Time Blocking: An Amazing Tool to Control Your Schedule

Free Time Blocking Webinar December 14 The first webinar was such a success with my audience that I am repeating it on Wednesday, December 14 at noon Pacific Time.

Here’s a quote from one attendee:

For boosting productivity Maura Raffensperger facilitates outstanding webinars. I attended and loved her recent workshop on Time Blocking. Bet you don’t know what the Pomodoro Technique will do for your overflowing task list!

Want a more productive, relaxed, and profitable 2017? Time blocking will set you up for all three outcomes. Now is the perfect time to find out how and be ready to jump into 2017 with a realistic schedule you have customized to meet your goals.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Update: You may have missed the webinar, but I created a 5 module mini-course that is even better. Follow the link and you can listen to module 1 for FREE.

Of All Time Blocking Tips, This is #1

Light bulbs symbolizing time blocking tips
Want to try time blocking? The payoff can be dramatic. It’s been credited with creating a  50% increase in personal productivity, making ‘impossible’ goals effortless, and allowing a laser-beam focus on what is most important, all while reducing time spent at work.

In my case, time blocking has done all that (well, maybe not making an impossible goal exactly ‘effortless’, but I am finally accomplishing a business goal that has been sitting on my to-do list for several years). The calendar control has allowed me to vacation more and consistently enjoy ‘date days’ with my husband — and still maintain a healthy business.

How you use your freed-up time will vary. Maybe you will choose to use your extra capacity to make more money. Maybe you will value the time to spend with family, friends, or hobbies.

The steps to time blocking are deceptively simple. However, as management guru Peter Drucker said:

Efficiency is doing things right; Effectiveness is getting the right things done.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

It is very possible to efficiently time block and still not be effective. How? By implementing time blocking tips and paying only lip service to the most important step: determining your goals. If you time block your schedule without having prioritized your goals, you will have effectively time blocked a lot of busy-work.

I see this happen over and over with my coaching clients. They nod their heads enthusiastically when asked if they have goals, but very few have actually taken the time to write them down and prioritize them. Your goals are the basis of all your business decisions, and definitely the crucial first step of all time blocking tips.

That’s why I planned a webinar that covers creative and effective goal-setting strategies to precede the webinar on time blocking. If you want to get the most out of the Time Blocking: An Amazing Tool to Control Your Schedule mini-course, make sure you also attend:

Webinar One: How to Plan Your Best Business Year Ever  

Remember, each webinar is only 30 minutes. To be able to cover the most important points on each topic, I won’t be repeating info from earlier webinars. To truly get the most out of the time blocking webinar,

Register for the How to Plan Your Best Year Ever webinar.

P.S. You may share this webinar link with friends and colleagues, and on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Great at Lists, Not So Great at Follow-Through?

dog with massive list and no follow-through and smiling cat whose has completed her work.Great at Lists. Not so great at follow-through.

Six. That’s the number of times longer workers take procrastinating than doing the work. Not that that helps; you probably already have had that revelation. The following three step process should move you forward when follow-through is a problem.

Step 1: Ask yourself “Is it truly important?”

Will completing this move you closer to one of your goals?

If not, let it go.

If you still feel it needs to get done, move on to step 2.

If you don’t have written goals, that could be part of the problem. If you’ve had problems defining your goals, try using this tool.

Step 2: Try one of these strategies to improve follow-through

Keep this list handy so you can look at it whenever you feel stuck and not doing a good job with follow-through.

Pick a strategy that speaks to you. Not all will, and that’s fine.

  • Work in short spurts of 10 minutes, interrupted by 2 minute breaks where you get up and move. Use a timer.
  • Do something altruistic. No joke: researchers at Yale, Harvard and Wharton found that writing to a sick child, for instance, increases your sense of productivity, which boosts your confidence about finishing everything else you need to do.
  • Start working on something easy on your list. Same idea as above.
  • Make a commitment to an accountability partner.
  • Work at a clear desk. If that means moving to your dining room table, do it. Clutter is distracting.
  • List or mind map all the steps to complete your project. Then do one step. Calendar the next step.
  • Block time on your calendar for the task.
  • Delegate it (or portions of it) to someone else.
  • Pay it done. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein. If you always resist doing something, accept that is not your strength and find someone who will get it done.
  • Go for a walk/exercise.
  • Hire a coach. Yes, I am a coach. Still a valid strategy.
Step 3: Mix it up

This will keep it interesting and your mind engaged. Use different strategies for different projects.

