All posts by John Rampton

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

By | Time Management | No Comments
beach vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget In Your Own PTO

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

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

Work Ahead on Projects

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

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

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

Delegate Tasks

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

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

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

Put Things on Autopilot

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

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

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

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

Time Management Skills Successful Business Owners Must-Have

By | Business Tips, Time Management | No Comments
Productive work-desk

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

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

Work the hours that suit you.

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

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

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

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

Keep a time log.

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

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

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

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

Focus on what you do best.

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

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

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

Implement the Two-Minute Rule.

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

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

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

Break your activities down into simple problems.

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

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

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

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

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

Schedule “me” time.

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

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

Cluster similar tasks.

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

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

Identify and eliminate distractions.

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

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

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

Arm yourself with the right tools.

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

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

Is Time Blocking Effective?

By | Time Management | No Comments
Planner and laptop

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

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

What is Time Blocking?

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

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

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

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

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

Why Time Blocking is Effective

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

To-do-lists are inferior.

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

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

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

Time blocking discourages multitasking.

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

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

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

It combats perfectionism and procrastination.

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

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

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

Time blocking makes it easier to say “no.”

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

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

Encourages you to reflect on your priorities.

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

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

The Downside of Time Blocking

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

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

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

Getting Started with Time Blocking

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

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

How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team

By | Business Tips, Time Management | No Comments
Remote team productivity

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

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

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

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

How to Build a Highly Productive Remote Team

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

Develop a Strong Company Culture

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

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

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

Invest in Coworking Memberships

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

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

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

Simplify Communication

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

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

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

Acknowledge Achievements

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

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

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

Consider the Impact of Security Issues

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

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

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

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

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

With Great Reward Comes Great Responsibility

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

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

5 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.

Motivation Secrets of Productive People

By | Time Management | No Comments
Make no mistake about it. Motivation will increase your productivity. “Motivation and productivity are twin concepts in organizational development,” wrote Kristina Dems for Bright Hub. “First, motivation works as the means toward attaining productivity as an end. Another point: Motivation is the best road to follow to reach productivity as a favorable effect. Lastly, motivation is the stimulus to trigger productivity as a response.” Think about how this effects you and effects your life. When you’re not feeling motivated, you’re not going to accomplish much. That’s because you don’t have the drive to get things done. And, to put it lightly, that sucks. Now you’re behind on your planned goals or a task, which means you’re going to get behind another and another. Eventually, everything starts to pile-up. With no end in sight, you become even less motivated. That’s why the most productive people employ the following motivation secrets to guarantee that they’re always ahead of the game.

1. When plans are made, they anticipate obstacles.

Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University, in New York City, conducted a study in 2009 that compared two groups of women who wanted to be more active. The groups were both provided information on how to live a healthy lifestyle. However, the second group was also taught how to foresee obstacles by using if-then statements. For example, if they wanted to jog, but the weather is poor, then what will you do? The women would say, “if it’s snowing, then I’ll go to the gym and use the treadmill.” Suffice it to say, the second group fared far better. Gollwitzer concluded that those who plan for obstacles are more likely to follow through on projects. This is because they don’t have any excuses for completing the task at hand.

2. They “don’t break the chain.”

Years ago software developer Brad Isaac asked Jerry Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comedian. Seinfeld told him that the only way to become a better comic was to create better jokes. And the only way to create better jokes was to write daily. But, that was just scratching the surface. Ultimately, the legendary comic unveiled his unique calendar system that kept him motivated every day. Jerry told Isaac to get a huge wall calendar “that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.” Then, go get a red magic maker. He told Isaac that for each day he writes to to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. 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.” “Don’t break the chain,” Seinfeld said again for emphasis. Isaac says that this “works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes.” And, those daily actions build habits.

