productivity
Attitude Adjustment

How to balance long-term with urgent—one task at a time

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Quick, do this exercise.

Think of all the short-term tasks you completed yesterday, like: replying to emails, fixing glitches on your web site, answering the phone, updating Facebook status, making lists, and waiting for people to confirm their appointments. All valuable. None pay the bills.

In the course of a day most people spend most minutes putting out fires, tinkering with details, making lists and procrastinating. It’s called the Parkinson Principle – work expands to fill the time allotted.

What about long-term projects. How much time do you invest every day moving those projects ahead. I’m thinking projects like:

  • designing your next product launch
  • getting help to build an advertising campaign
  • writing that book you’ve been talking about since 2001
  • outsourcing your social media (that’s eating up a hour a day)
  • using customer feedback to update your product
  • getting your accounting up-to-date

Those projects move the needle forward. The trick is to employ a system where long-term goals drive your actions, not hoping you’ll find more time (mysteriously) later.

Here are three died-in-the-wool systems that will help you balance long-term objectives with urgent tasks. I have taught these systems to thousands of people and they always the most popular parts of my time management seminars.

1. Work from a Flight Plan

Once a week you need to create a Flight Plan – a short list of essential objectives to complete by next Friday. This is not another “To-Do” list full of miscellaneous tasks and “left overs” from last week—instead it’s mission-critical work that moves your long-term projects forward and gets you closer to your goals.

Start with “Boulders” (the big goals for the year): what “Chunks” of Boulders can you complete this week? It might be setting up a meeting, research, or outsourcing – the trick is to have something every week that keeps your Boulders rolling forward.

Next, add in one-off, time-sensitive tasks. Be as specific as possible – “Post job in upwork.com for graphic design” is better than “Get help with graphic design”.

Once you have your Flight Plan, keep it visible and drive all your actions toward completing it before the weekend.

2. Remove Distractions

A distraction could be that sticky note that’s been on your desk for two months, or a full InBox screaming “look at me!” Minor in the moment, distractions have a way of gnawing away at your focus and making it difficult to complete. Boundaries (creating time slots when you are strategically unavailable) and Blocking (creating appointments with yourself) are two systems to start with. Here are some other fast solutions:

  • take 10 minutes and purge your desk of anything not immediately needed (yes, that includes that stack of business cards from the last conference you attended).
  • unsubscribe from email lists that you no longer want. Yes, this will take time (you can outsource this), but think of the distractions that will disappear every day.
  • get all your lists in one place—this includes calendars. If you aren’t using that cool app on your phone every day it’s likely not needed. Delete it.
  • create a list for the month and a “someday” list in Evernote. These are un-prioritized holding zones. Do not look at these except once a week when you update your Flight Plan.

3. Practice Triage

In an emergency, paramedics practice triage. They often can’t attend to everything and everyone immediately, so they make hard decisions about what can wait. You need to do the same.

Jumping from one task to another, without completing what you started is a recipe for anxiety and failure. I am often surprised how much more effective I can be working from a cafe with no Internet connection, as opposed to my office where I am fully connected.

When a distraction comes up (“I’ll just take a minute an check out their web site”), resist. If this does not contribute to your Flight Plan it can wait. Tough love in the moment will pay big love dividends long-term.

Hugh Culver

Bio: Hugh Culver co-created the world’s most expensive tours (to the South Pole), started five companies, and teaches experts the business of speaking. Read his blog on the business of speaking. Follow him on Twitter @hughculver

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planninh
Performance & Productivity, Personal Development

The four best damn productivity habits high achievers use

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I’m a student of productivity. I have to be—distractions are everywhere.

And while I know there are hundreds of apps designed to plan, protect, measure, and manage my time, I prefer some died-in-the-wool methods.

The good news is you can use them as well and with zero training.

First, how are you doing? Are you able to focus when needed and complete the task at hand? Are you organized and following a plan? Can you recover from inevitable distractions quickly and get back to work?

If you’re not sure you’re playing at the top of your time management game, then these solutions can make a big difference.

1. BOUNDARIES

I think “open door” policies are stupid. It’s also stupid to check you email first thing in the morning, work without a plan and allow interruptions to rule your day.

That’s why you need Boundaries.

A Boundary is when you are strategically unavailable. Different from a meeting, a Boundary is a time block that reoccurs every day to allow you to work on projects that require your full attention.

My first Boundary is from 5:00 to 7:00AM for writing. No Internet, spell-check, email, or social media—just a big cup of tea and writing. I will either be working on a blog (guess what time I’m writing this), client proposal or speech—most mornings I can crank out 1,000 words.

