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Setting & Achieving Goals

5 Distractions That Are Productivity Poison (And How To Avoid Them)

Snapchat, junk food, office chats. Sound familiar?

Neil Patel

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productivity-poison

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You sit down at your desk to work. You have five hours’ worth of projects and about eight or so hours to get them done. And you smile to yourself, thinking how nice it will be to leave work early today. Nice to have some time to relax with family and friends.

But then, upon opening your inbox, you spot a Facebook notification and think to yourself, There’s no harm in a quick Facebook check. Uh-oh. Next thing you know, you look up at the clock and realise you have spent the last three hours perusing friends’ Facebook feeds, watching funny YouTube videos and retweeting your favourite celebrities.

Suddenly, your “free time” is gone. Now you’ll have to stay late at the office to finish projects you should have already completed.

If you have ever experienced this, you’re not alone. While it is not easy to do, learning to identify and eliminate the biggest distractions in your work life can lead to more productivity, free time and, ultimately, happiness.

Related: 4 Distractions That Are Literally Killing Your Business

If that sounds like something you are interested in, then read on.

1. Social Media

While this point may almost be too obvious, social media is still one of the biggest time sinks in most Americans’ lives and therefore worth discussing. The average person wastes 3.2 hours on social media each day. That’s over 21 hours a week — more than half of the ordinary work week! Imagine what you could do with over 21 extra hours each week!

How to avoid this: First, delete all social media applications from your phone. If you are not willing or able to do this (for example, you use social media for business), then at the very least dis-able all notifications so that you are not constantly harassed by friends updating their status.

The next step is to download News Feed Eradicator for your computer so that even if you are tempted to check Facebook, you will be blocked and reminded to get back to work.

I also recommend downloading Rescue Time so that you can see exactly where your time is spent each week and make adjustments to be more productive.

2. Texting, messaging and Snap-chatting

business-woman-texting

I know that it seems that responding to that one text or sending your significant other a quick Snapchat is merely harmless socialising. However, things almost never end with just one message.

If you respond to one message, you have likely roped yourself into an unproductive 30-minute conversation that you could have had over a three-minute phone call during one of your breaks.

How to avoid this: Employ an Airplane mode. Plain and simple. When you are working, keep your phone turned off or on airplane mode to eliminate all distractions. Use your breaks to respond to texts and other messages as they arrive throughout the day.

Related: Your Workday Is Interrupted Every 11 Minutes. How to Manage Those Distractions.

3. “Urgent” emails

How many times have you been working productively when all of the sudden a co-worker or business associate interrupts you with a seemingly urgent email? If you are anything like me, the answer is a lot.

Nine times out of ten, these emails are not really urgent and are probably unimportant to you and your goals. However, you respond anyway and spend an hour of your day thinking about someone else’s agenda.

How to avoid this: 80/20 your inbox. Check email twice a day, first thing in the morning and then a couple of hours before you leave work. Respond only to emails that are urgent to your goals and agenda for the day and don’t get sucked into the laundry list of tasks everyone else needs you to do.

Use a free or cheaply available email marketing service to automate your responses. I’ve had great success with Aweber and Active Campaign, but any of them will do the job. One simple autoresponder could save you weeks of productivity over the course of a year.

4. Talking with co-workers

talking-with-co-workers

You might love your co-workers. But when you need to be productive, they can often do more harm than good. How many times each day are you interrupted by a co-worker who comes over to your desk for a friendly chat, without realising that he or she is distracting you from accomplishing your goals?

Workplace conversations can quickly turn into one of the biggest time sinks and productivity killers if you do not learn how to effectively handle them.

How to avoid this: When you are working, put on some classical music(no lyrics) and wear earbuds so that anyone tempted to talk to you will think twice before interrupting you. If the music is not a big enough deterrent, politely state:

I am working on a big project right now and need to focus; can you wait and tell me what’s going on, at lunchtime/after work?

