All posts by John Rampton

Motivation Secrets of Productive People

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Motivation Secrets of Productive People

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.”

Busy vs Productive: 9 Ways To Be Productive, Not Busy

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Busy vs Productive: 9 Ways To Be Productive, Not Busy

I recently caught up with an old friend. The first thing he asked was, “How are things goin’?” I replied, “Busy.” That “busy” response was automatic, and I’d even say it’s probably the most common response anyone would receive from entrepreneurs and professionals. For me, the statement also happens to be true, and my team members have also been hard at work Calendar. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have you ever asked yourself if you’re merely acting “busy?” If you’re looking busy just to be a pretender — is that a bad thing? I would respond, “yes,” just being busy (as a pretender) is a “bad” thing. If you’re juggling multiple tasks, like responding to emails and being active on social media — business productivity is not made up of these types of careless actions. Admit to yourself that you’re staying busy under the guise of being productive, and these actions will not help you move closer to your goals. In short, you’re just wasting your time.

To make sure that you’re not falling into the “busy for nothing” trap — here are nine ways you can help yourself be productive. As a result, you’ll be more effective at work and will have the time to focus on what matters most in your life.

1. Identify what is important and necessary.

Busy people are known for jumping quickly on every assignment. They have no hesitation in accepting requests for their time — and people love them for that. The thing is when you’re continually putting out fires you end-up focusing on things that are urgent, but not essential.

If your choice is to be involved in the crucial but not critical — have a clear understanding of what you are doing. These actions will have you failing to meet deadlines and you won’t reach your goals. Productive people can identify what is important and necessary. They make the most important things a priority over the things that can either wait or that don’t have a deadline.

2. Optimize your organization.

Are you so busy that you don’t have time to sit down for five minutes and do nothing? Even people who are running multiple businesses aren’t that busy. The truth is that you’re just not organized. There’s a vast difference in the mental processing of the person who is ahead of deadlines and someone who is perpetually late.

Instead of running around frantically — productive people have a solid organization strategy. The key is finding the methods, techniques, and tools that work best for you. Some of my personal favorites are:

  • Creating a simple to-do-list with no more than three “most important tasks” (MITs).
  • Using to-do list apps, such as Wunderlist or Todoist, to organize and share my lists.
  • Automating recurring tasks. Automate using Buffer or Hootsuite for social media updates, canned email responses, or chatbots for customers service. Calendar can make smart scheduling suggestions and there are also tools that can send out recurring invoices.
  • If you create content for your business, then you need an editorial calendar and template. The editorial calendar and template will keep your company’s marketing goals on track.
  • Rely on proven time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique. It helps break down larger projects into smaller chunks and will remind you to take breaks.
  • In the kitchen, a chef has a system called mise en place.” This chef system is a process they use to arrange all of their ingredients and tools before cooking. This prep-work helps account for their time, prevents looking for misplaced items, and helps them concentrate. I like laying out my clothes the night before work and having all tools (computer, cords, materials) in the bag ready to leave.

3. Create a system to minimize distractions.

You’re in your office preparing for a meeting. You hear an email notification go off on your phone. Instead of ignoring it — you stop what you’re doing and read the email. Now you’ve lost your train-of-thought and can’t get-back-on-track for a couple of seconds. These seconds and microseconds add up over time to a lot of distraction.

Distraction is a common occurrence with busy people. They allow themselves to get distracted.

Those who are productive, however, have created a system and put it in place to reduce distractions. For example, they work on their most important tasks in the morning. During this time they close their door and turn-off smartphone notifications. When completed, they have a specific amount of time dedicated to mundane tasks like email.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Another difference between productive people and those who are not — is that busy people get lost in minor details. Productive individuals focus on macro issues. As long as you get from A to B efficiently, it doesn’t matter the exact route you took. It just matters that you got there.

Skip striving for perfection and obsessing over every little detail. Focus on hitting key milestones that help you achieve your objectives.

5. Say “yes” strategically.

Busy folks rarely say “no.” They say “yes” to most requests — whether that’s taking on a new assignment or RSVPing to a party. “Yes-ing” everything will eventually pack a schedule with things that do little to improve a persons’ lives.

Productive people are more strategic with their time. They know that saying “yes” is a time commitment that prevents them from focusing on priorities. They will only say “yes” to requests if it helps them achieve their goals. If their value goals are not being pursued, they’ll politely say “no.”

6. Be willing to make sacrifices.

There’s a belief that as entrepreneurs or business owners you have to sacrifice things like spending time with family or doing the hobbies that we’re passionate about doing. There may be some truth to that if you want to be busy 24/7.

Productive people are willing to make sacrifices if that gives them more time to rest, spend with the people who matter most and pursue interests like a side-hustle. Establishing “business” and “out-of-office” hours helps to reserve needed quality time. Examples would be unplugging on the weekends and quitting committees or organizations that are not building you in some manner.

Some people may not get you and you may even frustrate others when you’re not available on a Saturday afternoon. But, you’ll feel less hurried, overwhelmed, and stressed. Most importantly, it ensures that you aren’t neglecting your own self-care and priorities.

7. Surround yourself with productive people.

A 2014 study found that friends can influence our choices. Depending on your friends, that could be either good or bad.

For example, productive people surround themselves with those who encourage, support and motivate them. These productive people are usually competent with their goals. On the other hand, busy people surround themselves with those who indulge them. It may be fun to veg out and watch movies all day, but that is rarely the best use of your time.

8. Weigh the pros and cons before jumping on a trend.

Whether it’s the latest social or business trend, busybodies are all over it and that’s not always the worst thing in the world. But, these trends may not have enough lasting value. As a result, busybodies spend time jumping from trend-to-trend.

Before jumping on any bandwagon, productive people will weigh the pros and cons of the trend. If it’s not providing value or improving lives, then the direction isn’t worth the time or financial investment.

For example, it seems like everyone wants to have their own podcast or YouTube channel. People are making a fortune with this type of content. However, if you take a step back, you’ll realize that it’s only a small fraction of people who are making money on these channels. Are these channels the type that would help you with your career or life goals?

9. Be honest about your progress.

At the end of the day ask yourself if you had an incredibly busy day without any rhyme or reason? Or did the work you did today bring you closer to your goals? This honest introspection should become a daily ritual. Asking yourself these questions about your productivity and will help you put your work in perspective. You’ll be able to differentiate between what’s a priority and what’s not.

Questioning yourself will give you an opportunity to think about what went well with your day and what didn’t — giving you the opportunity to make adjustments going forward.

12 Productivity Hacks You Probably Aren’t Using

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Sometimes the conventional wisdom and obvious advice that you’ve heard a million times doesn’t cut it when need a major productivity boost. During these times you might need to think outside the box and use the following 12 productivity hacks to get you back-on-track.

Sometimes the conventional wisdom and obvious advice that you’ve heard a million times doesn’t cut it when need a major productivity boost. During these times you might need to think outside the box and use the following 12 productivity hacks to get you back-on-track.

1. Work when you’re most effective.

“Everyone has times of the day when they are more efficient. They also have times of the day when they tend to drag their feet,” writes Max Palmer in a previous Calendar article. “If you want to maximize your effectiveness throughout the day you need to identify your peak hours.”

After you’ve identified when you’re more effective, “it’s time to optimize your schedule,” adds Max. “The tasks that require the most concentration need to be taken care of when you’re at your best.”

For example, if you’re at your peak between nine am to noon, and you’re a freelance writer, then that’s when you should writing your most important, challenging, and undesirable assignments.

Once you’ve eaten that frog, you can tackle those smaller, more enjoyable, and less important writing gigs.

2. Unsubscribe and unfollow.

Our tastes change frequently throughout life. For instance, if you got into Crossfit several years ago you probably started following trainers on social media, signed-up for newsletters and purchased the proper gear and Paleo cookbooks.

