All posts by John Rampton

You’ll Have the Most Impact by Prioritizing Your Appointments

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Prioritizing Appointments

When it comes to appointments, I adhere to one rule and one rule only. Always schedule your meetings with employees, customers, prospects, partners, and other business associates ahead of time.

The main reason? It gives you plenty of time to plan accordingly and the people you’re meeting. An appointment also ensures everyone has prevents hiccups like calendar conflicts and arriving on time. And it protects your most valuable resource; time.

Let me give you a recent example regarding that last point. I have a new client who needs to go over the project’s scope before we start. Since I typically schedule my priorities well in advance, I’m just not going to stop what I’m doing when he asks if he can call me in 10-minutes. Sorry, bro. I need more of a head’s up.

But, there’s another reason why you need to prioritize your appointments. You’re going to have a much more significant impact on everyone in your professional and personal lives.

You’ll Place Value on Your Schedule

A booked schedule can easily become ingrained into your routine. It’s one of the primary reasons we book appointments. But, sometimes, life just doesn’t go according to plan. Still, it’s essential that you respect your valuable time.

Never let anyone tell you otherwise either. Your time is valuable regardless of your profession, age, title, or how many years you’ve spent in school. Prioritizing your appointments shows you and others that you’re serious about your goals and calendar. In this way, you’re making it crystal clear that you’re not at the beck and call of others.

Whenever you receive an invitation that is not an emergency or voluntary, consider whether or not the appointment will add value to your immediate goals and needs. How will this appointment affect your progress? Will it hold you back, or worse, keep you in a holding pattern?

You can accept the appointment if it fits with your goals and needs. If it doesn’t, you may politely let it go. Or, if necessary, postpone it until you have availability.

Some Appointments Aren’t Worth Your Time

Not all appointments are created equal to build on what was said earlier. Determine which appointments in your calendar app are necessary by evaluating them.

A discovery meeting or an introductory call should it’s as important as a project wrap-up with a client you’ve worked with for years. However, putting that introductory call on hold if it interferes with keeping your client happy is more important.

You’ll Respect Other People’s Time

“Respect is a two-way street; if you want to get it, you’ve got to give it.” — R.G. Risch

While you should obviously be protective of your time, you also need to be respectful of others. After all, how frustrating is it when you have a meeting at 3 p.m. only for the other attendee to arrive 15-minutes? Of, even more infuriating, they ghost you?

With that said, here are some of the best ways to show others respect. And how appointments can help.

  • Distracting them when they’re busy. I don’t know about you. But, when I’m in the zone, I hate being interrupted. It’s why I put my phone on silent. You don’t want to bother others when they’re busy, off-the-clock, or even sleeping. Instead, you can share your calendar so that you can both see when you’re available.
  • Not responding. We all know someone who never responds to our calls, texts, emails, or other forms of communication. If you’re desperate to reach this person, you may feel frustrated. Don’t be that person. Lock in a specific date and time to communicate with them.
  • Constantly arriving late. Again, time is a precious resource. If you’re scheduled to meet at a specific time, be there promptly.
  • Not preparing. There’s no excuse for this. If you know that you have a meeting next Thursday at 3 pm, then you’ve had more than enough time to prepare.
  • Rescheduling every meeting. At some point, enough is enough. Don’t let others frequently adjust their schedules because you can’t commit.

You’ll Have Enough Time to Get Everything Done

The time it takes to prepare for an appointment is often neglected. When you don’t have time to prepare, having a series of back-to-back appointments can backfire. For example, the previous appointment goes later than planned, and now you’re late for your next appointment.

Prioritizing your appointments allows you to understand each appointment’s requirements better. Rather than simply winging it, your appointment will be a success due to your active involvement. Again, being respectful by arriving on time and being prepared.

What’s more, prioritizing appointments ensures that you can still get your other work done. For instance, if you’ve had an appointment booked a month ago, then you wouldn’t have the deadline for an assignment on the same day. On the flip side, if you’re swamped, then you won’t spread yourself too thin by accepting a last-minute invite.

Achieves Work-Life Balance

Having a work-life balance can help you lead a happy, fulfilling life.

If you prioritize your appointments, you will only block out time for your most important appointments, resulting in a better work-life balance. If you have met all these appointments, you will be able to focus on the things that matter most to you in life. While this varies, this means having time for your family, friends, hobbies, and side projects.

Tips on Prioritizing Your Appointments

Here are some ways to prioritize appointments to create a productive, respectful, and impactful schedule.

  • Schedule your priorities. Using something like the Eisenhower Matrix, identify your priorities and schedule them first. What’s left can be deferred, delegated, or deleted. It’s a simple way to be aware of your availability for the upcoming week, month, or even year.
  • Use online appointment scheduling software. Did you know that 40% of appointments are booked after business hours? Using tools like Calendar automates your appointments 24/7. In addition, it eliminates the need for back-and-forth emails and phone calls. The software can also send automated reminders and confirmations. And it can even make smart scheduling suggestions with the power of machine learning.
  • Identify the purpose. Ask the purpose of the appointment in the automated message you send when someone requests an appointment. This way, you know what the meeting is about before committing to it. You can wait until a later date if it isn’t essential or if you’re extremely busy.
  • Begin to say no. Don’t hesitate to politely decline a meeting request if the meeting does not meet a goal. Also, sharing your calendar makes this easier since you can block your availability.
  • Analyze your appointments. Finally, determine how much time you spent on each appointment. So, let’s say that a typical meeting is 30-minutes. You’ll want to block out 45-minutes, 30 for the meeting itself, and 15-minutes to prepare.

This will give you an idea of how many appointments you can reasonably schedule each day.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

You’ll Have the Most Impact by Prioritizing Your Appointments was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar

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Workflow Improvements

A typical eight-hour workday includes about three hours of work spent on personal or unnecessary tasks. Or, to put that another way, every week, 15 hours are wasted on non-productive tasks.

Managing workflow improvements and efficiency procedures can help you eliminate these timewasters. However, just be aware that it’s impossible to avoid every delay completely. But, hey. We’ll take what we can.

But, what are some ways you can implement these changes? Below are five workflow improvements to add to your calendar to increase productivity.

How Do Wasted Hours Affect Productivity?

When we spend more time on admin tasks, we lose valuable productivity time. Because of this wasted time, meaningful, project-related work is reduced. What’s more, administration tasks divert attention from more important work. Even worse, when we’re occupied with these tasks, this causes us to focus and drains our energy.

As if that weren’t bad enough, these repetitive and mundane activities aren’t t intellectually stimulating. That might not sound like a biggie. But, that can make you fill unfilled and unsatisfied. Which, of course, will hinder your productivity.

And, if you think that’s tough on you, just imagine what it does to your team if you’re a leader. Just like you, they want to get more done in less time. But, they also want to dedicate their time and energy to be productive, not just busy.

Basically, all of these wasted hours significantly impact a company’s productivity. So, from the top-down, everyone will be more productive if they invest more time in project-related work. And when everyone’s engaged, this leads to greater satisfaction and productivity.

Causes of Reduced Workflow Efficiency

Because workflows have many moving parts, a simple change in one part can affect the whole structure and stymie your organizational progress.

Listed below are some causes of slow workflow, both within teams and organizations as a whole.

Tasks that are irrelevant or unproductive.

If your operations change due to internal factors or external circumstances, you might find that some parts of your workflow are no longer necessary.

When these tasks are not removed, they become bottlenecks in your workflow, consuming resources that could have been spent on more productive procedures, and stagnating work in the long run.

Lack of coordination of information.

Every functional workflow relies on information since it facilitates insight into where your work is at, what factors apply, and what steps you need to take to keep delivering results now, and in the future.

Because information flow isn’t managed intelligently in workflows, you and your team members will spend more time locating the relevant information instead of actually getting work done.

Team management is disorganized.

If your team members do not know which part of the workflow they should be working on and have no idea who to consult in case of an issue, a large pool of personnel will go unused.

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar

In the workplace, unclear and unnecessary tasks are top time-wasters, as are long meetings and unclear assignments. However, these problems can be reduced by putting the proper tools in place.

At the same time, streamlining your workflow procedures doesn’t happen overnight. But it will save you money and time in the long run if you put in the effort today.

But, where do you start when it comes to workflow improvement? Well, the most glaring would be reviewing and analyzing your current workflow. Doing so will help you spot any bottlenecks so that you fix them.

Another obvious suggestion? Leaning on automation tools for recurring and tedious tasks. And, if working with others, you definitely need collaboration tools.

Outside of these noticeable workflow improvements, here are five new ones to focus on.

1. Align Your Most Important Work With Your Chronotype

.“Your chronotype is just a fancy way of saying ‘your body clock,” explains Amantha Imber, founder of behavioral science consultancy Inventium and the host of How I Work. We all follow this natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness. “Everyone has a unique chronotype, and it influences the peaks and troughs of energy we feel throughout our days.”

“Around 10% of people are stereotypical larks, who feel most energetic in the mornings,” explains Imber. “At the other end of the spectrum are the 20% of the population who are owls, or people who do their best work at night.” As a result, we tend to spring into action in the morning, have a power lull after lunch, and end the day with a bang.

You can achieve more by paying attention to your chronotype and planning your priorities around your energy peaks, suggests Dan Pink, author of “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.”

“On days I plan to write, I do it in the mornings, when I’m most alert,” he told Imber. “I set myself a word count, and I won’t do anything until I hit it.” Furthermore, he won’t use his phone in the office or check his email. “Once I’ve hit my goal, I’m free to do other things.” Instead, pink uses his morning energy to focus on his work and avoid distractions.

He tends to stay focused on doable tasks during his afternoon energy slump. For example, he answers emails or files documents.

When you’re most productive, lock in your priorities first in your calendar. Then, after tackling your preferences, you’ll have the momentum and energy to breeze through your remaining responsibilities.

2. Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is never an efficient way of spending your time, even if it might seem so in the moment,” explains Deanna Ritchie in another Calendar article.

“When we multitask, we rapidly switch between multiple tasks, which expends brainpower, takes energy, and reduces our productivity,” Deanna explains.

Most people who boast that they can multitask effectively don’t realize that they are actually less efficient at solving many tasks at once than they are at completing one task at a time.

