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Keep It Simple Stupid!

How to be productive by doing less.

Tracey Foulkes

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Keep-It-Simple-Stupid

It doesn’t surprise me one little bit really. The stress, overwhelm and sheer frustration you feel even on a good day! As entrepreneurs, you might even like it, thrive on it, believe it’s what gives you ‘the edge’.

More likely though, you’re consumed with the ’busyness‘ of business and stuck in the rut of doing what you’ve always done. So, you’ve tried your best, done what you can, contracted in great advice but you need this year to be different and your team needs you to make a change.

Heck, the whole world would probably be a better place if you just pressed pause, stepped back and exhaled.

With evil lurking in complacency, entrepreneurs need to realise that it’s not only about fixing the things that are broken. Review the things that are working too, asking: “Could we be doing things better — faster — smarter?”  The best systems are often the simplest ones.

Though counterintuitive, here’s how to get more done by doing less.

Productive tasks

  • Use a list: Free up your brain for creative thinking and action taking. Choose one single place to record everything you need to do and populate it throughout your work day.
  • Prioritise according to revenue: High reward, high value tasks take precedence over their lower value (usually quick, fast and easy) counterparts. Whilst it might feel satisfying to motor through a list of lower value tasks, crossing off the important things first is what really counts in your favour. See what on your list moves you closest to bringing in revenue and prioritise accordingly (ie. invoicing a serviced client should take precedence over chasing the next prospect).
  • Schedule: Your diary should be used for more than just setting meetings. From your prioritised list, block off time in your diary/calendar for taking action. Think of it as an appointment with yourself.

Productive time

  • Reserve mornings for high value, high reward tasks: Instead of using your prime work time for scheduling meetings or checking email, reserve the first hour of your day for your high priority tasks. This ‘power  hour’ session will see you getting the important things done first, while you’re still fresh and alert.
  • Use a timetable: Remember your school timetable that reminded you which lessons were taking place when? Create something similar as a template for scheduling your day. Taking away the guess work minimises lost time in wondering what you should be doing, when. Grouping like tasks together helps with being mindful of the time… and how quickly it goes when you keep dropping tasks and hopping to others.
  • Wake up earlier: If you’re struggling to find time to get to all the important things, spending too much time in the quagmire of meetings or mountains of email, your only option might be to wake up earlier. Choosing what you’ll be working on the following morning the night before (and having everything ready to get going once you rise) will mean you don’t waste 20 minutes of your precious time planning and organising but can instead dive straight in and get the important stuff done.

Productive me

  • Stop making excuses: You might be quite surprised at how many ‘legitimate’ excuses you make in a day. Things like: ‘I’ve too much work’, ’There’s not enough time’, ‘I’ve  no resources’, and ‘If only I had more budget’, stop you from taking action and lead to self-sabotage behavioural procrastination. The fact is, regardless of the task or action required, if it’s that critical (or that enjoyable), the chances are you’ll find the time, energy and funds to make it happen. Brian Tracy says, “Self-discipline is doing what needs to be done, when it is due, whether you want to or not.”
  • Get more sleep: While some people need the recommended eight hours of sleep, others operate optimally on far less hours. If, however, you have got into a rut of getting to bed late and/or running on empty expecting all cylinders to be firing, you might be in need of some more sleep. Bring your bed time forward in 30 minute increments until you reach your ideal, and stop any excuses that play around in your mind teasing you to stay up beyond that.
  • Take a break: Studies show that taking a break boosts productivity. If you’ve subscribed to the habit of bringing work home with you, working over weekends, and compromising family and/or your personal wellbeing, you run the risk of a work-life wobble which, if left unchecked, can lead to burnout. Compartmentalising work/life will lead to you being more fulfilled, relaxed and more productive.

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.

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Finding Your WHY This Year (Why Do YOU Get Up In The Mornings?)

If you wake up every day for something you believe in, you will live your purpose.

Jade Amic

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simon-sinek

I had a long conversation with a colleague and I asked her if she knew why she did what she did. What was her reason for getting up in the morning?

I contemplated the question I had just asked and realised it was not such an easy question to answer. I had spent years figuring out what’s important to me in my life and my career but had not yet figured out exactly why I do what I do. Why do I get out of bed every day and do this advertising thing? What do I believe in and why do I believe in it? What is my why?

