SAVE YOUR SANITY: Barbara Clifford

What an honour it was to be able to speak with the Time Tamer herself, Barbara Clifford. Barbara shared with us some incredibly powerful insights into how we can save ourselves a lot of time and heartache, by simply eating the elephant! Not sure what I’m on about?! Watch the interview!

Also, being the generous soul that she is, Barbara has shared her favourite prioritisation tool with us! Legend! Just head HERE for your very own copy of the magical Excel doc that tells you what to do first.

Priorities, man. Don’t put them off! 😉

Enjoy, friends…


Lizzie 0:12 Hi everyone and welcome back to the Save Your Sanity series. The series about saving time and getting shit done. Today we have a super special guest with us. We have Barbara Clifford the Time Tamer with us. Barabara assists busy working women to minimize stress and maximize time. She spent over 20 years working in stressful and time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing, while also juggling responsibilities of managing her family business. She’s a personal coach, educator columnist and enrichment speaker for P&O cruises. What a CV! Hey Barbara, how are you doing?!

Barbara 0:54 Hi. Thank you for having me. Lizzie 0:57 Oh no, no problem. We are very very excited to hear what we’re talking about today which is all about prioritisation, and procrastination. It’s a big topic isn’t it? Barbara 1:09 Yeah, it is, and for me in the work that I do, it is the most common question I have from people. How can I stop procrastinating, or how can I be better at prioritising? I just have too much on my plate and I don’t know where to start. I don’t know which things I should be doing first. And they’re the issues that people come to me with. Lizzie 1:30 I’ll bet. They’re kind of two sides of the same coin as well, I suppose. You procrastinate on prioritising and it’s just a spiral from there isn’t it? So why do we do it? Why do we procrastinate? Barbara 1:44 So the interesting thing about procrastination is that predominantly what we’re commonly told is that you just need to have some discipline. That you just need to focus. You just have to grin and bear it and get on with it. And then what happens is this spiral and this cycle that happens where we beat ourselves up because we’re not doing it. We’re not disciplined, and it’s every… people talk about mindset and getting over it. But the reality is that procrastination, quite simply, is choosing to do something that’s more pleasurable over something that’s not. That’s what it boils down to. And so, and when I’m when I’m working with people sometimes when I’m when I’m coaching them they’ll say, “Oh, I know we talked last week about me doing this thing but I decided to do my tax return instead.” And now you might say oh my goodness, how is that tax return, possibly enjoyable? Or might be people working from home, and they’ll say, I’m choosing to do the dishes or I’m choosing to do the laundry, because oh my goodness how on earth is that possibly pleasurable? But the reality is the pleasure in that is actually completion. And certainty. I know exactly what needs to be done where to start, and it’s something that needs to be done. It’s something that’s important. So there’s that there’s value in it and there’s a level of satisfaction. So I’m not wasting time I’m actually doing something that’s important, Lizzie Unknown 3:18 And definitely achieveable too. Like, it’s a little task, isn’t it?

Barbara 3:21 That’s right. And this is the thing. So often again once again with with procrastination is that people… the common mistake is people on their task list will actually put down a project. It’s like, for example, I love the saying, ‘how do we eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.’ You know, you look at a job and it’s huge. It’s huge. It’s a mountain you go, ‘Oh, where do I even start on that job?’ And that’s why we put it off because we haven’t actually … it’s a mountain and we haven’t considered where we’re going to start on the journey. So the best thing you can do is break it down into bite sized pieces, and then, and then prioritising that or deciding when you’re going to do those bite sized pieces. So a common mistake is putting a big project on your to do list, and then putting it off, because it’s complex.

Lizzie 4:17 Yeah. Gotcha. Bite sized pieces. That’s actually one of one of the tips from one of our of our other guests has been to break it down. So you know you have to you have to break it down into like 20-25 minute pieces of work. That’s what’s achievable, is that roughly your approach as well would you say? Barbara 4:35 Yeah, definitely. One of the, one of the tricks that I teach people with procrastination is is finding what it is that does bring you pleasure. What are the things that you place a value on? And sometimes we don’t want to admit what that is. For example, when I started shifting my background was film and television but when I decided to leave that that industry and start a new career, I did all this testing to see what it was that I was passionate about. And testing my values, and I was really surprised to see that time management and organisation was high on that list. Because when you when you’re really good at something and when you place value on it, you just disregard it it. You go, ‘Anybody can do that,’ you know anybody can bake your cake or, I don’t know, do accounting. That’s simple! Because, because we love it and value it and it comes so easy we discredit it.

