How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

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How to Squeeze More Time Out of Your Busy Schedule

Entrepreneurs have it hard. Not only do they have to operate a business, but they also have to ensure that they can manage their day-to-day tasks on top of it.

Staying busy isn’t a bad thing, but many entrepreneurs find themselves trying to fit too many things into their schedules. 

If you’re an entrepreneur who is feeling overwhelmed, or the days just keep getting busier, here are a few ways you can free up your time for the most important things on your calendar:

1. Get Rid of Pointless Meetings.

Your time is valuable and deserves your respect. It might not always feel like it, but you have control of your own calendar. In order to free up your time, it’s critical to take a closer look at some of your meeting schedule.

Stop letting people put unnecessary appointments on your calendar.

Make clear to employees, clients, and vendors what constitutes a meeting and what the expectations are for that meeting. A meeting should have a defined purpose, an approximate start and end time, and a detailed agenda. 

Implement a policy that you won’t take a meeting that does not include these items. If someone feels they can’t include these items when scheduling a meeting, perhaps a phone call or email might be a better use of your time. 

Evaluate your current schedule and make changes as needed.

As a leader, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of your current schedule so you can make the most of your time. Are you meeting deadlines? Is your meeting schedule working each week? Do you feel the pressure of the clock? 

Answering these questions and making changes where you see fit will help clean up your calendar and free up more time in the day.

Learn to say “no.”

Although the word “no” has an inherently negative connotation, go ahead and get comfortable with it. Others will understand if you need to decline the occasional meeting. Offer to reschedule it or suggest an alternative solution. 

Leverage an online scheduling tool.

Appointment scheduling software like Calendar are incredibly helpful for calendar management. Use them to minimize email back-and-forth, avoid overbooking yourself, and getting a quick glimpse of your day’s appointments.

Go ahead and block off one day a week for deep work. A popular method is to implement a one-day-a-week no-meetings policy. Use that time to prevent or solve complex business problems. 

2. Reduce the Amount of Time Spent at Your Desk.

Entrepreneurs often feel like they are “too busy to take a break.” But that simply isn’t true.

Breaks are good for the brain, and spending 8 hours at your desk doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a productive day. When you find the luxury of a free, 15-minute time period, try filling it by doing something for yourself, rather than trying to cram in another task.

Options include:

  • Meditating: If you feel anxious or overly stressed during the workday, use your free time to meditate. It could significantly reduce your stress level and give you the boost you need to continue on with a productive day. Even something as simple as going into a quiet room, focusing on your breathing, and clearing every thought in your mind can make a huge difference in your day.
  • Listening to a short podcast: Podcasts can be a way to unwind, and a great learning tool. Thousands of podcasts are uploaded every day on topics like business, money, news, politics, comedy and more. Listening to a podcast that aligns with your line of work can offer inspiration on a slow day. 
  • Reading a book: A short, 15-minute break is plenty of time to catch up on a chapter of your favorite book. Whether you’re reading for business or pleasure, reading is relaxing and can heighten brain function.

Don’t be afraid to take that little bit of time for yourself. You’ll be less stressed and more productive.

3. Cut Out Busy Work.

While it’s important to fill up your free time with non-work tasks, you’ll also find that much of your schedule is filled with busy work. Identify these tasks and limit the time you spend on them. To assist with busy work, appoint your top employees to managerial roles, and don’t be afraid to delegate these tasks as you see fit. 

Cutting out busy work will free up time for business development. For example, you can focus on managing your business’ social media pages. As an entrepreneur, people want to hear what you have to say, and find your experience and opinions very valuable. By putting out thought leadership pieces or video content, you can gain your following, and next thing you know, you’re viral—and so is your business. 

You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you pare down your calendar. Be proactive, and don’t try to take on too much. And if you have already, make changes so you can be your best self. 

How Do You Prioritize Your Time? 25 Tips for Optimal Time Prioritization

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Smartwatch showing the time.

You came here for one reason. To get some killer tips on how to prioritize your time. So, let’s get right into it so that you’re not wasting any more time then you have to. Here is how to prioritize your time with 25 tips for optimal time prioritization.

1. Set goals and stick to them.

Goals are like a map. They provide us with a starting point and step-by-directions on how to reach our destination. But, they also keep us focused. If you’ve ever driven in an unfamiliar territory your eyes are fixed sharply on the road so that you don’t miss a turn.

Before doing anything else, get clear on your goals and follow through with them. Not only will this give you purpose, but it will also guide you in determining how you want to spend your time.

If you’re struggling with reaching your goals, here are four strategies that you should try:

  • SMART goal formula. Always make sure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • RPM. Developed by Tony Robbins, this involves three-steps to achieving your goals: writing them down, chunking your time, and blocks that contain a plan for reaching your goal.
  • Start with your action steps first. Instead of setting a goal first, begin in the middle of the goal process. Taking this approach actually gives you a better understanding of how much time and effort it will take.
  • Run a SWOT analysis. Short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, this is where you identify the challenges in these four areas. Knowing this, you can then look for ways to overcomes these obstacles.

2. Create a master list.

Those goals you just came-up with? Add them to a list, along with anything else that needs to get done like administrative tasks, meetings, and household chores. Right now, the order doesn’t matter. You just need to get these items out of your head and place them in a notebook or sheet of paper. You could also use digital tools like Evernote, Google Keep, or Todoist.

For some of you, you may end up having a lengthy and daunting list here. Don’t sweat it. Go through your list and begin trimming the fat by arranging your list by date-specific responsibilities. Examples would include deadlines, due dates, and events already booked in your calendar. Also, only focus on important actions that need your attention right now.

As for the rest of your list? If there is something that you need to do, but it’s not urgent, schedule it for later. If there are items that could be delegated or outsourced, then assign them to someone else. And, if there’s anything that isn’t a good use of your time, delete them from your list.

3. Get to Like Ike.

Even if your list isn’t as overwhelming, it’s still challenging to prioritize your list. One way strategy to employ here would be using a priority matrix, such as the popular Eisenhower Matrix.

If history isn’t your thing, here’s what you need to know. The Eisenhower Matrix was named after Dwight Eisenhower, also known as Ike. He was the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States. So, yeah, he had to be productive with his time. And, he accomplished this by dividing all tasks into four quadrants:

  • Important and Urgent – essential items that must get done.
  • Not urgent and important – activities that still require your attention, but not right at this moment.
  • Not important and urgent – responsibilities that can handed-off to someone else so that they don’t distract you.
  • Not important and not urgent – time-wasters that should be scrapped from your list entirely.

4. Enroll at MIT.

Not literally. But, if you have applied and been accepted to the Massachusets Institute of Technology, then congratulations.

The MIT I’m talking about here is your most important task. It’s the one thing that you want or needs to get done today — without question. It should always be aligned with the goals that you’ve set.

5. It’s as easy as A, B, C.

Another way to prioritize your time is to use a system where you list everything as A, B, and C. According to Steve Tobak, here’s how it works:

    • A = critical things. These are the things that need to get done right away or there will be repercussions.
    • B = business as usual. Everything that you need to focus on in order to achieve your short- and long-term goals.
    • C = everything else. These are items like busy work things that would be nice to get to, or just goofing off.

The beauty of this system, explains Tobak, is that you’ll “actually never get to the Priority C tasks. In fact, this system forces you to be very clear on your goals because anything that doesn’t play a significant role in helping you achieve them gets pushed to the C list.”

6. Kondo your to-do-lists.

I’m sure that you’re aware of Marie Kondo’s decluttering philosophy: does this spark joy? If not, it not then throw it away or donate it. But, how does this apply to prioritize your time?

Well, between FOMO and being afraid to say “no,” we often over-commit ourselves. We also feel pressured to squeeze in as much as possible in a day so that you give off the impression that we’re productive. In reality, the more we add to our plate, the less progress we’ll make. The reason? We’re focused on how much we’ve accomplished per day instead of spending time on the right things.

Decluttering your life can help with this. It relieves stress, allows you to make fewer decisions, and encourages you to spend more time on the things that truly matter.

Amy Jen Su suggests on HBR that you can do this by filtering your priorities. “Select a couple of areas to set priorities in; this can help the brain to manage information overload,” explains Amy.

“Researchers have found that it’s the overload of options that paralyze us or lead to decisions that go against our best interests,” she adds. “Two criteria I use with clients to filter for priorities include contribution and passion.” Your highest contribution would be things your purpose, strengths, and experience. Your passion would be the things that motivate and excite you.

