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10 Time Management Skills Every Person Should Cultivate

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10 Time Management Skills Every Person Should Cultivate

To be successful, everyone needs to continue to add to their skillsets. Each entrepreneur, startup, and small business will have its set of “how-tos” that are vital. Then there will be the set of skills that are the essential ones to know.  Search your business and become the best you can at your particular business space. Time management will assist you forever in getting better at performing your tasks. Here are 10 excellent time management skills every person should cultivate.

We also have essential life skills everyone should know. Examples include:

  • Housekeeping skills — basic home repairs, cleaning after yourself, and knowing how to cook at least one signature dish.
  • Survival skills — knowing how to change a tire, administrative basic first aid, and living without electronic for more than an hour.
  • Professional skills — minimum skills required; writing a resume, networking, preparing for an interview, and negotiating a raise.
  • Money management skills — being able to create and stick to a budget and calculating a tip.
  • Self-awareness and relationship skills — knowing your strengths and weaknesses, basic etiquette, being respectful, and learning how to communicate.

Those possessing these skills will get further in life — you can’t respond to life events well without some of the basics. But, they also make life more fulfilling and can give you a little self-confidence boost. However, one set of skills that often get overlooked are those related to time management.

Some of these greater and lesser skills go hand-in-hand with each other. For example, being respectful of others motivates you to arrive on-time and never keep people waiting. However, for the most part, when it comes to time management, it’s in a category on its own.

So, if you’re ready to manage your time effectively, here are the 10-time management skills every person should have.

1. Plan your day around priorities and goals.

The most successful and productive people are well aware that they must address both essential and urgent matters daily. Here’s their secret though; they how to balance the two.

It’s definitely an art to master this juggling act. But, it’s possible when you know what priorities need your attention to know and what can be dealt with at another time. To assist you with this, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix. This Matrix is where you evaluate all of your tasks and separate them as follows:

  • Urgent and vital — these you’ll do immediately since they are pushing you closer to achieving a goal.
  • Important, but not urgent — tasks that can be scheduled for later.
  • Urgent, but not important — these the things that can be delegated.
  • Neither urgent nor important — these are the tasks that can be deleted altogether.

According to Calendar’s Howie Jones, the secret behind an amazing time management strategy is able “to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency.”

Once you’ve identified your priorities, you should schedule them when you have the most energy and focus — or, in other words, when you’re “in the zone.” For most of us, that’s in the morning. Also, completing your most important task of the day in the morning gives you the momentum to tackle the rest of the items on your to-do list. If a priority or goal is a big one, break it up into more manageable chunks.

2. Effectively use your time.

There are a couple of ways to effectively use your time. The first is being more present and giving your full attention to what deserves it at this moment. For example, you can’t be engaged in a conversation or meeting when you keep looking at your phone every time you receive a message. It’s not only disrespectful, but it could also cause you to miss an essential piece of information or not being an active participant.

The other way to effectively use your time is to get creative. Let’s say that you’re sitting in a waiting room for an appointment or meeting. There might be a TV with a talk show that you stare at because it’s there. Or, you could get sucked into mindless social media nonsense. Either way, that time you were sitting, there could have been used to catch-up on your emails or the latest industry news.

3. Schedule it, do it and forget it.

“No one can multitask, even people who pride themselves on their ability to do so,” writes Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. Research shows that multitasking cuts efficient and even raises risks.

“Avoid the temptation to multitask by scheduling time to handle batches of small tasks throughout the day,” suggests Angela. “For example, set one time during the morning and one time during the afternoon to answer emails, then ignore the inbox outside those windows. Schedule a couple of short breaks to avoid burnout and maintain focus.”

What’s more, you can eliminate indecisiveness “by setting deadlines on when to make final choices.” It could be as simple as making a phone call to a vendor by Friday morning or settling on a flight in the next 10 minutes. “Get into the habit of acting on available information to cut down on unnecessary balking. If the decision isn’t correct — you can pivot just as quickly.”

4. Become a master-batcher.

Speaking of multitasking, did you know that productivity decreases by 40% when we attempt to focus on more than one thing at a time? That’s because according to Peter Bregman

In a piece for The Harvard Business Review, we’re not multitasking. “We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.”

The most effective way around this is not just focusing on one thing at a time. It’s grouping similar tasks together and knocking them out at the same time. Instead of checking your email and social media feeds every time you receive a notification, don’t allow yourself to check more than three times a day. Check once before jumping into work, right after lunch, and at the end of your workday.

5. Pencil in time for distractions and interruptions.

Batching is also a great way to handle distractions. Turn your phone off while working and don’t worry that you’re missing something important. You’ll be confident in this action because you know you’ve planned to check your phone when it’s time. However, no matter how hard you try, distractions and interruptions are inevitable.

One way to manage these distractions is to add blocks of free time into your schedule. So, if a co-worker wants to speak with you, let them know that you currently not available to chat. But you can talk to them at one pm.

Another perk of this is if there’s an emergency. For example, you were zoned in on your work when suddenly a frantic knock on your door interrupts you. A colleague lets you know that the company network has been compromised. Something this important needs your immediate attention. Once it’s resolved, you can use that free block of time to go back to work without completely getting your schedule off-track.

6. Stop biting off more than you can chew.

There are a variety of reasons why you may be tempted to overextend yourself. At work, you pick-up extra hours or take on a new project because you want the extra money or don’t want to upset your boss. Socially, you accept every social invite because of FOMO.

The reality is that if you already have a full schedule, spreading yourself too thin could have some repercussions like scheduling conflicts or delivering subpar work. And, as previously discussed, it prevents you from focusing on your priorities.

7. Add “no” to your vocabulary.

“I honestly believe that the main reason why time is an issue for so many of us is that we can’t say ‘no’ says Howie Jones. “We can’t turn out an invite to an unproductive meeting or social event. And, we can’t tell others that we already have enough work to focus on and can’t take on any more responsibilities.”

The downside to this is that if you’re always saying “yes,” “then you’re letting other people take control of your time.”

While I get why “no” isn’t a word we like to say, you don’t want anyone to be offended; it has to become a part of your vocabulary. And, you can accomplish that, without ticking anyone off, y doing the following:

  • Be transparent and upfront. Don’t lie or make excuses. People will understand if you’ve already made a social commitment or have a full workload.
  • Don’t initially fully commit. “Let’s say someone invites you to lunch. You don’t have to accept or reject the request immediately,” adds Jones. “Tell your caller that you have to check your calendar and you’ll get back to them before the end of the day tomorrow.”
  • Offer alternative solutions. You may be booked solid for the next two weeks. If there are openings three weeks from now, ask your client to meet then, for example. If not, refer them to a colleague.
  • Always be polite and professional. “Simply saying ‘thanks’ can go a long way.”

