February 1st, 2012
12:07 PM ET
Editor's Note: Jeff Dauler is one of 7 people selected to train for and compete in the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Each participant gets all of the training and gear necessary to compete in the race, and they'll finish their journey in September at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. A very busy guy, Jeff is the co-host and executive producer of The Bert Show, a nationally-syndicated radio program. He has realized that time management is going to be his biggest hurdle.
Here was my Facebook status update: "Know what the hardest part of the triathlon training has been so far? Time management."
Here's an email from Matt, one of the Fit Nation producers, that I received exactly 8 minutes later: "I just saw your post on Facebook about time management. Not to add to your list, but think you could write a blog for us about that by next Monday? 300-500 words?"
And that's how it happens. Plans destroyed by something I wasn't planning on. A blog request from my Fit Nation producers. A lunch invite with a business associate. Drinks with a friend. Traffic. Weather.
I want to know the secret.
And, thanks to my awesome Facebook family, and Dr. Gupta, I got some great ideas.
1. Schedule EVERYTHING. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. If you are anything like me, you've got a couple of lists here and there, plus one in your head. You know what you have to do, and when it's due. But because of your system (or non-system) of managing your to-dos, you aren't prioritizing and you aren't being realistic with your time.
Along those lines, start thinking of everything as an appointment, with a realistic length of time for that appointment. Need to call your chatty parents? That might be a one-hour appointment. Need to run five "quick" errands? That might be 90 minutes with traffic and the pharmacist who remembers you calling it in but just can't find the order. Once you start scheduling everything, it'll be easy to implement number two ...
2. Look at the big picture. Not just what you have to do today, but look at the week/month/next six months. If you see the next two weeks are filled with "appointments" then you can start planning accordingly. If you see this week is pretty light but the rest of the month is packed, you can use the free time to hit the mall, movies, or manicurist.
Looking at the big picture allows you to realistically assess the time in your life, which you need to do in order to make number three easy ...
3. Say "no." Don't be afraid of that word. Using it doesn't make you unkind, ungrateful or rude. It actually makes you polite, because when you implement the "no" you are prioritizing the valuable things in your world and moving the fluff stuff to the side.
You have a lunch invite from a co-worker whose sister is in town and they want to go to the great Mexican place you like? That's great... unless you look at your big picture calendar and see that your week is slammed and you need the lunch hour to run those errands (including the visit to the pharmacist who always loses your stuff.)
Can you move those errands? Then enjoy your cheese dip. No? Enjoy your protein bar in the car as you handle your priorities. Besides, you don't even really know that co-worker or care about her sister.
4. Commit 110%. Dr. Gupta said something during one of his appearances on my radio show. We asked him how he handles being a Dad, a husband, a TV personality, a neurosurgeon, author, speaker, and have a social life. (Believe it or not, I have seen him at concerts, fundraisers, and dinners around town.)
His answer: When he's in something, he's in it 110%. He commits himself to maximizing that time, whether it's personal or professional, and not multitasking. That's easy for him, because he knows his schedule allows for time to address everything ... and he also knows that once something is on his schedule, it's a priority. It deserves his complete and undivided attention.
Even us non-globetrotting neurosurgeons can follow this rule; we SHOULD follow this rule.
I'm getting a system in place, and so far, it's working great. I've only been in it a couple of weeks, but I see results. When I'm one-on-one with someone, I'm more focused on that experience. When I get an invite or offer, I'm able to quickly see if my involvement is realistic or will totally throw me off.
I've eliminated emergency errands because I'm looking ahead and consolidating tasks. If I can stick with this ... and I think I can ... it'll only be a matter of time before I, too, am a book-writing brain surgeon who is on TV.
Stand aside, Gupta.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.