7. Follow the 1-3-5 scheduling rule.

Remember that master you created? Go back and use that to shape your day using the 1-3-5 scheduling rule.

  • Identify today’s top priority from the list. Nothing else matters here. This is your primary focus for the day.
  • Determine three medium priorities. Ideally, these should be subtasks related to your main priority.
  • And, schedule no more than five small must-to-do- priorities, such as meetings. While these are important and deserve your time, we call these smaller to-dos since they don’t require as much energy.

8. Use the scales method.

The scales method was developed by Leon Ho, founder, and CEO of Lifehack. It’s similar to a priority matrix in that you’re organizing your to-do-list by importance and the benefits you’ll receive.

Here, however, you would determine the priority of each of your tasks by:

  • Low Cost + High Benefit. These are easy tasks to complete, but will also get you one step closer to your goals.
  • High Cost + High Benefit. Here you would break large tasks into smaller and more manageable ones.
  • Low Cost + Low Benefit. These would be your lowest priority tasks, like checking your inbox.
  • High Cost + Low Benefit. Here would time wasters that could be automated or delegated.

9. Find your 20%.

The 80/20 rule was developed by the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto — hence why it’s also known as the Pareto Principle. As Choncé Maddox explains for Calendar, this rule “clearly states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.”

How does this help you prioritize your work? Well, according to Choncé, “If you’ve found that 20% of your effort is resulting in 80% of your results, you’ll want to prioritize and improve that 20% margin.”

With that in mind, you should always take care of your 20% first. If you find this to be tricky, ask questions like, “Are there any tasks that would make you feel relieved by accomplishing them, no matter what else happened during the day?”

10. Take the 18-minute approach.

Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, is responsible for this technique. In reality, though, it’s actually a daily ritual that will help you remain focused on your priorities throughout the day.

  • Step 1. Before doing anything, start your day by spending five minutes mapping out your day.
  • Step 2. Check-in every hour for just a minute to help put your back-on-track.
  • Step 3. At the end of the day, take five minutes to review what worked, as well as when you get distracted. Don’t forget to take note of when you had the most focus.

11. Listen to the oracle.

I’m talking about the Oracle of Omaha, aka Warren Buffett. And, no, it’s not about how to invest your money. Instead, it’s how you should invest your time.

Start by writing down your top 25 goals. Next, draw a circle around the five that you would consider being the most important. What about the other 20 goals you listed? Avoid those at all cost so that you can dedicate 100% to your top 5.

12. Respect dates and deadlines.

Is this obvious? Absolutely. But, a lot of people have a tendency to bite off more then they can chew. For example, you may have had a conference call scheduled for months for Tuesday at 4 p.m. In your eagerness to stay ahead of your work, you squeeze in one last job before the call. Next thing you know, it’s 4:05. Not cool.

Another example would not be adding buffers between tasks and events. Let’s say that you have two meetings planned for the afternoon. The first is at 2 and the second at 3. The first meeting, which is across town, ends at 2:50. There’s no way that you’re going to make it to the other meeting on time. That’s why you should have but a buffer between these events to account for the commute.

In short, when you have something already in your calendar, whether if it’s a deadline or appointment, your day needs to be based around that entry. It was there first. And, it’s just downright disrespectful.

13. Honesty is all the best policy.

I know. That adage is cliche as peanut butter and jelly. But, it still rings true. That’s because if you aren’t honest with yourself, then you won’t be able to prioritize your time. I mean it would be wonderful if you could complete your entire to-do-list in one day. But, that’s just not possible.

Be honest with how much you can realistically get done in a day. And, do your best to block the appropriate time needed for everything that you need to do.

14. Weigh the consequences.

Whenever you’re at a crossroads, or just planning out your day, think about the consequences. For example, if you made a left it may be the more scenic route. But, there’s also no gas station in that direction. In this case, you’re better off turning right so that you don’t run of gas in the middle of nowhere.

15. Make every day count.

Not to get too new agey with you. But, personally, that should be a top priority for everyone. Of course, that doesn’t mean living recklessly. It’s all about spending your time wisely. If that means leaving work early to spend time with your fam, then so be it. If that’s preparing to meet with investors in order to secure a much-need loan for your business, then it’s all good.

If you want to know how this is done, I recommend you check out Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule. It’s simple while providing structure. And, most importantly, it forces you to answer, “What good shall I do this day?”

16. Do what you dread first.

At some point, you’ve probably had to move. Even if you haven’t, you’ve at least helped a friend or family member. That is, unless, you’ve always hired someone to do this for you. And, if this is the case, then I’m incredibly jealous.

Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush here. Moving sucks. It’s stressful and physical tolling. But, whenever I have to make the dreaded move, I always start with the heavy items first. The reason is two-fold.

For one, do you really want to move a bedroom dresser after spending all day moving? Of course not. You’re exhausted and just want the day to be over. Secondly, if you knock out the heavier and bulkier items, everything else seems to run more smoothly. I guess it’s because with the big stuff out of the way you only have to worry about the remaining smaller items.

Apply the same concept to your time. As Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” In other words, focus on completing your most challenging or dreaded task bright and early. Besides just getting it done and over with, this is usually when we have the most energy.

17. Alternate between a maker and manager schedule.

Back in 2009, Paul Graham wrote that there were two types of schedules; a maker’s and a manager’s. A maker’s schedule is where you have to spend hours working independently on the important stuff. A manger’s schedule is the one leader’s run-on that’s full of meetings and checking-in with others.

The concept is cool. But, most of us are like Malcolm and somewhere in the middle. That means there were times when we need to focus on tasks without being disturbed. But, there also times when we must do things like attending a meeting.

Each is important in their own way. But, if not managed proplet, it can be disastrous. Let’s say you’re in the zone and a calendar reminder goes off letting you know it’s time to head into the conference room. It’s frustrating and disruptive.

One way around this is to alternate days. For instance, reserve Mondays as a maker’s day. Tuesdays, however, would be spent as a manager day since that’s when all of your meetings are scheduled.

18. Deal with constant interruptions.

Interruptions, like Thanos, are inevitable. Thankfully, there are ways for you to be victorious against this intergalactic threat against productivity.

The most obvious place to start would be to turn off your smartphone notifications. You can either turn off your phone, put it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or block apps from a specific amount of time. To avoid FOMO, check your these notifications at scheduled intervals.

Another option is to work in a quiet place. If this isn’t possible, invest in noise-canceling headphones and shut your office door. I’d also suggest placing a sign-up sheet or share your calendar with others so that people just won’t pop-in on you.

And, only accept time requests that serve a purpose. For example, instead of a status meeting with your team, use project management software so that you can see where everyone is at.

19. Assemble your tool kit.

Regardless if you own a home or rent, everyone needs a basic tool kit, such as screwdrivers, pliers, tape measures, and hammers. The same goes for prioritizing your time. A planner and calendar are your essential productivity toolkit. You need these to organize and manage your time.

However, you also will need tools to meet your exact needs. Let’s say you’re building a room in your basement for a home office. You’ll need tools like sawhorses, circular saws, putty knives, and straight edges for this job.

If you find yourself working with others, as an example, then grab tools like project management software and scheduling apps like Calendar that rely on AI and machine learning. You’ll need them to reduce the time spent on tedious tasks like planning a meeting so that you have more time on the important things.

20. Use a gamification system.

Pritoization is all about staying motivated. And, that can be trying when you’re just not in the right mindset. A simple way around this would be to tap into your intrinsic motivation through gamification. For example, break down your goals into micro-goals and reward yourself when you’ve completed each stage. So, let’s say you give yourself an hour to finish writing a report. If you do, then treat yourself to buying those new hiking boots you’ve been eyeing up.

21. Don’t plug leaky boats.

Let’s say that you own a small fishing boat. Over time, it begins to leak. That means whenever you go out, you have to either patch it up or constantly bail out water. Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s also stressful. Instead of dealing with your battered boat, just invest in a new one so that you can spend more time doing something that you enjoy — which would be fishing.

The point here isn’t to spend money. It’s that when something is broken, it’s not always worth fixing.

22. Plan in reverse.

“Although extensive research has shown the benefits of planning, little attention has been paid to the ways people construct plans and their impacts on subsequent goal pursuit,” said Jooyoung Park, assistant professor in the Department of Management at Peking University HSBC Business School and first author of a paper published in Psychological Science.

His study found that when it comes to more complex tasks, it more effective to plan backward. The reason? It forces you to anticipate the necessary step, stick to the original plan, and feel less pressured.

