5 Tips for Making Time for Your Big Goals

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You know just how easy it is to get caught up in the daily grind of life. When you spend all day putting out fires, it’s easy to lose sight of those big, long-term goals.

Although some of those more tedious daily tasks may never go away entirely, you can start organizing your days with time carved out to work on those larger dreams and priorities. Here’s how to do it:

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Steve Jobs famously spoke about prioritizing his daily tasks based on what he would want to be working on if it were the last day of his life. He defined his long-term goals and then made sure that his to-do list was aligned with what he ultimately sought to accomplish. 

How does what you are working on today fit with your big picture goals and priorities? If your tasks at hand aren’t helping you arrive at that end goal, it may be time to scrap what you’re doing and work backwards. Start with those long-term dreams, and figure out what you can do today to ensure you will get there.

2. Organize your tasks based on urgency and importance.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a time-tested method for dividing your to-do list into four categories: urgent and important, urgent but not important, important but not urgent, and neither urgent nor important. 

Prioritize urgent and important tasks to be the first things you accomplish. If you’re able, delegate the urgent but unimportant tasks to someone else, leaving you plenty of time for your important but not immediately urgent items. These items will often include your larger business goals that transcend your daily tasks that can so easily bog down your day. 

If a task is neither urgent nor important, either delegate it, scrap it, or save it for a space in your day when you need a mental break from your main tasks. Re-evaluate your matrix at the beginning of each day to ensure you are focusing your energy and attention on what is most valuable.

3. Schedule everything.

It’s easier said than done, but strictly scheduling your day will boost your productivity and give you the time to work on those bigger goals. You may not be able to avoid all of the more mundane tasks of your day; some of them are part and parcel with running a business. What you can do, though, is to place your tasks on a calendar rather than letting them sit on a simple to-do list.

Account for every minute of your work day. Then, stick to your calendar. If you have constructed it to be a reflection of your priorities, do not let yourself get sidetracked. Own your time. 

When you schedule each of your tasks for the day, you have a defined start and finish time for each item, giving yourself control of your day. That ensures you have time to work on both your necessary daily tasks as well as your big picture goals.

4. Take advantage of your commute time.

You’re a business owner: There’s no way around the fact that you have a lot of work to do. Even after prioritizing your tasks as much as possible, they will still inevitably take up a fair chunk of time each day.

To make as much time as possible to chip away at your big goals, make use of your commute time. If you commute 20 minutes each way five days per week, that’s more than three additional hours of work time.

How you decide to use your commute time will vary based on your situation. Perhaps you can knock out some of those smaller, more tedious tasks: replying to emails, checking your voice messages, or scheduling meetings. Alternatively, you may find that your commute is the perfect opportunity to brainstorm or listen to podcasts that will inspire you to reach those long-term goals. Make your time work for you, even if it is your drive to work.

5. Keep your big ideas visible.

When your whiteboards are covered in sales and marketing metrics, you may easily lose track of what your long-term goals really are. It pays to write down your most important ideas and keep them in a place where you will see them and remember to keep them central each day. 

How you do it is up to you. Hang an inspiration board with quotes and plans in your home office. Put sticky notes on your desktop. Let your big dreams and plans motivate you in the midst of all the small tasks necessary to get there. Don’t lose sight of the end you desire.

Organize each day, and even each hour, with your big goals in view. Work backwards from those goals to choose how you spend your time. As you take charge of each day, watch the future you want becomes less and less distant.

5 Ways to Improve Office Communication

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At work and in life, communication is key. Open, efficient lines of communication make companies more productive and keep employees happy. Twisted or broken ones produce mistakes and burnout.

But good communication is about more than talking to each other regularly. To communicate well, companies need clear processes and effective tools. Here’s where to start:

1. Minimize drop-in chats.

What’s wrong with walking down to a co-worker’s office to ask a quick question? Not only does it interrupt what he or she is working on, but it tends to spiral into unrelated conversation. As important as the outcome of last night’s game is, it’s irrelevant to work.