Don’t be a jerk about it, but don’t be a pushover, either. If you don’t value your time, no one else will.

Related: Multitasking Doesn’t Work. Use This 100-Year-Old Method To Get Stuff Done

5. Multitasking

The human brain is not wired to multitask, period. And, no, you are not the exception. No, your brain is not uniquely wired so that it can multitask more efficiently. If you want to reclaim hours of lost productivity, get more done in less time and have a happier more balanced work life, then quit multitasking. End of story.

How to avoid this: Set a timer for each task that you do and aim to finish the entire task within the time constraints. This will prevent you from getting sidetracked and working on other projects because you know that you are going to complete your other tasks later in the day.

6. Junk food

Junk food

One of the most under rated factors that affects your productivity is junk food.  When I say junk food, I am talking about food that’s processed and contains artificial sugars. Why does this affect your productivity?

Artificial sugar spikes your energy, which will put you in a jittery and hyper mode with the surge of energy. Once that passes, you run out of energy and experience a crash. You won’t be able to focus in either mode; therefore you also won’t be productive.

How to Avoid This: Eliminate as many processed foods and added sugars as you can (eliminate them completely if possible). At the same time, start to eat more whole foods, vegetables and lean meats.

Keep in mind that the hardest part is creating the new habit. When you first stop eating sugary foods, you will crave them since sugar is an addictive. When I stopped eating food with simple sugars, it took me about four weeks before I stopped craving them. As a result, I stopped crashing in the afternoons and I felt much better.

Conclusion

It seems like we live in a generation of distraction. Productivity is something that few people ever take the time to improve and that fewer still ever master. However, if you are willing to put in the work and eliminate the distractions ruling your time, you will have less stress, more success and an overall better quality of life.

So start with these five distractions. Ruthlessly eliminate them from your life, and see how things improve.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Neil Patel is co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

Setting & Achieving Goals

You’ve Already Abandoned Your New Year’s Resolution. Here’s A Better Path To Reach Your Goals

Instead of self-flagellation and getting stuck in the quagmire of negative thoughts, dust off those good intentions and give yourself another shot at making your resolutions stick.

Harrison Monarth

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new-years-resolution

It’s only mid-January, but chances are pretty good that all those lofty resolutions you made before the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31 have fallen by the wayside. You’re not alone.

A small, but oft-cited, longitudinal study of New Year’s resolutions by John Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, revealed that nearly a quarter of people abandoned their goal after one week. That number swelled to 46 percent at a month and 64 percent after six months. Less than a fifth, 19 percent, were able to hang on for two years.

So instead of self-flagellation and getting stuck in the quagmire of negative thoughts, dust off those good intentions and give yourself another shot at making your resolutions stick.

Don’t make a backup plan (just yet)

You’ve likely heard that having a Plan B (or C or D) can be very helpful when dealing with unexpected contingencies. Being prepared for any bump in the road will make arriving at the destination unscathed and on time a sure thing, right?

Not so, according to new research from the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jihae Shin, assistant professor of management and human resources at the school, together with Katherine L. Milkman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a series of experiments that challenged the conventional wisdom that holds backup plans in high regard.

Instead, their experiments revealed that when participants spent time plotting out a contingency plan, they failed to meet their goals. Of course, it’s important to note that these goals didn’t have anything to do with luck or innate skill, they required participants to do simple tasks including unscramble sentences. The same could be said for standard issue resolutions to get fit or save more money. They don’t rely on luck, only stick-to-itiveness.

The researchers do say that backup plans do have their place. The caveat: “You might want to wait until you have done everything you can to achieve your primary goal first,” Shin said.

Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting

Trick yourself into changing

Yet more counterintuitive research led by marketing professors from INSEAD, IE Business School, and Pamplin College of Business, finds that we humans actually want to change rather than keep the status quo.