Today, however, your body can’t handle Crossfit. Now all of those newsletters and feeds aren’t relevant to you. But, they’re still filling-up your inbox and feed.

Take a couple of minutes to unsubscribe and unfollow newsletters and feeds that are no longer providing you with value. This way you won’t be spending as much time maintaining your email and social accounts since it’s lean and mean.

I would do this at least once a month so that your inbox and social feeds don’t become too cluttered.

3. Work from a communal space.

Most of us can’t focus when there’s a conversation right next to us. You can forget about getting any deep work done when that jackhammer is going to town on the sidewalk in front of your office. As a result, we tend to lock ourselves in a completely silent office.

The fact, however, is that ambient noise can actually make you more productive.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found ambient noise of 70 decibels increased productivity more than relative quiet.

So if you work from home relocate to a co-working space. Instead of shutting your office door spend a couple of hours at your favorite coffee shop. The white noise, vibe, and java will keep you going.

4. Use a treadmill desk.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people raving about the benefits of standing desks. But, how about you take that to the next level with a treadmill desk?

Researchers at the University of Queensland found that standing up while you work and walking on a treadmill desk reduces stress and boosts productivity.

Lead researcher Nicholas Gilson, an associate professor with the university’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, said in a press release, “We found people who use activity-promoting desks were more able to focus on urgent tasks, avoid non-urgent tasks and manage stress better than people sitting at a desk all day.”

Dr. Gilson added, “The workers who used sit-stand or walking desks allocated attention most effectively and had lower levels of cortisol – known as the “stress hormone” – in their saliva.”

You can purchase a new treadmill desk, like the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5, on Amazon for just over $1,500. You could also purchase workstation to go with your existing treadmill or, if you’re creative, you can probably build your own for a couple of hundred bucks.

5. Create a mini-crisis.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this all-of-the-time, but there are moments when we work best under pressure. Let’s say that you’re heading out-of-town for a business trip or family vacation. I can guarantee that the week leading up to your departure you’re going to be hustling so that you don’t have to worry about work while you’re away.

You can recreate this sensation by blocking out less time than you think you’ll actually need to complete a task. Instead of blocking out three hours for writing, cut it down to two. Instead of an hour dedicated to emails, spend only 30-minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll get accomplished when you have less time to spend on a specific task.

6. Sleepless.

This doesn’t mean that you should only get four hours of sleep per night. After all, quality sleep ensures that you’ll have enough energy to make it through the day.

This means that you don’t need to sleep for eight or more hours every night.

Clinical studies show that we only need 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Imagine what you can do with that extra hour or two of time instead of sleeping.

7. Optimize your workspace.

It’s no secret that maintaining a proper workspace boosts productivity, creativity, and energy. But, how many of us actually take the time to optimize our workspaces?

You can start today by making these quick workspace changes:

  • Invest in ergonomic furniture — particularly your office chair. It can be a bit pricey, but it’s worth it if you want to become more efficient while remaining comfortable.
  • Clean and organize your workspace. This means putting stacks of paper away, cleaning-up messy computer cables, and placing everything back where they belong so you can find them when needed.
  • Locate your workspace to a spot where you’re exposed to natural light. If there aren’t any sunny spots, purchase a full spectrum light.
  • Put some live plants in your workspace. They purify the air and come with psychological benefits that can boost productivity.
  • Face your workspace towards the door. Having your back to the door can make you feel insecure.

I’d also add that you set your workspace to the right temperature. Researchers at Cornell have found that offices, where temperatures were 68 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, made 44 percent more mistakes. Offices at optimal room temperature, which is around 77 degrees Fahrenheit, made fewer errors.

8. Listen to the right kind of music.

As mentioned above, white noise can increase your productivity. This also includes music. In fact, according to research from Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, those who listened to music while working not only completed their tasks faster, they also had better ideas.

The caveat here is that you have to listen to the right type of music. This includes classical, ambient soundtracks, video game music, epic music, and the sounds of nature.

[email protected] is a handy app that can boost your productivity by finding the right music to help you focus more.

9. Take a cold shower.

This may seem a little out there. But as noted by researchers at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, “Cold bathing is a common custom in many parts of the world.” In fact, humans have experimented with water temperature variation for centuries. “In ancient times, Roman bathing was based around the practice of moving through a series of heated rooms culminating in a cold plunge at the end.”

Modern research has found that taking a cold shower can strengthen your immunity and circulation, help you recover after exercise, and make you more alert and energized.

This doesn’t mean you have to take a 5-minute shower in freezing water either. You can start off with a warm shower and follow that by a 30, 60, or 90-second blast of cold water to get your day started.

10. Hydrate.

If you want to be at peak productivity, then you need to be fully hydrated.

It’s been found that even just a one percent drop in hydration can result in a 12 percent reduction in productivity! A three or four percent drop in hydration can lead to between 25 percent to 50 percent reduction in productivity.

To stay fully hydrated, make sure that you’re drinking at least two liters of water daily. Make sure to update this in your academic calendar as well!

11. Know exactly how long your breaks should be.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but we need to take breaks throughout the day. But, as As Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, perfectly explains, “Without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”

Studies have found that in the morning we can stay focused on a task for around 90 minutes before we start to lose focus. As such, we should then take a 20-minute break every 90 minutes. That makes sense it follows our natural body rhythms.

In the afternoon though, we should use the Pomodoro Technique where you work in 25-minute chunks and then take a five-minute break. When the fourth time comes around you take a 25-30 minute break. This works better in the afternoon since our biological rhythms have stabilized.

If that’s too much too figure out, break for 17 minutes every 52 minutes throughout the day. The idea is that we need frequent breaks throughout the day in order to stay focused and energized throughout the day.

12. Declutter your Calendar.

Do you wake-up in the morning, look at your calendar, and become instantly stressed? It’s probably because you’re calendar is too cluttered. And when you have too much planned in one day, it’s impossible to accomplish everything that needs to get done.

Take the time to clear the clutter from your calendar by:

  • Every night review your calendar and select only your top 3 priorities for tomorrow.
  • Review all of your recurring events and commitments. Some of these may no longer be valuable or fit into your schedule and may need to be removed.
  • Stop filling your calendar with tasks that only take a minute of your time.
  • Share your calendar with others so that everyone knows your availability.
  • Keep a separate calendar for work so that you’re calendar isn’t jam-packed with work and personal entries.
  • Stop saying “yes” to every request and invite.
  • Use a scheduling assistant, like Calendar, to eliminates those back-and-forth communications when scheduling appointments.

Finding Your Motivation After Startup Failure

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Finding Your Motivation After Startup Failure

The journey that entrepreneurs embark on is full of twists and turns. Sometimes you become a success overnight. Other times you have to pivot into something completely different. And, there are times when you stumble along the way and fail.

As someone who has experienced failure, I can honestly tell you that it sucks.

Not only can it lead to an empty bank account, it also makes you feel physically sick. And, even worse, it makes you never want to go through the experience again.

The thing is, failure is a big part of the journey — not just for startups and entrepreneurs –but failure is part of the journey of life. That’s why you need to find motivation after your startup has failed.

It may not be easy, but it’s possible if you follow this advice.

Remember, most startups fail.

There’s a stat that startup founders are constantly reminded; 90% of startups fail. While that’s not exactly true, some believe it’s around 79%, the fact of the matter is that failure should be expected.

In fact, the greatest of entrepreneurs have failed at some point. Prior to Microsoft Bill Gates launched the failed Traf-O-Data. Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon, struck out with a company called The Point.

I could go on and on. The idea is that failure isn’t uncommon. It’s to be expected and is almost viewed like a rite of passage.

So, don’t beat yourself up too much over this. Take comfort in knowing that failure is just another step you have to take in order the achieve success. Pick yourself up and try again, just like Gates, Mason, and the thousands of entrepreneurs who did the same.

