4 Inspiring Books for Entrepreneurs to Read in 2020

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4 Inspiring Books for Entrepreneurs to Read in 2020

Did you read the books you wanted to this year? Whether you conquered your list or barely touched it, you’re about to get the chance to start fresh.

If you want to be the sort of entrepreneur who stands out from the crowd, it’s important to choose reads that inspire and challenge you. Whether you want to increase sales, learn the art of stress management, or start a new company altogether, books can help you get there. 

1. “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau

Not every new business idea costs a lot of money to turn into reality. The New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead a life of adventure, meaning, and purpose — and earn a good living along the way. 

Guillebeau explores case studies in which people with no “special skills” discovered how to monetize their personal passions. In each case, Guillebeau shows how the person restructured his or her life to live a life of greater freedom and fulfillment.

You don’t need to be rich or have previously founded a company in order to succeed, Guillebeau shows. All you need is passion, a product or service, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.  

2. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

In case you haven’t read this classic, add it to your list for 2020. One of the most popular self-improvement books in American history, Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People” has sold more than 30 million copies.

Carnegie’s book isn’t simply about expanding your circle of friends. Negotiation, sales, marketing, HR, and leadership skills all get some love within it’s pages. Dig in to learn to close a partnership, take the focus off of price, and provide a better customer experience in 2020. 

3. “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown

Brené Brown, another New York Times bestselling author, is looked up to by leaders everywhere. “Dare to Lead” is a thought-provoking book born from the years Brown spent at enterprises, startups, and companies of every size in between.

What did Brown find? She learned that leaders not just in business, but at nonprofits and civic groups all ask the same question: “How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?”

Courage cannot be built in a single day, or even by reading a single book. Brené emphasizes empathy, patience, and helpfulness as key ingredients for leading workers into an unknown future.

4. “That Will Never Work” by Marc Randolph

Netflix may be a behemoth of a company now, but it has come a long way. This book covers the previously untold story of how Netflix went from a concept to a Blockbuster-beating enterprise.

Marc Randolph, the company’s co-founder and first CEO, is exceptionally open in his telling of Netflix’s history. From early-stage conversations about cash flow to employee disagreements, Randolph walks the readers through his choices in a calm yet amusing style.

Not every entrepreneur will found the next Netflix, but bear in mind as you read this book that Randolph’s company could have crashed and burned. It didn’t because Randolph persevered, took care of his team, and had the courage to ask whether an existing model needed an overhaul. 

Entrepreneurs have no shortage of good read to choose from, but these four are great choices for the new year. Make the most of chilly weekends by curling up in your favorite chair, grabbing a book, and keeping your notepad close at hand. You never know what ideas you’ll stumble upon, or just how much they’ll help your company grow in 2020. 

Why Small Business Owners Deserve Vacation Days + How To Take Them

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beach vacation

Small business owners deserve vacation days. There I said it. It’s essential to take time off no matter what type of work you do, but when you run a business, this can be extremely challenging.

When you work for yourself, you can enjoy individual freedoms and flexibility, but you also don’t have anyone around to recommend you take a break. Kids have winter and spring break, and employees get around 2-4 weeks of paid time off each year.

Entrepreneurs need to plan to take time off on their own somehow. Check out these three compelling reasons why small business owners deserve vacation days, along with some key tips and strategies to help you take time off.

3 Reasons Why You Should Take Time Off When You Run a Small Business

It’s no secret that everyone needs a break from time to time, but this is a crucial step for business owners to take. According to a Gallup Poll, 39% of business owners say they work over 60 hours per week. That many work hours is way more than the average 40-hour workweek that most employees have. Working more likely requires more rest time to recover.

Another reason why is that small business owners don’t seem to have a reasonable level of work-life balance. Sure, you can set your own hours and choose who you work with, but running a business puts an insane amount of pressure on an individual. If you are in the beginning stages and don’t have much of a team, this can leave you carrying most of the burden.

According to a Bank West Small Business Growth survey, at least 50% of business owners live with considerable uncertainty about the future; nearly 40% struggle to balance work and leisure time, and 43% admit always being on the job.

The third reason why you should take time off is pretty apparent. With you working all the time and handling most of the pressure of running the entire business, you are merely not scheduling enough vacation time into your budget. But this can change if you’re willing to make an effort. Here are a few key strategies to implement when you want to start taking more time off because let’s face it – you deserve it.

Budget In Your Own PTO

Aside from time, one of the most significant factors that stop small business owners from taking some much needed time off is money. You may not feel like you can afford to take a few unpaid days off from work, or you may fear that your business will stop making money while you’re gone.

The best way to combat these doubts is to budget in your own PTO. Since you won’t get paid for vacation time, start saving up for it in advance. Realize that you may need to take time off for health reasons or take a few personal days. Calculate how much you typically earn during a workday and start stashing some funds away so you won’t have to deal with any financial blowback when you take time off.

Work Ahead on Projects

In addition to budgeting in your own PTO, you may want to work ahead on projects regularly. I like to work ahead on projects often because it provides peace of mind to know that if I have to change my schedule, my deadlines for the following few days are met.

Whether you’re planning a week-long getaway or want to take the week of Christmas off to relax with family, make it a habit to get your work finished ahead of time. Working ahead may mean you are stuck working on projects one Saturday out of the month or have to pull a few late nights.

Planning ahead is not just perfectly normal — it’s a way to help yourself and your productivity. Above and beyond that — nothing beats knowing that your work is completed a week or two in advance so you can get paid even if you take time off.

