research points out that stand-up desks will increase life expectancy and your productivity.  Interestingly, from a reputable study, the findings were quite damming.  They found if you sit for more than eight hours a day you have a:

  • 91% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes

  • 14% increased risk of heart disease

  • 15% increased risk of early death

Interestingly, no amount of exercise in the early morning or after work can eradicate the damage caused by sitting for this length of time.

I now only use my chair for 40% of the time.  Search the web for  “Health benefits + standing desks” for more information.

4. Never move a meeting because you are busy

I learnt this lesson when I was a consultant in London.  It had snowed and the four inches that settled on the road brought chaos, laughable to those in snow ravaged countries of Europe.  We were to meet the client at their premises.  The client cancelled as he was stuck at home.

The executive said we can visit you at home.  We spent the whole day getting there and back.  On the trip back I asked the executive, “Why did we not move it to another day, it would have been more efficient.” He responded, “When you move a meeting, you have rolled that commitment into another day.” These words have resonated in my mind for the last 30 years.  Every time when it looks easier to move the meeting to another date the executive’s advice comes back to me and I avoid the temptation to cancel the meeting.  Every time, afterwards I reflect and thank that partner for the sound advice.

5. Have a meditation walk, swim, or run during the day

In order to create some thinking time in a busy day we can learn from the naturalist, geologist and biologist, Charles Darwin.  Besides working in two-hour blocks, he always went on a meditation walk every day.  The importance here is that it is done during the day and is not to be seen as a workout.  It is a simple 20-minute mental exercise.  A lunchtime run and swim can also do the same albeit you need to remember what you have thought about.

In Darwin’s case he walked on an all-weather track around his property.  The importance of the repetition is that you can perform the task in a semi hypnotic state, leaving your mind to wander.  He always had his black book with him where he would note down his thoughts.  This is where he first came up with the “tree of life”.

6. Eat a frog every morning

How often do you have a task that you need and want to get done but you perceive that it is either nearly impossible or simply hate the thought of doing it and thus find every reason why you should not start it? This is procrastination.


Nearly 25% of adults around the world are chronic procrastinators.”

Joseph Ferrari, author of the book “Still Procrastinating”


Here is the cure.  Eat a ‘frog’ every morning. It will change your life.

Mark Twain once said that, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you know that the rest of your day will be better because the worst is behind you”.  Your frog is your worst task, and you should do it first thing in the morning.

Wake up in the morning and ask yourself, “What don’t I want to do today”.  The subconscious will answer you back honestly.  Your task, when you arrive at work, is to do that very thing that is unpalatable to you.  Make that call, organise that appointment, give that reprimand or write that report you have been avoiding.  Two things will happen: the feared task will not be so hard to complete, and you will feel much lighter as this great weight is lifted off you.  Try eating a frog a day – I hope you find it as useful as I have.

7. Set social media free times

When working in your two-hour blocks avoid wherever possible engaging in social media. Having your phone in another place during these periods and silencing all notifications on your computer will help your productivity immensely.

If you are a social influencer and that is where your income is sourced from then invest considerable time in your social media.  Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has 12 people working full time on his social media profile.

8. Limit the number of projects on the go at any point in time

When you become managers, always know how many projects that are on the go at any point in time.  Make sure you have a team board that shows the projects and what status they are at.  It does two things.  Communicates to you the number of projects you have and thus will encourage you to stop saying “Yes we can do that” in meetings, and secondly, embarrasses the team to finish those long overdue projects.

9. Become better at estimating time by using the rule of three

This is so important that I have covered it in another section in more detail.  In summary you are never fully committed on one project.  If you or a staff person are designated a full-time lead for a project assume that each week you will manage only three days on the project.  Thus a 60-day project will take 20 weeks (20 *3), not 12 weeks (12*5) as you would have originally estimated when making the incorrect assumption that you would have the full five days available each week to dedicate to the project. 

10. The magic 15 minutes

Years ago, I worked with a consultant who always arrived 15 minutes early. She would perch herself in the reception and review her research material which she had prepared on the client. She was always calm, in control and efficient during those meetings. My suggestion to you is; welcome this waiting time as a gift from god. It is important to arrive at meetings looking and feeling prepared. Being on top of things. The alternative is to arrive late, flustered, leaving people with the impression you may not be up to the task.

Extract from ‘Don’t Say I Never Told You’ Series 2

-A guide to life from a loving father to his millennial daughters

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