8. Develop your emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence can be defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” What does that have to do with time management? Well, EI can assist you with problem-solving, calm you down, and improve your communication skills — all of which can be applied to time management. For example, when you frustrated, it’s almost impossible to give your full attention to the task you’re currently working on.

Moreover, those with strong EI possess qualities like not being a perfectionist and being able to balance life and work. Also, EI can help you establish boundaries, maintain motivation, and be more aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are.

Overall, improving your EI can help you stay focused on completing your most productive tasks. Make sure that functions are aligned with your goals.

9. Learn how to delegate and outsource.

Remember the Eisenhower Matrix that you used to help you determine your priorities? If you recall, it also encouraged you to hand-off specific responsibilities to others. These are usually essential tasks that aren’t exactly worthy of your time.

For example, you could hire a service to clean your home or office. Spend the saved time on more productive areas like building your business or spending time with your family. If you don’t enjoy writing, but there’s an employee who does, you could ask them to take over your company’s blog.

Just keep in mind that delegation isn’t handing off all of your responsibilities to someone else. It’s assigning the right work to the right people so that you can open up sometime in your schedule.

10. Find a time management technique that works for you.

Finally, experiment with different time management techniques that work best for you. I’ve mentioned the Eisenhower Matrix several times. While that could be helpful for a lot of people, it may not be sufficient for you. Instead, approaches like the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done Technique, Rapid Planning Method, or Pareto Principle may be better suited for you.

Don’t expect you to solve all of your time management issues overnight. It’s a process that involves some trial and error. And, most importantly, it’s continually working on and improving upon your skills until you get it just right.

Build Your Energy, Build Your Productivity

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Build Your Energy, Build Your Productivity

There is a direct line between energy and productivity. When you feel zapped, you just aren’t going to get as much done. But, unlike time, there are ways to build your energy levels.

What happens when you achieve this? You’ll surpass expectations because you’re a lean, mean productivity machine. And, it’s really not all that difficult if you do the following.

Get the best sleep ever.

I know this is a give-in. But, so many of us aren’t getting enough sleep each night. Some of us are even engaging in some revenge bedtime procrastination.

The ugly truth is that sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. In addition to a lack of energy, you could experience everything from mental health disorders to physical ailments like cardiovascular disease. Other symptoms include poor decision-making, reduced attention span, and burnout.

The good news? You can treat yourself to the best sleep ever by;

  • Setting a sleep schedule based on your circadian rhythm.
  • Making your bedroom resemble a cave — it should be cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Gradually power down by avoiding electronics at least an hour before bed.
  • Cutoff coffee at least six hours before bedtime.
  • Wear socks to bed.
  • Implement an evening routine that involves progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Investing in a new mattress, pillows, and bedding.

Also, it’s alright if you take a nap as well. Just keep it under 20-minutes and not too late in the afternoon.

Fight fatigue with the right diet.

A close second to getting a good night’s rest? What you’re eating and when. Here are some suggestions courtesy of the Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia;

  • Stay hydrated, but don’t backlog water at the end of the day if you don’t want to wake up all night. Stop drinking water about four hours before bed.
  • Have carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods such as cereals or wholegrain bread for breakfast.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Eat healthy foods, like fruits and veggies. You can also enjoy low-fat dairy products and lean meats.
  • Try eating six-mini meals as opposed to three large meals to prevent overeating.

Close open-loops.

“Is there something you’ve had on your mind for weeks, months, or maybe even years that you haven’t completed?” asks Amanda Bucci. For example, have been putting off that dentist or doctor appointment? How about that package that requires a trip to the post office?

These are called “open loops. And, even though you don’t realize it, they quietly drain a lot of energy out of you. Why? Because they occupy valuable space in your subconscious.

“Instead of wasting effort by having your brain remind you of that thing you haven’t done, take an hour, day, or week to close the loop and do that thing,” advises Bucci.

Don’t be shady.

Even novice comic book fans know that Superman is powered by the yellow sun. But, you don’t have to be from Krypton to also harness the power of the sun.

Case in point, seasonal affective disorder. Many people feel more lethargic during the colder months of the year because they aren’t exposed to much natural light. Remember the tanning bed if you occasionally need it.

However, a study done by Prof Mirjam Muench, associate research professor for the Sleep/Wake Center in New Zealand, further verifies the need for natural sunlight. He compared the effects of natural and artificial lights. The result was that those who worked under fluorescent lighting were more tired at the end of the day.

Those who were fortunate enough to work somewhere with natural or blue (wavelength) lighting? They were actually more active after the workday.

Take a grateful stroll.

Another way to soak up the sun? Go outside for a walk — even during the winter. As an added perk, this gets your body moving and gives you a chance to clear your head.

But, you can bolster your daily walk by practicing gratitude.

Going for a 10-minute “thank you” walk is a technique that “combines the power of gratefulness with the positive effects of walking and exercise,” explains Jon Gordon, a professional speaker, energy coach, and author of Become an Energy Addict. As a result, this floods “your brain with happy neurotransmitters and endorphins.”

“It’s a simple yet powerful exercise that energizes the mind and body and builds mental and physical muscle,” Gordon adds.

Stop hanging out with wet rags.

We are social creatures. A 79-year-old-Harvard study even found that embracing community helps us live longer and be happier.

However, not all relationships are equal.

Carve out some alone time and reflect on your relationships. If there are people who are toxic and draining, remove them from your life. And, spend more time with those who are positive, supportive, and give you a jolt of energy.

Keep stress and workload at bay.

“Stress-induced emotions consume huge amounts of energy,” notes Harvard Health Publishing. “Talking with a friend or relative, joining a support group, or seeing a psychotherapist can all help diffuse stress.” You can also try relaxation therapies, such as meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and tai chi.

Another culprit? Overwork. Examples “include professional, family, and social obligations,” adds the publication.

“Try to streamline your list of ‘must-do’ activities,” the authors suggest. “Set your priorities in terms of the most important tasks. Pare down those that are less important.”

Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate some of your responsibilities. And, don’t feel guilty if you have to say “no.”