Take time to heal emotionally.

At the same time, I’m not going to deny that failure isn’t a heartbreaking experience. And, it’s not something that you’ll recover from overnight.

So whether if you failed on your product launch or filed for bankruptcy it’s going to take some time to get motivated again. And that’s alright. You’re going to need a little bit of time to heal.

When my first business failed my wife and I went on vacation to Disneyland. The short trip didn’t completely heal the heartbreak, but it was the start of the healing process. It still took months to recover, but I needed that time to reignite that spark.

Build a support group.

In our darkest times we turn to the advice and comfort of our support group. This could be your spouse, best friend, mentor, or fellow business owners. Essentially, it’s anyone who builds you up and doesn’t criticize you about the failure of your startup.

You’ll need the guidance and support of your support group to prepare you for your next business attempt. They’ll also be there to help you heal emotionally.

You can’t be neutral.

Being inactive isn’t good for you emotionally, mentally, and physically. While it may a challenge to pick yourself up, you have to get moving again.

Of course, this could be different for everyone. Personally, one of the first things I did after I experienced failure was to start working on my next project. It helped my focus on something other than my previous venture folding. Since that started making a little bit of cash, it helped rebuild my confidence.

This is exactly what Bill Gates and Paul Allen did following Traf-O-Data. They started working on their next business, which became a little company called Microsoft.

But, what if you’re just not ready to start a new business? You can still get active and stay active by starting to work out, reading inspirational books, or learning a new skill. All of these are effective ways in improving yourself physically and professionally so that you’re ready to conquer your next challenge.

Startup Failure doesn’t Mean You Can’t Experiment.

I absolutely love this advice from James Altucher;

“Sometimes people say Thomas Edison failed 999 times before he finally came up with the lightbulb on the 1000th try.

This is a total lie. It is normal in a lab to experiment with many many materials before coming up with the right one.

Oh! Your experiment didn’t work? OK, change something and let’s try a new experiment.”

Rehearse past successes.

You obviously experienced some sort to get your startup up and running. For example, you had an idea that was supported by your support group, investors, and customers. And, it took a lot of guts and hard work to make that idea a reality.

Even though things didn’t turn out the way you liked, you should still reflect on those past successes. Give yourself some props by speaking positive, affirming, and congratulatory words to yourself. For an extra boost, place visual reminders on a vision board to remind yourself that you’re not a failure.

Tap into your intrinsic motivation.

Harvard leadership expert and best-selling author Bill George argues that entrepreneurs should chase their intrinsic motivation instead of extrinsic motivations. This is usually done by aligning your strengths with your intrinsic motivations.

For example, Bill Gates was driven by making a difference in the world. Guy Kawasaki focused on meaning instead of making money. Steve Jobs was motivated by doing great work.

Other entrepreneurs have been motivated through personal growth and accomplishment. And, others such as Elon Musk, found motivation by helping others achieve their goals.

Before you can stage your comeback, think about what you’re passionate about. What do you enjoy doing? What do you find interesting?

Focusing on your intrinsic motivation will encourage you to pick yourself up so that you can move mountains.

Shift your focus.

Have you purchased something like a new wardrobe or car and then noticed everyone else wearing the same jacket or car? You have your Reticular Activating System(RAS) to thank.

Kris Hallbom and Tim Hallbom explain that the “RAS is the part of your brain that serves as a filter between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. The RAS, which is located in the core of your brain stem, takes instructions from your conscious mind, and passes them on to your subconscious mind.”

In other words, RAS regulates your attention.

As the Hallbom’s further explain, “Setting your intent plays a key role in encouraging your subconscious mind to bring forth a desired goal, as well the most optimal future.”

So, instead of focusing on past failure, think about your next endeavor. This will guide you in finding the necessary resources, actions, and ideas to make your next startup a success.

For me, when I founded my other company Due, my goal was to have one of the best invoicing platforms for small businesses. My intent, however, was to provide a platform that could help freelancers and small businesses grow. We’ve been able to do this by continuing to add new features and publish daily content that assists businesses in improving their business.

Sounds simple. But shifting my focus keeps me motivated each and every day to reach my future goals. As a such, the failure I experienced in the past is now just a distant memory.

How Much Does Your Workspace Affect Your Productivity?

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How Much Does Your Workspace Affect Your Productivity?

Our physical environments have a major impact on our well-being. If you fall asleep in your bedroom with the lights on and the TV blasting do you think you’ll have a good night’s rest?

The same can be said about your workspace. If it’s filthy, cluttered and located in a dreary basement with no light — the likelihood of a highly productive day won’t be possible.

You want a place that gives off  happy, creative, and productive vibes. An office spot that inspires you. Simply put, your workspace needs to be optimized so that you can be more efficient and productive.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at how your workplace can affect your productivity. You can make the appropriate changes.

Desk Clutter

While a little clutter may encourage creativity, the fact of the matter is that cluttered workspaces are threatening your productivity.

For starters, when we have a messy and disorganized workplace it’s much harder to find items when you need them. For example, if you wrote down an important phone number on a post-it and it’s somewhere in a pile of papers, how much time will waste looking for it? Even worse, there’s a good possibility that it’s gone for good.

In case you’re curious, the average American spends 2.5 days annually looking for misplaced items. It also costs households a whooping $2.7 billion a year in replacement costs.

Secondly, neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that physical clutter negatively affects your focus and ability to process information. That’s because instead of focusing on the task at hand that workspace clutter is distracting you. What’s more, clutter like multitasking forces you to shift focus, overload your senses, reduces creative thinking, and makes you feel more stressed.

This doesn’t mean that your workspace needs to be Mr. Clean approved every day. It just means that it should be tidy and organized so that you can easily locate items when needed and eliminate being distracted.

If this is a challenge, here’s a couple of ways to get started:

  • File your documents and properly identify them using folders.
  • Trash any documents you no longer need.
  • Group notes by priority and chuck any notes pertaining to completed tasks.
  • Keep frequently used items nearby.
  • Give everything a home and return them when not being used.
  • Label items so that you can locate them when needed.

Background Noise

Unless you’re in solitude, there’s most likely going to be background noise from others talking. It could be your spouse on the phone while you’re working at home, a couple chit chatting next to you at the coffee shop, or co-workers gossiping next to your desk.

This isn’t just annoying and distracting, it’s also the hardest noise to tune out.

Here’s where this harms your productivity. You spend a lot of energy attempting to filter out this type of background noise. As a result, you deplete your executive functions faster and have to work harder than you have to. That’s definitely not good.

To block out background noise from others, try to find a quiet space when working on your most important and challenging tasks. If that’s not an option, then you might want to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones and download an app like Noisli or White Noise.

Lighting and Color

Did you know that Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors? That’s not just depressing, it also proves that we need more access to natural light.

Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, conducted a study that found that “workers in daylit office environments reported an 84 percent drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision symptoms, which can detract from productivity.”

Additionally, the study found that employees sitting next to a window reported a two percent increase in productivity.

“The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity,” said Hedge. “As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations.”

If you don’t have access to natural light work under “blue-enriched” light bulbs that are 17,000K. These bulbs can boost work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality, and alertness. Researchers at the University of Greenwich discovered that those working under “blue-enriched light bulbs” reported feeling “happier, more alert and had less eye strain.”

Besides proper lighting, choose the right color for your job. For instance, since red is stimulating it’s a great fit for those in physically-demanding jobs. Blue and green are calming and aids in concentration so it’s ideal for office workers. Yellow is perfect for innovators and entrepreneurs because it sparks creativity.

Add Plants and Artwork

One of the simplest, and most effective ways to optimize your workspace is by surrounding yourself with a plant or two. Researchshows that office plants can reduce stress, improve attention capacity, and help employees recover from demanding activities.

