Category Archives: Time Management

5 Tools to Slice Distractions From Your Work Schedule

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Distractions are everywhere. Whether you’re working from home, at your company’s office, or from a coffee shop, loud noises and tech-based temptations are there.

As attention spans reach an all-time low and schedules get busier, in-office and at-home workers need new tools to stay focused. The following resources and software are great picks:

1. A physical or digital to-do list

I’ve always been a believer in using to-do lists to stay on task, but it’s taken me years to figure out the format that works best for me. While writing down tasks in a paper planner works well for some people, it’s easy to lose that planner at home or in the mountains of paperwork on your desk.

Give Trello a test drive. The board-based project management tool is great for collaboration, but it’s also an ideal way to organize your own schedule. Create columned lists that correspond to project status: I use “now” “pending” and “completed” lists to organize my tasks. Plus, Trello has Android and iOS apps that make it easy to take your to-do list anywhere you take your smartphone.

2. An online calendar

To-do lists are great, but they’re not the only tool you need to keep distractions at bay. For one, they don’t display appointments, a key part of your schedule. Keep an online calendar to know at a glance what you should be working on when. Update it in the morning, over lunch, and before you leave work each day.

Like digital to-do lists, online calendars make sharing easy. Most of your work projects involve at least one other team member, right? Use a digital calendar to set up appointments with them, show them when you’ll be working on each project, and keep deadlines top of mind for everyone.

3. A web-limiting app

It happens to the best of us: One moment, you’re doing important research online; the next, you’re stuck in a spiral of social media, YouTube videos, and cat memes. Use a tool like SelfControl or Mindful Browsing to keep yourself off distracting sites when you’ve got other things on your schedule.

What if you use sites like Facebook and YouTube for work? Set your web-limiting app to allow five-minute sessions — enough to find the information you need but too little to fall down a rabbit hole. You could also take a softer approach with a tool like Momentum, which reminds you to stay on task whenever you open a new tab. The Google Chrome extension displays your day’s main goal, motivational quotes, and upcoming tasks.

4. A timer

There’s something about knowing the seconds are counting down that keeps you on task. Although you’re technically on the clock any even when you’re working from home, it may not feel that way. Hold yourself accountable to your schedule and get a better sense of where your time is spent by setting a timer whenever you begin a task.

A timer doesn’t need to be fancy to get the job done. Timer Tab has stopwatch and countdown functionality, displaying the current count in a browser tab, but little else. There are no eye-catching ads or extras that might distract you. Use it to put just the right amount of pressure on yourself.

5. A music streaming service

If you are lucky enough to work from home or in an office that lets you listen to music, use a streaming service like Spotify to improve your focus and motivation. Set up your own relaxing-yet-energizing playlists, or try one of Spotify’s suggestions: Workday Lounge, Deep Focus, and Your Favorite Coffee House.

Isn’t music just one more way to lose sight of your schedule, though? Not according to workers. A Robert Half survey showed seven in 10 workers say music makes them more productive, while eight in 10 say they enjoy it. Listen to what you like, but avoid songs with lyrics: Humans are hardwired to tune into spoken communication.

Distractions don’t have to rule your schedule. In the age of tech, you have access to more tools than ever before to stay focused and be productive. Embrace them, and watch the things that distract you during work melt away.

6 Tips for Smart Multitasking

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Multitasking isn’t the monster it’s made out to be. Although studies have demonstrated that multitasking can harm your overall productivity, moving between tasks can also keep your mind energized and creativity flowing. 

What’s the key to effective multitasking? It’s about being intentional with your tasks, the order in which you tackle them, and the amount of time you allot to them. Here’s how to do it:

1. Prioritize tasks by value.

Multitasking hurts your productivity most when you use it as a strategy for working on all those smaller, less significant tasks in place of your big projects. Sort and schedule your tasks by importance: Which projects will bring you the most value upon completion?

Major projects take time, meaning you need to take breaks. Use those breaks as opportunities to switch, making a little progress on each project. After you’ve fried those bigger fish, you can reward yourself by knocking out several of those easier items on your list.

2. Set a timer.

Another way multitaskers shoot themselves in the foot? Spending too little or too much time on each project. Devoting five minutes to a major initiative before switching isn’t likely to move the needle. Sinking five hours into it when another deadline looms isn’t a great idea, either.

