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Setting & Achieving Goals

Time-Management Tricks That Don’t Work

Entrepreneurs are always looking for techniques to help them be more productive.

Stephanie Vozza

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In fact, the time management section on Amazon Books includes nearly 3 000 titles that promise “stress free productivity,” “big results in less time,” and “an organised, happier life.” But do their tricks produce results?

“Too often they don’t,” says Maura Thomas, author of Personal Productivity Secrets (Wiley, 2012) and founder of Regain Your Time, a workflow management consulting firm. “Many of the tricks make things unnecessarily complicated.”

To help entrepreneurs make the most of their day, Thomas reveals three time-management techniques that don’t work and offers tips on what you can do instead:

1. Ranking tasks by priority level

Several planning systems ask you to assign an A, B and C, or a High, Medium and Low priority level to your tasks. The idea is to structure your day so that you tackle the most urgent things first. While this seems to makes sense, Thomas says it’s not specific enough.

“Something is on your list because it’s important,” she says. “People tend to mark too many tasks as being an A priority, with no clear way to determine what to do that day. And those things that are marked B or C don’t get looked at until they’re an A.”

Instead, Thomas says you should be realistic about how much you can get done each day and prioritise your list by assigning a deadline to each item: “If you have 90 things on your list and you can tackle three things each day, you now know that three of the things on your list won’t get done for 30 days, and three won’t get done for 29 days, and so on,” she says.

“If this isn’t OK, you can prepare by hiring extra help, cancelling weekend plans or renegotiating due dates with clients.”

2. Writing a daily to-do list

Many time management experts suggest spending the first 10 minutes of every day making a to-do list of the things you want to accomplish. Thomas says this is a waste of time.

“Instead of re-inventing the wheel every morning, spend 20 to 30 minutes each week or month emptying your brain, capturing everything you can think of that you need or want to do,” she says. If you have prioritised it by due date, you will have a premade to-do list.

“You can go straight to your list each morning and spend the first minutes of the day being proactive,” she says. And when new things come up, simply take a minute to work it into your master list.

3. Time blocking

We’ve all been told to get things done by making an appointment with ourselves, but the first person you’ll break a date with is yourself, says Thomas.

“When people use the calendar to manage their to-do list, they often spend more time rearranging things and deciphering between real appointments and time blocks,” says Thomas, adding that time-blocking has its place, but there are rules to follow to make it effective.

First, don’t use it for everything; you’ll artificially clutter your day and your calendar will lose its effectiveness. Second, don’t block time far in advance; you often can’t predict what a week from now will look like. And finally, don’t assign a specific task.

“Instead, call it proactive time and choose to do what feels most appropriate,” says Thomas. “Sometimes we feel creative and sometimes we are more linear. You’ll get more done if you match tasks with your mood.”

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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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The Alfa Romeo Stelvio – More Than An SUV

The All-New Alfa Romeo Stelvio draws inspiration from the legendary mountain pass linking Italy to Switzerland, with 48 hairpins in quick succession.

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The All-New Alfa Romeo Stelvio draws inspiration from the legendary mountain pass linking Italy to Switzerland, with 48 hairpins in quick succession. The Stelvio pass is widely seen as one of the most beautiful and engaging roads on the planet.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

What You Put In Is What You Get Out – Create Your Own Success

The secret to curating a successful life starts with what you put in.

Allon Raiz

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You are what you eat, the saying goes. Your physical and even mental health are highly dependent on what you eat (or consume) daily. There are four fundamental factors of a system:  Input, boundaries, purpose and output. All systems are mostly defined by the combination of these four factors.

A professional athlete will be very diligent about what they consume in order to achieve the best possible outcome, and sprinters will have different guides and regimes to marathon runners. Essentially, high performing athletes curate their input, or design their own lives, to produce a favourable output.

The same is true of the high-performance entrepreneur — they too should be curating their input, not just in terms of what they consume through their mouths but more importantly, what they consume with their ears and eyes.

Related: For Shatty Mashego Success Lies In Maintaining A Positive Mindset

Positive inputs

A few years ago, I began to recognise that even though I might wake up in a good space in the morning, by 10am I would be feeling negative regardless of my daily practices. I had already established the discipline of recording and recognising my successes daily, as well as repeating daily affirmations and visualisations, yet within a few hours of starting my day, I found myself in a negative space.

I couldn’t figure out what was causing this; but after some analysis I realised that my daily routine included listening to talk radio on the way to work, catching up with the news on Twitter before my first meeting, and reading the morning paper which was neatly laid out on my desk. It quickly became clear that my negativity could be attributed to my over-consumption of bad news.

