Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Don’t Multitask

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

by Chris Tingom

I know you’ve seen hundreds of productivity articles and books. So here’s one simple new years resolution: Stop multitasking.

post-it-guy

I’ll say it again: STOP MULTITASKING.

Some people even think that multitasking makes us stupid.

Find ways to focus on your work and create large uninterrupted blocks of time where you can actually get your work done.

“Decades of research (not to mention common sense) indicate that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks.” Time Magazine

Don’t multitask any more. Just don’t.

It isn’t efficient, and I’m betting that deep down you really know it.

Stop letting other people control how productive you are every day. Limit your distractions and effectively manage deadlines with your customers so you can focus.

Whenever I’m inundated with, say, 10 tasks I become overwhelmed and try to work on each of them. Some days I just say “today I’m going to just work on this project and nothing else.” I tend to put my headphones on, turn up the tunes and delve into my project. I get it done, and then the next day I can focus again because it is one less thing to work on.

When you’re constantly shifting gears throughout the day from one thing to another it effectively prevents your ability to focus. And when you focus you can probably do your best work.

This year, do your best to work on just one thing at a time.

How are you going to do this? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Instead of accepting deadlines for a specific day, accept your deadlines for a specific week. That gives you some breathing room so life doesn’t have to be so chaotic.
  • Break your day into two or three blocks of time (or even one!). Set a goal to have a certain goal accomplished by a certain time.
  • Only check email and return phone calls at a certain time every day (some people suggest twice a day).
  • Instead of a to-do list with a dozen task. Pick one-thing that must be done TODAY. Then do it!
  • Turn all of your to-do lists into schedules. A to-do list without a time line is just one more thing to think about.
  • Find your most productive part of the day (such as your mornings) and always plan to use it for your thinking work. Do your best to avoid distractions during this time, then if the rest of the day is a “loss” at least you have your mornings.
  • If deadlines are pressuring you, then fix that. Get every customer on a deadline (or a soft deadline).
  • Limit Interruptions.

That’s all for today! I have a million things to do! :-)

The Purchase of Alaska

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

by Chris Tingom

It’s fascinating to read about the purchase of Alaska. It happened about 140 years ago. The story about how we came to purchase Alaska is almost laughable. Despite the fact that the entire history of the world has been filled with wars over territory and land, Congress couldn’t see the benefit in owning more real estate.

alaska

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

It took Congress more than a year and half to actually get around to buying Alaska after the Russians made the offer. Astounding.

How good are you at making decisions? Do you make business decisions fast and quick or do you labor over decisions endlessly? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. At times in my life I’ve made decisions extremely slow. Sometimes never really making a decision. It occured to me recently that the decision making process doesn’t need to be final. It’s ok to change your mind. The real trick then is to take an iterative approach to decisions. Just make a decision quickly, and if you regret that decision at some future point, make a change.

rainThe benefits to this are that in the long run you’ll have made more decisions than you would have normally and you’ll have the benefit of quick decisions — something that allows you to move on and use your brain power for something else.

Now, obviously some things do require a lot of thought — such as cases where you have a crossroad in life (more than one distinct path) and can’t turn back.

I often envision President’s and world leaders making business decisions. They have such a sanitized public image that you get the distinct impression they’ve learned to make decisions quickly. We sure hope so anyways! I’m not sure how many readers follow the Fox hit on TV called 24? Well, in that series, the on screen President Logan has a very difficult time making decisions. That’s a good example of what can happen to you if you have a poor moral grounding and haven’t the practice of making decisions quickly. It’s also a good lesson in having advisers.

Question for you: What tricks or techniques have you discovered for making fast decisions?

Continue reading about the purchase of Alaska and decision making:

Twenty Time Savers

Monday, December 29th, 2008

by Chris Tingom

Among the twenty time saving tips listed on this page, the one that hits home the most is this one: Do difficult things quickly; waiting doesn’t make them easier. It’s a fact of life that sometimes difficult tasks present themselves. Getting those ones out of the way first can free your mind and allow you to concentrate better.

20timesavers

Here are the rest of the tips:

  1. Learn to set priorities on things like goals, tasks, meeting agenda items, interruptions.
  2. Start with “A-priority” tasks; is it the best use of your time?
  3. Fight procrastination; do it now if it’s important.
  4. Subdivide large, tough tasks into smaller, easily accomplished parts.
  5. Establish a quiet hour, even though it requires will power and may not always work.
  6. Find a hideaway. The library or office of a co-worker who’s traveling.
  7. Learn to say “no” when you’ve got something important to do.
  8. Learn to delegate.
  9. Accumulate similar tasks and do them all at one time.
  10. Minimize routine tasks; spend only the time they deserve. Shorten low-value interruptions. Throw away junk mail and other low-value paperwork. Delegate, shorten or defer indefinitely the C-priority tasks.
  11. AVOID PERFECTIONISM. Remember the 80/20 maldistribution rule.
  12. Avoid over-commitment. Be realistic about what you can do in the time you have.
  13. Don’t over-schedule. Allow some flexible time for crises and interruptions.
  14. Set time limits. For example, some decisions shouldn’t take more than three minutes to make. Know how to recognize these.
  15. Concentrate on what you are doing.
  16. Use big blocks of time for big jobs.
  17. Do difficult things quickly; waiting doesn’t make them easier.
  18. Try to handle paper only once.
  19. Think the job through before acting.
  20. Finish as you go; get it right the first time.

