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For the Love/Hate of Email

Awesome tool or terrible distraction? How do you feel about email? Here’s how to use your inbox well – without losing valuable time.

Tracey Foulkes

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Seriously, I love email. Almost as much as I love chocolate and that is saying a lot. My colleague, Claire Burge, my junior by two decades and based in technology hub Ireland, hates it. We are at battle in finding the middle ground.

Analysing the yin/yan of this situation gets me arguing for/against the same points. You see, the things I love are all the things she hates and if I am perfectly honest, I can see her side almost as clearly as I can see mine.

So while Claire is lobbying “no more email”, I am advocating “let’s maximise this awesome tool.” This is my why and my how:

  1. Granted there are restrictions for users on platforms other than Microsoft Outlook, if this means you; you can benefit from a crash course on integrating email with Evernote. For everyone else I recon getting more organised can go a long a way to increasing your productivity: email is more than just send/receive.
  2. If you, like more than half of your colleagues, are checking email 30-40 times an hour, remove all automatic mail receipt notifications. The temptation of the ping, envelope icon, changed cursor or message alert displaying in the bottom right of your computer screen is way too great. Studies show that it can take as much as 20 minutes to get back to the same peak focus when you drop a task and hop to another. Schedule 3 x 30 minute email check-ins per day and work smart during this time to read, respond, file or delete your mail at this time.
  3. If you do nothing more than number 2 above you would have saved yourself a whopping 10% in productivity time. However, this is not enough considering the wasted hours spent in email overwhelm. If you are using Outlook calendar as your diary of choice, change your setting so that your email opens onto calendar instead of inbox. This gives you an overview of your day ahead without drawing you into reactive mode by checking your inbox. Note:  Calendar is used for scheduled tasks/meetings that have a specific date and time.
  4. The task tool acts as your to-do list. This is a running list of things you need to action/wait for/delegate/read that is not date or time specific.
  5. From your inbox and during your 30 minute check-in, try to get into the habit to right-click dragging and dropping your emails onto the calendar or task icon at the bottom left menu bar. This gives you the option of dragging your email out of your cluttered inbox for auctioning when due.
  6. Other cool Outlook tools that are super time savers and too good not to mention:
  • If you can encapsulate the full content of your email in the subject line, don’t bother writing a message. Type EOM (End of Message) at the end of your subject and push send. Both you and Bob get to save time; you in the writing, him in the reading and you both know, with clarity, that “the Sept board meeting is confirmed for the 19th EOM”.
  • Microsoft Outlook understands English. Instead of selecting the down arrow key to scroll for the right time and/or date, simply place your cursor in the text block to the left of the down arrow and type: next thurs, 2nd fri in jan, valentine’s day, 12:00, etc. and away you go.
  • Typed in capitals and now need to toggle the font from upper to lower case? Highlight the text that needs changing and hold shift + F3 to toggle the text till it appears as you need it.
  • “Notes” is a great place to hold those odd bits of information. Make sure you use the top line of the note as the subject and then type away things like: login details (use a code to help you remember your passwords), service provider reference numbers and even your shopping list.
  • Quick cheat to taking charge of your inbox so you can move forward with good habits: create a new folder called “Inbox @XYZ date” (choose a date 2 months before today) and drag and drop all your inbox items that are up to that date into this new folder. Now that your inbox is looking a little more manageable, use FAD (file – action – delete) for processing all future mails and drag mails from your inbox into folders, notes, contacts (to file for future reference or legal purposes), into your calendar and tasks (for things that still require an action). For everything else, press delete.

PS:  While writing this blog I learnt, via an email arriving serendipitously into my inbox, that the first email was sent 40 years ago – the year of my birth. Just one more reason to love it!

Tracey Foulkes wows audiences with her sharp wit, quick reactions and personable sense of humour. She speaks about procrastination, business productivity, personal motivation and time management. . If you want your team to be inspired to operate outside of the box, contact her for a complimentary productivity assessment, email tracey@getorganised.co or find her on Twitter as Tracey Foulkes or on LinkedIn as Tracey Foulkes.

Get Organised

5 Lame Excuses That Unsuccessful People Always Make

You need to eliminate these five excuses from your mindset immediately.

Jonathan Long

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Even the most determined and motivated entrepreneurs will come up with excuses as to why he or she cannot do something. Obstacles arise and then self-doubt enters the mind – making an excuse is the easy way out.

I made excuses in the past – several times. Looking back, those excuses resulted in missed opportunities and ultimately failure. It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, get an online MBA, hit a specific revenue milestone or start a business – excuses will be the cause of failure. Here are five excuses to remove from your mindset immediately – they are complete BS.

1. “I don’t have time”

Time is our most valuable asset. While we only have 24 hours in a day, we make time for things we want – people we want to see, activities we want to do, etc. The only thing getting in the way are excuses.