Delegate Tasks

Stop trying to be a one-person show and start delegating to team members and contractors. You can work fewer hours and have more time for vacations and personal days when you delegate tasks.

Start by outsourcing a single task that is time-consuming or that you’d rather not do. For there, you can hire a virtual assistant or a part-time team member to help regularly with specific responsibilities.

Delegating tasks or asking for help can ensure you have more work done in less time. Once you train the right people, you can rely on them to hold down the fort while you take some time away from your business.

Put Things on Autopilot

Work smarter and not more laborious by putting more things on autopilot so you can take time off when it’s necessary. Start with your most tedious tasks then look into free and affordable ways to automate them.

You can set up an email auto-responder to help you filter through messages and prompt leads to schedule calls and meetings with you. You can schedule out content on your website along with social media posts and email newsletters.

Use a combination of working ahead, delegating, and automating your business to free up more time and energy so you can have the freedom to step away from your business if you feel you need to.

How do you plan for more vacation time as a small business owner? Which one of these strategies is your favorite, or do you prefer a combination of all of them?

To Be More Productive, Let Tech Lighten Your Load

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To Be More Productive, Let Tech Lighten the Load

You’ve heard it before: “It’s sad how much we rely on technology these days” and “All people do is stare at their phones!”

As someone who works for a tech company, I happen to believe that when used appropriately, technology can actually boost your productivity. Think of it like outsourcing: Yes, asking another team to take on work only you could do is a bad idea — but many projects are a matter of repetition.

If you’re tired of all those smaller tasks getting in the way of your mission-critical projects, take these five tips for using tech to enhance your productivity:

1. Embrace automation.

Why bother spend your waking hours on monotonous work when software can tackle it for you? Automation technology can help you with all sorts of tasks, including:

 

  • Posting on social media: Whether your full-time job revolves around social media or you do it as a side gig, content management programs can save you huge amounts of time. Tools like HootSuite allow you to write posts ahead of time and schedule them for any day and time you’d like.
  • Backing up files: Backing up files is extremely important so that you don’t lose everything when disaster strikes. Fortunately, it doesn’t require your undivided attention. Saving files to an external hard drive used to take hours. Nowadays, cloud-based backup can happen in the background while you work.
  • Responding to emails: If you find yourself repeatedly answering the same questions over and over again, it may be time for some email automation. Certain scripts can suggest responses for common questions. And of course, automated out-of-office responders let people know when you’re away. 
  • Paying bills: Every business has bills to pay. Why write checks by hand every month when you can set up automatic payments? You’ll never miss a payment, which means you’ll also pay fewer fees and have happier vendors. 
  • Signing emails: Developing a professional email signature might sound like a low-priority task, but think about it: How many emails do you send in a day? Do you use the same signature again and again? Stop writing it out every time, and let your email client handle it for you. 
  • Sending reminders: Tools like Slack and Trello let you set reminders for yourself by the hour, day, or week. Stop adding Sticky Notes to your monitor or setting your watch, and start letting software remember for you.

 

2. Use a digital scheduling system.

Time management is one of those things no entrepreneur succeeds for long without. Learn to control your calendar. A cloud-based scheduling system will keep you organized, make you more collaborative, and cut down the time it takes to schedule meetings.

The right online calendar will integrate with your other tools, feature a clean interface, and take relatively little time to set up. Get one not just for you, but for your whole team. Simply being able to look at each others’ priorities at any time will make your company more productive.

3. Default to video conferencing.

Why bother traveling just to take a meeting? Unless it’s an investor interview or an employee firing — the sort of thing that you want to do in person — do it via video and don’t waste your time traveling.

Offices that are thousands of miles apart can use video conferencing software to hold meetings and collaborate between teams. Beyond saving time, videoconferencing also eliminates the stress and cost of flying people in from remote locations.

4. Get an instant messaging platform.

Can you and your employees still be productive when working from home? When you’re away from the office, you can’t just pop over to your co-worker’s cubicle every time you need to ask her a question. Even with email, it may take her hours to respond to your message.

Instant messaging platforms like Slack are used by companies of all sizes. Direct channels let you get fast answers to those random questions, while public ones let the wider team weigh in. Opt for the paid version, which allows you to search back through Slacks since you adopted the tool.

5. Analyze only what counts.

Today’s business intelligence tools let you get a deeper understanding of overall company performance. Most project management software comes with reporting tools to analyze how much time your team is spending on each type of task.

Although you can analyze everything, though, realize that not all data is important. Is knowing the open rate of internal emails really worth your time? What about your intern’s weekly time breakdown? Analyses are only worthwhile if they actually save more than they cost. 

There are many ways technology can boost your productivity to help you get more done. Realize that you’re fortunate to live in an age of smartphones and software. Why not use them to your advantage? 

Time Management Skills Successful Business Owners Must-Have

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Productive work-desk

Time. It’s something that we all take for granted. But, as a business owner, it’s your greatest resource. Without enough time, you’re less likely to achieve your goals. You won’t be able to focus on what’s really important. Less time — adds stress to your already hectic life. And, you can kiss a healthy work-life balance goodbye without it. Here are the time management skills a successful business owner must have.

For the business owner — here are the essential time management skills that you will want to possess.

Work the hours that suit you.

Here’s one of the best things about being your own boss. You can work whenever you want. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can slack off or just come and go as you please. What this means is that you aren’t forced to work that 9-to-5 schedule if it doesn’t fit you well.