On top of surrounding yourself with plants, bring-in some artwork as well.

As Karen Higginbottom writes in Forbes, “Research by Exeter University’s School of Psychology found that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier — they’re also up to 32 percent more productive.”

Temperature

There was another study conducted by Cornell that found when employees are cold they make more mistakes, while warmer workers perform better.

To find this out, researchers recorded the amount of time employees in an insurance office keyboarded and the amount of time they spent correcting errors. For this specific study they used an environmental variable; temperature.

“At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate,” said our friend Alan Hedge.

“Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”

Ergonomics

“One of the surprising factors that can affect productivity is workplace ergonomics,” writes Kayla Sloan in a previous Calendar article. “Not everyone buys into the concept, but it truly does have an impact.”

This actually makes a lot of sense since ergonomics can help reduce health risks. Poorly designed workstations can definitely affect your back, hands, wrists, and joints. As a result you feel drained and are focused on how much you ache. Productivity can drop if you have little aches here and there. When this happens — you may not even know it’s pain because you have gotten so used to b being uncomfortable.

Here’s a couple of ways that you can change the ergonomic environments around in your office — even your home office:

  • Invest in an ergonomic chair.
  • Position your computer screen correctly by using a screen or laptop support.
  • Use a palm rest on your chair can help keep everything aligned when you are typing.
  • Keep your hand, wrist, and forearm aligned when using your mouse — the palm rest can help with this situation as well.
  • Use footrests so that you can rest your feet naturally. Much of the ergonomic sense is according to your height and weight.

Air Quality

Finally, after a 10 year study researchers at Columbia, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, San Diego found that air pollution like dust in the air, carbon emissions, and forest fires can lower productivity.

Plants and air filters can help improve the air quality in your workspace. However, if there is a pollutant that you can’t reduce, you may have to set-up shop in a location that has better air quality.

5 Ways to Get Back on the Productivity Rails Fast When You Fall Off

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5 Ways to Get Back on the Productivity Rails Fast When You Fall Off

Last month, I would say that everything was firing on all cylinders. By that, I mean I knew exactly what I was doing. And, I was getting those things done. Here are ways to get back on the productivity rails when you fall off.

As a result of getting things done — I felt super-productive. But, then, just like that, it was gone. It was most likely a combination of reasons, such as watching too much news and losing sleep over business concerns.

Whatever the exact cause, my routine was shattered. I couldn’t focus. And, I welcomed distractions since they were an excuse not to work.

Definitely not good. But, before things got worse, I used the following five tactics to get back on the productivity rails quickly.

1. Schedule habits into your life.

“Our habits form our character and drive our lives,” notes Francisco Sáez, founder and CEO of FacileThings. “They consistently—and often unconsciously—are reflected in our daily behavior and our response to any situation. Ultimately, our habits are what define how efficient or inefficient we are.”

In short, when it comes to personal productivity, it’s all about habits, such as:

  • Surrounding yourself with the right tools and people.
  • Establishing a morning and evening routine.
  • Not always grinding it out.
  • Decluttering your workspace.
  • Trimming down your to-do-list.
  • Single-tasking.
  • Being physically active.
  • Leveling up your skills.
  • Reflecting and learning from mistakes.
  • Learning how to delegate and outsource.

But, to make these habits stick, you need to first schedule them into your life. And, according to James Clear, there are two ways to achieve this.

Option 1: Put in your calendar.

“Want to get back on track with your writing schedule?” he asks. “9 am on Monday. Butt in chair. Hands-on keyboard. That’s when this is happening.”

“Want to bounce back with your exercise habit? Give yourself a time and place that it needs to happen,” Clear adds. “6 pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ll see you in the gym.”

Option 2: Tie it to your current behavior.

“Not all of your habits will fit a specific time frame, but they all should have a trigger that acts as a reminder to do them,” Clear states.

“Want to floss? Every day after brushing your teeth. Same order, the same way, every time.”

“Want to be happier?” asks Clear. “Every time you stop at a red light, tell yourself one thing you’re grateful for. The red light is the reminder. Same trigger, same sequence, every time.”

“The bottom line is this: it might be nice to tell yourself that you’re going to change, but getting specific makes it real and gives you a reason and a reminder to get back on track whenever you slip up.”

“Soon is not a time, and some is not a number,” he writes. “When and where, exactly, are you going to do this? You might forget once, but what system do you have in place to automatically remind you the next time?”

2. Conduct a self-audit.

“People tend to develop behavior patterns that they repeat, often without realizing it,” says Lyn Christian, founder of SoulSalt Inc. “By noticing your own bad habits, you may recognize how to pull yourself out of a rut and get back on track.”

How can you go about this? Christian recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • When has this happened before?
  • How is this time similar to other times?
  • Is this indeed a pattern, or is it a singular incidence?
  • How many times a year does this pattern play out?

It’s always important to remember that “when you’ve gotten off track, it’s not always self-inflicted,” she adds. “You also have patterns in how you respond when life throws a wrench into your plans.”

“You can apply these same questions to audit your patterns of reacting to change and crisis,” adds Christian. “Are you proactive or reactive? Do you overreact and panic, or shut down and do nothing?”

Since most of us have difficulty being honest with ourselves, we should seek feedback from others. It could be your spouse, best friend, business partner, or mentor.

“Ask them to share their impressions,” advises Christian. “If you sense the cause of things going awry is a bigger deal than just a coincidence, find a professional, such as a coach or therapist. They “can assist you in breaking harmful patterns.”

The main takeaway? If you want to turn things around, don’t just do it by yourself. “After all, if you could have turned things around on your own, you probably would have already.”

3. Don’t put yourself down; build yourself up.

It is incredibly easy to beat yourself up — particularly when it comes to losses, mistakes, or performance. It’s also the case when we aren’t as productive as we would like to be. I think we’ve all cursed at ourselves when we’ve procrastinated or failed to meet a deadline.

But, why are we so hard on ourselves?

“We live in the age of perfectionism,” states elite performance expert Dr. Michelle Cleere. “One mistake, error, or loss is a knock to your ego and identity. You become ‘less than’ or so you think.”

“The problem? This creates a snowball effect “until you don’t really know who you are or why you are doing what you are doing,” adds Dr. Cleere. Even worse? If this becomes the norm, “you’re coming from a fixed mindset and will never be good enough or able to enjoy what you are doing.”

Instead of being unkind to yourself, use setbacks as learning experiences that can help you grow. Preferably, focusing on what went right and what went wrong.

Additionally, find ways to rebuild your self-confidence. Some ideas to try out would be:

  • Reflecting on past accomplishments.
  • Telling yourself every day to “awesome.”
  • Learning something new and sharing it with others.
  • Surrounding yourself with a positive support system.
  • Enhancing your existing skillset.

Practice self-compassion.

And, most importantly, start being kinder to yourself. “In research studies, people who have greater levels of self-compassion tend to be more motivated, less lazy, and more successful over time,” notes Susan David. One way to cultivate self-compassion is by ending the tug-of-war inside yourself.

This simplest means not viewing emotions and experiences as either “good” or “bad.” So, the next time you face “a challenging emotion like sadness or disappointment,” don’t berate yourself. Instead, say, “I’m feeling sad.”

And, follow that up by asking, “What is this sadness a signpost of? What is it pointing to that’s important to me? What is it teaching me?” advises David.

4. Make a change.

Want “a simple and effective way to spur your productivity?” asks Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. “Well, why not spruce up your workspace? After all, your workspace has a direct impact on your productivity.”

That actually gels. I mean, how productive are you going to be if you’re working “in a dark, dingy basement?” Or, if “you’re surrounded by piles of paperwork and empty coffee cups?”

And, that’s not even getting into distractions like the TV, noisy housemates/co-workers. “No wonder that 46% of professionals indicated that their existing workspace influenced their productivity,” adds Angela.

