Admit it: You want to work less. And work smarter. You want to enjoy your free time, but you need to make good money. And of course, you want keep learning and enjoy your career at the same time.
Whether you work in a so-called creative industry or not, balancing personal autonomy with productivity and great teamwork is a challenge we all face. Is there a possible solution to this seemingly impossible equation?
Actually, yes. It takes planning, consistency and teamwork, but by properly structuring your time and work methodology, you just might be able to have it all.
Related: Building Real Work Life Balance
Here’s a plan of action:
1Monday morning: Start focus
Begin by gathering all your team members in a room where you’ll spend 20 minutes reviewing the challenges of the week.
Each person writes their three personal challenges for the week on a post-it, puts it on wall and reads it aloud it to the group. These challenges must be clear objectives with completion dates.
Whether it is personal (I want my desktop cleaned by tomorrow night) or linked to others (I want to deliver that project to the client on Wednesday night), it must something that can be accomplished. This works because it is a commitment you make in front of your teammates. To keep everyone motivated, the post-its remain on the wall the entire week.
2Wednesday morning: Share with others
At Base Design, we call this the creative meeting, but it can be adapted to fit many types of businesses.
This time, everyone is present, from the office manager to creative and financial directors, and you’ll spend about three hours getting on the same page about all aspects of the business. While that may sound like a long time, it’s a crucial way to glue the team together.
It is the moment where ongoing projects, discoveries, research, presentations are shared and discussed. And other things will be shared as well: Emotions, feelings and passion.
The creative meeting is lead by one person (it could be someone different each week) that is in charge of the agenda and the time keeping.
Importantly, the meeting starts with the inclusions, where each participant openly responds to the following three questions:
- What is my mood today?
- What are my expectations for this meeting?
- What will I bring to this meeting?
As implied by its name, the inclusion method is a tremendous tool to include everybody and give everyone a voice of equal importance. The meeting ends, after all presentations, sharing and debates, with a round table of constructive feedback.
3Thursday lunch: Forget work
This is the true feel-good rendezvous of the week. It’s a very simple concept: One staff member takes a turn cooking for the rest of the team.
There’s no work, no agenda, just time to enjoy a meal and the company of your colleagues. Time your team spends getting to know each other as friends is as important as the time they spend collaborating as co-workers.
4Friday afternoon: Look back
Time for a review of the week. Duration is variable. This is when the team gathers and each one gets returns to his or her Monday post-it. Did everyone fulfill their three challenges? Yes, great. No? Let’s analyse why, discuss it with the others and learn from it. Remember, the goal is to work less and better – and here’s an opportunity to discuss how to do just that.
5The rest of the week? Full autonomy
We’re all adults here. Each member of the team is certainly mature enough to organise the time spent on their own projects and meetings, inside and outside the company, and combine it with the demands of their personal life in a way that works for them. No judgment, no second guessing. Just deliver good work on time, and everyone is happy.
Checking in, staying on the same page and cheering each other on at intervals during the week is something any business can implement to help their employees stay on the right track and achieve balance between their work and personal lives.
By respecting these milestones with absolute discipline, you will see responsibility and autonomy raise naturally among your team members, and these gatherings will become an essential and enjoyable way to support the well-being and efficiency of your team.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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.
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
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. *
* Legal stuff applies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3. 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.
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.
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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