For example, let’s say that you’re a parent. Your working hours could be when your children are in school, let’s say around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. When they’re doing their homework, you could then use that time for administrative tasks or reviewing your calendar for tomorrow.

Another option would be to work around your energy levels. If you’re a morning person, then knock out your most essential tasks bright and early when you have the most energy. Night owls, on the other hand, are more productive in the late morning or afternoon.

What’s more, well have our own ultradian rhythms — which are the body’s rest-activity cycle. But, for most of us, that means that we can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before we need to take a break.

Keep a time log.

Want to get more done? Then keep a time log so that you can see how you’re spending your time. Additionally, time logging will let you know what your biggest time-wasters are. It will keep you from over-or-underestimating how long certain things take down the road. And, tracking your time encourages you to stop multitasking and hold yourself accountable.

There are actually a couple of ways that you can conduct a time audit. The first would be to track everything that you do throughout the day, such as your morning commute or the time spent on a specific task.

The other way would be to set a timer for every 15 minutes. When the time is up, write down what you did during that block of time.

You could also use time tracking apps and tools like Toggl, RescueTime, or Timely to keep tabs on your digital usage.

Focus on what you do best.

“As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation,” Richard Branson once said. “I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back,” he added. “The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”

When you stop trying to do everything on your own, you’ll not only free up your valuable time. You’ll also make more money. That’s because you have the right people working on the right tasks.

For instance, even if you’re familiar with the basics of accounting or coding, you’re going to spend more time on these tasks, then an expert would. And, you’re more likely to make a costly mistake.

Implement the Two-Minute Rule.

In the famous words of David Allen, “If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.” Sounds simple, but think of all of those small things that add up. Instead of taking a minute to respond to an email, you wait until the end of the day when your inbox is overflowing. That dish you didn’t wash after lunch? It becomes a dish full of dirty plates.

Furthermore, this rule helps you form new habits. And, most importantly, it can help overcome procrastination. As an example, instead of declaring that you want to read more, start with a small goal like read one page daily.

“The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start,” says James Clear. “Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. And, as we have just discussed, this is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.”

Break your activities down into simple problems.

“Utilizing your consciousness requires more energy and can be avoided by simplifying your problems,” writes Mario Peshev for Entrepreneur. “Excellence in time management revolves around establishing a process and breaking it down into small, atomic operations that are easy to grasp and don’t require intensive resource consumption.” Cutting down your resource consumption is what makes business owners successful. They’re able to take a “complex task and decompose it into pieces, thus making the remaining process easier to comprehend and follow,” adds Peshev. “The simple operations are simple, and executing them doesn’t require dozens of follow-up questions preventing you from checking tasks off your list.”

As a business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities. To make sure that you achieve them, you need to have a system in place. For me, that’s writing down my to-do-list and adding the most important items to my calendar. It’s a simple and effective tactic to make sure that I don’t forget to do anything. And, it allows me to block out time for these actions, so I don’t schedule something else.

Here’s the problem, though. With so many things to do and so little amount of time to get to them — which tasks do I start with? Well, that depends on your specific priorities. These are usually the activities that move you closer to your goals or have a date attached to them. So, your top priorities should always be scheduled first and come before everything else.

Unfortunately, a lot of us get sidetracked by things that are less important — even though they seem deserving of your time and energy. Eventually, your time management and productivity suffer — which is never good for business.

To avoid this, don’t fall into the urgency trap. Identify which items you must do, defer, delegate, and drop. Stick to listing no more than crucial tasks for the day. And focus on your priorities when you have the most energy.

Schedule “me” time.

Scheduling “me time” isn’t a waste of time. Me-time may turn out to be your secret weapon against stress and lack of focus. The more you add to your schedule, the busier you’ll get. Over time you’ll be burning your candle at both ends. As a result, you’ll become burned more. Or, even worse, you’ll be putting your mental and physical health in peril.

Always schedule free time in your day. It doesn’t have to be much. But, if you have an hour of blocked time throughout the day where nothing is listed on your schedule — it can do wonders for you mentally and physically. After all, free time makes us happy, encourages self-care, adds flexibility in our calendars, and recharges our batteries.

Cluster similar tasks.

Switching between tasks all day isn’t practical. It’s chaotic and encourages us to multitask. Think about it. You respond to an email, then rush out the door to speak with a supplier, and then come back to file paperwork. And, in between all that, you have to attend to any problems that your customers or employees are experiencing.

As opposed to jumping all over the place, organize your day by blocking similar tasks together. For example, block out a specific time to clean out your inbox and return call, another to file paperwork, and one more for problem-solving. Depending on your business, you may also need to box out time for meetings, checking your inventory, or testing your products.

Identify and eliminate distractions.

Distractions are the leading cause of poor time management. But, how can you remove them when they’re constantly screaming for your attention?

One way would be to keep a distraction log. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or Word Doc, where you jot down what interrupted you from work and when. For instance, if an employee takes a break at about 10:30 a.m., they may stop by your office to chat with you. The problem is that this is when you don’t want to be disturbed. To correct this, either take a break around the same time or close your office door.

You can also eliminate distractions by putting your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, installing tools that block distracting websites, or scheduling check-ins or phone calls instead of taking them when you have something else planned.

Arm yourself with the right tools.

Finally, surround yourself with the right tools. An online calendar is an obvious choice. But, you may also want to use a tool like Calendar to automate all of your scheduling needs. Evernote and Todoist care useful for managing your tasks. While Hootsuite, Pardot, and Xero can put your social media, email marketing, and accounting in autopilot.

