October 23rd, 2012 · 1 Comment
Getting the right start to your day could be more important than you think. For one thing, it sets the tone for the working hours to come. For another, it is the one set of habits that you are least likely to break, since few disruptions ever come before you set foot in the office.
So, here are a few ways to make your morning routine work for you, and enhance your productivity all day:
Make time for exercise and breakfast. Far, far too many people lose the first hour of the day to coffee and the commute. Getting even 15 minutes of good exercise in the morning (a quick walk around the block) followed by a low-fat, high-protein breakfast has been shown to improve your mood and productivity for up to 12 hours.
Beat the rush. Sitting in traffic all morning is a sure way to show up at the office tired and stressed out. Consider leaving a bit earlier and beating the morning rush. Your commute will be faster, you’ll use less fuel, and you’ll arrive in a much better mood.
Give yourself a quiet period. What will you do at work if you show up early? Here is an idea that top performers in every field have used for decades: Give yourself one hour without phones, e-mails, the Internet, or other distractions. Use that time to make progress on your most important professional goals. You’ll be absolutely amazed at what can be done in 60 minutes when nothing interrupts you.
Don’t start everything all at once. In the same way, it is a good idea not to throw yourself immediately into phone calls, meetings, and e-mails during your first half hour of work. You will feel overwhelmed, lose your sense of calm, and likely forget your priorities for the day. There is nothing wrong with taking a few minutes to settle in.
Making changes to your daily morning routine typically takes a short period of adjustment, but it is well worth it to establish new habits that can carry you to more productivity every day. Be sure to give these a try and let us know how it changes your life and career!
October 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment
Most of us have pulled all-night work sessions at some point in our careers. For most of us, the habit usually begins with a cramming session in high school or college, supposedly to help us make it through the test or paper that we were not prepared for. Eventually, it becomes something we get used to, especially later in our careers when the projects are bigger, and the deadlines tighter.
In fact, lots of people are proud of their ability to work through the evening and into the next morning – considering it proof of their work ethic and dedication. But are all-nighters really good for your productivity, your health, or your career?
Research suggests that it is not. Lots of studies have been done, and they all show that the work we do when we stay up too late is not as good as we think it is. That is even true for students, who tend to score lower on tests after being deprived of sleep.
As it turns out, staying up all night is almost always counterproductive. Here are a few reasons why:
The quality of work decreases. Most of us already know intuitively that we aren’t as creative or insightful when we are tired. The research backs this up: Being sleep-deprived is as bad for your productivity as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
We make simple errors that we should not. When you haven’t had enough sleep, you overlook simple, obvious errors. That can amount to typos in a presentation, calling the client by the wrong name, or making a major accounting mistake.
Staying up all night ruins the next day (or maybe two) of productivity. That is not a good trade to make, especially if you are pulling an all-nighter because you are behind on other work or projects.
We set bad habits for ourselves. When you think that you can be successful by staying up all night to finish the task, you encourage procrastination on the next important project. Sooner or later, that is bound to catch up with you.
If you really want to do great work without missing deadlines, get in the habit of following solid time-management tips, prioritizing projects so you don’t take on too much, and eliminating time-wasting habits. That might not seem as exciting as burning the midnight oil to finish a last-minute project, but it is a lot better for your life and career.
Tags: Office Productivity · Personal Productivity
I spend a fair amount of time talking about e-mail in my workshops, training sessions, and even this blog. There is a good reason for that: How well you manage your inbox speaks volumes about the control you have over your calendar, and how disciplined you are in your approach to time management. E-mail can be a tool for good or evil, metaphorically speaking, and it is important to get it right if you’re going to make the most of your day.
With that in mind, here are three e-mail habits every busy professional absolutely needs to form:
1. Start each day with a clean inbox. At the end of each work day, leave your inbox so that there are no remaining messages. This does not necessarily mean you have to finish every project, or even respond to every question – it just means that you have filed what you needed, made notes for follow-up, and cleaned out all the junk. You might have separate folders or tags for long-term projects, e-mails that require responses, casual reading, and other categories. But however many you have, be sure to use them.