You should ask yourself how efficient you want to be whenever you find yourself wanting to multitask. You should be aware of the time and effort you need to devote to specific tasks. These tasks may require you to take time away from other tasks so you can devote your undivided attention to these tasks.

“When you stop multitasking and begin focusing entirely on a single task at one time, you’ll see your productivity increase,” she adds.

3. Get Organized

In my opinion, this can be a broad workflow as it encompasses both the big and the small.

For example, you could block out 10-minutes at the end of the workday to clean organize your workspace. You could also go through your inbox, update your to-do list, or revise your calendar for the week.

You will see a long-term improvement in your workflow if you eliminate this small amount of clutter.

On the bigger side of organization, you need to establish an effective organizational system. It’s a simple way for you and your team to save time when looking for documents and resources. Moreover, you can keep your team on task by implementing organizational strategies and data management systems.

I would also suggest assigning clear deadlines to both you and your team. Again, this will keep everyone on the same page and prevent hiccups. Ideally, you would use a team calendar so that everyone can view upcoming tasks and projects.

4. Schedule a ShipIt Day

The Atlassian Company developed the concept of letting employees work on any project for 24 hours. Employees become motivated when they have the chance to do something they are passionate about when creativity is encouraged in this way. After completing their task for the day, employees return to work feeling accomplished and motivated.

Even if you aren’t leading a team, you can still apply this concept. For instance, you could schedule a ShipIt on Fridays. Why? Because most of us are spent by the end of the week. And, for some, having a 4-day work week can increase your efficiency and workflow.

5. Keep Calm and Workflow On

It is only possible for your workflows to remain cutting edge if you prioritize analyzing them regularly and finding out what works, what doesn’t, and what to improve.

To achieve workflow efficiency, you must;

  • Plan your workflow for manual review,
  • Monitor your issue tracking workflows constantly,
  • As needed, refine your workflows
  • Make sure your workflow can continue to meet your targets by testing and improving.

To get more done with less, it’s easier to eliminate unnecessary steps and focus on what it takes to improve your workflow.

Where does your calendar come into play here? To ensure that you don’t forget to continually review and improve your workflow, add this to your calendar ASAP. How often? That’s up to you. But, for newer workflow improvements, I wouldn’t go more than a month.

However, you can schedule this as a quarterly or annual task in most cases.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

How To Track Your New Goals on Your Calendar

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How To Track Goals Calendar

We all know the importance of setting goals. But, when was the last time you actually set a new goal? Even if you did this recently, have you been tracking your progress?

I’m not trying to send out a guilt trip. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of individuals actually follow through. To be more specific, an often-cited figure is that only 8% of people achieve their goals.

Why do a majority of us stumble? Of course, that’s a broad question that will vary from person to person. There is, however, a theory that Mark Murphy, the founder and CEO of LeadershipIQ.com and author of the book “Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” has.

Throughout his research, Murphy looked at how the brain works and how humans are wired to set goals. Then, he honed the process using that and the law of attraction. And the result was something called challenging goals.

According to Murphy, a HARD goal is achieved. Using Murphy’s principle, we should put our current costs in the future and our future gains in the present. In other words, don’t put things off until tomorrow.

A goal-setting process evolves over time. For example, you will probably have very different goals in your thirties than you will in your fifties.

Whatever your age may be, what matters is that you regularly update your life goals and revisit them. Or, in short, track the new goals that you set. And one of the most effective ways to do that is by using your Calendar.

1. Take stock of your accomplishments.

To set new goals, you must take note of your past achievements. For example, you can update your resume or LinkedIn profile. Other suggestions would be gathering recommendations or taking aptitude or career assessment tests.

If you don’t want to overwhelm yourself, though, you could focus on what you’ve accomplished in the past year by;

  • Looking for emails from particular clients, colleagues, or management. You should try to find one successful email per month.
  • Revisiting your LinkedIn updates, Instagram feed, or other social accounts.
  • Discussing the significant accomplishments in the workplace with coworkers and friends. When you speak with others, you may be able to shed light on some of your own achievements.
  • Take a look at your journal, notebooks, or past calendars.

2. Plan ahead.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

To achieve your goals, you need to plan adequately on how you’ll reach them within a specific timeframe. My schedule is mapped out months in advance — I even know people who plan out their entire year in advance. From there, I decide how and when I will finish each step. This makes it easier for me to track my progress day by day, so I know exactly where I am and what I need to do to reach my goals.

3. Identify the best time for you to evaluate your performance.

You can become better at scheduling and calendaring with a variety of tools. Calendly has been a major player, but now there are a lot of growing Calendly alternatives. If you don’t use the right tools then you won’t be able to manage your time the best so you can improve your performance.

Even if you’re exhausted, never skip rating and evaluating your results of the day. If you do, the opportunity to find gaps that prevent you from achieving your goals might be lost.

4. Visualize the “chain.”

Former software developer Brad Isaac once asked comedian Jerry Seinfeld for advice for a young comedian. Seinfeld told him that he needed to write better jokes to become a better comic. To write better jokes, he had to write every day.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, the comic revealed his unique calendar system to keep him motivated.

Jerry Seinfeld told Isaac to get a giant wall calendar with the entire year on it — and hang it somewhere easily visible. Then, he told him to get a red magic marker.

Isaac was told that he had to put a big red X on the Calendar for each day he wrote. “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 not to break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” Seinfeld reiterated.

Isaac says this strategy “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 results.” And these habits are built by daily action.

5. Make weekly goal tracking a priority.

Why track your goals on a weekly basis?

You can get a lot done in a week and make significant progress towards your goals. However, it’s short enough that you can adjust your actions if you veer off course. Besides flexibility, this also helps you break larger goals into more manageable chunks.

You may want to settle on a weekly focus to make this successful. Whether it’s a phrase, a quote, or a poem, you can focus on whatever motivates you for the week. Your weekly focus should be something that inspires you to work toward better goals.

Every week, set aside time to decide what you will focus on. Of course, it would be ideal if you did this before the week began. I’m a big fan of updating and filling in anything that needs to be on the Calendar for the week on Sunday afternoon or evening.

6. Auto-schedule time for your goals.

By planning ahead and dedicating time to your long-term goals, you can take a huge step in accomplishing them. But, here’s the thing. Just because you have these in your Calendar doesn’t mean you get to them if you’re running on fumes.

One of the biggest drains on our energy is making decisions. One way to combat this is to have tasks automatically scheduled for you, so that you don’t waste energy deciding what to do. For example, you could review your to-do list on Sundays while checking in on your goals. Then, if you have open slots, add an item from your to-do list to that time block.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should clutter your Calendar. But, you should leave blank spaces in your Calendar to shuffle things around if there’s an emergency. And, if everything has gone to plan, then you know exactly how to spend this time.

7. Meet with your accountability partner.

There will be times when self-motivation isn’t enough. You may need to call in the calvary if you want to stick to your goals during such times.

When you share your goals with someone else, you essentially sign a contract. If you know someone will check on your progress, making excuses won’t be as likely to derail you. Since there is nothing to share, it feels like you are disappointing them, and disappointing someone is never pleasant. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your goals when someone checks in with you regularly.

In short, you need to find yourself an accountability partner.

Ideally, you want to choose someone you trust and share your goals or have a similar perspective on growth and success. Next, invite them to check in with you. How often? That depends.

You might like a daily check-in by text or email to report on how things went the day before and set goals for the day ahead. Other people prefer longer meetings every week, biweekly or monthly. You might do a mix of long meetings and quick check-ins with some partnerships.

Whatever you and your goal buddy agree on, put that in your Calendar ASAP. This will prevent any calendar conflicts from arising.

8. Set a reward system.

Why do reward systems work? Well, it’s all about dopamine.

As you accomplish something important, your brain begins to spike with dopamine, making you feel a surge of satisfaction. As a result, you become more motivated and productive.

You can benefit from this by rewarding yourself as you chip away at your goals. As your brain connects your hard work with a surge of dopamine, it will eventually become automatic.

How does your Calendar fit into this? Well, you can schedule your rewards. For instance, if you have completed your weekly goals, treat yourself to dinner with friends. Then, during the week, you could set aside 15-minutes time blocks to read, write, go for a walk, or do whatever else you enjoy doing.

9. Schedule time for distractions.

Make no mistake about it — we live in a distracting world where multitasking has become the norm. The era of instant updates and notifications has even made many of us reliant on distraction. And as a result, we often ask ourselves why we aren’t as productive as we should be.

Cal Newport explains it this way in Deep Work, “Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, [Clifford Nass] discovered; it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate.”

How does Newport aim to solve this problem? Schedule these distractions.

“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”

I know. Scheduling time for distractions might sound counterproductive. However, taking part in something distracting, like answering emails or posting on social media, will not reduce your ability to concentrate. The constant switch between “low-stimulus, high-value” activities to “high-stimulus, low-value.” According to Newport’s research, boredom is causing atrophy in the muscles needed for concentration.

According to him, we need to adopt an attitude of focus and set aside a portion of our day for distracting activities to reverse the decline. Even though he admits to the potential use of the Internet for constructive purposes, he uses it synonymously with distracting activities.

Schedule in advance when you’ll use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether outside these times,” he explains. “Record the next time you’re allowed to use the Internet. Until you arrive at that time, absolutely no network connectivity is allowed—no matter how tempting.”

10. Calendar it all.

When it comes to setting, achieving, and maintaining repeated goals, consistency is key. So add or schedule five- and ten-minute blocks of time to your Calendar to help yourself out.

How will you fill these blocks? You can use them to journal your accomplishments, make progress toward a specific goal, or meet with your goal buddy. All of these will help you keep track of your goals and help you follow through.

How To Track Your New Goals on Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Image Credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you!

The Assault on Productivity, Neglect of Your Calendar

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Assault Productivity Neglect Calendar

Almost all of us want to be able to improve our productivity. But how exactly can we do this?

There’s certainly no shortage of tried and true techniques. Examples would be working when you’re most effective, setting timers, blocking out distractions, or setting daily goals.

While all of these are helpful, they also rely on a calendar. Case in point, to reach your goals, you need to block out undistracted times for you to focus on tasks that get you closer to your desired outcome. If not, you’ll get bombarded by phone calls or commit to less difficult chores.

But, just because you have a calendar doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of it. It’s like buying an elliptical to improve your health but letting it sit there collecting dust. If you ignore your new exercise equipment, you’re still failing to maintain your health.

