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Make Every Minute of Your Day Matter

To effectively make changes in your life, you must know where you are now. What is working? What can be improved?

Jason Womack

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Clarity and productivity come from tracking what you do each day. I recommend monitoring 30 minute segments for two consecutive work days noting how you spent each time-block. For example, from 7:00 to 7:30am your entry might read: Commuted to work, read on eReader, checked mobile email.

Many of us think we know how we spend each day. But by actively tracking what you do each day, you can define how your time is spent. This will let you look at your existing results and have a baseline for improvements.

Once you’re clear about where you are, you can begin your focused journey to where you want to be. Identify tasks or activities you can do differently. Make adjustments.

Compare the new results against your baseline. With the changes you’ve made, are you closer to your desired results? If yes, continue. If not, readjust. Then track and observe.

I once worked with an executive whose time was best spent making calls. When he asked me for suggestions about how to better focus his time I asked: “How many calls did you make yesterday?”

“About ten,” he assured me.

“Bull,” I blurted out.

But he smiled and affirmed that while he’d like to make ten calls a day, his time is eaten up with minutia resulting in more like four or five calls a day.

So I challenged him. I gave him a stack of ten R2 coins to place on one side of his desk. Each time he made a call, he was to move one coin to the other side, a tangible reminder of his intention completed.

When we spoke a week later, he assured me he was making more outbound calls, all because we’d identified where he was, determined where he wanted to be, and made getting from one to the other a game.

Staying focused is critical, but it can be difficult when you’re juggling so many balls at once. Continually changing focus diminishes productivity and constantly having to refocus on what you were just doing after an interruption compromises your workflow, prevents you from completing your most important tasks, and essentially forces you to spend more time than necessary getting things done.

Read Next: How to Answer 3x More Emails in Half the Time

Focus-To-Finish

To develop a ‘focus-to-finish’ mindset, consider identifying what you are NOT going to do during the next 24 to 96 hours. We all have more to get done each day than is humanly possible. Determining what can be safely pushed out for a day or three allows you to focus on what remains.

A simple kitchen timer set for 15 minutes can help you develop a ‘focus-to-finish’ mindset.

Try the timer website: www.e.ggtimer.com. For those 15 minutes, stay focused on one task. If, after 15 minutes you have more to do, set up another session and keep your focus on the task. This easy method helps you reduce interruptions and work single-mindedly.

Seek clarity and focus until the task at hand is completed. With these easy steps you’ll make whatever you call your best even better.

Jason W. Womack is founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012). He works with entrepreneurs as an advisor, coaching them to their next level of success.

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How To Multitask Like Tim Ferriss, Randi Zuckerberg And Other Very Busy People

Nine entrepreneurs tell us how they get it all done.

Entrepreneur

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Think you’re busy? Take a look at Guy Fieri‘s calendar. Or a U.S. Army general’s. Or an in-demand teenage actor’s. Or the CEO of a globally recognised company’s.

Some of the busiest people on the planet took time out of their days to tell us how they get it all done. Take note!

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6 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask When Choosing Medical Aid

As a young entrepreneur, what are the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing a medical aid plan?

Catherine Black

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One of the most valuable assets in any small business is something that entrepreneurs often overlook – their own human capital. Part of making sure that you give the best of yourself to your new business is to make sure you’re in good health, and one way to invest in your health is to make sure you have a solid medical aid policy in place.

Besides being a financial safety net if you get sick or are in an accident, it can also encourage you to stay healthy in the longer term. So, as a young entrepreneur, what are the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing a medical aid plan?

1. How healthy are you?

If you’re young, there’s a good chance you’re relatively healthy and not plagued with serious health issues – but this isn’t always the case. You may have a chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma, where you need regular checkups and medication. If this is the case, will your medical aid plan cover the costs of managing your chronic condition?

2. How much can you spend each month?

If you’re self-employed, you won’t have the luxury of your company paying your salary – or your medical aid cover. Compile a budget and work out exactly how much you can afford to pay towards your medical aid cover per month, bearing in mind that you may have to pay in extra for things like day-to-day medication, medical specialists out of network or even membership fees for your medical scheme’s rewards programme.

Related: Why A Small Business Owner Needs Medical Aid

3. Is there a waiting period involved?

Medical aids are able to apply waiting periods, where you won’t be covered for a certain period of time after you join their scheme depending on your health and previous medical aid cover.

If you’re joining with a pre-existing condition, remember that you won’t be covered for up to 12 months as soon as you become a member, so you’ll need to set aside money for any related costs during this time.

4. Are you planning on starting a family?

As a young entrepreneur, starting a family may be the last thing on your mind – but it’s important to factor this in when joining your medical aid, as it becomes very important later on. This is because you can’t join a medical scheme if you or your spouse is already pregnant (just as we explained in point number 3, there’s a 10-month waiting period for the “pre-existing condition” of pregnancy). Things like maternity benefits can be a lifesaver in terms of footing the bill for pregnancy and birth costs, so it’s worth thinking about this long before you’re ready to settle down.