My next Boundary is 9:15 to 10:30AM. I’m at my office (a 12 minute bike ride from home) and working on 50% of the hardest work on my plate for the day.

And then I have a Boundary from 1:30 to 3:30 for the second 50% of hard work.

Here’s the trick: I don’t worry if it doesn’t happen. It could be I have a client meeting, a speech out of town or I’m meeting someone. Of course, I try to schedule around my Boundaries, but if I can’t protect that time my trick is to return to my routine the next day.

2. BLOCKING

You get ready and are on time for meetings. Right? Why not create a meeting for yourself.

Blocking happens when you create an appointment with yourself for a task that either:

  • you know you might procrastinate about
  • impacts someone else and they are relying on you to get it done
  • is strategic and by completing it you move other projects ahead

When I get off the phone from a new client I block time on my calendar to interview delegates (invaluable research as a speaker), create handouts, or have a final call with the client.

I also Block time for responding to RFP’s (Request For Proposals), researching for my blog, creating email sequences for upcoming webinars and just thinking.

I’m always a bit surprised how my Pavlovian reaction to seeing a meeting on my calendar (even if I’m not meeting someone) alerts me to get ready to work on that task.

One last point about Blocking time for yourself: my rule is once the Block is created you can’t delete it, only move it.

3. BATCHING

When I visit my friend’s cabin each summer we chop wood. Nothing like chasing a scrap of wood around the chopping block to keep me happy.

It would be a bit silly for me to announce I’m going to “chop some wood”, proudly return with one stick only to head out 20 minutes later to “chop some more wood.” Instead I Batch.

Batching is a lost art in our age of multitasking and it still works like a damn. When you Batch you complete similar tasks all at once. The most obvious example is your email. That addictive InBox (Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D likens our addiction to email to that of a Vegas slot machine) will suck up every available moment unless you reserve your visits to Batching. Other examples of batching include:

  • paying bills
  • filing and clearing the clutter in your office
  • returning phone calls
  • updating your planning tools
  • updating social media
  • reading and commenting on blogs
  • dealing with personal finances, money transfers, investments, banks, insurance companies etc.

4. BREAKS

And now for the one power tool that will have the biggest impact on your success—taking Breaks. Don’t underestimate the power of a Break.

New research found that over four hours of sitting a day (between your breakfast, commute, email, social media, TV, Netflix and meetings that’s easy to do) doubles your risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and early coronary disease. Got your attention?

The trick is to take Breaks throughout the day, not to wait for that long walk in the evening. Researchers found that exercise after the fact (like going for a long run after work) can’t undo “damage” done while we’re dormant in our chair.

So you have to plan to move at least every 15 minutes. Here’s how:

  • move your garbage can, water and recycling box away from your desk
  • when working on a project, set a timer for every 25 minute to get up and move
  • park further away from your office, meeting, grocery store and walk the rest of the way
  • take the stairs
  • Use this list of office exercises to inspire some variety in your movement.

Boundaries, Blocking, Batching and Breaks – pretty easy hacks to get you productive and moving. What are you going to start with?

“When you feel good about what you did, your brain will change. It will want to do the behavior again in the future. That leads to making the habit stronger.” —B.J. Fogg, Ph.D

Hugh Culver

Bio: Hugh Culver co-created the world’s most expensive tours (to the South Pole), started five companies, and teaches experts the business of speaking. Read his blog on the business of speaking. Follow him on Twitter @hughculver

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procrastination
Performance & Productivity, Personal Development

How to get unstuck and started (even if you love to procrastinate)

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We’ve all been there. You have. I have. Stuck.

Maybe you need to get your sales up or write a book. Maybe you need to deal with a staffing issue (or you need staff). Whatever the reason…being stuck sucks.

The good news is there are hacks that’ll get you unstuck, moving and productive again.

Before we get to that…

Advice is like water. Everyone needs it, but we don’t give it much credit for making life happen. Ask a person in the middle of a desert if water is “helpful” and you’ll get a different story. Why?

When you recognize the “cost” of being stuck the solution is much, much more valuable. So, before we dive into solutions I know work, think for a minute about the alternative. What is the real cost of being stuck?

If you don’t pick up the phone and call the client back. If you don’t create a deadline and start working on that book. If you don’t create those emails and ask people for the sale.

Procrastination has a cost.

Feel it? Good. Now, let’s move to getting you unstuck.

Ten ways to get unstuck, moving and productive again.

1. Get real

Think how many decisions you’ve to make in your life. In a year’s time this will seen minor, so why not just do it?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Churchill

2. Take a break

When you focus your attention on a task completely unrelated, your mind can return to the original task refreshed and with a new perspective.

