Category Archives: time management

5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity and Get More of the Right Stuff Done

productivitytool10One of my speaking gigs is being an Actor for a local hospital. They give me a script and I act out various patient roles for nurses in training or those going for a professional certification. The hospital staff and I evaluate them and provide feedback on their patient care style and medical expertise.

On my last gig, we were conducting certification testing for trauma nurses. It quickly became evident that those that followed the system they had been taught, were WAY more likely to diagnose my ailments and save my life than those who were just ‘shooting from the hip’ trying to figure out what was wrong with me and what they should do about it.

That experience started me thinking about the value of process and systems in improving productivity and efficiency at work. Here are some tips you can apply even though you may NOT be a nurse.

1. Have a process and use it.
Shooting from the hip wastes time. Without a process, you’ll waste time and won’t get the desired results as quickly as you might need them.  Even for simple activities,using a framework will keep you focused, on task and produce more consistent, reliable results.

2. Make a list of your next day high priority activities BEFORE you leave work.
This will allow you to ‘hit the ground running’ when you get in first thing. You won’t waste that early morning quiet time (if you have it) trying to figure out what to focus on. Even if, especially if, you have a full day right off the bat, knowing what you’ll do before you get in will allow you to allocate precious time more quickly than if you get caught up in the back-to-back meeting syndrome so many people suffer from.

3. Keep the big picture in mind.
The trap many people fall into is dealing with the emergencies that land on their desk first. Of course, if the ’emergency’ is a critical one, you will have to deal with it quickly, but keeping your own important goals top-of-mind will help you triage situations and give things demanding your attention their proper place in the larger scheme of things.

4. Don’t answer the phone or check your email until AFTER you’ve done the top thing on your list.
This may seem like sacrilege or heresy to some, but think about it. Incoming phone calls and emails are things on the top of SOMEONE ELSE’s agenda, not yours. This one takes courage, but if you’re prioritizing things correctly, you’ll make the right decisions. If you’re really worried you’ll miss something from your demanding and irrational boss, scan your inbox if you must, but resist the urge to do anything you don’t absolutely have to until you’ve knocked out your top item(s).

5. Take a break every 90 minutes.
“Step away from your computer!”. Imagine a police officer yelling at you if you need some outside motivation. Go outside if you can, go to the bathroom and relax for a bit. Close your door and play your favorite music video or a snippet of an iTunes playlist. Taking a short 10-minute break, even in the midst of a critical project will rejuvenate your brain cells and reignite your creativity.

Incorporate these tips and see, not only how much more you accomplish, but also how much better you’ll feel in the process.

5 Things You Must Focus on to Achieve Your Goals

focus-mattersGoal-setting is an important activity for those who yearn to live an accomplished life. Yet, many people do not set goals and others who do, don’t set them well.

There was a purported study inaccurately attributed to Harvard or Yale about about the impact of setting goals. The ‘study’ concluded that 83% of the population didn’t have identified goals.  It further showed that 14% had goals but only a mere 3% of the population had written theirs down. It went on to say that years later, the 3% with written goals had earned 10 times more than everyone else. (The statistics vary based on whose interpretation of the ‘study’ you read.) As it turns out, that study never happened.

‘Facts’ aside, it reinforces the concept of writing your goals down.

An actual study conducted later by Gail Matthews, PhD at Dominican University revealed 3 important conclusions:

1. Be clear on your goals and write them down.
2. Develop a plan on how you are going to achieve them.
3. Develop an accountability mechanism.

I haven’t conducted a study. However, I have been active in the performance improvement and performance enhancement field for a surprisingly long time (read, “decades”).

Here’s my take on the 5 critical components of what it takes to make magic happen.

1. Have a clear goal
OK, this is a pretty consistent first step across all platforms so I won’t spend a lot of time on it. Yet it is still one many people skip.  Don’t be one of them. ‘Nuf said?

Know where your end destination is, whether its later today or later in life. Pick a specific, measurable ‘what’ you will accomplish and a ‘by when’ it will be done.