So, I work with people to find out what it is that they place value on, even if they don’t recognise it in themselves. And the key is to tie that thing into the thing you don’t want to do. So, if you can, it’s like dangling the carrot in front of the donkey. If you can find the correlation between those things, then it can help you motivate. If you can see how this will fulfill a desire and need and passion by just doing this thing. That it takes you to that place of pleasure, then it’s going to motivate you more to do it. Or the alternative is to set that as a reward at the end of the 20 minute block. You say, “Okay, I hate doing this thing, but I’ll reward myself with something I love, that I truly love, at the end of that difficult thing.” Brian Tracy I think calls… He wrote a book called Eat That Frog. People talk about eat that broccoli first. There’s all these, you remember as a kid where you got your meat iand veg and you hate your broccoli or brussels sprouts so you ate that first, so you can enjoy all of the other stuff on your plate.

Lizzie 6:41 As a kid?! I still do that! Barbara 6:45 Exactly! And the reason that 20 minutes is a really good block there’s a great …and I encourage everybody to Google this… there’s a great methodology. A theory that’s become very famous in time management called the Pomodoro Technique. And basically you break things down into 20 or 40 minute blocks and set a timer. Particularly if it’s something you don’t want to do. Because you’re saying to your brain, you just have to do 20 minutes, just 20 minutes, and then you’ve completed it. For me it’s like running on a treadmill. Watching the clock going down… just five more minutes and then I’ve done my 20 minutes on the treadmill. Lizzie 7:27 You can get 20 minutes out on the treadmill! You’re onto a winner there. Barbara Unknown 7:30 I don’t know. I’m using that as an analogy.. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a treadmill. But that’s, that’s the kind of the process. You see the, you see an end to the torture. You know when this pain is going to end by setting a timer. And research has also shown that our brain works better. We actually, after about 45 minutes, we start to slow down. Our brain is designed to work in roughly 45 minute blocks. So 20 to half … 20 minutes to half an hour is a good kind of timeframe for blocking out something. And that’s why the Pomodoro Technique has become really really popular. Lizzie 8:16 Yeah,I think that’s something that I have heard about but haven’t actually put into practice yet. Because it’s the, the intention versus reality is … still hasn’t started aligning for me yet. That’s definitely something to try. For sure.

So part of that process, part of the process is figuring out why we’re procrastinating, and what we need, where we need to start. What do we need to do first. So that’s about prioritisation, isn’t it?.