The good news? Even if you’re on a limited budget or don’t have too much room to work with, there are ways to spruce up your workplace. Examples include:

  • Purchasing ergonomic furniture.
  • Organizing and eliminating clutter.
  • Personalizing your workspace with art and photos.
  • Introducing live plans.
  • Choosing the right colors. For example, blue affects your mind.
  • Embrace natural lighting, keep the temperature between 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit, listen to white noise, and adding aromas.

Besides shaking up your workspace, you might want to change-up your schedule. In a perfect world, your schedule would be based on when you’re most productive. So, if you’re a night owl, it doesn’t make sense to force yourself to wake up at 5 am.

5. Strip away complexity.

Have you ever tried to lose weight, only to get derailed? It happens to most of us. After all, it’s a challenge to overindulge or work out less during the holidays or summer vacation.

What’s your response to this, however? Do you immediately plan to hit the gym two hours each day and try out every diet until one stick? The thing is, trying too much too quickly is unrealistic and overwhelming — which means you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

The same is true when it comes to your productivity. Rather than overdoing it will tools and hacks, go back to the basics and work yourself up from there. Getting back on track might be something as simple as prioritizing your time, turning off your phone, or single-tasking.

Want to Get More Done? Organize Your Thoughts

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Want to Get More Done? Organize Your Thoughts

I’m dragging today because I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep because my mind was racing.

At some point, this happens to all of us. You may be thinking about an upcoming deadline, vacation, or just how much the world has changed. Obviously, not all of these are bad thoughts. But, they can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest to being productive — it’s impossible to focus when your mind is preoccupied with something else.

The answer? You need to organize your thoughts. In addition to improving your sleep and output, you’ll also become more positive, able to absorb information better, and finally, achieve your goals.

But, how exactly can you stop thinking too much and bring order to your thoughts? Well, here are 7 strategies that you can try today.

1. Choose your preferred thought-collecting method.

The first step in organizing your thoughts is figuring out how you want to get them out of your head. If you don’t do this, they’re just going to occupy valuable real estate in your mind. And, even worse, they’re just going to and you until addressed.

The method that you rely on is totally your decision. But, as a general rule of thumb, here are some pointers:

  • Anything that requires action, like scheduling a meeting or picking-up items at the store, could be placed on a list, calendar, or both. After all, we love lists since they bring order to chaos, relieve stress, help the mind focus, and prevent us from procrastinating.
  • Ideas, thoughts, or wishes can be placed on a sticky note, whiteboard, or organizational app like Evernote.
  • Numbers and contacts need to be added to your address book or phone.
  • Household responsibilities can be placed on your to-do-list, Evernote, or shared family calendar or apps like Cozi or OurHome.

Ways to organize your thoughts.

Rashelle Isip, aka the Order Expert, goes even more in-depth on how to organize your thoughts. Here are some of her excellent suggestions:

  • Practical ways for “those times when you need to take stock of the thoughts in your mind,” she writes. “Simply transfer thoughts from your mind onto sticky notes, index cards, or a piece of paper, and you’ll be able to analyze, evaluate, and manipulate your thoughts and ideas as needed.” Other suggestions are drawing a mind map or making a pie chart.
  • Unleash your creative side, and shake things up, by composing a handwritten letter or making a collage. Isip also says that you could create a table of contents, develop a timeline, or voice record yourself. Or, you could just take a shower.
  • “You may not have realized it yet, but you can ‘organize’ your thoughts through a variety of less active methods,” she adds. Examples include working on repetitive tasks, meditating, or sleeping on them.
  • Physical activities that “force you to step out of your mind and express your thoughts through body movement and interactions with others.” Spending time outside and exercise are obvious. But, you could also vent to a friend or family member or become a storyteller.

Personally, when I need to sort things out, or just slow down my racing mind, I take my dog for a long walk. Of course, being outside is awesome. But, I engage in a little self-talk to work things out in my mind.

Regardless of what method you use, just know that you need some sort of system to gather and catalog your thoughts.

2. Add thought-collecting to your daily routine.

Sometimes, you just need to get a thought out of your head as soon as it pops up. For example, while writing this article, I randomly remembered to add pears to my shopping list. I made a note of that and immediately got back to the task at hand.

Other times, you need to strike when the iron is hot. Let’s say you met a contact at a networking event. You should scan their business card or add their contact right there on the spot. And, definitely add a calendar reminder to follow up with them in the very near future.

In most cases, however, you want to be consistent with organizing your thoughts. For me, that means making this a habitual process.

During your morning and/or evening routine, spend 5 or 10 minutes dumping everything out of your head via your preferred method. You don’t have to be overly detailed here. The jest is that you need to free these thoughts and decide what to do next with them.

For instance, you reserve Friday afternoon to plan for next week. You list everything you want to get done. However, you notice that most of your list aren’t priorities meaning you can outsource or eliminate them.

3. Chunk it down.

Have you ever wondered why Social Security numbers are in chunks, such as 123-45-6789? How about why there are hyphens in phone numbers? According to Mike Byster, Founder of Brainetics, LLC, “it’s much easier to remember information when it’s grouped into smaller chunks.”

“I find that my brain prefers to remember things in groups of five, but maybe groups of four or eight will be your magic number, he states.

“Groupings allow you to organize information and sometimes apply other memory strategies, such as keywords, or a code you totally make up using your imagination,” clarifies Byster. What’s more, “this method can be used for a wide variety of tasks,” ranging “from recalling lists of items to remembering basic concepts.”

“In a studying environment, if you’re trying to figure out how to commit to memory a long batch of notes, see if you can break down your detailed notes into chunks of five main concepts,” he suggests. You may find that this can “help you mentally organize all the material and recall the important facts.”

4. Make your ideas work together.

In addition to chunking, you can also sort your ideas by categories. Why? It’s a quick and easy way for you to notice a common theme or how they’re related.

You can even come up with subcategories. “For example, if you’re a fiction writer, you could group some of your ideas under ‘Stories’ and the form you think the story should be told,” writes Lifehacker Founder and CEO Leon Ho. “A drama script, a novel, or short story, etc. Then with separate subgroups for genre such as historical fiction or sci-fi.”

Ho also recommends that you “kill your darlings.”

“‘Kill your darlings’ is important advice for writers,” he adds. “It means that you have to get rid of your most ‘precious’ ideas and words.”

“Not all ideas are equal,” he continues. “In your notes, there could be a truly brilliant original idea, but the chances of them all being like this are unfortunately slim. There is no point wasting your time on an idea that will never work.”

“Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell which of your ideas are great and which are not,” adds Ho. “Trusting your gut can be a good way; talking to people about your ideas and seeing how they react can also be a good idea.”

Just remember to be honest and not let emotions cloud your decision. If that’s a challenge, ask for feedback from someone you trust.

“Once you’ve trimmed your ideas down to the very best, you can work on making them a reality.”

5. Reframe anxious thoughts.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more anxious. And, thanks to COVID-19, my anxiety is now through the roof. And, that’s a problem since anxious thoughts can be hard to shake — even if you’ve written them down, gone for a walk, or tried to categorize them.

Even worse? They can be paralyzing. And, they will certainly warp your view of reality.

How can you deal with these types of thoughts? Reframe them so that you can change your perspective and remove what’s not true.

To get started, here are some therapist approved tips courtesy of SELF:

  • Fact check yourself by making factual statements as opposed to emotional ones.
  • Switch from asking “Is this true?” to “Is this helpful?”
  • When engaged in negative self-talk, think about what you would say to a friend if they had the same thoughts.
  • Focus on being realistic and not just positive.
  • Swap “finding the bright side” with “finding meaning.”
  • Turn a thought into action.
  • Experiment with various techniques until you find what works best for you.
  • If reframing isn’t working, try something else, such as breathing exercises.