3. Live life from their calendars.

According to The Busy Person’s Guide to the Done List, by Janet Choi and Walter Chen of iDoneThis:
  • 41 percent of to-do list items are never completed.
  • 50 percent of to-do list items are completed within a day, many within the first hour of being written down.
Why is this the case when so many people swear by to-do-lists? For starters, tasks on your to-do-lists are distinguished between those that only take a couple of minutes and those will last hours. Additionally, they emphasize the urgent instead of the important. And, they can add unnecessary stress. Because of these reasons, highly productive people don’t use to-dos. They live from their calendars instead. “Use a calendar and schedule your entire day into 15-minute blocks,” says Jordan Harbinger, co-founder of The Art of Charm. “It sounds like a pain, but this will set you up in the 95th percentile as far as organization goes.” “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get done. If it’s on the calendar, it gets done no matter what. Use this not just for appointments, but workouts, calls, email blocks, etc.”

4. They don’t multitask.

Despite the myths, multitasking doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, it slows you down. This is because your brain is switching tasks and focus, which means it takes you longer to complete tasks. In order to stay productive, you need to focus on thing at a time. Due’s Miranda Marquit uses the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused on one specific task at a time. This also boosts productivity since you’re dedicating your mental energy on one specific item. As a perk, since you’re giving this one task 110 percent, chances are that there will be fewer mistakes. This means you won’t have to back and fix your errors, you can just move onto to something else.

5. Not controlled by technology.

“I was a Division I college athlete, and I grew up with five brothers and two sisters. I’ve always been a competitor. [But] I’ve learned that productivity should not be a competitive sport. You’re never going to win,” Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, tells Fast Company. “I am responsible for almost 80,000 people. I prioritize people over tasks. One Note allows me to put different tasks [involving] each of my executive-team members in a tab. That way when I talk to them, I can be more effective, because the five things I want to talk to them about [are right there].” “If I looked at email and Twitter and texts [during the day], I don’t think I would ever give my full attention to anything. You cannot be insightful if you’re deluged with information.” Engelbert adds, “We’re all drowning in data. We all need moments of recovery. For me, that includes not going right to my phone when I wake up in the morning. I got on a plane about six months ago, and I forgot my phone. For two days, I didn’t have my phone, and nobody died.” Her final words of advice? “Technology should help you do your job, not control your job.”

6. They use a notebook.

Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Sheryl Sandberg all carry a notebook around. The reason? They rely on pen and paper to keep track of and remember all of their thoughts and ideas. “I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t had a pen on hand to write down my ideas as soon as they came to me,” Branson wrote in a blog post. “You think you’ll remember, but you won’t, and you’ll forfeit all the thoughts that flood you after you’ve freed your mind from remembering the initial spark,” adds Drew Hanson. For Sandberg, she uses a notebook as a kind of daily planner. She jots down her to-do lists. Once she’s accomplished those items, she rips the pages out of her notebook. It’s a simple way to stay motivated for staying on track.

7. They work backwards from the future.

Steve Jobs once asked, “If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” “If too many days passed by with the answer being ‘no,’ he’d adjust his lifestyle until he hit a consistent yes,” explains HubSpot’s Scott Tousley. “This forced Steve to define long-term goals and stay motivated.” This may sound drab, but the most productive people “think about the end of their lives,” which helps them define their legacy. With this in mind, they then “work backwards to achieve those goals.” “This touches on the psychological theories and models of motivation. If we’re driven by a purpose, we’re more likely to work extra hard,” says Tousley. But, how does starting with your purpose keep you productive and motivated? Starting with a purpose or “personal mission statement,” leads to the creation of long-term goals. Long-term goals lead to smaller goals, which create to-do-lists. So, if you want to productive like Steve Job, define your purpose first and everything else will fall into place.

8. They’re friends with time.

Really productive people, or RPPs as Marie Forleo calls them, are friends with time. In other words, “they don’t look at time as the enemy.” If you do, you’ll end-up always struggling with productivity and motivation. And, this makes sense. Whenever you could something the “enemy” it’s only going to end-up being a source of pain. Instead, make time your ally. You can start by ditching time-stealing habits like multitasking and procrastination. You can achieve by practicing:
  • Mindfulness. This will help you focus on one task at a time.
  • Acceptance. Concentrating only on what you can control.
  • Authenticity. This encourages self-management since it helps you decide what to do and when to do it.