Barbara 8:48 That’s right. And so, there again the… It’s about creating that mindfulness. It’s become really popular in business to talk about mindfulness in business. And to actually step back and look at the reality of what’s going on. Looking at the helicopter view. Pulling back and going without judgment, without, without being flexible and willing to shift and change and look at what’s really going on. And so fundamentally business, in the business world, that comes down to how do I get the biggest result for the least amount of effort? Where can I, where can I, and what I do is what I call ease and impact mapping. Where can I create the biggest impact with, with the greatest amount of ease? And so that’s about when you actually look at that stuff and go, ‘What am I, what is the work, where am I positioning things, how am I choosing to do things, what projects, am I working on right now?’ Stop and ask yourself how much money is this actually making me? If I can equate this to the return on investment, like how much money is it actually making? And when you, when you look at… A business coach once said to me, “consider that you’re worth $1,000 an hour. Is there anyone else out there that can do what you’re doing for less than that? And if there is why aren’t you using them?” Because until you start thinking like that, you’re not going to earn $1,000 an hour for your business. And so I constantly I go, “When, when can I outsource this thing? when can I get somebody else to do it or get something else like a tool or a resource or an app to do this thing that I’m manually doing all the time?” Lizzie 10:35 Sure. That ties in kind of nicely. We’ve got another guest talking about automation. It sounds like there are quite a few tools out there to help us get the job done without wasting too much of our own time. Barbara 10:47 Well, one of the, one of the things that I teach is a methodology of how to manage emails. The tricky thing about emails, is that for most of us, we’ve adapted paper methodology, which is very linear. Very, this thing, this piece of paper goes from here, to here, to here. We’ve adapted that thinking into a digital space. But the beautiful thing about the digital world is it’s nonlinear. And what that means is that I can, for example, we can search things in our computer based on date or words or different things. We can look at things from a different perspective, regardless of where the piece of paper sits in the pile on our desk or the folder that sits in the filing cabinet, in a digital world we can access things from a different point of view. So with emails, using for me I love using the advanced automation tools that are available in Microsoft Outlook, because the way that I’ve implemented that will save… most people, it saves them about two hours a day. Just automating some of that so, I know, it’s huge. And that works out to 12 weeks a year, if you add that up that roughly equates to 12 weeks a year, of time that you save. Lizzie 12:07 Yeah, maybe we just need more holidays,then, if we’ve got that much extra time. Barbara 12:12 Yeah, I know, that’s that’s like taking a holiday, isn’t it? It’s like, you know, when, um, when you have a leaky bath. If you, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, like if you’ve got the tap dripping on your bath and you put a bucket under it you think, ‘oh it’s just a drip. It’s just a drip of water. That’s not very much.‘ But when you put a bucket under that drip, then when you come back within a couple of hours the bucket’s full. It’s like that with emails you think, oh you know I’m just going to quickly read this email. I’m just going to quickly watch this video of the cats jumping at cucumbers that my friend sent me. And you think it’s quick, but it’s it eats away. It’s like it’s just like a drip. It’s another little bit, another little bit. And that’s why, when you actually evaluate it you can waste so much time. Up to two hours going through. You’re doing things that could be automated and taking away the distractions and stuff that’s not important right now. Lizzie Unknown 13:09 Right. I think the phrase, “I just” must be about the most anti productivity phrase, on the planet. But one I use a lot, I must say. “I’ll just do this one thing,” and then “I’ll just do that.” And, and it eats away., really. It’s not really helping anybody. Barbara 13:29 It’s a bit like the phrase, ‘I’ll try’. Again a business coach of mine growls at me every time I’ll say it, and it’s the classic Yoda quote. “Do or do not there is no try”. Either you’re committed, or you’re not. Trying isan easy out. Like, oh yeah I might fail at that, so I won’t commit. Lizzie 13:49 Yes, try is a bit wishy washy. ee don’t do wishy washy in the land of productivity! We do do or do not. I like it very much.

Where are the main places that people come a bit unstuck with all this, do you think?