Have you ever been in a relationship and the other person dropped the “If you really wanted to see me, then you would make time” line? I know I have heard it several times in the past, and guess what? None of those relationships worked out because I didn’t want to put in the effort.

The same applies to entrepreneurship. Want to start a business but you are working a nine-to-five? Get up earlier or stay up late – if you want it bad enough you will make the time.

Related: Motivation-Boosting Tips From 8 Of The Greatest Entrepreneurs

2. “There aren’t enough opportunities for me”

If there are walls or barriers standing in your way you need to figure out how to get around them, or simply plow right through them. There is nothing easy about being an entrepreneur. There is never going to be a simple straight line from point A to point B.

Saying there aren’t enough opportunities is an excuse that allows you to quit before you even start. Create your own opportunity – figure out how to solve a problem and you can write your own ticket.

3. “I don’t want to risk disapproval from family and friends”

You need thick skin to play this game and not let the opinions of others influence your decisions. If your friends aren’t supportive, then you need new friends. While you can’t get a new family, you can remove yourself from their negative energy.

I was lucky to have had very supportive parents growing up. My dad was my biggest support system when I was just starting out, and the reason I became an entrepreneur. He passed away several years ago, but still remains my number one source of motivation – I bust my butt daily because I know how proud he would be.

The odds are very high that there will be family and friends telling you that the chances of succeeding are slim and that you should take a more secure or stable path — ignore them. It’s easy to agree with them, because it gives you an easy way out. Use their disapproval as motivation and wake up each day hungry to prove them wrong.

4. “I should be content with where I am and what I have”

Life is very short – the average lifespan in the U.S. is 78 years – that’s 28,470 days. Not very long when you think of it that way, right?

You should never be content and always strive for more. I have been going to night runs lately, taking advantage of the cooler weather this time of the year in Miami. The other night while running I was paying attention to the cars driving by – Phantom, Lamborghini, Ferrari, etc. – all the exotics were well represented.

Now, material possessions like cars don’t necessarily translate to happiness, but they do indicate one thing: The people driving them – or the people that bought them – were not content with average. Saying you are content is the equivalent of saying you don’t want to work any harder.

Related: Successful Adulting: Why Studying Isn’t So Scary

5. “I’m scared of the risks involved”

No risk, no reward.

It’s as simple as that. You have to accept that fact that every entrepreneurial venture or opportunity comes with risk, and a lot of it.

Take a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs and companies and you will see that there was always a lot of risk involved. Elon Musk received $180 million from the PayPal acquisition and he put $100 million in SpaceX, $70 million in Tesla and $10 million in Solar City. He then had to borrow money for rent.

Was he scared of the risks involved? Not a chance. Very few people would take $180 million dollars and roll it into new ventures – they would be on a permanent vacation. The risk was well worth it, as Musk is worth about $21.5 billion today.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Get Organised

Become A Life-Hacker

Life-hacking is about accomplishing more in less time, with less stress, at a lower cost with the use of simple digital tools.

Nadine Todd

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When Martijn Aslander was 17, he was running a company that had 60 part-time employees from the back of a classroom. By the time he was 21 he had two companies, and was directing 140 people. At 27 he decided to sell his companies, and ended up bankrupt as a result of the experience.

What looked like a complete disaster actually ended up being the single best lesson Martijn could learn. He woke up the next day and everything was still there. He had his arms and legs; he had his health. And the worst had happened, which meant that nothing could go wrong anymore. From that moment, anything was possible.

He then asked himself a key question: How big is the chance you will do this again? The answer was simple: There was no chance. Big lessons had been learnt. At that moment, Martijn realised that there was no point in ever getting upset when something goes wrong. It happens. The next time you will fly.

Martijn believes that we are always looking for the next challenges. Millionaires want to be billionaires. Billionaires want to win a Nobel Prize. There is always another goal. So how do you find success and happiness? By asking how you can contribute the most to mankind. In many ways, Martijn was already a life-hacker. At 17 he’d discovered a way to make money without doing much work, simply by being smarter and spotting a niche.

At 27 he learnt that possibilities are what you make of them, and the more you share, the greater your impact, and the more you will receive.

Related: 15 Scientifically Proven Ways To Work Smarter, Not Just More

These are his rules to becoming a life-hacker, and doing more in less time, with less stress, at lower costs.

1. Don’t operate on untested assumptions

Most of the fears that people have, and particularly entrepreneurs, are based on assumptions that they haven’t tested. And most untested assumptions are simply not true. They live as ghosts and monsters in your head, but they’re not real.