9. They create theme days.

Want to know how Jack Dorsey juggles all of his obligations at Twitter and Square? He creates theme days. Here’s what Jack said about this in 2011:
“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company, the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.”
How has that schedule help Jack work eight hours at both companies? The first reason the schedule works is that it establishes a rhythm. You know what to expect every day because you’ve created a routine to keep you focused. Secondly, it challenges you to complete tasks on certain deadlines. If you record a podcast every Tuesday like John Lee Dumas, then you know that you have the podcast prepared by that day. Finally, it batches similar tasks together. This keeps you productive since it streamlines activity and eliminates distractions.

10. Bring optimism and fun back into the picture.

This may sound hokey, but research shows that the key to motivation is bringing optimism and fun. Ron Siegel, a psychology professor at Harvard University, explains: “Our modern brains are still wired up for the ancient evolutionary purpose of surviving in a dangerous environment. Over a million years or so, we developed specialized neural structures that selectively tuned in to danger signals. The prospect of getting attacked necessarily outranked all other neurological priorities.” And, unfortunately, we still go into that survival mode. Instead of thinking about the pleasurable and rewarding experience of conquering a task, we focus on anxiety and fear. For example, you just started a new business. You’re probably dwelling more on the fear of failure instead of the excitement of improving your community. The best way to overcome this? Create basic two-columned pros and cons list so you can notice that the joys outweigh any fears or anxieties. When you actually see the positive, you’ll get yourself out of the rut you’re headed into. As Rick Steves has written, “Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something is not to your liking, change your liking.”
Originally published here.

4 Methods to Control Your Calendar Before It Controls You

By | Knowledge Base, Scheduling, Time Management | No Comments
appointment guide
Over the course of my career I’ve learned a lot about the importance of time management. How you as a business owner should control your calendar. Early on, I woke-up whenever I wanted and didn’t put an emphasis on my priorities. This pretty much resulted in aimlessly wandering through my days like a walker on “The Walking Dead.” But, that was just the beginning. I haphazardly accepted appointments, checked my emails every time I got a notification, and scheduled meetings at the last minute. And, to make matters worse, I was planning events when I should have been home with my family. I eventually realized that I was no longer focused or productive as I needed to be. Simply put, my calendar was taking control of my life — both in and out of the workplace. Thankfully, I was able to take back the reigns by utilizing the following four methods.

1. Take inventory and identify what’s not working.

First things first, get crystal clear on where your time is spent. If you’ve never done this before, simply keep a time journal. This is where you jot down everything you do and exactly how long each task takes you. This may sound tedious, but after about a week you’ll notice where you’re spending a bulk of your time. More importantly, you’ll identify the time wasters on your calendar. Once you do, you can make the proper adjustments to change things around. For example, if you noticed that you spend two or three hours a week scheduling meetings, then it’s time to look for a solution. In this case, you could use a tool like Calendar to eliminate this issue. You’ve now just freed up a couple of hours per week in your calendar to work on your priorities.

2. Create your routine.

Another perk of tracking your time is that it can help you create a daily routine. This is where you block time for specific activities. So, in a nutshell, your calendar consists of a bunch of blocks. My routine consists of a morning routine where I block out specific time for exercise, getting ready, writing, and responding to emails. I then block out from eight am to noon for undistracted work. My afternoons contain blocks for a nap, returning calls or emails, and hosting meetings. This method ensures that I stay focused on my priorities. It also ensures that I won’t let unplanned activities jump in and distract me from getting things done. I should add, that you should definitely block out time for rest. I block out time in the afternoon to take a nap and review my goals. It helps me recharge and refocus. If I didn’t block out this time, it would never happen.