Instead, set a timer. The amount of time you spend on each project is up to you; the important thing is to be deliberate. Some productivity experts suggest the Pomodoro technique, which calls for 25-minute work sessions bookended by 5-minute breaks. When the timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and either rest or move to a lighter task to give your brain a break.

3. Tackle hard tasks in the morning.

Research suggests that most of us are capable of the most productivity in the morning hours, usually 2.5 to four hours after we wake up. Your mornings are the ideal time for multitasking between difficult tasks.

As the morning ends and your energy dwindles, shelve those heavier tasks until the next morning. Using your mornings well can take away the pressure to work on cumbersome projects in the afternoon, when most of us are less energized and effective. If you must multitask in the afternoon, switch between things like scheduling appointments, responding to emails, and returning calls.

4. Block out multitasking time on your calendar.

Because multitasking requires more material to be stored in short-term memory, it takes more mental bandwidth than tackling a single task at a time. That leaves less brain power for distractions like random questions from colleagues.

Rather than let come what may, block off time on your calendar. Schedule “do not disturb” hours to be spent multitasking on those major projects. Hang a sign on your door, and set yourself as “away” on Slack. Ask your coworkers to send you a text or give you a call if something is truly urgent.

5. Group related tasks together.

As you add tasks to your calendar, sort them not only by importance but also by subject. You will find it much easier to jump from task to task when each project is related to the next. That way, you aren’t having to completely switch gears every time you start to work on something else. 

Don’t worry if your categorization method doesn’t make sense to others. Someone else might not understand why, say, you’d switch between social media content development and sales follow ups. But if you need to find a groove to write in a conversational style, go for it.

6. Disconnect from digital distractions.

Especially when working from home, technology can be distracting. From the ping of incoming emails to the temptation of your favorite television show, these small-but-strong interruptions can seriously damage our concentration.

When you sit down to multitask, turn off all your notifications. Better yet, shut down your devices and put them away. If you want to write on paper and later type up your work, go for it. Don’t allow yourself access to your digital devices until you’ve reached a scheduled break.

Everyone multitasks. The question is, are you doing it in a way that slows you down? Know your priorities, conquer your most difficult tasks first, and give yourself mental space. That’s all there is to it.

Organize Your Calendar Like You Organize Your Life

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Living an organized life lets you get more done with less stress. By structuring your days, you keep your business running smoothly without letting your family or social lives fall apart.

But to truly maximize your time, you need to organize your calendar like you organize your life. To squeeze more out of every day:

1. Create a zero-based calendar.

Your day might feel like it’s full of meetings and calls, but in between are breaks that you could use to get more done. A zero-based calendar means that you make a plan for every minute of your day. If something isn’t important enough to deserve a spot on your calendar, then replace it with something that does.

The key is to be exhaustive. Add everything you need to do in a day to your calendar. Your meals, workout, commute, and family time should all be on there. Estimate how long each time should take. Note any blank spaces in your day, and ask how you could use those productively. Remember, you control your calendar — not the other way around. 

2. Accomplish your toughest task first.

What’s the thing you’re dreading most in the day? To make sure that you get it out of the way, put it first on your calendar. Once your most difficult and time-consuming task is out of the way, you’ll feel more motivated and ready to complete the rest of your day’s work. 

Productivity expert Brian Tracey calls this “eating the frog.” Identify your “frog” first thing in the morning, before you even get to the office. Hack at it until you’re finished, forgetting about everything else until that point. Many people do their best work in the morning, so why not spend that time on something you know will be a struggle?

3. Share your calendar with others.

Chances are, most of your tasks involve others. Your team needs to know when you’re available to meet. Your project manager needs to know when you’re working on key initiatives. One huge advantage of using an online calendar is that you can allow your colleagues, clients, and family access to your schedule. That way, there are no surprises or double-booked appointments for anyone. 

Using an online scheduling tool lets you provide times when others can request meetings. By opening your schedule to others, you retain control over it while staying accessible to your team. 

4. Link your personal and professional calendars.

Especially for business owners, schedules don’t always fit into neat little “home” and “work” buckets. Some workdays, you might have a dentist appointment or a parent-teacher conference to attend. On Saturday, you may need to meet an out-of-town client.