Encourage your employees to reduce the small talk by using Slack for small questions and comments. For longer conversations, or those that require multiple people, schedule a meeting. Small talk can be healthy for office relationships, but precious work time can quickly go down the drain when employees are visiting each other’s work spaces throughout the day.  

2. Share calendars.

The practice of sharing calendars allows employees to schedule meetings with each other and gain insight into their co-workers’ projects and daily schedules. Many calendar apps allow workers to share tasks, view what’s been completed by each party, and send messages back and forth.

To choose the best online calendar for your business, take into account usability, integrations, and features. Look for a low-cost or free option that provides insight into who you’re spending your work time with. If you work across time zones, be sure your calendar can automatically adjust the time depending on where each user is. 

3. Send out meeting agendas ahead of time.

Meetings can be valuable, and face-to-face communication is still the foundation of strong relationships. But without a clear agenda, meetings can run long or be dominated by side conversations.

At least a day in advance of each meeting, compile an agenda and send it out ahead of time. Ensure everyone knows what the meeting’s goal is, who is involved, and what they might need to bring to the table. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for fun in meetings, but an agenda helps you respect your workers’ time by making the best use of it. 

4. Encourage personal relationships.

Efficiency is hugely important for good communication, but do not let it get in the way of office camaraderie. Carve out time for your employees to get to know one another on a personal level. Host office lunches and holiday parties. If a meeting involves new faces, do a brief icebreaker activity at the start.

The better your employees know each other as individuals, the better they will be able to communicate with each other and work as a team. If anyone feels left out, the whole team’s efficiency will suffer. 

5. Avoid over-communication.

We’ve all had the experience of coming back to work after a few days out of the office and having 1,000 unread emails in our inbox. Not only does going through those take time, but it adds unnecessary stress and risks miscommunications. With over 281 emails sent and received every day around the globe, over-communication is a real risk.

Be careful not to create an environment where people’s inboxes are constantly flooded with unnecessary or irrelevant messages. Instead of sending out multiple informational emails throughout the week, perhaps you can send out one concise weekly email that summarizes the team’s progress.

Be sure, too, to consider your audience. Does everyone on your team need the information you’re sending? It’s better to over-communicate than to under-communicate, but your workers will start to tune out mass quantities of emails in their inboxes. 

The same principle holds true for meetings. To the best of your ability, invite only the people to each meeting that need the information you’re presenting. Present only the information that those people need. 

Poor communication is frustrating and costly. Be a model of good communication. Put the right processes in place, and you’ll achieve that ideal blend of efficiency and strong relationships.

5 Tools to Slice Distractions From Your Work Schedule

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Distractions are everywhere. Whether you’re working from home, at your company’s office, or from a coffee shop, loud noises and tech-based temptations are there.

As attention spans reach an all-time low and schedules get busier, in-office and at-home workers need new tools to stay focused. The following resources and software are great picks:

1. A physical or digital to-do list

I’ve always been a believer in using to-do lists to stay on task, but it’s taken me years to figure out the format that works best for me. While writing down tasks in a paper planner works well for some people, it’s easy to lose that planner at home or in the mountains of paperwork on your desk.

Give Trello a test drive. The board-based project management tool is great for collaboration, but it’s also an ideal way to organize your own schedule. Create columned lists that correspond to project status: I use “now” “pending” and “completed” lists to organize my tasks. Plus, Trello has Android and iOS apps that make it easy to take your to-do list anywhere you take your smartphone.

2. An online calendar

To-do lists are great, but they’re not the only tool you need to keep distractions at bay. For one, they don’t display appointments, a key part of your schedule. Keep an online calendar to know at a glance what you should be working on when. Update it in the morning, over lunch, and before you leave work each day.

Like digital to-do lists, online calendars make sharing easy. Most of your work projects involve at least one other team member, right? Use a digital calendar to set up appointments with them, show them when you’ll be working on each project, and keep deadlines top of mind for everyone.

3. A web-limiting app

It happens to the best of us: One moment, you’re doing important research online; the next, you’re stuck in a spiral of social media, YouTube videos, and cat memes. Use a tool like SelfControl or Mindful Browsing to keep yourself off distracting sites when you’ve got other things on your schedule.