3. Control Your Calendar by Stacking your Meetings.

If possible, try to schedule all your meetings on the same day or two each week. Ideally, you should schedule these meetings around 3pm, because research shows that this is the best times for meetings. The reason I use this method is fairly simply. It gives me a heads-up that I’m not going to complete as much work on these days. Instead, I’m going to be focused on conversations, exchanging ideas, and motivating my team. For me, this is a different type of work flow. I’m thinking differently when writing a blog post than when discussing an upcoming project with a colleague. By stacking my meetings, I can keep this more conversational flow going. At the same time, it’s guaranteeing that the meetings won’t interfere with my other work. One final note about meetings. Stop scheduling meetings back-to-back. This ensures that you won’t be running late for your next meeting. And, since meetings can run late, it may hold you up from leaving the office on-time and getting home. Give yourself a little buffer time so that you’re no longer running late. And, try not to schedule meetings late in the afternoon. Like don’t schedule right at 4:30pm unless you’re positive it’s just a quick 15-minute phone call.

4. Set boundaries, but also be flexible.

There’s a belief that once something has been scheduled into your calendar it’s set in stone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s say you have a meeting with your team on a Monday afternoon. However, when you were planning out your day first thing in the AM you notice that your website crashed. The worst part is that it’s not a minor fix, it’s actually going to eat-up your entire morning or longer. This means that your entire schedule has to shift. The work you had planned in the morning now has to move into the afternoon. Now you have to reschedule that team meeting for another date or time. In short, the unexpected happens and you need to be flexible. Just make sure  when this happens, you give notice to the other party. At the same time, you have to set boundaries. If you’ve blocked out two hours of unexpected work, then don’t schedule a meeting or phone call during that time. Again, a tool like Calendar can help you accomplish these goals because it allows you to select when your calendar is open and when it is not. You then share this availability with others so that they can pick an open slot when they’re free.
Originally published here.

Productive Things to do During Downtime

By | Time Management | No Comments
Even the busiest workers have a noticeable amount of downtime. Yet, there are ways to still accomplish productive things in that downtime. Whether it’s been scheduled or it’s your body’s way of saying “slow down, take a break” downtime during your workday can often be used as an opportunity to tie up loose ends and be productive with low-effort tasks. Here are 5 productive things you can do that make you feel good whenever you find that there’s downtime in your schedule.

Exercise

Exercise has a ton of benefits which is probably why successful people make time to stay active. While I used to find it easy for me to get lost on YouTube to start binging Netflix during my downtime, I started breaking up my day to exercise during the early afternoon slump instead. Exercise will help you stay healthy and keep your mind sharp and motivated to crank out some more great projects during the remainder of the workday. It doesn’t require a huge time commitment either. Even if you only have a few minutes, you can go for a walk around the corner or do a few exercises before starting back up again.

Read

It’s no secret that successful people read. The average millionaire is said to reads two or more books per month. Take the time to read blogs, news sites, fiction, and non-fiction during downtime so you can soak in more knowledge. If you’re often on the go, you may want to try audiobooks or listen to podcasts for fun or to learn about things like personal development, personal finance, or entrepreneurship.

Network

Networking can be valuable when done correctly. It shouldn’t always be your main focus but it’s important to squeeze in time to attend networking events and reach out to other either online or in person. Downtime is the perfect time to do some networking, maintain current relationships or follow up with people you’ve reached out to previously.

Open and Respond to Emails

Checking emails throughout the day can be tempting, but it’s an easy way to waste time and energy. I check and respond to my most important emails when in the morning and toward the end of the workday. I save the rest for small moments of downtime when I just need to do something easy and catch up. Managing emails can definitely become overwhelming if you don’t take time to stay caught up throughout the day. However, this doesn’t mean you have to waste time by checking in every 10 minutes. Focus on what’s important throughout the day, then save the rest for downtime.

Reorganize Your Calendar

Unexpected downtime like a meeting cancellation can be a great time to look at your calendar to make sure you’re on track and even plan for the next day. Planning your days in advance is one of the best ways to stay organized, motivated, and get a lot done. Successful people don’t waste time wondering what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it. They already have a plan scheduled out and ready to execute. If you are experiencing way too much downtime throughout the day, you may want to reorganize your calendar and make sure you’re working efficiently and making the best use of your time.
Originally published here.
Register Now & Get a 30 Day Trial Register Now