Set reminders to look away and stretch.

Staring at a computer screen for too long can cause eye fatigue, which eventually can cause headaches, dizziness, and overall exhaustion,” says Adina Smarandache, an internist at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in San Diego. The answer? Live by the rule of 20.

Here’s how it works, set a timer or reminder for every 20 minutes. At this time, stare at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s a simple way to refresh your eyes, which will also rejuvenate your body.

And, while you’re taking a quick break, use that time to stretch. Whether if it’s an upward stretch or elbow plank, doing this pose. realigns your body and gets your blood circulating.

Put your records on.

The great Ray Charles once said, “Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.”

And, he was naturally correct.

Music is, in fact, an incredible force of nature. In fact, music has been found to;

  • Help you become more immersed in your work.
  • Improve cognition and mood.
  • Move your brain to pay attention.
  • Boost both mental and physical performance.
  • Encourage you to work faster and more efficiently.
  • Increase morale and work environment.

While listening to your favorite songs can release dopamine, just note that there are exceptions. For instance, listening to intelligible lyrics can be distracting.

Get your clutter under control.

A little bit of clutter? Not the worst thing in the world.

But, too much? It can negatively impact your mental and physical health.

All that dust can be terrible for your allergies. Piles of paperwork can cause anxiety, stress, and procrastination. No wonder people describe clutter as “suffocating.”

While it may not be the most thrilling of chores, you need to block out time to clean and organize your workspace. At home, donate or sell the clothes you no longer wear in your closet. And, even clean out your inbox and computer files.

Don’t overwhelm yourself though. Take baby starts.

For example, in-between a meeting, wipe down your desktop and toss the trash. During your next break, organize a drawer. Before you know it, you’ll have your entire work area fresh, clean, and free of clutter.

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

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What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

The other night I thought that as soon as my head hit the pillows, I would be out cold. I had one of those non-stop days. You know, getting ahead of work and attending to household responsibilities like laundry.

A peculiar thing happened. I laid there wide awake.

So, I decided to read a book to calm down. When I felt drowsy enough, I put the book down but continued to toss and turn. Frustrated, I grabbed my phone and turned on a podcast until I eventually fell asleep.

I was well aware that it was past my bedtime. I also knew that I was going to pay for not going to bed on time by dragging all day tomorrow. But, I just couldn’t help myself.

Of course, I’m not an anomaly. In fact, this such a prevalent problem that the phenomenon has its own name; it’s called “the revenge bedtime procrastination.”

What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

“Revenge bedtime procrastination is just a cry from overworked people, and they’re actually trying to put off bedtime just a little bit so they can reclaim something for themselves,” said Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

More directly, it’s sacrificing sleep so that you have more leisure time.

For example, if you’re exhausted and it’s 10 p.m., you might decide to watch a movie? The reason, you didn’t feel that you had much downtime during the day. So, you want to make up for that, relax, and enjoy a movie.

The problem? You’re breaking your normal sleep schedule by falling asleep until after midnight. And, you’re willing to accept the consequences — mainly that you’ll be a zombie tomorrow at work.

Another factor could be an unplanned circumstance. Maybe your favorite baseball team goes into extra innings causing you to it the hay later than planned. Or, you aren’t falling well or dealing with a restless child or dog.

Where did the term revenge bedtime procrastination originate from though? Well, bedtime procrastination first surfaced in a 2014 study out of the Netherlands. Appearing in Frontiers in Psychology, in 2018, the authors stated that those who tried to “resist desires” during the day were more likely to be a bedtime procrastinator.

The link between COVID and sleep.

Another cause is that the lines between work and life have become too intertwined. For instance, you’re responding to emails or Slack messages at all hours of the night instead of enjoying your leisure time. So, to recapture some much-needed “me time,” you stay up later.

For many, this has been the case following COVID-19. Many of us no longer had a clear separation between work and life since our homes became our workplaces. We were also more stressed and couldn’t stop ourselves from doomscrolling.

How bad has gotten? Well, since the pandemic started, 40% of people have reported sleeping problems.

What’s revenge got to do with it.

As the revenge part? That came about in 2016 when it took off on the internet in China. “Revenge bedtime procrastination” is the literal translation is “staying up late in a self-revenge way.”

The phrase finally went viral in English following a tweet by New York-based journalist Daphne K. Lee. She defined this as “a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”

The importance of sleep.

It might some harmless to occasionally stay past your normal bedtime. After all, at least you’re getting some amount of z’s, right?

Occasionally, this might be acceptable. However, it’s a myth that you can catch up on sleep. Moreover, bedtime procrastination can lead to sleep deprivation.

Why’s that concerning? Well, falling short on slumber doesn’t just make you so tired that you chug multiple pots of coffee. It can cause symptoms like;

  • Being more prone to accidents or making mistakes.
  • Degrades decision-making, thinking, and memory.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.
  • Irritability, which can impact your relationships.

What’s more, a lack of sleep can also cause physical health conditions like;

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hormone-related problems
  • Weaker immune system
  • Chronic pain

As if that’s not bad enough, a lack of sleep can reduce self-regulation and impulse control. And, it also raises the odds of dying early.

In short, sleep deprivation negatively affects all facets of your life. As such, it needs to be a top priority.

Getting revenge on revenge bedtime procrastination.

Ideally, we all should be getting between 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. For adolescents and teenagers, it’s more. But, how can we win this fight against bedtime procrastination? Well, here are 6 recommendations.

1. Honor your sleep chronotype.

“According to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, there are four different chronotypes or circadian rhythm personalities,” writes Abby Miller in another Calendar article. “He suggests that you determine which one you are so that you can mirror the sleep-wake habits that best describe you.”

  • Bear. For most of us, our sleep-wake patterns follow the sun. As such, you’re “ready for intense tasks smack in the middle of the morning,” but feel a dip by mid-afternoon.
  • Lion. Lions are early risers. “These are the go-getters, the leaders, the type-A movers, and shakers.” The downside is that they usually have to go to bed earlier.
  • Wolf. Wolves are nocturnal loners. That means that they get a later start and have two peak periods — noon to 2 pm and late afternoon/early evening.
  • Dolphin. Since dolphins are light sleepers, they’re more likely to have irregular sleep routines. They’re also perfectionists and do their best work from mid-morning through early afternoon.

“To find out what your animal, track your time and take Dr. Breus’ sleep chronotype quiz,” she advises. “After that, re-organize your day so that you can align your sleep pattern and work schedule. For example, if you’re a lion, then you would want to tackle your most important work bright and early.”