What if you use sites like Facebook and YouTube for work? Set your web-limiting app to allow five-minute sessions — enough to find the information you need but too little to fall down a rabbit hole. You could also take a softer approach with a tool like Momentum, which reminds you to stay on task whenever you open a new tab. The Google Chrome extension displays your day’s main goal, motivational quotes, and upcoming tasks.

4. A timer

There’s something about knowing the seconds are counting down that keeps you on task. Although you’re technically on the clock any even when you’re working from home, it may not feel that way. Hold yourself accountable to your schedule and get a better sense of where your time is spent by setting a timer whenever you begin a task.

A timer doesn’t need to be fancy to get the job done. Timer Tab has stopwatch and countdown functionality, displaying the current count in a browser tab, but little else. There are no eye-catching ads or extras that might distract you. Use it to put just the right amount of pressure on yourself.

5. A music streaming service

If you are lucky enough to work from home or in an office that lets you listen to music, use a streaming service like Spotify to improve your focus and motivation. Set up your own relaxing-yet-energizing playlists, or try one of Spotify’s suggestions: Workday Lounge, Deep Focus, and Your Favorite Coffee House.

Isn’t music just one more way to lose sight of your schedule, though? Not according to workers. A Robert Half survey showed seven in 10 workers say music makes them more productive, while eight in 10 say they enjoy it. Listen to what you like, but avoid songs with lyrics: Humans are hardwired to tune into spoken communication.

Distractions don’t have to rule your schedule. In the age of tech, you have access to more tools than ever before to stay focused and be productive. Embrace them, and watch the things that distract you during work melt away.

7 Tips to Develop the Perfect Morning Schedule

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Ask any entrepreneur how they do it, and they’re bound to tell you it starts with their morning schedule. “If you win the morning, you win the day,” business guru Tim Ferriss likes to say.

What does it take to “win the morning”? While every entrepreneur has a different routine, they all know the importance of maintaining a healthy, consistent morning schedule. Here are their secrets:

1. Improve your sleep regimen.

The most important part of any solid morning routine is what happens beforehand: sleep. To build the energy, focus, and stamina you need for the day, get between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted rest each night.

How can you maintain that when there are so many demands on your time? Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Keep technology, bright lights, and anything that makes loud noises out of the bedroom. If you experience uneven or poor sleep, keep a sleep journal and ask a medical professional.

2. Wake up early enough.

Although some entrepreneurs swear by waking up before sunrise, not everyone is a morning person. What’s important isn’t necessarily waking up at 5 a.m., but rather waking up early enough to focus on yourself and prepare for your day.

Determine how early you need to wake up by writing down your morning habits. Include everything from brushing your teeth to eating breakfast to taking a jog. Note how much time each task typically takes you. Then, work backward from when you need to leave the house, leaving a five- or ten-minute cushion in case everything doesn’t go as planned.

3. Meditate on the day ahead.

Many health conditions that working professionals suffer from can be traced back to stress. Entrepreneurs have high-stakes meetings with investors, budget reviews, HR matters, and more weighing on their minds.

One of the best ways to start the day well is to meditate. Meditation is proven to reduce stress, fight depression, and increase energy. Some people simply listen to their breathing, while others pray, and still others chan a mantra. Whatever helps you find calmness and clarity for the day ahead, go for it. 

4. Squeeze in quality time.

The proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has stuck around for a reason. Almost 10 million Americans work 60 or more hours per week, including a good number of entrepreneurs.

Rather than get to work as soon as you wake up, treat your mornings as time away from it. Write in your journal, read a book, go for a walk, or eat breakfast with your family. Whatever is fun for you first thing in the morning, make time for it.

5. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Work days are long. To ensure you have energy for the whole thing, start your day with a glass of water and a healthy breakfast. Even if you’re not a “breakfast person,” water will wake up your body and flush out toxins. Follow it with a banana, a couple of eggs, or a cup of yogurt. Avoid foods heavy in simple carbs, such as sugary cereals and fruit juice.