If you struggle with follow-through, print this out or bookmark it so you can find the strategy list the next time you get stuck.

Vision Board Pros and Cons

vision-board-motivation

As Your Chief Simplicity Officer, my goal is to help you determine what will work well for you, and what to pare away. The objective of this post is to help you decide if crafting a vision board would be a worthwhile use of your time.

What Exactly Is a Vision Board?

The most basic definition of a vision board is this: It’s a collection of images, quotes and symbols that have meaning to you and which bring out feelings of joy, peace, love and happiness. They represent your dream business and life. The concept was popularized in the bestseller The Secret, along with the term ‘The Law of Attraction’.

Why Create a Vision Board?

Whether or not you are a fan of  The Secret, a vision board may help you.

Why?

Because most goal-setting programs focus on the intended outcome. What is the result you want? And while that’s perfect for a business plan, for some it’s not the best way to keep you inspired and motivated day in and day out.

For that you need to know how achieving your goals will make you feel. And that’s the real power of a vision board.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take a look at your vision board for an instant reminder of why you’re working hard now, and what you stand to gain from it.

Also, if you have trouble sitting down and generating goals, creating a vision board is a surprisingly easy way to clarify your goals. I’m fairly analytical, and even I was surprised at how the process unlocked subconscious wishes and desires in a quick and easy way.

Limitations of a Vision Board

Wikipedia has this to say:

There is some evidence that vision boards may be counterproductive, since continually fantasizing about success can lead to taking fewer actions to realizing it. Thus, an “action board” is sometimes viewed as a better alternative.

Or, as my friend Chellie Campbell says so well, “How many affirmations do you have to make in front of a piano before you can play it? The Law of Attraction also requires a Law of Action.”

The vision board is only a tool to keep you motivated to take the necessary actions to achieve your goals.

Who Might/Might Not Want to Create a Vision Board?

Create a Vision Board if:

  • You have problems defining your goals
  • You need motivation to move forward on your goals
  • Scrapbooking appeals to you

A Vision Board May Not Be Necessary if:

  • You are already very clear on your goals
  • You easily attain your goals
  • You love checklists
How Hard Is It To Create a Vision Board?

Not hard at all. You can spend several hours searching the web for instructions, or download my workbook guide and checklist for $7.97 to get started right away.





The 4-Hour Workweek Book Review

Book cover for The 4-Hour Workweek book reviewWho isn’t enticed with the promise of the 4-hour workweek?  The book has sold more than 1,350,000 copies worldwide [Wikipedia], and has remained on the Amazon Best Seller’s list from the year it was first published. Just for the marketing savvy of the title alone, this book deserves a read.*

And the book does have good points entrepreneurs can implement about outsourcing and automating, making it worth a read. The problem comes from Ferriss’s definition of ‘work’. It’s obvious from any article written about him that he works almost non-stop. As this The New York Times article noted,  Ferriss spends far more than 4 hours per week in blogging, speaking and self-promotion, which Ferriss describes as “evangelizing.”

‘Work’, to Ferriss, is doing something you don’t like to do, solely for the purpose of making money. While it is perfectly reasonable that you would want to minimize the time you spend on disagreeable tasks (and certainly something I train my clients to do), the entrepreneurs I work with like their business, in much the same way Ferriss must like the blogging, speaking and self-promotion he refuses to call ‘work’.

And those regular “mini retirements,” ideally a month off for every two months of work, that Ferriss touts in The 4-Hour Workweek are alluring. But evidently more of a goal than a reality; a 2013 Inc. article reports that Ferriss hadn’t had ‘a proper mini retirement in more than a year now.’ [Inc. April 2013]

What you can take away from The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich is the basic idea of creating some form of passive income to serve as a base for the things you enjoy doing in your business and life, and outsourcing the things you don’t like to do.