6. Take breaks and set shifts.

“Our brains and bodies simply aren’t wired for prolonged periods of work,” notes author and cofounder of TalentSmart Dr. Travis Bradberry. “While it might seem as though sitting at your desk for eight hours straight is the best way to get all of your work done, this can work against you.”

“Research has shown that the most productive work cycle tends to be fifty-two minutes of uninterrupted work, followed by seventeen-minute breaks,” he adds. “While it probably isn’t realistic to structure your schedule this rigidly, for most people, the battle is won by just remembering to take breaks.” I’d add that creating calendar reminders or using the Pomodoro Technique can encourage you to take frequent breaks throughout the day.

If that is too regimental for you, I’d say that you take breaks whenever it’s convenient for you. For example, if you’re trying to focus on your work, and your mind is racing, it might be better to stop what you’re doing and go for a walk to clear your head.

“Once you’ve taken a break, you must shift your focus back to your task,” advises Dr. Bradberry. “No matter how ‘in the zone’ you were before taking a break, you’ll sometimes find that you’re back to square one when it comes to focus.”

How can you do a proper set shift? “You have to reorganize your thoughts by:

  • Making sure that the task at hand isn’t too challenging or easy.
  • Controlling and managing your emotions.
  • Sustaining your focus by removing distractions.

“You’ll find that getting back into flow quickly after a break is very doable, he says. “But it must be done purposefully.”

7. Master the art of letting go.

Anger, frustration, and worry are all natural emotions. But, they’re not healthy or necessary. Furthermore, they consume your valuable time and energy.

If you can, let these feelings go. I know, easier said than done. But, it’s possible by trying tactics like:

  • Accepting what’s true and being thankful.
  • Focusing on what you can control.
  • Living in the moment through mantras and meditation.
  • Admitting that perfection doesn’t exist.
  • Finding creative outlets, like drawing or writing.
  • Being authentic by embracing vulnerability.
  • Seeking moments of solitude and silence to reflect and develop a plan.

What’s next?

After getting your thoughts out of your head and organizing them, you can pursue those that have value. As for the rest? You can toss them aside like yesterday’s trash.

Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps

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Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps

As a leader, you most likely keep a schedule. Your schedule keeps you on track and tells you what you need to accomplish each day. There may be meetings, appointments, and events listed that you don’t want to forget.

Leaders have always found that work and personal life intertwine and calendaring is the best weapon against missing the essentials in either world. With scheduling and calendaring, besides work requirements, your schedule also includes gym appointments, concerts, and your kids’ games or recitals.

Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps

Here are some of the top schedule apps for business owners that will help you juggle everything in your business and life. You’ll work smarter — and never again will you forget an appointment or task.

  • Calendar for smart scheduling, unifying all of your calendars, and time analytics.
  • Google Calendar for basic online calendar functions for Google users.
  • Apple Calendar for basic online calendar functions for Apple users.
  • Microsoft Calendar for basic online calendar functions for Windows users.
  • Deputy for scheduling employees at various locations as well as the capability to publish schedules through email or SMS, and create shifts.
  • Hot Schedules for business owners with a team of employees to oversee in industries like restaurants, hospitality businesses, retail, and recreation and entertainment.
  • When I Work for its compatibility with payroll platforms like Quickbooks and ADP and its mobile accessibility, online scheduler, messaging, and customer support features.
  • Timely for its dashboard view, scheduling feature, and cloud functionality.
  • Planday for its simple scheduling by job role, push notifications and email alerts, payroll reporting, labor cost and overtime tracking, and customer support.
  • Fleetmatics Work for field service management businesses that have this type of team, cloud-based system, and integration with accounting software like Quickbooks.
  • Shiftboard for employee and workforce management scheduling, communications tools, employee self-serve options, and time and attendance processes.
  • FreeBusy for its artificial intelligence, compatibility with Outlook desktop and web app, embed feature, and integration with major digital calendars.
  • Meekan for its ability to work Slack and HipChat, flight search, RSVPs, double booking alerts, and meeting reminders.
  • Meetin.gs for its functionality, live communication tools like Skype, Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts, and teleconferencing.
  • NeedToMeet for its collaborative meeting scheduling and management, custom URL to invite attendees, notifications and comments, and a dashboard view.
  • X.ai for its personal virtual assistant capability and artificial intelligence.
  • Fantastical for Apple users wanting to try a different option with a critically acclaimed design and user-friendly features.
  • Yahoo Calendar for recreation event integration, solid to-do lists, and long-term planning.

Best Online Calendar and Scheduling Apps — the Details

Calendar

Calendar is a calendar, scheduling, and appointment app. The web portal and mobile app provide a machine learning-enabled platform that learns about your contacts and typical schedule. The more Calendar works with that information, the better it becomes at understanding your schedule and those you interact with regularly.

Not only does the schedule app see how it can help with scheduling, but it also does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. That means you can enjoy automated reminders and real-time updates that get you where you need to go. It integrates with other apps and tracks information about routes, weather, and traffic to make sure you stick to your schedule.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar is one of the most accessible online calendars out there. You can download it on virtually any device and can dive in even deeper on a desktop computer. If you love the other products included in the Google Suite, you can easily integrate them into this calendar for easy use. Schedule meetings with Google Hangout links and attach Google Documents, Sheets, and Presentations as needed.

Google Calendar is also one of the most versatile of calendar apps, able to sync with most other apps to easily move from platform to platform or collaborate with users of other online calendars.

Apple Calendar

Apple Calendar is the default calendar for iPhone, iPad, and Macbook users. For those who live and die by the Apple brand, this calendar is great because it syncs across all your Apple devices, allowing you to switch seamlessly from one to the other. Don’t have access to one of your many devices? Your calendar information will be stored in Apple’s exclusive cloud, and you can access this from anything with a web browser and internet connection.

The Apple Calendar also doesn’t discriminate, allowing you to add additional online calendars from other sources for easier and all-inclusive time management.

Microsoft Calendar

Microsoft Calendar, also known as Outlook or Office 365 Calendar, is comparable to Google Calendar in that it works seamlessly with the other applications in its suite. It’s an optimal calendar for businesses that already rely on Microsoft products for their daily operations. This is an easy calendar for Windows users as Microsoft integrates well into virtually any PC.

While being able to create multiple calendars isn’t a unique feature, Outlook takes it a step further by allowing you to easily view separate calendars in a side-by-side view, as well as the ability to stack them. This way you can more easily balance your work and personal calendars, along with any others you have created.

Deputy

Deputy helps you stay on top of your schedule and anyone else on your team. It’s made for business owners to take care of staff management duties and lead more effectively. The complete scheduling solution includes a way to schedule employees at various locations, publish schedules through email or SMS, and create shifts. You can also get shift costs and compare wages to sales forecasts. It’s easy to add new employees to this scheduling system.

Other features include timesheet management, communication channels, and tasking tools. The cloud-based scheduling system also lets you oversee schedules from anywhere because it works with Android, iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch.

Hot Schedules

Hot Schedules is another scheduling app that is ideal for business owners with a team of employees to oversee. It’s especially ideal for certain industries like restaurants, hospitality businesses, retail, and recreation and entertainment. The scheduling app provides a cloud-based platform so that schedules can be produced quickly and optimize the available labor force. Features include time and attendance record-keeping, shift communication, labor compliance, and employee engagement.

In addition to the scheduling functionality, it provides a full-scale back-office solution for businesses like restaurants, including inventory management, talent development, forecasting and budgeting, and more.

When I Work

When I Work is another scheduling app that works for those leaders that have a team. This scheduling app is for numerous types of businesses across industries like hospitality, customer service, retail, healthcare, nonprofits and more. It specifically benefits those business owners with hourly employees because it makes scheduling so easy. It also works for all types of employee meetings, and task scheduling.