6. Do more with your morning commute.

Between work and family life, there’s never enough hours in the day to get everything done. If you have a daily commute, use it to your advantage: Accomplish minor tasks, such as online scheduling and answering emails, on your commute so you can focus on the big tasks during your scheduled work hours. If background noise is an issue, use ear plugs to preserve your focus.

7. Know your most productive hours.

Balancing work and life doesn’t necessarily mean that you must work a 9-to-5 job. Think about the hours when you feel sluggish: Is that post-lunch lull a problem? Do you struggle with mid-morning meetings?

If you’re an entrepreneur, simply tell your team that you’re shifting your schedule. Otherwise, talk to your manager about it. If you really shine during the 6-9 a.m. period, she might let you come in early and take off before everyone else. Just be sure you’re available for your work appointments and meetings.

Entrepreneurs who succeed maximize their time. Set up your morning schedule for success, and watch everything else follow in its footsteps. 

6 Tips for Smart Multitasking

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Multitasking isn’t the monster it’s made out to be. Although studies have demonstrated that multitasking can harm your overall productivity, moving between tasks can also keep your mind energized and creativity flowing. 

What’s the key to effective multitasking? It’s about being intentional with your tasks, the order in which you tackle them, and the amount of time you allot to them. Here’s how to do it:

1. Prioritize tasks by value.

Multitasking hurts your productivity most when you use it as a strategy for working on all those smaller, less significant tasks in place of your big projects. Sort and schedule your tasks by importance: Which projects will bring you the most value upon completion?

Major projects take time, meaning you need to take breaks. Use those breaks as opportunities to switch, making a little progress on each project. After you’ve fried those bigger fish, you can reward yourself by knocking out several of those easier items on your list.

2. Set a timer.

Another way multitaskers shoot themselves in the foot? Spending too little or too much time on each project. Devoting five minutes to a major initiative before switching isn’t likely to move the needle. Sinking five hours into it when another deadline looms isn’t a great idea, either.

Instead, set a timer. The amount of time you spend on each project is up to you; the important thing is to be deliberate. Some productivity experts suggest the Pomodoro technique, which calls for 25-minute work sessions bookended by 5-minute breaks. When the timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and either rest or move to a lighter task to give your brain a break.

3. Tackle hard tasks in the morning.

Research suggests that most of us are capable of the most productivity in the morning hours, usually 2.5 to four hours after we wake up. Your mornings are the ideal time for multitasking between difficult tasks.

As the morning ends and your energy dwindles, shelve those heavier tasks until the next morning. Using your mornings well can take away the pressure to work on cumbersome projects in the afternoon, when most of us are less energized and effective. If you must multitask in the afternoon, switch between things like scheduling appointments, responding to emails, and returning calls.

4. Block out multitasking time on your calendar.

Because multitasking requires more material to be stored in short-term memory, it takes more mental bandwidth than tackling a single task at a time. That leaves less brain power for distractions like random questions from colleagues.

Rather than let come what may, block off time on your calendar. Schedule “do not disturb” hours to be spent multitasking on those major projects. Hang a sign on your door, and set yourself as “away” on Slack. Ask your coworkers to send you a text or give you a call if something is truly urgent.

5. Group related tasks together.

As you add tasks to your calendar, sort them not only by importance but also by subject. You will find it much easier to jump from task to task when each project is related to the next. That way, you aren’t having to completely switch gears every time you start to work on something else. 

Don’t worry if your categorization method doesn’t make sense to others. Someone else might not understand why, say, you’d switch between social media content development and sales follow ups. But if you need to find a groove to write in a conversational style, go for it.

6. Disconnect from digital distractions.

Especially when working from home, technology can be distracting. From the ping of incoming emails to the temptation of your favorite television show, these small-but-strong interruptions can seriously damage our concentration.

When you sit down to multitask, turn off all your notifications. Better yet, shut down your devices and put them away. If you want to write on paper and later type up your work, go for it. Don’t allow yourself access to your digital devices until you’ve reached a scheduled break.