23. Keep a log of your work.

When you keep a log of your work, you’ll discover how long each task you do takes to complete. As such, you’ll be better suited to plan your time more accurately and realistically. You can also use this as a reference to see which recurring tasks can be scheduled or delegated.

24. Find a muse.

Think about your favorite musicians. They were inspired by someone else to write and perform music. It’s the same thing with prioritization. Pick the brains of people who you consider to be successful and productive like a mentor, family member, or renowned business leader. Whether you’re peaking them in person or reading a book they’ve authored, scout out optimal time prioritization from others that you respect.

25. Build your own prioritization system.

Finally, do what works best for you. Even if you’ve been inspired by someone else, make your own adjustments that meet your specific needs. Again, it’s like a musician. A guitar could have picked up the instrument because of the blues. But, over time, he developed his own signature style that was a better fit for his band.

4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

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4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

The meeting that could’ve been an email: We’ve all been there. As much as we want every meeting we attend to be productive, almost every one of us has left a meeting wondering: “Was that really necessary?” 

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers in a range of industries say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings, on average, up from 10 hours in the 1960s.

Almost nobody actually enjoys meetings. So why do leaders waste so much time in them?

1. They get sidetracked.

Given how long they spend in meetings, many leaders struggle to create an agenda for each of them. Some are thinking ahead to the next one, while others try to tackle every meeting on the fly. 

Meetings should always have a defined purpose. Make that reason clear when calling the meeting, and prepare an agenda immediately after scheduling it. Give other participants a chance to comment on and contribute to it.

Setting a specific agenda ensures that you show up prepared, and it also gives your team members an idea of what to expect. Whether you prepare to use a written list or a series of slides, developing an agenda allows you to guide the discussion. 

2. They are disorganized.

Business leaders have hectic schedules as is, and meetings only add to the craziness. Staying organized is key for productive meetings.

Use scheduling software to manage your meetings. Calendar allows you to pick times and dates for your events, share your availability with others, and avoid scheduling conflicts. What’s more, Calendar’s dashboard shows where and with whom you spend your time, helping you make sure that your schedule aligns with your priorities.

Without a shareable scheduling system, it’s tough to know who’s coming to a meeting or whether someone might need to duck out part way through. Those details let leaders structure meetings in ways that make the most of everyone’s time. 

3. They have too many meetings on the calendar.

Between meetings, interviews, and training sessions the number of meetings on your calendar can add up quickly. It’s important to know when meetings are appropriate and when they are not:

  • When you should have a meeting: when you need to plan for the long term, get or give feedback on major projects, host executive-level negotiations, or deliver employee performance reviews.
  • When to keep meetings short (or not have them at all): when you need to share weekly progress updates, present revenue and expense breakdowns, brainstorm for marketing assets, or explain changes to your personal schedule.

When leaders use good judgment, they can cut out meetings that are unnecessary and focus on the ones that matter.

4. They can’t keep their employees focused.

The most wasteful type of meeting is one that attendees do not find valuable. If you want your employees’ meeting time to be spent effectively, it’s important to keep them engaged throughout.

There are multiple ways to make meetings more interesting:

  • Add visuals to presentations. Photos and videos can drive home key points. Beware, though, that adding too many visuals wastes time by distracting attendees.
  • Encourage group participation. Activities encourage buy-in from non-presenting members of the meeting. Ask people to raise their hands in response to certain questions, or request suggestions around a challenge. 
  • Keep all meetings under 50 minutes. Meetings that last for an hour or more should be split into two or more sessions. Set a timer if your meetings consistently overrun their slots.
  • Identify key takeaways at the end of each meeting. Concluding meetings with action items not only makes them more meaningful, but it provides markers for future measurement. When meetings begin with a review of the prior one’s action items, participants feel a sense of purpose and accountability.

Unproductive meetings may seem like a fact of life, but they do not need to be. Schedule only the meetings you need, always develop an agenda in advance, and keep participants engaged. Neither you nor your employees have time to waste.

25 Brilliant Calendar and Schedule Management Tips

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Between all of your work-related tasks, the endless barrage of meetings, personal commitments, and those pesky to-do-lists items, how can you possibly get everything done? Do you even have the chance to catch your breath or do the things that you actually enjoy?

While scheduling may be a struggle for some, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The light begins to shin when you follow your calendar with exactness and start to see the benefits. You begin to see how Calendar and schedule management frees you.

That may sound like an impossible feat. But, it’s within reach if you try out the following 25 brilliant tips.

1. Put first things first.

“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities,” Stephen Covey famously wrote. “It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.”

If you don’t book your priorities, you can be certain that something of less importance will occupy that time slot. That’s why in order to protect what’s more important in your life, then take control of your schedule in advance. How far in advance? Well, some people prefer to create an annual plan.

Again, this will vary from person to person. But, an annual plan is where you simply block out time in your calendar for what’s most important to you. Examples would be business goals, industry events, doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, or your best friend’s wedding.

Creating your annual Calendar (that you add to) won’t just shield your priorities, it will also keep you focused. It will also make managing your calendar much easier since there are fewer blocks to fill.

2. Schedule the best week ever.

Wait. Didn’t you just draft an annual plan? Yes. But, schedules change and new priorities pop-up throughout the year. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less important. It’s just that you don’t have a crystal ball and see that far into the future.

Either every Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, map out your ideal week. You can start by listing all of your tasks for the week and then prioritizing the list. From there, add your priorities into your calendar.

Just make sure that you schedule the right tasks at the right time. For instance, base your schedule around your energy levels and deadlines. If a deadline is for Thursday morning, then it wouldn’t make sense to work on this task at ten o’clock on Wednesday night.

3. Seize the day!

You’ve got an idea of how you’re going to spend the next week and even year to an extent. But, what would your dest day ever look like? I doubt it would be sleeping-in, rushing to work, and working until the wee hours of the night.

Or, would you rather wake-up and start the day on the right foot? You know, squeeze in an exercise, catch-up on the news, and enjoy a healthy breakfast. How about knowing exactly what to work on and when so that you’re working smarter, not harder. And, wouldn’t you want to end the day by doing something that you enjoy like relaxing or spending quality time with your nearest and dearest?

Determine what would make your day the best day ever. Afterward, schedule accordingly so that you can control and seize the day.

4. Always think before you act.

We’ve all fallen into this trap. You set down at your desk and then open-up your inbox. Next thing you know, you’ve just spent 30-minutes going through your emails. Another example would be you start looking for a misplaced item and then decide that it’s a good time to declutter and organize your office.

These are both activities that need to get done. But, do they need to be addressed at this very second? Probably not. In fact, getting distracted by these less important tasks can throw off the schedule that you’ve already planned.

Before diving into an activity, ask yourself if it’s worth doing right now. If not, schedule it for when you have the availability.

5. Have a well-equipped toolbox.

If you’re a homeowner, then you should know the importance of having a well-equipped toolbox. It’s essential for basic tasks like hanging a picture or doing a little home repair. Even if you rent an apartment, you should still have a basic toolbox handy.

The same idea applies to your calendar and schedule management. Instead of relying on a wall or desktop-sized calendar, download a calendar app. It’s more accessible and portable than the old paper calendar. And, it can easily be shared with others.

On top of a calendar app, also look into tools like scheduling software. Calendar, for example, uses machine learning to make smart suggestions on how to schedule events. It’s much more convenient than going playing phone or email tag when planning a meeting.

6. Your kiss is on my list.

Unlike Hall & Oates, I don’t mean this literally. I’m actually talking about the KISS Principle.

Short for “keep it simple stupid.” The idea comes from a Navy design principle from the 60s. It’s great advice for all aspects of your life. But, it’s particularly useful when it comes to your calendar.

As a computer scientist and author of “The Laws of Simplicity,” John Maeda explains, “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” For example, you wouldn’t want to create a complicated calendar system just to keep track of habitual actions like brushing your teeth. Instead, you would add entries like deep work.

7. Pick-up timeboxing.

Ditch your to-do-lists and embrace a simple productivity hack known as timeboxing. As explained in another Calendar article, this is where you open your calendar and block off an exact amount of time to a specific task.

According to Marc Zao-Sanders over on HBR, timeboxing encourages you to get the right thing done at the right time. Additionally, it “enables you to communicate and collaborate more effectively.” Timeboxing also creates a “comprehensive record of what you’ve done, makes you feel more in control, and fights back against Parkinson’s Law.