In short, if you want to bolster your productivity, then you can’t neglect your Calendar. Here are the best ways to prevent that from happening.

Time estimates aren’t adjusted.

This past Sunday, I decided to cook dinner for my family. It wasn’t an overly complicated entree — it was stuffed peppers if you’re curious. Unfortunately, I underestimated how long it would take me to prep and cook the meal — leaving a very hangry family.

To be fair, we’re all terrible at estimating time. And, you can thank the planning fallacy for that.

What is the planning fallacy?

The planning fallacy is a psychological term that describes our tendency to underestimate how much time a task will take. It was first introduced in 1977 by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. They found that people tend to ignore historical data when making predictions.

In other words? We don’t use historical evidence to estimate time. Instead, we concentrate exclusively on the upcoming task at hand.

Kahneman later elaborated on the original concept in his 2011 book “Thinking Fast and Slow.” According to him, estimation mistakes are usually caused by two factors;

  • Failure to consider the past times when we have completed similar tasks
  • We assume no complications will arise that will delay us

A second mistake relates to optimism bias, which describes our tendency to believe that the future will be a better place than the past. How does this connect to the planning fallacy? People think that things they do in the future will be more efficient than the things they do now.

As a result of our optimism, we believe that delays will be unlikely. But, unfortunately, that means when it comes to estimating time, you go with the best-case scenario. Consequently, we tend to disregard historical data that proves that the best-case scenario is, in fact, highly improbable.

How to overcome the planning fallacy?

In some cases, the planning fallacy is nothing more than an inconvenience. For example, you might have a hungry family when dinner is running late. But, you can put out some snacks in the meantime. However, time estimation errors account for 25 percent of failed projects at work.

The easiest fix? To estimate time spent on different types of tasks, use a time tracking app to track your progress over time or uncover when you’re most productive. The app’s built-in reports make it easy to reference the data later on.

Another easy solution? Give yourself some time than you need. For instance, you could set aside 2 hours for a specific task, even though you believe that it will only take you an hour. If it ends up taking you an hour-and-a-hour, then you have 30-minutes to spare instead of going over the allotted time you planned.

Sorry to continually beat the drum on this same idea — but you should periodically track your time on your recurring tasks to improve your productivity. As you become more proficient at these tasks, you should complete them faster. For example, if you blocked out two hours for a task and it now takes you an hour and a half, that extra time could be used elsewhere.

Not blocking out your priorities first.

Throughout my entrepreneurial career, I have sported a variety of hats. Obviously, this is more important when just getting started. There is no way to hire a talented team when you don’t have the resources. Once the cash starts flowing in, hiring a stellar team to support means fewer hats you have to wear.

That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore these responsibilities. Instead, it means that you can delegate specific tasks to others. On the downside, that could mean that you start filling your Calendar with entries that aren’t priorities.

Instead, follow the advice of Stephen Covey. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. After all, when it comes down to it, your priorities are anything that moves you closer to your goals.

With that in mind, you should book your priorities before anything else. If you don’t, other less critical items will take their place, thus hindering your productivity. Also, keep in mind that you won’t accomplish them all on a single day, so focus only on your three most important tasks. All other activities should be put off until later, delegated, or deleted.

Ignoring calendar conflicts.

Occasionally, calendar conflicts will arise. That’s life. But that doesn’t mean you should just shrug your shoulders and tell yourself, “Oh, well.”

Ignoring calendar conflicts doesn’t mean that they’ll magic resolve themselves. Instead, you’re going to have to be proactive and tackle them head-on.

For example, if you double-booked a time slot, own up to your mistake and try to make it right. So, let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment when you were supposed to have a call with a client. Let your client know about the scheduling error and offer an alternative date to speak. They may be disappointed, but it’s better than leaving them high and dry.

Forgetting to add calendar entries.

It’s possible to lose productivity when you forget to add calendar entries. Don’t wait to add events to your Calendar until the last minute as well. You might miss important meetings if you don’t do it immediately. As a result, you may be unable to meet deadlines, or you’ll need extra time to catch up on missed tasks.

Always schedule items as soon as possible — even if it’s a year in advance. But, of course, with the popularity of calendar apps, you can do this whenever and wherever you can. So, in my opinion, there’s really no excuse for forgetting to add entries to your Calendar.

Not clearing your Calendar regularly.

There are very things in life that you’ll possess forever if you don’t clean things out — including your Calendar. Everything from torn clothing, broken appliances, and outdated pantry items must be replaced. If not, you’ll end up in an episode of Hoarders.

The same is valid with your Calendar. If you don’t declutter your Calendar from time to time, it’s going to be packed with unnecessary entries. How often you go about this is up to you — I personally do this twice a year. Regardless, here are some items that you may want to remove when cleaning your Calendar;

  • Meetings with no purpose or agenda
  • Back-to-back or standing meetings
  • Habitual or minute activities, like brushing your teeth.
  • Unnecessary notifications and reminders, such as “Walk your dog.”
  • Recurring events that no longer fit into your schedule or you have no interest in attending
  • Tasks that can be delegated or outsourced
  • Other people’s priorities

Sticking with calendar default settings.

Make sure your calendar settings are tailored to your specific productivity needs, instead of just accepting the defaults.

For instance, multiple calendars and color-coding options are typically available in calendar apps. By using a different font or all caps, you can also draw attention to necessary entries. Alternatively, you can change the calendar view and decide what day to start.

In addition, you have the option to enable other time zones, hide specific calendars, and change the default time. This last option is particularly important. You can set the time to exactly what you need for an event or task instead of blocking out the default time — usually, this is an hour.

As an example, you might only need to meet with your team for 30-minutes. But, since you stuck with the entire hour, you’re wasting everyone’s valuable time that could have been spent on something more important.

If you really want to supercharge your Calendar and productivity, consider teaming your Calendar with other tools. By harnessing machine learning, Calendar, for example, suggests when, where, and how to schedule your time.

One final piece of advice here. The calendar app and tools that you use should seamlessly sync across multiple devices. Google Calendar, for instance, is equally accessible on Android and iOS devices. That means you can switch between your iPhone and Chromebook, preventing any missed calendar entries.

Failing to review your Calendar constantly.

To start the day on the right foot, you need to plan ahead. I mean, that’s like saying you’re going to cook your family meatloaf for dinner on a whim. Unfortunately, you don’t have all of the ingredients, leaving you scrambling to think of a replacement — on top of a disappointed and hungry family.

As for productivity specifically, let’s say it’s Sunday night, and you didn’t look ahead on your Calendar schedule for tomorrow. Because you’re busy with your family, it slips your mind that you have an early meeting in the morning. Suffice to say, you don’t prep for the meeting and are caught off guard when you receive a calendar reminder 15-minutes before the meeting starts.

In situations like above, that could not throw your schedule off. Or, even if you can keep your schedule intact, you may feel “off” for the remainder of the day. In turn, this could slow your productivity to a screeching halt.

Image Credit: Olya Kobruseva; Pexels; Thank you!

The Assault on Productivity, Neglect of Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Get More Done with the DRY Principle

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Get More Done Dry Principle

Take a minute and think about your everyday tasks. I’m sure that many of them are likely to be repetitive and time-consuming — whether you’re working in an office or from home. But, is there a way to reduce this workload to get more done so that you’ll be productive instead of being busy?

Thankfully, there are several strategies you can try in order to get more done. Examples include the Eisenhower Matrix or the Pareto Principle. But, have you tried the DRY Principle?

What is DRY, and How Does it Work?

Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas, in their book The Pragmatic Programmer, coined the phrase “don’t repeat yourself” in 1999. They describe DRY as “Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.”

In software engineering, DRY is a technique for reducing repetition in code. Coders streamline coding using a single, reusable source, aka “snippet,” whenever appropriate. Hence, the name, don’t repeat yourself.

As well as saving time, writing the same thing multiple times means that there is less room for human error. After all, if you make a mistake once, you’ll probably make it twice. Plus, if you decide to make any changes, you only have to do this one time.

The bottom line is that less code is good. It saves time and energy. It’s much easier to maintain. And, it also reduces the likelihood of bugs.

While the DRY Principle originally applied to software development, it can be adopted into other facets in order to get more done. For example, on a daily basis, how many emails do you send and receive? Essentially, you’re recreating the same structure with slightly different wording with each email. And, when you’re calendar is already booked, this can be very tedious.

DRY requires that you take note of all your actions throughout the day, one at a time. You can include tasks that are within the following categories in order to meet this requirement:

  • Unplanned events, such as a phone call from a client or urgent text from a colleague.
  • Monthly and yearly obligations, like annual reports and one-on-one meetings with team members.
  • Everyday routines and your top priorities.

Once you’ve compiled this list, you can determine which ones apply to the DRY Principle. From there, take note of how repetitive, time-consuming, and intimidating each one is, and mark them down. If the top candidates are DRY Principle qualifiers, you can automate as many of these as possible.

In some cases, you will not be able to automate all the duties. However, you can streamline certain parts to help you get more done.

Where Are You Repeating Yourself?

Have you ever used a system like Getting Things Done (GTD)? If so, the DRY Principle should be easy to understand as both follow a similar process. DRY, however, aims to avoid redundant processes.

To get started, keep a daily journal for at least a week. Then, you should track your time for a more accurate picture for a month or so. This allows you to take note of your routine tasks. But, this should also help you identify less frequent occurrences as well.

Here are some pointers you can use while tracking your time.

  • Add unplanned or unscheduled tasks, like responding to a client’s email.
  • Keep track of monthly and annual tasks. Examples of these are quarterly reports, audits, invoicing, and tech maintenance.
  • Ask others what their routine tasks are to fill in any gaps.

Hopefully, you now have a bird’s-eye view of your tasks. Next, you need to decide which tasks are best suited to DRY.

You can do this using whatever tools you rely on to track your tasks. For example, you can create tags or labels for each category in your to-do list or time-tracking app. The categories can then be added as columns in a spreadsheet. Or, you can go old school and write them down with a pen and paper.

To make this process easier, hone in on the corresponding categories;

  • Pain points. These would be the activities that you dread so much that they cause you to procrastinate
  • Bottlenecks. Which tasks are bogging down the rest of your day?
  • Tasks that require a lot of time. Review your time-tracking results and determine which tasks consume most of your time.
  • Work that repeats itself. Which tasks do you find yourself doing over and over?

