Want to find time for what matters? The 21 Day Timehacker Project matches readers with coaches who help them find time for their most important goals.

THE GOAL: Anthony Randall, 30, is associate head swim coach at a public university in New England and is in charge of recruiting. He loves his job of five years and has a lot of freedom. But he was frustrated that he was so easily distracted at work, searching articles and Web sites online, not getting his work done, and often taking it home to finish in the evenings.

“I was talking to recruits, then not being consistent staying in contact. My being unorganized was showing. I’d look back over the day and ask, ‘What did I accomplish?’ and feel that the answer was, ‘Nothing,’” he said. “My original goal was to have a better plan, to learn how to have a more purposeful day.”

THE TIMEHACKS: Anthony worked with Philadelphia-based career coach Julie Cohen. She came up with five timehacks. She first began working with him on time management skills, but soon realized something deeper was the source of his distractions. Here’s what they worked on:

1. DEFINE YOUR PRIORITIES: In the first coaching session, Cohen helped Anthony define his professional priorities that he wants to spend time on everyday in order to be successful. They included: Recruiting, including organizational and administrative tasks; Hands-on coaching with the swimmer, and preparation for that; Professional development, improving his abilities to do his current job; and Career development, improving beyond his current job, looking for the next professional step.

Anthony printed out the priorities and put them on his desk, where he could see them and used them to organize his daily To Do list.

2. PLUG THE LEAKS: “Because Anthony is jazzed by career development and continual self and professional improvement, he often mindlessly gets pulled into blogs/media/content that is interesting (and at times even valuable) but is not related to his professional priorities,” Cohen said.

Cohen told Anthony to begin to notice when he became distracted. Anthony began removing notifications pinging on his computer letting him know certain blogs had updated. “We discussed the concept of ‘React vs. Respond’ in relation to social media/blogs/information, so he is more plan-ful (responsive) about it, instead of allowing himself to be pulled away when there is a ping (reactive)” Cohen said. “This applies to email as well as other interruptions.”

3. ASK WHY: As they worked together, Cohen was impressed by the organizational and time management skills Anthony had already mastered. He always put his To Do list together the night before, and he regularly reflected on what worked and what didn’t. Cohen wanted Anthony to think about why he was getting so distracted at work. Why was he losing his drive?

 “We got into a bigger discussion that I think might be driving his dissatisfaction with the tactical/to-do items. Anthony is very ambitious and wants to constantly improve himself, his team, his program and the standing of the school,” Cohen said. “ When I asked him what success looks like” in his current job, he had a hard time imagining it.

 4. GET CLEAR ABOUT YOUR PASSIONS: “Anthony realized that he wants to coach on a national level and wants to be working in a department or school that wants those same things,” Cohen said.  The university where he is now and his boss appear not to be a place  that Anthony believes can support his personal goals and vision.  This seemed to be a big ‘A-ha’ for Anthony.  He is a very motivated and capable guy in a mediocre swimming program.”

“What Anthony thought were problems with his organization and To Do list were more accurately problems” with seeing a clear path to achieve his ambitions in his current role, Cohen said.

5. PUSH BEYOND THE COMFORT ZONE:

Cohen suggested two strategies: One, for Anthony to have a frank discussion about goals and direction with his boss, while, two, laying the groundwork and networking to look for an employer where the goals, expectations, support and definition of success match his own.

“Sometimes, achieving a goal is not about time management,” Cohen said. “It’s about making sure you’re focusing your energy, talent and drive on the things that matter most.” And if you’re feeling distracted at work, it can mean you’re just not sufficiently challenged.  Solving that problem “may require some changes which could be difficult,” Cohen said.

DAY 21: When I caught up with Anthony, he’d followed the time hacks, and had  made some big changes at work. He was also networking and making connections in the national and international swimming world.

And, as a consequence, he was much more engaged, focused and organized, getting everything done, with time left to spend with his girlfriend in the evenings.

“I realized that my drive for myself as a coach is that I want to be on the top level. I want this to be a dream school for New England,” he said. “I want kids to wake up and say, ‘I want to swim there.’ At meets I want to hear how kids want to swim here, that it’s their aspiration.”

But the university’s women’s swim team – the men’s team is a club sport – allowed walk-ons, and didn’t make winning a high priority.  “There was a feeling, if you did well, it was OK. If you didn’t do well, it was, well, we didn’t expect you to, anyway,” Anthony said.

And though he’d tried to recruit faster students, selling them on his vision of a top-ranked swimming program, when they visited the school and saw that the program didn’t match his vision, they chose not to come, according to surveys he sent out. “What I was selling wasn’t being seen,” he said.

So Anthony had that difficult conversation with his boss, the head coach, who also coached him when he was a competitive swimmer on the team there. They agreed that next year they’d have a smaller roster, and split the swimmers into a top-ranked travel squad and another practice squad, all based on how fast the students swam.

And Anthony began looking beyond his current job. He pushed himself out of his comfort zone and spoke at a national swim coaches conference – about how to use social media to connect with young students. He’ll be coaching in a summer program at Stanford. And his girlfriend is helping him set up his own blog.

“As a young African American in the sport – there are maybe three other coaches – I want to to continue open the doors for those who come after me, but to continue to go through doors myself on the national and international stage,” he said. “Moving forward, I’m excited. I still struggle with whether or not I need a bigger challenge. But as I go through it, I hope to find out.”

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