HBR: Is Your Calendar Managing You?

How do you get more control over your time? Are you spending time on low-value activities? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Ron Ashkenas:

Is Your Calendar Managing You?

Not long ago, I was talking with a senior executive who was frustrated that some of her high priority initiatives were not moving fast enough. After exploring various reasons for the slow uptake, I asked her to look at her calendar and calculate the amount of time she personally spent on these initiatives. The answer shocked her: a grand total of two hours over the course of two months, and this was being generous.

In my years of consulting, I’ve found that this disconnect between stated priorities and the actual allocation of managerial time is extremely common, and often happens without the manager even realizing it. The only exception is during a crisis or in the face of an impending deadline — when somehow the use of time magically shifts to match the short-term priority. But in the absence of crisis, managers’ schedules fill up with all sorts of lower-value activities that water down the focus on high-priority projects, change efforts, or opportunities.

In fairness to managers, they probably shouldn’t be spending as much personal time on high-priority initiatives as their subordinates, to whom they may have delegated all or part of the responsibilities. But delegating is not an excuse for disappearing. If a manager like the one mentioned above wants to see progress, she needs to visibly demonstrate support for the initiative, run interference with other related groups in the company, coach the designated leaders, create a sense of urgency, and make decisions. These, and many other activities, take time. And although most managers know that they should make this commitment, they still don’t.

I’ve written previously about some of the psychological dynamics of why managers spend their time on low-value activities. Through the years I’ve found that there is a very tactical, but unconscious, trap that many managers fall into: They let their calendars manage them.

If you are a manager, think about how your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule is constructed. First there are corporate or divisional meetings — essentially command performances — in addition to the standing and ad-hoc meetings called by your boss. Many of these are dictated by the rhythms of corporate processes such as strategic planning, budgeting, and performance management — and include countless other preparatory meetings. Of course if you are an operational manager or running a team, you also have to schedule your own meetings: staff meetings, one-on-ones, town meetings, visits to key locations, and more. Somewhere in this mix are interactions with customers, either external or internal, depending on your job. You may also be invited to staff meetings and various project review meetings which may or may not be about your own priorities. If this is not enough, many managers also attend industry conferences and briefings, leadership workshops, or other developmental events. On top of all this is the time required to actually accomplish your day-to-day job — reviewing reports, reading spreadsheets, preparing and modifying presentations, and the like. Finally — if you’re really well-organized — you might devote a little time to “thinking and planning” (although not much in the formal sense), your family, and other non-work pursuits.

Collectively, the demands we face at work are daunting and require constant juggling and trade-offs. For senior people much of this juggling is done by an executive assistant and/or chief of staff, while middle or junior managers do it themselves, often with the assistance of electronic scheduling that automatically puts meetings on the calendar. Unfortunately, neither method substitutes for thoughtful prioritization by the manager herself. Without such prioritization, the outcome is often a schedule that bounces managers from meeting to meeting, trip to trip, and requirement to requirement — without a sense of how to add the most value.

If you are concerned that your calendar is managing you, here’s how to start taking back control.

First, do a calendar analysis. Examine the events and activities described above that apply to you, and find out how much time you are really spending on the areas where your presence will make a difference. If that’s not enough, conduct a zero-based reconstruction of your calendar to reflect a better balance of value-adding time. To do this, start by designating specific times that you will devote to your highest priorities, even if you’re not sure how you will use those times. If you find later that you won’t need all of those slots, you can change them. But if you don’t save them now, you’ll lose that choice.

Next, build your calendar from the ground up. Add in the mandatory meetings that you have to attend that also add value, such as decision-making meetings or customer visits.

Finally, go through the calendar and create a list of recurring meetings and other activities that seem to create less (or no) value. For each of these, ask yourself:

 

  • Is the activity or meeting needed at all?

 

  • If needed, do I need to attend or can I designate someone else?

 

  • Can this be done less frequently?

 

  • Can it be done in a different way that will require less time?

 

These tough questions may be worth addressing with your boss, your team, or with a coach. But if you don’t address them, and continually try to zero-base your schedule, it will end up managing you (instead of the other way around).

