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Policing Your Productivity

Seven tools to keep you focused.

Stephanie Vozza

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Being your own boss can also mean policing your productivity. For every hour the average American is online, 16 minutes is spent on social media sites, nine minutes is spent on entertainment sites and five minutes is spent shopping, according to a 2013 survey by Experian Marketing Services. The South African stats will no doubt be similar.

“Facebook and Twitter are almost always more fun than working,” says David Ryan Polgar, author of Wisdom in the Age of Twitter. He likens digital media consumption to dieting and says many of us are mentally obese, consuming an overwhelming amount of information every day.

“Willpower isn’t enough,” he says. “Entrepreneurs should take advantage of the available tools that can help you resist temptation.” Time-tracking and distraction-blocking software can help business owners boost efficiency and gain control of their day.

Seven programmes that will help you be more productive

1. RescueTime

RescueTime is like a performance evaluation you give yourself. The software runs in the background of your computer, measuring which websites and applications you use most.

The time you spend is grouped into categories – such as social networking, email and scheduling – so you can see how much time you spend doing different types of tasks.

Each week, you get an email report of your activities. You can also log into the dashboard to get real-time statistics. RescueTime works on Mac and PC. The basic version is free, and a premium version is $6 per month and offers features such as website blocking and time reports for individual documents.

2. ManicTime

Another time-tracking tool is ManicTime for PC, which also runs in the background of your computer, recording your activities while you work. The software generates a report of applications and websites you use, and provides a timeline of your day so you can pinpoint your best and worst productivity levels.

ManicTime offers a free basic version, and a premium version for $67 offers additional features such as time sheet generation and an inactivity alert.

3. LeechBlock

If you need to block distractions, LeechBlock is a free Firefox browser add-on that blocks or allows access to specified websites at designated times. For example, you can schedule a time each day to check email, network on social media sites, or catch up on industry news.

The rest of the day these sites will be blocked. You can override your settings by entering a password. LeechBlock also keeps track of the total amount of time you spend browsing the sites in each block set.

4. Focus Me

Focus Me is a distraction-blocking software with two modes: Block Mode and Focus Mode. Block Mode will block only the websites and applications that you choose. Focus Mode will block all websites and applications except the ones you approve.

Focus Me also includes a ‘take a break’ feature that forces downtime by deactivating your mouse and keyboard for a five minute period of time. Focus Me works on Mac and PC and offers a single user licence for $18.

5. Freedom

If the Internet is too tempting, Freedom is a programme for Apple users that totally blocks your surfing capabilities so you can be productive. Choose how long you’d like to be Internet-free – you can select up to eight hours. If you want to turn Freedom off, you have to reboot your computer. Freedom is available for a one-time fee of $10.

6. Anti-Social

If your downfall is social media, Anti-Social might be the solution. Developed by the creators of Freedom, it’s good for the entrepreneur who needs to be online for their business but is easily distracted.

The $15 Mac application blocks more than 30 ‘time wasting’ websites, such as Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Twitter and more. The only way to turn it off before the timer expires is to reboot your computer.

7. SelfControl

Finally, those with little willpower should download SelfControl, a free app for Mac that will force you to focus. The software blocks you from your mail servers, specific websites or the entire Internet for a period of time that you set.

You are unable to access those sites until the timer expires – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

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Productivity Power Tool: How to Use Time-Blocking. Click Here

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Stephanie Vozza is a freelance writer who has written about business, real estate and lifestyles for more than 20 years. A former small business owner, she recently discovered she's better at writing about them. She lives in the Detroit area with her husband, two sons and their crazy Jack Russell terriers.

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Self Development

How You Can Make Failing Part Of Your Growth Strategy

Here’s how you can make failing forward part of your growth strategy.

Entrepreneur

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The concept of ‘fail forward’ basically means that it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes. Once you shift your mindset regarding failure, it becomes an asset to your growth. What’s not to like about learning?

Here’s how you can make failing forward part of your growth strategy.

1. Take risks

If it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it, then it’s okay to embrace the idea of taking more risks. Try new things and see if they’ll work. If they don’t, then at least you’ve tried and learnt.

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

2. Learn constantly

Failing and learning shouldn’t be one-offs or isolated incidents. They should weave together in a constant stream of learning that builds and rewards as we move forward. That way, we can improve and eventually succeed more often than we fail.

3. Search and reapply

Learn from each other’s mistakes. Marketing is a spectator sport — you can learn from watching each other’s brand activities — both the wins and losses.

4. Accept failure

This one is the hardest step. It’s not easy to fail. It’s not something we’re taught to do. It distracts us from our mission and it takes time away from being successful. Or does it? If you start failing forward daily, not only for yourself, but for your teams as well, you will create an environment where failing forward is accepted and embraced as part of a learning culture that seeks continuous improvement. That improvement includes actively learning from your individual and collective mistakes.

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Self Development

Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute

Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.

John Boitnott

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Prev1 of 9

Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.

I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.

Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:

Prev1 of 9

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Self Development

3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

Erik Kruger

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3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.

Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.

Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:

  • The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
  • They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
  • Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
  • They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.

What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?

Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.

But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.

Related: Goal Setting Guide

I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:

1. What does better look like?

The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.

  • What does better health look like?
  • What does a better business look like?
  • What does better customer service look like?
  • What does better leadership look like?

By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.

2. What can I control?

Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”

Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.

Why?

Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.

3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?

One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.

As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.

Related: The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win


Accountability

What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.

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