Each communication platform — from Twitter to the radio — has the power to depress anyone who consumes its news, but the combination of all three was toxic to me. It affected my mood, concentration and, invariably, my output. In a single decision, I eliminated these three platforms from my daily ‘diet’ and instead curated a different morning experience to see whether it would change the output. Instead of the radio, I decided to listen to either music or an audiobook; instead of Twitter, I decided to call a friend; and I didn’t renew my newspaper subscription.

The results were instantaneous. This experiment set me on a mission to see what else I could deliberately curate and design, so I began to strategically design my life to inform the successful and positive output that I desired. I subscribed to online newsletters that were informative and thought-provoking, such as Brain Food by Shane Parish; I cajoled my management team to begin listening to audiobooks at the same time that I was doing so to ensure that we included positive discussions in our bi-monthly meetings; and I ensured that there were always three litres of water in my immediate surrounds to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Create your own success

In case you haven’t experienced the lightbulb moment yet, the simple explanation is this: All systems have inputs and outputs, and the quality of the input results in the quality of the output.

If you see yourself as the curator of your input and as the architect of your environment, you can start to create the inputs, set the boundaries and define purposes to result in the output that commands entrepreneurial success.

Related: Daily Practices for Cultivating a Positive Work Culture to Support Your Business

If something really affects the quality of your life — whether it’s your attitude, your mood or the clarity of your thought processes — it’s time to relook the design and start to curate an environment that is conducive to your success.

And, if you’re concerned about missing out on what’s happening, always remember that, if a news report or update has a direct impact on your life, the chances are high that you will hear it through your friends and family.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

Decrease the amount of noise in your head.

Nina Zipkin

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Accomplishing a goal can be hard work. But even if a project is something you are passionate about and want to complete, distractions such as social media, doubts and other tasks can make it nearly impossible to concentrate on it. Don’t fret. We’re here to help.

Check out these eight steps to help you prioritise and clear your mind.

1. Stop multitasking

Instead of trying to do a million things at once, take a step back and tackle one task at a time. And while your inclination might be to start your day with busy work – like checking emails – and then move onto to the harder things, you should try to get your brain moving by challenging yourself with with a bigger, more creative endeavor first thing.

Related: Goal Setting Guide

2. Block out your days

A good way to hold yourself accountable when it comes to quieting the noise all around you is to specifically block out time in your day – maybe it’s 30 minutes or an hour – to spend on a given project.

Colour code your calendar or set a timer to make sure you are accomplishing the goal at hand.

3. Get your blood pumping

going-for-a-walk

You can’t focus if your are stuck inside and staring at a screen all day long. Turn off your computer and phone, and go for a walk for 20 minutes. The fresh air and the movement will clear your head. Also make sure that you are drinking enough water and getting enough rest.

4. Help your technology help you

A platform like RescueTime, a software that runs while you work and shows you how you are spending your day, could help you understand why something is taking longer to complete than it should. Options like Cold TurkeyFreedom and Self Control block out the internet entirely to keep you off your Twitter feed when you should be meeting deadlines.

5. Meditate

Get a recommendation for a yoga or meditation class, or even make it an office outing so everyone get some time to quiet their minds. Or look online for a plethora of apps and platforms whose stock and trade is mindfulness, like Meditation Made SimpleCalm and Headspace.

For slightly more of a monetary investment, you could look into wearable tech like Thync, a device that produces electrical pulses to help your brain decrease stress.

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

6. Change up what’s in your headphones

headphones

While background noise might help block out a loud office or construction outside your window, you need to be careful that what you are listening to isn’t distracting you more.

Music with lyrics can sap your focus from the task in front of you, so consider trying classical or electronic music instead. Or use a playlist that is familiar to you, so you aren’t tempted to turn all your attention to the new sound.

7. Streamline your communication

If you find that all of your focus gets trained on getting your inbox down to zero, think about how you can get yourself out from under a relentless deluge of email. Ask yourself and your colleagues to think about whether this conversation would be most effective through email, on the phone or in person.

Taking five minutes to walk over to someone else’s workspace will save you the time and energy invested into a redundant email chain and clarify how you want to attack a problem more quickly.

Related: 7 Steps To Achieving Our Higher-Level Goals

8. Find an environment with the right kind of noise

To be the most effective, you need to strike a delicate balance between too much noise and total silence. According to David Burkus, an associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University, “some level of office banter in the background might actually benefit our ability to do creative tasks, provided we don’t get drawn into the conversation,” Burkus wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

“Instead of total silence, the ideal work environment for creative work has a little bit of background noise. That’s why you might focus really well in a noisy coffee shop, but barely be able to concentrate in a noisy office.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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