Their study revealed that the brain is weighing how hard reaching the goal will be, and if it finds that it’s easy to reach, then it starts looking for reasons that getting there won’t happen. This ties into thousands of years of conditioning to be more sensitive to bad news versus good, a.k.a. the negativity bias.

The researchers also found that while participants scored a goal for potential challenges, they tended to score goals that took a modest effort as easier to reach than maintaining the status quo.

To trick your brain into achieving a goal, make sure what you want to achieve is manageable, or can be done through smaller, more consistent efforts. Instead of saying you want to be vice president of your division, for instance, make a plan to work on projects that will add to your professional standing and contribute to your organisation’s bottom line.

What to do if you hit an “action crisis”

“Setbacks present real challenges in pursuing our goals,” said Richard Vann, assistant professor of marketing at Penn State Behrend. “When goals are blocked by obstacles, we often feel bad about ourselves and sometimes stop pursuing these goals.”

When it comes to resolutions, there can be setbacks aplenty. However, there’s a technique you can employ to counteract the negative effects of roadblocks and challenges you may encounter on the path to keep your resolution.

It’s called “Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intention” and it comes to us courtesy of Gabriele Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer, psychologists at NYU.

Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying that you need to think through what it would take to reach your goal and make yourself aware of the potential obstacles you’ll hit along the way. In this way, you’ll have a strategy in place to deal with potential setbacks in advance, rather than be blindsided and subsequently switch into evaluation mode (for example: Asking yourself, “Is this goal even worth it?”) which doesn’t help you get anywhere.

Just focus on one thing

We humans tend to get ambitious when thinking about the possibility of a fresh start. Unfortunately, the “new year, new me” is just too big to be achievable. We can’t realistically get fit, stop smoking and save money while simultaneously sign up for more significant projects at work, get a mentor (or three) and build out a professional network.

That’s because we tend to make tradeoffs between goals when we have more than one or two.

Researchers from the University of Toronto found that having a single goal greased the wheels of progress for people by putting them into implementation mode. That happens even if the goal is deceptively simple, like saving money. Some participants in one of the study’s experiments were told to save money for their children’s education. For others, that goal was expanded to include saving for healthcare and for retirement. Those with the single focus were more successful than individuals who were trying to meet three separate objectives.

Related: The One Leadership Concept That Can Help You Achieve Your Biggest Goals

The researchers noted that while these experiments focused on financial matters, they believe the evidence suggests that setting a goal in any area (health, professional development, etc.) should be easier to achieve than if you’re scattering your energy on trying to make multiple resolutions come to fruition.

So if you find yourself among those who’ve abandoned their best intentions to become a better version of themselves in 2019, take heart. These strategies should get you back on track in no time.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

Unless You Track Your Progress, Setting Goals Is A Waste Of Effort

The single most common reason people don’t reach their goals is they forgot they set them in the first place.

Alexander Maasik

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goal-setting

I’ve always carried a notebook with me at work and on business trips. I usually jot down notes from meetings or random thoughts I have on how to improve our company. Recently, I found some of my old notebooks and I started flipping through the pages.

Despite the awful handwriting, their were actually some interesting ideas written down. I found some great goals and objectives for the past years, that I had never gotten around to implementing. I could have done most of these things and probably be more successful than I am now.

What went wrong?

Do you know what your team is doing?

Boardview writes that “two thirds of senior managers can’t name their firms’ top priorities” and “more than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of business goals.”

So the problem is that while companies probably have some sort of goals (even if they are just “making money.”), the progress towards those goals is not measured. I have seen this behaviour at many companies I’ve worked with. Starry-eyed managers excitedly pitch a goal in an attempt to motivate their employees to get on board. This great initiative is then almost instantly forgotten, and three months later no one will even remember it at all. This is part of a wider problem of companies not prioritising goal setting.

The easiest way to make sure you have serious goals that you can follow is inform everyone in your company (starting with the senior management) of those goals. Then you’ll need a goal tracking system that makes sure you measure your progress regularly.

Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting

Own your goals

Once you’ve written down a company or a team goal, two questions arise. Who is responsible for the goal (accountability), and how do you review the results (performance review)?

As for accountability, at my work we set impactful, quarterly objectives for each of our teams. We make sure each team goal is assigned to specific person who is responsible for achieving it.

These goals are not usually met 100 percent as they are designed not to. They are designed to force me and my employees to try new things, experiment and break old habits. It’s reaching for the moon and landing among the stars.

Step two: Tracking goals with meetings

You must track your progress towards said goal week by week. This is called continuous performance review. I review our team’s Key Results or KPIs every week. At our weekly status meeting, we start by discussing each Key Result and the progress towards our end goal.

Weekly status meetings are used in most companies. But you have to be careful with them as they can become pointless very easily if you haven’t set clear goals first.

If your company is not focused on goals, you are wasting time and money. You should never just chat about your work without knowing how that work aligns with your company’s goals and vision.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Concrete Goals Are Essential To Entrepreneurial Success

Having an impact every day

Christina Wodtke, author of “Radical Focus”, has said that success is not checking a box. It’s having an impact. Working towards your goals is something you need to do every day and every hour. Only then can you make an impact. Instead of weekly meetings, you can take in one step further with status reporting.

I like the Plans, Progress, Problems (PPP) approach. With it, you set 3 – 5 impactful plans for yourself every week that you focus on. What makes this great is that you can link each of those to one of your goals to make sure every big task you work on, actually moves you towards your goals. And the reports you get out of it, can be the basis of your weekly status meetings, making it easier to keep yourself and others focused.

A weekly review of your progress is vital for the long term success of goal setting. Many people can relate to a situation where you set goals and decide on a deadline that seems so far away. Then, a week before the time is up, you finally remember your goal and panic sets in. This is not the way to do it.

Great ideas should not be left to rot in a notebook. They should be written down, discussed with your team, improved and executed every day. Doing so will ensure that your best ideas are never forgotten and lost. Instead, they bring you satisfaction and success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

Finish The Year Strong To Carry Momentum Into 2019

Survey your accomplishments now, and reassess your goals, to conclude this year in kinetic alignment with where you want to go next.

Raul Villacis

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end-of-year

At the end of every season I like to take some time to reassess my yearly outcomes. I also do this with all my coaching clients because it helps them see the progress they’ve made and how they can adjust their expectations.

This year, I decided to bring all my clients together for a two-day event to do their assessments in a group setting. This is going to be the main theme at this year’s Next Level Leadership Summit: “How to Finish Strong.”

I’ve been privileged to coach, consult and interview some of the most productive entrepreneurs I know, and I have learned as much from them as they have from me. The principles they have shared with me are timeless and easy to follow. I have used them time and time again to reset my goals to make sure I set myself up for a great closing to the year instead of being disappointed by what I didn’t accomplish.

Don’t let attachment to the outcome rob you of victory

Most entrepreneurs are very competitive. We have a vision and goals, and we want things to look a certain way. The truth is that things don’t happen the way we want them to most of the time. To keep the momentum, sometimes you have to adjust your vision.

Currently, I’m working with a real estate developer who is working on several projects. At the beginning of the year, he set a goal to close a deal that would net him $20 million. He found one and started working it. It looked like he was on his way to achieving his goal, but he later received news from his architect that he had miscalculated some numbers and that they would be making $5 million less than originally projected. Upset, he called me to tell me the news.

All I heard in his voice was how disappointed he was that he was not going to hit his goal. I reminded him of where he was three years ago when he joined my programme. He was burned out, had lost his purpose and didn’t have any deals to count on. And now, this is one of the many deals he has in the pipeline. Maybe he won’t get what he was aiming for, but this is still a victory.

This is what we do all the time. We beat ourselves up because we are attached to the way things should be. A high-performing entrepreneur looks at their life as a game. To finish the year strong, he must appreciate how far he has come and reset his outcomes according to his current situation.

Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting

Focus on progress, not perfection

At the first of the year, you create a list of things you want to accomplish. You then wait and wait for the perfect timing. After nine months go by, you look at the list and you feel disappointed you didn’t get everything done.

I know a guy who is developing a productivity app. He has interviewed developers, created the overall design and is constantly asking for feedback from people on how the app should look. He has been working on this for years but he is always waiting for the perfect time to execute.

One of my other clients has just launched his first app, and he is getting rave reviews. What’s the difference between these two men? One is waiting on the perfect time and is paralysed by the illusion of perfection while the other one was focused on creating progress.

Each week I asked my client how his app was going, and he shared his progress. Was it perfect? No. Did he experience challenges to make it work? Yes. But he knew the first steps – finding the money, reviewing the design and creating the user experience – were going to be the hardest. Now he is working on improving it based on all the feedback he has gotten from users.

High performers know perfection is the lowest standard. To finish the year strong, take inventory of all the progress you’ve made and focus on making things better.

You are the product of your environment

We’ve been taught that mindset and positive thinking are the keys to success. But that’s only part of the equation. For the last decade, I’ve focused on being in an environment that supports my growth. It doesn’t matter how strong your mindset is. It doesn’t matter how positive you are. If you are around negative people or in a negative environment, you will lose.

I’ve helped one of my clients get clear on how he wanted to take his business to the next level. We created a plan and a timeline with clear outcomes. Then I asked him, What is one thing that can mess this plan up? He said if he continued to hang out with his drinking buddies and give in to his old habits, it could distract him from his plan. So I told him to change his environment for the next 100 days to see if that would make a difference.

Now, at day 110, everything – his business, life and relationship – are on fire. I not only asked him to change his environment, I also replaced it with a group of high-level performers who hold him accountable to his commitments. That group is on fire, and they are going to be recognised for their amazing shift at my Next Level Leadership event.

High performers evaluate their environment and make changes to align it with their vision. They eliminate any possible scenario that can prevent them from getting what they want.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Concrete Goals Are Essential To Entrepreneurial Success

Focus on the other R.O.I. – return on impact

As entrepreneurs, we must watch the bottom line at all times. Every move we make has to bring us a return on our investment. Lately, I’ve seen a big shift in the market. The “cut through to the bottom line” mindset can only take you so far. I’ve been able to grow my business faster by focusing on the impact rather than the income. Don’t get me wrong. I charge for my services, and I’m not running a non-profit, but income is not my main focus.

I recently helped a client create a framework in his business that gave him a sense of purpose. He was ready to sell all his assets and move to an island with his wife and kids because his idea of success was being met by his expectations in his business. I helped him see that he simply needed to focus less on the transactions and more on the transcendence his business could provide. He owns multiple businesses, so it took him some time to figure out how he could help his clients have a better experience rather than treating them as singular transactions.

When he came back to me, he had a list of things where he had made an impact. All of a sudden, his passion for running a business had returned. He had a new sense of purpose seeing how much impact he could make in he lives of others.

A high-performing entrepreneur measures his success on the amount of impact he has on people’s lives.

Reset, recharge and recommit

We all want to have more time. We are running 100 mph, and we don’t want to slow down. That’s the life of any entrepreneur who wants to succeed in this competitive market. But, if a car is running that fast every day, it will eventually crash. And that’s what happens to us. We crash and sometimes burn things down.

To avoid this, I meet with my clients several times throughout the year to reset our goals, recharge our batteries and recommit to the process. Nothing is better than iron sharpening iron. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. We actually discover that all we need is one day per quarter, and we can compound time. When you’re busy, quality is better than quantity.

Each quarter, people travel from all over the country to our meetings so they can share their progress and see how they can help one another. The key here is to Reset your goals, recharge your mindset and recommit to your outcomes.

High performers know that proximity is power. They also know you need to recharge your batteries in order to get back into the game – especially if you want to finish strong.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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