“Never taking a break from thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative” —Kimberly Elsbach, UC-Davis

3. Get physical

Stand, stretch, go for a run, walk your dog—physical movement increases the flow in your circulatory system, releases feel-good neurotransmitters (like Dopamine, and Serotonin) and puts you in a positive mood.

“Exercise is like fertilizer for the brain…it’s so good it’s like Miracle Gro.” Dr. John Ratey, Harvard.

4. Stop Doing list

What is filling your time AND holding you back? Make a list (Jim Collins calls it your ‘Stop Doing list’)—one of the fastest ways to get started is to stop doing those low-value tasks that are chewing up your time.

“The “stop doing” list became an enduring cornerstone of my annual New Year resolutions.” —Jim Collins, author From Good to Great

5. Change your environment

Clear the desk clutter, work from a local cafe, use paper instead of computer—sometimes, a change is as good as a start.

“As a species, humans have evolved to respond to novelty, once we’ve become accustomed to something, we may grow immune to its effects. —Hugh Thompson, Ph.D

6. Be kind to yourself

It’s easy to blame yourself—don’t. You’ve been here before, you are capable and you will succeed. Have faith you will get through this period, just like every other time.

“Practicing self-compassion provides us with the kind voice and warm embrace we need in difficult times so we courageously do the right thing.” Forbes

7. Let go of the past

It’s hard to get started when your attention is on what didn’t work in the past. Take a deep breath, let it go and focus on what you want to create in the today, for the future.

“Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think.” Tim Pychyl, Ph.D

8. Get advice

Usually we can’t see the forest for the trees when we’re too close to the problem. Ask a good friend, hire a coach – even ask on-line. And then listen.

“When you ask for advice, people do not think less of you; they think you are smarter.” —Maurice Schweitzer, PhD of the Wharton School

9. Create a deadline

A little tension (like a deadline) can move mountains and end procrastination. Give yourself a Decision Deadline (for the full project or a practical solution) and stick to it.

“Deadlines allow us to clarify our thoughts and create an action plan.” — Dan Ariely, Ph.D

10. Create tiny wins

Frustrated about sales? Call one prospect. Want to lose weight? Start walking 20 minutes a day. Need to apologize? Write a card. Any forward motion is a tiny win in the right direction.

“When you feel good about what you did, your brain will change. It will want to do the behavior again in the future. That leads to making the habit stronger.” —B.J. Fogg, Ph.D

Ten ways to get moving. All work. Only one question…what are you doing here (get started).

Hugh Culver

Bio: Hugh Culver co-created the world’s most expensive tours (to the South Pole), started five companies, and teaches experts the business of speaking. Read his blog on the business of speaking. Follow him on Twitter @hughculver

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Painful Business Lessons
Business Mastery

Four of the Most Painful Business Lessons I’ve Learned

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I gave a marketing presentation a couple of weeks ago and shared 4 painful lessons that I’ve learned after 17 years of business ownership . Please pay close attention to them. Follow them and you’ll prosper. Ignore them and you’ll flounder and eventually die as a business.

As the business owner your primary job is to market and bring in new business.

Everything else (SEO, Web Design, Email Marketing, accounting, product creation, etc) should be given to somebody else ASAP. (Caveat: As a speaker you obviously have to deliver the speeches too).

Don’t be the cheapest provider in your market.

Define and document everything you do in your business.

Someplace in some form you should have a “COMPANYNAME process manual”. If you are not around your staff and/or spouse should be able to refer to this to know how to do everything you do.

Invest a lot money into your marketing.

Don’t be cheap in this area. We’ll spend $5 on coffee without missing a beat but whince on spending $29/month on something that brings new leads into your business.

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Attitude Adjustment, Personal Development

Want Success Faster? Treat Your Weekends Like Your Weekdays

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Do you want to squeeze a little more success out of your week?

Stop using the phrase “It’s the weekend” as a reason to stay in bed longer.

Start treating your weekends like you treat your weekdays. Get up at the same time and go through your normal morning routine. Take your shower, shave, and get dressed like you have a purpose for the day. Once you are up for the day, using the time for personal growth. Read a book, go to a coffee shop, go to the gym, etc. Remember that Saturdays and Sundays work just like the other days. But those 48 hours are all yours. Don’t waste them under the covers.

[Tweet “If you are always complaining about personal time, then don’t waste the weekends in bed.”]

