Category Archives: Time Management

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 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)

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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 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.

9 Things You Need to Do Every Morning to Have a Productive Day

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Want to be in the same league as the most productive and successful people in the world? Then you need to make the most of your morning by doing these nine things. When you do, the rest of your day will be extremely productive and fruitful.

1. Plan the night before.

Because we have a limited amount of willpower and decision-making abilities, you want to eliminate as many decision-making tasks in the morning. This is why American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault ends his evenings by jotting down the three things he wants to accomplish the next day.

It also explains why Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama had limited wardrobes.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” President Obama told Vanity. Fair.

When you have fewer decisions to make your saving mental space and will have better productivity throughout the day.

2. Wake up refreshed.

You also can’t have a productive day if you don’t wake-up feeling refreshed. Think about those days when you only got 4 hours of sleep. You’re dragging the entire day.

Establish a nighttime ritual where you limit or avoid stimulates like alcohol, caffeine, and electronics right before bed. Instead, have a quiet and relaxing evening by meditating or reading. And, don’t forget to go to bed at the same time every night.

Ideally, your bedroom should be as dark and quiet as possible. It should also be a little cool. This way you’ll sleep undisturbed the entire night and will wake-up refreshed and ready to take-on the day.

3. Create a morning to focus your mind.

Claire Diaz Ortiz, a productivity expert and author of Design Your Day, says that if you want to be more productive — then you need to create a morning routine that works for you. She explains that how you start your day anchors you and ensures that you stay focused.

According to Renzo Costarella in a previous Calendar article, here’s what you should include in your morning routine:

  • Wake-up before everyone so that you’re free of distractions.
  • Drink at least one 24 oz. glass of water when you first wake-up.
  • Exercise for around 30 minutes before breakfast. If possible, do this outside since taking in that sunlight first thing in the morning lets your internal clock know it’s time to start the day.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast — that means skipping sugary cereals and pastries.
  • Read for at least 10 to 15 minutes so that you learn something new.
  • Practice mindfulness for about 10 minutes — this clears your mind and assists with focus.

My morning routine also consists of writing in my journal — hey, it’s worked for Da Vinci, Mark Twain, Oprah, and Tim Ferris.

I also make my bed every morning. It’s not that I’m a neat freak. It’s a small task that gets your day off to an excellent start.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” said U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

4. Set a daily intention.

You know, I never really did this until I came across this article from Purple Carrot. It’s great advice, so I’ll let them explain:

“Setting your daily intention is just like paving your day ahead. In the early part of the day when things are calmer, and you have a moment to think clearly, set your intentions focusing on at least two goals that you want to accomplish for the day. Have extra time? Write these goals on post-its and bring them to work with you so you’re constantly reminded of what you want to accomplish.”

I want to emphasize that last part there. Research shows that writing down your goals enhances your goal achievement.

5. Daily affirmations.

“Affirmations are short, powerful yet simple statements intended to help you manifest a particular goal,” writes Choncé Maddox. “This is power is positive thinking and it only takes a few minutes to recite some positive affirmations.”

6. Avoid your phone.

Don’t just dive directly into emails, texts, and social media when you first wake-up. Doing so will help you lose focus. Even worse it steals your time and gives it to other people.

Instead, spend these precious first moments of the day to do something that you find relaxing, such as walking your dog, meditating, or reading, This will help set calm and positive tone for your day, as opposed to a frantic start.

This may take some discipline, but try to avoid your phone until after you’ve eaten breakfast.

7. Schedule your day.

Want to get all all of you tasks done? Then make sure that they’re scheduled into your calendar.

As entrepreneur and author Dave Kerpen explains, “If it’s not in my calendar, it won’t get done. But if it is in my calendar, it will get done.”

“I schedule out every 15 minutes of every day to conduct meetings, review materials, write, and do any activities I need to get done. And while I take meetings with just about anyone who wants to meet with me, I reserve just one hour a week for these ‘office hours.’”

Don’t forget to also schedule in breaks and your lunch.

8. Network over coffee.

Yes. Coffee is good for you. So while you’re enjoying that morning cup of Joe do a little networking. For example, you could reach out and connect with colleagues on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or, you could schedule meetings with potential business partners or investors.

9. Eat the frog.

Brian Tracy, author of “Eat the Frog,” has based his morning philosophy off of a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean literally eating a frog. The frog is “your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.” As the day goes on, this doesn’t just linger over our heads, we have less energy to complete this task.