As a result of categorizing your tasks, you can now identify which tasks are suitable for DRY. DRY is most likely to benefit tasks with a repetitive nature. You can eliminate repetitive tasks from your list if they aren’t essential so that you can focus on what’s important.

Create Templates

After discovering where you’re repeating yourself, you can now find ways to eliminate them so you can get more done. And, perhaps the most accessible place to start is through templates.

In most cases, templates are blank documents that need to be filled in. You can either create one from scratch or download a premade online. Regardless, templates will save you time since you’re no longer constantly creating emails, invoices, or calendars every day.

Generally speaking, templates are most needed in the following areas:

  • Emails. Office workers receive an average of 121 emails each day. As a result, there’s a possibility you’re sending the same emails repeatedly. You can create your own template by removing all the personal information and saving it for later use.
  • Internal communications. Examine your most recent communications and search for patterns. Even a minimal template can ease your stress and save you time.
  • External documents. Contracts, proposals, invoices all seem to look the same. However, when you remove the information specific to your clients and partners, you’ll have a template to use, and you can customize it as needed.
  • Presentations. Prepare a presentation template if you deliver more than one presentation a year. Then, regardless of how different each presentation appears, the basic structure can remain the same.

One more thing with templates. You should consider them as non-static documents. You should, therefore, update the template if you notice that you’re always making the same changes.

Automate Routine Tasks

During the course of your workday, you perform several repetitive tasks. But, what business tasks should you consider automating?

For starters, scheduling appointments. It’s easy to schedule appointments with calendar apps. You can send your calendar via email or link it to your website. You can now show others your availability so they can select a time and date that works for them. Once chosen, the event will be automatically added to schedules for all attendees.

Sorting and responding to emails, posting to social media, and filling out online forms can also be automated. This is also true for proposals, invoicing, customer service, and data backup.

You may only have to spend a couple of minutes on each task. But they add up quickly and divert your attention.

Follow the 30x Rule

Until now, we’ve only discussed the many ways you can leverage tools and messages to save time. However, DRY can also be useful in your daily activities.

“Most managers would think it’s crazy to spend 2.5 hours training someone to do a 5-minute task because they think ‘it would just be faster to do it myself,” notes Management consultant Rory Vaden. “That is because most managers are stuck in classic ‘urgency’ thinking of only evaluating their tasks inside of the construct of one day.”

“In which case, it never makes sense to spend 2.5 hours training someone to do a task that they could do themselves in just 5 minutes,” says Vaden.

According to Vaden, you should allocate 30X that amount of time to train others for any task that can be delegated and repeated. For example, a five-minute task delegated and trained for 2.5 hours will save you 1100 minutes (over 18 hours! ), according to the 30-X rule.

Mathematically speaking, it’s Total Task Time (5 minutes 250 working days) – Training Time (5 minutes).

It’s All About Staying DRY

Because all these processes are getting done in the background, you will have more free time because you won’t need to perform repetitive tasks manually. So when it comes to time management, the DRY Principle is an effective tool to experiment with.

By maximizing your output now, you will have more time to spend on the things that matter most in the future. And, to get started, take a look at your current workload, and see if there is anything you can automate under the DRY Principle.

Image Credit: Enikő Tóth; Pexels; Thanks!

7 Tips for Firing an Employee Gracefully and Ethically

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Firing an Employee Gracefully

As an empathetic leader, I couldn’t help but cringe when I read how Better.com let go of 900 employees…over Zoom. Not only is this a PR nightmare. It can drain morale and create a toxic work environment.

But, could it get any worse? Well, here’s what an employee, who wasn’t fired, had to say about the experience to Business Insider.

“You’re the lucky ones,” CEO Vishal Garg told them. “Garg said the people he laid off had been low performers — and then he set the bar even higher for those of us left, telling us it was time to work even harder than before,” the employee added. “It was pretty scary to hear that from someone who had just fired 900 people.”

“This wasn’t my first time being at a company going through layoffs, but this one was different,” they stated. “There was absolutely no warning, and in the aftermath, Garg belittled the laid-off workers to the rest of us and told us there would be no second chances from now on. The whole thing was demoralizing.”

“Since the layoffs, everyone has been on edge,” the employee elaborated. “We’re all looking behind our backs, expecting to get fired next. It’s not a healthy environment.”

While the optics are bad, we don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. So maybe Garg did have a valid reason for letting these employees go. In my opinion, though, he went about it the wrong way.

Why you might have to let an employee go.

One of the most challenging decisions we have to make is to part ways with a team member as a leader. Of course, sometimes, this is inevitable. Examples would be incidents of;

  • Acts of discrimination
  • Assault and harassment
  • Criminal activity
  • Insubordination
  • Lack of competence
  • Constant absenteeism

While the hiring process is intended to weed out unprofessional individuals, sometimes they slip through the cracks. And, in some cases, they may not actually display these characteristics until they’ve settled into their roles.

Additionally, you may have to downsize to improve efficiency or reduce costs. Or, you may have to pivot and change direction to respond to market changes.

Whatever the reason, if terminating an employee is inevitable, here are seven tips to carry this out gracefully and ethically.

1. Offer opportunities for improvement beforehand.

When an employee’s performance is in question, the chances are that a series of events have led you to need to make this difficult decision. That’s why it’s recommended that you might frequently consult with each member of your team individually to discuss their progress and offer feedback on where they can make improvements. You may also want to conduct performance reviews twice a year.

Generally, termination should only be the last option if the employee has violated the company’s policies. However, an employee can use a performance improvement plan (PIP) instead of firing them. This can help them track their progress, reach their goals, or discourage destructive workplace behaviors.

If you’re unsure whether your employee is performing well, ask your other team members for their perspective. For example, you could ask them about their attendance if they’ve missed deadlines or have difficulty communicating or collaborating with others.

If you document other members of the team’s experiences, this strengthens your case for why and how an employee must improve. In short, employees should never be caught off-guard when it comes to being fired. Instead, you should give them a chance to improve.

2. Inform human resources of the employee’s behavior.

The Human Resources department should be informed of all actions taken before terminating an employee. At the minimum, this should include implementing an improvement plan and how the employee progresses. In addition, documentation provides evidence and reasons for an employee’s termination by tracking the employee’s incidents and behavior.

HR can ensure that termination is a fair decision and that the proper procedures and protocol are followed. It’s also essential for both employees and the workplace that termination procedures comply with state and company requirements.

3. Create a transition plan.

“Choose the day and the time for the termi­nation deliberately,” advises management consultant and author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals Dick Grote. “While experts disagree on when a firing should occur, all acknowledge the importance of having a rationale — a good business reason for your choice of time and day for dropping the ax.”

“Doing it early in the day, early in the week, encourages the employee to get right to work on finding another job,” he adds. Furthermore, this reduces the chances of them spending the weekend planning revenge. “Friday after­noons, on the other hand, often create the minimum amount of disruption to the rest of the staff,” stays Grote.

Whether or not firing an employee is the solution, always put your company interests first. You probably put up with a subpar performance for months hoping the situation would somehow improve. As the end nears, make sure that the transition goes seamlessly not to harm the company or your colleagues.

“Check the succession plan for an internal candidate,” he suggests. For example, if you need to terminate someone, you may want to start recruiting and wait until you find a replacement. Sending these subtle hints to clients, customers, and even your team that staffing changes are imminent could ultimately work in your favor.

4. Be clear and concise.

When it comes to firing an employee, winging it is never the best course of action. You need to know actually what to say and how you’ll deliver the news. That’s why it’s suggested that you also practice the conversation you will have with the employee.

“Make sure you know exactly why you’re firing a worker, have specific examples, and bring the proper documentation, writes Kathryn Vasel over at CNN. “That includes copies of performance reports, any write-ups, and applicable financial forms like unemployment insurance and health insurance and 401(k) options.”

You should be clear and firm about the termination and the next steps. “There is no room or need to get into a protracted discussion,” said Dan Ryan, founder of Ryan Search & Consulting. “It is what it is; there is no productive discussion that can take place after.”

5. Don’t humiliate the employee.

“If I must fire an employee, I treat them with dignity because I don’t want to humiliate them,” writes Mike Kappel, founder, and CEO of Patriot Software, LLC in Forbes. “I will always fire someone in private behind closed doors.”

“Employment termination isn’t just bad for that individual— it’s also bad for the other employees,” he adds. “Other employees don’t know if or when they’re going to be on the chopping block.”

It’s also possible for your employees to have relationships with the fired employee, such as being friends outside of the workplace. As such, you could “risk draining the morale of the others if you fire someone in front of” the entire team.

He suggests it might be a good idea to fire the employee after the other employees have left for the day. In that case, the terminated employee does not have to leave their office (or wherever you fired them) in front of their coworkers.

Always have a witness.

“When you need to fire an employee, you and someone from Human Resources should be the only two people in the room with them,” Kappel continues. “If you don’t have an HR department or representative, grab a witness, like a trusted employee or even your business’s lawyer if applicable.”

In the event that the employee sues you, having someone else in the room with you is imperative. Why? Because this individual can confirm your firing of the employee was legal and ethical.

During the termination of an employee, a police escort may be appropriate in very rare situations. That may sound excessive. But, if you feel that they may become aggressive or violent, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“I once had to fire an employee with a police escort,” recalls Kappel. “She threatened to beat up another employee.” She also engaged in cage fights on weekends. So, when the officer arrived, the employee was let go — and thankfully without incident.

6. Keep documentation of the entire process.

Documentation is essential for the company’s reference — both during the termination process and afterward. These documents may include records such as a written notice of termination. As a rule of thumb, you should always document any actions taken, such as implementing a Performance Improvement Plan and its results, before firing an employee.

In general, the more documentation you have, the more straightforward this process can be? Why? Because it ensures that all work procedures are followed based on your employee handbook and pertinent labor laws. And, if the employee dispute the firing, you can use these documents to validate your decision.

7. Handle paperwork and tie up any loose ends.

In addition to termination documents, you should also bring the employee’s final paycheck with you. If you offer a severance package, explain what’s included. Review any noncompete or nondisclosure agreements with the employee, along with if they’ll continue receiving benefits like health insurance.

