You sit down at your desk ready to destroy your workday. You brew a pot of coffee, break out your calendar and dive into your most important task.
And then it happens. The phone rings, or a co-worker stops by to say “hey.” Maybe your boss swings by to ask about those TPS reports.
Whatever type of interruption you face, you’re annoyed. And if you work in an office, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Just because you’re sitting behind that desk and have already “clocked in,” everyone thinks it’s perfectly okay to engage you. Unfortunately, these random engagements can absolutely kill your productivity.
Not only can they knock you off task, but they consume your mental energy for the day. I didn’t notice how much time I was losing before I had kids, but I notice it much more now that I have four. And yes, being a parent has severely limited my ability to endure small talk and mindless babble.
Parents, you know what I’m talking about: 20 minutes in the hallway talking about last night’s game. A co-worker lamenting over workplace stuff. A leisurely lunch invite that turns into a two-hour affair against your will.
This is the type of stuff that can waste your productivity and reduce your potential.
Creating space and forging a new path
After a few years of enduring these wasted moments and opportunities, I was convinced something needed to change. I wanted to get out of the office more, but to accomplish nearly the same amount of work. More importantly, I wanted to stop wasting so much time, when I could be home with my family or out enjoying life.
At first, I thought that leaving the office more often would be an impossible feat. I mean, how could leave more often yet still accomplish the same level of work?
Sure, I was the CEO of my own wealth-management firm, but that didn’t mean I could come and go as I pleased. If I wasn’t in the office, what would my clients think? Was my team even capable of running everything in my absence? What if something went wrong?
It took me a while to realise I was consumed with limiting beliefs. Fortunately, a few amazing entrepreneurs and thought leaders made me realise the error of my ways. First, I read Tim Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Workweek and realised what was possible. Using the strategies in his book, I could reduce my time in the office significantly, right? Second, I joined a coaching program called Strategic Coach. The program introduced me to the concept of “creating space.”
One exercise we did involved tallying up how many free days we had taken in the last year. Why? Because they said we needed to learn to “create space” in our lives. And, to create that space, we had to give ourselves a break and some time off. Over time, the mental exercise of “creating space” allowed me to figure out what was important in my life, then outsource the rest.
Third, I started listening to productivity geniuses like Michael Hyatt. Highly productive entrepreneurs aren’t born that way, Hyatt says. They learn to become ultra-productive by mastering their environments. According to Hyatt, constant interruptions and distractions are the number one obstacle entrepreneurs face as they check off their to-do lists and work toward their goals.
And that is a shame, Hyatt say his websites. “Entrepreneurs and executives like us have too much value to contribute to our businesses and the people that matter most in our lives to let distractions drag us down,” he says on.
Just listening to experts like these taught me to “create space” and step away from my situation, to a certain extent. From there I set out on a path to limit distractions and build a better workday. Over time, I brought my office time from 40 hours per week to less than eight hours, with no impact to my productivity and even greater earnings over time.
Related: Building Real Work Life Balance
How did I do it? Five ways
1. I hired strategically
Although I already had a director of relations on staff, I added an associate advisor, as well. The associate’s job was to be “me” when I wasn’t there – giving expert advice to our clients and providing the service they deserve.
This is where I think a lot of small business owners fail. Scared that no one could ever stand in their shoes, they refuse to outsource their most important work. But, if you want to reduce your hours, this step is crucial.
It took a while to get everything set up. For several months, I had to work 60-hour weeks to teach this new hire everything he needed to know. But once the hard work was done, I had a trusted and polished counterpart to lean on.
2. We started documenting our processes
Eventually, I learned I could make my life easier by streamlining processes I did over and over. A tool that I stumbled on, Sweet Process, helps you create processes for everything in your business.
Using this tool, we began creating processes for higher-level tasks such as opening new accounts. From there, we created processes for making bank deposits and processing client contributions. Once we got all the higher-level tasks squared away, we even created systems to take over the small tasks in our workday.
Creating all those processes takes a lot of work up-front work, but once you’re done and new people you’ve taken on are trained, you never have to do these things again. Even better, if you eventually have to hire someone new or replace someone, your documented processes can serve as a training manual.
3. I “created space” and scheduled time for being away from the office
Once I hired more people and created processes, I had to schedule time for being away, to see if my new strategy could work. So, that’s exactly what I did – even though I had to force myself to leave the office.
At first, I spent time hanging out at a coffee shop or working from home. That way, I could test my new employee’s abilities without stepping away completely. Once I felt more comfortable, I started taking Tuesdays off. Then I started added more “off days” to my calendar each week. Eventually, I was down to just eight hours in the office each week, yet everything was still running smoothly. And yes, it felt great!