Everyone multitasks. The question is, are you doing it in a way that slows you down? Know your priorities, conquer your most difficult tasks first, and give yourself mental space. That’s all there is to it.

Organize Your Calendar Like You Organize Your Life

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Living an organized life lets you get more done with less stress. By structuring your days, you keep your business running smoothly without letting your family or social lives fall apart.

But to truly maximize your time, you need to organize your calendar like you organize your life. To squeeze more out of every day:

1. Create a zero-based calendar.

Your day might feel like it’s full of meetings and calls, but in between are breaks that you could use to get more done. A zero-based calendar means that you make a plan for every minute of your day. If something isn’t important enough to deserve a spot on your calendar, then replace it with something that does.

The key is to be exhaustive. Add everything you need to do in a day to your calendar. Your meals, workout, commute, and family time should all be on there. Estimate how long each time should take. Note any blank spaces in your day, and ask how you could use those productively. Remember, you control your calendar — not the other way around. 

2. Accomplish your toughest task first.

What’s the thing you’re dreading most in the day? To make sure that you get it out of the way, put it first on your calendar. Once your most difficult and time-consuming task is out of the way, you’ll feel more motivated and ready to complete the rest of your day’s work. 

Productivity expert Brian Tracey calls this “eating the frog.” Identify your “frog” first thing in the morning, before you even get to the office. Hack at it until you’re finished, forgetting about everything else until that point. Many people do their best work in the morning, so why not spend that time on something you know will be a struggle?

3. Share your calendar with others.

Chances are, most of your tasks involve others. Your team needs to know when you’re available to meet. Your project manager needs to know when you’re working on key initiatives. One huge advantage of using an online calendar is that you can allow your colleagues, clients, and family access to your schedule. That way, there are no surprises or double-booked appointments for anyone. 

Using an online scheduling tool lets you provide times when others can request meetings. By opening your schedule to others, you retain control over it while staying accessible to your team. 

4. Link your personal and professional calendars.

Especially for business owners, schedules don’t always fit into neat little “home” and “work” buckets. Some workdays, you might have a dentist appointment or a parent-teacher conference to attend. On Saturday, you may need to meet an out-of-town client.

To avoid surprises, be sure your professional and personal calendars are integrated. Color-code them to make it easy to spot each event’s type at a glance. And again, give your team access so they know not to disturb you during your daughter’s mid-day dance recital.

5. Group meetings for bigger blocks of free time.

You probably already “chunk” your tasks to a degree: When you’re at the office, your mind is on work. When you’re off, you’re at home enjoying time with family. Manage your calendar the same way by scheduling appointments back-to-back.

Scheduling meetings next to one another creates larger blocks of uninterrupted time for you to accomplish your daily tasks. Try setting meeting days so that you know ahead of time that those days might be less productive. On the flip side, give yourself at least one day per week with no appointments so that you can double down on your work and slim down your to-do list. One more tip: Make sure your appointments or meetings end five minutes before the hour to ensure plenty of time to get from one to the next.

6. Schedule time for yourself.

Just because you schedule each minute of your day doesn’t mean every one of them should be spent on work. Make sure that your calendar accounts for “you” time, whether that means a coffee break, time with your family, a cat nap, working out, or all of the above.

Whatever your priorities are, make sure that those are reflected in the way you schedule your time. And don’t beat yourself up when you take time off. After a long day at work, sometimes the most productive thing you can do is rest. 

Don’t let anyone own your schedule but you. You know how you should be spending your days, both at work and at home. Set your calendar up that way, and watch your productivity grow. 

5 Careers for Those Who Love Planning and Organizing

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There is a long held theory that people fall into one or the other of two different types of personalities. One is Type A and persons who fit this category are ambitious, hard-working, and highly organized. The other category is Type B with persons who exhibit a more relaxed and care free life-style. Both should try to find jobs and careers that play to their strengths in order to feel the most fulfilled. However, for people with a Type A personality, that means they should look for careers that allow them to plan and organize.

