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This Is Going To Be A Kick-Ass Week

Self-proclaimed media anarchist and CEO of digital agency NATIVE VML, Jason Xenopoulos shares his secrets on getting the most out of a week.

Nadine Todd

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Claim to fame

A screen writer, film director, media specialist and father of triplets.

Current position

CEO and chief creative officer of NATIVE VML

On dual city citizenship

NATIVE was launched in October 2010 through the merger of three digital specialists. From the beginning we wanted to create a national agency that had dual offices. Our aim was to be a full service digital agency that clients could interact with in both cities. I live in Cape Town, which meant I needed to get proper commuting systems in place to ensure I stayed as productive as possible.

On commuting

Commuting regularly can be incredibly time consuming, and at first I found I lost up to eight hours in a week. So now I have a few rules. I have my routine down pat, from how I pack my bag, to how I travel to the airport, which airline I use and which hotel I stay in. A polished routine saves a lot of time, as long as you stick to it.

On frequent flyer miles

One of the key lessons we’ve learnt is not to skimp on flights. I always fly BA. Because I stick with one airline, they know me. I collect frequent flyer miles, but more importantly I have access to the lounge and the airline knows me.

It takes care of me; I’m placed in an aisle seat where I can work — with an empty seat next to me if the flight isn’t full. All these details help me work, and end up being a huge time saver each week.

On video conferencing

We use sophisticated video conferencing technology with multiple screens — one for people and the other for documents. I move between cities, but the video conferencing facilities are used all day every day, making it possible for team members to touch base regularly.

On spending time with clients and staff

It might be the digital age, but it’s still important to have face time with clients, which is why we’re so focused on having two hubs and why I travel each week. I also believe my staff need to see me. As CEO, part of my role is people leadership. It’s my job to inspire and motivate my team and to help keep them focused. That’s difficult to do without face-to-face contact. It’s important for our team to know that I’m accessible.

On exercising

One of the things you quickly learn when you spend as much time in the air as I do is that your whole body starts shutting down when you fly. Your energy levels fall and you get sick more often, which makes it incredibly important to exercise regularly.

As a busy entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day work and forget to take care of yourself, but I’ve learnt that exercise time is still productive time. Once you’ve got that mindset right, you’ll be much healthier, more concentrated and more productive.

 

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Get Organised

13 Ways to Develop Laser-Like Focus

Here are some surprising ways to help boost your focus and performance

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If you want to be successful, you have to find strategies that will help you focus despite all of the distractions that prevent you from doing the task at hand. Luckily, with the help of science, developing laser-like focus is easier than you think.

To start, make sure you’re sleeping well and getting regular exercise. These are the basis of productivity, performance and focus. Next, simply look at the colour red – just the sight of red can boost performance and focus.

If that doesn’t work, turning up the thermostat in your office is another option. According to research, people who work in a room set to around 25 degrees are more successful and focused than people in colder work spaces.

There are plenty of things you can do to boost your ability to focus. To learn more, here are 13 ways to develop laser-like focus:

1. Sleep

Here’s a no-brainer: sleep has a direct link to cognitive functions such as the ability to focus and perform. According to the National Sleep Foundation, quality sleep, which is between seven to nine hours, helps us think clearly, remember more and make decisions.

Related: Your Crazy Erratic Sleep Routine Is Making You Less Productive

A lack of sleep can result in an inability to pay attention and focus, lower productivity, slower reaction times and forgetfulness.

2. Use the ABC method

According to Harvard Business Review, our brains are constantly distracted by “internal and external environments,” meaning thoughts, sounds or interruptions. One way to prevent distractions is the ABC method.

As HBR explains, ABC stands for: aware, breathe and choose.

To start, become aware of your options by choosing whether to pay attention to distractions. Next, breathe and relax while you choose to focus or get distracted.

meditate3. Meditate

From stress to anxiety, meditation has long been known as an incredible tool in managing emotions. Another advantage of meditation is its ability to help people focus.

Related: Work Smarter: Margaret Hirsch’s Success Habits

Researchers found that after three months at a meditation retreat, people came out with an incredible ability to focus and an overall improvement in cognitive functions.

4. Get dressed up

The saying, “Dress to impress,” stands true. When people dress up in order to prep for a particular project or task, their ability to focus goes up. According to a study, students who wore white lab coats while conducting experiments made half the amount of errors as the students who were dressed regularly.

5. Don’t multitask

While multitasking might sound like the more productive thing to do, it actually has a negative effect on your ability to focus.

Related: For Vusi Thembekwayo, Focus Leads To Big Wins

According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking and constantly switching between tasks will actually take away from focus because you’re not allowing yourself time to adjust to one thing.

6. Turn up the heat

According to research, a warmer workplace will help you focus better and be more productive. In fact, one study found that a group of workers in a room set to 68 degrees made nearly 44 percent more errors and were half as productive than employees in a 77 degree room.

plants-in-office7. Go green

Plants around the office have long been known to have a positive effect on employee morale, focus and productivity. However, it turns out you don’t necessarily need actual plants for this. In a study, a group of researchers found that by taking a 40-second break and simply looking at a computerised image of a green roof, employees’ focus on a particular task improved.

8. Look at the colour red

Whether it’s the colour of your bedroom walls or the background image on your computer screen, colour has a major effect on us psychologically. A 2009 study published in Science found that when people saw the colour red while they were focusing on certain tasks, their performance, memory and attention to detail improved.

9. Use natural light

Working 9-to-5 in a windowless room with artificial light is far from motivating and in fact can be downright distracting. A study found that people who work in offices filled with natural light experience substantially less eye strain, headaches and blurred visions, all of which deter focus and performance.

10. Get your cardio in

From better sleep to lower stress levels, exercise has many benefits, and that includes improved focus and performance too.

In an article published in Harvard Health, researchers found aerobic exercise increases the size of the area in a person’s brain called the hippocampus, which in turn results in better memory and thinking skills.

However, this was not the case for exercise such as weight lifting and muscle toning, which had little to no impact on a person’s cognitive abilities.

11. Drink some coffee

According to research, a moderate amount of caffeine – around one to two cups of coffee a day – is beneficial to a person’s focus, alertness, performance and mood. However, it’s important not to overdo it, which can result in dehydration, anxiety and headaches.

12. Take a break

It might sound ironic, but taking breaks can actually help improve focus. Research shows that short breaks restore a person’s motivation and help them achieve long-term goals.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Focused

According to an article published in Psychology Today, “Research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.”

13. Listen to classical music

Save your favorite rock or rap album for after work. Researchers from Stanford University discovered that classical music in particular triggers the part of the brain used for paying attention and focusing.

Why classical? According to the study, people’s minds tend to wander while listening to music but because classical music features many “transitional points” where there is silence, it helps keep people aware and attentive.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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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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How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

How you work is far more important than how much you work.

Travis Bradberry

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Some people have an uncanny ability to get things done. They keep their nights and weekends sacred and still get more done than people who work ten or 20 hours more per week than they do.

A new study from Stanford University shows that they are on to something. The study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

Smart people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities. They use their weekends to create a better week ahead.

This is easier said than done, so here’s some help. The following are some things that you can do to find balance on the weekend and come into work at 110% on Monday morning.

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