4. We improved communication
Before I reduced my hours, I had used email, texting and Google Chat as my primary sources of communication. This worked fine for a while, but we eventually realised we were losing conversations and details this way.
Then we stumbled on Slack. Slack allowed us to create channels specific to certain needs for our financial advisory firm; we could conduct ongoing conversations by searching past ones for details. Where we had once lost important information and conversations, Slack kept all of our correspondence in one place.
5. We reviewed actions and looked for ways to improve
Just as happened in the military where I participated in After Action Reviews, I created a process for weekly reviews in my office. We didn’t review one other’s work per se, but instead, how the week had done in general. How was our communication? Did everything get done? Did anything fall through the cracks?
By highlighting any gaps in our communication and planning, we could find ways to improve. And that’s exactly what we did. Over time, we improved everything from our daily communication to results for our clients.
Where I once felt I could never step away from the office, I now work less than 8 hours each week at the office. And as the final nail in the coffin and proof that everything I outlined here works, we have drastically improved our profitability as well. In fact, Alliance Wealth Management (my firm) is on pace to grow revenue by 31 percent this year.
With more time on my hands, I am now able to be a better father and husband. In addition, I’ve created space and time to do something I have always wanted to do — which is to create a course geared toward financial advisors who want to become a force to be reckoned with in the online space. And you know what else? My course, The Online Advisor Growth Formula, is on track to add $100,000 in revenue to my business this year.
This fact underscores the idea that more work hours doesn’t always mean greater results and that, sometimes, less is more.
None of this could have happened if I had never stepped away – and if I had never listened to the savvy productivity experts who forged this path for me.
If you’re tired of working more to accomplish less, make sure to listen to the experts that study productivity like it’s their job (because it is). You might feel “stuck” working too many hours now, but a few small changes can make a world of difference.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Work 10 Hours Less Each Week
We often equate working hard, long hours with being successful, when in fact, you’re just heading for a burnout. Here’s how to work less, while getting more done.
“The key to increasing profits is to convert unprofitable interactions into profitable ones.”
John D Rockefeller, a man who commanded incredible amounts of money, once said: “Those who have leisure time to spend pursuing their passions and dreams experience the real wealth in life.”
Knowing how to spend time is a more valuable skill than knowing how to make, manage, invest and spend money. It’s wise for entrepreneurs who want to be truly successful to master the use of their precious and irreplaceable time. What I have found most interesting is that those who know how to manage, budget and save time — rather than letting it manage them — will always find it easier to make money.
Learning how to lop ten hours off a typical work week without sacrificing any income may take practice, but it’s easier and faster to accomplish than most people think with these three steps.
Step One: Fire extraneous customers
The first rule of any time management system is to utilise the time we are allotted most wisely. As the saying goes; Time is money. The thief to be most wary of, is the one who steals our time.
So the rather controversial first step is to eliminate wasted time on customers who tie up sales representatives with inconsequential sales, steal your valuable time with constant complaining and waste your accountant’s time chasing them for payment. You need to either get rid of them or transform them into customers who proactively feed the bottom line. While this approach may sound radical, it makes practical sense to only focus on customers who respond with profitable transactions.
Firing customers may involve deleting dead-end leads from the client database. Or it may mean sending customers or clients to a business that more appropriately matches their price demands. Or you could adjust the magnets that are attracting those unwanted customers in the first place. Examples of this are discounts, freebies or products in the business that are not related to the core business model. Concentrate solely on products and services that produce the most profit and cull the dead weight ones that don’t contribute their share to the bottom line.
You could spin those lines off as stand-alone businesses and sell them to another entrepreneur or upgrade to premium versions that offer higher profit margins. Profit is always the goal and is the most important barometer of success.
Step Two: Double the conversion rates of transactions
Money is a fabulous timesaver and those who know how to make money more efficiently can leverage it to carve out more time for themselves. The key to increasing profits is to convert unprofitable interactions into profitable ones. This is a fool-proof formula for saving more hours each day without compromising on productivity or earnings.
Most people crawl toward retirement. Innovative entrepreneurs sprint there in record time. If you invest in a mutual fund or pension plan it may take decades to get enough of a nest egg to make it possible to semi-retire and take ten hours off each week to play golf or spend time with family. However, increasing profits in a business can be done in a matter of days or weeks.
To prepare for your profit-boosting initiative, gather accounting data and metrics to get a clear picture of where your profits come from, how many contacts are made with customers each month and how many customers make actual purchases. An easy way to harvest such information is by using software connected to point-of-sale terminals or cash registers.
Next, launch a marketing and advertising push to generate new customer leads, to encourage existing customers to buy more and to promote the most profitable products or services.