8. Become a microscheduler.

You wouldn’t think that Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Wahlberg, and internet celebrities like Elaine Lui, and Casey Neistat would have much in common. But, they all share a scheduling habit where they break their days into five to seven-minute blocks.

Also known as microscheduling, this is a rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. However, it ensures that you maximize and protect your time. And, according to Insider, “Microschedulers feel calmer when they have their plan, prioritized to-do list, and an organized structure to their day.”

9. Work in batches.

Batching is one of my favorite time management techniques. Besides being easy to implement, it’s also effective. Simply block out time in your schedule to focus on a group of similar tasks. Examples would be running all of your errands at the same time, cooking all of your meals on Sunday, or checking your inbox at predetermined times.

The reason why batching works is because it prevents multitasking. It also reduces the time spent switching between tasks.

10. Aim to be early.

Let’s say that the due date for a project is on the twentieth of the month. Bump that deadline up by a couple of days. No matter how organized you are, Murphy’s Law is always lurking in the shadows. So, it’s better to have met this deadline in advance just to be safe.

You can also use this technique for meetings. If a meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., then plan to be there at 1:50 so that you don’t run late. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to prepare and review the agenda.

11. Put a “P” on your calendar.

She may have a song that emphasizes how much she works. But, in reality, Rihanna prioritizes downtime.

“I never used to be this way,” RiRi told Interview Magazine. “It’s only the last couple of years that I started to realize that you need to make time for yourself because your mental health depends on it.”

“If you’re not happy, you’re not going to be happy even doing things that you love doing,” she added. “It’d feel like a chore. I never want to work to feel like a chore.”

To make time for herself, Rihanna places “the infamous ‘P,’ which means personal days” onto her calendar. That’s it. She just puts a “P,” which is a different color, on her calendar to protect her personal time.

12. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.

I’m not actually a fan of Kit Kat bars. But, that jingle. It’s timeless. And, so is the advice it shares, “Give me a break.”

Make sure that you schedule breaks in your calendar. It gives you the chance to recharge and refocus. After all, we can only focus on one task for so long. Track your energy patterns to see when you’re most productive and when your energy begins to lag. It’s different for everyone. But, usually, we can work for around an hour before taking a break. After that, take a 10-20 minute break before getting back to work.

13. Schedule BBTs.

Back burner tasks are those things that you never get around to. Usually, this is because they’re not all that important and you just don’t want to do. Examples would be calling your insurance company or cleaning the bathroom.

Despite not being a top priority, they’re usually things that you eventually have to get around to doing before they pile-up. Don’t forget to schedule these responsibilities when you have spare time. Saturday mornings as an example, are perfect for scrubbing your bathroom.

14. Use reminders strategically.

Perhaps one of the most underutilized features of a calendar is reminders. Most of us just stick with the default. But, when used correctly and sparingly it can differently be an asset.

Let’s say that you have a meeting scheduled for next week. Set a reminder a week in advance so that you can send the agenda out to attendees. Set another reminder a day prior to giving you enough time to prepare. And, set a final reminder an hour before just in case you get in the zone and lose track of time.

15. Strike while the iron’s hot.

Earlier in my career, I was terrible at following-up with professional contacts. I’d meet people at an event and promise to keep in touch. But, because I didn’t schedule a meeting, I never did. Now, when I meet a contact, I share my schedule with them on the spot and schedule a follow-up with them.

The same is true of any event that you plan on attending. Whether if it’s meeting with clients, a dentist appointment, or conference, once booked add it immediately to your calendar. If not, you may accidentally schedule something else during the same date and time.

16. Stop playing the victim.

Growing up there was this older kid who got a kick out of being a bully. One day I finally had enough and stood up to him. Guess what? He never bothered me again.

I’m not suggesting physical violence here. I’m saying that you need to stop making excuses and stand up for yourself — especially when it comes to your time. If you can’t focus because your phone is constantly going off, then turn the thing off. If you feel like you’re stretched for time, then start saying “no” to time requests.

Heck, even if you do say “yes” you can always reclaim your time if the request seems like a waste. Just make sure to give adequate notice.

17. Change your view.

Did you know that online calendars offer multiple views? These include daily, weekly, or monthly. There are also more specific views like your work schedule or every two days. Find a view that works best for you.

Personally, I enjoy the one that displays every two days. It keeps me focused on today and helps plan for tomorrow. It also events me from getting distracted on what I need to do a week or so from now.

18. Set time limits on your tasks.

If you know that you only have an hour to clean out your inbox, update your social channels, and return a phone call, then you’ll be motivated to do all of these within that timeframe. If you give yourself too much time, then you’ll just goof around since you have too much time on your hands. It’s all thanks to that darn Parkinson’s Law.

I would track your time for more important tasks though. You certainly don’t want to under-or-overestimate how long these items take.

19. Eliminate back-to-back appointments.

Just because it’s acceptable in the business world to schedule back-to-back meetings doesn’t mean you have to. I would even go as far as to say that you should never book back-to-back appointments. The reason? It’s just going to end badly.

You need time in-between meetings to travel, prepare, or just decompress for five minutes. If you have any back-to-back appointments currently in your calendar, reschedule one of them immediately. And, going forward, always give yourself a buffer.

20. Revise your approach to meetings.

Speaking of meetings, you’re probably going about them all wrong. In most cases, meetings are unproductive. Even worse, they’re a blight on your schedule.

Only accept meetings that serve a purpose. If they don’t, find an alternative like a quick phone call or Slack message. If you must plan a meeting, keeping them short, invite-only key stakeholders, and stick to your agenda.

21. Keep your calendar or schedule visible.

We’re visual creates. So, it wouldn’t hurt to place your calendar where you can see it. It could be a giant wall-sized calendar or placed on your desktop. Now you’ll always have a visual reminder on what needs to get done today, tomorrow, or even next month.

22. Create titles that catch the eye.

Spice up your calendar by creating more helpful titles. Instead of ‘Meeting’ go with something like ‘Sales Pitch.” Also use color-coding, boldface, or different fonts for each title. It will make these important entries to stand out and will help you plan more accordingly.

23. Let AI do the hard work.

Artificial intelligence is here. And, it’s changing the world for the better.

Case in point, smart calendars. These calendars can track how you spend your time and analyze your activity in order to make recommendations on how you can better spend your time. These tools can then automatically add recurring events to your calendar.

24. Step back and take a big-picture view of your calendar.

Periodically, review your calendar. Make sure that it’s a current reflection of your priorities and is helping you achieve work-life balance. If not, then find out what items on your calendar can be delegated or dropped.

25. You do you.

Finally, in the immortal words of Jon Bon Jovi, “It’s my life. It’s now or never.”’

When it comes to your calendar and schedule, find the methods and tools that work best for you. It might take some trial and error. But, when you find a management system that suits you, stick with it.

How to Squeeze More Interviews Into Your Schedule

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How to Squeeze More Interviews Into Your Schedule

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is a phrase everyone in business has thought, if not said aloud.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, recruiter, sales leader, or another role entirely, interviews likely make up a good portion of your day. If you’re looking to make more time in your schedule, why not start with one of your biggest time commitments?

Here are some helpful hacks for fitting more interviews into your busy schedule:

1. Dig deeply into your goals.

As with any new personal or professional project, it’s important to first identify your objectives. If you’re an entrepreneur trying to find the right candidate for an open role, how long are you willing to wait to fill it? How many candidates do you want to meet before you make a decision?

Take your time with this. Hiring is not something to rush. The more narrowly defined your criteria and assumptions, the more satisfied you’ll be with the end result. Ask yourself:

  • How many rounds of interviews are required throughout the entire interview process (depending on the job position)?
  • What is the maximum number of candidates that can move forward to next-round interviews?
  • How long should interviews run to properly evaluate candidates for the position?
  • Do other executives need to be present? If so, can they fit these interviews into their schedules?

2. Determine availability digitally.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of interviewing is all the back-and-forth communication required to coordinate and confirm an available time slot for two or more parties. For internal meetings and interviews, be sure you’re using a consolidated digital calendar so you can see one another’s availability?

What about interviews with people outside the organization? Tools like Calendar simplify this by letting users embed their availability into their email messages. Calendar automatically prevents double-booking, just in case the interviewee selects a time that’s been taken. 

3. Account for interstitial time. 

Although it’s tempting to stack interviews one on top of another in order to maximize your time, avoid doing so. Allow for at least 5 minutes, and ideally 15, between each interview.

Interviews are unpredictable. You never know who will show up late or which interviews will go long. You don’t know what else might come up during the workday. Those buffer zones are a great time to catch up on email, take a break, or prepare for the next meeting. 