How do you get more control over your time?

 

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JMM: The Little Known Habit Of Productive Leaders

Are you scheduling time for yourself? Below is a blog from John Michael Morgan.

The Little Known Habit Of Productive Leaders

For the strongest leaders, this works like crazy. Yet very few people realize that the most productive leaders have this habit. The reason is because it’s counter to what you would typically think of a busy leader.

The truth is the most productive leaders are extremely disciplined with their personal time.

On the surface, it doesn’t always look this way. A leader is busy and typically doesn’t work a 9 to 5 schedule. But what they know that you don’t, is that they have to be fed too. If you’re not focused on self-care, you won’t be able to serve people for long. 

It’s the classic airplane scenario. I travel so much I feel like I could recite it verbatim. In case, of an emergency, put YOUR oxygen mask on first. Why? Because if you’re not okay, you can’t help anyone else.

This is true of leadership as much as it is anything in life.

If you want anything in your life to improve, you must improve. Think about it, income improvement follows self-improvement. Marriage improvement follows self-improvement. If you want your business to be better, you must be better.

That’s why the strongest and most productive leaders never stop working on themselves.

The challenge is that the more successful you are, the greater the demand on your personal time. Your time must be guarded and protected. Everyone expects you to be available when THEY need you. Your to-do list will never end. Beware falling into a cycle of never taking time for yourself.

You have at least a general idea of what recharges your batteries. For some, it’s reading an interesting book or watching a good movie. For you, it might be exercise or hanging out with friends. Regardless, you must protect this time just as you would an appointment with your best client.

How To Take Your Personal Time Back

Now that you understand the importance of taking care of yourself and protecting time for self-care, let’s talk about how to make this a habit.

– Don’t Leave Yourself For Last

I get it. You don’t want to let anyone down and you’re spending your days meeting everyone else’s demands. Stop it. If you leave caring for yourself until you’re finished with everything else on your schedule, you won’t have anything left. Start making yourself a priority.

– Schedule It & Honor It

I’m not the most rigid when it comes to my schedule. But one thing I’ve learned is that if I don’t schedule personal time, I won’t have any. Set appointments with yourself. Schedule time to read, workout, nap, or whatever. Then honor that time just as you would an important appointment. Don’t show up late. Don’t cancel. Respect yourself and this time.

– Make Personal Time A Priority

When setting your schedule for the week, don’t rely on extra time for yourself. If self-care isn’t a priority you purposefully set, it will never become one.

My friend and Achiever, Robbie Green has found reading to be a great use of his personal time. But he wanted accountability with this time. So he challenged himself to read 100 books this year and is sharing each book he reads publicly. This forces him to keep going in those moments when it would be easier to put everyone and everything first.

– Try Starting The Day Focused On You

Your morning routine is a great time to take care of yourself. Before the hustle of the day begins, you can read, meditate, or go for a run. I like starting the day this way because then if the day gets busy or I have a few challenges pop-up, I’ve already been disciplined with my personal time.

– Set Boundaries

This is the hardest to do yet the most productive. Don’t take phone calls and texts at night. Protect your personal time. My clients know that I’ll respond to them quickly when they need something, but they also respect my personal and family time. Because we have boundaries set, they don’t send me texts or phone calls that could wait until the next day.

Ultimately, you have to understand that you’re not being selfish when you take time for you. The stronger you are and the more you improve, the better you serve your family, team, clients, and those in your life that you care about.

 

This Is How I Work – Greg Branecky

Greg Branecky has over 35 years of experience in the building supply industry: in sales, inventory, and purchasing.

Over the years, Greg has been president and treasurer of the Lumber Dealers of Connecticut, as well as Lumber Person of the Year in 2003. He is currently President of the Lumber Building and Material Dealer Foundation (LBMDF), and served on the executive committee of the Northeast Retail Lumber Association.

This Is How I Work

Mobile device:

Moto G

Current Computer:

PC Dell XPS 8500 64 bit Windows; 12GB RAM

One word that best describes how you work:

Working Smart: When I first started a class for Computer Aided Design (CAD), I became easily frustrated because I had to start over if a mistake was made or had to keep drawing the same line until it was correct.  After a week, learned shortcuts and was able to work smartly.

