How can you create a schedule that reflects your values and makes sense to you? I spoke about these and related topics with Anna Dearmon Kornick, who is a Time Management Coach.
What you will learn in this episode:
- How to manage your time accordingly to your values and needs
- How to know what tasks to prioritize
- How to build a schedule that suits your life
About Anna Dearmon Kornick:
Anna Dearmon Kornick is a Time Management Coach, wife and mom who helps busy professionals and business owners master time management so they can stop feeling overwhelmed and start spending time on what matters most.
As the host of It’s About Time - A Podcast about Work, Life and Balance, Anna shares time management tips, productivity strategies and real-life advice to help her listeners make the most of their time. In addition to teaching actionable takeaways, Anna interviews other go-getters to find out how they navigate family, friends, fulfilling careers and full schedules.
Building on more than a decade of experience in the fast-moving, high-stakes world of political and crisis communications, Anna knows a thing or two about using time well. Early in her career, she served as the chief spokesperson for a Lt. Governor, and managed the hectic schedule of a U.S. Congressman. She’s helped small business owners, nonprofits, political candidates, Fortune 100 companies and executives focus on what matters most.
Connect with Anna:
TP: Today, we are speaking about time management and my guest is Anna Dearmon Kornick. Welcome, Anna.
ADK: Hi there. Thank you so much for having me.
TP: It's great to have you and speak about time management. And let's go to the beginning. You have studied public relations and then you started to work with crisis communications. Has effective time management been part of your life from the beginning of your career?
ADK: You know, it's so interesting, even before I started working in crisis communication, which I'll tell you all about that crazy 24/7 lifestyle, but my very first job out of college was as a scheduler to a United States congressman. And so my entire job revolved around managing the busy, hectic schedule of, at the time, one of the most in demand, US congressmen in the United States. And so you can say that that's where the foundations of time management were really laid. But then everything went crazy once I started working in crisis communications.
TP: Can you share more about your life and this totally, I guess, hectic lifestyle and work style, like you have there?
ADK: Absolutely. So I spent about a decade of my career in the 24/7-always-on world of crisis communications. I began working in state government communications roles. So I'm from Louisiana in the southern United States, and Louisiana is known for its hurricanes and of course, Mardi Gras and delicious food. But it is difficult for us to get through an entire year without some kind of disaster. And so in my role as a state government communications director, I… goodness…communicated with the media into the public about hurricanes and droughts and oil spills. There was a monumental oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico right off the coast of Louisiana when I was very early in my career, so some of my first experiences were jumping on planes back and forth to Washington, D.C. to prepare congressional testimony. I had a bag packed at all times so I could just jump in the car, get on a plane and head to D.C. to help my boss talk with CNN and all of the major news channels. And so it's required me to just be very on all the time. And when you're on all the time, there's not a whole lot of rest involved in that. And the blurring of the boundaries can get very, very blurry. And so, you know, it's funny, I left the world of state government communications because I was very interested in working in travel and tourism and hospitality communications, you know, that kind of fun stuff that people think of when they typically think of traditional public relations. And then, lo and behold, I was hired at a PR firm in New Orleans. And day one, I walk in and find out that I have been assigned to the crisis communication team. So I thought I was getting away from it and I was right back in the middle of it more than ever. So during my time at that PR firm, I worked on plant explosions, and universities on the brink of financial collapse. There was a nonprofit that was involved in an embezzlement scheme. You know, I'll never forget the day that I was in a high rise building in downtown New Orleans overlooking the Mississippi River and the river boats going up and down. And there were so many news trucks parked outside in the front of this building because of what was happening in the room that I was inside. You know, in Hamilton, they talk about the room where it happens. I was in the room where it happens. And I had to escort like a high profile community leader down a back freight elevator and into an alley in order to avoid TV cameras waiting outside. So you name it, I have probably stayed up all night on the phone in front of my laptop, putting together talking points and media interview prep for it.
TP: Definitely interesting life.