To avoid surprises, be sure your professional and personal calendars are integrated. Color-code them to make it easy to spot each event’s type at a glance. And again, give your team access so they know not to disturb you during your daughter’s mid-day dance recital.

5. Group meetings for bigger blocks of free time.

You probably already “chunk” your tasks to a degree: When you’re at the office, your mind is on work. When you’re off, you’re at home enjoying time with family. Manage your calendar the same way by scheduling appointments back-to-back.

Scheduling meetings next to one another creates larger blocks of uninterrupted time for you to accomplish your daily tasks. Try setting meeting days so that you know ahead of time that those days might be less productive. On the flip side, give yourself at least one day per week with no appointments so that you can double down on your work and slim down your to-do list. One more tip: Make sure your appointments or meetings end five minutes before the hour to ensure plenty of time to get from one to the next.

6. Schedule time for yourself.

Just because you schedule each minute of your day doesn’t mean every one of them should be spent on work. Make sure that your calendar accounts for “you” time, whether that means a coffee break, time with your family, a cat nap, working out, or all of the above.

Whatever your priorities are, make sure that those are reflected in the way you schedule your time. And don’t beat yourself up when you take time off. After a long day at work, sometimes the most productive thing you can do is rest. 

Don’t let anyone own your schedule but you. You know how you should be spending your days, both at work and at home. Set your calendar up that way, and watch your productivity grow. 

3 Practices That Will Improve Your Focus

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As an entrepreneur, you likely have multiple things competing for your attention at all times. Between emails, messages, projects and everything else in your life, it can be difficult to stay on task. That’s why it’s important that you find practices that will help improve your focus over time.

The Importance of Focus

I once had a friend say something to me that I will never forget. She said, “If you really wanted to, you could get all your work done for the day in a few hours.” For the most part, she is right. But that’s only if I’m truly focused. But focus isn’t just about getting work done. It’s also about things like focusing on the bigger picture or really listening when someone is speaking. Because let’s face it, we’re all easily distracted these days and it’s hard to do these things if we don’t practice. Fortunately, there are some tools and practices out there that can help you improve your focus so you can get your work done and show up for what matters.

Meditation

I discovered meditation back in 2010 when I was trying to recover from being sick for a while. At first, I didn’t get it. But, it has since become an integral part of my life. At the time of writing this, I am on day 294 of daily meditation. The University of Waterloo found that just ten minutes of meditation a day can help you improve your focus. As a self-proclaimed anxious person, I have to say that my personal experience coincides with this. People often ask me how I’m able to get so much done and I’m pretty sure meditation has something to do with the fact that I regularly meditate – especially if I’m feeling lazy or overwhelmed. The good news meditation isn’t as hard as some people think it is, though I do recommend starting with guided meditations until you get the hang of it.

Music

Another way to help improve your focus is to use music. Specifically, you’ll want to use music meant to help you calm down and focus. This may look like different things to different people. It also may depend on what you do for a living. For example, as a writer, I cannot listen to music with words while I’m working because it distracts me. However, I can listen to instrumentals from subscription services like Brain.fm. My roommate who is an apparel designer is the complete opposite of me. Since she doesn’t deal with words for work, she loves listening to music she can sing along to while she designs. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules here. The key is to find what actually works for you and use it.

Exercise

In addition to meditation as a tool to improve your focus, you can also do short bursts of exercise. The University of Western Ontario recently found that short bursts of exercise can give you a focus boost, at least for a little while. So, if you find yourself starting to doze off, get out of your chair and move around.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways you can improve your focus so you can meet your responsibilities. The key is to know which ones work for you so you can use them when need be.
Originally published here.

6 Tips to Respect the Time of Your Team

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Time is precious, but it’s also easy to squander. When you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, you can’t afford to waste your time or that of your employees.

Here’s how to respect your team’s time so that your employees can be as productive as possible:

1. Message First

Interrupting someone mid-task is never a good idea. When you distract someone, you bump them out of their flow, and impact their productivity. In fact, according to this survey 50% of people feel less productive because of workplace distractions. If you need to ask a quick question, or if you realize you need a longer chat with someone, take the time to shoot them a quick message. Learn whether they’re knee deep in a big project, or whether they have time to talk. 