By using these tools to automate your most tedious and redundant tasks, you’ll have the availability to focus on your priorities.

4 Tips to Start the New Year Strong

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4 Tips to Start the New Year Strong

If winter weather gets you down, remember: Each new year offers an opportunity to create the company — not to mention the life for yourself — you want. Prioritizing your goals ensures that you make progress on those critical projects.

Those projects may feel endless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a jump on your list. To start out the new year strong, make these four changes now:

1. Rethink your morning routine.

Starting your day right is one of the best ways to make it productive. Nothing is worse than waking up late, missing breakfast, and putting yourself behind schedule for the rest of the day. Crafting a morning schedule that promotes physical and mental health is a skill that will help you in 2020 and beyond. 

Start every day with something physical. Run, ride your bike, or work in the garden — whatever works for you. Be sure, too, to eat a healthy breakfast. If you’re not taking care of your body, you can’t hope to take care of a whole company. 

Mental health is often overlooked but is equally important. As an entrepreneur, you will experience moments of fear and doubt. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is by practicing grounding habits, such as meditation, reading, or writing, in the morning. Not only do these activities kickstart the brain, but they give you time to address personal issues that would otherwise weigh on your mind throughout the day.

2. Map out your day — but be flexible.

For many entrepreneurs, their planner and calendar are their most important tools. Before you ever arrive at the office, map out your day. Things can change quickly, though, so build in breathing room. That way, if a colleague ropes you into an unexpected meeting, your whole day won’t be thrown off.

Breaking your day in 15-minute blocks is a fantastic way to see work get done while also building in time for things like responding to emails and calls. If you use a digital calendar, set it so that you receive notifications 15 minutes ahead of time. Then, when it’s time to switch tasks, you’ll get a notification.

3. Write out the “why” behind major tasks.

If you’re going to spend a significant number of those 15-minute blocks on a project, you need to be clear on your reason for doing so. In a single sentence, write out your larger goal behind each of those tasks.

To slot those tasks into your schedule, think about the goal associated with each. Order them not by the difficulty or the size of the task itself, but by the goal behind it. Even if finding that next salesperson takes time and is less important in the moment than other tasks, you might prioritize it because boosting revenue is your biggest goal for the new year. Good things take time.

4. Learn your natural rhythm.

Knowing when you are most productive, when you tend to slow down, and when you want to be around people is key for entrepreneurs. The better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to make use of your time. 

Start with standard business hours. If you are most effective with sales and relationship development between 8 a.m. and noon, schedule your appointments in the morning. If you struggle to get work done between 12:30 and 2:30 pm, schedule this time to respond to phone calls and emails.

Think about your after-hours productivity as well. If you have some clean-up work to do later in the evening, should you do that around 7 p.m. or 9 p.m.? Make sure to leave ample time for family, self-care, and personal development as well. And don’t forget about your commute time: Could you respond to proposals or reach out to leads during that time?

2020 will be here before you know it. Re-evaluate how you’re spending your time, think back to your goals, and know when you’re best equipped to tackle each task. The more changes you make now, the easier next year will be. 

Is Time Blocking Effective?

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Planner and laptop

Folks like Elon Musk and Bill Gates may have been getting some bad press as of late. But, regardless of how you personally feel about them, there’s no denying that they’re super-successful in business. They’ve also mastered the art of time management. Here’s the question: is time blocking effective?

Want to know Elon and Bill’s secret? It’s something called time blocking. It’s been proven to be one of the most effective ways to become more productive without burning yourself out.

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is simply a time management technique where you set aside a specific amount of time for a particular task. For example, instead of checking your phone every time you receive an email or social notification, you would do this at clearly defined times. Personally, I set aside a block before diving into my work in the morning. There’s another block after lunch. And, the final one is later in the afternoon before calling work a day.

How you segment your day, however, is totally up to you. Musk and Gates are known for creating five-minute blocks for activities like email and meetings. Cal Newport, a computer science professor and author of Deep Work, dedicates “ten to twenty minutes every evening to building my schedule for the next day.”

“During this planning process, I consult my task lists and calendars, as well as my weekly and quarterly planning notes,” adds Newport. “My goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines.”

Newport says that this “is like a chess game, with blocks of work getting spread and sorted in such a way that projects big and small all seem to click into completion with (just enough) time to spare.”

Regardless of how you section out your calendar, time-blocking forces you to focus on more meaningful activities. In turn, this will reduce the time you spend on unnecessary and unproductive actions. Additionally, it encourages you to carve out time for yourself so that you can remain at peak condition.

Why Time Blocking is Effective

The benefits listed should be enough to sell you on time blocking. But, that’s just peeling the fit layer of the onion.

To-do-lists are inferior.

After interviewing over 200 billionaires such as Olympians, straight-A students, and entrepreneurs, Kevin Kruse, New York Times best-selling author, and LEADx founder found a common thread. “Ultra-productive people don’t work from a to-do list, but they do live and work from their calendar.”

As Kruse further explains in a piece for Forbes, this is because to-do-lists don’t account for time. “When we have a long list of tasks, we tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly in a few minutes, leaving the longer items left undone.” Research shows “that 41% of all to-do list items are never completed!”