ADK: Oh, goodness. Interesting, exhausting. So as you can expect, one can quickly head in the direction of burnout, living and living a life like that all the time. Right. I was telling a friend of mine this morning that, "Oh yeah, when I worked in crisis communications, I got up early and I worked and then I went to work and I worked and then I stayed late at work to work, and then I went home and worked some more and then typically crashed at around 11 o'clock, 11, 12, and then did it all again the next day.”
TP: At least nice and familiar schedule.
ADK: Right, familiar, but not very fun. It's when I started missing milestones in my friends and family's lives, missing baby showers, missing family events, missing fund festivals in New Orleans, that it really just started to take a toll on me.
TP: Mhm. And then you became a coach. Why time management? There’re so many other topics to coach on with your experience, I guess you could have done anything.
ADK: Well, something about time management just spoke to me, you know, coming from that 24/7, always on crisis communications life. I had no boundaries. I did not have good time management skills. Everything that I did was about tackling what was most urgent in the moment. So I would spend the entire day putting out fires and then I would go home in the evenings once everyone else was asleep and actually try and get work done. You know, one thing I'll tell you is that I actually grew up in a funeral home family. My stepfather was, is still, a funeral director and death in the end of life was, it was just a part of our day to day life. I mean, that was our dinner table conversation, as you know, interesting or strange as it might sound. But, you know, we would talk about who passed away this week or who recently, who in our small town community recently lost their parent or their aunt or their uncle. And when you grow up where death is such a center stage part of life, I can say that I really grew up with an appreciation for how precious and fleeting life can be and that every minute counts and that we're not promised tomorrow. And so, you know, when I started exploring, when I knew that I had had enough of communications life, I started trying to figure out what was next. And there was a lot of trial and error. But all I knew is that I wanted to keep other women business owners, professionals, I wanted to keep other people from experiencing the burnout and the dark place that I was in as a result of just not focusing on what matters most. So time management just seemed like an interesting and natural fit. And I mean, even as a coach, I still struggle with time management. I don't get it right all the time. It's something that we all can work on. And so if I can help just one person live their life a little better and appreciate every moment that they've got spending it on what matters most, then I can say that I've been successful as a coach.
TP: Yeah, that's a good mission you have.
ADK: Thank you.
TP: And today, we are speaking about two time management principles. So the first one is Parkinson's Law, and the second is the Planning Fallacy. OK, what are they?
ADK: Sure. So the Parkinson's Law and the Planning Fallacy are two of the most common pitfalls that we encounter when it comes to managing our time. I mean, if you're listening right now and if you have ever said "I just get things done at the last minute", "If I wait to the last minute, I will get everything done", "I thrive under pressure". That's probably a lot of us. Right. And the reason why.
TP: Yeah, me too.
ADK: Exactly. And the reason why is Parkinson's Law. So Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time available. So if you have, you know, 20 minutes before a deadline to wrap something up and you've got to hit your deadline, you'll make it happen in that 20 minutes. But if you've got three days to work on a project before that deadline, before it's due, it'll take you three days, because when it comes to doing work, you know, we are always looking for that perfection, what that best is. And, you know, we can continue working and tweaking and changing and adding this and taking this out literally until the end of time. And so Parkinson's Law at work expands to fill the time allotted without setting boundaries in your work, using time blocking, for example, something I'd love to tell you about. Your work could just continue on forever. That's why whenever we will start our day with thirty seven things on our to-do list and we'll jump around to the different things on our list. And then at the end of the day, maybe we've crossed off two to three things. That's Parkinson's Law and action work expands to fill the time available.
TP: Very familiar thing.
ADK: And so the Planning Fallacy. How about this? How many times have you ever been working on a project, whether it's at home or at work and, you thought it was going to take you about an hour. You're like, OK, so this should take me about an hour to finish and then three hours later, you're still working on it and you say, "Oh, well, I completely underestimated how much time it was going to take me to do that project." So the Planning Fallacy is our tendency to underestimate how long things take us. And so if you're nodding your head right now thinking, "Oh my goodness, I do that all the time", you are not alone. You are not alone, my friend. That is why it has a name. That is why it is a thing, because we all do it. We all underestimate how long things are going to take us. We're very optimistic when it comes to how long we think projects are going to take.
TP: So what can we do with those? So how can we combat both Parkinson's Law and the Planning Fallacy?