5. What does the hospital plan offer?

If you’re young and healthy, chances are you’ll most likely opt for a hospital plan, so don’t just compare medical schemes in general – compare their hospital plans specifically. A hospital plan has the lowest premiums but also the lowest coverage: generally, it covers you if you’re admitted to hospital, but you pay for any other day-to-day medical expenses such as doctor visits and medication. Many hospital plans also come with the option of a medical savings account (MSA) attached, where you can access a certain portion of money per year for these day-to-day expenses. Others, like Fedhealth’s MediVault offering, take this even further – you can “borrow” a certain amount of money for day-to-day medical expenses from the Scheme, and then pay it back over 12 months, interest-free.

Related: Why Employees Need Funeral Cover

6. What does the fine print say?

Before you choose a medical aid plan, make sure you know exactly what’s covered and what’s not, including things like in-network and out-of-network hospitals, co-payments, limits and exclusions. Also research the scheme’s pay-out rate: do they pay medical aid rates or higher rates, which many hospitals and specialists charge?

Owning your own business is about investing in yourself, including your time, your ideas – and your health. It’s also about juggling lots of balls in the air at the same time. With a solid medical aid plan in place, you can at least know that you have your health looked after should something happen – which means your business can keep going and thrive well into the future.

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4 Psychological Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Procrastination

Do you struggle with procrastination at the office? If so, believe it or not, it might not be such a bad thing.

Lucas Miller

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There’s always something you’d rather be doing. Even right now, you might be reading this article in an attempt to avoid carrying out a less palatable endeavor.

Procrastination is normal, and especially so these days. Social media, streaming television and movies, the ease of internet access, and the ubiquity of smartphones can all distract. There are ample reasons why people procrastinate, and it’s always been thought of as a blockade to productivity.

But the perception of procrastination doesn’t always match the reality.

“Procrastination is not just avoiding or delaying a task,” says David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organisational Excellence. “It also has to include an aspect that’s counterproductive, irrational or unnecessary.”

In fact, active procrastination can often help you get more things done. Below are four psychological reasons entrepreneurs should sometimes lean into procrastination

1. Procrastination helps spur creativity

West Wing creator and Molly’s Game director Aaron Sorkin once said on the Today show, “You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” Sorkin puts off writing sometimes until the last minute, and the results speak for themselves.

Even if we’re not all award-winning writers, when you’re putting something off, it doesn’t have to be a distraction. It can simply be a break, and that break can open up a world of new ideas.

When you allow yourself more time to sit and think about what you’re working on, different pathways to a result can bubble into your brain. A 2012 study in Nature discovered – through brain imaging – that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) lay largely dormant when rappers were free-styling. Some athletes might even refer to this as “the zone.”

For entrepreneurs, procrastination might be just the thing to trigger an answer that would be impossible to reach if they didn’t let their minds wander away from the task at hand.

Related: Are You A Procrastinator? Don’t Be By Doing These 3 Things

2. Procrastination aids memory recall

In 1927, Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik first discovered how interrupting an event can actually help people remember it. After her professor noticed waiters at a nearby cafe remembered open tabs better than those that had already been paid, she tested the hypothesis by giving a series of puzzles to people to complete, while subtly interrupting half of them.

Those that were interrupted were able to recall details with 90 percent more accuracy than those who were allowed to complete the task. The Zeigarnik Effect was borne.

The same could be said for today’s entrepreneurs. Breaking for lunch, hitting the gym, reading a book, jumping on another task or simply staring out the window can help you better remember the various moving parts in the mission you’re trying to finish.

3. Shockingly, procrastination can enhance focus

This seems like a paradox on its surface. How can you focus better by interrupting what you’re doing – i.e. procrastinating?

Instead of bearing the monotony of working on a single task until it’s done, it’s more helpful to move away – at least briefly. Concentration wanes if we don’t break up the the tedium. Similar to triggering creativity, we’re better able to concentrate if we take a brief blow.

study in 2011 looked at this psychological effect. Subjects were asked to remember random digits while performing a visual task. They found that once people were asked to recall the digits, their performance on the visual task declined over time. But when researchers interrupted the visual exercise with sporadic reminders of the digits, their visual scores remained high no matter the duration.

The short of it: Take a break every once in a while, even if you’re on deadline.

4. Procrastination often yields better decision-making

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will receive an important email that needs an answer. There’s no hard timetable on the answer, but because of the weight of the question, people drop everything to arrive at an answer. If you don’t take a moment to sit back and let the full import of the question sink in, you’re liable to make the wrong decision.

Researchers at Columbia performed an experiment to test this idea. Would a little more time actually lead to better decisions?

Related: 6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

First, they asked the subjects to determine which direction a set of black dots was moving across the screen. At the same time, a cluster of coloured dots starting moving to distract them. Participants were asked to judge as quickly as possible.

When the coloured dots moved in the same direction as the black dots, the results were basically perfect. But when they moved in opposite directions, the accuracy dropped.

Second, they performed the exact same experiment, but subjects were asked to answer when they heard a clicking sound, which they varied between 17-500 milliseconds – a time span meant to mimic real-life decisions, like driving. Researchers found that when decisions were delayed by about 120 milliseconds, their accuracy significantly improved.

However, the researchers differentiated between prolonged and delayed decision-making. If subjects made the decision too quickly, the brain was still filtering out the distractions (coloured dots). But if it took too long, it could be hindered by other distractions.

The same could be said for procrastination. Procrastinate too much, or for too long, and nothing will ever get done. But, as we’ve seen, there are some serious psychological benefits to procrastination.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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