4. Learn to say “no.”

If you’re trying to fit more interviews into your schedule, you have to get better at refusing unnecessary meetings. Even a few meeting-happy clients can eat up hours of a workday that you may need to spend speaking with employees, candidates, or investors.

Just because you’re saying “no,” though, doesn’t mean you need to be rude about it. Do your best to help the person whose meeting you can’t take over email. Could you introduce them to someone else on the team who can handle the situation? If the client is insistent, could you suggest a shorter time slot or a different meeting time?

5. Automate what you can.

Sometimes, to have more time, you need to make more time. Besides refining your scheduling processes, it’s still a good idea to audit other tasks to see what can be handled via a digital automation tool.

Even if it’s something as simple as sending an automatic payment reminder, every little increment of saved time adds up. Email marketing, social media posting, sales follow ups, and even first-round interviews can be automated.

Interviewing takes time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t streamline the process. Use these tips to get more done, hire faster, and have more conversations. 

How Time Management Software Can Help Your Company’s Productivity

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I’m sure we can all agree that time is money when it comes to running your business and it’s daily operations. Unfortunately, in a busy office setting, it’s all too easy for time to be mismanaged or miscalculated. If you’re trying to create a better work environment where everyone can be more productive, using time-management tools and software can be the key.

Keep reading to learn how office time management software can help your company to be more productive.

Manage Paychecks with Less Hassle

Keeping track of employee paychecks is a huge undertaking for most businesses. Taking time to keep track of and record the work of every employee manually can be a tedious task. Regardless of whether you’ve got a couple of workers or a big team, office time management software will allow you to automatically track their attendance, making sure they get an accurate paycheck every time, including deducted time for missed hours or bonus pay for overtime.

Programs like Hubstaff and Gusto are perfect for automatically tracking your team member’s time and distributing timely payments. I like how users can ‘clock in’ with Hubstaff and specify which task they’re working on.

The system will take several screenshots while someone works and you can even connect your business account or debit card to pay team members automatically on designated days.

Generate Reliable Data

In addition to simplifying paychecks, conflicts concerning overtime hours or missed attendance are almost eliminated with office time management software, since there are reliable hard data to analyze against any claims.

This system safeguards both staff and employers’ interests. Having access to accurate, real-time data helps to remove the possibility of personal bias or fraudulent payroll tampering.

Time Tracking Tools For Accountability

The best way to figure out if you’re being productive or not is to track your time. Time-tracking tools and programs like Clockify make this super easy to do and provide you with extra accountability.

Sometimes, I set productivity goals or time-block my schedule and I use Clockify to help me stay on track so I’m not wasting too much time on one thing.

Tracking your time is also a good thing to do when you are just starting a project and not sure how long it will take. The more you know about how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, the better you’ll get at creating an efficient schedule.

Fill Your Team’s Calendar More Efficiently

It’s no secret that most employees aren’t 100% productive during their entire shift. This means if someone works 40 hours a week, they spend less than 40 hours actually doing productive work.

While you should encourage some breaks and downtime to ensure a better balance, time tracking and time management software can help you will everyone’s calendar more efficiently.

After a while, you can use the data you collect to how long certain tasks take and which ones are quicker to complete. When you outsource work to your team members you can fill their calendar with reasonable tasks and responsibilities.

For example, say you have an assistant who works for your business 15 hours per week. You may want to use the data you get from time management software programs overtime to help fill the assistant’s schedule with enough productive work to help you get the most for the compensation that you’re paying.

Doing this will also help ensure that team members are being challenged well enough and aren’t just sitting around bored throughout the day.

Flexibility to Use It Wherever You Are

Office time management software lets you view employee attendance, absence, productivity, and pay records, no matter where you are. Just boot up your laptop, phone, or tablet, and you’re good to go. If you’re a busy business owner who’s always on the move, this can be a real advantage over having to spend your time digging through records and sending emails back and forth.

It also ensures greater employee confidence, since they’re not wondering if you’re being left out of the loop, or if their paychecks will be late when you’re away from the office.

Boost Your Bottom Line

Wasted employee time can significantly affect your bottom line. In-house use of office time management software has been shown to increase employee productivity dramatically. Ensuring that your team gets started with work on time and has a productive day can help you get that additional little bit of efficiency every day.

A couple of minutes every now and then may not seem like a big deal. However, with time, those wasted minutes really add up to less productivity, which will have an impact on your company.

Don’t waste any of your company’s precious time. Implement it for yourself, and see how much more productive office time management software will make your business.

Do you use any time management software or time-tracking tools for your team? Why or why not?

Wake Up, Listen Up: 7 Podcasts to Kickstart Your Day

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Wake Up, Listen Up: 7 Podcasts to Kickstart Your Day

In the car, on the train, or while you walk to work: Your morning commute is an ideal time to kickstart the day with a podcast. 

Unlike articles and videos, podcasts let you keep your eyes on the road and your mind on your bigger things. Multitasking may not work in many contexts, but audio content lets you learn new things while you go through your morning routine.

What show should you choose? You probably aren’t looking for a dense, data-heavy podcast. But when you’re gearing up for work, you probably don’t want a fluff-filled talk show, either. These podcasts offer the perfect balance of educational and easy:

1. The Daily

This one’s for the news junkies out there who don’t have time to sift through multiple sources. Published each weekday by The New York Times, The Daily is a quick, 20-minute recap of the day’s biggest stories.

Think of The Daily like a first cup of coffee. Host Michael Barbaro brings New York Times reporters in to share a bite-sized version of a larger story they’re reporting. It’s sharp, thought-provoking, and over before you know it. 

2. HBR IdeaCast

If you like to start the business day thinking about business, give HBR IdeaCast a listen. Harvard Business Review’s weekly podcast features cutting-edge thinkers in business and management on subjects ranging from digital transformation to combating subconscious biases. The shows, which run between 20 and 30 minutes, invariably offer actionable ideas to help entrepreneurs grow personally or professionally. 

3. How I Built This

Have you ever wondered how big-name brands and movements came to be? In NPR’s How I Built This, host Guy Raz interviews innovators, entrepreneurs, and next-generation thinkers about how they developed their signature achievements.

Who are those entrepreneurs? The founders of Patagonia, Zappos, and Lyft have made appearances, as have the owners of “Main Street” companies like Tate’s Bake Shop and Chicken Salad Chick. If you’re looking for a place to start and like the NBC show “Shark Tank,” check out Raz’s interview with Daymond John

4. The Pitch

Speaking of “Shark Tank,” The Pitch takes the investing show’s approach to the airwaves. The Pitch’s tagline says it all: “Where real entrepreneurs pitch to real investors—for real money.” New episodes air only once a week, but they’re anything but predictable. As with “Shark Tank,” investors sometimes bite on unexpected products and pass on ones that, to the listener, seem promising. Some listeners might find it a little high-stakes for the morning, but it’s certainly a good way to wake up. 

5. TED Radio Hour

If you’re a fan of TED Talks, try the TED Radio Hour, which companies multiple Talks around a single theme. The podcast hits on everything from how to be more creative, the power of positivity, and why kindness is so important.

One thing to beware of: TED Radio Hour episodes last, as the name implies, a full hour. Be prepared to hit pause when you pull into the parking lot at work. 

6. StartUp

Think of StartUp like How I Built This but for the startup ecosystem. Gimlet Media’s Alex Blumberg hosts an eclectic lineup of leaders who fall outside the lines of traditional business. With his signature offbeat humor, Blumberg interviews personalities from cycling whistleblowers to gay country music stars. With episodes running roughly half an hour, StartUp is a great way to laugh while you explore the nooks and crannies of entrepreneurship. 

7. Planet Money

Planet Money might be best described as a podcast about money for people who hate money. Although each episode has some sort of tie to the finance world, they’re often looser than expected. The tale of the FCC taking on robocalls, the cost of free doughnuts, and the business side of choosing the color of the year are some of the more noteworthy topics the show has recently covered. Short, 15-25 minute episodes make Planet Money a great choice for commuters.

Whatever your business background and listening tastes, there’s a podcast for you. Put one on, sit back, and start your day with a good story.

50 Calendar and Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs

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Don’t watch your time melt away. Many different factors can make or break you as an entrepreneur, but nothing is as important as being able to keep your time in check. If you feel that this is an area that needs improvement in your life, then you need to give the following 50 calendar, and productivity hacks a spin.