The scheduling app also works with payroll platforms like Quickbooks and ADP so the work schedule can transfer over easily. The app works with Android or iPhone so it makes employee requests for shift trades or time off even simpler. It’s free for up to 75 users, including mobile accessibility, online scheduler, messaging, and customer support features.

Timely

Timely is a scheduling app for individuals, freelancers, and business owners that also works as a team management platform, overseeing hours, projects, and tasks. The dashboard view provides a business owner with an overview of all projects to see what everyone is doing. Plus, you’ll see how much time it actually takes them. Over time, this can help you reduce overhead costs and optimize productivity while also balancing the team’s workload.

The scheduling feature helps you schedule work according to available capacity while also tracking who has recorded their hours. All it takes is a few clicks to create the schedule as well as put together detailed results that can be used along with invoices to bill clients. The scheduling app can be used from anywhere, including iOS and Android devices.

Planday

Planday is a powerful, yet affordable, scheduling platform that grows with you as you add users. There are starter and pro levels of the scheduling app set at different price points. Even the starter level is packed with features. For example, it includes simple scheduling by job role, an app for iOS and Android, push notifications and email alerts, payroll reporting, labor cost and overtime tracking, customer support and more.

The pro-level includes these features and adds even more. Some features that come with the upgrade are HRM tools, vacation management, scheduling statistics and reporting, electronic signatures, and employee file management.

Fleetmatics Work

Fleetmatics Work is a field service management platform for businesses that have this type of team. The scheduling tools are easy to read and only require a few clicks so you can assign jobs in a way that lets you maximize the number of customer appointments you can book each day. The format also makes it easy to change or cancel appointments, including alerting each employee to a change in their schedule.

Since you have a mobile workforce, it offers a cloud-based system that can be accessed anywhere, most importantly your field service technicians. Additionally, the platform allows you to efficiently manage dispatch, invoices and quotes, and reports. Also, it integrates with accounting software, such as Quickbooks.

Shiftboard

Shiftboard is an employee and workforce management scheduling solution. This cloud-based system provides a way to automate much of the scheduling and time tracking process. It can forecast resources and build schedules based on that data. Additionally, the scheduling app can assign the right people to each job and make real-time scheduling adjustments should anything change.

Other features include a set of communications tools, employee self-serve options, and time and attendance processes. Also, the scheduling app offers reproving and analytics on shifts, workforces, teams, and financials. When you have new hires, you can use Shiftboard for applicant tracking and onboarding. Lastly, it integrates with hundreds of other apps and software for payroll, time management, and other business processes.

FreeBusy

FreeBusy is powered by artificial intelligence and serves as your scheduling assistant for teams and enterprises. You can use this scheduling app within the Outlook desktop and web app. The Outlook add-in features provide a way to identify the best time to meet for those who will be attending from inside your company as well as those from the outside. It also does the same with Google Calendar when you add the FreeBusy Chrome Extension.

Additionally, the scheduling app gives you a personalized webpage. Here, your contacts can see your availability and book meetings. You can also embed your availability on your website, blog, or LinkedIn. Integrating with major calendars will cost you a monthly fee. Otherwise, the basic version is free.

Meekan

Meekan is another scheduling app that uses the power of artificial intelligence to optimize your scheduling processes. it works with Slack and HipChat. The free app is very simple to use. Just request a new meeting in a simple language and then invite who you want. The AI machine goes to work to match everyone’s time and preferences, selecting an optimal time.

Once it has been established the meeting is synced for everyone on their Google, Office 365, or iCloud calendar. Other features include flight search, RSVPs, double booking alerts, meeting reminders, and more.

Meetin.gs

Meetin.gs is an app that helps you create, schedule, and manage meetings as a business owner or manager. It simplifies the meeting scheduling process by allowing you to integrate your calendar with its functionality and easily share that personal scheduling page as par at of an email tagline or website. You can access meeting information from your mobile device, respond to meeting requests, or get or make meeting updates.

The schedule supports Google apps, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Contacts, Outlook, Live People, and Office365. Additionally, it offers live communication tools like Skype, Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts, and teleconferencing. It’s available as a monthly or yearly subscription.

NeedToMeet

NeedToMeet is a scheduling tool for collaborative meeting scheduling and management. This is a simple, yet highly effective, app for business owners and their teams. Features include simple scheduling, a custom URL to invite attendees, notifications and comments, and a dashboard view of all meetings. It works on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and the Web as well as with their Microsoft Outlook plug-in.

Even the standard free version of the schedule app is ad-free so there are no distractions. Two other versions of the schedule app come with more features and offer various pricing plans.

X.ai

x.ai is your personal virtual assistant for scheduling that leverages artificial intelligence to lighten your workload. It’s easy to use. It’s just a matter of CCing [email protected] on any email. Then, she does the rest to make sure a meeting time is coordinated and scheduled. She learns pretty much everything about you. This includes appointments, phone number, Skype username, and any information that a colleague or client might need to schedule time on your calendar.

The artificial intelligence component to this virtual assistant studies people’s natural speech patterns to reply in the most human ways possible. It’s free for up to five meetings per month. A fee-based version adds more features, a customizable signature, and unlimited meetings each month.

Fantastical

Fantastical is exclusive to Apple users and is another option for those who aren’t the biggest fans of the default Apple Calendar. The app can be used for free but is greatly restricted without an account subscription, but $4.99 a month isn’t a steep price to pay for calendar efficiency. Critics and users alike rave about Fantastical’s layout, giving it high ratings on its clean and user-friendly design.

One of its unique features is calendar sets, allowing you not only the ability to organize your daily schedule but a myriad of calendars of different types. For example, a business owner can create different calendars for their sales, customer service, and IT teams and add them to a calendar set focused on work. Another set can contain a specific calendar for each one of your kids including their individual events and commitments.

Yahoo Calendar

Yahoo Calendar is a blast from the past. While it has been outpaced by many other calendars as far as updates are concerned, it’s still a very serviceable program in the right hands. Being able to sync with Apple and Outlook calendars is a huge plus, helping you begin integrating right away. Something that sets it apart is the ability to work flawlessly with event sites such as Evite and Eventful, which allows you to more easily book events to attend and have them added automatically to your personal calendar.

Yahoo also excels with its to-do list feature, helping you plan out all the details of your day to accomplish all of your short-term goals. Additionally, for what it’s worth, a 100-year calendar allows you to plan as far in advance as you would ever need to.

Try This Instead: 7 Ways You’ve Been Killing Your Productivity

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Try This Instead: 7 Ways You’ve Been Killing Your Productivity

Do you feel like you aren’t as productive and focused as you should be? Have you been killing your productivity? Instead of searching for the latest productivity hack, evaluate your existing habits. You may discover that you don’t need to try out something new or different — you may actually need to tweak existing habits that are killing your productivity.

Here are a few of the most common culprits:

1. Making lengthy to-do lists

To-do lists are invaluable. They’re an effective way to help us remember and monitor important tasks. They can also keep us motivated and focused. However, lengthy to-do lists can become exhausting and overwhelming.

When you wake up in the morning, you jot down 20 things you have to. Do you honestly think you’ll be able to cross each item off? You may only get to five of them. While that’s better than nothing, you’re not only going to feel you didn’t have a successful day, but you’ll constantly feel like you’re behind because of the carryover you’re adding to your massive to-do list from the day before.

Instead, keep your to-do lists lean and mean. Only focus on three or four items. Make sure you prioritize them — start with the most important task for the day, and work your way down.

Furthermore, be as specific as possible. Don’t just write “email clients.” List the clients you actually need to email. Download an app like Todoist or Any.do so you can quickly add items, as well as set reminders.

2. Working on too many things at once

It’s easy to understand the appeal of multitasking, especially for overloaded entrepreneurs. Instead of working on one thing at a time, you can knock several items out simultaneously.