Kruse also argues that lists don’t distinguish between urgent and essential. And, lists can contribute to our stress thanks to the Zeigarnik effect. For those unfamiliar, this states that we often remember unfinished business better then what we’ve completed. As a result, these “intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts” can make us feel overwhelmed. Lists can even contribute to insomnia.

Time blocking discourages multitasking.

“Time blocking is the opposite of multi-tasking, a cool-sounding term that, in reality, can cause long term damage to your productivity — and happiness,” notes writing productivity expert Chris Smith. By scheduling chunks of time for a specific task or problem, you’re promoting deep focused work. It also helps you focus less on “shallow work,” which is urgent, but not essential activities.

Science has also found that when we multitask, we experience “attention residue.” In a nutshell, this is a more sophisticated way of saying that our attention is divided when constantly switching between tasks.

Moreover, behavioral researchers Thomas Buser and Noemi Peters conducted an experiment to see how multitasking impacts performance. They concluded that the “Subjects who are forced to multitask, perform significantly worse than those forced to work sequentially.” Interestingly, they also discovered that “subjects who can freely organize their own schedule also perform significantly worse.” According to Buser and Peters, this means that “scheduling is a significant determinant of productivity.”

It combats perfectionism and procrastination.

Perfectionism and procrastination are two of time management’s most challenging adversaries. Thankfully, time blocking is a powerful way to thwart them both.

Time blocking encourages you to reserve your energy and willpower by scheduling your most challenging tasks first. You can also use it to break larger projects into more manageable pieces. Also, when you add items to your calendar, it forces you to commit to getting them done.

And, researchers Dr. Todd Rogers and Dr. Katherine L. Milkman have found that“concrete plans help people follow through on their intentions.”

Time blocking makes it easier to say “no.”

Saying “no” to others can be awkward. But it’s one of the best ways to protect your time. After all, if you say “yes” to ever time request that comes your way, you won’t get as much done. Eventually, your priorities will get buried underneath others.

Time blocking makes it easier to say “no.” For example, let’s say someone asks if you can meet for lunch. You can politely let them know that you already have plans and suggest a time when you’re available. Or, you could avoid this conversation altogether by sharing your calendar with them so that they can see when you’re free or busy.

Encourages you to reflect on your priorities.

Finally, go back and review your schedule this past week. How did you spend your time? Were you able to spend your time productively? Did you allocate the right amount of time to the right activities? Or, did you spend too much time cleaning out your inbox or attending unnecessary meetings?

When you reflect on how you spent your time, you’ll be able to plan better your schedule going forward. More importantly, it will encourage you to fill your calendar with more meaningful entries.

The Downside of Time Blocking

Despite these benefits, there are drawbacks to time blocking that you should be aware of. For starters, time blocking may be too rigid. If your calendar is jam-packed, it can’t handle emergencies. It also takes the fun out of spontaneous encounters. And it can be complicated. Mainly this is because we’re not always the best at estimating the amount of time it takes to do things.

While valid, these concerns shouldn’t stop you from trying time blocking out. The key is striking the right balance. For instance, block out specific times for when you need to focus on uninterrupted deep work. But, leave some white space in your calendar in the afternoon so that you can address any schedule changes.

Outside of work, don’t hyper-schedule yourself. Having a little unstructured free time makes life fun.

Getting Started with Time Blocking

Ready to take time blocking for a test spin? Then here are some pointers on how to get on your way:

  • Find out when you’re most productive. Instead of sticking with the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, identify when you’re most productive. When you know this, which is by determining your ultradian rhythms, you’ll want to schedule your most important or challenging tasks when you have the most energy.
  • Allot enough time. Track how long it usually takes you to complete certain things. It can help avoid under-or-overestimating your blocks of time. Also, add buffers just in case you run over.
  • Reserve breaks, time off, and the unexpected. You need time to recharge. So, set aside time for breaks, vacations, and when you’re off the clock. What’s more, keep your calendar flexible so that you avoid overcommitting and have the time to handle the things that happen.
  • Ditch those distractions. Write down the things that distract you the most. Then, you can find ways to eliminate them to make your blocks more productive. For example, if the notifications on your phone interrupt you, then either turn your phone off or block certain apps during the time that you’re working.
  • Track your progress and revise it. At the end of the week, reflect on how productive you were by reviewing your calendar. If you noticed that you underestimate how long it took you to finish something, then add more time to that task when creating next week’s schedule.

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Schedule

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4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Schedule

Sales is a juggling act of meetings, demonstrations, paperwork, cold calls, and emails. The more balls you can keep in the air, the more revenue you’ll pull in — and the larger your commission checks will be.

Like it or not, though, you can’t work leads around the clock. Instead, improve your efficiency with the following tips:

1. Single-task wisely.

Although multitasking creates more problems than it solves, that doesn’t mean you can’t make more of your time.

Start by applying the 80/20 rule: Identify the 20% of your activities that account for 80% of your desired results. For example, you might focus on landing five larger clients that are worth 50 smaller ones because it’s easier to get five people to say “yes” than 50.

Arrive at the office knowing which are your “20%” projects for the day. If you commute by train, subway, or some other means that doesn’t require you to keep your attention on the road, use that time to comb through your task list. 

2. Batch your work.

Instead of doing tasks in the order that they pop up, organize them by type and tackle them in batches. Batching increases your efficiency by minimizing how frequently your brain needs to change gears.

Writing creative sales emails and updating your sales CRM take very different thought processes, for instance. Jumping back and forth between them forces you to be creative one moment and analytical the next. It’s much easier on your mind to shift gears only once. 

