Barbara Clifford helps other women, just like her, to take control. Being in control of relationships (leadership & communication) time management and stress management. She works with small business, middle management and entrepreneurs to feel more empowered. Barbara allows employers, employees and business owners to feel confident that they are proactively improving their productivity and wellbeing. Although she is based in Alice Springs, Australia, Barbara Clifford also delivers training via skype and online training programs and is an international speaker.
Listen to #48 episode to learn the best tips about taming time from Barbara Clifford, the time tamer!
Keynotes of this episode:
- The secret of finding out what you really place value on in your life
- The most common problems people have to finally start organizing and prioritizing their life
- Simon Sinek’s Start With Why
- David Allen’s Getting Things Done
Connect with Barbara
Kate: Barbara, thank you so much for joining me here on Stay on Top Of Your Work Podcast. I’m very happy to have you here.
Barbara: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:30 – 00:02:05]
Kate: It’s a pleasure. I know that not everybody knows who you are, so would you like to say a few words about yourself?
Barbara: Sure, so my name is Barbara Clifford , otherwise known as the time tamer, and I’m very passionate about helping people to alleviate stress and maximize their time and alleviate the overwhelm. So I do training with people. I do online coaching. I do online training platforms as well.
So I work with individuals and groups of people to help them be more efficient in a nutshell, and feel more confident around their work.
[00:02-06 – 00:03:04]
Kate: Wonderful. So let’s start from the very basic question because you also help them [people] in managing their time and everything that’s related. So what is time management for you?
Barbara: Oh, that is a good question. I think, the interesting thing about time management is about knowing… it’s prioritization. That’s what people come and stuck. And with that comes understandanding what it is that you value most. Whether being in your personal life or being in your business or your career. It’s what you place value on.
And to we fully get distracted by somebody else’s needs or somebody else’s thoughts. We’re doing things that aren’t necessarily important for the business to something we like doing and enjoy doing. But it’s not necessarily helping the job or business.
So time management is about the prioritization and focusing on the bigger picture and what’s important to you.
[00:03:05 – 00:04:38]
Kate: Wonderful! So how to do that? Because I think it’s not that easy!
Barbara: That’s a really good point. So where you need to focus on yourself in terms of prioritization is to be really clear about what it is that you place value on? And it’s not always obvious. It can be tucked away and hidden.
So, for example, I’m a mother and so my instinct and my responsibility would to say, “Oh, children come first.” I’m a mother and that’s the highest, most important thing in my life. Yes, my children are important to me but if I’m really, really, completely honest. The thing that I really place value on is making sense of things, creating order out of chaos and being organized.
That’s what I always gravitate towards. That’s what I enjoy doing and so I can have a really valuable relationship with my children when it’s organized, when everything is organized I’m happy. When I’m making sense of things or creating order out of the chaos, that’s when I’m happy and have a great relationship with them.
So it’s about finding what it is that we truly, maybe secretly, we’re not even honest with ourselves what we place value on, and it’s also about knowing where our strengths and weaknesses are in terms of our personalities.
What we gravitate towards because that’s our personality type.[00:04:39 – 00:06:38]
Kate: Okay, so when you work with people, I’m sure you learn so much from them and about them, so what are the most common problems, because I know you’re an expert so you probably don’t have these problems. But for other people, what are the most common problems that they have when it comes to organizing and managing their life and time?
Barbara: Well, everybody has that difficulty, you know, I’m not alone from that and sometimes, you really need somebody outside of yourself to give you some perspectives. So I have challenges too of managing my time.
What seems really common is when people become unstuck and become distressed. It is about the prioritization. And it really is about not knowing themselves and not having confidence to communicate with other people around them. And being assertive. And what I mean by that, that’s not being aggressive. It’s not being confident. That’s just a basic human right of communicating your own wants and needs and expressing, whether it being personal or on professional, thorough.
And you can be informed about what’s going on in your space and have a level of awareness, it enables you to communicate with others. You can say, “no,” you can say, “Look, I’m not gonna be able to do that by that time” or “I know how much time I need to achieve this.”
You feel a greater sense of confidence. And so it comes from being able to communicate with other people. And sometimes I’m seeing that people don’t know how to communicate, because they’re not sure about themselves, what’s important to them. They don’t have the clarity about the priorities and where to focus their time. And they don’t know how to speak up for themselves with other people. Quite often they don’t know how to say “no.”
[00:06:39 – 00:08:41]
Kate: Interesting. So I know we learn best from our mistakes and they teach us how to avoid certain things and how to become better.
So what mistakes do you see people do most often that somehow stop them from achieving that success and finding their purpose in life?
Barbara: So the mistakes that people make in finding their purpose would be, number one, listening to other people. So what I mean by that is, the shoulds and shouldn’ts and the expectations that are placed on you. And people telling you what you should be doing. People telling you you’re not very good at something so you beat yourself up rather than focusing on what your strengths are and being mindful and aware of what your weaknesses are and working around them.
So people can make a mistake with that. I think people make mistakes too when they think that they’re being productive, they think that they’re doing something that’s really important. As I said before, it might be doing something that they actually enjoy but not necessarily what’s needed in the job or the business or at home.