Don’t put this task off until later in the day. Tackle it first thing in the morning and get it done.

Why Entrepreneurs Should Spend Time Earning a Passive Income

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Spend Time Earning a Passive Income

It’s a familiar occurrence. You’re taking a quick break from work to watch an inspiring video, such as a TedTalk, on YouTube. Before the video starts, there’s an ad from a charismatic individual promising that you can earn money while you sleep. And, by doing so, you get to live the life you want without having to deal with the nine to five grind. Same old crap right?

As entrepreneurs, we know that passive income isn’t a scam, though some of these videos do promote unproductive advice. In a previous Entrepreneur article, Kimanzi Constable explained this correctly. These are “entrepreneurs trying to sell you on one of their programs. You see what they’re offering and understand that the way they travel and make an income is through people buying their course.”

In other words, the person in the YouTube advertisement is earning a passive income. They may have developed a system that allowed them to thrive in the real estate industry, for instance. Now, they’re sharing their secrets of success with viewers via an online course. Selling real estate was their primary source of income. Now, they have a supplemental income through the educational course they’ve created.

But, is earning a passive income something that a respectable entrepreneur should really spend their resources on? In my experience, that’s a resounding yes.

What is passive income and why it’s important for entrepreneurs?

A passive income is earning money through little active involvement. Unlike your “day job,” a passive income isn’t tied to how many hours you put in. For example, you published a book five years ago. Ever since its publication, you’ve been earning money off of the sales of your book. While you did all of the work on the book years ago — you had to write it, after all, but you’re really no longer involved with the book. It’s there online for people to purchase while you’re sleeping, building your startup, or traveling.

Why is passive income necessary for entrepreneurs?

For starters, it creates multiple streams of income. Extra or other ways that you make money may not sound important when your business is raking in the six-figures. But, from personal experience, understand that you could lose everything in a blink of an eye.

I’ve shared my story multiple times, so I’ll give an abridged version. My first business was shut down by Amazon, and in a matter of months, I lost everything.

While a passive income wouldn’t have prevented my business from closing, if I had been earning an income from multiple sources it wouldn’t have been as stressful. It wouldn’t have hurt my family, and I could have temporarily stayed current with my bills. It would have helped get me back on my feet faster.

Even if you don’t experience failure, entrepreneurs can use this extra income to pay off their debt faster. How much would your life improve if you didn’t have student or business loans hanging over your head? Not having this debt is a weight off your shoulders and gives you an opportunity to take that money and invest it in your business, vacation fund, or retirement.

Having more than one income can increase your chances of becoming a millionaire. Tom Curley, the author of “Rich Habits,” found that 65 percent of self-made millionaires had three streams of income.

Of course, it’s not all about the benjamins. When you’re able to earn some extra cash on the side, you’re ready and able to focus more on the other things that really matter. It frees up your mind to hustle better. You’ll be able to think more creatively about ways to improve your business. You’ll find ways to spend more time with your family, working on a hobby, learning something new, or traveling.

Debunking common myths about passive income.

While I’m all for passive income, it would be remiss of me to discuss and debunk some of the most common misconceptions. Most notably is a myth that maybe it doesn’t take any type of investment. In reality, it will take an initial investment, either of time or money, to start earning additional income. The idea is you are front-loading your time and money.

Again, take the example of releasing a book. You can continue to earn royalties from your written work for the rest of your life after it’s been published. But, you still had to take the time to write the book. You still had to hire an editor, and you definitely had to do some promotion to let others know where and why they should purchase your title.

Lucas Miller adds in Entrepreneur that, “generating passive income isn’t as simple or straightforward as some of the world’s richest people can make it seem to be. Figuring out how to generate a steady flow of cash requires a fair amount of work.”

“Even more importantly, it requires that you dedicate your own time and investments in the right areas,” continues Miller.

Seven myths regarding passive income.