Whether your team uses Slack or some other messaging tool, a quick message goes a long way. Your team will see that you respect their time and care about what they’re working on as much as what you’re working on. 

2. Schedule Time

If you know you need to have an extended discussion with someone, make sure to schedule an appointment with them on their calendar. This allows an employee to not only prepare for the conversation ahead, but also helps them schedule their day accordingly rather than scrambling for a last-minute meeting. 

Being respectful of their calendar and their current workload will help your employees prioritize their work and fit in any last-minute tasks you may have to throw at them. Make sure your team understands best practices for calendar sharing so they respect one another’s time, too.

3. Consolidate and Save Questions for Work Hours

Although it’s tempting to reach out whenever a question arises, try to keep your employee contact within work hours. Sending that 9 p.m. work email makes your recipient feel like they need to be on call at night. We all know how important it is to disconnect, and after-work communication makes it that much harder for your employees to relax after work.

Gather any late-night questions or concerns you may have on a spreadsheet, and shoot your employee a note in the morning about them. Plus, gathering them for one email means fewer interruptions for everyone than if you reached out to them multiple times. 

4. Know Their Prime Work Hours

Everyone has those times of day when they are the most productive. Some get to work early and are most productive before anyone else gets into the office. Others are hyper-focused in the afternoon and knock out their best work then. 

Know your team members’ prime work hours so you can avoid distracting them during those times of day. Ask workers to block off time on their calendar so you can easily check to see when their prime working times are. You’ll know to avoid random chats or tasks during those hours, and your team will have the opportunity to be as productive as possible.

5. Have a Discussion

What’s the best way to know how and when your team prefers to work? Talk to them. Have a discussion with new employees about their working habits, and share your personal habits as well. Open communication with your employees early on will help you get a better grasp on how you can all work efficiently together.

Beware that schedules change. To help everyone be as productive as possible, discuss communication and work habits at least once a month. The more you learn about your own working habits and those of your team, the better you’ll all work together.

6. Be Generous With Time Off

When you show workers that you respect their time, they’re all the more likely to use it wisely. Unless you have a pressing business reason to deny a PTO request, don’t. Default to trust. Let them take time off to care for their sick relative. If someone says that they need a vacation to keep their stress levels in check, encourage them to take it.

While they’re away, apply the same “pressing business need” standard when deciding whether to reach out. Aside from needed passwords and do-or-die client communications, help them keep their mind off the office. Once they’re back at work, they’ll be more productive than ever.

From your CFO to your front-desk associate, everyone’s time is valuable. Recognize that in your office policies, and watch your team’s productivity grow.

5 Reasons Why a Calendar Tool Helps You Manage Your Time

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You must learn to manage your time. As Renzo Costarella perfectly put it, “Time management is a skill that even the most seasoned business people struggle with.” But, it’s also one of the most important if you want to succeed in both business and life. That’s why I make the most out of my calendar tools. They’ve been able to help manage my time so that I’m productive day-in and day-out because of the following five reasons.

1. Creates a daily routine.

Let’s say that you wake-up on a Saturday morning and don’t have anything planned. Sure. There are things that you should do, like clean the house, but since it’s not set in stone you aimlessly wander around. The next thing you know you just binge-watched the entire new season of Stranger Things. There goes your entire Saturday — wasted. Sometimes it’s a good thing to not have anything planned. You’ve had an exhausting week and you need this time to rest and recharge. But, you can’t do that every day. In order to stop wasting time, you need to create a schedule and stick to it. When you have a plan, it prevents you from getting caught off-guard so that you remain productive. For me, that involves blocking out time for specific tasks in my calendar. My daily routine is something like this. I wake-up at 5:15 a.m. and spend the next two hours exercising, clearing out my inbox, and planning out the rest of my day. From around seven-eight a.m. to noon I work on my most important tasks. After lunch, I spend an hour responding to emails and phone calls. From two p.m. to four p.m. I go back to work and conclude my work day by finishing up some soft work, like tidying up my workplace. After dinner I go over my emails again and then plan my next day. This could change if I have a meeting or travel, but that’s my daily routine that I have scheduled into my calendar. Bonus tip: Make sure that when you block out time for your most important work that it coincides with your peak energy/focus levels of the day. For me, that’s between eight a.m. to 11 a.m. and two p.m. to four p.m.