1. It’s all about prioritization.

Prioritization is the secret to both time and calendar management, as well as productivity. After all, if you don’t focus on your priorities, then you’ll end up spending the majority of your time on meaningless activities. Also, it provides structure to your days and keeps you organized.

As a general rule, your priorities are essential tasks that help you reach a goal. If you need help determining what these are, consider employing proven techniques like the 80/20 Rule, Eisenhower Matrix, or rocks, pebbles, and sand.

2. Conduct a time audit.

You can work a million different calendar and productivity hacks and still expect to fail if you don’t know how you’re truly spending your time. Keep a time log or use tools like RescueTime or Toggl to see how long it takes you to complete tasks or empty your inbox.

It’s only after this that you can adequately manage your calendar. As an example, if you realize that email and social media eats up two hours of your day, then you can take steps to rectify this problem, such as batching these tasks together, so you’re not checking them throughout the day.

More importantly, this will prevent you from over-or-underestimating how much time to set aside for specific. Before I did this, I would only leave myself an hour to write a blog post. In reality, I needed two. Because I underestimated this time, it threw a monkey wrench into the rest of my day.

3. Paper, electronic, or both?

Despite the amount of fabulous electronic calendars on the market, you may prefer to use a paper one. There’s nothing wrong with that. You shouldn’t be forced to use calendar software if it’s a hassle for you. Instead, use the type of calendar that you’re most comfortable with and learn how to get the most out of it.

Personally, I prefer combining both paper and electronic. I keep a paper calendar on my desk so that it’s visible at all times. But, I use a calendar app to add and manage my schedule — I can also easily access and share it with others.

4. Plan your schedule around energy levels.

Determine when you’re most focused and alert. Then go ahead and schedule more important responsibilities around those times. Save less essential items for productivity lulls. So, if you are most productive between 10 A.M. and noon, then that’s when you should put your most crucial tasks in your calendar.

5. Optimize notifications.

I personally feel that one of the best features regarding electronic calendars is the ability to receive notifications, such as deadlines or meetings. But, to get the most out of these, you need to go beyond the default settings.

For example, you wouldn’t want to receive a reminder at 2 P.M. when that’s the start time. Instead, a 24-hour notice, along with a 30-minute, would give you more than enough time to prepare for the event. What’s more, you can add notes and even a map so that everything you need is right there in your calendar.

6. Use color-coding for various schedules.

Color-coding is a simple and effective way to quickly view and manage all of these responsibilities you put in your calendar. I’m a fan of the chakra system. The chakra system is where each color aligns with a different energy point. So, since red represents security and safety, you would use it for any work-related task.

7. Schedule the time you actually need.

Scheduling the time your need isn’t about tracking your time. It’s about taking into consideration things like travel time. In other words, if you’re meeting with a client or investor for lunch at noon, and it takes you half an hour to get there, you’ll mark travel time as an event so that you don’t schedule anything else in that block.

8. Implement the Arrow Method.

The Arrow Method was developed by Nicholas Sonnenberg, Co-founder of Leverage, with the goal “to make your weekly calendar look like an arrowhead.” The arrowhead means that you essentially front-load your week with a lot of items on the calendar and then taper “out to a fine point at the end,” he explains on Inc.com.

For example, you could schedule all of your weekly meetings on Monday or Tuesday. Scheduling your Calendar this way leaves some leeway. When Friday rolls around, you don’t have as much in your calendar.

9. Pencil in time to do nothing.

Nothing may sound like a pipe dream — and it is. But, this is a practice that Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, has done for years. The reason? Blocking out 30- to 90-minutes in his calendar allows him to “process what was going on” around him and “just think.”

“At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have been using the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to,” Weiner wrote in a LinkedIn post. “But over time, I realized not only were these breaks important, but they were also absolutely necessary for me to do my job.”

“Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” Weiner added. “The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use.”

10. Plan “themed” days.

How do entrepreneurs like Jack Dorsey manage their jam-packed calendars? They organize their schedules by creating different theme days.

“All my days are themed,” Dorsey told Fast Company. “Monday is management. At Square, we have a directional meeting; at Twitter, we have our opcomm [operating committee] meeting. Tuesday is the product, engineering, and design. Wednesday is marketing, growth, and communications. Thursday is partnership and developers. Friday is a company and culture. It works in 24-hour blocks.”

“On days beginning with T, I start at Twitter in the morning, then go to Square in the afternoon. Sundays are for strategy, and I do a lot of job interviews. Saturday is a day off.”

11. Harness the power of technology.

Thanks to technology, how we use our calendars have become much more efficient. Pretty much every schedule allows you to add and manage calendar entries using your voice. It’s so much more convenient than continually typing this information out.

Additionally, intelligent calendars like Calendar are using artificial intelligence. As a result, it can analyze previous data to make smart suggestions on how to schedule your days. There are also powerful tools that allow you to automate mundane and repetitive tasks.

12. Design a zero-based calendar.

A zero-based calendar is where you schedule everything into your calendar. Scheduling everything sounds excessive. If you account for every second of the day — there aren’t any blank spaces in your calendar. Even if you plan that time to do nothing but think, this prevents other, pointless activities from creeping into that timeframe.

13. Convert to-do-lists into a to-do-schedule.

“A list is designed to be added to, so it can make it hard to feel satisfied if you’re adding as much as your checking off,” Pete Sveen writes on Think Entrepreneurship. “To remedy this, try turning your to-do list into a to-do schedule.”

One way to do this is by writing your to-do’s next to your scheduled appointments. “If I assign an actual time to a task, I am far more likely to actually get that task done,” adds Sveen. Even better, this can encourage you to be “more realistic about how much I can get done in a given time.”

14. Maker’s schedule, manager’s schedule.

The legendary Paul Graham shared this piece of wisdom all the back in 2009. But, it’s still just as valid today.

The gist is this, entrepreneurs should construct two different schedules, or plans, for each day of the week. The first would be a maker’s schedule. The marker is where you would spend either a half or full day on activities like building a product or solving a problem.

The second is the manager’s schedule. This schedule would include time blocks for meetings, marketing, and sales.

“When you use your time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone,” wrote Graham. “Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.”

15. Define dedicated hours for the critical things in your life.

This all about setting boundaries. Determine when it’s time to work and to play. Establish “business hours,” as well as when you’re not available. It’s the only way that you’ll achieve a healthy balance between your startup and life outside of your business.

16. Find your ideal view.

If you’re using a calendar app, you have the option to chose between daily, weekly, or monthly views. You can even customize these views by different periods or schedules, such as two-week views or work schedule.

Select the view that you prefer. Personally, I’m a “less is more” type of guy. So, I’ve set my view so that it only lists what’s in my calendar today. If I go beyond that, I tend to get distracted by what I need to get done in the future.

17. Create and share a master calendar.

A master calendar is your go-to since it contains your most important responsibilities at work and in life. That may sound like a cluttered mess. But, you don’t need to fill the calendar with minute entries like brushing your teeth. It should just include the biggies.

The benefit of this is that it prevents any scheduling conflicts since you can consult the calendar before committing to a time request. After creating your master calendar, share it with people like your family and assistant so that they can keep up with your busy schedule.

18. You can have then one calendar.

At the same time, you can still have several different calendars that capture the various aspects of your life. For example, a family calendar doesn’t need to be shared with your team. But, it can help keep your home life organized. You may also want to subscribe to different calendars like a holidays calendar. Working with a remote team overseas, this lets me know when they won’t be available.

You could also have an optional calendar. An optional calendar is where you add events you’re interested in if you have availability. For instance, there’s a networking event this Wednesday night. You didn’t plan on attending because you had a conference call with a client. But, they had to reschedule so now you can attend.

Having this optional calendar ensures that you always have a back-up plan. It may not sound significant. But, it provides a way so that you’re spending your time productively.

19. Get a head start on your year.

“If it doesn’t exist on my calendar, it’s not real,” Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec told Entrepreneur in 2016. That’s sound advice. But, how can you stay on top of your calendar, both personally and professionally, when you’re continually inputting new events and tasks?

“Plan as much as you can a year in advance and stick to it,” he said. For instance, he never missed any of his children’s school events. Not missing the critical events was possible because he met with his assistant and kid’s school counselor every September to go through and coordinate calendars.

20. Review your calendar for this week and next.

“Every Friday, review your calendar and ask yourself how you spent your time during the previous seven days,” suggests Bryan Collins in a piece for Forbes. “Then, look at the coming week and consider how you want to spend your time.”