What apps/software tools can’t you live without?

Evernote: I’ve been with Evernote since 2009. Evernote is my digital brain. I can save emails, web clippings, and maps. My newest use is saving highlighted text on a kindle.

IFTTT is another tool. All Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut (LDAC) blogs posts can be saved in Evernote or tweet them. There are so many channels and recipes IFTTT has.

Feedly is as important as  Evernote. All my RSS feeds are displayed in a newspaper type format. This is how I keep up with my google alerts and news for the day.

What is your workspace like?

I use organized piles. In my next office, I would like to have a desk that can be switched between standing and sitting.

What do you listen to while you work?

Focus@will or Alternative: when I listen to Focus@will, I’m very productive. The music beat works well for me.

What is your best time-saving shortcut or hack?

I setup categories or folders for my emails. For example, I use follow-up folders and separate folders for each of the different organizations I’m involved with.

Also, I use rules to color code my emails by who they are from, like work vs organizational emails.

Another hack is using CTRL-Enter on websites names. For example, type the address name then hit [CTRL-ENTER]. This will add the prefix and .com to the address.  Also, you can scroll down pages in your web browser simply by hitting the SPACEBAR.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Pen & Paper and ToDoist: Pen & Paper is my favorite. However, I like ToDoist because I can use IFTTT with  Evernote and other apps to plan projects.

Besides your phone/computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

My ten-year-old IPOD. I’ve been listening to podcasts since I received it. I’m able to continually learn while driving. Two podcasts I’ve been listening to for ten years are Manager Tools and Grammar Girl.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Introvert

What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m a morning person. I’m in bed by 10:00 pm and up between 5 and 6 am

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received is how to institute change at work by introducing new processes in small increments which will make the change less intimidating for others.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Coolidge by Amity Shlaes. I read 20-24 books a year. You can follow me on GoodReads. There, I post books I want to read and have read.

How do you recharge?

I recharged by being with my wife and family.

TMN: 3 Powerful Time Management Strategies

Bryan Collins writes a great blog on Time Management Ninja. Are you using these strategies? Please leave a comment below.

3 Powerful Time Management Strategies

This is a guest post by Bryan Collins. Bryan is on a mission to teach people how to become writers and finish what they started with A Handbook for the Productive Writer.

Would you like to earn more or less for the time you spend working?

For several years, I was a freelance journalist living off various writing commissions. Although some commissions paid by the hour, I was still expected to complete them within a set period. For others, I was only paid for getting the job done. This type of freelance work meant I earned less for my time if I spent twenty hours on a commission that should have only taken ten.

I learned the hard way that making a living means finishing freelance projects on time. Even if you aren’t a freelancer, you still have deadlines. Here are three simple but effective time-management tips will help you manage your time and become more productive.

  1. Make Friends With Your Calendar

The calendar is the productive freelancer’s best friend. It should be yours too. Get deadlines and appointments out of your head and into Google calendar, Outlook or some other tool you trust.

At the end of every working week, spend twenty minutes reviewing your calendar. Check what’s coming up for the next seven days and what happened over the previous seven days. While reviewing the previous seven days, ask questions like:

  • What took up the most of my time last week?
  • Are these activities likely to reoccur?
  • What resources do I need to complete these activities faster?

While reviewing the coming week, consider:

  • What do I need to prioritize?
  • Am I likely to meet or miss my imminent deadlines?
  • What’s my most important task this week?

The review is your chance to add any missing activities to you calendar and to identify commitments that you need to renegotiate. This will also help you plan for future projects secure in the knowledge that you have the resources and time to complete them.

  1. Guard Your Best Self

You undoubtedly have have lots other responsibilities related to your commitments. For example, mine include:

  • Preparing invoices
  • Making pitches
  • Managing email

Your best self is the time of the day when you’re fresh and most productive. These other tasks are important, but you can accomplish them during the hours of the day when you’re tired. Depending on your working environment you can guard you best self by:

  • Using a proven productivity system like the Pomodoro technique for your most important tasks of the day
  • Disconnecting from social media, email and even internet
  • Letting your colleagues know what you’re working on and when they can expect to hear from you

This strategy will succeed if you understand the rhythms of your day and if you attend to your other responsibilities after you’ve completed your most important task.