“After learning of the termination, the employee will most likely feel confused and upset,” writes Amy DelPo, attorney, for NOLO. Prepare to assist the employee by answering questions such as;

  • “Do I work the rest of the day or leave immediately?”
  • “When can I collect my belongings?”
  • “Do my coworkers know this is happening?”
  • “What should I tell my clients?”
  • “I have appointments scheduled for the rest of the week; what should I do about those?”

It would also be helpful if you developed a plan for ongoing work before the meeting to address the following;

  • Are these projects going to be assigned to someone else?
  • Are there any tasks the employee needs to complete?
  • Is the employee required to assist with the transition?

What to do after terminating an employee.

The following steps may be necessary after firing an employee. However, doing so may avoid terminating another employee or helping the department fill the vacant position.

  • Educating employees about workplace expectations. You can accomplish this by sharing employee handbooks and having one-on-one meetings. As a result, this could be enough to prevent additional firings.
  • Keeping employees in the loop. The law outlines specific guidelines about when and how to discuss an employee’s termination. However, being transparent about an employee’s termination openly and discussing any behavior that may still exist within the workplace will discourage rumors from being spread.
  • Posting a new job to fill the existing position. Reassign tasks to other employees after terminating an employee’s employment, or have managers temporarily take on those tasks to account for the departed employee. To avoid overburdening other employees with work and responsibilities, create a new job posting for the vacant position as soon as possible.
  • Strengthening your existing team. Host team-building activities if you need to bolster morale and encourage team bonding. You could also celebrate your team’s achievements or have some fun in the workplace, like throwing a pizza party.

Image Credit: Sora Shimazaki; Pexels; Thanks!

12 Time Management Errors That Will Sink You in 2022

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12 Time Management Errors That Will Sink You in 2022

Is time management a recurring goal or resolution that you make year after year? Well, you’re not alone. But, unfortunately, it’s been found that a staggering 82% of people don’t have a time management system. And, in my opinion, that can only lead to chaos.

Thankfully, this is the time of the year to rectify this problem. But, the key is to eliminate time management errors, such as the following 12 mistakes that will sink you in 2022.

1. Falling into the time management trap.

“Time management promises us that if we become more efficient, we can make space to accommodate all of our to-dos comfortably,” writes Dane Jensen for HBR. “And yet, time management is like digging a hole at the beach: the bigger the hole, the more water that rushes in to fill it.” After all, with so many demands, blocking out an hour for downtime in your calendar “is akin to setting off a signal flare announcing your capacity.”

As a result, you tackle a new project, assist someone else with their priorities, or commit to unnecessary meetings.

“This is not to say that time management has no value,” adds Jensen. “Productivity is important. But in a world where burnout is running rampant, we also need strategies for eliminating volume instead of simply accommodating it.”

So, how can we avoid the time management trap? Give the following three strategies a test drive.

Reduce the volume of tasks.

Obvious? Sure. But, a lot of us struggle with this nonetheless.

It’s recommended that you merge your calendar and to-do list to have a complete view of your commitments. Then, if you’re already booked, either decline time requests, delegate or outsource them, or reschedule them when you have availability.

Replace decisions with principles.

Too many decisions can lead to cognitive overload. As a result, you’ll feel overwhelmed and more likely to make errors. To prevent this, establish principles like “No Meeting Wednesdays” or wearing the same outfit daily ala Steve Jobs.

Use structure, not willpower, to minimize distractions.

We waste a lot of time on distractions like email or social media. Use structure to your advantage rather than draining your energy fighting against these distractions.

For example, blocking certain apps and websites when you need to focus on your most important task. Or, check your inbox and social accounts at determined intervals, such as first thing in the morning, after lunch, and before the end of the workday.

2. Not setting personal goals.

“Personal goal setting is essential to managing your time well,” states the Mind Tools Content Team. Why? “Because goals give you a destination and vision to work toward.”

“When you know where you want to go, you can manage your priorities, time, and resources to get there,” they add. “Goals also help you decide what’s worth spending your time on and what’s just a distraction.”

That’s all well and good. But, how can you actually achieve your goals? Well, here are six strategies that Angela Ruth recommends in a previous Calendar piece;

  • Take action right now. Don’t wait until the New Year, or the perfect time, for that matter, to get the ball moving. It won’t be easy, but you’ll “never achieve your goals if you fail to take action,” says Angela.
  • Consider your skills and adjust your plan accordingly. Then, for larger goals, break them down into more manageable chunks. From there, “think about what it’s going to take to accomplish each one of those tasks,” Ruth adds. “This includes looking inwardly and considering your talents and expertise,” as well as admitting your weaknesses.
  • Delegate tasks. Behind every successful individual is a team that complimented their skillsets and gave support when needed.
  • Write down a plan of action. “An action plan is a basic roadmap that you can follow that will get you to your goal,” states Angela. “This is extremely important as it will ensure you won’t miss any major steps along the way.”
  • Make sure that everything is measurable. Not only will this keep you accountable, but it will also help you track your progress.
  • Create accountability and hold yourself to it. At the get-go, you need to define your responsibilities and make them crystal clear so that you’ll follow through.

3. Making everything a top priority.

You’re undoubtedly an essential person with more than your fair share of responsibilities. But, and I can’t stress this enough, not everything is a top priority.

“Instead of believing that everything needs to be done right now, determine which actions indeed are your priorities,” advises Calendar co-founder John Hall. “Ideally, these should be the tasks that move you closer to achieving your goals.” You could also take into account “urgency, due dates, ROI, or the consequences of not completing the task or project.”

Do you still have trouble prioritizing? “Try using a priorities matrix, such as the popular Eisenhower Matrix,” suggests John. “Here, you would list all of your tasks into a four-quadrant box.” After that, you would organize them in the following ways.

  • Urgent and important. These should be considered your top priorities and deserve your attention first.
  • Important, but not urgent. Schedule these tasks when you have the time.
  • Urgent, but not important. These tasks should probably be delegated or outsourced to someone else.
  • Neither urgent nor important. Remove these items from both your to-do list and calendar entirely.

4. Fighting against your circadian rhythms.

If you’ve ever searched for time management tips, I’m positive that you’ve been told to wake up earlier. After all, the most successful people in the world, from Tim Cook to Dwayne “The Rock Johnson,” follow this practice. But, unfortunately, while I get why this could work, it can be counterproductive.

For instance, if you’re an early bird, this makes a ton of sense. You’re less likely to get distracted by waking up before everyone else. But, more importantly, this allows you to work during your prime biological time.

However, this may not be effective if you’re a night owl. Why? Because instead of working with your internal clock, aka your circadian rhythm, you’re going against the grain.

To put this another way, if you’re at peak productivity in the morning, then, by all means, wake up earlier. But, if the opposite is true, don’t force yourself to wake up at three or four in the morning.

5. Using the wrong equipment and methods.

“Everything from desks to chairs matters when you’re trying to achieve a goal,” notes the folks over at Autonomous. “Something like the SmartDesk 4 and the ErgoChair 2 can significantly help you work more productively in the office than some of their counterparts.”

I can personally vouch for the SmartDesk 4 and its excellent sit-stand function. While standing up has been found to increase productivity and combat a sedentary lifestyle, you can take a seat when you need a breather.

In addition to the wrong equipment, you may also be using improper time management methods. For example, the Pomodoro Technique is a popular and effective way to manage your time and encourage breaks. But, some feel this is too restrictive and prefer an attentive like the Flowtime Technique.

6. Being busy, not present.

“Are there obligations that must be met?” asks Deanna Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. “Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean you have to be doing something constantly.”

“It’s been found that being a member of ‘the cult of busy’ creates a chronic stress response in your body and mind.” Eventually, you could experience “symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and gastrointestinal discomforts,” she adds. “You’re also asking for possible cardiac issues as well.”

“But, it’s not merely our physical well-being that we’re putting in harm’s way,” Deanna says. “There’s also a link between stress and depression.” Furthermore, this can put a strain on relationships and hinder your performance.

Specifically, when you’re busy, you miss out on new opportunities and aren’t working to your full potential. Additionally, this prevents you from effectively prioritizing your time, neglecting self-care, and failing to set boundaries.

How can you leave the cult of busy? By focusing on the present by;

  • Don’t ignore the past or future. Instead, allocate specific periods to plan and worry.
  • Do less. I’ve already alluded to this above. Try using the Eisenhower mentioned above Matrix to simplify your to-do lists.
  • Consider the opportunity cost. For example, before accepting a meeting invite, ask yourself if it’s genuinely worth the two hours of your time.
  • Let go of the narrative so that you can focus. Instead, acknowledge what’s holding you back, such as fear. Then, even if valid, imagine them as a soap bubble so that you can pop them.
  • Bring more mindfulness into your life. Make this a part of your daily life by visualizing your goals, practicing gratitude, and going for walks without your phone.
  • Stop overscheduling yourself. “If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say ‘no,’” recommends Derek Sivers.

7. Undervaluing the time something will take to finish.

“Overachievers are especially guilty of this time-management sin,” writes Lisa Evans in Fast Company. “Thinking something will only take a few minutes, and it ends up eating up a half-hour is a common pitfall of A-type overachievers who never want to turn down an opportunity but don’t calculate how much of their time that opportunity will eat up.”

How can you avoid this? Productivity coach Kimberly Medlock suggests writing down how long each task on your to-do list will take to complete.

“If a task takes 25 or 30 minutes, it should be scheduled on your calendar,” adds Evans. “Another trick is to double the amount of time you think each task will take.” So that you anticipate a task taking you a half-hour, you should block out an hour to play it safe.

You should also map out your day either the night before or first thing in the morning. “Every 10 minutes you spend on planning saves you an hour in execution,” says Toggl CEO Alari Aho. I’ll go more detail into this in a minute, but just make sure to leave some white space in your calendar so that it’s flexible.

8. Skipping breaks.

I get it. You’ve got a million things to do and only a finite amount of time to get them done. But, even though it sounds counterintuitive, you can’t afford to skip breaks.

There’s no shortage of evidence on why breaks are so beneficial. But, the main consensus is that breaks give you the chance to reset mentally. As a result, you’ll feel less stressed and have the energy to make it through the workday.

More specifically, frequent breaks have prevented decision fatigue, restored long-term goals motivation, and sparked an “Aha” moment. Best of all? These can be microbreaks, like going for a 10-minute after completing a to-do list item.