We live in a very interesting time, where it’s actually risky to be safe. Safe doesn’t exist, and it never has, because you are never in charge of all the events that take place around you. Change is the only constant. For centuries we’ve operated on the notion of survival of the fittest. He who is strongest will win. This is also a faulty assumption. Success today isn’t about strength — it’s about the ability to adapt to new circumstances. Over the last ten years more circumstances than ever before have changed, and the rate is just accelerating.

You have to have an open mind; you have to learn to be flexible.

2. If you’re in the business of doing business, you will soon be out of business

How do you measure business success? Be careful that your strategy isn’t focused on possessions — fancy offices, a big building, or cars as status symbols. If you’re too focused on things, you’ll be too afraid of losing your stuff. Entrepreneurs who are focused on a higher purpose concentrate on improving themselves, their people and doing the best for their clients. They’re far less afraid of sudden changes and turmoil, because possessions aren’t as important, which makes them agile and adaptable — exactly who you want to be in a changing world.

I see it as the rise of the ‘funpreneur’. The rise of a new breed of people who are focused on doing what they love, and who aspire to a higher cause, instead of just focusing on the business side of things. It’s tough to compete with people who don’t do business models, but focus on purpose instead.

3. Give your teams the freedom to adapt

There are two types of teams — those who are flexible, have an open mind, and are willing to adapt to new conditions and environments, and those who are terrified of making mistakes and therefore seldom venture out of the established norm.

The type of team that forms the foundation of your business is up to you. Are you hiring people with flexible, open minds and giving them the freedom to make mistakes, or do you stifle innovation in your organisation?

Remember that mistakes are often the only way to learn something. If people are really dissatisfied with their own errors and performance, they will internalise the experience far more deeply. There will always be some mistakes. My advice is to create an environment where everyone learns from mistakes — their own and those that others make — and try to make mistakes that you will benefit the most from by encouraging your team to take chances. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to make mistakes on purpose, but create a safe environment and deal with mistakes in a way that shares the lessons, and instils the learnings in your business.

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

4. Make a ‘not-to-do’ list

We’re so busy making ‘to-do’ lists that we forget to make ‘not-to-do’ lists. Remember that you’re in charge of your life, and you can go in any direction you want. Yes, there will be circumstances that influence your life, but ultimately you can change everything. There’s less financial risk than ever before in doing business. You don’t need big offices, buildings, or cars. Everything you need to make an impact is at your disposal. The only things holding us back are our assumptions.

While you are creating your to-do lists and strategies, take some time to write down what you shouldn’t be doing — what you don’t want to do, what you should avoid — the business or person you don’t want to be. Focus on what you love, and build a great life around those principles. Don’t allow yourself to live in fear.

5. Leverage the holy trinity of dynamics

I believe there are only three things you need for success: People, information and ideas. With these three things, you can set anything in motion.

An idea in itself is worthless.  It’s really nothing else but combined information; creatively connecting unconnected dots. The ability to make ideas materialise in this world however holds value, and for that you need people and information. Information is the bridge between ideas and the people who make them happen. What’s incredible is that we are living in an information society.

There are more people connected than ever before. We’re living in a network age and an information age, which means you can focus on all three, connect the dots, and unleash an unprecedented amount of ideas.

6. You don’t need a budget to innovate

The Chief Commander of the Dutch Army approached me to help him find a way to innovate that didn’t involve cutting into his budget. My question to him was, ‘Why do you need budget?’ There are 50 000 geeks in the Netherlands who dream of flying in a jet fighter or being submerged under the ocean. Simply by redeploying assets they already have, the Dutch Army can make these dreams come true.

So many organisations miss this crucial point. Money is naturally scarce, and the dynamics of money are weird. People are afraid to spend it because it’s scarce, and they’re uncertain if what they’re spending it on is a risk or not. As soon as there’s a financial risk, and you don’t know the outcome, you’re hesitant to jump in. And this ends up stalling innovation, because there’s an over-riding belief that you need money to innovate.

But what about applying other resources other than money alone? Always consider what you can do with the resources you already have. This will take financial risk out the equation, which will lead to less fear. Once fear is gone, people step in, open up and contribute. If you get rid of the risk, you enable your team. In many cases, finance is not an enabler, it’s a disabler.

Imagine if you could stop asking for money and setting your price, and instead asked your clients to pay what they believe your services are worth. You’d quickly either make more money, or realise you’re helping the wrong businesses, or not demonstrating your value clearly enough.

Entrepreneurs know this — they’re used to bootstrapping and being creative. The problem is that as we grow, we forget, and start becoming reliant on money to grow. And this stifles us.

So how do you begin to use the resources you have? Start by targeting the one percent of your clients that are able to do 100 or 1 000 fold what they are paying you in terms of money. What can you barter or trade with them? What resources can you offer each other that are actually more valuable than money? What could your clients potentially do for you that would actually save you money? Or what would they love to pay for, that you potentially aren’t offering right now?