  1. Track, Track And Track Again

Freelance journalists learn how to write fast. They need to eat. They need to sleep. And they need to get working on their next commission. I spent almost an entire week on my first 3,000 plus word feature article for a national newspaper. I carried out long, multiple interviews and spent hours researching the topic online and offline.

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but much of this research and many of these interviews were unnecessary. So, I started tracking how I spent my time, and I used this self-knowledge to speed up.

You can track how you’re spending time on your projects by:

  • Setting a timer on your computer or phone when you’re working on a project
  • Making a brief note in a professional journal or log at the end of the day of how and where you spent your time
  • Reviewing your log, journal or timesheet at least once a week to see what’s holding you back

Tracking your work may seem tedious at first, but it will help you figure out which projects are taking longer than others, how you can complete these projects quicker and even if you should accept projects like these in the future.

It will also make it easier to submit your invoices at the end of the month, and this self-knowledge will give you the confidence to negotiate a better rate from your next client.

Spending Your Reward

I’m not a freelance journalist anymore, but I’ve never forgotten the power of a deadline and the important of finishing projects within set time period. If you’re having trouble managing how you spend your time on projects, review your calendar and commitments, do your most important work when you’re productive, and track what’s working and what’s causing you problems.

If you succeed, you’ll have time to make even more money by working on new commissions. Or you could take break. How you spend your hard-earned time is your choice.

Question: What tips do you have for those who struggle with time management? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The “No” Repertoire: Essentialism Book Review

In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, he talks about how to get more things done and it’s about how to get the right things done. Below is an excerpt about how to say “No” to nonessential things.

The “No” RepertoireEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Remember, Essentialists don’t say no just occasionally. It is a part of their regular repertoire. To consistently say no with grace, then, it helps to have a variety of responses to call upon. Below are eight responses you can put in your “no” repertoire.

  1. The awkward pause. Instead of being controlled by the threat of an awkward silence, own it. Use it as a tool. When a request comes to you (obviously this works only in person), just pause for a moment. Count to three before delivering your verdict. Or if you get a bit more bold, simply wait for the other person to fill the void.
  2. The soft “no” (or the “no but”). I recently received an e-mail inviting me to coffee. I replied: “I am consumed with writing my book right now) But I would love to get together once the book is finished. Let me know if we can get together towards the end of the summer.”

E-mail is also a good way to start practicing saying “no but” because it gives you the chance to draft and redraft your “no” to make it as graceful as possible. Plus, many people find that the distance of e-mail reduces the fear of awkwardness.

  1. “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” One leader I know found her time being hijacked by other people all day. A classic Nonessentialist, she was capable and smart and unable to say no, and as a result she soon became a “go to” person. People would run up to her and say, “Could you help with X project?” Meaning to be a good citizen, she said yes. But soon she felt burdened with all of these different agendas. Things changed for her when she learned to use a new phrase: “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” It gave her the time to pause and reflect and ultimately reply that she was regretfully unavailable. It enabled her to take back control of her own decisions rather than be rushed into a “yes” when she was asked.
  2. Use e-mail bouncebacks. It is totally natural and expected to get an autoresponse when someone is traveling or out of the office. Really, this is the most socially acceptable “no” there is. People aren’t saying they don’t want to reply to your e-mail, they’re just saying they can’t get back to you for a period of time. So why limit these to vacations and holidays? When I was writing this book I set an e-mail bounceback with the subject line “In Monk Mode.” The e-mail said: “Dear Friends, I am currently working on a new book which has put enormous burdens on my time. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond in the manner I would like. For this, I apologize.-Greg.” And guess what? People seemed to adapt to my temporary absence and nonresponsiveness just fine.
  3. Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritize” Saying no to a senior leader at work is almost unthinkable, even laughable, for many people. However, when saying yes is going to compromise your ability to make the highest level of contribution to your work, it is also your obligation. In this case it is not only reasonable to say no, it is essential. One effective way to do that is to remind your superiors what you would be neglecting if you said yes and force them to grapple with the trade-off.