2. Chillax in the evening.

As you should know, your morning routine can make or break your day. But, your evening routine is equally important. And, that should conclude with your bedtime ritual.

Preferably, this should take place around 30 to 60 minutes prior to bed. And, it should contain only activities that make you feel relaxed. Some suggestions would be;

  • Taking a warm bath or shower.
  • Meditating or doing light stretches.
  • Focusing on your breathing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Reading a book.

3. Resist the blue light special.

Electronic devices, such as your phone or tablet, emit blue light. In case you weren’t aware, this reduces melatonin levels. Melatonin is the chemical that’s responsible for your wake/sleep schedule.

What’s that mean? When these levels dip, you’ll have more difficulty falling asleep.

Additionally, blue light can stimulate your brain. Which, as you might have guessed, makes sleep more of a challenge. And, if you keep your phone close, notifications that you receive at night can interrupt your sleep.

The solution? Avoid blue light at least an hour before bed. You should also stop using your phone as an alarm and place it across your room.

4. Keep your bedroom sacred.

Your bed needs to be reserved only for sleep and sex. Nothing else. What’s more, your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet.

Preferably, set your thermostat between 60°F and 67°F, invest in blackout curtains, and even earplugs. Also, don’t skimp on your pillows and mattress.

5. Release stress before bed.

If you’re putting off sleep because you’re worrying, then address these thoughts before laying down. For instance, you could jot down your worries so that they’re out of your head.

Other suggestions include;

  • Planning and organizing tomorrow by prioritizing your lists.
  • Journaling.
  • Meditating.
  • Purchasing a weighted blanket to reduce anxiety.

6. Use your online calendar.

What does your calendar have to do with hitting the hay? In a previous Calendar article, Angela Ruth argues that with your trusty calendar, you can add structure to help encourage a better night’s rest, such as;

  • Follow a consistent routine. “It’s easier to get sleep when you follow a routine,” writes Angela. “If you don’t make time in your schedule for rest, it may become sporadic. Adjust your rhythm gradually, or you could overcorrect — and oversleeping can leave you feeling groggy and unproductive.”
  • Take charge of naps. “When you nap, use your online calendar to hold yourself accountable,” she advises. “Make sure you’re not taking one too late in the day and set an alarm to ensure your power nap doesn’t turn into a snooze fest.”
  • Manage your eating and drinking. “Just as you shouldn’t be napping too late in the day, there are other things that should be reserved for earlier hours,” she adds. Examples would be avoiding caffeine later in the day or eating too late at night.
  • Add exercise to your day. Block out a regular time during the day for physical activity as this promotes sleep.
  • Kick bad habits. You know which vices I’m referring to. Smoking cigarettes, drinking, and eating junk food are all bad habits that you need to ditch. You can use your calendar to set goals and track your progress.
  • Keep things tidy. Set a recurring event to declutter and clean your bedroom to reduce stress. And, don’t forget to regularly wash your bedding.

If you’ve done all of the above and are still struggling with sleep, then make an appointment with your physician. The sooner you get to the root cause, the faster you can nip bad sleep habits from robbing you of another good night’s sleep.

Don’t Let These 5 Things Derail Your Digital Meetings

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Don’t Let These 5 Things Derail Your Digital Meetings

Remote work’s cure period has passed. Workers will continue to keep in touch using online meeting services. Even businesses that plan to resume on-site operations will use digital meetings to supplant travel.

Virtual meetings are less expensive. They require less time. They can connect people on opposite sides of the country and around the world instantly.

The permanence of digital meetings means they’re worth getting right. Here’s how to overcome five of the most common dysfunctions: 

Technology Hiccups

Nothing can throw off a virtual meeting like an ad hoc troubleshooting session. Maybe one person can’t figure out how to turn on their video function. Another might sound like they’re calling from inside a tin can.

You can mitigate some of these issues by ensuring everyone on your team has proper equipment. Consider providing microphones or asking attendees to use headsets or earbuds. Go the extra mile by sharing troubleshooting resources for common issues. Just about every digital meeting service provider has tutorials available.

Some technological issues are beyond your control, such as outages and service interruptions. But your attendees can avoid most technology troubles with better tools and training. 

Content Temptations

After tech issues, the greatest challenge of digital meetings is content rabbit holes. To get the most out of your meeting, your attendees need to keep their eyes and ears tuned to the topic at hand. 

Take your cue from entirely remote companies. Calendar, a productivity tool with distributed team, uses a few best practices to cut down on distractions:

  • Keep curious fingers off the keys

Typing keeps you from paying attention to the speaker and distracts others. Instead, take notes the old fashioned way: with a paper and pen. Enjoy the break from your inbox while you can. 

  • Implement a “one window” rule

It’s easy to distract yourself by reading the news or planning tonight’s dinner. During a meeting, however, the only windows you should have open are the video call and the agenda. If you need additional materials, such as slides or notes, have them organized before the meeting but hidden from view.

  • Mute yourself by default

This prevents some of the audio issues that pop up during calls. Plus, it gives more attention to the speaker. This way, you don’t have to worry about dogs barking or your neighbors mowing their lawns causing sound issues.

  • Be clear and to the point

Be clear in your phrasings, and avoid going on tangents. Pause frequently to give attendees time to ask questions and process information. It also avoids the dreaded “sorry, you cut out” that requires you to start from the beginning.

Distracting Backgrounds

To avoid turning your square into a problem spot, make sure you pick a clear, uniform background. Try positioning your camera with a blank wall in the background. If that is not possible, make sure the area behind you is neat. A business call is not the time to show your dirty laundry. 

If possible, arrange to have pets, children, and other members of your household otherwise engaged during your meeting. Early in the pandemic, these cameos were fun; now, not so much.

Cross-Talk

Cross-talk happens. However, it shouldn’t be an every-minute-of-every meeting issue. 

This can be particularly difficult when you have a large number of attendees on a call. To avoid confusion, share an agenda beforehand with speakers clearly spelled out. Use built-in tools, such as the chat menu or hand-raising, to prevent participants from talking over each other. 

Use low-tech techniques as well. Encourage speakers to pause after asking a question. Remind listeners to mute themselves when they’re not speaking. 

Small Talk

This point might sound harsh, but it is critical for optimizing your meeting: Water-cooler conversations should not be teamwide time (and, by extension, dime) sucks.