This one small habit can change your life, since looking at a fresh inbox (especially first thing in the morning) can drastically cut back on the stress and mental tension you feel when you check your messages.
2. Create an e-mail schedule that works for you. You should never leave your audio or visual e-mail notification on, since that would just distract you when you’re doing other work. Instead, put yourself on an e-mail schedule, checking it anywhere from hourly to a few times a day. Not only will that stop you from being interrupted, but you will get through your new messages faster by dealing with them in a batch.
What if you have a boss or client that’s likely to need an instant answer? Go into your e-mail software settings and set a special notification for that person. It’s not as good as batching all of your e-mails, but it is still better than being interrupted by anyone.
3. Keep more than one e-mail address. Not every message to you has to come in to your main work address. Keep a separate free account (like the ones you can get from Gmail or Yahoo) and use it to sign up for newsletters, as your contact for stores you buy from, etc. This way, you can still get the offers and information you need, but in an account you only have to check once every week or so.
Tags: Email Management
September 11th, 2012 · No Comments
Have you ever had the experience of agreeing to something – like a dinner with relatives, a weekend volunteer project, or a new social activity, for example – that sounded like a good idea at the time, but you ended up dreading as it got closer?
Believe it or not, psychologists have identified this is as a common behavior that falls under the umbrella of “cognitive biases.” Although that is a big term, it basically boils down to the idea that we don’t do a good job of anticipating how we will feel about something at a later time. It’s also the reason there are some things that are easy to say “yes” to (like watching your sister’s children for a weekend) the farther away they are on the calendar. They just sound like more fun, or at least less of a hassle, when they aren’t just around corner.
Luckily, even though our brains are good at fooling us in this way, there is an easy trick to stop yourself from making the same mistake in the future as you struggle with time management issues and multitasking: Imagine anything that’s being asked of you will take place next week, not next month or next year.
This exercise forces you to think about the commitment in real terms and consider issues like:
Would you be too busy? Theoretically speaking, you have all the time in the world six months from now. What happens in the meantime, however, is the same thing that always happens – new commitments putting a squeeze on your schedule. If taking on a new project or responsibility next week would be virtually impossible, then think carefully about agreeing to the same kind of thing farther down the road.
Would it be too expensive? Likewise, it is easy to spend that bonus or extra income that you are expecting in the future, but that is because you aren’t thinking of things like dentist appointments, car repairs, and the hundreds of other inevitable expenses that we do not think about and still inevitably end up paying. Try not to make long-term decisions with your money (or your company’s) unless you have a firm idea of where the money is coming from.
Are there other things you would rather be doing instead? This is what most of our bad commitments boiled down to. If there is something that you wouldn’t particularly enjoy at the current time, then you probably will not magically learn to love it later, either. For that reason, you need to be careful when it comes to saying “yes” to activities that might seem like a pain once they come around.
Tags: Time Management
For as much as managers and motivational experts want us to take on more, and do more with our lives in general, one of the biggest challenges facing today’s professionals is one of being over-committed. In other words, trying to do so many things that you either cannot reach the goals that really matter to you, or can’t enjoy them if you do.
This can be a bigger productivity challenge than you think, sent it can lead us to being too stressed to properly focus, and too busy to make progress on our biggest goals. Luckily, over-committing is one of the easier habits to break, once you understand that the real problem is a lack of clear priorities. Once you clarify what it is you most want to accomplish in your personal and professional life, it gets easier to strip away the other things you do not need.
Here are a few steps to help you get started:
Cut back on your personal and professional goals. We live in an age where we are constantly being reminded to “be more.” We want to be the perfect professional, great parents, weekend athletes, constant learners, master vacationers, and so much more. Each of these becomes easier when you are not doing so many of them, however, so take the time to figure out what you really want from your personal and professional life.