For example, if your manager comes to you and asks you to do X, you can respond with “Yes, I’m happy to make this the priority. Which of these other projects should I deprioritize to pay attention to this new project?” Or simply say, “I would want to do a great job, and given my other commitments I wouldn’t be able to do a job I was proud of if I took this on.”

I know a leader who received this response from a subordinate. There was no way he wanted to be responsible for disrupting this productive and organized employee, so he took the nonessential work project back and gave it to someone else who was less organized!

  1. Say it with humor. I recently was asked by a friend to join him in training for a marathon. My response was simple: “Nope!” He laughed a little and said, “Ah, you practice what you preach.” Just goes to show how useful it is to have a reputation as an Essentialist!
  2. Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to y” For example, “You are welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.” By this you are also saying, “I won’t be able to drive you.” You are saying what you will not do, but you are couching it in terms of what you are willing to do. This is a particularly good way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind.

I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person’s ability to choose, as well as your own. It reminds both parties of the choices they have.

  1. “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.” It is tempting to think that our help is uniquely invaluable, but often people requesting something don’t really care if we’re the ones who help them-as long as they get the help.

Kay Krill, the CEO of Ann, Inc. (a.k.a. Ann Taylor and LOFT women’s clothing retailers), used to have a terrible time saying no to social invitations. As a result, she would end up at networking events she had no interest in attending. She would find herself going to office parties and regretting it the moment she got there.

Then one day one of her mentors came to her and told her that she had to learn to jettison the people and things of her life that just didn’t matter, and that doing so would allow her to put 100 percent of her energy into the things that had meaning for her. That advice liberated her. Now she is able to pick and choose. With practice, politely declining an invitation has become easy for her. Kay explains: “I say no very easily because I know what is important to me. I only wish that I learned how to do that earlier in my life,’?’

Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience. We are novices at “no.” Then we learn a couple of basic techniques. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We develop more skills. We keep practicing. After a while we have a whole repertoire available at our disposal, and in time we have gained mastery of a type of social art form. We can handle almost any request from almost anybody with grace and dignity. Tom Friel, the former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, once said to me, “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.”’

 

Die Empty

Todd Henry commented once on a podcast that the most expensive real estate is the graveyard, because that is where ideas/innovations die. Below is the meaning of EMPTY from his book: Die Empty.

Die EmptyDie Empty

Remember that in order to do your best work, you must engage in Mapping, Making, and Meshing, including the subtle forms of each discussed throughout the book. The following process is designed to help you examine your life daily for areas where you might be slipping into stasis.

EMPTY

There is a five-step process you can follow to scan your life for potential action points, and position yourself to do work you’ll be proud of later. While the approach described below is introduced in a work context, any and all of these questions can benefit you in any aspect of your life. It’s impossible to truly separate your “work” life from your “personal” life, so there is little difference between the demands on your time from your job or your family and friends. You still have only so many resources to go around, and you have to get good at how you allocate them. Feel free to adapt the process to fit your needs and to help you gain traction on what matters most to you.

Set aside ten to fifteen minutes each day to perform a daily checkpoint. (For those who are already doing a daily checkpoint recommended in The Accidental Creative, the concepts described in this chapter can simply be folded into that time, as many of the concepts overlap.) The daily checkpoint is designed to help you determine how you will engage your day, and to predetermine how you handle any obstacles that arise on your path to getting your best work out of you. The five-step process follows the acronym EMPTY. Take out a fresh piece of paper or open a new file and follow the exercises below.

E: Focus on your Ethics

In Chapter 7 you were challenged to develop a code of ethics for how you will engage your day. Your code of ethics consists of several words that define your engagement, your relationships, and what specific aspects of yourself you will bring to your work each day. Write the words that comprise your code of ethics on the page, then do the following.

Look at today’s appointments, commitments, and tasks. Take a few minutes to look over your upcoming commitments. Review everything that will require your focus, time, and energy today.