On a personal note: His policy on outsourcing felt a bit ‘icky’ to me. Not because there is anything wrong with outsourcing to someone in another country, but because his motivation seemed to be to take advantage of their financial insecurity and pay them a pittance. Reminded me of a WalMart mentality – and that’s not how I want to run my business.  I have outsourced work occasionally (through ODesk, now called Upwork) to other countries, but I paid what I felt was a competitive rate. The majority of my outsourced work now is to a Virtual Assistant in the United States.

Bottom line: Read The 4-Hour Workweek, use it as an inspiration for what you can outsource, and consider what you can do to create passive income as an income base.

* Ferriss used Facebook polls to test title ideas

Getting Stuff Done – Going Beyond the 5 Minute Rule

I’ve been coaching a client who was struggling The 5 minute rule for getting stuff donewith an ever-growing pile of ‘to-dos’ next to his computer. He wanted to be Getting Stuff Done, but the pile always won – the bigger the pile got, the less he wanted to tackle it. The obvious wasn’t working; he ignored  ‘getting stuff done’ time in his calendar, even after we added an alarm to the reminder. Today, however, he was ecstatic; we had finally found the trigger that worked for him!

The key is to tie the activity to something else you do regularly. In his case, that was a daily walk, something he enjoys very much. In last week’s call, he agreed to spend thirty minutes, AS SOON AS he returns from his walk, on getting stuff done. And today he reported that, not only had the trigger worked, but the pile was reduced by half after only one week, and he felt terrific!

He explained that the large pile had made him feel out of control, constantly behind, and in overwhelm. Having that lifted off him made him, in his words ‘almost manic’.

We expanded our getting stuff done discussion today to the five-minute rule, i.e. if you pick something up and it will take less than five minutes to complete, it will take you less time to do it now than it would to come back and do it ‘later’. But we went beyond that to add a second question that needs to be asked “Do I need to do this at all?” Sometimes your biggest boost in productivity comes when you let things go.

You’re Right – Work Is Killing You

Workplace health tip: stand when on the phone

Have you heard? For each additional hour a day spent sitting, your risk of becoming physically disabled increases by about 50 percent — no matter how much exercise you get. *

Think about it for a moment — how long have you been sitting (at a desk, for a meal, in a car) today alone? Now multiply that by five.  Bet it’s more than 23 hours.

If you thought going to the gym or regular exercise was keeping you healthy, think again.  New studies indicate what may be far more important is how many hours a day you sit – in fact, men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. And many of these men routinely exercised.**

But there is hope: people who regularly break up their sedentary time with movement as small as taking one step had healthier waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), and triglycerides than people who didn’t take breaks during long periods of sitting. That’s what Australian researchers found in a 2008 study.

The key is to identify what small change you can make in your workday:

My new resolve is to stand when I am on the phone.

Since I started implementing this change, I’ve noticed three things:

  1. Sitting at a desk is a hard habit to break; the sticky note on my handset is imperative as a reminder (see photo).
  2. Standing makes me sound more confident when I make calls – very useful if you are making an offer.
  3. Standing has also made me realize how often I use my computer when I am on the phone (to add an appointment to my calendar, see a web page I want as a reference or do a web search). To really make standing an option, I need an elevated laptop stand.

I’m commited to making this work, so I searched for laptop stand options – you can see pictures and descriptions on my Working Simply Pinterest Board.

What do you do to keep moving at work? Leave a comment below.

click astericks for sources:  *     **

People With Attentional Challenges are 300% More Likely to Be Entrepreneurs

People with attention challenges are 300% more likely to be entrepreneurs

People with attention challenges are 300% more likely to be entrepreneurs

Turns out some of the characteristics of ADHD are some of the same ones that make a good entrepreneur. That’s the message Laurie Dupar, ADHD Coach, imparts in her interview for the upcoming This Is The Year Biz Telesummit. I loved interviewing Laurie because I learned so much – and I know many of my clients will too!