2. Know your “Why”
Knowing why you want to achieve the goal is at least as important a motivating factor as knowing what it is you want. Accomplishing goals, especially big, hairy ones, will likely take an inordinate amount of effort. You’ll probably NOT have smooth sailing along the way, so having a deep urge, a deep longing, an important reason to continue in the face of all of the crap on the road is critical.

3. Feel your success
Imagine how you’ll feel once your end goal is reached. Will you feel fulfilled, safe, secure, happy, proud, satisfied, excited, peaceful, powerful, confident? What ever the emotion, start ‘practicing’ feeling it NOW, even before you have the ‘thing’. Don’t wait until you get there, feeling that ‘future’ emotion now will make life more enjoyable, help support your motivation factor and actually help draw in the resources, ideas and connections to help you get there.

Time will pass more easily if you’re not waiting for the future to feel good. Be that feeling now.

4. Think about how you’ll make it happen
I was listening to Brian Tracy speak at the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association earlier this month. He had conducted a study of high achievers. He said there were two factors that distinguished top performers from everyone else.  First, they had big, clear goals. And, secondly, they thought constantly about how they could achieve them.

I would veer away from the idea of constantly thinking about ‘how’.  I would say, constantly focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘feeling’, but allow for the creative process, for divine intervention, coincidence, providence, unexpected inspirations to light the path forward for you.

5. Be happy now
This is related, but slightly different that point 3. The tip here is to focus on things that RIGHT NOW are going well: things your grateful for, things you’re happy about TODAY.

I was listening to Marshall Sylver, host of the Million Dollar Television Network. He was also talking about focus and achieving goals.  He said  “You get what you focus on.” So instead of focusing on all of your problems, focus on what you want more of in your life.

Pharrel Williams also was definitely on to something with his inspired song, Happy. The words, energy and message resonated with people around the world. The song extols the virtues of being happy.

In one verse, he describes the feeling of letting things roll off his back. “…Here come bad news, talkin’ this and that. Give me all you got, don’t hold it back. I  should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine. No offense to you, don’t waste your time. Because I’m happy!”

So, to quote another song from way back, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Focus on what matters. Your goals, your dreams, your happy, grateful, positive feelings and what you want are what really matters.

The #1 Factor that Contributes to Living a Long Life

I knew I was getting ‘old’ when I realized NPR was my favorite radio station!

Anyway, I was particularly engaged by one interview discussion on a study conducted with octogenarians around the world. One of the significant findings was the revelation of the most important thing that helps people live very long lives.

The guest cited several contributing factors which I will summarize in a bit. But I want to encourage you to imagine what the top factor was.

Here are 5 of the factors:

1) Octogenarians eat largely a plant-based diet
I’ve been moving in this direction recently, striving for ever more veggies, fruits and beans. I must admit though, I’m a carnivore by blood type and the satisfaction that chewing on muscle provides is hard for me to replicate. But I have seen enough other studies confirming this to actually start shifting my intake mix. In this study, fava beans were seen repeatedly as a dietary staple.

2) When they eat meat (once a month or so), pork was the meat of choice
This finding shocked me. Pork has had somewhat of a ‘branding issue’ with a somewhat negative reputation although it’s a staple in our house as my husband has food allergies to many other meat protein sources. However, this is what people who live long around the world  eat.

3) Physical activity promotes longevity
We know this, right? But our lifestyle makes it challenging to get in the physical activity our bodies truly need. Many of us go to the office, sit in front of our computers all day, network at lunches and dinners and then go home. If we’re good, we walk, run, bike, do yoga, workout at the gym, do Pilates or Zuumba.

Around the world though, people have different lifestyles that incorporate movement. They garden and walk frequently. Their lives are done in motion.

4)  Daily napping contributes to a long life
This is another practice that seems challenging, even wasteful to me (the overachieving, always-working-on-something person that I am.) I know the value of getting enough sleep and have begun going to bed earlier at least. But napping in the middle of the day?!?!?