1. Event planner

One choice of careers for those who love planning and organizing is as an event planner. This profession requires the event organizer to work hand in hand with their customers as well as retailers and other parties. In this way the event planner becomes the middle man that brings everything together. They set up event and pre-event times, locations, budgets, and meeting places. In addition they must contact vendors and other providers to collect bids as well as other information. In short they handle all of the fine details that are necessary for the event to happen.

Job Requirements

Potential event planners should pursue a degree in hospitality or another similar field. Of course, experience helps as well.

2. Virtual Assistant

A second option as a career for those who love planning and organizing is as a virtual assistant. These persons must possess not only planning and organizing skills but also the ability to work under a lot of stress. Other qualities include being self-motivated, reliable, and able to problem solve without difficulty. Much like an event planner, a virtual assistant must be able to juggle lots of things simultaneously.

Job Requirements

College degrees are not required to become a virtual assistant. You just need some basic computer skills and knowledge since you’ll be performing all of your work virtually instead of in person. Having a well-prepared resume always helps, too!

3. Real Estate Agent

Planning and organizing are definitely top on the list of qualifications as a real estate agent. They have to organize their own day as well as that of multiple clients and coordinate everything with homeowners and other agents as well. Let’s not forget all of the listing information and descriptions, customer contact details, and contracts as well as other important details that have to be organized. This is why a real estate agent is a great career path for those who are detail oriented.

Job Requirements

Although an academic degree isn’t required it is recommended for this type of career because communication skills are paramount to success. However, a real estate license is needed in order to have a career in this field.

4. Professional Organizer

When you love the detailed work of planning and organizing why not have a career that pays you well for it? A professional organizer does just that. But pay is not the only benefit. They also get the satisfaction of knowing they are truly helping others to make their lives better. Professional organizers help others to plan and execute strategies that save them time, money, and sometimes their sanity.

Job Requirements

A degree is not mandatory if someone wishes to become a professional organizer. On the job experience is just as beneficial but it can take a few years for the experience to really pay off.

5. Accountant

Another of the careers for those who love planning and organizing is as an accountant. It simply makes sense that math, money, and numbers work right in with planning and organizing. Accountants, in fact, must keep track of every cent for their customers even if they have several hundred. They must also invoice, track receivables, and do many other tasks associated with the job.

Job Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement to become an accountant. To increase their salary, though, those interested in this type of career should consider becoming a CPA, or certified public accountant. Some people love to organize, plan, and schedule. These individuals should consider careers that allow them to make money and become successful doing what they love.
Originally published here.

3 Practices That Will Improve Your Focus

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As an entrepreneur, you likely have multiple things competing for your attention at all times. Between emails, messages, projects and everything else in your life, it can be difficult to stay on task. That’s why it’s important that you find practices that will help improve your focus over time.

The Importance of Focus

I once had a friend say something to me that I will never forget. She said, “If you really wanted to, you could get all your work done for the day in a few hours.” For the most part, she is right. But that’s only if I’m truly focused. But focus isn’t just about getting work done. It’s also about things like focusing on the bigger picture or really listening when someone is speaking. Because let’s face it, we’re all easily distracted these days and it’s hard to do these things if we don’t practice. Fortunately, there are some tools and practices out there that can help you improve your focus so you can get your work done and show up for what matters.

Meditation

I discovered meditation back in 2010 when I was trying to recover from being sick for a while. At first, I didn’t get it. But, it has since become an integral part of my life. At the time of writing this, I am on day 294 of daily meditation. The University of Waterloo found that just ten minutes of meditation a day can help you improve your focus. As a self-proclaimed anxious person, I have to say that my personal experience coincides with this. People often ask me how I’m able to get so much done and I’m pretty sure meditation has something to do with the fact that I regularly meditate – especially if I’m feeling lazy or overwhelmed. The good news meditation isn’t as hard as some people think it is, though I do recommend starting with guided meditations until you get the hang of it.

