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Why Balls to the Walls Could Mean Failing Fast

The secret to improved productivity is taking time off. It’s not as counter-intuitive as it sounds. If you want to work better and smarter, you need some down time too.

Joe Robinson

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When deciding to embark on the entrepreneurial journey, the first thing you often lose is work-life balance.

Those most dedicated to professional success commonly fail to show that same level of commitment to their personal wellbeing. Getting caught up in the starting and running of a business is not an excuse for disregarding your personal life.

It’s more than just a luxury for entrepreneurs to take time off. It’s a necessity. Many entrepreneurs work 24/7, 365 days a year, often driven by a fear that anything left unattended will lead to failure. But it might be wise to consider scheduling time for activities outside the office. It’s important not only for your life, but also for your business.

Related: Can productivity tools help me?

Here’s why

For physical wellbeing:

You can’t operate a business if you’re unwell. A fit business person is going to perform optimally in their work. Taking time for regular physical activity will also ensure the de-stress factor, which is essential when running a successful business.

For mental health:

Working 24/7 is a surefire way to burn out. Life is about equilibrium. Ensuring you make time to have fun and connect with friends and family will keep you sane and productive.

Entrepreneurs who take time off to rest their brain and attend to other areas of life will have more clarity when faced with business challenges.

For innovation:

The invention of the 3M Post-It came from someone who allocated time off from his daily routine to create mental space for new ideas and a fresh perspective. Writers can attest to this.

After composing a first draft, there is great value in taking a break. Doing so allows the writer to edit with fresh eyes, and even generate new ideas. The same thing is applicable for any entrepreneur. Innovation often comes when we’re not actively engaged in or thinking about work.

Sometimes letting go is the key to success. This doesn’t mean an entrepreneur has to become lazy or irresponsible. Rather, by deliberately taking time off, we are forced to let go of everything we normally try to control, even for a short time. After all, there’s no way any of us can control every aspect of our business. When you cultivate a life outside work, you’ll ensure that there is more to you than your work.

Putting theory in action

As a university buddy was recounting a great trip to Europe, something snapped inside Jeff Platt. “It was like all of a sudden I woke up,” recalls the CEO of Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park. Though only 24 at the time, Platt was exhausted. H

e’d been working 16-hour days, seven days a week, for two years since launching the Los Angeles-based company’s second trampoline park. He had taken no vacations, and had no social life. But that habit is sustainable only until the reality of mental and physical limits strikes.

“I felt like I was missing out,” he says.  “All I was doing was busting my butt. I was tired. I had to slow down. I stepped back and said, it’s time to hire some people.”

Entrepreneurs are often celebrated for wearing multiple hats and logging numerous hours. But working without let-up is a bad habit that can jeopardise business, health and the life you’re supposedly working toward.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it, since capital in the early days is tight, but also because few ambitious achievers understand one of the biggest secrets of productivity – the refuelling principle. You get more done quicker when you recharge the brain and body. Studies show that performance increases after breaks of all durations: From extended holidays down to microbreaks of 30 seconds.

Running out of juiceStress

Continuous time on-task sets off strain reactions, such as stress, fatigue and negative mood, which drain focus and physical and emotional resources. The brain’s ability to self-regulate – to stay disciplined – wanes with each exercise of self-control during the day. It’s a loss of resources that must be replenished, or it becomes harder to stay on-task, be attentive and solve problems.

“There’s research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,” says Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University, who studies job demands and employee motivation.

“When you’re constantly draining your resources, you’re not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, performance declines. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”

That’s counter-intuitive in a culture programmed to believe that it takes near non-stop work to get the sale, beat the competitor or do whatever is needed to succeed. For most entrepreneurs, rest is considered the province of lesser mortals, put off for a future that never arrives.

It’s this mentality that keeps entrepreneurs exhausted, stuck and reaping a fraction of potential profits. It’s time to do the last thing in the world you would ever think to do: Take time off. Productivity and performance start with free time, which is the fuel for the energy, creativity and focus that lead to success.

It’s not the amount of time you spend working each day. Entrepreneurs get paid through problem-solving and creativity. You can create a solution in a shorter period of time if you are rested and rejuvenated.

Managing mental resources

Most of us wouldn’t think twice about taking a breather after an hour of action cricket or cycling, but mental fatigue is another story.

The brain is usually seen as an ethereal realm that exists apart from the body and the laws of physiology. Yet gray matter tires well before the body does. Since almost all of us are doing mental work these days, managing cognitive resources is not a nice thing to be able to do; it’s essential.

The brain is like a muscle. You can strengthen it or deplete it, Gabriel says: “If you let this muscle recharge and replenish, you’ll feel better mentally and see improvements in your performance.”