Barbara 14:04 I think there’s, again, there’s some great time management methodology out there in terms of how we can prioritise. And and how we can make those choices quickly about what … What do I do now? What is it that I need to do right now? And that’s where people can get really stressed going, ‘I’ve got all these things to do and I just don’t know what to do next’. Everything is important. And the interesting thing is that there can be things that are important but they’re not yet urgent and trying to differentiate between that and I think the biggest trap for people, is where they don’t establish how to look after those things that are important, but not yet urgent. Now those sort of things are the things that sit within that category of things like putting together a proposal for your client, or working on doing a report or touching base with your customers, or putting aside, even putting aside time to spend with your family. It’s, it’s those kind of things that you say to yourself, I’ve got plenty of time, it doesn’t need to happen for a while, I’ll fit it in and around everything else that I’m doing. But what we do is then fill our calendar every day and then the next thing you know you’re going, ‘oh sugar I’ve got to, I’ve got to finish this. I’m meant to give this proposal to a client a week ago’. Or ‘this report’s due’ or I’ve gotta do my BAS’. Or ‘it’s my son’s birthday and I haven’t bought him anything’. Those, those kinds of things creep up on us. So the secret to that, to those things that are important but not yet urgent is actually blocking time out in your diary for them and making the decision of, of how you’re going to commit to it in some capacity. So it could be doing a little bit each week, or it could be blocking out, ‘this is when I’m going to go and buy my son’s birthday present’ or blocking out those times. Now, certainly you can move them in your diary, you can rub them out if you’ve got a paper diary, or you can drag and drop them if you’ve got a digital diary. But what it does is you, you create a commitment and a promise with your subconscious. It’s like an unwritten contract with your subconscious. Yes, I’m making time for that. And by default, you will fill in your diary around that time that you’ve blocked out for those things. If you do move those, that time that you’ve allocated for those things you’re consciously aware that you are putting it off, or shifting it, and that that is going to be dangerous. But if it’s not there, it’s in the back of your mind. It’s not, it’s not in front of you so you don’t think about it and you forget about it. Or it nags you. You go to try to go sleep at night and go, ‘Ah, I’ve gotta do that report’ ‘oh, I must do that. it’s due in a couple of days!’ Lizzie 16:56 Oh, that’s me to a tee. It’s just like, I can’t go to sleep most nights for all the ticking in my brain. But I think you’ve just saved me a lot of a lot of hassle and nightmares generally. It’s just, write them down, get them out of your head and then they’re there, and you’re conscious of them during the work day. Not when you’re trying to get to sleep. Barbara 17:16 I’ll give you another example. I’ve got a client who’s a schoolteacher, and she, she puts things off and then then they become these monstrous mountains of things that she’s fallen behind on and so she’s got to try and maintain what she’s doing. While still catching up with the stuff that’s behind. And one of the most important things that I do with people when I’m starting out with them in terms of time management is actually being realistic about how long things take. So it is actually timing how long something does [take]. And teachers are a great example because they’ve got so many reports to mark for example, or assignments to mark, and so they can quite quickly and easily work out an average. So I have this, I had a session with this teacher the other day and I said okay how many, how many hours and she’s, she’s got very good at accurate, determining how long things will take. How many hours of work have we got? Okay, it’s this many hours, 40 hours worth of work or something like that. BIG elephant. I said, okay. Okay, how many hours per day. Can you give me, I could do Monday Tuesday and Thursday, two and a half hours. I said, we did the math and went, okay based on that, it’s going to take you six weeks to complete this work. And she went. That’s not enough. I’m gonna get myself in trouble. I need to do more. So then we’re able to go. Okay, then. Where else can we find some extra time to shorten the completion time? And so that’s about. It’s a great example of something that’s important, but not not yet urgent and if you neglect it, not block out time, it becomes this monster that you have to deal with. So we then made a commitment of a schedule of when she was going to eat this elephant, basically. All of these mouthfuls where she was now going to chip away at this big, this problem that she had to resolve. Lizzie 19:14 Yeah, I feel the stress at the start of that story. Of of the overwhelm of getting behind but still having the rest of it to do. That just definitely struck a nerve with me. But yes, by just being aware of that and being aware of how long a task takes is, is really the start of everything in getting your productivity on track. Barbara 19:37 Yeah, I think for anybody regardless of whether you’re in business for yourself or whether you’re an employee for somebody is knowing. It gives you, it gives you the ability to be able to speak with authority. When someone asks you to do something you know realistically how long it’s going to take to do that kind of activity. My favorite tool for this, it’s free. It’s, you can do it on it’s a, an app that you can use on your computer or you can use it on your phone. I like the one on the computer because it’s a little easier for me to navigate. But it’s called Toggl. T O G G Have you heard of that? Lizzie 20:11 Yes I use Toggl myself. Yes. Barbara 20:16 See, yeah. I am My only problem with toggle is that I’m still forgetting to stop or start a timer one or the other. And


My only problem with Toggl is that I’m still forgetting to stop or start a timer. One or the other.