“Make appointments if you need to and cancel irrelevant meetings if you can,” Bryan continues. “Consider how close the reality of the previous week’s calendar matches up with what you want next week’s calendar to look like.”

“You might lack full control over your working week, but you can probably find weeds you can pull or activities requiring two mornings of focused work instead of one.”

21. Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain.”

Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity hack to motivate him to write daily has been embraced for years. It was also highlighted in Cal Newport’s Deep Work and the Netflix movie Jerry Before Seinfeld.

It works like this. Get a calendar and place an X on it if he’s accomplished his goal of writing for the day. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it, and the chain will grow longer every day,” he told software developer Brad Issac. “You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

22. Plan for interruptions.

No matter how much you plan, interruptions are inevitable. One way around this is to leave some time blocks blank in your schedule so that you can shuffle things around if need be. Another option is to track these distractions so that you can identify when they’re most likely to occur.

23. Pump up the jams.

Music and white noise can help you focus — particularly if there’s distracting background noise when working. The catch is to listen to the right tunes. Ideally, this would be music without lyrics, such as classical music.

If you feel like you’re showcasing your vocal talents — singing while taking a shower is a great way to do this. Singing can boost your immune system, lower cortisol levels, and release endorphins.

24. The “2-minute rule.”

Populated by David Allen, the man behind Getting Things Done, this simply means that if a task takes under two minutes, you should just do it. “Just do it” (just like Nike), prevents you from getting log-jammed with a series of menial tasks. Zipping through a ton of jobs may give you the nudge to get in the zone.

25. Pressure pushing down on me.

You don’t want to stress yourself out too much. It’s not good for your health or productivity to lot yourself with pressure until you crack. Scheduling in self-care is essential for mass-productivity. If you feel like you’re procrastinating, a little pressure can motivate you to buckle down. For example, if you have two hours to complete a task, cut that back to one hour so that you’ll be forced to tackle it right now. It will also help you remain focused.

26. Focus on just-time-learning.

“As an entrepreneur, you have to learn many new things to get a clear understanding of all your business operations and dynamics,” explain the folks over at Week Plan.

“It requires a specific time to get all these critical data, and you have to search for different platforms for it like searching on blogs, watching videos, and more.” To address, try out Just-Time-Learning.

This concept “originated from the manufacturing industry and more specifically by Toyota.” This approach calls for working on a task and only researching when it’s required. The work with no research plan helps “to ensure that you don’t waste your time on unnecessary research. Rather, you’ll focus your efforts only on essential research.”

27. Master the art of delegation and outsourcing.

No surprise here. Learning what and how to delegate and outsource frees up your schedule so that you can spend more time on what really matters.

28. Use site blockers.

When you’re plugged in all day, like so many of us are, you’re bound to get distracted by the endless amount of content online. To counter this, consider installing a website blocker. These are simply tools, such as StayFocused and Freedom, that prevent you from getting distracted by your favorite sites.

29. Ease into your mornings.

How do you wake-up each morning? Many of us hear the alarm and instinctively grab our phones. Next thing you know, you’re wasting mental energy responding to emails. Worse, you may lie in bed for an extended time watching YouTube videos.

For most of us, we’re most productive in the morning. So, instead of getting sucked into your phones, spend time building up your energy for the day by jotting down your goals, exercising, and taking a quick, tepid shower.

30. Closeout tasks.

“Even if a task doesn’t have a deadline (but you need to get it done), tackle it in one or two sessions rather than returning repeatedly,” Andrew Fayad from eLearning Mind told Inc.com. “Jumping tasks and returning to something multiple times requires a repeated mental ramp.”

31. Create and use templates.

Templates are mostly “fill-in-the-blank” documents. You can either create them from scratch or download one online. Whatever you chose, these will save you time since you aren’t always creating calendars, invoices, or email/social media updates.

32. Filter ideas.

“Steve Jobs was known for being somewhat brutal in his approach to management and leadership, intolerant of bad ideas and demanding of his employees — but he got results,” writes Jayson DeMers in a previous Entrepreneur article. “One of his most important productivity hacks was filtering out everything that wasn’t a top-notch idea; on corporate retreats, Jobs was known to collect a list of 100 ideas from his top executives on how Apple could improve in the next year.”

Jobs would immediately cross “out anything he thought was dumb, then kept crossing things out until he had a ‘top 10’ list.” He then whittled these down to three “and used those three as the focus for the company for the next year. Only three percent of ideas were worth spending time on, from his perspective.”

33. Learn keyboard shortcuts.

Whether you’re using Calendar, Google Calendar, Apple, or Outlook, every primary calendar has keyboard shortcuts that allow you to edit and manage your Calendar quickly. Each platform has different shortcuts. You’ll want to learn the shortcuts for your calendar before making the most out of this very productive hack.

34. Stop compromising.

“When we work in teams, especially among co-founding team members, we occasionally compromise to keep things going smoothly,” explains Praveen Chandran on Startup Grind. “We accept tasks without analyzing the ‘why’ and the ‘when?’ Accepting a task or scheduling meetings just because a co-founding team member said so, results in wasted time and effort.”

“Even if a co-founder gives a suggestion, it never hurts to have a discussion on the purpose or the timing of the task in a respectful way,” recommends Chandran. “Such discussions set a nice rhythm with your co-founding team in prioritizing things in the future.”

35. Reserve brainpower.

Ever wonder why entrepreneurs, like Mark Zuckerberg, always wore the same outfits. A part of it was to build their brand. But, it’s also to save time and prevent decision fatigue.

Preparing the night before, like laying out your clothes and packing your lunch, is one way around this. Another tactic is to make decisions on less important matters, like where to order lunch, by going with the first thing that pops in your head.

36. Work from home.

While there are distractions you most overcome when working from home, there are also some perks. The most obvious is that you eliminate the time spent on your daily commute. However, Brittany Hodak from ZinePak tells Business.com that this is “a great opportunity to disengage from the day-to-day tasks at the office and spend time thinking strategically about big-picture opportunities without the regular interruptions that come from working in an office with a larger team. It’s made a huge difference in my productivity.”

37. Upgrade your work environment.

You can try as many hacks as you want. If your workspace isn’t optimized, it’s going to be almost impossible for you to get into a state of flow. Make sure that your space is comfortable and free of clutter. Also, consider factors like the temperature, lighting, and the colors of your walls.

38. Give yourself a break.

You can’t bulldog through all of your calendar entries. Everyone needs frequent breaks throughout the day to clear their heads and unwind. Using the Pomodoro Technique is a popular way to encourage you to take a breather. And, you may also want to think about going on a much-needed vacation if you feel burned out.

39. Come on and get happy.

When you’re in a better mood, you tend to be more productive. One study shows that happy employees are 20 percent more productive than their unhappy colleagues. Ask yourself, “how can you turn that frown upside down?” Surround yourself with more optimistic people — those who watch for opportunities to do something nice for each other. or watch a funny YouTube clip.

40. Stop neglecting your health.

How alert, focused, and energetic do you think you’ll be if you eat like crap, don’t exercise, or hardly get enough sleep? The same is true if you always feel stressed and anxious. Stop putting your mental and physical health on the back burner and start making it a priority today.

41. Turn off electronic notifications.

It’s hard to maintain your attention on something important when it seems like your phone is going to explode. When in deep work, either turn your phone off or silence notification like email, social media, and text message.

42. Batch smartphone notifications.

But, what if there’s an emergency or you’re missing out on something important? Those thoughts are probably running through your head as you try to work. Researchers have found that the solution is batching smartphone notifications three times a day — when you arrive at work, during lunch, and when heading home.

43. Unsubscribe and unfollow.

Go through your social accounts and emails and see which ones no longer serve a purpose. Then, unsubscribe and unfollow them — tools like Unroll.me can do this for you. It’s one of the simplest ways to clean up your feeds and inbox and regain some of your time.

44. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Stop spending time on developing the perfect solution. It doesn’t exist. Besides, the longer you spend on making something different, it will already be obsolete. Do your best and make the appropriate adjustments as you go along.

45. Keep messages short and concise.

Whether if it’s an email, phone call, Slack message, or meeting agenda, don’t waste everyone’s time on lengthy messages. Keep them short and concise so that everyone can move on. You can go into more detail either at another time or through a different medium like a Word document.

46. Stop being passive.

You just sent an email to your partner asking if they can meet for lunch next week. You don’t hear back from them after a couple of days. Even though you don’t want to be a nag, you can’t sit there and wait for them to respond. Reach out again so that you don’t leave this slot open.