The truth is that multitasking is a myth — and it can actually slow you down. Multitasking should be avoided because it takes more time to switch between tasks and mindsets. Because of that, you make more mistakes — you’re not paying full attention to the tasks. As your stress level increases as you juggle multiple obligations at once, it damages the parts of your brain responsible for cognition and emotions and affects your memory. Worst of all, perhaps, is that it can reduce your creative thinking (invaluable for leaders).

Just like with endless to-do lists, the solution is to focus on prioritizing. Then, do the most important item before moving on to the second. This way, you give your full attention to the task at hand, meaning you’ll complete it faster.

3. Overloading your brain

The brain is an amazing and powerful organ. But flooding it with too much information will cause it to overload and shut down. In fact, research has found that our brains don’t like having too much information. And because short-term focus is limited, having too many options and decisions on our plates can make us miserable.

You need to limit your decision-making. That may sound broad, but I’ll explain.

On a Sunday, plan and prep your meals for the week. You won’t have to think about what you’re going to eat for lunch or dinner. The same tactic can be used with clothing. Lay out your clothes the night before so you don’t have to make this decision in the morning.

You can also limit your decision-making by creating a daily schedule. You’ll know when you’ll work on your priorities, when to check your email and when to take breaks.

Simply put, take the time to limit daily mundane tasks so you can save your energy for more important responsibilities.

4. Working nonstop until you’ve completed a task

I think we’ve all been guilty of this at some point. You look at your to-do list and decide you’re going to work nonstop until you’ve crossed an item off the list. It may sound great in theory, but it can be counterproductive. Again, when our brains get overloaded, they’ll shut down.

Don’t power through a task until it’s done. Work for around 52 minutes, then take a 17-minute break. The team at DeskTime reports this is the trick that the most productive people use because it refreshes the brain and combats cognitive boredom.

However, don’t use these breaks to check social media, watch TV or browse the internet. During these breaks, you should do things that energize you, such as exercising, meditating, reading, eating a healthy snack or even napping.

5. Relying on too many apps

There’s no denying that apps have made life a whole lot easier. At the same time, when your devices are jam-packed with apps, you’re actually doing the opposite — you’re not only going back and forth between apps, but you’re also spending time learning how each one works.

Use only the apps that will make you productive. For example, business owners should limit their apps to a calendar, a project management tool, a chat app, voice notes and a bookkeeping app. To be honest, you really don’t need more than these apps to run your business from your phone.

If your business needs more specific apps, make sure the team members who need these apps have them downloaded. But do yourself a favor, and don’t download them to your devices. All it will do is distract you.

6. Becoming too organized

Organization and productivity definitely go hand in hand. But organizing your workspace too quickly can backfire — after you’ve refiled paperwork, placed items in drawers and trashed piles of paper, you have no idea where anything is located. Even worse, you may have thrown away an important document.

While you should make sure you are organized and have a clutter-free workspace, take your time. For example, spend an hour at the end of a Thursday filing papers, and then on Friday, start going through that stack of papers on your desk. Your brain will have time to track where each thing is going so you can remember.

7. Not getting enough high-quality sleep

There’s no better way to boost your productivity than by getting a good night’s rest. After all, sleep affects focus, critical thinking and memory. Unfortunately, we focus more on the number of hours we sleep instead of the quality of sleep we get.

Research shows that those who undersleep (getting five hours or fewer) and oversleep (getting nine hours or more) are mentally two years older than those who get the right amount of sleep.

But there’s a way to overcome sleep deprivation. First, find out when you’re most productive. If you’re a night owl, don’t force yourself to become a morning person (or vice versa). For example, I’m most productive early in the morning. I wake up no later than 6 a.m., which means I don’t stay up past midnight.

After you’ve set a more consistent sleep schedule, make sure you get high-quality sleep each night. Avoid blue light from TVs, laptops or phones before bed. Reading is a better option to wind down, anyway. Make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool, and develop a relaxing bedtime routine, like yoga or a hot shower.

These seven silent killers may be hurting your productivity, but you can shift them to benefit you. You may not need a new slate of habits to achieve your goals — you may just need to get out of your own way.

How Freelancers Can Keep Manageable Schedules Without Losing Work

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How Freelancers Can Keep Manageable Schedules Without Losing Work

Freelancers love the flexibility their no-boss lifestyles provide, but some clients don’t know how to take a hint. They email at all hours of the night and get upset when the project isn’t finished by midmorning. No freelance worker enjoys turning down a good job, but when clients make unreasonable demands, contractors must make a choice. The contractor must adopt a  policy for themselves, between taking a stand and sacrificing the schedule their lifestyle provides.

According to research from Upwork, more than half of freelancers wouldn’t take a traditional job for any amount of money. To make the most of the self-employed lifestyle, freelancers need to know how to maintain control of their schedules without sacrificing income in the process.

This five-step strategy can help freelancers take control of both their calendars and their earnings:

1. Put clear schedule expectations in contracts.

Every regular freelancer should get contracts signed by their clients. Formal agreements protect both sides in the event of a disagreement and provide context for ongoing partnerships.

Some freelancers mistakenly limit their contracts to deliverables only. Guillaume Leverdier says that’s a bad idea. Instead, freelancers need to include scheduling agreements in writing — including hours of contact and expected times for a response. This gives clear “no mistake” guidelines for the clients,  that they deserve the same respect as any traditional vendor.

2. Don’t let actions betray words.

It’s one thing to talk tough. It’s another thing to follow through. Freelancers who set strict hours in their contracts and then let clients walk all-over their schedules might as well not require contracts at all. Be aware, this lapse in your contract usually happens more with friends who are also clients. We won’t mention the “F” word here: family.

The ideal strategy, as recommended by Freelance to Freedom, is to set regular hours and respond to client communications only within those hours. Of course, sometimes that isn’t possible. For occasions when clients need rush jobs, contract workers should include contract clauses on expedited rates. That way, if clients want something done outside of normal hours, they understand the price of asking.

3. Set upfront expectations for project deadlines.

Clients outsource work for a lot of reasons, primarily to control costs, but also to gain access to skills not found within their organizations. Freelancers know how to do something their employees don’t. That makes the freelancer valuable, but it also means that their clients often don’t understand how long projects should take.

Rather than let trial-and-error wreck promising beginnings, contract workers should take the time to talk with their clients about the scope their project will demand — to establish reasonable deadlines. For larger projects, deadlines should include both the end date and intermediate benchmarks. By setting this schedule at the outset, freelancers can prevent scope creep.

4. Learn to say “no” without being rude.

Sometimes, no amount of money is enough to make a job worthwhile. A freelancer on a family vacation probably doesn’t want to tackle a big project no matter how much the client wants to pay.

Brent Galloway, a freelance designer, wrote extensively on Digital Freelancer about three times he had to turn down work from clients. Some responded with understanding, while others got personal. Freelance workers face it all eventually, and the best ones learn how to let down clients firmly, but kindly.

5. Track working hours and make changes where needed.

In the struggle to succeed, plenty of people don’t realize how many hours they actually work. Freelancers are especially notorious for tracking only the time they spend working on projects. In the confusion of the hustle, they forget to track all the hours spent emailing, researching and thinking. Those hours are just as valid, and when freelancers consistently work outside their scheduled times, they undersell the amount of effort their projects require.

Smart freelancers use scheduling tools to make their lives easier. To discover bad habits, freelancers should keep a journal of hours worked and review that journal at regular intervals. Answering emails at night is fine, but when work bleeds into life too frequently, it can lead to burnout.

As challenging as self-employment can be, freelancing remains one of the most rewarding life paths for an increasing number of people. Setting and keeping a schedule helps contract workers maximize their earnings and make the most of their flexible calendars. Marking lines in the sand is never easy, but with work-life balance on the line, the rewards are worth the hard conversations.

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