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This Productivity Hack Completely Changed My Life, and It Can Improve Yours

How do you accomplish that one task that unquestionably needs to get done but still have time for everything else?

Brandon Turner

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During your day, you have a lot going on. Email, phone calls, meetings, interviews, driving, answering questions, tech support, coding, hosting webinars and whatever else you have to accomplish during those hours that you’ve defined as “work.”

Interruptions abound and productivity drops. Your day is spent playing catch-up on a million other tasks, trying to get your to-do list down to nothing, which rarely, if ever, happens.

Related: The 5 Best Productivity Apps for Entrepreneurs

The funny thing is so often, the thing(s) that truly need to get done to move your business forward never get accomplished. It’s unlikely you are suddenly going to find 30 hours in a day and even more unlikely that people will suddenly stop making demands on your time. So how do you accomplish that one task that unquestionably needs to get done but still have time for everything else?

Time blocking.

Time blocking is the concept of sitting down once a week for just five minutes and scheduling time for yourself.

First introduced to me in my current favourite business book, The One Thing, time blocking is the practice of using your calendar to schedule “me time.” Or, as graphic designer Shawn Hooghkirk refers to it, “scheduling time for your most important client: yourself.”

No doubt you’ve heard this concept before, yet so few people actually take the time to do it. They think, “I’m going to work for two hours a day on X,” but then things come up. The phone rings. The baby cries. The boss walks in. Soon, that “me time” turns into “we time” and the can is kicked down the road for another day.

That project that’s going to revolutionise your life is, once again, put on the back burner, replaced by tasks that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t truly matter.

Time blocking is more than simply hoping and wishing for the availability to work on a project. Hoping and wishing are not going to cut it in a busy world – you must schedule it!

Some people want it to happen. Some people wish it would happen. Others make it happen. – Michael Jordan

If you want it to really happen, you need to schedule it and treat it like your most important meeting of the year.

Time blocking is a mindset that says “no” to interruptions and forces you to specifically take time in your day to work on your most important tasks.

It’s a mentality that says “Nothing but life-or-death emergencies can interrupt me from my time.” It’s telling other people that this time is “off limits” for interruptions. It’s a conscious choice that you make long before you arrive at the moment.

When you schedule that time for yourself and hold to it fiercely, two amazing things happen:

  1. You get your most important task accomplished quicker, more thoroughly, and with more enjoyment.
  2. You are still able to handle all those other tasks in your life.

People will adjust to your time blocking. You’ll still get to your busy work. Emails won’t get missed, phone calls will get returned, but you’ll be immensely more successful because of your “me time.”

Understand that time blocking is not just for business. Anything in your life that you want to focus on improving should be time blocked.

After all, what’s more important? A meeting with a client or ongoing dates with your spouse? Hopefully, you said “ongoing dates with your spouse,” but why do your client meetings get preferential treatment and dates relinquished to “when we have time”?

My first venture into time blocking was while writing my recent real estate investing book. Later, I used it to time block several hours a day to improving my book sales.

Then, I scheduled more time to sit down and work on nothing but improving the weekly real estate investing webinars I host on BiggerPockets, the website I work for.

Related: Can Creative Breaks Boost Your Employees’ Productivity?

Today, I even time block my P90X workouts, to write articles for BiggerPockets and Entrepreneur, dates with my wife, YouTube videos, church activities and other things that I deem as “most important” in my life.

Time blocking is not difficult to plan for, but can be incredibly difficult to do. You’ll be tempted to break from your time block to work on other things. However, the following six-step process has helped me time block my most important activities to get the most out of my day.

1. Schedule your time blocks

At the beginning of the week (I like Sunday evenings), sit down and deliberately and specifically define your week. Physically write it on your desk calendar or make the dates in your computer’s calendar.

2. Find a quiet place to work with no interruptions

You may need to leave the office or youman-working-on-computerr home to accomplish your task. Coffee shops, rented office space, the local park – you get the idea. Pick a spot that will help you focus with minimal distractions.

3. Let others know

If you work closely with other people, let them know (politely) that you’ll be head down in some significant work for your time block, and you’ll be checking your email when you return.

Be sure to let someone know where you are, though, in case there truly is a life-or-death emergency.

4. Turn off your phone and other tech traps

I know, blasphemy! But your cell phone will rob you of your productivity. Turn it off, along with anything else that will rob you of your time.

5. Be held accountable

As with any new habit, it’s a good idea to allow someone else to hold you accountable. Whether that’s an individual, a mastermind group or some other structure, you are more likely to hold to your goals when other people are helping you keep your promises to yourself.

Related: Can productivity tools help me?

6. Keep your promise to yourself

Finally, in the words of Nike, “just do it!” Actually sit down and work on your most important projects for your time block. Don’t let anything stop you!

Time blocking has completely changed my life, and I believe it can change yours. People will begin to ask you, as they often inquire of me, “How do you get so much done?”

You’ll be able to look at them, smile, and reply: “Time blocking!”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Brandon Turner is a real estate entrepreneur and the VP of Growth at BiggerPockets.com, one of the web’s largest real estate investing community. He is also the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down and several other books. Buying his first home at the age of 21, Turner quickly grew his real estate portfolio to over 40 units using a variety of creative finance methods. He and his wife Heather live in Grays Harbor, Wash.

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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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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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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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