Remember, your time is your most valuable resource. You need to protect it so that there aren’t too many white spaces in your calendar.

47. Don’t use complicated project trackers.

Over the years, I’ve tried several different tools that tracked the progress my team was making on a project. Some of these were so complex and detailed that I spent more time inputting data than actually working on my part of the project. Sometimes all you need is a notepad or spreadsheet to keep tabs on what you and your team are working on.

48. Rethink your approach to meetings.

While essential, meetings are one of the biggest time wasters within your organization. Before scheduling a meeting, ask if the session is necessary. You may find that an alternative, like email, collaboration apps, online chats, or Wikis, is more effective.

If a meeting is needed, only invite key stakeholders and keep it as short as possible — 20 to 45 minutes should suffice. Don’t forget to prepare and send an agenda in advance so that invitees can prepare. And, don’t let participants get distracted. Ask them to their phones at their desks and only discuss the topics that are on the agenda.

49. Raise the bar.

Set an example for your team by continuing to seek opportunities for growth and development. Work with coaches and mentors. And, encourage habits like being respectful of other people’s time off — this means not contacting them at all hours of the night. Keeping office hours lets your team know that this is a culture where time management is encouraged.

50. Build your village.

If you’re at least somewhat familiar with Batman, then you know that he prides himself on being a loner. However, there are times when he needs the assistance of Alfred, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and the Justice League. In other words, Mr. Wayne has a team around him when needed.

For you to get everything done and maintain your sanity, you also need to surround yourself with your allies. Your allies mean everyone from partners and employees who will pick up the slack when needed, as well as those outsides of work that you can depend on, such as cleaners, babysitters, accountants, attorneys, etc. It’s much easier to have these people in your circle, as opposed to frantically finding them when needed.

6 Tips for Working Through the Winter Blues

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6 Tips for Working Through the Winter Blues

Winter is a tough time of year. Leaving the house is hard enough; running a business can feel downright impossible.

For some people, the winter blues get so bad that they’re diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. But even if your energy levels are only a bit lower in the winter, your company could suffer. As the leader, you set the tone for your entire team.

Don’t let that happen. Take these tips to stay productive and keep your spirits up during the long, cold days:

1. Keep it warm and bright.

Studies have shown that cold, dark environments have negative effects on cognition and mood. Work is already demanding, and a chilly or dim office will make it that much more difficult. 

Don’t wait until you’re shivering to throw on those additional layers. Keep the overhead lights on, and get a lamp for your desk if you’re still struggling to make out text or other small details. Grab a cup of hot coffee or hot cocoa to sip on while you work.

2. Prioritize friends and family.

One of the most important lessons entrepreneurs can learn from holiday traditions is to stay in touch with loved ones throughout the year. They can provide motivation, someone to vent to, and a much-needed break from work. Even if you think you can tough it out, you’ll have an easier time if you stay connected.

Schedule at least one social event each week. Invite your siblings over for dinner. Go to happy hour with your former co-workers. Catch up over coffee with a friend from college.

3. Take care of yourself.

As tempting as it is to indulge in comfort foods, it’s crucial to pay attention to your health during winter. Minimize processed foods, and eat plenty of protein and healthy fats. Take a vitamin D supplement, which can ward off depression, if you do not spend much time in the sun. 

Also consider joining a gym, especially if you do not have exercise equipment at home. Exercising outside is tough in the cold and snow, and cardiovascular exercise has massive benefits for mental health. If motivation is an issue, hire a trainer to push you through your workouts. 

4. Take your time.

Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, remember to pace yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, slow down. Take a 15-minute break to go on a walk, meditate, or eat a snack.

What if you can’t seem to shake the stress? Give yourself some more time away. Vacation season is over until summer for most people, meaning you’ll be able to find deals on everything from airfare to hotels. Your wellbeing is worth it. 

5. Look forward.

Setting goals is incredibly motivating, and right after the new year is a perfect time to do so. Think about what you want to achieve in 2020, and share those goals with your team.

Use the SMART goal system:

  • Specific: Don’t say you just want to grow your revenue. By how much? Over what time frame? Through what means?
  • Measurable: Be sure that you have a system for checking progress on your goals. If you can’t put a number to it, then what outcome would indicate that you’ve met your objective?
  • Achievable: Is your goal realistic? You may want to make a million dollars tomorrow, but that probably isn’t going to happen.
  • Relevant: If you’re a startup founder looking to grow your company, don’t worry about whether you can hire fifty people in a month. Focus on hiring a single great employee instead.
  • Time-bounded: Goals are just dreams if they don’t have a timeline attached to them. Remember to be realistic about the amount of time that the associated tasks take.

6. Practice gratefulness.

Do not underestimate the power of gratefulness. Research suggests that gratitude has health benefits ranging from greater life satisfaction to a stronger immune system to reduced anxiety. Keep in mind the only difference in the tested individuals was their mindset.

Be grateful for what you have and the position that you’re in. Meditate on your gifts, and share them with others. Take time each morning to journal on the positive parts of your life. 

Start the new year off with a mindset of self-care and abundance. When you surround yourself with the right people and practice healthy habits, winter doesn’t stand a chance.

6 Tips for Instilling Wellness in Your Company Culture

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6 Tips for Instilling Wellness in Your Company Culture

Wellness is more than a corporate buzzword: It’s the work of keeping employees happy, healthy, and productive.

Many leaders realize that wellness is a worthwhile investment. But what they don’t know is how to do it: The reason many programs don’t move the needle on health metrics is that companies preach wellness without building it into their culture.

To make wellness a cornerstone of your company culture:

 1. Promote breaks.

A company that does not understand the value of breaks is sure to struggle. Workers can only handle so much stress before it starts to sabotage their productivity. Letting them take 15-minute breaks periodically will help them sharpen the saw of their productivity.

Don’t dictate what workers do on their breaks. There are plenty of ways to use a spare 15 minutes well. Some people enjoy walking around. Others would rather sit, read, or do a crossword puzzle.

2. Create a calm environment.

Clutter isn’t just unsightly. According to Psychology Today, cluttered environments reduce wellbeing, cloud thinking, and impede mental health. Chaotic spaces tend to be more stressful and less productive places to work.

Think beyond the physical environment. Poor time management creates mental clutter. The result is procrastination, overextension, unpunctuality, and over time, burnout.

3. Offer healthy foods and snacks.

Food is fuel. Stocking healthy foods for the team ensures that they don’t have to reach for a candy bar or drive to a local fast-food restaurant when they get hungry.

Place bowls around the workplace with snacks like bananas, apples, and protein bars. Fill the fridge with hydrating drinks like sparkling water and Gatorade. Be sure to ask team members about allergies before introducing new foods.

4. Set up group activities.

Learn what you team members like to do outside of work, and create hobby groups for them. Go on walks together, try group yoga, or simply set up a recreational basketball league. Socializing is good for mental and physical health, and it reminds workers that they are part of a team.

If workers aren’t interested in physical activities, set up discussion groups. Current events clubs, company improvement task forces, and foreign language groups give team members a voice.

5. Invest in perks.

Gym memberships and massage therapist visits cannot create culture alone, but they do get the message across that the company cares about the health of its team members. You can even include concierge services for when workers need groceries or office supplies.

If you aren’t sure where to start, look at the tech giants. Take Google: The Alphabet subsidiary offers its employees a host of unique perks, such as decompression capsules, a full on-site medical staff, and even free cooking classes.

You may not be able to afford all of the benefits that Google offers, but you can use them for inspiration. Create a list of perks that might fit in the budget, and ask team members for feedback on which ones are most important to them.

6. Ask for feedback over and over.

In order to be happy, positive, and productive at work, employees need to feel like they have a say. Sit down with team members monthly to get their thoughts on the company’s culture and how it’s affecting their personal habits.

Reward workers for suggestions on how to improve workplace conditions. Don’t penalize people who see flaws: Providing honest feedback is not the same as complaining. If employees’ suggestions conflict, get the group together to talk about how best to proceed.

Focus particularly on areas where multiple employees may need help. If two or more members of the team want to quit smoking, set up a cessation program that includes private counseling. If weight management is an issue across the team, perhaps activity trackers might make a good quarterly gift.

Workplace wellness programs are well and good, but a culture of wellness is what actually makes a difference. Leave no stone unturned: Physical, mental, and social health all matter in the context of overall wellbeing. Give employees the tools they need to improve in all of those areas, and you’ll be surprised at just how much stronger your company’s culture becomes.

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