This led me down an interesting road of self-discovery, and it soon led me to Simon Sinek. I immersed myself in his podcasts, TED talks and books and began to understand why some companies are successful and why some aren’t. I learnt about the Golden Circle and how all companies know what they do and how they do it, but very few know why. I learnt that people don’t buy into what you do, they buy into why you do it.

why-how-what-graph

Simon says, (sorry, I had to!) “There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

Related: 50 Inspirational Quotes To Help You Achieve Your Goals

We are inspired by leaders and organisations that communicate what they believe in. They have the ability to make us feel special, safe, like we belong, and like we’re not alone.

Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers are great examples of people that started from the inside out, they all started with their why.

Sinek points out that “Leaders have a rank but those who lead, inspire. It’s leadership’s responsibility to point North, say where we’re going and allow everybody else to figure out how to get there.”

I could see the value in these great leaders finding their why but I hadn’t quite answered my own question – What is my why?

Using the Golden Circle I worked my way from the clarity of my ‘what’ to the fuzziness of my ‘why’.

The more I unpacked this, the more I realised how it influences so much more than just my career choices. It influences my life choices as well. It impacts my relationships with my colleagues, my goals and it helps me prioritise what is important and what isn’t.

I’ve learnt that to truly understand your why, you need to understand what it is that you believe in and value. You need to allow these beliefs and values to guide you – to become your North Star. Your compass. When you know where you’re going, (and why) you’re flexible along your journey. But if your destination is unclear, the route you’re taking and the obstacles that come with it become your focus.

Knowing what you do is easy.

Knowing why you do it, that’s the part that takes work.

But once you’ve figured it out, you’ll find yourself being drawn to people and organisations that have a similar why to you. You’ll find your work has more meaning, and doing that work, becomes more meaningful.

If you wake up every day for something you believe in, you will live your purpose.

Start with why by Simon Sinek.

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

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6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

As an entrepreneur, practice saying to yourself, “I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.”

Jeffrey Hayzlett

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Procrastinating To Productive

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have tasks on our list that we’d rather not do. So, we keep moving the goal post farther down the field and do almost anything we can to avoid those distasteful jobs.

Personally, I don’t like to get involved in extra paperwork or monthly expense reports. Other founders have their own least favorite activities.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because there’s an obvious solution: delegation. As a matter of fact, I created a motto along these lines: I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.

My job, after all, is to concentrate on the bigger parts of the business, like generating revenue. And while there are other such tasks that are necessary to operating a business, I might be avoiding them too because they slow me down. So, I again delegate them to the team.

I guess in a way, we’re all capable of being procrastinators.

According to a 2013 survey by salary.com, 69 percent of survey respondents said they wasted time at work on a daily basis – a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Thirty-four percent of respondents estimated they routinely wasted 30 minutes or less each day; 24 percent said they wasted between 30 and 60 minutes; and 11 percent said they wasted hours every day.

As a business owner, I could see how those numbers might send my fellow owners’ blood pressure through the roof, but my own response would be more practical: I’d pursue tools, tricks and techniques to minimise procrastination and maximize productivity.

Related: Deepak Chopra Has 3 Simple And Surprising Productivity Secrets For You

Here are a few of those techniques:

Don’t overwhelm yourself

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work on your plate, meetings and deadlines. Lately, I’ve been focusing on launching new avenues for C-Suite TV, and it can be overwhelming sometimes.

When tasks seem insurmountable, here’s one way to lessen that burden: Get out your “to-do” list. Then, instead of writing down that big task as one huge thing, break it down. Breaking a big task into multiple line items makes it more manageable. You have your end goal, but by reducing it to its smaller components, you get a clearer picture of what you need to do.

Crossing off the smaller parts of the larger task gives you a sense of accomplishment you wouldn’t have if you tackled the massive task all at once.

Flip the script

I don’t care who you are: Whether you’re a worker, a manager or a CEO, you’re just like everyone – and we all hate doing certain tasks. So why not flip the script?

Bite the bullet, kiss the frog – whatever you want to call it: Put that task at the top of your to-do list that day. You’ll eliminate the task quickly and move on to the rest of your day. Not to mention, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve steam-rolled the largest obstacle you had awaiting you.

Related: How To Make Better Business Decisions That Drive Productivity And Profits

Forget perfection

Everyone wants to make a good impression and put his or her best foot forward at work. Procrastination comes not from the inability to get the job done, but from fear and insecurity. Being unsure how to perform a specific task makes us fear failure and being seen in a negative light by the boss.