Consider how you will apply your ethic to each of them. As you glance at your commitments, how will you engage them to- day? Will any of them require more focus, time, or energy than the others? What can you do to ensure that you’I1live out your ethic as you move through your day?

Consider potential pitfalls. Are there any items on your daily list that you know will present a challenge to your ability to live out your ethic? (Maybe an especially tense meeting, challenging relationship, or mind-numbing task?) Determine in advance how you are going to deal with these challenges when they arise. By doing so, you lessen the chance that: those pitfalls will sidetrack you, because you will have a plan for dealing with them.

M: Focus on your Mission

As discussed in Chapter 4, so much of your effectiveness is about defining the battles that you know you need to fight, and directing your resources toward them. As you survey your daily commitments, ask yourself the following:

What change will exist today as a result of my efforts? Is there a step goal on the agenda for today? Determine now how you will know if your day was a success, and commit to working until you’ve achieved it. Be realistic, and recognize that big, long-term success is actually the result of a long string of daily successes, If you stretch yourself to win the smaller battles each day, then you will someday find you’re making important progress on the larger fight. Focus on the right battles and the war will take care of itself.

What isn’t already represented? What have you been meaning to do, but haven’t made the effort to work it into your daily routine? Do you need to add a task, a call, or some other kind of action to your day? What do you need to start that you’ve been putting off?

What needs to go away? A big part of having a defined understanding of your important battles is knowing when things need to be moved off your plate. You cannot do everything at once or you will do nothing well. You must prune your life so that your most important priorities can have the focus, time, and energy they need from you. What needs to be removed from your lists today so that you can focus your attention on what’s most important?

P: Focus on People

As mentioned in Chapter 10, your relationships are critical and are the biggest opportunity for you to add and receive value in your life and work. Take a minute to consider the relationships in your life, and specifically those you’ll engage in today.

Who will you interact with today? Take a look at your calendar and your other commitments and think about each of the people you’ll interact with today. For a brief minute, consider them, what you value about them, and any outstanding issues that may need to be resolved.

Are there any open relational loops to close? As you survey your daily schedule, do you see any opportunities to close open loops or engage in conversations that might help bring better alignment or clarity? Do you need to have any of the five conversations (clarity, expectations, fear, engagement, final 10 percent) in order to gain better understanding of the relationship or your work? Is there anyone you need to reconnect with or write a note to?

How can you serve others today? Again, as you think about the people you’ll encounter today, is there. any way in which you could serve them that would be unexpected or add a disproportionate amount of value? It’s easy to allow relationships to slip into autopilot, or to take them for granted. How could you surprise someone today with generosity or encouragement?

T: Focus on Tasks

This is the nitty-gritty part of your day, really. You make progress only if you engage with urgency and diligence in your tasks. But sometimes the tasks that show up on your list aren’t necessarily the ones that should be there. You inherit tasks from yesterday or turn your task list into more of a wish list.

Consider your daily priorities. What absolutely must get done today, and when will you do it? If you’re able, block off time on your calendar to engage in your most important tasks so that you’re not trying to do them in the cracks and crevices of your schedule. Dedicate specific time blocks to delve deeply into them so that you don’t have to stress and wonder when they’ll get done. This will free you up to be present in all of your other commitments today. Brilliant work demands dedicated time on your calendar.

Define your projects. It’s impossible to solve a problem you haven’t defined, and yet many of us drift from day to day with a vague sense of the projects we’re responsible for without ever stopping to truly consider the issues at hand. As you consider the projects you are accountable for, take a few minutes to consider the problems you are still trying to solve. I realize that this may sound a little obvious, but consider that the answers to those questions change frequently, sometimes as often as daily if you’re making good progress. Simply take a few minutes to make certain that the problems you were solving yesterday are still the problems you’re working to solve today. Don’t get carried along by your work-define it, daily.

Y: Focus on You

In the fray of daily work, it’s so easy to lose track of yourself. You can easily get caught up in checking things off lists and managing your relationships that you neglect to do the small but consequential things that lay the foundation for your future effectiveness.