2. Puts time limits on tasks to manage your time.

In my calendar I make sure that have set aside specific time limits for tasks. If I have to write a blog post, then I block out from eight a.m. to 10 a.m. For weekly time meetings I block out one p.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Doing so prevents working or meetings from dragging on-and-on. As a result, I’m not taking away from other activities.

3. Schedules meetings in advance.

Some meetings or appointments, such as weekly team meetings, can be planned in advance. I can then schedule these meetings for the foreseeable future into my calendar and share it with my team. But, what about unexpected meetings? To be honest, unless it’s an emergency, I don’t accept last minute meetings. It forces me to juggle my work day around, which can then throw my entire week out-of-whack. I at least try to plan a meeting 24 hours in advance so that I’m prepared and can still attend to my priorities. And, the best part, is that thanks to tools like Calendar, this can be done effortlessly. With Calendar I I share my availability via email or embedded link with the other party. They then select the time that works best for them. Once they do, the event is added to both of our calendars. Since this eliminates those back-and-forth emails, meetings can be scheduled pretty much automatically. Now I can focus on getting my work done without frequently going into my inbox.

4. Keeps your time in-check.

What time does your next meeting start? When are your guests expected to arrive at a dinner party? When do you need to finish a certain task. I mark these deadlines and times clearly in my calendar and organizer so that I can keep my time in-check. For instance, if I block out three hours of meetings on a Monday, then I use appointment slots in Google Calendar. This way if I have three meetings I can split this time into three meetings – an hour for each. If my friends are coming over for dinner at six p.m., then I’ll schedule the previous hour for getting dressed, straightening-up the house, and getting dinner started. If I have a deadline with a client, then my calendar reminds me when it has to be completed. Simply put, calendar tools keep my time in-check is that I’m not scrambling around at the last second.

5. Manage Your Time by plannning for breaks.

Despite the misconceptions, breaks are not a waste of time. In fact, breaks are essential if you want to remain productive. This is because regularly scheduled breaks help you recharge, refocus, gain perspective, and ensure that you’re taking care of yourself. In my calendar, I schedule a half-an-hour break at around 10 a.m. During this period I go for a quick walk, make a fresh cup of coffee, and quickly catch-up with my spouse, friends, or mentor. Taking this break clears my head, gets the blood pumping, and provides guidance when I hit the wall.
Originally published here.

3 Ways Business Owners Can Use Their Time Wisely

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As a human being, your time is the most valuable thing you have because it’s limited. As a business owner, not only is your time limited, but you can always use it to make more money. The problem is many business owners don’t know how to use their time wisely. How do I know this? Because I hear it all the time from business owners who are just starting out. There seems to be a fear that they don’t know what to do with their time – especially if they just quit their jobs and no longer have a manager telling them what to do. I’ve also had to learn some lessons the hard way. I often say I could be making more money by now if only I’d known how to make better use of my time when I was first starting out. Fortunately, for you, you can learn from my mistakes.

Focus on income-generating activities.

I would argue that focusing on income generating activities is one-way business owners can use their time wisely. While money by itself isn’t a motivating factor for many, what money allows us to do is.For example, having money helps me feel secure. I also have more fun because I’m not worried about paying bills. If I can remember this, then I can better focus and use my time for activities that lead to more money in the bank. Here are some example of activities that will directly lead to income:

  • Sales calls
  • Consultations
  • Pitching the media
  • Email marketing
  • Follow Ups
  • Product or service creation
  • List building

While some of these activities can be outsourced over time, chances are you will likely be focusing on these as you get started. Furthermore, you can use this list as a guide the next time you’re in doubt.

Focus on delegating the things that waste your time.

My team handles the majority of tasks that take away time from income generating activities. This includes managing my email, social media, customer service inquiries, graphic design, research, my calendar and loading content onto my website.

Set boundaries.