Part of this effort should involve a new way of looking at the business model. Most entrepreneurs see the future of their companies in terms of products and services that fill a particular market need or niche. Find the right merchandise and the customers will come. Build the best resort and it will be booked a year in advance. Another way to view the marketplace of opportunity is to reverse that point of view. Instead of looking for the ideal items to sell, invest in purchasing the loyalty of the perfect customer. Rather than chasing market share, chase ‘wallet share’ or more profitable customer-based transactions. No matter what a business sells, it’s ultimately the customers and how many times they spend money that generates the profits. Invest in attracting and retaining good customers and the rest will take care of itself automatically.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, find out who is buying wheels and make them your steady customers. Then sell them a premium wheel with a wider profit margin. Finally, ask clients to bring in their friends so that you can sell them a set of wheels too.
Once an expanding customer base is established, use incentives such as superior customer service, in-house financing, exclusive product lines and preferential customer perks to inspire clients to double the number of their monthly transactions.
Try up-selling customers to premium products. Cross-sell them to accessories or add-on features. Even down-sell to them by offering a more economical version of the product they can’t yet afford so that they don’t take their business to a competitor. At the same time, continually make a choreographed effort to generate fresh leads for potential new customers.
Step Three: Run your businesses on auto-pilot
Now the business owner has enviable options. One possibility is to close down the business for ten hours each week, take time off and settle for making the same amount of money monthly that was generated before boosting profits by 25%.
Another alternative is to leverage that newfound success for progressive changes and forward momentum. You can maintain the same hours of operation, capture the extra 25% in profits and then wisely reinvest those profits in greater timesaving initiatives.
By working smarter — not harder — through organised systems, cutting-edge technology, innovative advertising and dynamic employee training, you can prepare to put the business into the hands of capable others — which is the next step toward personal freedom. If somebody else is running the store — without any loss of productivity — it is possible for you to literally play golf all day without loss of income.
Distractions Are Hurting You More Than You Realise: Here’s Why
Research shows that returning to your original focus, following a distraction, takes, on average, a full 23 minutes and 15 seconds.
For most American professionals, distractions are a normal part of life. You’ll get an email notification in the middle of a project, or a text during a meeting, or you’ll notice an interesting article on social media when you’re trying to focus on a solo task.
Then you’ll dive down that rabbit hole to learn more about it.
On a surface level, distractions range from the pleasant and barely noticeable to the mildly annoying, but they may be affecting you more than you realise.
Building and getting back your focus
For some people, passing distractions never seem to cost much time. They’ll take 30 seconds or a minute to look at their phone, or even two minutes to scroll through their Facebook news feed; then they’ll return to work. But, if this doesn’t sound like you, you may be in the extreme minority, considering that 90 percent of employees self-report using social media during work hours.
Unfortunately, those minutes-long expenditures are only the tip of the iceberg. The time you spend on the distraction itself is trivial in most cases, but you also have to incorporate, in that “lost” time, the minutes it takes your brain to regain its focus on your initial task. And according to a study from the University of California-Irvine, that return to your original focus, following a distraction, takes, on average, a full 23 minutes and 15 seconds.
In other words, if you’re distracted at least once every 23 minutes, there’s a good chance you’ll never ramp up to your fully focused potential.
The dangers of multitasking
As if that weren’t bad enough, getting distracted also forces your brain to multitask; you won’t bring a project neatly to a close, so you’ll keep working on it to some degree while you attempt to shift your attention to another task competing for your attention.
This is bad for several reasons. According to Stanford neuroscientist Russ Poldrack, if you learn new information while multitasking, that information can get sent to the wrong part of the brain. You may feel that you’re paying attention in a meeting and reading up about a new creative brief at the same time, but chances are you won’t retain information from either source.
On top of that, the brain isn’t designed for multitasking; there are steeper metabolic costs to shifting your attention, which means the brain consumes far more oxygenated glucose during the changeover. If you switch back and forth between tasks often enough, you could feel disoriented, or even exhausted.
In addition, your brain will produce more cortisol, a stress hormone that often leads to irritability, aggression and impulsive behaviour.
The gateway distraction
It’s also important to consider the fact that most of our modern distractions have the potential to occupy far more than just a few minutes of our time. Most social media apps, for example, are designed to be addictive; they give you just enough of a reward to keep you using them; they provide no sense of completeness because of their infinite-scrolling potential and they constantly give you notifications so you can see what’s new.
If you aren’t careful, a quick look at your newsfeed can turn into a 30-minute long dive into the digital world.
When distractions are good
All that being said, there is a case for arguing that distractions can be beneficial. For example, there’s evidence to suggest that mental distractions can aid in pain relief, especially for sufferers of chronic pain. They may also provide short-term relief for anxiety and distress.