Music

Another way to help improve your focus is to use music. Specifically, you’ll want to use music meant to help you calm down and focus. This may look like different things to different people. It also may depend on what you do for a living. For example, as a writer, I cannot listen to music with words while I’m working because it distracts me. However, I can listen to instrumentals from subscription services like Brain.fm. My roommate who is an apparel designer is the complete opposite of me. Since she doesn’t deal with words for work, she loves listening to music she can sing along to while she designs. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules here. The key is to find what actually works for you and use it.

Exercise

In addition to meditation as a tool to improve your focus, you can also do short bursts of exercise. The University of Western Ontario recently found that short bursts of exercise can give you a focus boost, at least for a little while. So, if you find yourself starting to doze off, get out of your chair and move around.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways you can improve your focus so you can meet your responsibilities. The key is to know which ones work for you so you can use them when need be.
Originally published here.

6 Tips to Respect the Time of Your Team

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Time is precious, but it’s also easy to squander. When you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, you can’t afford to waste your time or that of your employees.

Here’s how to respect your team’s time so that your employees can be as productive as possible:

1. Message First

Interrupting someone mid-task is never a good idea. When you distract someone, you bump them out of their flow, and impact their productivity. In fact, according to this survey 50% of people feel less productive because of workplace distractions. If you need to ask a quick question, or if you realize you need a longer chat with someone, take the time to shoot them a quick message. Learn whether they’re knee deep in a big project, or whether they have time to talk. 

Whether your team uses Slack or some other messaging tool, a quick message goes a long way. Your team will see that you respect their time and care about what they’re working on as much as what you’re working on. 

2. Schedule Time

If you know you need to have an extended discussion with someone, make sure to schedule an appointment with them on their calendar. This allows an employee to not only prepare for the conversation ahead, but also helps them schedule their day accordingly rather than scrambling for a last-minute meeting. 

Being respectful of their calendar and their current workload will help your employees prioritize their work and fit in any last-minute tasks you may have to throw at them. Make sure your team understands best practices for calendar sharing so they respect one another’s time, too.

3. Consolidate and Save Questions for Work Hours

Although it’s tempting to reach out whenever a question arises, try to keep your employee contact within work hours. Sending that 9 p.m. work email makes your recipient feel like they need to be on call at night. We all know how important it is to disconnect, and after-work communication makes it that much harder for your employees to relax after work.

Gather any late-night questions or concerns you may have on a spreadsheet, and shoot your employee a note in the morning about them. Plus, gathering them for one email means fewer interruptions for everyone than if you reached out to them multiple times. 

4. Know Their Prime Work Hours

Everyone has those times of day when they are the most productive. Some get to work early and are most productive before anyone else gets into the office. Others are hyper-focused in the afternoon and knock out their best work then. 

Know your team members’ prime work hours so you can avoid distracting them during those times of day. Ask workers to block off time on their calendar so you can easily check to see when their prime working times are. You’ll know to avoid random chats or tasks during those hours, and your team will have the opportunity to be as productive as possible.

5. Have a Discussion

What’s the best way to know how and when your team prefers to work? Talk to them. Have a discussion with new employees about their working habits, and share your personal habits as well. Open communication with your employees early on will help you get a better grasp on how you can all work efficiently together.

Beware that schedules change. To help everyone be as productive as possible, discuss communication and work habits at least once a month. The more you learn about your own working habits and those of your team, the better you’ll all work together.

6. Be Generous With Time Off

When you show workers that you respect their time, they’re all the more likely to use it wisely. Unless you have a pressing business reason to deny a PTO request, don’t. Default to trust. Let them take time off to care for their sick relative. If someone says that they need a vacation to keep their stress levels in check, encourage them to take it.

While they’re away, apply the same “pressing business need” standard when deciding whether to reach out. Aside from needed passwords and do-or-die client communications, help them keep their mind off the office. Once they’re back at work, they’ll be more productive than ever.

From your CFO to your front-desk associate, everyone’s time is valuable. Recognize that in your office policies, and watch your team’s productivity grow.