9. Wasting time searching for documents and items.

In all honesty, this has long been a problem in the workplace. For instance, an IDC white paper published in 2012 found that information workers and IT professionals spent an average of 4.5 hours per week looking for paper documents. Similar studies show that the average office worker wastes 50 minutes a day trying to locate misplaced files and items.

The obvious solution, in my opinion, is to keep your workspace clean and organized. It doesn’t have to Mr. Clean levels of cleanliness. But, you should give everything a home and return these items to where they belong after you’ve used them. I usually do this on Friday afternoons before calling it a week.

You could also go digital and move relevant paper documents to the cloud. But, this also presents a findability issue and information overload and multitasking. For example, it’s been reported that “54% of US office professionals surveyed agreed that they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages.”

To get around this, you could turn to a unified search solution.

Elastic describes this as “a single search bar for your most-critical content — a one-stop answer shop if you will. With unified search, you can search across all your productivity, collaboration, and storage tools all in one place.” And, ideally, this solution should be;

  • Relevant. “Top-ranked content is surfaced across all the indexed sources, in a single, unified set of results.”
  • Personalized. Since everyone uses different tools, they should be customized based on the user’s preferences.
  • Secure. The solution offers security features like encryption and proper authorization to prevent cyberattacks.
  • Scalable. “A solution that seamlessly scales provides versatility and peace of mind as your search needs grow.”

10. Rigid planning.

Perhaps one of the most significant debates this side of Star Wars or Star Trek or who’s the best Chris in the MCU, is scheduling your time or going with the flow.

Here’s the thing. It’s a balancing act.

Scheduling your priorities, for example, is a must if you want to protect your valuable time. If you don’t, you might end up spending your time and energy on less important tasks. In turn, you could fall behind on deadlines or fail to reach your goals.

Having too much free time can also be detrimental. As mentioned earlier, you need to have some sort of idea of where you’re going and how to get there.

If your schedule is too rigid, then you don’t have the wiggle room and flexibility to address emergencies or unavoidable interruptions. Or, maybe you got a late start to your day because you were procrastinating. If you don’t have free blocks of time in your schedule, then you can’t adjust your plans accordingly.

11. Taking the “ready, aim, fire” approach.

“Always adopt the mindset of ‘ready, fire and aim’ instead of ‘ready, aim and fire’ approach,” writes Shawn Lim over Lifehack. “Always remember that no one is perfect in this world.” And, more importantly, we learn best from our failures and mistakes.

“You don’t have to understand every detail to start,” adds Lim. “You can start right away and figure the rest of the details which you don’t know.” After all, as long as you’re in motion, you’ll “have the edge over people who are always thinking but are not doing anything.”

At the same time, this doesn’t mean you can toss planning and brainstorming by the wayside. Instead, getting started should always be one of your top strategies.

12. Not relieving stress.

Physician and neuroscientist Paul MacLean developed the famous triune brain theory in the 1960s. While his theory has been revised, it mainly argues that we all have three brains.

“The most ancient structure is the reptilian brain, so named because it is made up of the stem and cerebellum,” explains David Hassell, CEO of 15Five. “These structures also appear in reptiles, animals that lack the more developed brain components described below.” Its purpose is to keep us protected as it regulates our heart rate and breathing.

The limbic brain is the next structure. The limbic brain is shared by all mammals “is where emotions, memories, and aggression live,” adds Hassell. It also “controls much of our behavior.”

“When we worry about our social lives and relationships, we recede into our limbic brains,” he explains.

“Finally, we humans and other primates have a specialized structure called the neo-cortex,” says Hassell. Also known as the frontal lobe, it’s “responsible for language and abstract and creative thinking.”

How does this impact time management? “When people feel unsafe at work, their more primitive brain structures are activated, and they can’t access their frontal lobes to innovate,” clarifies Hassell.

Additionally, fear “will trigger their brains to start producing adrenaline and cortisol, and their creative minds will shut down.” In short, stress management and time management go hand-in-hand.

You can use proven techniques like guided meditation and deep breathing exercises to relieve stress. Other suggestions would be physical activity and productively venting to others. Also, create a stress-free work environment by personalizing your workspace and avoiding toxic co-workers.

Goal Setting Not Working? Try These 8 Alternatives

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Goal Setting Not Working? Try These 8 Alternatives

Somewhere in between holiday festivities and wrapping up all of your year-end obligations, you might also be setting your goals for next year. While there’s nothing wrong with that, most of us fail to reach these goals. An astounding 92 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions never follow through, according to researchers at the University of Scranton.

Why do we keep setting ourselves up for failure? That answer varies from person to person. However, some of the most common culprits include;

  • Making goals too vague.
  • Setting unattainable goals.
  • Listing only your long-term goals.
  • Writing your goals as negative statements.
  • You get discouraged when messing up.
  • Your environment doesn’t support your goals.
  • You downplay or don’t celebrate your wins.
  • There’s no system to hold you accountable.

Furthermore, goals hardly translate to daily actions, and some of us don’t track our progress.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve found that goal setting isn’t getting it done, you might want to explore the following eight alternatives going forward.

1. Ask yourself, “Did I do my best?”

Do your best. If it sounds like advice from a kindergarten teacher, well, I get it,” writes freelance writer and Fast Company contributor Daniel Dowling. “Vague goals produce vague results, right?”

However, Dowling found that one undefined goal can prove a punch in the gut reality check when included with a system of daily goals. What’s more, it can lead to tangible results.

The reason why this can work? Firstly, many of us have difficulty determining how much time to dedicate to our goals. When setting goals, we don’t know where to draw the line between ambition and delusion. In turn, this results in us not getting the desired outcome.

When Dowling asked himself, “Did I do my best?” he was confronted with just how much effort he had actually given that day. If he “frittered away most of the day,” he would analyze why and make changes so that he wouldn’t repeat the same mistake again.

“Without asking myself if I’d done my best each day, I’d either have wallowed in self-reproach or failed to reflect on my performance at all. Instead, I’d turned self-criticism into a self-improvement habit,” he wrote.

2. Establish anti-goals.

Is your calendar packed with pointless meetings? Are you burned out from working long hours? Have you questioned your relationships?

If you’ve ever had these types of questions, you can turn things around by setting anti-goals.

While this might seem counterintuitive, “anti-Goals create a balance by showing us a tangible set of values or actions that we don’t want to be,” clarifies Ken Wu.

Originally introduced as a concept called ‘premeditatio malorum,’ which Seneca, Foucault, and Socrates used, “anti-goals give us a benchmark of failure to avoid and allow us to anticipate ourselves at our worst,” he adds. This enables us to develop our first steps of personal growth, and we remain true to ourselves as we develop.

When starting out, Wu focused on the following areas;

  • Values. Do you want to reject any standards or behaviors?
  • Habit. Which actions are you consciously trying to avoid?
  • Physical. What possible health issues do you want to minimize?
  • Emotional. Which mental states do you wish to avoid?
  • Relationships. Do you want to avoid certain relationships? What is your ideal way to interact with others?

To harness the power of anti-goals, however, Wu advises that they shouldn’t consume you. He also says that they shouldn’t make you complacent or remain stagnant. Instead, they must evolve and drive you forward.

3. Set themes.

Although there is a place and time for goals daily, goals often lead to anxiety, regret, and depression rather than fulfillment, pride, and contentment, claims Niklas Göke. This is because we exert pressure on ourselves until we reach our goals. In addition, when we finally do accomplish them, they disappear without a trace.

Moreover, we think that happiness is experienced after this burst of relief. In turn, this inspires us to set a new, bigger goal. However, it remains beyond our reach. In short, it’s a vicious cycle.

Harvard researcher Tal Ben-Shahar calls this “the arrival fallacy” — the illusion that “reaching some future destination will bring lasting happiness.” To combat this, author and entrepreneur James Altucher lives by themes instead of goals that encourage meaning over pleasure.

Göke says that a theme could be a single verb, a noun, or an adjective. “Commit,” “growth,” and “healthy” are all valid themes, he adds. As are “invest,” “help,” “kindness,” and “gratitude.”

“Themes are immune to anxiety about tomorrow,” states Göke. So your regrets about yesterday don’t matter to them either. “All that matters is what you do today, who you are in this second, and how you choose to live right now.”

4. Focus on systems.

According to James Clear, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, asserts that there are several problems with goals, including;

  • Both winners and losers have the same goals.
  • Attaining a goal is a momentary change.
  • Goals can restrict your happiness.
  • Goals are often at odds with a long-term process.

Because of this — look at, Clear champions systems over goals. These are simply daily processes and habits. For example, exercising for 30-minutes before work or learning a new skill for 10-minutes after lunch. Even though you didn’t set a specific outcome, like losing 50 pounds or becoming fluent in Spanish, systems are flexible and help you make progress.

This is well described by Clear using a rowboat metaphor. Consider goals as the rudder and systems as the paddles: “Goals determine your direction. Systems determine your progress.”

5. Burn or burn.

Okay. This might seem a little radical and potentially dangerous. However, it might be worth trying if you struggle to complete those necessary but dreadful tasks needed to reach a goal. And, here’s how it works, according to Nir Eyal in an Observer post.

  • Pick your routine. For instance, going to the gym.
  • Book your time. Block out time in your schedule for the routine. Routines can’t be performed if you don’t reserve the time to arrange an appointment or meeting.
  • Find a crisp $100 bill — or any denomination that you wouldn’t want to lose.
  • Find a lighter.
  • Buy a wall calendar and place it somewhere you’ll see daily.
  • Place the lighter near the wall calendar and tape the $100 bill to today’s date.

There are now two options available to you. On any given day, when it’s time to perform your routine, you have the option to choose either option A and perform the routine, in my case to feel the “burn” in the gym, or option B and literally burn money, explains Eyal. The money can’t be given to someone or spent on anything; it must be set ablaze.

Not only is it dangerous to actually light the bill, but it’s also illegal. However, science has found that just the thought of watching your hard-earned money aflame can motivate you to complete the tasks that you don’t want to.

6. Adopt a mantra.

The process of achieving a goal often involves changing your habits as well. Of course, this is always easier said than done. After all, when some of us experience setbacks, we tend to get so disappointed that we simply quit.

Perhaps you should adopt a “mantra” instead of a resolution if this describes you. As a result of being overextended, entrepreneur Reshma Chamberlin tried this approach by incorporating a yearly “anchor.”