Social media is a great example. Social media is designed to give us the stuff we value. It’s a really good indicator of finding out what it is that we truly value. People can have this secret passion for vintage clothing when they’re an accountant.
You know what I mean? It can be those things that distract us, the things that we place value on. And so I can go to Facebook and say, “Oh I’m here for work. I’m doing some research” or “I’m doing some posting on my page” And then come out three hours later, pretend I was working.
[00:08:42 – 00:09:32]
Kate: Yeah, that’s what’s called procrastination. That we don’t do what we should be doing.
Barbara: You see, that’s the thing, pocastination. We beat ourselves up and too often the teaching about time management is that, “You just have to start some discipline. You have to deal with your procrastination like it’s your addiction. But the reality is, procrastination is purely choosing to do something that we value, that’s important to us that we enjoy, over something we don’t. Something we hate doing and we’re not enjoying.
So the trick is to try and find the value in whatever it is that we’re doing. Finding in it the pleasure. Finding the pleasures within the thing we’re putting off.
[00:09:33 – 00:11:03]
Kate: So when I think about procrastination what comes to my mind are all those techniques and methods of how to manage your time. Do you have your favorite method of managing time?
Barbara: The sort of thing that I do in working with people is finding something that works for them so I can have something that’s highly complex or I can have something that’s really simple. And it depends on where that person is and where they crosses is at.
So probably the most common, popular, and useful and simple one for
people, as a way of getting started, is what’s called the Pomodoro technique. You’ve heard of that one?
Kate: Yes, of course! I think everybody knows it, it’s very popular.
Barbara: So the Pomodoro technique is a really effective way of being able to reward yourself. You’re doing 20 minutes that’s really, really valuable and useful and you’re rewarding yourself with 10 to 15 minutes of something that is valuable, that you enjoy, that’s rewarding and exciting.
The 20 minutes of the prime changed to 15 minutes of the pleasure so as to speak rather than dragging through something and taking three times as long to do it because it’s miserable and keep going off tracking getting distracted. Know that there is a reward at the end of it.
[00:11:04 – 00:12:52]
Kate: So how about, when you mentioned that Pomodoro technique, now another thing that comes to m y mind is automation and technology. What do you think about it?
Barbara: Love it! One of the most important time management tools, if I can sum it up in a nutshell is, give it to somebody else. Really, the best thing you can do to save your time is to delegate, is to give it to somebody else. Not all of us have got somebody else that we can give things to so the next best thing is digital tools that automate things for us and create those automations.
So I am constantly looking for things that will automate, do things automatically and what I’m passionate about or for small business and individuals finding those things that create the automation. I cannot wait for robots to do things for us. The bots.
So people don’t realize that those automation tools are really, really accessible. So, for example, in Microsoft Outlook, which is the email platform like in Office 365, so not outlook that you use in the card on a website but the email tool that you purchase from Microsoft, there’s some great automation tools that people don’t even realize.
There’s a rule speacher, which will automatically… you can program it to do a whole range of things as soon as emails come in. And there’s also another feature called, Quicksteps, which is like buttons that you program so when you press this button, a whole range of things will happen. So it’s automating those things as well.
So there’s quite a few automation features that are valuable to us that we don’t even realize exist.
[00:12:53 – 00:14:20]
Kate: Yeah, and they can save so much time, it’s amazing.
Barbara: Email is probably the biggest time waster of all. That’s why I do most of my work, I love working with people because it’s like… It just slowly licks away your time and the methodology that I use with people to improve their email management, gives them back about 2 hours a day. Which comes to, typically about 10 hours a week for most working people. Which is 12 weeks a year.
Kate: That’s a lot!
Barbara: That is a lot, isn’t it?
Kate: So how do people react when they find out that they are losing so much time?
Barbara: That’s like with the smokers. “Ohh, I’ll only have a one cigarette. What can it hurt?” And then you actually tell them, “This is how many cigarettes you have in a day, this is how many you have in a week, this is how much money you’re wasting on that habit…” particularly in Australia, cigarettes are very, very expensive and taxed very highly.
So it’s a shock to people and it becomes addictive in the way that people upright now their working life. It’s very much like a social media, everybody has it on their phone and very accessible and consequently we feel like we have to respond or we have to connect, otherwise we’re missing out.
[00:14:21 – 00:17:13]
Kate: That’s true. So I think that part of work is burnt out and stress. And I think that when you find out how to manage your time and how to organize your work, it can become much better when you can get rid of that. But it’s not that simple so how do you think we can deal with stress and burnout?
Barbara: Yeah, that’s a good point. They do go hand-in-hand which is why I do the stress management as well as time management.
The first thing that we need to do to help in these areas is awareness. It’s to be able to have that level of mindfulness. We often talk about mindfulness in business which is about stepping back and look at what’s actually going on and being willing to change, be comfortable with looking at things from a different perspective, doing things differently. Or admitting that there might be a problem in a particular area.
