Every once in a while I like to bring an external expert as a guest to my blog and interview him/her regarding time management and productivity. I find this a great way to learn more about the topic and also, because the interview has the potential of improving other’s lives too.
This time I interviewed Lucas Kleinschmitt of GermanEfficiency.com, who is a time management coach and an author of a great book – Beat Stress, Boost Success. Lucas has also written for my blog earlier, so you might want to check out his guest post too.
So without further ado, enjoy the expert time management interview of Lucas Kleinschmitt.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself
I’m Lucas Kleinschmitt, from Germany. The most important thing to say about me is that I’m a productivity NUT. I’m trying to do things more efficiently all the time, I constantly think about how I can help others to become more productive, I advise others, blog about the topic and even wrote a 200+ pages ebook about it.
Other than that, I love entrepreneurship and marketing. Currently, I’m CMO for a trade-fair start-up here in Germany, and that’s very cool because it combines time management and marketing in a great way. If you ever launch a new trade show, you’ll see what I mean :)
2. How did you become interested in time management and productivity?
Even though I was always considered a “naturally good time manager” when I was in school, this really fell apart when I got to university. Suddenly, I had to take care of a lot more stuff, had my own apartment, paperwork, job, etc. and it all started to become a mess. I started a million small projects I couldn’t finish, I didn’t get enough things done, everything seemed overwhelming, my apartment turned into a realm of chaos, you get the picture.
At some point, I read a German book titled “Simplify Your Life” and that’s really how things got going. I started to declutter and organise my home and streamline my projects. The results were pretty amazing: I felt much better, confident, and more relaxed while at the same time achieving more.
Fascinated, I decided I had to learn more about this “time management” thing. I read more books and blogs on the subject, tested tons of advice, and learned more and more. I tried speed reading techniques, tricks for getting more focussed, increasing my energy level and motivation, more different methods to organise my stuff — basically, I just couldn’t get enough.
What was even more important though, and what really got me deep into time management, was that I started to talk to people I considered successful time managers. Successful business people, genius students, business consultants and entrepreneurs: they all had important tips to share with me and I soaked it up like a sponge.
At the same time, I observed unsuccessful time managers, analysed what they did differently, and started to talk to them about how they could manage to get more things done and become more productive.
I soon realised that everyone involved benefited a lot from these talks – we gave each other tips, taught each other new techniques to try out, and really improved our time management. That’s when I really got hooked.
3. You have lived in different parts of the world. How does culture affect one’s productivity?
There’re a lot of clichés about time management in different cultures, like, some cultures are lazy, others are hard working, some are chaotic, others are organised. I think it’s important to realise that these are just stereotypes. There are incredible hard working people in every culture.
However, from my experience, the working styles can vary greatly across the world. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge the working style of the country you are working in and adapt accordingly.
Some examples are obvious: In China, many people need a nap after lunch. And by need, I really mean need. You can force them to continue working immediately after lunch, but they won’t be productive. In Germany, such behaviour may be seen as lazy. However, that same German who calls the napping Chinese lazy will be at home sleeping in the evening while the Chinese person is still working hard.
In other cases, it’s more subtle. Relationship management, for example, is much more important in China than it is in Germany. That’s why Germans are often seen as “cold” by Chinese people, while Germans may think that Chinese business people waste a lot of time “talking”. Again, there’s no right or wrong. But when you’re in China, you better invest a lot of time into relationships because that’s the only way forward. If you stick with the German model and get annoyed once a discussion lasts too long, you won’t get very far in China.
I think that gathering work experience in different cultures is a great thing to do because you get to know the positive sides of different working styles and different ways of dealing with time management. This makes you challenge your own ways of doing things and you’ll be able to include new tactics to your own working style.