I always tell my team that, “No one’s going to die.” What’s the worst thing that can happen if a specific task isn’t perfect? I might get mad if the task is not completed within the given deadline, but not if it merely needs to be tweaked. Many times, the worst conversations happen inside our own heads and we let that imaginary conversation rule our other decisions. That’s when we make mistakes.

If you’re worried about your work quality, allocate a set amount of time each day to complete (or revise) parts of the project. It’s possible to perfect a task without obsessing over it and losing focus. That’s when you know it’s time to let go of the project and focus on other things. Say it with me: No one will die.

Kill the squirrels (or distractions)

squirrels

It’s easy to procrastinate with the million distractions we have every day. According to a survey by Stop Procrastinating, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said they’d been distracted from their work duties by checking their emails, browsing the web or engaging in social media. And that was a 9 percent increase from a year before. Of that 68 percent, 39 percent said distractions cost them a whole hour a day.

Sure, it’s tempting to constantly check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, but here’s a radical concept: Log out of your social media accounts for a few hours every day.

Instead, focus on your tasks and nothing else. Do whatever it takes to get into the “zone,” to accomplish your goal. Some people at my office use headphones to muffle outside noise. I block out time on my calendar, which my employees have access to, and dedicate that time to a specific task I need to accomplish. I may even specify “no phone calls” to ensure I stay in my zone.

Be a good time manager

To transition from procrastinator to proactive leader requires organization on your part, from your mindset to your schedule. It’s hard to be organized when you feel you’re juggling multiple things, but to succeed, you must learn to juggle. Deciding how much time to dedicate to each task makes you more efficient.

For some of us busy executives, even our down time needs to be scheduled.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

Recently, I attended the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, where I mingled with top economists, business leaders and policymakers. I had a busy schedule, interviewing a top CEO. But I also managed to schedule down time. Being from South Dakota, I enjoy the outdoors so I scheduled some fly fishing time – away from technology, emails and phone calls.

If you’re a good time manager, you’ll have time for everything, including play time. It takes some dedication and discipline, but it’s not impossible.

Remember that the early bird gets the worm

I operate on little sleep. As any workaholic will tell you, when you go to bed at night, you can’t wait to start your day the next morning. Indeed, dawn is the most productive part of the day, according to this Wall Street Journal article. That hour of the morning brings minimal distractions, no email and hardly anyone on social media.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, starts his day at 3:45 a.m.. Richard Branson likes to “sleep in” until 5 a.m., and even my friend and fellow entrepreneur Peter Shankman gets up before it’s light out. As a business owner, entrepreneur and keynote speaker, I’ve done my fair share of early mornings; You’d be surprised how much you can get done by the time everyone else walks in the office.

The one takeaway here is that in order to make a successful transition from procrastinating to productive, you have to be disciplined, motivated and focused: disciplined enough to curb distractions, motivated enough to want to reach your end goal and focused enough to execute a plan that works for you.

We’re all different, so there’s no magic bullet solution for procrastination. But if you can build a plan that works for you, work the plan.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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(Infographic) The Organisational Tactics, Work Habits And Routines Of The Most Successful People

Take a look at how some of the most successful people set up their workspace.

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oprah-winfrey-desk-management

How your workspace is set up can help or hinder your productivity. So what makes for a great workspace?

For inspiration, see how people such as Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey organise their desks and surroundings. Of course, different tactics work for different people. So to maximise productivity, find what best suits you.

While many people believe a clean desk will provide clarity and decrease stress, that’s not what Albert Einstein thought. In fact, Einstein was a supporter of the messy desk, having once said:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Related: 5 Habits You Should Steal From Other Entrepreneurs’ Morning Routines

Mark Zuckerberg prefers to have the same desk as every other Facebook employee. Studies have shown that open floor plans can encourage creativity and productivity – especially if you’re rubbing elbows with the CEO.

Another option is the standing desk. According to research, productivity can get a 10 percent boost when using a standing desk. An avid user of the standing desk was author Ernest Hemingway, who put his typewriter on top of a bookshelf in his bedroom.

Check out National Pen’s infographic below to see the desk styles of some of the most famous people history to today.

national-pen-famous-desks-infographic

Related: 3 Daily Routines For Becoming Happier And More Successful

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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