When you connect with associates or colleagues, it’s human nature to bond. You want to know about their families. You want to rehash last night’s game or who was voted off of the island. But without an eye on your watch, you risk spending half the meeting on small talk. 

Find other opportunities to build camaraderie amongst employees. Create Slack channels or Microsoft Teams groups where employees with similar interests can chat. You could also have a virtual game time or happy hour. 

Meetings aren’t going away, only changing in medium. Don’t wait to master their digital format, or you may find yourself getting sucked into a lot more of them.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Identify what is important and necessary.

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

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

2. Optimize your organization.

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

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

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

3. Create a system to minimize distractions.

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

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

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

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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

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

5. Say “yes” strategically.

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

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

6. Be willing to make sacrifices.

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

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

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

7. Surround yourself with productive people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Be honest about your progress.

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

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

How to Get Just as Much Done this Month With Only 28 Days

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How to Get Just as Much Done this Month With Only 28 Days

February is the shortest month of the year. 28 short days mark the end of the winter season. This month is marked by Valentine’s Day, and the Super Bowl. Sorry, this year is not a leap year — so NO 29th day this year.

Even though it’s only missing a few days, February can feel painfully short. Trying to maintain productivity and reach your monthly goals will be much more challenging. However, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to regardless of time restraints if you leverage your online calendar. Getting just as much done in a shorter month only requires some time management:

Calendar Your Goals

Take your New Year’s resolution, monthly goals, or February aspirations and start adding them to your Calendar. Break them down into actionable steps, perhaps by a week or even by the day, to really visualize what you have to do in only 28 days. You’ll have a productivity map from start to finish that shows you just how much you need to accomplish.

Take a fitness goal, for example. If your goal is to run 100 miles each month, you’re going to have to add in some longer runs during the month of February. As you bundle up for some chilly morning jogs, you can take comfort knowing you’ve planned ahead and won’t need to participate in a marathon on February 28th to meet your quota.

Wake Up Early

Waking up even a few minutes earlier than usual will open up so much more time in your day. This won’t be easy if you’re a night owl, but the productivity boost you’ll see will be worth the sacrifice. You could opt for a late-night, but after a long day of work, your productivity is bound to take a hit once the sun goes down.

Use your Calendar to craft the ideal morning routine. Start by pushing your alarm back, as horrible as that may be to do the night before. Then, fill your morning schedule with activities that will get you going as soon as your feet hit the floor. Try 15 minutes of stretching and a timed shower, so you don’t doze off and end up wasting the morning hours you so carefully squared away.

Pack in Your Weekend

While the weekend is a great time to get some needed rest before returning to work on Monday, it’s also your best chance at fitting in with everything else you hope to do this month. Even a few hours on Saturday and Sunday will significantly escalate what you’re able to accomplish in a short month.

Open up your online calendar for February and look at their weekends. Are they barren of any activities? Look for ways to fill them. You might notice that your evenings are overflowing with plans that you can push back to the weekend, allow you to focus on things one at a time, or squeeze in an extra task to help reach your monthly goal.

Stay Focused

It takes an average of 23 minutes to regain focus after you’ve been distracted. That’s a lot of wasted time that quickly adds up if you find yourself distracted frequently. To truly make the most out of each and every day, you’ll have to figure out how to keep distractions to a minimum.

Start by eliminating obvious distractions from the surrounding area. Keeping your cell phone on silent and face down is a great start, as smartphones are perhaps the number one distraction in the world today. Take note of any music or images that distract you as well so they can be removed.

If you still find yourself flipping tabs to social media or losing concentration over the course of the day, try a time management technique to help hone your focus. For example, try this guide on the Pomodoro method. It’ll insert scheduled break times into your online calendar to give you hyperfocus in short bursts.

Learn to Say No

It’ll be challenging, but you may have to say no to a few situations to ensure you have the time you need to meet your goals. Instead of going out for drinks on Friday night, finish up some tasks for your startup or finish the house project you’re determined to get done by Spring.

Of course, you don’t have to say no to everything, but be aware of your limits. Achieving maximum productivity requires some self-mastery. Your friends will understand if you need to take a bow a few weekends in order to tend to your business, home, or career while on a time crunch.

Do as Much as You Can in Advance

Procrastination gets the best of everyone. Unfortunately, even a tiny mistake in time management can cost you big time. By planning things in advance, you can hedge yourself against procrastination, laziness, and fatigue slowing you down.

One example can be found in meal planning. Say you work from home and want to take a lunch break. If you don’t have anything prepared, you’ll spend valuable time preparing something or running to a less than healthy fast food restaurant. If you used your weekend to prepare meals for the week, you wouldn’t have to sacrifice as much time and would be able to focus on your work.

These time management tips and tricks will help you year-round, not just during the shortest month of the year. Keep that Calendar handy, and be proactive with how you use your time, and you’ll never fall short of what you hope to accomplish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Schedule habits into your life.

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

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

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

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

Option 1: Put in your calendar.

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

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

Option 2: Tie it to your current behavior.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Conduct a self-audit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, why are we so hard on ourselves?

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

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

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

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

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

Practice self-compassion.

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

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

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

4. Make a change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Strip away complexity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few of the most common culprits:

1. Making lengthy to-do lists

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

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

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

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

2. Working on too many things at once

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

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

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

3. Overloading your brain

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

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

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

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

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

4. Working nonstop until you’ve completed a task

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

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

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

5. Relying on too many apps

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

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

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

6. Becoming too organized

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

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

7. Not getting enough high-quality sleep

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

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

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

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

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

50 Top Productivity Quotes For Work and Life

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50 Top Productivity Quotes For Work and Life

Despite more tools and technology — productivity can still be a struggle to achieve in work and in life. Work/life balance can be illusive and hard to achieve — let alone to maintain.

Every thought, emotion, introspection and life event has to be dealt with — all while working towards gaining your work/life balance.

In order to move forward in your life and work — to be able to keep the hardworking heroics going everyday — leave the sad events to their proper perspective — hail the happy events at the top of mind, and maybe keep a childlike silliness still in your soul — it helps to have potent productivity hacks and quotes at the ready.