Hmmm. However, evidence shows that getting plenty of rest keeps the body going longer. So take heed.

5) Octogenarians have a supportive ecosystem
People who live long don’t do so alone. They are connected to a social network (no, not Facebook), a live network of real people who know and support them. They get encouragement and love from their families and communities and just as important, give love to their communities.

They have a strong sense of faith and likely belong to a faith-based community. They are connected to others, here and ‘above’.

The top contributing aspect of this supportive ecosystem is having a clear sense of purpose. In many of the communities in which octogenarians prosper, the concept of retirement is non existence. People do their life’s work their entire lives. Even if they have jobs in their earlier years, they have a sense of personal purpose that incorporates, envelops or transcends their wage-earning means. It gives meaning to their lives. It gives them a reason to be here.

So my question to you is, ‘What is your purpose?’ What will keep you going after you’ve ‘retired’? What are you here for? What is so important to you that you would continue pursuing it until your last dying breath?

Take some time right now and write down in large print, your purpose…what your life is about…why you’re on this planet at this time.

Why your life will have mattered.

Then make sure you take action on it every day. And, oh yeah, incorporate the other ideas in this article to live long and prosper.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Top 10 Time Traps

Life moves so much faster now than it did a decade ago. They promised us all of these productivity improvements but rather than simplify our lives, we’ve accelerated the speed at which we burn out if weren’t not careful.

Almost every single person I talk to says they’re busy, maybe even swamped. We’re inundated by email, phone calls, meetings, projects, family, social media, broadcast media, responsibilities, fun, etc.

So given that none of this is likely going away in the short term, where are we most at risk of being sucked into the time vortex and losing our capacity for true productivity with purpose?

Here are the top 10 traps that keep us from using the time we have in the most conscious way.

1. Doing busy work
There is a difference between being busy and being productive. When you’re merely busy, time goes by and you feel you’ve used it well, but in reality, you haven’t. You’ve deluded yourself into thinking you’ve accomplished something meaningful, when you’ve really just stood still. Think about a hamster running in a circular cage. True, he’s burned up some calories but he didn’t really get anywhere. How much cage running do you do that you pass off as getting somewhere?

2. Procrastinating on important tasks
Fear can be gripping. It’s likely the source of your preoccupation with busy work. When you don’t tackle those scary items, you let opportunities pass you by. You effectively give up before you even start, assuring yourself of certain defeat. The gold medal could be yours, but you never even start the race.

3. Multitasking
Given all of the distractions listed earlier, this is an easy one to give in to. Unfortunately, it’s a major drain on your productivity. When you multitask (and I’m guilty of this myself), you lose focus. And with lost focus, productivity suffers. You shift gears constantly and never get “into the groove”.

There is something to be said for assembly line work. As boring as it can be, the repetition of the same task over and over makes those assembly lines crank out a ton of product at low margins. When you multitask, your brain has to start from scratch every time you shift gears, wasting energy and brain cells and costing fluidity and productivity.

4. Flying by the seat of your pants
Some people hate to plan. Are you one of them? If so, you may pride yourself on being flexible and spontaneous. Both of these are virtues, but can also cause lost opportunities. Without a plan, you’ll forget things that are important. You’ll stay focused on what’s presented to you and not what is truly important.

5. Focusing on urgent, rather than important tasks
People who fly by the seat of their pants often are trapped in a either an urgent, emergency world or a drifter, come what may world. If this is you, you are responsive but probably not making the progress you’d hoped for, if you even remember what that progress would have looked like. Focusing on the urgent generally keeps you working on someone else’s projects not your own.

6. Living in your Comfort Zone
Miracles and major achievements occur outside your Comfort Zone. It feels nice and safe inside your CZ, but you’ll also fall victim to doing busy work and not confronting what it takes to step up and become heroic about your accomplishments. So your accomplishments don’t actually happen or take much longer than necessary.