What will you do today to develop yourself? Are you learning a new skill, tackling a passion project, or pursuing a specific curiosity? Will you take a risk to try something new? Commit today to doing something that will stretch you beyond your present bounds and force you to grow. If you do this daily, you will eventually find that the incremental stretching will add up to remarkable growth over weeks, months, and years.

What do you need to start moving on? Is there anything you’re feeling a sense of urgency to start? Sometimes you have a nagging sense in the back of your mind that you should be doing something, but then the practical side of you kicks in and begins to edit your thoughts. “What if?” and “Maybe I should … ” quickly turn into “That’s not practical” and “You just need to focus on what’s in front of you.” Get started. Today’s the day.

Be grateful. Take a few minutes to be grateful for your life. It doesn’t matter how much or little you have, there are always things to be thankful for, and when you focus your mind on what you have rather than obsessing on all the things you lack, it has an amazing effect on your ability to be present in your day and pour yourself fully into your work.

Dream a little. If you have time left, spend some time dreaming a bit about what you’d like to see happen. In an ideal world, how would you spend your days, what kinds of opportunities would you have, and who would you interact with? Are there latent dreams or ambitions that you’ve allowed to fall to the side that you need to pickup, dust off, and begin acting on? Are there any items that you would add to the “before I die” wall that you’ve been neglecting because you simply didn’t know where to begin? If something comes to mind every day as you engage in this exercise, then it’s something to pay attention to.

TMN: Email Is Not Your Job

Below is a blog post from Time Management Ninja. Are you stuck in your inbox? There are 5 tips on how to avoid the email inbox trap.

Email Is Not Your Job 

Some days it seems like all you do is email.

You get to the end of the day and you haven’t escaped your inbox.

Are you stuck endlessly processing emails instead of getting work done?

Email is Not Work 

Email dominates too many businesses. It is one of the top time wasters in most companies.

The irony is that once upon a time, email was supposed to increase the speed and productivity of businesses. However, it is estimated that workers spend a third of their time reading and responding to email.

Yet, email is not work.

It doesn’t get things done…

Email doesn’t write a report.
Email doesn’t design new products.
Email doesn’t train and mentor others.
Email doesn’t create new ideas.

Rather is it a slow back and forth of inefficient communication.

It is busy work in disguise.

Never Getting Out of Your Inbox 

Are you stuck in your inbox?

Responding to every email that arrives. Jumping with a Pavlovian response to each email notification.

Co-workers ask you, “Did you get the email I just sent two minutes ago?

This behavior is not productive.

In fact, it makes email look like the worst invention ever.

Email has its positive uses . However, usually email prevents you from getting to your work.

Here Are 5 Tips to Help You Avoid the Email Inbox Trap:

  1. Turn Off the Notifications – I’d love to meet the individual who thought it was a good idea to make a noise and pop-up a message every time an email arrives. Turn off the dings and notifications. You don’t need to know when the latest spam message arrives. (If you must know when an important message arrives, then use a VIP list or a service like AwayFind .)
  2. Consider Turning Off Email on Your Mobile Device – Do you really need to check email at lunch, in the elevator, in the car, in the bathroom, and in bed? The answer is no. Only turn on your email when you need it.
  3. Check It Less Frequently – Reduce the number of times you check email per day. Start small. If you are currently checking email 37 times a day , then try cutting that number in half. Set specific times of day when you check it, and eventually you can minimize the number of times a day you look in your inbox.
  4. Get Work and Tasks Out of Your Inbox – One reason people get stuck in their inbox is because they use it as their default todo list. Instead, get those tasks out of your inbox and onto your task list. Add the todo to your list and file the email in your archive. Otherwise, you will lose important tasks in the clutter of new messages.
  5. Communicate Directly – Don’t play email Ping-Pong all day long. I have seen instances of 15 email messages to schedule a single meeting. Rather, call or go see the person. Face-to-face is more efficient than the email back and forth.

Email is Not Your Job 

Email is one of the greatest distraction machines ever created.

Don’t sit there responding to each and every message that drops into your inbox.

Get out of your inbox and go get your work done. (Tweet this Quote )