Every single organisation has resources that they can deploy without financial loss. Start with 1% and build on it.

7. Build your social capital

Social capital builds monetary capital. It’s not the other way around, and yet so often we focus on monetary capital first. Instead, focus on achieving something that will lead to monetary capital. I give away my social capital freely. I share my books and ideas for free. It clears my mind, and I know that I can create ideas faster than you can steal them anyway. That’s how you should view ideas. Giving away social capital gives you access, and then you don’t need money — that’s the secret to success.

People are too careful with their social capital — particularly their ideas. I promise you this — the chances of becoming a millionaire with just one idea are miniscule. If that’s your strategy, it’s not only dangerous, but you’re wasting your time. If you become someone who can share ideas freely, and focus on bringing people, knowledge and ideas together instead, your chances of success have grown exponentially.

Remember, people love to share, and you want to tap into that. Look for zero plus, not zero sum.

Related: 101 Efficiency Hacks For Busy Entrepreneurs

8. Become a life-hacker

The term ‘life-hacker’ was coined in 2005 by tech journalist Danny O’Brien. He was covering a group of programmers who were very productive, and yet they weren’t stressed. They were satisfied. How did they manage to be productive and stress-free? The secret wasn’t only in what they were doing — but in how they were sharing those secrets and tools.

I personally use a few hundred tools that allow me to do a lot more in less time, and I’m happy to share the tactics that help me to work smarter. This is why I launched the lifehacking.nl website, but all the contributors on the site share the same philosophy — we freely share our insights to help others. This is a critical element to life-hacking. There is so much information out there, so many ways to access insights and information. Are you using them? Are you learning and using the tools available? There are tools that can save you hundreds of hours a year. Tap into them. We can learn so much from each other; get the best people possible in your posse and in your community.

9. Understand the dichotomies of knowledge workers

Knowledge work is something new. Traditional business systems are based on hands. You exchange time for money. But today we are working with our heads, and the reality is that you cannot work with your head for eight hours a day, particularly in artificially-constructed work hours. One third of the population work best in the evening, and yet they’re expected to arrive at the office at 8am sharp. Not only are they causing traffic jams, but they’re not working in their optimal conditions either. We need to rethink the model. We need to stop treating computers like modern typewriters. We seem to think that answering hundreds of emails is working. It’s not. We’re all just distracting each other.

Digital skills are nowhere on the strategic agenda of boards. The time and skills of your employees are the most valuable asset you have, and yet we aren’t doing anything to help our employees become life-hackers. Digital skills won’t only help your teams to work smarter and save time, but become real assets, and not just glorified typists. If you focus on digital skills, your ability to find information and ideas faster than anyone else will grow, allowing you to spread those ideas, learn faster than your competitors and entrench strategic skills in your organisation. Take these skills and invest in them heavily. It’s a true differentiator.

IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Create your own time

Life-hacking is all about learning from others and using tools and technology to do things smarter and faster. There are many ways to achieve this goal — you just need to be open to them. Take Pepe Marais, co-founder of Joe Public United, South Africa’s largest independent advertising agency.

Four years ago, Pepe decided to employ a driver. “This solution isn’t for everyone, and it took me a full three months to get used to the idea, but once I got over my own insecurities, it was a revelation. I have gained 32 hours a month — that’s the equivalent of one full work week — simply through using my travel time constructively.”

Related: 7 Tools To Increase Productivity And Efficiency

Learn from the Titans

learn-from-the-titans

Tim Ferriss is the master of getting more done in less time — and he’s made it his business to share these tips and lessons with others.

Read this: Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss’s epic amalgamation of hundreds of tactics, routines and habits, collected over the course of two years from the world’s most successful business people and world-class performers, and distilled into a notebook of tips and tricks to use in your every-day life and business.

Listen to this: A summary of the book is available on Audible.com (another key tool for life-hacking and a great way to maximise your time in traffic and the gym by listening to business ‘how to’ books and top biographies).

Watch for free: Accelerated learning with Tim Ferriss is a 13-minute video available on Youtube and below. If you want to maximise your ability to learn quickly and efficiently, start here.

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Get Organised

14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

These morning rituals will give you a boost toward success.

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Developing the perfect morning routine that maximises your lifestyle and predilections while squeezing the most productivity out of your days is a trial-and-error process. One size doesn’t fit all. You have to know yourself in order to customize the best morning routine. Do you need coffee to even get into the shower? Then build it into your routine, and prepare your coffee maker the night before, so you simply have to wake up and hit the “on” switch.

The good news is that there are best practices in the morning that have been proven to make the most of time and capitalize on the body’s biorhythm and that have been widely practiced by wildly successful business moguls and entrepreneurs.

So take a look at the next 14 slides to see what morning routine hacks you can build into your ritual to ramp up productivity and create your best life.

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