For Chamberlin, as she told Fast Company’s Jenna Abdou, “It’s not a single objective, like go to the gym every day. Instead, your mantra is a conscious choice to take control of your life.” For example, her 2017 mantra was, “Ask, and you shall receive.” Through this motto, she was felt more empowered to pursue new experiences.

When setting mantas, though, Chamberlin suggests that they are positive and deliberate. And, the mantra is too unrealistic or making you unhappy; try a different one.

7. Make a PACT.

“Instead of SMART goals, which don’t encourage ambitious, long-term endeavors, I prefer to make a PACT with myself,” notes Anne-Laure Le Cunff over at Ness Labs. “While a SMART goal focuses on the outcome, the PACT approach focuses on the output.”

In short, rather than pursuing a well-defined goal, it’s about continuous growth. In this regard, it can be a valuable alternative to SMART goals.

But, what exactly does PACT stand for?

  • Purposeful. An appropriate goal should be relevant to your long-term purpose in life, not just to your immediate needs. It’s much easier to get and stay motivated when your goals are aligned with your passions and priorities.
  • Actionable. You should have a goal that is both actionable and controllable. Focusing on immediate outputs rather than overplanning for distant outcomes in the future is the key to shifting your mindset.
  • Continuous. Choice paralysis prevents so many people from achieving their goals, explains Le Cunff. This happens when you have so many options that you spend more time researching than actually doing things to further your goal. One benefit of continuous goals is that they’re flexible and repeatable. That means focusing on continuous improvement is more important than a pre-determined endpoint.
  • Trackable. Not measurable, Anne-Laure Le Cunff adds. Often, statistics are overrated and don’t apply to a wide variety of goals. As with the GitHub tracker, Le Cunff likes the “yes” or “no” approach to goal tracking as it makes tracking progress a breeze.

8. Don’t set goals at all.

According to Leo Babauta, the author behind Zen Habits, sometimes the best goal is no goal at all.

“Today, I live mostly without goals. Now and then, I start coming up with a goal, but I’m letting them go,” he writes. “Living without goals hasn’t ever been an actual goal of mine … it’s just something I’m learning that I enjoy more, that is incredibly freeing, that works with the lifestyle of following my passion that I’ve developed.”

That may sound liberating in theory, but how does this actually work?

He explains that there’s no goal for the year, the month, the week, or the day. You don’t obsess over tracking or actionable steps. There’s even no need for a to-do list, though jotting down reminders is fine.

“What do you do, then? Lay around on the couch all day, sleeping and watching TV and eating Ho-Hos?” he asks. Of course not. You just do.

“You find something you’re passionate about, and do it, Leo states. “Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.”

As a result, Leo says that he can accomplish more than if he had goals since he’s always doing something that excites him. But, that’s ultimately not the point. Instead, he emphasizes, “all that matters is that I’m doing what I love, always.”

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Time Blocking

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Time Blocking

For most of us, we’re at least familiar with the concept of time blocking. After all, the practice of time blocking has been around for nearly as long we’ve been using calendars. In fact, Bronze Age calendars seem to have reflected specific agricultural activities to prevent crop spoilage.

While time blocking for personal use is a more recent development, it’s still been practiced for years. So, it was somewhat surprising to read that it’s all the rage on TikTok. As USA Today notes, over 3.1 million views have been generated on the video-sharing platform using the hashtag #timeblocking.

But, before you jump on the time blocking bandwagon, let’s describe what it is, who’s it for, and the pros and cons.

What’s Time Blocking and Who Should Use It?

As the name implies, blocking your time is a way to plan your day into manageable chunks. More specifically, each block of time is devoted to one particular task or a group of similar activities.

Simple, right?

In contrast to a to-do list, time blocking tells you when and what to do at any given time. The idea may seem counterintuitive at first. However, having your Calendar divided into blocks makes you task-focused. And, it also limits others from invading your valuable time.

Furthermore, time blocking lets you begin each day with a set of specific tasks to complete rather than following an ever-expanding to-do list.

Unfortunately, time blocking won’t help you manage your attention and focus better if your Calendar is chock-full of meetings and overlapping meetings. On the flip side, the use of time blocking can be used to increase productivity when you have an abundance of available time. As Parkinson’s Law states, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” So, time blocking can be used to regain control over your Calendar and schedule work strategically.

You may want to consider time blocking if:

  • Multitasking is something you do frequently
  • You have trouble focusing on one task
  • You’re prone to getting distracted
  • Meetings rule your days, and you’re unable to focus on what matters most
  • At work, you want to be intentional with your time and energy
  • You need more insight into how you spend each day
  • Overworking is a problem for you
  • You must handle a lot of different responsibilities, tasks, and projects as part of your job
  • You want to achieve more goals and boost your productivity

Advantages of Time Blocking

Highlights your priorities.

In my opinion, the main advantage of time blocking is that it clarifies what your priorities are. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a to-do list, they don’t account for time. That means you could underestimate how long a task takes you to complete. In turn, you can end up with an unrealistically long list that won’t be completed. And that can leave you deflated when there are still items that haven’t been crossed off.

You can only schedule your most important tasks for each day because your Calendar only has so many blocks each day. Therefore, you should prioritize your three or five most important and urgent responsibilities for today. As for everything, they can be scheduled for another time or delegated to someone else.

Replaces to-do lists.

The NY Times best-selling author and LEADx founder Kevin Kruse found that after interviewing over 200 billionaires, including Olympians, straight-A students, and entrepreneurs, they shared a similar trait. “Ultra-productive people don’t work from a to-do list, but they do live and work from their calendar.”

As previously mentioned, and as Kruse further explains in a piece for Forbesto-do lists don’t take time into consideration. “When we have a long list of tasks, we tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly in a few minutes, leaving the longer items left undone.” Research shows “that 41% of all to-do list items are never completed!”

In addition, Kruse believes lists aren’t able to distinguish between urgent and essential items. Lists can also cause stress through the Zeigarnik effect. This concept states that we generally remember what has been completed better than what has been unfinished. Due to this, we may feel overwhelmed due to these “intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts.” And, for some, lists can cause insomnia.

Fights against perfectionism and procrastination.

Procrastination and perfectionism. Arguably, these are the biggest enemies of time management. Thankfully, Both of these adversaries can be foiled using time blocking.

Generally, it’s recommended that you block your Calendar with your most challenging tasks first when using the blocking method. As a result, this will allow you to conserve your energy and willpower for the remainder of the day.

In addition, time blocks can help you break larger projects into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Enhances concentration and focus.

“High-quality work produced is a function of two things—the amount of time you spend on the work and the intensity of your focus during this time,” Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work,” told Fast Company. “If you can increase your focus, you’ll get more done in less time.”

By discouraging multitasking, time blocking helps you to improve your focus. It also keeps you from being distracted and context switching. You could, for instance, use an app to block distracting smartphone notifications for an hour as you dive into deep work.

Additionally, this will improve your quality of work as well as your productivity. Why? As opposed to spreading your focus and energy across multiple tasks, you dedicate 100% of your attention and energy to the current task.

Ensures you follow through with goals.

Making a concrete plan helps people achieve their goals, according to researchers. As such, you’re more likely to accomplish your goals and tasks if you schedule them.

As you might have guessed, creating concrete plans becomes much easier when you block time in your Calendar. Mainly this is because it forces you to focus on specific tasks that can help you reach your goals and when you’ll work on them.

Protects your health.

I might sound like a broken here. But, if you want to improve or protect both your physical and mental health, then you need to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. When we overcommit ourselves, however, this becomes a challenge.

As a result of that, we feel more stressed and have less time to attend to our health during the day. Therefore, you should schedule time for physical activity, eating a real meal, and sleeping times to stay in excellent form.

Also, schedule time to stay mentally sharp, which can also reduce stress. Specifically, set aside times for reading, learning something new, or bringing a skill into play.

Helps you stop being a people pleaser.

Being a people pleaser isn’t always a bad trait. After all, having a meaningful relationship with others depends on being concerned and caring. However, this does become a problem if you say “yes” to gain approval to bolster your self-esteem or if you put the happiness and goals of others ahead of your own.

As a result of being a people pleaser, you may experience more stress and anxiety. What’s more, this can lead to anger, frustration, and less resolve to pursue your own goals. And, oddly enough, this can actually weaken relationships.

While time blocking won’t be the sole solution, it can help you stop being a people pleaser. How so? Well, let’s say that a colleague asks you to help them on a project. If you have already blocked out your Calendar for your own work, you can say “no” to them because you’re busy. As a compromise, you could lend them a hand when you’re available.

Disadvantages of Time Blocking

Using the time blocking technique takes a lot of time.

There’s no way around this. Time blocking takes a lot of time and effort. And, depending on how detailed you are, it can also be stressful. I mean, just close your eyes for a minute and imagine the stress of breaking your day into 5-minute slots like Elon Musk.

For most, that’s counterintuitive and exceedingly inflexible. Perhaps this is why some people abandon the time blocking method.

Murphy’s Law.

I’m sure that you’re familiar with Murphy’s Life, which in its simplest form states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” But, what exactly does this have to do with time blocking?

Again, if you block out every minute of your day, there isn’t wiggle room for constant interruptions, urgent tasks, and the unexpected. For example, last week, I had an internet outage while trying to meet a deadline. Not only was I irritated that this threw off my schedule, but the thought of missing the deadline also increased my stress level.

Your stress level is even more significant if you require more flexibility in your business life — like executives or salespeople.

We’re terrible at estimating time.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a month. Likewise, we overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade,” Matthew Kelly wrote in “The Long View.”

Even if you believe you’re decent at estimating time, there will be times when you’re still off. For instance, you might block out an hour to analyze data, write a blog post, or winterize your car. But, in reality, it takes closer to two. The result is that time is eaten up by one task after another. And, eventually, your day is thrown into chaos after a series of errors like this.

It kicks you out of the zone.

Let’s say that you only planned to write for an hour. So, you block that time out in your Calendar for this. When the hour is up, though, you want to keep going because you’re in the zone. If you’re going to follow your schedule diligently, then you have to stop writing, or you’re going to bleed into another block.

We rarely have the same schedule.

Even if you have the traditional 9-to-5 gig, each day is still different. For example, one day, you’re working on administrative tasks, another, you’re in meetings, and another, you’re tackling a project. That can make time blocking tricky and more complicated. Time blocking issues can be especially tricky unless you only schedule for the day what has to be done of that day — don’t add other obligations.