Here are 50 top quotes on productivity that can help inspire you to accomplish more:

  1. “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis Of Assisi
  2. “One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we’re idling in front of our computer screens.” – Joshua Foer
  3. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
  4. “It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.” – Nathan W. Morris
  5. “All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.” – Plato
  6. “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” – Thomas Sowell
  7.  “Understanding your employee’s perspective can go a long way towards increasing productivity and happiness.” – Kathryn Minshew
  8. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney
  9. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs
  10. “Gentleness doesn’t get work done unless you happen to be a hen laying eggs.” – Coco Chanel
  11. “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” – Stephen Hawking
  12. “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” – John Wayne
  13. “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed” – Peter Drucker
  14. “The productivity of a workgroup seems to depend on how the group members see their own goals in relation to the goals of the organization.”– Ken Blanchard
  15. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” — Bruce Lee
  16. “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
  17. “When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever.” – Menachem Mendel Schneerson
  18. “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” — David Allen
  19. “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell
  20. “Early rising not only gives us more life in the same number of years, but adds, likewise, to their number; and not only enables us to enjoy more of existence in the same time, but increases also the measure.” – Caleb C. Colton
  21. “The more you eliminate the inefficient use of information, the better it is for productivity.” – Mitch Kapor
  22. “In a society that judges self-worth on productivity, it’s no wonder we fall prey to the misconception that the more we do, the more we’re worth” – Ellen Sue Stern
  23. “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” – Thomas J. Peters
  24. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka
  25. “If you have time to whine, then you have time to find solution.” — Dee Dee Artner
  26. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.” — Nolan Bushnell
  27. “Being mindful of our energy and the energy of others can help us to lead a happier, more productive life.” — Akiroq Brost
  28. “It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?” — Henry David Thoreau
  29. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey
  30. “The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.” — Timothy Ferriss
  31. “You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” — Seth Godin
  32. “A worker without genius is better than a genius who won’t work.” — Leopold Auer
  33. “Start doing something, you’ll continue.. why? Because motivation doesn’t cause action. Action causes motivation.” — Neil Pasricha
  34. “Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.” — Caterina Fake
  35. “It’s surprising how much free time and productivity you gain when you lose the busyness in your mind.” — Brittany Burgunder
  36. “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Find a way to get started in less than two minutes.” — James Clear
  37. “Passion is a fuel to run your engine in order to give more productivity.” — Myra Yadav
  38. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin
  39. “Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway
  40. “Tomorrow’ is the thing that’s always coming but never arrives. ‘Today’ is the thing that’s already here and never leaves. And because that’s the case, I would much prefer to invest in today than sit around waiting for an arrival that’s not arriving.” — Craig D. Lounsbrough
  41. “If you want to double your productively, shorten the timeline to by 50%.” — Richie Norton
  42. “What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50%.” — Susan Cain
  43. “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” – Dale Carnegie
  44. “Make each day your masterpiece.” – John Wooden
  45. “Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.” – Alan Watts
  46. “The individual who says it is not possible should move out of the way of those doing it.” – Tricia Cunningham
  47. “I always had the uncomfortable feeling that if I wasn’t sitting in front of a computer typing, I was wasting my time–but I pushed myself to take a wider view of what was “productive.” Time spent with my family and friends was never wasted.” — Gretchen Rubin
  48. “Light tomorrow with today.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  49. “When we simplify, we are attending to our minds. Clear minds lead to creativity, vision, health, and productivity.” — Angela Lynne Craig
  50. “Either you run the day or the day runs you” — Alice Glyn

15 Productivity Hacks that Have Become Irrelevant (Thanks COVID)

By | Time Management | No Comments

As 2020, finally, has come to an end, I can’t help but reflect on how much the world has changed so quickly. For some of this has been overcoming mental health challenges and adjusting our lifestyles. Others have actually used the pandemic to finally put their priorities at the forefront, such as improving their health or spending more quality time with loved ones.

While COVID-19 has affected each and every one of them differently, there’s also no denying that it’s completely turned productivity inside out. Most notably, the productivity hacks that have been promoted for years are no longer effective. In fact, most of these strategies aren’t even realistic anymore and we have to adjust.

While I’m not hating on traditional productivity techniques, the new reality is that they are outdated and must be adapted. For example, these popular productivity hacks just aren’t cutting any longer following COVID-19.

1. The early bird catches the worm.

I’m sure that you’ve come across this adage a million times. In fact, this has been championed by some of the most productive and successful people throughout time. Everyone from Ben Franklin, Tim Cook, Michelle Obama, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are morning birds.

To be fair, there is merit to being an early riser. “It’s been said that morning birds are more proactive, consistent, and aren’t rushing out the door,” Deanna Ritchie wrote in a previous Calendar article. “What’s more, it’s a pretty good time to exercise or find your muse. And, because the world is still sleeping, you’re more productive.”

“Here’s the problem with that,” adds Deanna. “Not everyone is an early riser.” And, you can blame genetics for this.

“Biological differences between early birds and night owls exist,” Robert Matchock, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Altoona, told Fast Company. “The hormone melatonin, whose rise makes the body feel less alert, decreases later in the morning for night owls.” Larks also “have a higher core body temperature in the afternoon, which can be a sign of increased energy at that time,” he added.

So, instead of forcing yourself to wake up at some ungodly hour, follow your own circadian rhythm. Now that you aren’t fighting against yourself, you can plan your schedule when you’re at your best.

And, since you may be homeschooling your kids, there’s another way that this could work in your favor as well. If you’re a night owl, you can focus on your most important work when the kids go to bed. That means you can be with them during the day while still being productive during your peak hours.

2. You need a morning routine.

Yet another common productivity hack promoted by successful individuals is having a morning routine. Look, I totally get it. These habits can supercharge your day since they can set the tone for the day.

But, let’s be real here. Not all morning routines are created equal. Case in point, the hour-long morning routine of Tim Ferriss.

“In an ideal world, we’d all start our mornings like Tim Ferriss,” notes Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother. “The podcaster, investor and productivity expert told Business Insider he begins his day with a ‘very clearly defined’ 60-minute morning routine that includes precisely 22 minutes of meditation, drinking tea (preferably oolong), journaling and working out (on a Peloton or doing acroyoga).”

Ferriss calls it the “recipe” needed to “set up” the rest of his day. While I have nothing against it, it’s just not realistic for everyone, in particular parents.

“Over here in the real world, most working parents begin their day soothing grumpy children and yapping pets while chugging a giant cup of coffee,” states Kingo. “Our ‘recipes’ typically involve pouring cereal in a bowl.”