3. Own your calendar.

Stay in control of your calendar, or it will control you. Rather than let leads and co-workers choose any slot in your schedule, block off office hours when you are free to talk.

Go ahead and schedule your entire day. Include not just work priorities, but also personal ones like lunches with friends and doctor’s appointments. That way, neither you nor your boss needs to ask what you’re supposed to be doing.

Remember, too, that today’s calendars can do more than just organize meetings. Choose an online calendar that doubles as a project management tool. Sharing key deadlines and priorities with your team allows everyone to work more efficiently. 

4. Improve the way you email.

Email isn’t new, but there are new email tools to boost your efficiency. Boomerang, a Google Chrome plugin, lets you schedule emails in advance so you can make sure your emails get to their recipients at the most effective times. Rather than push out sales emails on Friday at 4 p.m., you could schedule them to be delivered Monday morning instead. 

Get in the habit of creating scripted email templates, especially for cold pitching and answering frequently asked questions. As long as you remember to customize the greeting and other details, they shouldn’t sound like canned responses. Double-check autofill fields so you don’t accidentally send Client X something that refers to Client Y.

No matter how busy your sales schedule is, you can always squeeze another task into it. Use technology and workflow optimization to get more done, and your sales quota won’t stand a chance.

How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team

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Remote team productivity

Instead of looking for talent in their own backyards, more and more companies are turning to remote workers to fill their gaps and expand their capabilities. Offering for workers to contribute remotely increases productivity, retention, and stress.

A highly productive remote team can also help reduce sick time and overall costs. Remote work leads to significant gains for employers and is desirable for today’s top recruits. Telecommuting has become a valuable recruitment perk, with 85% of workers claiming it as their number one reason for taking a job.

Yet, managing a remote team comes with unique challenges, including communication, time management, and accountability. While the stats suggest the team will be more productive, managers need to use smart strategies to ensure everyone is contributing and working together as a team. Productivity doesn’t just happen on its own; instead, it needs to be fostered.

Although 91% of remote workers claim they feel more productive when working from home or other non-office locations, companies shouldn’t take productivity for granted. Security issues, distractions at home, and lagging communication can all affect how much your employees accomplish. Leaders must understand these and other productivity challenges to mitigate them as much as possible.

How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team

There are certainly best practices to develop the best team around. If you’re looking to create a highly productive remote team, you should cultivate the following in your company:

Develop a Strong Company Culture

Remote workers don’t have the benefit of enjoying the same collaboration that comes from working on-site. Working onsite is one of the key reasons companies like Yahoo! and IBM have ended telework, claiming that face time is more productive and that ideas happen in person.

However, many experts argue that, when a remote work program fails, it’s often more attributable to a lack of communication or a company culture that isn’t set up for remote success.

That’s why companies must invest in company culture and ensure they are carrying that culture beyond the four walls of the office. Remote workers must be engaged in the company’s mission, values, activities, and strategies. Make them feel like part of the team by ensuring they’re included in meetings and announcements. Invite them to team activities if they’re local, or take a page from Buffer’s playbook and hold annual meetups for those who reside elsewhere.

Invest in Coworking Memberships

Coworking workspaces provide offices-on-demand that eliminate the distractions associated with working from home to help employees focus on their workload. Fortunately, the number of these flexible workspaces located across the country is growing, enjoying an increase of 16% in 2018 alone.

In one study, 74% of workers said their productivity increased after joining a coworking community. Working out of a coworking space may help create a routine for remote workers. These workers also have the benefit of working around other companies’ employees, which may lead to new perspectives and creative insights.

While it comes with a bit more of a monthly cost, companies may want to consider offering a coworking membership to remote workers. Enjoying a change of scenery may help to stimulate creativity and give remote workers the focused environment needed to be productive, and the new ideas may have a great payoff.

Simplify Communication

Ideally, remote worker communications with the in-house team should be as swift and straightforward as if every worker was on-site. Realistically, that’s not usually the case. One report notes that when a remote work program ends and employees are called back into the office, their managers haven’t contacted many workers in months – even years, in some cases.

Companies that fail with remote work usually lack a robust communication structure. But thanks to the widespread availability of tools like Slack and Zoom, remote teams can still enjoy consistent, ongoing communication with their supervisors, employees, and fellow remote workers. Just having these tools is not sufficient. To foster direct and effective communication, your company should set rules about what to use.

For example, Slack should be used to contact co-workers about immediate questions during business hours. Email can be reserved for ongoing, long-term projects. Additionally, phone calls or video conferences should be used during brainstorming and reviews or feedback sessions. These rules will help remote, and on-site employees know when and how to communicate internally.

Acknowledge Achievements

Employees love when their work and accomplishments are appreciated. But it’s more than just an ego boost; recognizing employees for a job well done has been shown to motivate performance and improve productivity.

It’s easy for team leaders to get bogged down in daily tasks. Being overworked and bogged down can lead to forgetting to recognize their employees’ efforts – especially when they are remote. But it is essential to building this acknowledgment into your remote culture to ensure employees remain engaged. Even a simple thank you on Slack, or a personal email can go a long way. It creates a positive and productive remote workforce.

Additionally, celebrate the company wins together if you are having a celebratory happy hour on-site, video conference in remote workers. Ship them a drink so they can also participate and feel included in the most social aspects of the job.

Consider the Impact of Security Issues

One of the biggest under-the-radar productivity killers for remote workers is the potential impact of security issues. Workers who rely on public spaces like coffee shops could leave themselves vulnerable to cyber attacks, yet only 18% of workers say that it’s one of their top concerns.