    • You can “set and forget” it. “This is perhaps the most dangerous myth associated with passive income,” says Miller. And, I agree. Let’s say that you earn money through affiliate links on your blog. If people aren’t visiting and clicking on those links that you aren’t bringing in an additional income. You still need to add fresh content and promote your site so that you can keep driving traffic to it.
    • It only takes a weekend to get started. It may just take you a weekend to build your website. But, it’s going to take months to get people to notice and interact with your site.
    • You only need one source of income. I’ve already briefly discussed this. But, as a reminder, by diversifying your income sources you have a security net in case your primary source of income dries up. What’s more, when you have more cash flowing in, you can pay off debts faster or set aside more money into an emergency fund.
    • Real estate is your safest bet. While renting properties can be a great way to earn an additional income, it can be costly. Remember, you’re responsible for keeping the rental in good shape and making any repairs. You also have to deal with tenants. If possible, a better option may be to flip a house then managing one.
    • You need a business idea. It may not be as exciting or bring-in as much money, but savings and retirement accounts are low-risk options for earning a passive income.
    • “If you build it, they will come.” Whether you run a blog, published a book, or built an educational program you still need to use marketing channels so that people will discover, and eventually, invest in your content.
    • You need a large sum of money to get started. You’re not launching a full-fledged business here. Saying that you’re not launching a full business means that you don’t need thousands of dollars to get started. In some cases, it may just take-up some of your time. In others, you may only need to invest with a couple of hundred dollars.

How can you make a passive income?

There’s no shortage of ways to create several different streams of income. It ultimately depends if you want to invest more of your money or time.

For example, if you’re strapped for time, you may want to invest your money. Maybe you will take some of your money and invest in the stock market, opening a high-yield saving account, peer-to-peer lending, or becoming a silent partner of a company.

If you have spare time, you can start a blog, write a book, create an eCourse, or sell digital products. If you go this route, the key is to use your existing knowledge and resources to your advantage. For example, a consultant could create their own online course or package existing blog posts together for an eBook.

What if you want to start your own side business? As with your startup, you need to do your research to understand your market, how you’re unique, and the best ways to promote the side gig. Most importantly, be patient.

You aren’t going to start earning an additional income overnight. It may take months, even years, before you can finally start earning a passive income.

7 Ways To “Put Out Fires” Like Firefighters

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It’s happened to the best of us. We have our day all planned out. But, just as you’re getting ready to dive-in, a fire breaks out.

Sometimes these are small but inconvenient fires that can be easily extinguished. However, there are also massive fires that can burn hours in your day, week, or even month. If not addressed, they’re going to absolutely decimate your productivity.

But, how can you stop putting out fires every day? Well, take some cues from those who put their lives in danger of battling fires. Here are 7 ways firefighters put out fires.

1. Don’t squander the early morning hours.

When it comes to wildfires, Bill Gabbert, who worked wildland fire for 33 years, suggests that firefighters battle them in the morning. “Experienced firefighters know that large fires are typically most active in the mid-afternoon,” he writes. The reason?

“Solar heating has reached its peak. The ground, vegetation, and air are as hot as they will be all day.” And, it’s common “for firefighters to have to pull back and abandon what they were doing in the afternoon and retreat to a safety zone because the fire threatens to overrun their position.”

“Firelines painstakingly constructed can be lost,” he adds. It’s also “the hottest part of the day, sapping the energy of personnel and reducing their production while putting them at risk of heat-related injuries.”

“All of those factors can result in firefighters being least productive in the mid-afternoon,” Gabbert writes. However, there are times when “firefighters do not arrive at their work assignment on the fireline until mid to late morning. They may have squandered the time of day when the working conditions and the fire behavior were best suited for productive, safe work.”

While not as dangerous as firefighting, a lot of us also squander our mornings. We constantly hit snooze until we have to get out of bed. As a result, we rush to get to work.

A better idea would be to get up earlier and start the day on the right foot. That doesn’t mean you have to wake up at 4 am. It just means giving yourself some extra time to review your goals, priorities, and schedule so that you know what to focus on and address any possible conflicts.

2. Preparation is key.

Another advantage of giving yourself more time in the morning is that you can get to work earlier. In fact, it’s recommended that firefighters should be at their shift at least 30-minutes early.

“Preparation for that big fire begins when you walk through the door,” explains Eric Guida for FireRescue1. “Arriving early allows you to familiarize yourself with the apparatus you are assigned to before that 8:05 a.m. fire call.”

“It will also endear you to the off-going crew by grabbing that end-of-shift call,” he adds. “Start off on the right foot – arrive early. If you are on time, you’re late. If you’re early, you’re on time.”

Moreover, this lets firefighters check their equipment, such as PPE and SCBA, and every nozzle. “Check the rest of the equipment on the engine or truck to make sure it is where you left it the day before,” says Guida.