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Ten Things Right Now
Attitude Adjustment, Performance & Productivity, Personal Development

10 Things You Can Do In The Next Hour To Increase Your Happiness

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There is one common feeling that all human beings have: They want to be happy. They want to wake up healthy, do what they want to do, love their friends and family, and go to bed worry-free.

However most people don’t get to live that way. There is a huge problem in our world, and it is the problem of lack of control. Most people don’t consciously live their lives and take actions by choice. They react. They allow themselves to get into conditions they don’t want to be in. Then they spend every waking moment reacting to conditions that they don’t like. If you live this way long enough, you will become depressed and frustrated. But there is a cure. And it is called action.

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Want to more productive? Sleep less
Attitude Adjustment, Performance & Productivity, Personal Development

I’m always looking for extra hours. This is how I found them.

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If you have a Monday through Friday job then you already know how restricted your time is during the week. Your mornings are spent getting out the door so you can be at work at your desk by 8 am. Your evenings are spent as a caretaker to your family. Your nights are spent grabbing a couple of minutes of personal time while you get off your feet because you have spent your day giving of yourself to others. But when do you find time to work on that BAHG (Big Arse Hair Goal) that lives as a spark in your belly?

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How High Achievers Think
Attitude Adjustment, Leadership Lessons, Performance & Productivity, Personal Development

Five Things High Achievers Do That You Need To Start Doing

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Success leaves clues. I believe that there is nothing new in the world, so the traits that successful people have today have been around awhile. Sometimes I have a discussion with someone who is looking for a new Holy Grail of success. They are convinced that if they could just find the right tip, the right book, the right video or the right time management system that they would be successful. [insert game show buzzer here]. It's not going to happen. Quit looking for the magic beans to grow your bean stalk.
The people around you that are successful follow a set of rules. These are the guidelines that control their thoughts and their actions throughout the day. They are not flexible. The rules they follow keep them focused on what has to be done every day to continue to grow and mature - both personally and professionally.

Here are five killer habits that high achievers do on a regular basis via @patrickallmond

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They know their planned outcome for the day

(Tweet that) – A high achiever knows what to expect every day when their alarm goes off. Their day centers around their master plans that they worked on last week. They do not allow random phone calls or emails change their mission every five minutes. They have a certain set of objectives that must be accomplished by 5pm (or 6pm or 7pm – whenever they stop). Start planning your your day, your time, and the tasks you will accomplish each day. Create your future based on your daily actions. And don’t wait until the morning of a day to plan the rest of it. Plan your day at the end of the previous day or week.

They get up early

(Tweet that)– And not just a little early. Very early. They need the extra time to reflect in thought, exercise, and to get their ship moving a little earlier than their competition. Getting up early also allows them uninterrupted productivity time. If you want to start getting ahead faster in life, go to bed at a decent time and get up an hour earlier.

They ignore noise

(Tweet that)– What is noise? Noise is something that our world has created that takes your attention away from the focus on your prize. It comes at us every day and in many forms. Most social media can be distracting noise that takes your attention away from the important things. Your cell phone that you answer every time it rings is noise. Checking your email account every hour is noise. What other people say about you in an effort to discourage your success is noise. To many social activities and “hanging out” is noise (“social” meaning in person. Not Twitter. And “hanging out ” meaning with people. Pre Google Plus) / Start ignoring these and other items that get in the way of your focus. You have a limited amount of time in each day to make progress on your goals. Don’t let the noise distract you.

They make other people better

(Tweet that)– The high achievers of the world have figured out the secret formula that makes the world go around; If you want to live a fulfilling life, help other people. It is a simple concept that gets overcomplicated too often. Solve someone’s problem. Make somebody else richer, faster, stronger, smarter, or more emotionally stable.

They are precise in their ways

(Tweet that)– A high achiever does not use words that allow for ambiguity. When they want a certain amount of money, they specify the exact amount. When they want to accomplish a BAHG (Big Ass Hairy Goal), they define their target in every way possible. When it is going to happen, who it is going to involve, what resources are needed, and what are plans B (and C, and D). If you want to achieve something great in this world, then define EXACTLY what you want. Make a poster or a screensaver out of it. Keep it in your view at all times. Keep it on your refrigerator. Become obsessed with it. That is the only way you will make it happen.

The main point of this list is to show that there are regular habits that lead to success. If you have been looking for the “magic beans” to productivity then you will never find them. Everything about how to be highly productive (which leads to a high rate of success) has already been done.

The question now is:

Are you going to ignore this blog post and go back to your old habits? Or are going to start changing your habits which will change your life?

I commit to being better. I am going to implement at least one of these five habits this week and change my life via @patrickallmond

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