Develop a laser focus. After you have established your 3 to 5 biggest goals in the next few years (for example), make a habit of eliminating activities, projects, and commitments that do not help you move closer to them. Your aim should be to make steady progress towards a handful of really important targets, not to spend your day bouncing from tasks the task, project to project.
Remember that it’s okay to put things off until later. Just because you are not doing something now does not mean you cannot do it ever. That’s important to keep in mind, because that can help you stay focused on what matters in the short term. Take care of the things you care about most at the moment, and you’ll have the time and energy to move on to something else down the road.
Tags: Goal Setting · Work Life Balance
Parents today are pulled in countless different directions, making it hard to find the time for everything on those never-ending to-do lists, not to mention to spend time with your family. This makes time management essential.
Hannah Anderson, from the “Full-Time Nanny” blog submitted her article, “10 Ways Parents Can Better Manage Their Time” .
Many of her points also pertain to basic time management in office skills and personal projects: setting goals, determining priorities, working from a plan, delegating when possible, handling email in specific time blocks.
However there is one point that, at first glance, will seem contradictory to all of our writing about the need to limit multitasking. Her point #7 says:
7. Try to multitask. How much time do you spend talking on the telephone? If you are at home and you’re talking to a friend or relative put them on speaker and complete some tasks around the house while you are talking. Putting away dishes doesn’t take a lot of concentration, but it needs to be done. These types of activities are perfect for completing when you’re at home talking on the phone.
To explain this seeming contradiction, there is a difference in types of multitasking. In his book, “The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing it All’ Gets Nothing Done,”author Dave Crenshaw breaks down the term “multitasking” into two different categories:
- Background tasking
Read our article on multitasking effectively to learn more about these two concepts.
Tags: Multitasking · Time Management
While conventional wisdom teaches us that multitasking makes us more efficient, research suggests that we’re incapable of efficiently managing more than two tasks at a time.
Here are some of the research findings that show how the internet can disrupt our best time management attemps:
- Our daily consumption of media has more than doubled in the last 50 years from 5 hours to 12 hours.
- The average computer user checks 40 websites a day, switching between programs 36 times an hour.
- 61% of adults admit to being addicted to the internet.
- Excessive internet use may lead to the atrophy of gray matter and impact memory, goal-setting, and decision making.
While it may be difficult to change a multitasking habit, there are some things you can do to cut back:
- Intentionally focus on tasks
- Group similar tasks together
- Take breaks from constant shifting of attention
- Read the article, Multitasking Effectively
If you have a moment during your internet time, take a look at this infographic on how multitasking induced stress impacts our brains.
The above link and information was provided by Muhammad Saleem.
At its heart, the field of time management and productivity training basically comes down to teaching busy people how to spend their time both more efficiently, and more effectively.
That can be difficult to do, though, when you aren’t sure how you are spending it in the first place.
In my keynotes and seminars, I often recommend that people keep a time log in one form or another, at least for a couple of weeks as they begin their time-management regimen. Even though it is particularly important for those who are just beginning to get a grip on their calendars, it is actually good advice that we should all follow from time to time.
Luckily, the task of measuring our time is getting easier every year as new tools are developed that largely automate the process. The team over at OfficeTime makes software that helps freelancers to keep track of the time they spend on different projects on a minute-by-minute basis. Recently, they conducted a survey of their customers, and came up with a few interesting statistics:
- 46% of respondents said that keeping track of their time made them more productive
- 42% got a much clearer picture of how they’re using their time
- 31% were very interested to find out where their time is being wasted
Although the survey was sent to freelance workers – who rely on accurate time-tracking to stay profitable – the same principles apply to the rest of us. Even though you might not be self-employed, you should track your time as if you were, because it is going to help you accomplish more, set a higher career path, and feel both more productive and less stressed at the office. Those are important benefits, regardless of whether you’re working for yourself or someone else.