“If you are there for the first time, check to see where everything is,” he advises. “Knowledge of what is in those cabinets means you have one less thing to worry about when the big one hits.”

For you, you could prepare by planning your ideal week in advance or reviewing your to-do-list every evening. If you have a Zoom call, test everything out so that it starts on time is flawless. And, always put things back where they belong so that you know where they are when needed.

3. Implement a triage system.

“In addition to typical firefighter challenges, firefighters face unique problems, including the evacuation of civilians and animals; hazardous conditions, such as propane tanks, power lines, and hazardous materials; and protecting high-value assets at risk, including homes and businesses,” explains Chief Mike Bryant. “Because of these situations, firefighters must rapidly assess a structure to determine whether or not it can be safely and successfully defended.” For firefighters, this “evaluation process is called structure triage.”

“Structure Triage is the process of inspecting and classifying structures according to their dependability or non-defendability, based on fire behavior, location, construction, and adjacent fuels,” clarifies Chief Bryant.

Chief Bryant goes on to describe a tool developed by CAL FIRE WUI Working Group called S-FACT. It stands for survival, fire environment, access, construction/clearance, time constraints, and stay or go. In short, structure triage helps them identify where their priorities should be.

You probably can’t use the precise model; you also need to know which fire to put out first. Personally, I use a priority box like the famous Eisenhower Matrix where you place all of your to-do-lists items into one of the following quadrants:

  • Urgent and important. Tasks that you will do immediately.
  • Important, but not urgent. Tasks that you’ll schedule for later.
  • Urgent, but not important. Anything that can be delegated to someone else.
  • Neither urgent nor important. These should be eliminated from your list and schedule.

What happens when there’s a last-minute emergency? Utilize the 2-minute rule. It resembles more of a triage system in that it takes under 2-minutes to complete; you should just do it. If it’s something that could be done by someone else, delegate it to them.

For important, time-consuming actions, schedule it for later. And, if it’s unimportant, drop it.

4. Pass the nozzle.

A “senior man” is a firefighter who leads by example — regardless of their rank or pay. “The Senior Man is someone who not only trains but passes on experience learned in the past and applied to how things are done today using a new technology to their advantage,” writes Chief Patrick Kelly & Battalion Chief Tom Gaeta. “He/she holds that ‘slide tray’ of information in his/her head and is willing to share whenever the situation allows.”

“The Senior Man may pass the nozzle to the probie or talk you through a chimney fire because you’ve never done it,” they add. In other words, they’re a mentor who can prepare officers to become excellent firefighters.

Even if you aren’t in a leadership position, you also need to have some sort of succession plan. That means properly training others and giving them the resources to succeed. And also clearly communicating your expectations.

Most importantly, take the time to show them the ropes, like letting them shadow you and pick your brain during lunch. Since you took them under your wing, you’re confident that they can put any fire out without you. As an added perk, having your trust will strengthen your relationship with them.

5. Surround yourself with good company.

Of course, no matter how much you mentor others, they still need to possess similar traits as those of firefighters. According to firefighters around the country, these include:

  • Integrity
  • Physical fitness
  • Communication
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Dedication
  • Team player
  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Public image-conscious
  • Tolerance
  • Self-sacrifice

I don’t know about you. But, these are the type of people I would want in my support system. Having competent and talented people that I trust means that fires will never sabotage my most important work.

Why? Because I trust them and have all the faith in the world that they have my back. Of course, this goes all the way back to hiring the right team members from the get-go — whether if they’re full-time or freelancers.

In a previous Calendar article, Choncé Maddox suggests that this can be accomplished by:

  • Hiring on both potential and experience.
  • Hiring from diverse backgrounds.
  • Considering references and previous work samples.
  • Scheduling trial work.
  • Not rushing the hiring process and taking your time.
  • Offering fair pay.

6. Create a firewall.

I’m not talking about securing your devices — which you still should totally do. Rather, this firewall is the “fire-resistant barrier used to prevent the spread of fire for a prescribed period of time.”

Let’s say that throughout the day, you’re constantly interrupted by people stopping by your workspace — or blowing up your phone. If this becomes unbearable, then you need to install buffers. It could be as simple as placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign or your closed door to hiring a virtual assistant to handle calls and emails.