7. Working outside your ‘gift’ zone
You have gifts (we all do) and those special skills are uniquely yours. Unfortunately, when you work on everything that crosses  your desk, you exhaust yourself. You stifle your creativity because creativity arises when you’re free and unburdened, not when you’re engrossed in a task that’s a struggle for you.

8. Not allocating your time properly
You don’t know how long it takes to complete your tasks (likely because you are multitasking and working on 5 things at a time). Additionally, your calendar likely gets filled up with meetings and before you know it, you’re out of time and didn’t get to the things on your to do list. Does that sound familiar…more work than day available?

9. Not monitoring your use of time
When you don’t allocate, it’s hard to monitor. And what doesn’t get monitored, can’t get measured nor managed properly. If you saw how  much of your time you were flushing down the toilet, you’d probably be shocked.

10. Forgetting the big picture
Most people get up and get to work. They work on what’s in front of them or happens to them during the course of the day. When you forget the Big Picture of why you’re here and what you’re supposed to be working on, your day gets filled in by many of the above items. It leaves you feeling somewhat frustrated, wondering ‘what’s the point’? You wake up one day singing ‘What’s it all about Alfie?’ (if you’re in my generation), talking about the Good Old Days, but feeling like you’ve missed out somehow…even though you’ve been busy the whole time.

Don’t fall victim to these traps. It’s not too late! Change your habits before you miss the big boat.

Enhanced by Zemanta

7 Factors for More Effective Marketing and Better Business Growth

I’ve been working with several private clients on building their businesses more effectively.

One of the things they applaud is how must more productive their activities have become. They cite things like having a plan, being held accountable for implementing that plan and improving the quality of their marketing message as critical components of their success.

These aren’t rocket science concepts, yet in the day-to-day chaos that sometimes consumes them, plans and good intentions fly out the window.

What is it that has some business owners increase their businesses while other struggle?

I’ve uncovered 7 critical components.

1. Establish short-term and long-term goals
I wrote about the value of goal setting a few weeks ago (Read the article). Goals for both time frames are critical. Goals give you something to work toward and also make the path to get on more clear.

2. Assess
How prepared are you to do the work required to get to your end goal? Do you have what you need or do you need to learn something, hire a consultant, reorganize work duties? Maybe you have to shift your thinking, expand your sense of possibility. Adopt a more empowering belief system that says “I can do that!”

3. Identify stumbling blocks
There are reasons you haven’t yet reached your goal. The assessment phase may have brought to light tools and resources you need but don’t have.  If you keep saying, “If only I had “x then I could market my company better”, it’s time to get off the dime and take care of that. It’s costing you money!

4. Lay out your roadmap
Once you know where you’re going and what you need to get there, you can start laying out the steps it will take and the milestones you’ll  have to reach along the way. Knowing the intermediate steps will make the realization of your goal more feasible, certain even.

5. Be proactive
All the best laid plans will produce naught if you don’t get off your duff and do something different. You can’t expect to continue with your old, comfortable habits and expect that magically they’ll turn into more clients and more profits.

When people hear about how painfully shy I was as a child, they always ask ‘What did you do to get over that?’ First came the realization that I could not accomplish what was in my heart and mind being a wallflower. Then came decisions to put myself in front of people, speaking to groups (which petrified me at the time) and to continue doing that until it became a now favorite activity.

6. Track your progress
This is an important step that most people don’t bother with. They may make to-do lists and cross things off, but it’s hard to track your productivity over time by just reviewing crossed off lists. You can’t see trends of things you’re doing well and things you’re consistently avoiding. Plus tracking your activity makes you WAY more conscious of and accountable for what you’re getting done.

7. Get support and master your psychology
No matter how driven you are, having someone or some ones in your corner, watching your back, giving you honest feedback, encouraging you when you’re down, brainstorming with you and opening your eyes to new possibilities while pushing you to think bigger, will go a long way to you reaching new horizons, more clients, happier clients and more money in the bank.

Implement these 7 factors and watch your business grow!

Enhanced by Zemanta