If you can, definitely try to have some sort of morning routine. But, make sure that you keep it simple enough so that it’s realistic. Most parents recommend prepping at much as you can the night before so that you do have the time to squeeze in some physical activity, journaling, and definitely getting the coffee percolating.

3. Never check your email in the AM.

“I understand why this sounds like a good tip: Reading and responding to email could derail your entire morning and set you back (you know when your 15 minutes of reviewing emails turn into 45—and suddenly, you’re late for work,” writes Emmy Award-winning television producer and founder of ListProducer.com Paula Rizzo. “But, in so many industries, it can be difficult to ignore what has been going on overnight—even for a few hours.”

“Translation: This tip just isn’t realistic in your fast-paced life,” continues Rizzo. “In fact, it might actually cause additional anxiety before you even get into the office.”

To fix this, Rizzo says to go ahead and check your email in the morning. However, “don’t respond unless it will take you less than a minute.” For messages that only require a “yes” or “no” or “that can be forwarded to someone who can take care of it for you is fine,” she adds.

“But anything that requires research or a longer response is off-limits. Mark that message as “unread,” and “go back to it later when you have more time,” adds Rizzo. “Better yet, add it to your to-do list so you’ll be sure to check on it later.”

“Scrolling through and skimming emails first thing in the morning is a good use of time even when you can’t respond right away. Letting them marinate before firing off a response can be invaluable.”

4. You have to eat frogs in the morning.

The frog concept was popularized by author Brian Tracey. For the uninitiated, it doesn’t mean literally eating frogs — which I don’t find all that appetizing. Instead, it’s tackling your most important or challenging task bright and early.

I totally get the appeal here. Most of us tend to be most alert and energetic in the morning. Besides, once this is no longer hanging over your head, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

But, as already mentioned, not everyone is a morning person. Again, as opposed to forcing yourself to work when you aren’t at your peak is counterproductive. As such, it’s a better idea to schedule your “frogs” during your golden hours.

Additionally, even if you are a morning person, there’s a solid chance that you’ve had to adjust your schedule. For example, let’s say you currently have kids at home, and you need to help them with schoolwork. It’s not possible to “eat frogs” at the same time, meaning you’ll have to chomp them down when you can.

5. Use to-do-lists.

Research from Kevin Kruse has found that millionaires don’t rely on to-do-lists. I know. Shocking.

The first reason he found was that they don’t account for time. “When we have a long list of tasks, we tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly in a few minutes, leaving the longer items left undone,” he writes in Forbes. “Research from the company iDoneThis indicates that 41% of all to-do list items are never completed!”

Secondly, “a to-do list doesn’t distinguish between urgent and important. Once again, our impulse is to fight the urgent and ignore the important. (Are you overdue for your next colonoscopy or mammogram?)”

And, finally, “to-do lists contribute to stress,” Kruse states. “In what’s known in psychology as the Zeigarnik effect, unfinished tasks contribute to intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts. It’s no wonder we feel so overwhelmed in the day, but fight insomnia at night.”

Rather than using lists, they live and die by their calendar. How? They add their priorities to their calendar before anything else.

I should add, though, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with jotting down reminders. The occasional braindump ensures that you won’t forget anything while clearing your head. However, committing to only lists may not be as effective as scheduling.

6. Work in Pomodoros.

In all seriousness, I’m a fan of the Pomodoro Technique. After all, it encourages me to take frequent breaks throughout the day to keep me fresh. Moreover, it has benefits like improving planning and dealing with distractions and interruptions.

The problem is that it’s essentially a time tyrant. How so? Because you’re supposed to work in 25-minutes and then take a break.

Some people don’t like that level of regimentation. More problematic, though, is that it interrupts your flow. That just means that if you’re fully immersed in a task, you have to stop and take a break when the timer goes off.

To solve this predicament, try a modified version called the Flowtime Technique. Created by Zoë Read-Biven, here’s how it works.

  • “First, pick a specific task,” she writes. Just make that “it has an end in sight.”
  • “Next, start your work. Don’t set any kind of timer but record the time under Start,” she adds. “Now, when you are working, you can only work on the thing that you have written down. Read-Biven dubs this “Unitasking.”
  • Here’s the hardest step. “When you feel like you need to take a break, take a break. If you want to stop the task, stop, and take a break.” The key is to note the time under Stop, as well as the length of time.

That’s pretty much it. The jest is that you’re tracking your time while also identifying common distractions. Also, it still encourages you to take breaks, but whenever you need them.

7. Outsource and delegate.

Full transparency here. When done properly, outsourcing and delegating tasks can be timesavers. But that’s only if you know how to clearly communicate your expectations and have people that you trust.

Furthermore, you still need to carve out time to monitor the task. And, most importantly, you also need to know what exactly to delegate and to whom.

If you’re missing any of the above, outsourcing and delegating properly won’t be effective. In fact, they may end up costing you more time — i.e., identifying the right person for the right job and having to correct their mistakes.

There’s another consideration here. Since a majority of us have had to tighten our belts, we may not have the budget to hire freelancers, contractors, or even maintain a full-time team. As such, a better option might be to automate tasks like scheduling, posting to social media, responding to email, billing, and customer service.

8. Stop multitasking.

Multitasking is a myth. Or, so you’ve been told.

In reality, what this refers to is a task-switching, where you’re bouncing your attention from one thing to another. In this care, it’s not possible and can even have consequences like hindering your productivity and lowering your IQ

But what about doing two things at once? Well, some of us can totally pull that off. And it might even be a good thing. Studies have found that multitasking can improve your performance by sharpening multisensory integration.

Additionally, multitasking can “deepen” your time. “There’s a nice form of multitasking, which I tend to think of more as ‘alignment,’” says Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast; “This means deepening time, not fragmenting it.”

An example of this would be when you workout with a friend. “You’re running, but you’re also talking and nurturing your relationship at the same time. That’s good multitasking,” she says.

The catch? Multitasking on tasks that don’t conflict with each other. “In other words, you can multitask as long as you’re doing two things that don’t tax the same parts of your brain,” explains Peter Bregman in a Forbes article. “Email while on a conference call? Bad idea. But exercise and commuting? It’s a perfect multitasking marriage.”

9. Silence is golden.

Obvious, right? How can you possibly focus when you’re surrounded by noise? Besides, science has shown that you’ll get more done when it’s quiet.