The trick, as always, is learning how to compensate for the challenges of ADHD (like follow-through) while maximizing the strengths (like creative thinking). Laurie has a terrific free gift for This Is The Year Biz Summit Participants: her e-book Unlock the Secrets to Your Entrepreneurial Brain Style & Discover the Innate “Success Secrets” of thriving entrepreneurs!

What’s fascinating to me is how many people hear the checklists of characteristics of ADHD and say “That’s me!”. And it may be … but I asked Laurie to define what separates ‘normal’ from ADHD. Her strategies for coping with ADHD challenges are helpful to all of us – because we all are challenged with the same issues from time to time.

Remember, Laurie is just of  21 experts interviewed for the telesummit. Grab the recordings here.

 

 

 

Are You a Sucker for Irrelevency?

Clifford Nass died last week.  His legacy is his multitasking research. A professor at Stanford, his studies found that the heaviest multitaskers — who often said they could focus like laser beams — were terrible at various cognitive chores like organizing information, switching between tasks, and discerning significance.

“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” he said. “Everything distracts them.”

And the effects are long-lasting; people who regularly use four or more information streams at a time (listening to music, checking email, talking on the phone, and typing a document, for example), had a tougher time focusing on just one thing even when they weren’t multitasking. [source: Los Angeles Times]

Here’s a video of a TED talk he gave a few years ago, where he describes more of the results from his multitasking research. The most important points are in the five minutes from 6:26 to 11:32, so if you want to save a bit of time, move the slide on the video to start about 6 minutes 30 seconds into his talk.

Think you are the exception? Try these two interactive tests to Test Your Focus and How Fast You Juggle Tasks. And get ready to weep.

What does this multitasking research mean to you?  Be honest, you recognized yourself in the example I gave before the video; someone listening to music, checking email, talking on the phone, and typing a document at the same time. For most of us, myself included, it should be a wake-up call to resist doing two (or more) things at once. It may take some re-training, but it is worth it; the studies show that you will actually be more productive when you focus on one task at a time.

 

 

My Favorite Apps, Part 2

Five more apps that help me savor life – appropriate because two are related to food, two entertain me, and one I find indispensable – and all are free.

iPhone screen with apps

Let’s start with food: Open Table is one of my favorite apps. You use it to make restaurant reservations & you then get 100 points when you keep your reservation. It’s fast, convenient, and totally free – and there is a reward for using it! When you accumulate 2000 points, you get a $20 Open Table check you can use as cash at any Open Table restaurant. I use it for local reservations, but one of my favorite uses is to find good restaurants when I am traveling. These are good quality restaurants, and I have never been disappointed. You don’t even need a smart phone to use it; you can make reservations directly from your computer.

Starbucks has an app I love (and I don’t drink coffee). I do, however, like their pastries. The app works like a gift card on steroids. You add money to a virtual card, then scan your smart phone screen at the register to pay. You can even add the number and pin of an actual card (something I do when I am given a gift card), and it will add to your balance. And the app also offers you a free music download every week. Very cool.

Google: this is an app I use daily. It’s a smartphone version of the search engine. You can either type your search query or speak it. Not sure if I would use it as much if I had Siri, but I find it tremendously useful. The other good feature is that it does not use Safari to do the search; since the Safari app only saves eight web pages, you won’t lose any doing your searching using google.

Shazam: What can I say? It is just FUN to hear a song, hold up your phone to the music, and get almost instant information on song title, artist, and even a link to buy that version. And the music library is incredibly diverse – it works on classical music as well as more recent releases.

Which brings us to the last app on the mind map I showed in Part I: Wait Wait, which is technically a podcast, not an app. It’s an irreverent, and very funny, radio quiz show, with comedians as panelists. I often miss the broadcast, but that’s not a problem, because I subscribe to the podcast, and it downloads the show weekly into iTunes for me. When my mom was ill, it was such a stress-reliever to listen to something that made me laugh when I made the drive up to see her.

I have many more apps on my phone, but these are some of my favorites. What are your favorite apps? Share in the comment box below.

Part I of My Favorite Apps, if you missed that post.