Also, 38% of workers say they don’t receive the technological support or expertise they need while working remotely, which could pose more significant security challenges to businesses. Security is a potentially serious issue. Remote workers who unknowingly download viruses while working may have their entire system taken hostage. These attacks can be costly in terms of data stolen, removing viruses, and lost employee work time.

Remote workers that can use their own devices (like mobile phones and tablets) might house company information. Using their own devices provides great device freedom to the remote worker. It can lead to a higher mix of operating systems, browsers, updates, apps, and software to contend with, making the work of your IT department more complex. But help when figuring out bugs for customers.

To overcome tricky security challenges, many companies implement VPNs, two-factor authentication, secure browser requirements, or other security features with their remote workers. Investment here makes sense. It’s expected that cybercrime will rack up a bill of more than $6 trillion by 2021. No company is immune to these attacks, as even large companies such as Yahoo! and Capital One have suffered expensive damage from cybercrime.

Proper security is a productivity concern. Major security breaches have the potential to grind company operations to a halt; even smaller impacts can disrupt a team’s performance for days, weeks, or even months. Make sure your team implements solutions that allow for higher productivity while also protecting the company’s digital infrastructure.

With Great Reward Comes Great Responsibility

Remote teams have given companies and employees more flexibility and potential, but they also require a higher level of accountability. Work must continue to be completed, no matter where in the world associated team members are located. Unfortunately, neither employers nor employees can realize the full benefits of remote work if productivity suffers.

It takes careful planning to re-think the workplace and facilitate a thriving remote work environment. Recognize potential barriers and asking the right questions. You’ll be as prepared as possible to help your team overcome the most common obstacles. Overcoming obstacles will allow the productivity of your company’s remote workers to thrive.

5 Tips for Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Workday

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5 Tips for Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Workday

When you’re building a business from the ground up, it’s tough to slow down and smell the leads. But if you don’t, your mental health will start to show it. 

The success of your company starts with you. Both for your personal well being and for your performance as a leader, you have to make mindfulness part of work life. Here are some ways to do it:

1. Take better breaks.

As a founder or CEO, unplugging from work can feel downright irresponsible. In reality, refusing to give yourself downtime is even more dangerous.

Your core hours might be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but you’re probably doing something business-related soon after sunrise and well after sunset. That “always on” mentality is a fast track to burnout, and you can’t be an effective leader when you’re burned out. 

Make time during the workday to take breaks — real breaks. Working while you eat lunch does not count, nor does the walk you took to the microwave to warm up your meal. Each day, get a real lunch break away from your computer and, ideally, outside of your office. 

Smaller, periodic breaks during the day are just as important. Tony Schwartz, president of the Energy Project, recommends taking one every 90 minutes to increase your productivity and alertness.

2. Get up and move.

Exercise doesn’t just feel good; it’s a key self-care technique embraced by CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Elon Musk.

Find ways to incorporate light exercise into your workday. Use that post-meeting break to stretch at your desk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Rather than call a co-worker, simply walk over to his or her cubicle.

Before or after work, get a real workout in. Although some studies suggest that aerobic exercise is best for mental health, do whatever is sustainable for you. If swimming, bicycling, or lifting weights is what gets you moving, go for it.

3. Schedule it on your calendar.

One of the best ways to make mindfulness part of your daily routine is to literally schedule time for it on your calendar. Not only does doing so help you hold yourself accountable, but it keeps others from impeding on your self-care time. 

Try blocking off just 15 minutes each morning for a quick meditation session. Alternatively, schedule one for times when you know you’ll feel stressed, like after each sales meeting. Search YouTube or use a meditation app to find a guided session you can listen to from your desk. 

If you’ve never meditated before, the process is pretty simple:

  • Identify a quiet space where you feel comfortable.
  • Sit in a cross-legged position or lie down.
  • Listen quietly, either to ambient noise or to a guide.
  • Let thoughts pass, noticing but not judging them.
  • If your attention wanders, bring it back to the sounds around you.

4. Breathe deeply.

Although many people meditate to the sound of their breath, paying attention to it all the time is an even better idea. Researchers have found deep breathing to reduce blood pressure, improve energy levels, and help the body to release stress.

To breathe in a deep, relaxing way:

  • Start every breath in your belly. 
  • Let your chest rise slowly, feeling the cool air enter your lungs.
  • Hold your breath for 1-2 seconds.
  • Slowly and completely release your breath.
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds before repeating the process.

While you’re sitting at your desk, breathe deeply and consistently throughout the day. When stress or anxiety creep up, acknowledge the feeling and take a few cleansing breaths. Notice the changes in your body when you breathe mindfully.

5. Be a single-tasker.

It’s natural to want to make the most of each day. But when you focus on too many tasks at one time, your brain gets overloaded and doesn’t function at its best. 

Rather than try to tackle multiple tasks at once, prioritize them. Tackle the more intensive, important one during your “magic hours.” Fill remaining slots in your schedule with second and subsequent tasks. If you can’t fit something in, it can wait until tomorrow. 

Nothing is more important than your mental health. Make mindfulness a priority during your workday, and you won’t just become a better version of yourself; you’ll also build your business into a better vision of itself.