ADK: Yes. So the best way to combat Parkinson's Law and the Planning Fallacy is to start with time blocking. So time blocking is basically taking a look at your to do list and it's picking an item from your to do list. So, for example, prepare for a podcast episode and it's putting a meeting on your calendar whether you're using a paper planner or a digital planner. But it's creating a block on your schedule for a specific purpose and then holding yourself to that meeting that you've scheduled with yourself. And so what you do, what you accomplish by using time blocking, is that you've got a clear start and end time so that's getting Parkinson's Law under control right there, because work can't expand to fill the time allotted. When you have a specific endpoint, it's there. If you set aside 30 minutes, you typically stick to your 30 minutes. Now, in order to combat the Planning Fallacy, you think, "OK, I think it's going to take me fifteen minutes to prep for this podcast interview. So let me put thirty minutes on the calendar just in case, because I know that I'm a human and I am susceptible to the Planning Fallacy just like everyone else". So if you want to beat Parkinson's Law and you want to beat the Planning Fallacy, use time blocking to schedule your specific work projects and add fifteen to thirty minutes just in case to account for that underestimation that we tend to do.
TP: That's quite good tip and with time blocking, then we basically are able to not stretch the time infinitely, but actually concentrate on this specific task and do it quickly because we have created this deadline for us.
ADK: Exactly. You've created it down a deadline. You've created boundaries for yourself. And you know what helps you be so much more realistic about what we can accomplish in a day? You know, back to that thirty seven point to-do list that I mentioned that I'm sure we've all been guilty of at some point or another. You know, we reached the end of the day and we get so disappointed with ourselves because we haven't done all thirty seven things on our list. But the thing is, it wasn't realistic to do all thirty seven of those things in the first place. Right. And so that's why that's another wonderful reason why time blocking is such a great strategy, because you know we only have twenty four hours in a day. One hundred and sixty eight hours in a week. And when you take the time to block out when you're going to work on which projects are of different types of work, you're able to create a very clear picture of what you can actually accomplish in a given day, in a given week. It helps you plan better for the future and it helps you set reasonable and realistic expectations for yourself. So you're so you'll stop beating up on yourself for not getting to all thirty seven things on your list.
TP: That's really a good tip. And what about those crises, what all of us could have in our normal day? How can we plan those?
ADK: So my goodness. So. Crisis is inevitable, there are always going to be things that are going to catch on fire in our work day in our lives. Urgent things that are going to come up. So this is where the strategy of designing an ideal week comes into play. And I'm so excited about this because I can without a doubt tell you that having an ideal week is my secret to getting everything done.
When life gets crazy, what's the first thing to go? Those things that really help us take care and nurture ourselves. So start by putting those boulders in time blocks on your calendar. - Anna Dearmon Kornick, Podcast Step Up & Thrive
ADK: This is it. This is the good stuff. So an ideal week is basically a template for your week. It's sitting down and it's taking time to really think through and design what an ideal week in your life would look like. And you might be thinking, "But Anna, every week in my life is different". Things come up, things get crazy. I hear you. I hear you. So what if you could start each week with a baseline, with a template so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every week or every day when you start your day? And so the way that you design your ideal week is to first think through what your shoulders are, what are your number one top priority, non-negotiable things in your life. So these are the things that are important, but they're not urgent because I'm sure we can all agree whenever the urgent things come up in life. A lot of times that's all we'll take care of. That's all will tend to and all of those important but not urgent things like self-care or personal development or cultivating relationships, those will fall to the wayside. So start by thinking through, you know,"What are the things in my week that are non-negotiable for me?". So my example, I have a two year old daughter and every night from 6:30 to 7:30, that is sacred time at our house. That's when we do bath time. That's when we read stories. That's when we do bedtime. And I will decline interview opportunities. I will turn down dinner invitations in order to be home during that 6:30 to 7:30 times. So that's a boulder in my life. And so on my calendar there is a time block that represents that important, you know, that important daily routine in my life and my daughter's life. And so boulders are so much more than just what we do at work. It's personal. It's, it might for some of you look like a fitness routine that you want to schedule in your time at the gym first, because again, when life gets crazy, what's the first thing to go? Those things that really help us take care and nurture ourselves. So start by putting those boulders in time blocks on your calendar. And so the next thing is creating blocks for those urgent things that come up. And you might be thinking, wait, how do I plan for the urgent things? Well, it's in that space that's available. It's in that space that's available. Around those boulders that you've put down for yourself, you know, it's really hard to move a boulder, they're kind of big, they're very heavy.
