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6/26/2003

Time is plentiful if used wisely

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

HIGHLANDS RANCH —Unhappily overweight people are not the only ones to benefit from keeping a diary, according to local productivity coach Laura Stack.

“In my estimation, people spend 30 minutes a day just looking for things,” she explained. And time, like calories, can add up exponentially behind one’s back.

Yet, instead of tracking time wasters and tackling the personal habits propelling them, most unproductive people prefer to blame the system, said Stack, 34.

One in six, or 18 percent of American workers, she said, perceive their workload as overwhelming enough to forgo hard-earned vacation time.

But that doesn’t have to be the last word, something her book — “Leave the Office Earlier,” published by Broadway Books in 2004 — will address, said Stack, a veteran motivational speaker and corporate coach with an MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Unproductive people, she said, fall into broad categories, from the garden variety procrastinator to the “butterfly” — those who flit from project to project without zipping up the last phases.

Still, anyone — from the most hard-up time waster to the mildly frustrated type — can pack more productivity into the work day with a little extra cognizance.

Recognize that no one works at a brilliant, full-throttle mode for eight straight hours, she said. By noting the ebb and flow of energy, a savvy worker can schedule the most demanding tasks for his or her finest hours.

“Chain yourself to your desk when you’re up,” Stack said. Then, relegate the lower priority or lower complexity tasks for those typically less fruitful hours.

Besides this sensitizing strategy, Stack recommended fine-tuning the interruption response. Some, for instance, become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent — something she dubbed a “First in, first out” mentality.

Productive people develop the discipline of prioritizing, she said. When legitimate interruptions pull them away from a priority activity, they get back to it pronto because they’ve decided ahead of time that this item on the “to do” list is worth finishing.

“Stick to it like a postage stamp,” she said.

Another focussing tip, Stack explained, asks the worker to detach emotion from “to do” list items.

“Forget how you feel about it,” she said. Instead, rationally estimate the value of finishing the task.

Addressing habits that seem to shrink time will pump up productivity. But sometimes, Stack explained, well-intentioned workers get overwhelmed and fall into classic avoidance patterns.

“When that happens, think of slicing up your work like a salami,” she said.

Stack admitted that some people, herself included, automatically organize, prioritize and produce as much as possible.

“As a child, all my stuffed animals lived in very specific places on my bed,” she said.

Nevertheless, she added, productive people are most often made, not born.

For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.com.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.