Of course, can you actually be in an environment where it’s completely silent? Most likely not. I mean, just as I’m writing this, my dog barked because she heard the mail truck, and my neighbor has been running his leaf blower wild. Even if I head noise-canceling headphones,s higher-pitched random noises, like voices, can still come through.

At the same time, there are advantages to listening to music and background noise.

“Overall, research shows that listening to music and background noise can offer various benefits, including improved cognitive performance, improved task performance, improved concentration, increased energy levels, and improved mood,” write the folks over at Effectivilogy. “These benefits mean that listening to music or background noise can be highly beneficial in a variety of circumstances, especially since it is often relatively easy to set them up.”

The caveat is that we all respond differently to music and background noise. You may work best listening to classical music, while others prefer video game tunes. I suggest trying out [email protected]. It will curate a personalized playlist to improve your focus.

10. You need a home office.

For those who were fortunate enough to have a home office, the transition to working from home hasn’t been as trying. But, if you don’t have the space for a home office? No worries. You can still be productive.

In another Calendar post, Max Palmer shares how this is possible by:

  • Establishing a designated working spot — ideally somewhere “with the fewest distractions and temptations.”
  • Furnishing your space. For example, investing in a sitting-standing desk and placing it wherever you have space.
  • Removing distractions, such as leaving your phone in another room.
  • Using the right tools, like project management software.

If you’re really limited on space because you’re in a small apartment or sharing tablespace with your family, get creative. For instance, you could clean out a closet and make a cozy office in there.

11. Always dress for success.

I guarantee that when you’re new to working from home that this is the most common piece of advice that you come across. Science has also found that what you wear to work matters. But, to be honest, you really don’t need research to prove this.

Just think about the times that you do dress up. You probably feel like a million bucks. And, it can also help you mentally shift into work mode.

However, these are unprecedented times. We’re grieving the loss of the world we used to know — and love. And, we’re all struggling right now.

Despite what conventional wisdom has previously said, the new reality is that you can wear whatever you damn feel like.

I think in a rebuttal to an L.A. Times piece entitled Enough With the WFH Sweatpants. Dress Like the Adult You’re Getting Paid to BeEsquire’s Ben Boskovich, put it best. “Whether dressing like you’re headed to the office makes you feel better or not is up to you. Not me, and not a deputy fashion director who wants you to wear jeans.”

As long as you’re still being a pro and getting things done, wear what you want. Of course, use some common sense as well. If you have a video call, throw on an appropriate outfit instead of your cozy, yet raggedy, bathrobe.

12. Avoid procrastination.

Procrastination has a bad reputation. And, for good reason.

Putting things off can cause you to fall behind or even stress you out. That can damage your credibility and overall well being. It can also cause you to miss out on opportunities and put a strain on your relationships.

But, believe it or not. Procrastination can actually be good for you. In fact, it may even be able to improve your productivity and happiness.

Why procrastination isn’t always the enemy.

How so? Well, here are six reasons, according to Susanna Newsonen, MAPP:

  • Active procrastination. Even though you might be dragging your feet on a specific task doesn’t mean you aren’t getting anything else done. If “you’re an active procrastinator, the rest of your to-do list is probably getting cleared quickly,” explains Newsonen. “And once the rest of the things on your to-do list are done, then all you’ve got left is that one thing you were originally procrastinating on—and you’ve got no choice but to get on with it.”
  • Unnecessary tasks disappear with procrastination. If you keep procrastinating on a certain task, after all, you may “reevaluate whether it’s still important you do it.”
  • It shines a light on what’s most important to you. “You’re less likely to procrastinate on things you love to do or that really matter to you,” adds Newsonen. “If there’s something you’re struggling to get done, ask yourself why you’re doing it in the first place.”
  • Procrastination makes you more creative. When tackling large and daunting projects, it’s common to procrastinate. However, even if you’re not actually working on it, you’re “subconsciously collecting ideas and processing things to prepare you for it.”
  • Procrastinating can help you to make better decisions. As opposed to diving in headfirst, procrastination “buys you time to think about all the options and their pros and cons. Once the deadline arrives, you’re ready to decide as you’ve done your research.”
  • Procrastination leads to better apologies. We all make mistakes. If this requires an apology, “it’s better to give them (and you) time to cool off,” suggests Newsonen. “This helps you to come up with an authentic apology that clearly shows your regret and your learnings, as well as offers a reason why the mistake happened.”

13. Turn that frown upside down.

I don’t think that any of us want to experience negative emotions like anxiety, stress, or hopelessness. Not only is that detrimental to your health, but it also influences your productivity. And, while there are small ways to lift your spirits, like going for a walk or talking to a friend, forcing yourself can be just as bad.

Back in 2017, research from UC Berkeley found that trying to force yourself doesn’t work. Mainly because resisting negative emotions leads to feeling more psychologically stressed. More interesting was that those who do accept these feelings reported fewer mood disorder symptoms.

“It turns out that how we approach our own negative emotional reactions is really important for our overall well-being,” said study lead author Brett Ford, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. “People who accept these emotions without judging or trying to change them can cope with their stress more successfully.”

That couldn’t be any more relevant than right now. During the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists have recommended that we don’t ignore difficult feelings. Instead, we need to acknowledge them and reach out for help.

14. Using productivity apps.

“It’s fun to get on the app and layout your tasks and set goals, but if you get too into planning, that’s a waste of time,” explains Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms, over at Inc. “A simple calendar or to-do list is best to quickly plan out your schedule and get things done.”

From my experience, many productivity apps also have a learning curve. That means you need to make a time investment in figuring out the work. Moreover, these tools are so robust that they can be overwhelming and you’ll probably spend more time organizing than doing.

15. Maintain a work-life balance.

For years, it was advised that we strive for work-life balance. Here’s the truth, though. Balance doesn’t exist.

I feel that most of us realized this as we began working remotely. It would be great if you could clock-in at 9 a.m. and work a full day. But, you have to walk the dog, keep up with household chores, and take care of the kids. And, even when you call it a day, you may still have to respond to emails or wrap-up the tasks you didn’t finish earlier.

A better approach is work-life integration.

According to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, work-life integration is “an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define ‘life’: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health.” In other words, instead of setting hard boundaries and compartmentalizing, you connect work and life.

Examples could be bringing your dog to work, having a conference call when your kids are playing in the backyard, or inviting a friend to tag along when running errands. How is this possible in a post-COVID world? Well, stick to a schedule and routine, but also be flexible. But, above all, it’s admitting that you’re not perfect and that you should also put your priorities first.

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