Tag Archives: time management

Your Comfort Zone Is a Kill Zone

Break-Out-Shell-Woman-smI just came back from a speaking engagement. I had tailored the talk a bit: first, because I had less time than normal and second, because it was a new, special market.

Even in the short time I presented, I found myself talking more than usual about our comfort zones.

It didn’t occur to me how important a topic it was until several people came up afterward to thank me and when asked “what touched you the most?”, they replied quietly and thoughtfully, “the comfort zone part”.

I looked up the definition of a ‘kill zone’ and found it to mean “the area of a military engagement with a high concentration of fatalities”.

So, based on this premise, your comfort zone has created, swept under the rug and buried “a high concentration of fatalities”.

Think about it. Your comfort zone is a vast wasteland of…opportunities you let slip by, dreams you didn’t pursue, relationships you were afraid to develop, jobs you didn’t take, dead-end jobs you didn’t leave, calls you didn’t make, gigs you let someone else win, important conversations you stuffed, trips you didn’t go on, stands you should have taken but didn’t, differences you could have made but ignored, fears you let dominate and prevail, personal growth you didn’t experience.

Have I said enough? Are you squirming yet? I am.

Comfort.2We all have a comfort zone. We often don’t even notice it. We delude ourselves into thinking it’s a happy, safe place.

And at some level, it is. But at what cost?

If you could trade that safety for deeper relationships, being fully expressed, earning more money, being seen and making a bigger difference in the world, living a thrilling, fulfilling life experiencing what might seem like magical serendipitous moments, creating the life you dream of, would it be worth stepping out of that comfortable, dream-killing zone?

Here are 7 ideas to break you out of your kill zone comfort rut.

1. Find something on your bucket list and do it this week.

2. Call the person you’ve been avoiding, have the conversation you’ve been afraid to have and do it in a way that honors both of you.

3. Commit to a goal so big and public it scares you.

4. Be more controversial on important issues that matter to you.

5. End any relationship that is no longer serving your greater good.

6. Stop waiting for permission.

7. Stop waiting to feel ready or confident. Take the action you’re dreading; confidence and readiness will appear as a  result.

Do any of these and feel your power. Do all of them and expect a miracle (or two or seven or more)!

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.

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.

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5 Keys for Maximizing the ROI on Your Professional Development

If you’re like me, you love to learn. I am always looking for ways to be more of the  best version of me and ways to improve the operation of my business.

The risk that you run with that kind of passion is that you’re consumed with learning, but weak on implementing and it’s implementing that allows you to monetize your investment and create a strong ROI.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you strive to improve yourself and your business:

1. Set aside time to integrate what you learned immediately.
When you attend a conference or a class, schedule some ‘down time’ the next day so you can review your notes and plan what you’ll do with your new knowledge.

2. Avoid taking too many classes in close proximity to each other.
It’s likely to take you weeks or months to fully integrate your new strategies into your routine.  Strive to allow sufficient time to assimilate your new knowledge and turn it into improved strategies and actions before piling on more knowledge.

3.  Practice and share your new ‘stuff’ immediately.
Many times people feel tentative when they start implementing something new. That tentativeness is played out by not sharing what you’ve learned with your community.

The longer you wait, the less likely you’ll be to ever implement. So give yourself permission to be a newbie. Try new things. Offer a small group of clients special ‘early adopter’ pricing for your new approach.

4. Make connections.
If you’re attending a live event (virtual or face-to-face), strive to connect with other people who serve your market but offer something to it that you don’t. These are great prospects for building referral relationships or strategic alliances. They will speak the same language as you (having just completed the same learning you did) and hopefully, will be equally motivated to monetize their investment.

5. Get support.
Making changes in your routine is often a challenge especially when you’re trying something new. As you make investment decisions, lean towards programs that offer some ‘post-learning’ coaching or Q&A support. As you implement, you’ll probably come up with questions that you didn’t have as you were learning the material. Follow up support can be invaluable and help you implement more efficiently.

Ongoing training and development is a necessary investment in your future success. You must tackle it wisely however in order to maximize your return. These tips will help you do just that!

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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.

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