Another way business owners can use their time wisely is to set boundaries. Here’s an example from one of my clients to show you what I mean: I recently had a coaching client who would spend hours in a meeting with prospects who never ended up using her services. This means she lost an entire afternoon she could have used to talk to people who would pay her. I advised her to make some tweaks to her sales process, starting by setting some boundaries. She stopped taking meetings in person, started using an online scheduler and became strict about steering the call. The result is she has far fewer people who are wasting her time. She’s also begun to make some money whereas that was previously an issue because she didn’t have time to do more sales.

Final Thoughts

Making sure you’re using your time wisely is an important aspect of running a business. Otherwise, you end up leaving a lot of money on the table. Start with these tips and watch how you free up your time and make more money in the process.


Originally published here.

Motivation Secrets of Productive People

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

1. When plans are made, they anticipate obstacles.

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

2. They “don’t break the chain.”

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

3. Live life from their calendars.

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

4. They don’t multitask.

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

5. Not controlled by technology.

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

6. They use a notebook.

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

7. They work backwards from the future.

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

8. They’re friends with time.

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

9. They create theme days.

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

10. Bring optimism and fun back into the picture.

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

How to Be Productive During Your Commute

By | Business Tips, Time Management | No Comments
I don’t know about you, but I find that there’s never enough time to do everything I’d like to do. For instance, I love to travel, craft, sew, go for walks, and do other fun activities. But it’s not easy to fit all of these things into my schedule. It’s not always easy to be productive during your commute each morning. Obviously, I try to be the most productive I can at all times so I can get more work done. This helps me fit as many leisure activities into my schedule as possible. If you are trying to be more productive also there are some ways you can that not everyone thinks of. For instance, you could be productive during your commute. Now that I work at home, I personally don’t commute each day. But if you do, use that time wisely. Utilizing it to be more productive during your commute will give you more fun time with family or friends later.

Work on Your Task List

Rather than wasting time as you commute to and from work, or other places, use that time productively instead. One of the things you could do during that time is to work on your task list. By using this time to add, rearrange, and delete things from your “to do” list, you’ll free up valuable time. You can also use the time to prioritize what you have to do for the day. Once you get to work you’ll be ahead of the game. Instead of spending time figuring out what to do first you can get right to work. This may provide you with extra time to work on more complex projects increasing your efficiency.

Create Meeting Agendas

Something else you could do during your commute is to create meeting agendas. As you probably know, meeting agendas are a great way to ensure meetings run smoothly. As discussion drifts away from topics at hand, agendas put attendees back on course. They also ensure no important topics get passed over. Anyone who misses the meeting can review the agenda for a general idea of what was discussed. This is another benefit of meeting agendas that demonstrate their importance. Use your commute time to be productive and create meeting agendas for your upcoming meetings.

Schedule Meetings

Bringing up meeting agendas reminds me that you can also schedule meetings during your commute. This lets you better use the time you might otherwise be simply wasting. When your calendar is online you can access it anywhere. This lets you be productive during your commute and schedule work meetings. In addition, if you have a shared office calendar, it makes this task even easier and more efficient.

Organize Your Calendar

While you sit idle in a bus, train, or subway car, why not be productive? During your commute you might as well get organized and a good place to start is with your calendar.

Make Appointments

If you have appointments that need to be added to your calendar, use travel time to get it done. That way you don’t miss any that are important to you both personally and professionally. Additionally, you’ll be more productive later by better using what would have been wasted time.

Review Your Calendar

Furthermore, while you sit you can review your calendar for the day’s events. Taking the time to look ahead for the day helps you get where you need to be on time. Without reviewing your calendar you run the risk of starting the day behind schedule. As an example, what if you have an early morning meeting you forgot about? After getting to work barely on time, or a teensy bit late, you now have to scramble. But reviewing your calendar during your commute, on the other hand, prepares you for the day.

Block Time for Work Tasks

Blocking time for work tasks is another way to be productive during your commute. It helps you take control of your time so you can get more done. Also, if you use a shared office calendar, it keeps others from scheduling meetings when your time is tight. If you have large, complicated projects on your horizon, make sure you schedule accordingly. Make appointments with yourself by blocking time out of your schedule. This keeps you, from overbooking your calendar.

Listen to a Podcast

Need an option for a way to be productive during your commute while driving? Try listening to a podcast. It’s a good way to gain the motivation you need to get through the week or even just that day. Use your phone, tablet, or other electronic device to listen and gain inspiration. Spend the time learning about organization, leadership, productivity, and many other things that you find interesting. You may gain valuable insight that will encourage you and spark your creativity.