Or, even if you do have the same schedule day in and out, this can lead to monotony. Over time, monotony can put you in a rut where you accomplish less.

Sunk costs can cause you to make the wrong decisions.

According to the sunk cost fallacy, once people have invested money, effort, or time into an endeavor, they tend to carry on. Accordingly, if you are more deliberate about your time blocks, it could be more challenging to let go if things don’t go as planned.

It doesn’t help you begin the work you have scheduled.

Just because you’re supposed to start a task at 10 a.m. doesn’t mean that’s going to happen if you’re not feeling it. While sometimes just sucking it up and just starting can help, there are days when you’re dragging. So, if you begin working 30-minutes later than scheduled, this can throw off the rest of your day.

How to Time Block Correctly

Is time blocking for everyone? Of course not. But, if you believe that it can be beneficial for you, here are some recommendations on how to time block correctly.

  • Block your priorities. Create a daily to-do list of all the tasks you must complete. Then, sort each task by priority. Now, take your list and block out the most important and urgent for first thing in the morning.
  • Stop working on clock time — work when you’re most productive. Instead, plan your schedule based on when you’re most productive. Usually, this is based on your circadian rhythm.
  • Create theme days. As an example, spend Mondays recruiting, Tuesdays in meetings, and Wednesdays on creative projects.
  • Reserve breaks and time off. Keep an empty block of time on your schedule at all times. These blocks can be used for meditation, walks, or staring out the window. They also give you more flexibility in your schedule.
  • Set boundaries — but be flexible. Despite your best efforts to plan ahead, life is full of surprises. To accommodate this, leave empty blocks of time for adjustments or unexpected events.
  • Create time blocks for things that happen. You should also block out specific times for your priorities and rest as well as those things that really matter, such as administrative and creative tasks, family time, and self-care.
  • Use a calendar to track your blocks. Having the top calendar app is paramount to successful time blocking, mainly because it can track your blocks and avoid conflicts.
  • Revise. Last but not least, track your progress every week or month and revise your schedule if necessary. For instance, if you planned to write a blog post for two hours, but it only took you one, adjust your schedule to reflect that by advancing your next task.

Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

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Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

In order for the company to achieve its goals, everyone from top to bottom must be productive. Additionally, productivity will motivate employees, increase morale, and promote a more positive work environment. All of these, by the way, is essential if you want you and your team to get excited about work following COVID.

As you know, you must become an effective leader to improve your team’s productivity. But, that’s often easier said than done. Thankfully, you can improve your leadership skills using the following strategies. In turn, this will pave the way for productivity.

1. Don’t be a boss.

Initially, this may sound like a contradiction. But, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” As it turns out, the Bull Moose was 100% right.

As Building Champions notes, the key differences between a boss and a leader are;

  • Leaders focus on sustainable solutions, while bosses prefer quick fixes. Leaders show subordinates how and why to do things, while managers cultivate a micromanaged environment.
  • Unlike bosses, leaders are more emotionally intelligent. In contrast to subject matter experts, leaders are emotionally and people-savvy. Great leaders are empathetic, but also very capable of controlling their emotions.
  • Leaders manage people while bosses manage work. Leaders motivate people to achieve specific goals, while bosses control them. Influential leaders influence, inspire, and encourage others to make an organization successful.
  • Unlike a boss, a leader is someone who listens and speaks. Subordinates are expected to listen and obey their bosses when they deliver orders. Regardless of the title of the individual, leaders listen to everyone’s opinions.
  • Leaders encourage rather than criticize. Even though constructive criticism is healthy, excessive and constant criticism can be discouraging. An outstanding leader strikes the right balance between constructive criticism and rewarding employees when they excel.
  • Leaders create more leaders, not just circles of power. It’s considered a form of competition by the boss to hog all the power and authority. Instead, through delegation, education, and providing the right resources, a leader creates other leaders.

2. Effective communicators.

Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of increasing productivity among your team. Overall, members of your team should feel comfortable talking to you about challenges they are facing. But, if you want this to happen, you need to provide ample time to meet with them. And, you also need to make sure that you actually listen to them without judgment.

If this is an area that needs work, encourage your team to speak up during meetings. You can also put them more at ease by informally chatting with them, like during lunch. Other suggestions you can practice would be;

  • Make sure everyone is kept in the loop. Always keep the lines of communication open. Teams are more motivated when leaders are transparent and keep them informed.
  • Listen with empathy. Communication is a two-way street. As such, you must listen attentively to your employees. The more you listen to their concerns and implement changes, the more you will display respect as well as improve productivity and work processes.
  • Be careful about the medium you choose. Cooperation and healthy work culture will be enhanced with a suitable communication medium or tool. Examples include email, Slack, and Zoom.

3. Walk the talk.

Leading by example is a simple and effective way to increase your team’s productivity. If you do this frequently, your team will eventually become more productive. For instance, if you want your team members to show up to team meetings on time, you must make it a point to arrive early.

By setting the bar for productivity, your employees will most likely follow suit. After all, leadership is about influencing others to be more efficient.

4. Grant ownership.

Ownership is a powerful business principle understood by the best leaders. The best way to give ownership to team members? Let them make their own decisions and hold them accountable for those decisions.

You can induce a sense of responsibility in your team members when they’re held accountable for their work. As a result, it becomes apparent to them that their decisions can directly impact the performance of everyone else.

There are several different ways to take ownership of a project. For example, one employee could be a project manager, while another focuses on research. Regardless of the exact responsibility, this builds their self-confidence. How? Because it shows that you trust them to get the job done on time.

5. Bring more humanity into the workplace.

“As a leader, you can be the one to ignite more humanity at work,” write Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer in Fast Company. “Take time to pause and reflect on how you may be contributing to a work environment where people are disengaged.”

“Your people are watching you all the time, taking cues from what you do and say,” they add. “What is your impact? Are you helping their work feel deeper and more connected? When you do, people will give more of themselves, and business wins.”

In other words, without humanity, your employees will continue to suffer a toxic burnout. But, thanks to the following five practices, you can successfully bring more humanity into the workplace.

  • Creating safety. Having a sense of belonging allows individuals to feel safe, fully express themselves, and know what they have to offer.
  • Working together. Establish and work towards achieving a common goal. Also, “be sure every team member feels heard and knows their contributions are valued,” they advise.
  • Claiming values. Clarity and intentionality come from knowing what you stand for. It’s your job as a leader to help your employees learn about their values and to understand why they do what they do.
  • Owning your impact. “When you take responsibility for your impact, it creates personal accountability; your words and your actions align,” add Cohen and Roeske-Zummer. In order to own your impact, you have to be personally responsible for the work you do and the culture you create.
  • Daring not to know. Leaders who show they are human, vulnerable, and do not know all the answers, allow others to step up. The strength of an organization depends on not knowing. You can take charge by saying, “I don’t have the answer for that, what do you think?”

6. Encourage learning opportunities.

Companies offering extensive training have 218% higher income per employee than companies with no formal training, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Moreover, these companies have 24% higher profit margins than those who haven’t invested as much in training.

As if that weren’t enough, employing training and development encourages engagement and retains your top talent. Whether if it’s paying for in-person/online classes, bringing in speakers, or attending workshops, everyone in your organization, including yourself, should be enhancing and learning new skills.

7. Offer incentives.

Research conducted by Genesis Associates in 2018 found that 85% of the employees surveyed felt highly motivated to perform their best when there was an incentive. Why? One reason is that when we feel appreciated, we’re encouraged to repeat the behaviors and habits that made us productive in the first place.

It is essential to consider the employee’s individual needs or preferences when deciding how to reward them. For example, some might prefer public recognition depending on your employees, while others would rather have privately expressed thanks. Besides simple words of appreciation, you can also consider the following incentives:

  • A handwritten note. By sending them a handwritten note, you show your appreciation and that you care enough to take the time to thank them personally.
  • Take them out to lunch. This is also an excellent way to get to them better. If they’re working remotely, you could have food delivered to their home.
  • PTO. If you don’t wish to give your employees a bonus or raise, you can offer paid time off in lieu of vacation and sick days.
  • Introducing a wellness program. You can reduce your company’s health insurance costs and sick days by implementing a workplace wellness program.
  • Lazy Monday/Friday Coupons. Employees can use these coupons to arrive late on Monday mornings or leave early on Fridays.

8. Reduce phantom workload.

Introduced by Marilyn Paul, Ph. D., and David Peter Stroh, phantom workload “is the unintentional work created when people either take expedient but ineffective shortcuts or avoid taking on such as essential.”

Examples include complex tasks like:

  • Clarifying mission, vision, and values
  • Asking questions that challenge what is ambiguous or unrealistic
  • Identifying and resolving conflicts
  • Clarifying and streamlining decision-making processes
  • Providing candid, constructive feedback
  • Differentiating people with sanctions and rewards
  • Launching innovative projects
  • Making decisions that require disinvestment in programs or projects

“When not addressed, the phantom workload leads to a variety of consequences such as rework, unproductive meetings, organizational conflicts, and fractured relationships,” explains Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. In addition, it wastes time since we keep working on “the same problem over and over again.” Eventually, phantom workload “leads to greater stress and a further reluctance or inability to engage in difficult tasks.”

The good news? You can rescue phantom workload through tactics, such as;

  • Setting a limited amount of realistic goals for you and your team.
  • Changing your behavior by identifying why you want to change.
  • Planning out your day and protecting your time.
  • Asking others for help.
  • Using rewards or inspirational resources like Ted Talks for motivation.
  • Overcoming procrastination through mindfulness or working on the most challenging task first.

And “experiment with different time management and strategies,” Deanna suggests. “There will be some trial and error involved. But, it’s the only way that you’ll discover what works best for you.”

9. Give each other feedback.

Introducing a team feedback process is the final but most important item on the list. When employees aren’t aware they are being inefficient, then how can they improve their performance?

With that in mind, that’s why performance reviews and constructive feedback are essential and not a nuisance. It’s a proven way to guide employees in strengthening their weaknesses.

Additionally, don’t forget to ask them how you could help them improve after giving them the feedback. For example, maybe a little bit more guidance would be useful on specific tasks. Or perhaps that could use a little more creative freedom. And, to further encourage a culture of trust and open dialogue, ask them where you can improve to become a better leader.

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