Is It Time to Change a Habit?

Lisa Crilley Mallis

Ellen already had some great systems in place, however she was still drowning. The first thing we did was to create scheduled blocks of time during her day for processing email, but Ellen still felt she must be lacking in discipline because she could not always work on this task at the end of the day, her planned time.

What prevented her from keeping her scheduled email time? It might be that “one more thing” to finish for a client, or her boss stopped in with a request, or a co-worked needed her input. These took precedent. It’s obvious “more discipline” isn’t the solution to Ellen’s problem. “Trying harder” to build this habit isn’t the solution. BUT … switching the time of day is! You see, keeping up with a new system for weeks wouldn’t work if the system was flawed!

So, the next week Ellen decided to try to process emails first thing in the morning. Even though she’s not as alert in the mornings as the evenings, and even though most time management leaders advise against this, Ellen wanted to try easing into her day while the office is still quiet works best for her.

When we got back together to assess Ellen’s progress she was a little more optimistic! On 3 of the 5 working days, she was able to devote the first hour of her day to processing her email however she was still frustrated because on the other two days, she was often interrupted during this “processing time.”

On the three days she was successful, she was in the office at 7:30am and could devote herself to quietly working through her inbox for an hour. On the two days she struggled, she had morning meetings and didn’t arrive in her office until 9 am. By this time, the office was hopping, people needed her attention, and she struggled to “force herself” to do email.

So, we fine-tuned the new process. Ellen started to schedule email time for 7:30am whenever she knew she could be in the office by that time. On the days her schedule wasn’t conducive to this plan, she scheduled two 30-minute blocks throughout the day. She knew when NOT to schedule that time: the first block could not be immediately when she returned to the office, as co-workers and clients typically took precedence during this time, and the second block could not be the end of the day as this was when she was finishing up last minute requests for clients.

AND … success!!!

Ellen now has one part of her personalized time management system created. She knows exactly what she needs to do to stay productive and on top of her email.

The lesson? Don’t stick with a system that doesn’t work for you – “more discipline” is not the answer! The solution is to create customized problem solving, and create a system that works for you, each and every time.

Lisa Crilley Mallis, time strategy visionary, combines her experience in education and coaching with her love of schedules, systems, and time management to create personalized and easy to implement solutions. Every person deserves the opportunity to live the life of their dreams feeling in control and bringing balance into their lives.  The crazy, “I’m so busy” feeling does not have to be way of life.   You can live a life where every day is productive, rewarding, and fun!

Lisa is also the author of Your Time. Your Life:  The Busy Woman’s Guide to Simplify Your Day and 30 Days to Success:  An A.W.E. Inspired Journal. 

She lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio with her husband Lou and his dog, Neuton.  She loves chocolate, the beach, and country music.  Contact Lisa at