Regular refuelling is a pre-requisite for quality output, because the brain is an energy machine, consuming 20% of the body’s calories, even though it’s only 2% of total body mass. Energy that gets expended must be re-supplied.

One study found that mental fatigue takes hold after three hours of continuous time on-task; other scientists say brains need a break after 90 minutes, the length of the ‘basic rest-activity cycle’.

Burning up mental resources without replacing them leads to stress, burnout and poor performance. Stress constricts the brain to a narrow focus – a perceived threat – making it hard to concentrate on anything else, plan or make good decisions.

Related: The 5 Secrets to Prioritisation

Staying focused on a task uses up a key cognitive resource: Self-control. Studies show that regulating our emotions is taxing. Known in research circles as ego depletion, this holds that every time we exercise self-regulation – paying attention, suppressing emotions, managing how we act to conform to a cultural norm – we use limited regulatory resources and reduce the ability for further self-control, depleting energy and causing fatigue.

Break time

Recovery opportunities might range from breaks during the workday to diversions that shut off the work mind when you get home at night, to weekend activities, holidays and sleep. Holidays have been shown to lead to significantly higher performance.

The energising ingredients are time away from stressors, and mastery and social experiences that build competence and social connections.

Leaving work at work is an important recovery strategy – and the hardest. Detaching from work reduces fatigue and promotes positive effects at work.

Watching TV is not an effective diversion. The average state of a TV viewer is a mild depression. Instead, try new hobbies and experiences that satisfy core psychological needs such as autonomy and competence, which energise, empower and buffer job stress.

When time off is as important as time on, it can lead to all kinds of performance gains. “We’ve quadrupled the size of the company,” says Noah Katz, co-president of a New York firm with 850 employees. “You need to recharge the batteries. You come back like a tiger and get more done.”

New year, new start

Create a new calendar in which your weeks are broken down into ‘free days’, when no work or checking in to email or the office is allowed; ‘buffer days’, for planning and preparation; and ‘focus days’, for high-value, goal-oriented practices.

This can be shock treatment for you if you haven’t had a day off in months or a holiday in years but, after learning how to delegate, focus on what you do best and use free time to sharpen energy and clarity. You may wind up taking a month off a year.

By getting away from work and letting the mind get involved in thinking, hobbies and rejuvenation, you come back to the job and produce results faster. Thinking is one of the crucial benefits of stepping back. Just as quality time off fuels energetic resources on the job, reflective time is critical to producing solutions and creative breakthroughs.

Related: The Only Productivity Tip You’ll Ever Need

There’s a good reason for that. When you’re thinking about a problem, it’s confined to one or two regions in the brain, but the solution may not be in those areas. By resting, the information sits in your brain and then percolates across other sections.

Joe Robinson is author of Don't Miss Your Life, on the hidden skills of activating life after work, and a work-life balance trainer and executive coach.

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Business Travel Is Alive And Paying Off

The rise of conference calls and video conferencing systems like Skype and Google Hangouts may seem like the end of face-to-face business encounters, but experts don’t agree.

Kulula Work

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A number of business leaders and industrial psychologists reckon that there’s no substitute for meeting someone in person, especially at critical junctures in a business relationship, like introducing yourself or closing a deal.

So how do you make business travel easier and worth your while? Dawn Weir, Head of kulula work, suggests the following:

Maximise the business benefits

Business travel can benefit the individual traveller and their business, whether it’s a small enterprise or a multinational conglomerate. kulula work for example, guarantees you the best fares of the day on kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair), and you won’t pay booking or flight change fees — only the difference in fare and the airport taxes. You can now also earn and redeem Avios loyalty points whilst flying with kulula.com. Not only will earning more Avios graduate you to higher tiers where you can, for example, get cabin upgrades and access to business lounges, but you can also use the points to, say, take your family on a business and leisure holiday
with you.

Related: How To Take The Hassle Out Of Business Travel With Kulula Work

Go paperless

Get rid of unnecessary paperwork that can weigh you down and store your boarding pass on your smartphone wallet app when you check in 24 hours ahead of departure.

Take a breather

Airport lounges provide a haven from the hubbub of departure lounges, but not all are equal by any means. The best ones have space for some work, fast WiFi, a good selection of food, a decent wine list, and facilities to shower and freshen up. The Slow Lounges at a number of South African airports have these facilities. There’s even one at the Radisson Blu Hotel opposite the Sandton Gautrain station, SLOW in the City that provides boardrooms, lounges, and can arrange for quiet areas to do media interviews. A new lounge called SLOW XS, has also opened at Lanseria International Airport and has, among its many attractions, wine tastings offered by local drinks specialists Winesense.