4. What is the simplest single action you can take right now to improve your effectiveness?
Since you asked for simple, not easy, I would say you should identify one big goal that really motivates you, and commit to achieving that goal. Committing to one awesome goal that you really really want to achieve improves your focus, makes you beat procrastination more easily, and enables you to work towards that goal with the kind of persistence that eventually leads to success.
5. Why is time management an important skill to master?
Time is the scarcest resource we have because we can increase the amount we have available only to a very limited degree. Take money for example. You can always make more money. You don’t really have to get better at managing the money you have – you can just make more money instead.
That’s impossible with time. Sure, we can eat healthy, go to the doctor regularly etc, but that won’t make us live a million years. We’re going to die, period. Our time is limited.
Life is such a wonderful, beautiful thing and it’s made out of time. That’s why wasting time is essentially wasting life. I mean, time management is about so much more than organising papers. It’s about making the most of your life.
6. What are the best ways to motivate someone to take action (especially if the person is procrastinating)?
I think that the best way is to pursue one big goal that really inspires you, like I described in an earlier question. That’s why I make my readers do what I call the “Thursby-Test” in the beginning of my ebook. While the test is a bit more complex than that, the essence is that you ask yourself: “What would I do if I could start all over again?”
Many people are surprised by this because it’s not “classic time management”, but it really is the most important step. When you don’t love what you do, your work will always be an uphill battle. Sure, time management techniques will still help you to get through work you hate much quicker, but that’s nothing compared to the level of productivity you can achieve when you work for a goal that really drives you.
On a more technical level, here are some things you can do to stop procrastination right now, even if you don’t have that “big goal” in the back of your mind:
- Set yourself clearly measurable goals and deadlines and communicate them to others. This creates peer pressure and makes it more likely to get things done. Do not choose a close friend for this because you won’t feel much peer pressure with close friends.
- Visualise the positive outcome of your work, the benefits you will get. Do this again and again, until you really want to take action in order to get that result.
- Work in a team.
- Remove all distractions. Lock yourself in, shut your phone off and cut your internet connection. You’ll get so bored you won’t have a choice but to take action.
- If you procrastinate over something because you’re scared, set an appointment for this task in your calendar, ideally early in the morning. This is especially powerful if combined with technique number one: For example, make an appointment with your boss or colleague at 11 a.m.. When making the appointment, tell them that you’d like to make the appointment earlier but can’t because you have to do [fill in your unpleasant task here] before the meeting. That way, you’ll look really bad if you haven’t done the task by 11 — and you’ll most likely do it.
- Do sports regularly. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’ve observed that successful “doers” often exercise regularly. Also, people I’ve advised to do sports more regularly (and who’ve followed that advice) usually reported significant productivity increases.
7. What books can you recommend when it comes to time management – especially for those who are just getting into time management?
Despite all the hype, I believe that “The 4-hour workweek” by Tim Ferris is a great book to start with because it’s very motivating, provides an easy introduction to several time management principles, and helps to challenge outdated thinking patterns. You just need to keep in mind that not even Tim Ferris really works only 4 hours per week – so stay focussed on the underlying ideas, and don’t expect your life to turn into a highly-paid vacation over night.
“Getting things Done” is a lot more technical, but it also goes deep into time management techniques and can be very helpful especially if you have a lot of different tasks to do and a high stress level at work, like for example in a managing position.
Lastly, I would have to mention my own ebook “Beat Stress, Boost Success”. On the one hand, this ebook is the most difficult for me to recommend because I hate self-promotion. On the other hand, it’s also the easiest for me to recommend because I personally get the feedback from my readers, so I know for sure that this ebook is helping people.
Your next tasks:
1. Put this blog post into action!
- Find the tip that you like the most and take action on it!
- Read this interview again – Lucas shares many valuable tips for improving your personal productivity
2. Share your experiences and tips on the comment area:
- Do you have any questions to ask from Lucas? Leave a comment on the comments area.
3. Spread the word:
- I would appreciate it if you share this post on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or on BizSugar (click the vertical share bar on the left).