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JUNEAU - During difficult times, it is especially important to remember that you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm, be that people or cows.

"You really have to take care of yourself first," Brook Layman, McGhee Productivity Solutions, said during a World Class Webinar on time management presented by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Layman warned against the "I have to get it all done" mindset.

"You do, but not right now," she countered. "That's a limiting belief that causes stress and disappointment. Shift your thinking: you have to get the right things done."

Defining the right things starts with answering the question, "Why am I doing what I'm doing?" Layman suggests a mission statement that involves personal and professional goals one hopes to achieve in a one-year time frame and a 3-5 year time frame.

"Think about where you are now that feels lacking and where you want to be," she advised.

Break each goal down into projects that will lead to it being accomplished. Break each project into actions, then determine what the strategic next action (SNA) is and when you want to do it.

Since some SNAs are dependent on other things, they work best with a 'do date'. Setting the time frame helps to identify the most important things to tackle. "This helps reinforce the belief that you don't have to do it all today," Layman said.

Technology issues

For most people, modern technology has become a time sucker. "Technology is great, but it has become so vast to keep up with that it becomes more of hindrance, " Layman said, noting the average person in the U.S. spends five hours a day on a smart phone.

That, she observed, is a lot of time that could be used for other things.

The vast multitude of apps are collecting points for commitments, reminders, texts, Facebook, Amazon and the like. "These are all buckets we store things we need to do, want to do, have to do," Layman said. "It's chaos."

To reduce tech clutter, she advised not using Facebook as a collecting point. Instead, pick several places such as your Inbox, calendar and notes. For instance, when you are texted an invite, put it into your notes or on your calendar. "It seems like more time spent, but overall, you will have less places to look and be more efficient," Layman said.

Organizing your life and managing your time means certain behaviors might need adjusting. Turn your phone upside down so you can focus and be present, turn off notifications and, she stressed, let go of that "What if I miss something?' feeling.

Devices can limit participation in real life and be used as an excuse to actually connect with others. 

"We are no long creating lasting memories," Layman added, citing research that shows memories are laid down when a person fully participates in the moment. "If you're spending that time with your phone up, the sounds, sights, feelings and emotions that create lasting memories are not going to be fully engaged."

Although technology is designed to make life easier, using what works for you is key. Sort through the clutter and realign your activities to position business goals and objectives at the forefront.

Life as a pie

A fulfilled and balanced life involves paying attention to the important aspect of life. Consider life a pie sliced into pieces, Layman suggested, such as work, spirituality, family, community, hobbies and health. "It is important to acknowledge and give energy to all the slices," she stressed.

Be sure not to give too much weight to work. Doing so can lead to neglect/resentment, procrastination/avoidance, detachment/isolation, physical/mental/emotional decline, irritability/tension and sleep deprivation.

Stress levels rise until you snap, she warned, bringing exhaustion, depression and burn-out.

Beware of multi-tasking. " A lot of people think they're good at this, but it is really impossible," Layman said. Instead of trying to make the brain do two things at the same time, focus on one thing at time and you will actually be more productive.

It is also important to regularly schedule time to clean out your mind.

The conscious brain holds 5-7 things at one time, Layman explained, with incoming thoughts pushing others to the unconscious mind, which has vast storage capacity. They pop back up when you relax and empty your conscious mind, like when you are trying to fall asleep.

Layman suggests taking 2-3 minutes to  just sit down and purge your mind, adding the pertinent items that pop up to your to-do list and SNAs.

Calendar smarts

Time is the most important thing we have, Layman said, calling the calendar a dashboard for life. "The things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least," she quoted.

Fill the calendar with the important stuff, blocking out time for date night and family dinner as well as important meetings and enough time for the "do date" items. Include blocks of time to support your particular goals, such as health and hobbies.

"This will move you from scarcity to abundance," Layman predicted.

When stressed and overwhelmed by the current situation, a feeling of scarcity can narrow the lens, she explained. "If you are focused on scarcity, you need to expand your lens and look at the bigger picture. Focus on the pieces of your pie that are already abundant, and realize the difference you are making in the world."

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