Another benefit of a virtual assistant is that they’re essentially your calendar’s gatekeeper. That means they will plan your schedule and share your availability with others. And, if something unexpected does pop-up, they can determine the level of urgency for you.

7. Preempt fires in the first place.

Don’t just sit back and wait for a fire to become unmanageable. Take steps to avoid them in the first place. Examples include electrical grounding during construction, not burning fires when it’s dry and windy, and investing in a fireproof safe to protect important documents.

As for you, you could back-up vital documents on the cloud. You could also learn from past mistakes, asking for feedback, and considering hypotheticals. Data analysis could also be used in identifying and anticipating problems in processes or workflows.

However, despite your best efforts, the unexpected is always lurking around the corner. As such, I’ve found that the best way to tackle this is by leaving some blank spots in your calendar.

How you do this is up to you. For some, they may tack-on additional time to a task. For instance, if something takes them an hour, they’ll block out an hour and a half. The idea is that they have 30-minutes to spare just in case. But, that may backfire thanks to Parkinson’s Law.

Personally, I leave blank spots in my calendar. For example, I might not schedule anything from 1 pm to 2 pm. That block can be used to attend to fires or shuffle my schedule around to be more flexible.

Can You Actually Get More Done in Less Time? Yes. You Can.

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We have a tendency to believe that we must be productive every waking moment of the day. I’m sure you’ve found yourself immediately responding to emails as soon as you turn your alarm off in the morning. After that, you’re getting ready for the day, put in ten hours at work, cook dinner, and then go back to responding to messages before crashing.

Sure. There will be some days like that, such as when launching a new product or service. Daily, though, this just isn’t attainable. So, what can you do about this quagmire?

The easy answer? Work smarter by getting more done in less time. That might sound impossible, but it is by getting the maximum return on investment of your time by doing the following.

Schedule your most important work according to your internal clock.

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that our best performance on challenging, attention-demanding tasks – like studying in the midst of distraction – occurs at our peak time of day,” writes Cindi May for The Scientific American. “When we operate at our optimal time of day, we filter out the distractions in our world and get down to business.”

Another way of putting that? We all have our own unique natural rhythms. Known as circadian rhythms, these explain why some of us are morning birds while others are night owls.

Rather than fighting about yourself, tune into your body’s rhythms. For instance, after tracking your time, you realize that you’re most productive from 10 a.m. to noon. Now that you’re aware of this, you would schedule your most important tasks for the day during that block when you’re most alert and focused.

Use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage.

Another advantage of tracking your time? You’ll have a better pulse on how long you need to complete certain tasks.

For instance, in the past, you set aside four hours to improve daily operations’ efficiency and effectiveness. After tracking your time, though, you realize that this can be done in three. Obviously, that means you’re wasting an hour of your day.

What’s more, his will help you combat Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work will fill the time available for its completion.” So, if you plan to work four hours, then you’re going to fill every minute of that timeframe. The problem is that because you only need three hours, those extra 60-minutes will be used for trivial tasks or as an excuse to procrastinate.

To hack Parkinson’s Law, you could employ tactics like:

  • Cutting your deadlines in half.
  • Gamifying tasks by racing against the clock.
  • Using blackmail, such as not getting a latte if you go over time.
  • Creating consequences, like only working until your laptop battery dies.
  • Aligning work with external obligations. If you have a virtual meeting at 1 p.m., your most important work must be done by then.

Follow the 80/20 rule.

Also known as the Pareto Principle, this is a powerful way to encourage you to focus on the vital few. You don’t have to get too hump-up on the exact percentage here. The jest is that instead of wasting time on the trivial many, you spend it on the most important and valuable items.

How can you apply this? I would begin by simplifying your to-do-lists using strategies like:

  • Mapping out your 1-3-5 items. Here you merely identify your main priority, 3 medium priorities, and 5 smaller to-dos, so you know what to schedule first.
  • Employing a priority matrix. My personal favorite technique since it lets you determine what’s Important and Urgent, Not Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Not Important, and Neither Urgent nor Important.
  • Identifying your MIT. Your MIT is simply your most important task that comes before anything else. No exceptions.
  • Creating a “done” list. Seeing what you’ve already accomplished lets your track your progress and spot recurring priorities.

After pinpointing your priorities, add them to your calendar. It’s just a simple way to guard your time and reject the unnecessary. Additionally, you should also be able to figure out what can be rescheduled, delegated, or deleted from your lists.

Manage your energy, not your time.