10 Things Gen Z Should put in Their Calendar for Productivity

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calendar productivity

Adding anything to your Calendar may sound like a strange way to increase productivity. However, productivity is not all about cranking out task after task without interruption. A productive life is typically based on a balanced lifestyle. Extra random tasks on your Calendar will not increase your productivity, but making time for specific tasks can improve your overall productivity. Here are ten things Gen Z should put on their Calendar for productivity.

What tasks will increase your productivity?

Before making time for anything on your Calendar, you should carefully assess the possible benefits. If you aren’t entirely sure about trying something on your Calendar — then consider testing it out for a couple of weeks. Some things may not help you, but other listed items could have a life-changing impact. Everyone is different, so make time for the things that are most useful for you.

Our Gen Z — the true digital natives — have always had business savvy.

Gen Z was practically born with business-savvy. Now, take a look at a Gen Z Calendar. The Gen Zers seem to put everything in their Calendar, and this may be why they are finding a better work-life balance than the rest of us. I asked about a few of the items listed on the Calendar of our Gen Zers on the team. Below are the answers:

1. Sleep.

Although sleeping seems like the exact opposite of productivity, a healthy sleep pattern can significantly increase your productivity. Instead of getting the bare minimum amount of sleep that you need to function, consider making time to get enough sleep to feel well-rested.

Sleeping replenishes your energy reserves and allows you to function at a much higher level. We all know that sleep makes us feel good, but it can lead to an increase in productivity. If you get a healthy amount of sleep, your body will reward you with enough energy to be more productive.

Make time for a regular sleep schedule that maximizes your energy levels for higher productivity throughout the day.

2. Eat health foods — and health food.  

Eating healthy can seem like a chore to many of us. It can take time and energy to prepare a healthy meal that you will enjoy. It seems more natural to grab a quick bite from a fast food place or heat yet another unhealthy frozen meal. It takes time to make a healthy choice meal, and it takes time even to eat it. Gen Z puts in the blocks of time to do each action. Fueling your body with healthy food can make a difference in your productivity.

A few ways to make healthy eating less painful includes choosing healthy restaurants to order from — meal prep in advance and stocking your pantry with healthy options.

3. Downtime.

Making time to unwind is an effective way to increase your productivity. Without scheduled downtime, it can be tempting to keep plugging away at your ever-present to-do list. Not only is this an exhausting way to live, but it’s also unproductive.

When you choose to never really stop working, it will drain your productivity because you are never able just to start fresh. Downtime could be a short break in the afternoon, a weeklong vacation, or just enough time to enjoy the evening before bed.

4. Exercise.

Building a healthy body will also help to create a healthy mind. When you make a healthy mind and body, you’ll be more resilient to changes in your workload and prepared to tackle the inevitable challenges.

Exercise leads to the release of endorphins in your body, which are linked to a happier state of mind. Getting through your daily responsibilities while working towards your long-term goals is usually not easy. There will be good days, bad days, and “bad-bads.” Our Gen Z plan for the bad-bads better than the rest of us. A healthy boost from exercise can help make the bad-bads more bearable.

5. Learn something new.

It can seem impossible to dedicate time to anything new in the middle of your busy Calendar. However, learning new things can help you reach your overall goals. It also stimulates your brain and can help you accomplish more with the new information. I’ve put more learning into my Calendar than ever before.

Reading a book, taking a course, or flipping through an article may seem like a luxury you don’t have time for. It can be challenging but make time to learn something new. Even dedicating just a few minutes a day can really help to boost your long-term productivity.

6. Set clear goals.

Instead of vaguely setting goals and throwing tasks on your Calendar, make time to set clear and attainable goals for your future. Think about both your long-term and short-term goals. Decide on the steps that will help you achieve these goals. Finally, schedule the tasks necessary in a reasonable way.

If you don’t set clear goals, then some of your time will be wasted on tasks that do not help you achieve your goals. A clear vision will allow you to plan out your Calendar for maximum productivity.

7. Get outside.

Nature has a fantastic way of making us feel more at ease. When you are tied to your desk for days in a row, sometimes you need a little bit of inspiration to get yourself motivated. Without the right motivation, it can be hard to achieve a high productivity level.

Whether you can take a walk, plan a beach day, or escape to a National Park, a little bit of time outside can help to give perspective to your daily workload.

8. Track wasted time.

Many of us waste time in small amounts throughout the day. Scrolling through your phone or mindlessly checking emails can seriously affect our productivity levels. The worst part is that most of us don’t even realize that we are wasting this much time!

Install an app that tracks your phone usage and let it track you for a few days. It will take a few minutes to set up, but it will be worth it. You may be shocked at how much time you waste on your phone. Try to cut back this time and use it for something more productive.

9. Declutter.

Cleaning out your workspace can seem like a daunting task. You may have months (or years) of clutter piled around you. Clutter can quickly decrease your productivity in a variety of ways.

  • First, you may waste time sifting through the clutter to find important things.
  • Second, you may feel slightly claustrophobic in your workspace, which can kill your creativity.
  • Finally, thoughts that you really should tidy up invade your thoughts daily and distract you from your work.

Make the time to clean up your space. You might be surprised how much your productivity will increase. While you’re here — stick in a plant.

10. Meet with an accountability buddy.

Find someone that you can hold yourself accountable to and make the time to chat regularly. Your buddy should help to keep you on track as you work towards your goals.

An accountable relationship takes time and effort, but it can help you meet your goals efficiently.

The Bottom Line

Your Calendar is already full, but finding the time for some activities could help to increase your overall productivity. It will take some trial and error to find the right balance for your Calendar — but it will be worth the effort.

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