Add some colour

Many business travellers will go to great lengths to ensure they only travel with cabin luggage, but if you do have to check luggage into the hold, take a moment to familiarise yourself with bag-drop arrangements and any restrictions on the size of cabin luggage. Also, many travellers find it helpful to mark their luggage with a brightly-coloured tag of some sort that makes it readily recognisable on the conveyor.

Stash it all

So, you have your boarding pass on your smartphone and you’ve stashed keys, wallet and change in your carry-on baggage, to save you time passing through the metal-detectors at the security checkpoint. If you’re travelling internationally, you may have opted to wear slip-on shoes and to pack your belt in your carry-on luggage to avoid having to take them off and put them back on again at security. We’ve all stood behind fellow travellers who arrive at the checkpoint with coins and keys in every pocket, and electronic devices in the bottom of a suitcase. There’s not much you can do about that, but you can make your own passage through the metal-detectors easier.

Related: Kulula: Erik Venter and Gidon Novick

Remember to rest

Many business travellers tend to put in more working hours when away from the office and home. Rather than thinking that every mail in your inbox must be answered immediately, get some work-life balance by taking a walk or a run, or just a nap.

To make sure you are on time — every time — comfortable, refreshed, organised and stress-free when you seal your next deal, use kulula work to take care of your travel arrangements. Our team includes professionals dedicated to your account who will assess your business travel needs so that you have a healthy combination of work and play, on your road to success.

The following is exclusively available when your next business trip is booked via kulula work:

  • Best fares of the day on kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair)
  • Flexible flight changes (only the difference in fare and taxes will apply)
  • No booking fees
  • Competitive car hire rates with Europcar and Avis
  • Great hotel rates with Protea Hotels and City Lodge Hotel Group
  • Invoicing and reporting
  • Account management
  • Access to our qualified Corporate Reservations team. *

For that work-life balance you’re after contact kulula work on +27 (0)11 285 3050, email sales@kulula.com or visit www.kulula.com/work.

* Legal stuff applies

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Work Life Balance

Managing Your Schedule Like A Boss: Tips The Experts Never Tell You

Time management is at the top of the short list of reasons why some people succeed and most don’t.

John Rampton

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Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.

But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.

Create a routine

Next up you need to create, and stick, to a routine.

Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.

Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all. For example, if you’re launching a start-up, then you should block times for activities like customer discovery, coding and hiring. Next year you may have to block out times for marketing, growing your business and customer service.

Related: Fighting Sleep Is A Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps

Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week

“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.

“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”

Add time buffers to manage your schedule

Have you missed a couple of deadlines because you jumped from project to project? It’s probably because your didn’t add time buffers. A buffer is something like this:

You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.

Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule your calendar like a to-do-list

If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.

For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.

Use batching and time-blocking

In my early days of freelancing I multitasked like it was going out of style. I eventually realised that doing more than one thing at a time is ineffective and stressful. I was stressed beyond endurance because, as research now shows, the human brain isn’t capable of multitasking.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

A study conducted by Microsoft Research, shows that switching from task to task is less productive than staying on the same task, or the same types of tasks, over a block of time. That’s why batching is so awesome.

Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.

Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.

Chandler Bolt wrote a great book, The Productive Person, that you should read if you want to learn more about time-blocking.

Optimise time for different meeting types

To be honest, 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls are ideal. A 10-minute phone call with a prospective client is more than enough for me to know what their needs are and if we click. Better yet, Google Hangout or Skype can be used to see the person instead of just hearing them.

If you have a remote team, you can host a virtual meeting via Zoom,RingCentral Business, Zoho Meeting, Join.me or GoToMeeting.

Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:

  • 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
  • 15-minute daily standup if you’re a start-up or leading an engineering team.
  • 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.

Related: Forget Time Management: Why You Should Practice Choice Management Instead

Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.

Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

How To Optimise Your Productivity After Quitting Your Job

You’ve done it. You’re your own boss. All the time in the world. Now the problem is – you’re used to 10 hours of your day being allocated elsewhere – there’s almost too much time now. So much time… and so many ways to waste it.

Jordan Stephanou

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The idea of having control of our own time is bliss. In many ways, nothing could be better than the idea of “freedom”, of having “full control” of one’s life. The reality is that it can be incredible, however it can also be life’s biggest trap. If there is no strategy to optimize this available time, it will turn into one major procrastination session.