TP: Yes, they tend to be.
ADK: Right? But a big rock can be a bit more flexible. A big rock is something that is a project in your business that really move the needle, that really moves forward, that you love doing, sets your soul on fire. But it does have the flexibility to be moved around. And, you know, when you start by really putting your stake in the ground about what's important and really committing to that, those urgent things will find a place, those urgent things will fill the time that's available. And so once you've got your boulders in place and once you've thought through what your big rocks are, you've created time blocks that can represent those big rocks, those urgent things that pop up. The last piece of the puzzle is finding a space for the little bitty pebbles in our lives. You know, those little bitty tedious things that can so easily take up all their time. So pebbles are low impact work things that might be important to your business, but they don't necessarily move the needle forward, a lot of times that might look like “social media research”, you know what I mean? I'm winking at you.
TP: Yeah. Yeah.
ADK: Social media research where you're looking to see what are other people posting. And then an hour later, you realize that your eyes are crossing because you've spent so much time on Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn. And so those little pebbles, things like making a doctor's appointment or picking up dry cleaning or all of those little bitty things that can very easily take over our day if we don't watch out those fit in in the spaces between the boulders and the big rocks, they go in last. They fill in the gaps and we think about those last. And so, you know, I've actually I would love to share an episode of my podcast "It's About Time". It's actually episode 48 where I dive in and a little bit more of detail about my secret to getting everything done by designing an ideal week and I really walk you through the steps. And that episode also includes a free calendar printable so that you can design your own ideal week and start winning your week before it starts.
TP: Thank you. And you'll find all the links also from our show notes, so please check them there. And now it's time for our Quick Tips section. And this is something what we do regularly on our podcast. And my question to you is, what is your biggest revelation about time management?
ADK: Oh, goodness. So without a doubt, time management is not a one size fits all. It is not one size fits all if there is anything that I have learned from studying time management myself from working with clients across different industries and different backgrounds is that we bring so much, so much unique perspective in our personalities and our preferences. And, you know, what works for me and helping me manage my time may not work if you copy and paste and take that strategy. And so that's why time management really begins with heart management. And I know that might sound a little bit cheesy, and I kind of agree, but if you don't first get clear on what matters most to you, what your values are, what you truly care about, then you can't even begin to move things around on your calendar in an effective way. You know, we want our calendars and our lives to reflect what we value. But if we don't stop and pause and take the time to actually think about what matters most, then we can't manage our time well. So if there's one thing that I would challenge those of you listening to do, it's to set aside 15, 30 minutes and really think about what matters most to me and is what I value reflected on the pages of my calendar. And if yes, that's awesome. Yes. And if not, what can you start doing differently? What can you say no to? What can you cut so that you can reshape your days to truly match what sets your soul on fire.
TP: Yes, please do that. This is a really interesting exercise. I know it from myself.
TP: Thank you so much Anna for joining us and sharing all these tips. I've enjoyed all those minutes we have spoken together. And if our listeners would like to know more about you and follow you where can they do so?
ADK: Absolutely. All I would love for you to come join me over on Instagram. That's where I spend a lot of my time posting about life and time management tips. And my Instagram handle is AnnaDCornick, and I'm sure it will be linked in the show notes so that you can get the interesting spelling of my last name. My website is AnnaDCornick.com, and I would love to invite you to tune in to my podcast "It's About Time", a podcast sharing stories and strategies to inspire women seeking better work, life, and balance anywhere you listen to podcasts and new episodes come out every Monday. And I really think that if you enjoyed my conversation with Tuuli today, then you'll love episode 48.
TP: Oh yes, please go and check that out. And don't forget this extra calendar you can download. Thank you so much.
ADK: Thank you for having me.
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