How to Conquer Your Time Robbers

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Over the past couple of months, we’ve had the opportunity to read many highlights from this fall’s Mid-Atlantic Region Conference for Professional Organizers. My guest today is Lauri Mennel, with some great time management strategies from Leslie Josel’s conference session.


The NAPO-WDC chapter of NAPO hosted the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference for Professional Organizers (MARCPO) in October.  I have a personal interest in helping people with ADHD so I was really looking forward to Leslie Josel’s presentation. Leslie is an ADHD specialist and the owner of Order Out of Chaos.  She offered a thought provoking presentation on time management called “It’s About Time:  Strategies for Conquering What Gets In Our Way.”  Although Leslie works with many clients with ADHD, I believe her strategies can benefit any client.

We’ve all been to our share of time management seminars and sessions. What set Leslie’s apart was her fresh look at the specific barriers that get in the way of managing our time. She really challenged the audience to think about how our own lives, habits, preferences and patterns can hinder our success. By identifying those hindrances, we can begin to overcome them.

Leslie urged us to confront our “Time Robbers.”  Time robbers can be emotional, academic, environmental, intellectual or technical. Emotional time robbers can include “overwhelm”, frustration, anxiety, stress and being “stuck”. Academic time robbers might be a learning difference, a working memory deficit or other processing disorder. Our environment can wreak havoc on our efficiency if it doesn’t provide us with a creative, supportive environment in which to excel. Time thieves tied to our intellectual function are often the result of our preferences and personalities. Technical time robbers can simply be a function of not having the right tools to do the job.

I got a lot out of three of Leslie’s “Time Robbers” in particular:  Emotional, environmental and intellectual.

Emotional Time Robbers

Leslie helped the audience learn that the key to finally taking control of Emotional Time Robbers is to “understand the overwhelm.”  She offered these suggestions:

  1. Do the “2-Step”  No, not the dance, but making sure to simplify as much as possible and trying to get tasks down to 2-3 steps.
  2. Making “One Focused Decision”  Asking yourself, “do you want this?” can bring clarity.
  3. “Ramp It Up/Break It Down.”  Acknowledging the difference between a task versus a project which needs to be broken down into smaller tasks.
  4. “Black Tablecloth Effect”  Literally or figuratively, covering everything with a black tablecloth except the task at hand can help improve focus.
  5. “Now” = “Not Now”  Reminding ourselves that we can, and should, relegate some tasks to “Not Now” and focus on the “Now”.

Intellectual Time Robbers

By examining our time management style, we can begin to make the changes necessary to begin defeating our Intellectual Time Robbers. Leslie noted several preference and personality traits that are part and parcel of our style:

  • Style:  Do we prefer independent work or working in a group?
  • Deadlines:  Do we need long lead times or do we need the pressure of last minute?
  • Environment:  Do we work best in silence or in noise?
  • Focus:  Are we good at multi-tasking or do we need to focus on one thing at a time?
  • Pace:  Are we fast and furious or slow and steady?
  • Performance:  Are we buttoned up, planned and prepared or do we do our best work spontaneously?
  • Energy:  Are we more energetic in the mornings or the evenings?
  • Tactile:  Do we like paper or are we strictly digital?

By validating and honoring the preferences and personality of our time profile, we can take control of our time in a very personal way.

Environmental Time Robbers

Finally, Leslie spent time helping us learn how to “let your environment do the work!”  These tips can help us triumph over Environmental Time Robbers and just make our space more fun and positive – it’s all about creating energy around your environment.

Finding your environmental sweet spot is an important consideration.  And Leslie encouraged us to think outside the box – pay bills in the park, move your desk to face a window, work in your kitchen instead of your office if it’s warm and cozy and makes you feel good.

Put some fun in your environment.  Use color and focused lighting to make your work space not only more efficient but pleasing to you.

Go vertical and use the “air space” on the walls above and around your desk to help keep it as clear as you like.

Using aesthetics to improve your environment is almost guaranteed to improve your output.  A favorite playlist, pops of color, treasured photos, task lighting, a cheery vase of flowers –  if you feel good, you’re bound to do better work.

Leslie is a wonderful speaker – warm, energetic and fun.  She integrates real life scenarios into her speaking points which truly enables you to visualize her strategies working with your clients.

Photo courtesy of John Liu, used under a Creative Commons license

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Lauri Mennel, owner of Bluebonnet Professional Organizing, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the local chapter, NAPO-WDC, which serves the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland areas. She helps busy people and families organize their paper, time and stuff so they can relax more and stress less.

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  1. Avatar leslie josel on May 17, 2016 at 10:02 am

    I truly have egg on my face. How did I miss this amazing recap from 2 1/2 years ago? Thank you so much for your amazing write up on this workshop. I’m honored that you thought enough of it to write about it.

    And again apologize that I missed it.

    Thanks so much!

    leslie josel

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 18, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Leslie, I can’t believe that neither Lauri nor I thought to tell you about this post, but I’m glad you discovered it now. Thank you for all the fabulous information! I hope to have an opportunity to hear you speak some day.

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