In addition, pulling yourself away from a task can give your brain some much-needed time to decompress and refocus. There’s a reason we tend to come up with our best ideas when we’re bored or otherwise unoccupied; the brain has more freedom and leisure to wander to new places and tinker with problems that exist in the background.
If you’re specifically using a distraction to help your brain refocus (and possibly de-stress for a moment), you can actually get some value from your distractions.
Despite some potential benefits (when your distractions are fully under your control), though, for the most part, distractions are damaging your productivity – and in multiple ways.
If you want to improve your overall output and de-stress in the meantime, your best option is to limit your distractions by turning off notifications, scheduling your breaks, staying more disciplined with sites and apps likely to steal your attention and communicating to your coworkers about your need to focus throughout the day.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Are You A Procrastinator? Don’t Be By Doing These 3 Things
Take control of your time and super-charge your day, making the most of your most valuable resource: Time.
The more time I spend thinking, writing and coaching about how to combat procrastination, the more I realise how much bigger this problem is than I initially thought. Every person reading this column will at some point have fallen victim to this avoidance behaviour. In fact, many of us fall prey to it daily.
If you’re serious about personal and business success, overcoming procrastination should be top of mind. If you’re able to master the ability to not procrastinate, you’ll supercharge your productivity and performance without the need for any new tools, techniques or information.
By simply doing what you are supposed to do, you become more effective. The most powerful truths are often the simplest ones too. Let’s look at three ideas that will help you create momentum.
One: Know Your Style
Did you know there are six procrastination styles? Thanks to the work of Sapadin and Maguire we have identified certain ‘archetypes’ that we can use to relate to procrastination styles. Going through the list is an interesting exercise for raising awareness. It won’t ‘cure’ procrastination but it gives you an interesting starting point for further exploration.
- The Perfectionist does not start or finish in case it is not perfect in the eyes of others or self. Typical for creatives and entrepreneurs.
- The Dreamer wants life to be smooth. They love to dream big without translating it into action. If their dreams never become reality, then they can never fail.
- The Worrier is always wondering “what if something goes wrong?” They get caught up in their heads and over-analyse the situation.
- The Defier is resistant to the instruction of others because they do not want to be told what to do. They procrastinate not because of the task at hand but because of their relationship with the task giver.
- The Crisis Maker likes living on the edge. They feel that the added pressure of a looming deadline makes them work better.
- The Over-doer takes on too much without establishing priorities and boundaries. They ultimately realise that they are overcommitted and start losing their grasp on the task.
Two: Time Immersion (TI)
I am currently completing my Master’s degree in Coaching. There have been times when I have found it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to do the work. One effective method that has helped me to progress is to focus on ‘time spent immersed’ instead of focusing on a specific outcome.
Instead of committing to a specific number of words or chapters I commit to just sitting down with the work for a specific amount of time. In my case, 45 minutes. This means that for those 45 minutes I immerse myself in the work. Reading a bit here, writing a bit there, and at the end of the 45 minutes I get up to take a break.
Time Immersion has two very important benefits. Firstly, we often procrastinate because a task is hard, and we don’t want to deal with the pain that comes with working on it. By committing to time immersed, hard things become easier. More importantly, they become easier without the judgement of whether you succeeded or failed. Secondly, it creates momentum. With every 45-minute TI session you will find yourself slowly chipping away at the frustration. We all know what happens when you chip away at a big problem with enough perseverance; it will be conquered.
Three: Let go of judgement
Those who procrastinate are not lazy. This is important to understand. True procrastination is a psychological phenomenon driven by our fear of failure, judgement and low frustration tolerance.
This is why procrastinators will often find other ways of keeping themselves occupied. Again, an avoidance behaviour, not just laziness.
If you identified your procrastination style, then this might have already given you some insight into why you do what you do. Knowing this, you can go beyond and examine the beliefs that you have that maintain your procrastinating behaviours.
Related: 4 Cures for Chronic Procrastination
One way to do this is to listen to your inner dialogue. That voice inside your head that loves to pull you down with negativity. Simply listen to the words that ‘he/she’ is using and then make a concerted effort to examine them. This is exactly what a coach would do.
If your inner voice says that you first need more information before proceeding with a task, stop, and ask yourself if that is really the truth.
If your inner voice says that you are a failure and that completing this task will expose you for the fraud you are, stop, and ask yourself if that is really true.
Usually, these irrational beliefs are easily refuted.
The truth is that you already know enough. You know what to do. You know how to do it. The thing stopping you is your relationship with yourself and the task at hand. You will find the key to overcoming procrastination inside yourself. Spend some time exploring the ideas that I suggested and see your productivity explode.
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