“Whenever someone says they need to get more done during the day, the answer is always to improve time management,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. That’s not to say that you should through time management out the window. It’s just that time is a limited resource.

“The amount of time you have will never change,” explains Choncé. “What you do with your time can change, but it is heavily dependent on your motivation and energy levels.”

Because of this, “it’s much more important to manage your energy over managing time,” she suggests. “All the buzz about time management hacks can be helpful to a certain point, but ultimately, you need to start by managing your energy first if you want to be more efficient and have a better-balanced schedule. Here’s how to get started.”

While this may seem overwhelming, if you’ve begun working on any of the recommendations listed, you’re already on your way. Examples would include scheduling your priorities and working when energy levels are highest. You could prioritize physical activity and taking frequent breaks to rejuvenate.

Almost is good enough.

Does this mean you should just go through the motions? Of course not. You should always put your best foot forward.

However, that’s different than being a perfectionist. Remember, perfectionism is just a figment of your imagination. And, if you keep trying to obtain it, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

A better approach is to think done instead of perfect. Just make sure to do the best you can. And, then you can move on to your next priority without falling behind.

Re-use previous materials.

“Your ability to reduce time by reusing and recycling work will vary depending on your particular responsibilities,” writes time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders over at HBR. “But where you can, copy, paste, and edit. That could happen with emails, presentations, pieces of training, proposals, and almost any other type of activity where you’re communicating something very similar. ”

“This strategy has proven most helpful for my coaching clients who give presentations or who teach,” adds Saunders. “When you’re pressed for time, fight the urge to entirely update or overhaul materials, and use something you already have to save hours and deliver the best content. Top speakers tend to give the same speech again and again because practice makes perfect.”

You could also review your calendar from last year to identify any recurring entries. For example, you notice that you have a weekly brainstorming session on Tuesdays at 3 pm. You could get a head start on next year’s schedule by making this a repeating event.

Another idea would be to recycle your content. For instance, you could turn high-performing blog posts into a slide deck or chapter of a book.

Be aware of emotional exhaustion.

“Emotional exhaustion refers to a specific state that includes not only physical symptoms of exhaustion, such as fatigue, headaches, sleep difficulties, and appetite changes but a distinct psychological experience of frustration, low motivation, helplessness, hopelessness,” explains clinical psychologist Deborah Offner, Ph.D.

“Emotional exhaustion is wider-ranging and longer-lasting than ‘a bad week,’” adds Dr. Offner. “It includes a constellation of physical and psychological symptoms that are caused by significant and prolonged stress in our professional or personal lives.” It’s also “a component of, or maybe a precursor to, burnout.”

In short, when you’re emotionally exhausted, you’re exhausted. Why? Because you have exceeded your capacity for emotional stress.

Eventually, if not addressed, this can lead to:

  • Feeling hopeless, depressed, and irritable.
  • Disconnecting and withdrawing from what’s around you.
  • A lack of motivation.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Physical fatigue.
  • Strained relationships.

If you notice any of the signs above, then you’re obviously not going to be as productive. More importantly, you’re putting your health and wellbeing in peril. To counter this, eat well, use coping skills like mindfulness, asking for help, and even taking a leave of absence to recharge.

Sharpen your saw.

Another way to avoid emotional exhaustion? Keep your saw sharp.

The idea comes from the story of a woodsman who was determined to cut down a tree. Despite all his elbow grease and grit, his blade was dull. But, the woodsman was too busy trying to stop to fix this problem.

Stephen Covey took this idea and listed it as Habit 7 in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For Covey, this “means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”

The idea is that you rest before you’re tired. As opposed to working non-stop, you should make it a point to take care of your health. You know, get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. Using something like the Pomodoro Technique can encourage you to take breaks throughout the day.

Additionally, you can also use downtime to learn and grow. When you do, you can strengthen and develop new skills that can help you work faster. But, another facet of this is delegating or outsourcing things that you aren’t proficient at.

Reverse engineer your calendar.

“Fix your ideal schedule, then work backward to make everything fit–ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way,” suggests author and Georgetown University professor Cal Newport. “My experience in trying to make that fixed schedule a reality forces any number of really smart and useful in-the-moment productivity decisions.”

The idea here is that this gives you control over your schedule. So, if you have a block of time reserved for uninterrupted work, then guard that at all costs. Anything of less importance can get scheduled later.

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