So one of my what I often do with people in terms of time management is get them to track their time. My favorite tool is a tool called Toggl. It’s for free online where you can actually track your time. It’s never what you think because the things that you love doing, “Ohh yes, it was only five minutes, nothing at all.” And you get lost in it, you got. “oh my goodness, where’s the time!”
And then, the story that I tell people is, you can remember being at school whether it’s just teacher drowning on and on and on, you look at the clock and you know that the bell is gonna go in fifteen minutes. You put your head down and you think, “oh, it must be nearly the time for the bell to go.” You look up at the clock, thinking fifteen minutes is gone and only five. “Oh my goodness, it’s dragging on.
The things you hate you think will take longer than you think. The thing you love, you don’t realize how much time you’re wasting with them, doing them. So it’s never ever what you think, tracking your time.
So with the stress and the burnout it’s about creating awareness around the things that are really consuming our time, the things that are triggering us. When are those triggers happening? When are the stress storms occuring? When are we feeling those feelings we don’t want to feel?
Because, again, stress is a matter of perception. What stresses you will be completely different for me. Even though we will be in the same environment and under the same pressure. So it’s having awareness around our perception of that experience, and how we can shift that perception or how we can sift that experience.
[00:17:14 – 00:19:29]
Kate: That’s true. So how do you manage your time all those things you mentioned like using Toggl and being aware of what’s the most important thing in your life?
Barbara: So what I use, I very much use that email management system that I was talking about. To be able to prioritize my emails and my tasks. And I use the automation tools as much as possible. The other thing that I think is really important, a quick strategy, because I know it can be quite complex, is to block out time in my calendar for the things that are important but not yet urgent. The things that I say to myself, “I’ll fit them in when I can, I’ve got time. I’ll fit it in.” Of course we always feel like diarying our calendar and we go, “I haven’t done that thing!” So I actually block out time for some of these mundane things that may not seem to be important but become important if I neglect them. So I actually block out time for them.
Things like birthdays, you know, it’s very easy to… I know when my children’s and my husband’s birthday is but when I’m making appointments I don’t look at the date and correlate. I just go, “Yeah I’m free Tuesday afternoon.” And then I write the appointment down and I’m, “What am I doing, it’s my son’s birthday” so I have to make sure I block out the time.
And you want to keep your brain… this is why I have email management system and I’ve been talking about. It’s also about eliminating… how many times is it that you have to process, how many times you read through things, and sift through them. The touch points. How many times you touch things and read things?
So by writing things down you’re taking it out of your brain and free up your brain’s capacity to actually think things through and work as a machine rather than, “I must pick up some milk on the way home, I must pick up some milk on the way home.” You know, you write that down.
[00:19:30 – 00:20:54]
Kate: Yes, that’s a good point, that’s true that our brain is just not able to have all that information inside. You have to kind of get rid of it and write it down.
So let’s switch a little bit because I always ask my guests about books they read. Do you have any interesting books that you’ve read recently and would like to share with the audience?
Barbara: Probably my favorite book is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. That’s probably one of my most favorite. And when it comes back to what I was talking about before in relation to your purpose and what drives you, there’s a really, really good book to read, another one that’s my favorite around time management. He’s probably the best guru, is David Allen, he wrote a book Getting Things Done. You’ve heard about it?
Kate: Yeah, of course! He was even a guest on this podcast. Everybody knows him.
Barbara: That’s awesome! I love that guy, he’s amazing! I very much follow his principles in the work that I teach. … following his guidelines. So they’re the things that I read.
And I listen to podcasts. I probably listen more than I read, to be honest. Because I can do that while I’m doing something else.
[00:20:55 – 00:21:54]
Kate: True! Okay, so one last question! To sum up everything you’ve said, how do you stay on top of your work?
Barbara: How do I stay on top of my work? I think for me it’s about eliminating clutter. It’s removing out of your space the things that aren’t useful and aren’t serving you. The things that you need to deal with now. And that’s the David Allen principle. It’s to put things… everything has a time and a place. So it comes just to time and you have a system in place to remind you at just the right time and it has a place where it lives so that you can find it really easily and it’s not in front of you all the time. It’s only in front of you when you need it at just the right time.
So, in a nutshell. That’s how I manage my work is following that principle of making sure that everything has a time and place.
Kate: Do you have any final tips for the audience about how to manage time and how to stay organized?
Barbara: I think the final ingredient that I would leave with people the message that I like to say to people is to be kind to yourself and take a time for yourself. So not only is it about scheduling time for everything that you need to do in a busy world, it’s also blocking out time in your calendar for doctor’s appointments or a massage or walk on a beach or… you need to make time for those things as well.
Kate: That’s true. It’s a great message. Barbara, if we want to find you, where should we look for you?
Barbara: The best place to find me is my website – timetamer.com.au and from there there’s a whole range of social links to whatever it is, whatever your social media platform is, so start there. There’s lot of resources you can download and things to look up so I would encourage people to go there.
Kate: And I will include all the links in the show notes so people can find you.
Barbara: Thank you very much.
Kate: Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to be here, it was a pleasure to talk to you.
Barbara: Thank you.
Thank you for listening!