If your time is not carefully managed, your entrepreneurial journey could become months of regret and self-loathing because of wasted opportunity. On the flip side, Peter Thiel has been paraphrased in saying that one of the beauties of an entrepreneurial life, is that if someone were to put a gun to your head and demand that you achieve 10 years worth of goals in 6 months, it would be possible. If time is used extremely effectively, anything is possible. That, in my view, is something to get excited about, and is reason enough to want to put tangible methods in place.

Note that many of these methods were inspired by Tim Ferriss and the many world class performers he has interviewed on his podcast. I have since experimented with recommendations and have found that the below have worked best for me.

1. Organise meetings

This may sound counterintuitive, because meetings are commonly considered (at least in the corporate world) to be the ultimate waste of time. The reason for that perception is that there is usually so much work to be done, and corporate meetings classically aren’t necessary for all the attendees, and do not result in a definitive next step.

Related: 10 Things You Must Do Before Quitting Your Job To Start Your Company

My argument for organising meetings is to conjure momentum when none exists early on in the process. If you are sitting with a blank calendar and a blank agenda, by arranging meetings with potential clients, partners, employees or investors, this will create a sense of scarcity; a simulated “due date” that will force you to do the appropriate work to be ready for said meeting, and could put you on an exciting unforeseen path post-meeting.

These meetings also get people on the same page as you; to buy into your vision and to get them excited by what excites you in your entrepreneurial journey – you never know what doors can open from connecting with the right people at the right time.

I read a quote recently that said “great opportunities never have ‘Great Opportunity’ in the subject line”.

2. Say No

You may receive a deluge of exciting propositions and projects out of nowhere that others less committed than you would like you to work on. These can be extremely tempting, but as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, “The single most important distinction in life is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted”.

Derek Sivers makes this distinction by removing any middle ground – if he doesn’t feel that the opportunity is a “HELL YEAH!”, it’s simply a “no”. Another tool you could use is to rate opportunities out of 10 – but you’re not allowed to use the number 7. When in doubt, you have to either rate the opportunity as a 6 or an 8. If it’s a 6, it’s a definite “no”.

Saying no can be infinitely more difficult than saying yes. That’s why, it can be argued that nurturing the ability to decline mediocre opportunities is one the most important skills on the path to success.

organising-day3. Don’t let others set your agenda for you

You will wake up to several emails, whatsapp messages and a missed call. You are then faced with a difficult decision – to reactively respond to all before pursuing your agenda for the day; or proactively completing your agenda first and then addressing the needs of others.

The risk of the reactive approach, is that there is a high probability of getting derailed entirely by requests from other people. A seemingly short request could end up cascading into several hours of back and forth. It is quite possible that by the time this has reached completion, you have no energy left to allocate to the most important tasks for the day. You will leave feeling unfulfilled, as if the day was wasted – a routine you desperately need to avoid.

You should set your own agenda, and when the key tasks are completed, you attend to the emails and requests of others.

Related: How To Start A Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

4. Set your most important 3 tasks each day

On any given day, you may have 32 important things you want to achieve. Where does one even begin to prioritise these? Typically, we may start with the easiest of the 32 to get that “small win” feeling. The downside is that the easiest may not be the most important or urgent, and could leave you feeling in a similar position to where you started. That’s why I set the most important 3 each day.

They may take 5 minutes each or 5 hours each, but if you can consistently overcome the most important 3 tasks on a daily basis, you will not only make tangible progress in your work, but develop an unrivalled (and somewhat addictive) sense of productivity.

In addition, I recommend setting these 3 tasks at the end of each working day, so that you can get straight into them the next morning. I find that setting the next day’s objectives is a nice way to wind down the day, and reduce chances of morning procrastination the next day because your agenda will already be pre-constructed, leaving no room for excuses.

5. Find the environment that speaks to your working soul

Some people thrive in 8am-5pm busy office environments, while others can only work from night time when it feels like the world around them is asleep. Some people love absolute silence while others need the madness of boisterous conversation and loud music. There is no perfect way to work.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

I have found that the ambience of coffee shops is conducive to a productive environment – being surrounded by people of different backgrounds and occupations leads to a complementary sense of both community and urgency, and removes any sense of loneliness. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of the right music to aid productivity.

Certain melodic lyric-less music could help create a rhythm conducive to productivity (Tim Ferriss highly recommends Gramatik as an aid to his book writing). Some people prefer music they are extremely familiar with, and even play the same song or album on repeat for hours; the familiarity could create a sense of comfort, and you won’t get distracted by the lyrics.

There is no perfect formula for productivity. There is no script, as much as others may try enforce theirs onto you. That’s why this journey is so exciting – you can use any of the methods above and do what works for you. Be productive by using your mind, not your time.

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