Barbara 20:27 I’ll tell you some tricks with it. You can, because I’m the same. Sometimes I leave it running all night. Or for two days. So what, here’s some little tricks that you can do is… a really good indicator of when you started or stopped something is quite often your phone. So, you know, if you received a phone call, or you text somebody, it’s got a time on it so you can go, ‘I’m pretty sure I stopped working on that thing when Barbara rang me. I’ll go and I can go and edit that entry in Toggl’. And you can also duplicate. You can go back and edit things so if you’ve left a timer running for a block of time. What I do is just duplicate those entries and then break them up going knowing, ‘okay, I’m pretty sure worked on this at this time, this time’, so that might help

Lizzie 21:19 Yeah! And you this yourself? Do you measure your own time, while you’re at it? Barbara 21:25 Yeah, particularly. I quite often do it for clients. So if I’m working, if I’m doing different projects for clients and I’m charging them by the hour, then it’s essential. It’s really powerful for me to be able to say, ‘this task for this project took this long’. But it’s also really important from a business point of view for me to be able to quote on things. So, in the early stages when I was writing workshops and people might be contracting me to write workshops. I was underquoting because the time that it took to do it, I had underestimated. So that’s where it was really useful for me to be able to establish what my worth was based on the time that I knew that it would take, typically. Lizzie 22:08 Yeah, right. Time, time is definitely a commodity, isn’t it? That you, as … in the service industry in particular, but in general as people … like your time is precious and limited so we’ve got to be totally on top of what we’re spending doing something what we’re charging for that I guess. Barbrara 22:26 Yeah, and it’s an interesting thing because there’s always a balance. For example, let’s say my business was making cakes. I could churn out. 500 cakes in one day. But what would the quality of those cakes be? There’s every, every likelihood that they would be pretty average. Whereas, talking about me, not a factory. If I, I could spend all day, making the most beautiful, high quality, stunning cake like a wedding cake or something. That’s a whole day to produce that that beautiful cake. So it’s about balancing efficiency and effectiveness. It’s about balancing the quality of what you produce for the time. Rushing means it can be bad quality. Spending too much time means that you’re not really being efficient. Lizzie 23:26 You’re absolutely right. Because quality and quantity are certainly not the same thing at all. you’ve unpicked a lot of really solid tips for how to get ourselves going and get our businesses moving beautifully well.

You’ve got a little tool for us to use, do you?

Barbara 23:48 Yes, what I can do is share with you a productivity tool which explains… it comes with a little video that explains how to use the traditional time management quadrant. It was made very famous in Stephen Covey’s book, ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. It’s been called the Eisenhower technique. It’s, it’s a staple of time management experts. So what I’ve got is a little video on how that works, but also I’ve created a prioritisation tool in Excel. So I’ve done all the programming for those that aren’t Excel geeks. And basically you type in all the things that you need to do all the tasks that you need to do. You just put a little code next to them. And what it will do is prioritise those tasks for you. So it’ll tell you ‘these are the things you need to do today’. ‘These are the things you need to put in your calendar’. ‘These are things you need to delegate’. ‘These are the things you need to stop… just getting distracted with.’

So there’s things like… and what’s typical for professional people, there are things… back… what I call backburner things. And it’s where people …when we go down a rabbit warren we go, oh here’s that here’s that thing I love and I’m just, I’m just I’m just gonna have a little look at that on YouTube or that Ted Talk or. Oh and, oh I’ll explore that. Next thing three hours have gone. It’s those, those great ideas for something you want to work on, whether it be in your personal life your professional life or your business. It’s a new product or a new thing that you want to explore. A new thing you want to learn. We need to have a place where we put those things. You know, let’s just throw it away for now. Let’s put it over there. Let’s delete it from our immediate space and come back to that at another time or…

Lizzie 25:39 Shiny things are really easy to follow throughout the day. That’s cool. So we’ll be able to find that tool on the Thursday blog, won’t we? You’ll send me all the details of the demo. Yeah, that sounds like the best kind of witch of witchcraft out there. We’re going to get ourselves right organised! Cool. Um, I think that’s, I think we’ve covered the the bare bones. Obviously there’s so much more to cover in what you do and just in this topic, let alone all the other amazing things that you do. And where can we find you, Barbara? Barbara 26:15 So, if you go to my website you’ll find obviously find everything about me there. There’s connections to my social media and different groups and pages and whatnot. Whatever takes your fancy. And yeah, you can connect with me in any which way you like. Lizzie 26:34 Fantastic. And everybody should, for your own sanity, and because Barbara is super duper amazing and has so many sensible things to say… So many sensible things! So Barbara, thank you so, so much for joining us today. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
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