Learn Something New

Another way to not waste time during your commute is to learn something new. The more you understand about the different applications you use the better you can use them. It will also help you to learn hacks and shortcuts that save you time. One idea you could try is to learn more about your calendar app. Rather than repeating the same motions every time you create a calendar event, learn about ways to do it faster. Refresh your memory about things you may not use often and could have forgotten.

Check Your Messages

A great way to be productive, as an alternative to doing nothing, is to check your messages. Check your cell phone for texts and voicemails. Dial into your work landline and listen to messages that may have been left on your desk phone. Or course, depending on the time of day, it may or may not be too early to return phone calls. But it’s entirely possible that you could answer some text messages. You could also read and respond to your emails during travel time to and from work. This helps you be a better manager of your time and gives you a jump start on your day.

Post to Social Media

To get as much out of your work day as possible, schedule your social media during your commute. There are social media apps that you can use on your phone to post social media. This lets you get that task out of the way so once you’re at work you can do other things.

Put on Your Thinking Cap

While on your way to or from work you could use the time to think and brainstorm. Furthermore, quiet time during a commute may make it easier to brainstorm than at work in a busy office. For instance, if you are putting together a presentation, use the time to research and plan. Or, if you need to write an article, but have no idea what to write about, brainstorm some topics.

Play Some Music

Although some people wouldn’t necessarily consider listening to music as productive, it can be motivational. Listening to something that pumps you up and makes you feel energized can improve productivity after you arrive at work. What’s more, music can lower your stress levels so you are ready to face whatever happens at work that day. Let’s face it. Commutes can be long, tiring, and boring to say the least. But, as you can see, you don’t have to suffer through the boredom. Instead try some of these ways to be productive during your commute and get more done in your day.
Originally published here.

4 Ways You Can Maximize Your Productivity

By | Time Management | No Comments
Productivity is always a hot topic. Everyone wants to figure out how much more they can do in the 24 hours we’re given each day. So how do you maximize your productivity? Since we all operate differently there isn’t a single solution that works for everyone. However there are common strategies than can be implemented each day that will increase your productivity.

Here are four ways you can maximize your productivity today:

Set Daily Goals

Studies show that accomplishing our goals make us happy. This sense of accomplishment needs to be experienced each and every day. The best way to do this is to create a list of daily goals. It’s best to develop the habit of creating this list the night before. That way you’re ready to tackle the tasks ahead every morning. If you have larger tasks to complete you can break up larger items into smaller tasks. For example, if you think you need the whole day to complete a progress report you can break it up into smaller items. This will keep you organized and give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of every day. The more motivated we are the more productive we are.

Schedule Breaks

Everyone needs to take breaks throughout the workday. In fact, it’s important to take them. Nobody can be expected to work straight through the day. Every two hours you should schedule a 15-minute break for yourself. During the break it’s always best to leave your desk or workspace and move around. Take the time to check social media or send a few texts. Some will say you should avoid social media during the workday all together – and they aren’t wrong. I just know very few have the willpower to follow through with that. By limiting social media time to your breaks you won’t have to feel guilty checking your Instagram at work.

Identify Your “Prime Time”

Nobody works at the same efficiency throughout the entire day. This is why you need to identify your prime time. The period of the day where you’re at your best. To find your prime time take a look at your previous week. Identify projects or tasks you worked on that you feel were finished efficiently. Once you’ve identified those times make sure you organize your schedule to always address the most challenging projects during these times.

Use Time Blocks

When scheduling your day for completing certain tasks you should block out time for each task. This will train you to estimate how long certain jobs should take. Once you’re finished always go back and mark down how long it actually took to complete the project. Overtime you’ll become an expert at allocating time for certain jobs during the workday. Pro Tip: Naturally we give ourselves five to ten minutes more per task. When blocking out time for tasks try to always shave off five to ten minutes from the estimate. This will essentially shave off the extra time you think you need.

Final Thoughts

Productivity is not something that can be taught overnight. However there are definitely ways you can improve it overtime. If you’re struggling to stay productive use the four strategies above to maximize your productivity today.
Originally published here.
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