In the long run, time is even more scarce than money, so it is imperative that you make the most of it. Are you keeping close enough track of yours to know whether you are spending it wisely or not?
Tags: Time Management
How much sleep do you get on an average evening? Could getting more make you a healthier, happier, and more productive person?
Although common sense tells us that a well-rested worker can do more – and think more creatively – than their exhausted counterpart, it isn’t unusual for busy executives to practically brag about how little time they spend getting a little shuteye. In fact, many of the busiest people tend to treat sleep almost as an addiction: something they need, but would rather do without.
As an interesting infographic from Frugal Dad points out, however, burning the midnight oil is typically only a short-term solution. Getting more rest is a great way to be more productive… and going without it can be dangerous.
One of the most interesting observations is that most of us are getting about 20% less sleep than our counterparts were 100 years ago. Add that to the fact that sleep deprivation has been blamed for one-fifth of all auto accidents, and played a part in several major recent man-made disasters, and you can see how good sleeping time can be important for your career and safety.
Here are a few tips to help you get the sleep you need and start each day ready to do your best:
Make sleep a time-management priority. Give yourself a bedtime that makes sense, and then get in the habit of sticking to it regularly.
Use light to your advantage. Soaking in some natural daylight during the day – and staying away from a computer or television screen right before bed – are great ways to help your body adjust and fall asleep quicker.
Aim for high-quality sleep. It is not enough just to lie in bed. Cut back on the caffeine, learn to relax, and shoot for several solid hours of peaceful, undisturbed sleep.
Give yourself a short nap. Sleeping 10 or 15 minutes in the afternoon can boost your mood or productivity, but be careful not to stay in bed too long, as a longer nap can disrupt your sleeping patterns.
It is easy to pass up on sleep, especially when you’re too focused on the personal and professional goals you want to go to bed. Everything in life is harder to do when you’re tired, however, so give your body the break it needs and make sure to get enough rest every evening.
Tags: Office Productivity
The time you spend outside of work is very precious time. It’s the time you spend recharging, connecting with family and friends, and doing things you enjoy. Unfortunately, it’s also the time you spend cleaning, driving your kids to soccer practice, and getting your oil changed. How you spend your free time is important. You obviously don’t want to spend all of your free time cleaning and running errands. However, it’s sometimes difficult to balance doing what you want to do and what you have to do when you’re off the clock. Here are a few tips to help you better manage your time outside of work and enjoy it more:
Make Cleaning and Home Organization Easier
• First of all, de-clutter. If you own a lot of stuff, you have to spend a lot more time organizing and cleaning each week. So, go through everything you own and remove excess, unnecessary items from your house.
• Secondly, ask all the people you live with to pull their weight when it comes to cleaning and organization. Oftentimes, one person in a household does the bulk of the cleaning. Don’t be that person, and don’t let that happen. If everyone pitches in, no one has to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning. If you live alone, make a special effort to clean for at least 15 minutes everyday, and your house will almost always be clean.
Do More Meaningful Things With Your Free Time
• Cut back on TV watching and internet usage. It’s easy to spend most of the few hours you have each evening watching TV or surfing the web. After all, you’re tired. You want to relax. However, if you spend time relaxing in the company of friends or engaging in your favorite hobbies, you’ll feel as though you’ve done more with your time and have gotten more meaning out of it.
• Take care of yourself. Exercise, spend time cooking your favorite healthy dishes, meditate, go to a spa, sky dive, learn something new, or call up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while who lives far away from you. You probably won’t be able to dedicate all of your free time to pampering yourself, but you should make an effort to do things that are good for your body, mind, and spirit on a regular basis.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably spread too thin, overworked, and exhausted. That’s just the nature of the beast and this hectic, modern world. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to get more out of your free time. Remember that extra time is a gift, and you should always try to make the most of it!
This guest post was submitted by Ryan Franklin. He is a home organizer and guest blogger who writes about home improvement, self-help, and finding long distance movers for your cross country move.
Tags: Home Productivity