5 Reasons Why a Calendar Tool Helps You Manage Your Time

By | Time Management | No Comments
You must learn to manage your time. As Renzo Costarella perfectly put it, “Time management is a skill that even the most seasoned business people struggle with.” But, it’s also one of the most important if you want to succeed in both business and life. That’s why I make the most out of my calendar tools. They’ve been able to help manage my time so that I’m productive day-in and day-out because of the following five reasons.

1. Creates a daily routine.

Let’s say that you wake-up on a Saturday morning and don’t have anything planned. Sure. There are things that you should do, like clean the house, but since it’s not set in stone you aimlessly wander around. The next thing you know you just binge-watched the entire new season of Stranger Things. There goes your entire Saturday — wasted. Sometimes it’s a good thing to not have anything planned. You’ve had an exhausting week and you need this time to rest and recharge. But, you can’t do that every day. In order to stop wasting time, you need to create a schedule and stick to it. When you have a plan, it prevents you from getting caught off-guard so that you remain productive. For me, that involves blocking out time for specific tasks in my calendar. My daily routine is something like this. I wake-up at 5:15 a.m. and spend the next two hours exercising, clearing out my inbox, and planning out the rest of my day. From around seven-eight a.m. to noon I work on my most important tasks. After lunch, I spend an hour responding to emails and phone calls. From two p.m. to four p.m. I go back to work and conclude my work day by finishing up some soft work, like tidying up my workplace. After dinner I go over my emails again and then plan my next day. This could change if I have a meeting or travel, but that’s my daily routine that I have scheduled into my calendar. Bonus tip: Make sure that when you block out time for your most important work that it coincides with your peak energy/focus levels of the day. For me, that’s between eight a.m. to 11 a.m. and two p.m. to four p.m.

2. Puts time limits on tasks to manage your time.

In my calendar I make sure that have set aside specific time limits for tasks. If I have to write a blog post, then I block out from eight a.m. to 10 a.m. For weekly time meetings I block out one p.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Doing so prevents working or meetings from dragging on-and-on. As a result, I’m not taking away from other activities.

3. Schedules meetings in advance.

Some meetings or appointments, such as weekly team meetings, can be planned in advance. I can then schedule these meetings for the foreseeable future into my calendar and share it with my team. But, what about unexpected meetings? To be honest, unless it’s an emergency, I don’t accept last minute meetings. It forces me to juggle my work day around, which can then throw my entire week out-of-whack. I at least try to plan a meeting 24 hours in advance so that I’m prepared and can still attend to my priorities. And, the best part, is that thanks to tools like Calendar, this can be done effortlessly. With Calendar I I share my availability via email or embedded link with the other party. They then select the time that works best for them. Once they do, the event is added to both of our calendars. Since this eliminates those back-and-forth emails, meetings can be scheduled pretty much automatically. Now I can focus on getting my work done without frequently going into my inbox.

4. Keeps your time in-check.

What time does your next meeting start? When are your guests expected to arrive at a dinner party? When do you need to finish a certain task. I mark these deadlines and times clearly in my calendar and organizer so that I can keep my time in-check. For instance, if I block out three hours of meetings on a Monday, then I use appointment slots in Google Calendar. This way if I have three meetings I can split this time into three meetings – an hour for each. If my friends are coming over for dinner at six p.m., then I’ll schedule the previous hour for getting dressed, straightening-up the house, and getting dinner started. If I have a deadline with a client, then my calendar reminds me when it has to be completed. Simply put, calendar tools keep my time in-check is that I’m not scrambling around at the last second.

5. Manage Your Time by plannning for breaks.

Despite the misconceptions, breaks are not a waste of time. In fact, breaks are essential if you want to remain productive. This is because regularly scheduled breaks help you recharge, refocus, gain perspective, and ensure that you’re taking care of yourself. In my calendar, I schedule a half-an-hour break at around 10 a.m. During this period I go for a quick walk, make a fresh cup of coffee, and quickly catch-up with my spouse, friends, or mentor. Taking this break clears my head, gets the blood pumping, and provides guidance when I hit the wall.
Originally published here.
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