It’s a great list, isn’t it?

Now let’s talk a bit about the 80/20 rule

If you got through that list and wondered what the maldistribution rule is, here’s a quick explanation: Twenty percent of the things you have on your “to do” list will provide you with eighty percent of the payoff.

It is also referred to as the Pareto principle, or the 80-20 rule. We can apply this to work – and avoiding work – too. For instance, we might find we’re using the computer, broadband, and other working resources to do less important things, such as playing online games, twittering, etc.

I found a site that goes in depth on the 80/20 Rule of Time Management:

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, “discovered” this principle in 1897 when he observed that 80 percent of the land in England (and every country he subsequently studied) was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has since been applied to almost every aspect of modern life. Given a chance, it can make a difference in yours.

And lastly, a tip that wasn’t included on the list

The last tip I want to provide is this: If you stop and actually track your time, both billable and non billable, and actually make an effort to do so, you’ll find that as you become more aware of how you use time, you waste less of it.

Google 20% Time

I’m sure you are all familiar with how Google lets its engineers and other employees spend 20% of their time on side projects. According to Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, half of new product launches originated from 20% time. (source). That’s a great return on investment, and I suspect it originates from the fact that employees have something to look forward to, and their job doesn’t become mundane.

Five Ways To Stay Productive In Your Mobile Office

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

by Joey Robert Parks

As an independent wordsmith, I’m well acquainted with working in non-traditional work places; for instance, my main office (home) and the other locale’s I frequent (coffee houses).

wifiNotice the title of this entry. It’s not about how to be productive. Anyone can be productive, if they so desire, every now and again, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. My objective is to show you how to stay productive once you get there.

In Rise of the Creative Class (a personal favorite), author and sociologist Richard Florida wrote, “We are becoming a society in which Creative Class people literally live in a different kind of time from the rest of the nation.”

Who is this “Creative Class”?

If you can identify with the following quote – from later in Florida’s book – you’re part of it: “While Creative Class people do tend to work long hours, many other factors contribute to the feeling of being crunched for time…The big news about time [is that it] goes deeper than simply working more…We now try to pack every moment full of activities and experiences—at work, at home and at leisure.”

From where I sit, (Lux Coffeebar, if you must know), these are the things that cause me to be most productive in my mobile office:

(1) Account for my surroundings

  • The local coffee joint has distinct advantages and disadvantages to working out of the home. Think of the cell phone commercial with the little time clocks in the trash. Pretend those little clocks are spread out all around your home office or moving around you at the coffee house. When you talk to someone longer than you should, you’re wasting time.

(2) Anticipate Distractions

  • Make decisions before you get to your home office (or wherever) about where you’re going to sit. And yes, even if you’re in the bedroom, that’s still before you get to your desk.
    • If it’s at home, think about the kinds of things that are likely to beg for your time: the laundry, that new album you wanted to check out on iTunes, updating umpteen social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and any number of other noisy distractions. For me, even too much silence can be a distraction.
    • If you’re at a coffee house, think about all the options you’ll be presented with about where to sit. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to this particular place before. Sit by the door (or facing it) and you’ll want to look up every time someone comes in; sit near the counter and you’ll be well-placed for shouts of , “Americano for Chris!”
    • You know where the productive spots are, just like you know the best place to sit in a movie theater.

(3) Be Proactive

  • The average time tracker says, “I have an hour to fill. I’ll work on project X and see how much I can get done.”
  • A better time tracker says, “In one hour, I want to have completed this, this, and that, and this. And I’m going to spend this much time on each part. And I’ll check it off as I go and adjust the schedule in the moment. But I’m going to do it all in one hour.”
  • The difference is subtle, but significant.
    • It’s all about your motivation for tracking time at all. One person figures, “I have an hour right now. I’ll have another hour later.” The other person thinks, “I have an hour right now. I might have an hour later. I might not. I better use my time wisely while I have it on me.”

(4) Know when to say ‘No’

  • To people around you.
    • Say you have a significant other and he/she likes to chitchat throughout the day, but you’ve got a project that needs 100% of our concentration. Let him/her know you’re going into hyper-focus mode – or opt for a nonverbal method like putting on your headphones. (When I’m working in a public place, about a third of the time I’m wearing headphones, I’m not actually listening to anything. Ha!)
  • To Yourself.
    • There’s a difference between changing my mind about how long it will take me to do something and changing my time range because I’m tired of making decisions.
    • Don’t confuse “self-employed” with “freedom from commitments”.

(5) Track The Time

  • It’s called ‘tracking’ because you’re actively looking for clues about where The Time, somewhere out there in front of you, is headed.
    • It’s not called ‘following’ because that’s passive and lets time make decisions for you.
  • Time Trackers discover lost time.
    • They literally “find time” to do more work, because the act of tracking time helps them right then; in the very moment they need it most. Ever hand write a note and then — because of the very act of doing so — you realize you could probably just throw the note away?

The first four steps have one thing in common: They’re all decided and acted on before hand. Only the last one takes place in the moment.

I’d elaborate on that, but right now, my time’s up.

(Phoenix wordsmith Joey Robert Parks is primarily a non-fiction ghostwriter. In the last six years, he’s written five books for successful, entrepreneurial types; including: a fashion designer and stylist who got his start working for JFK and Oprah; and a book on creative innovation for a high profile, multimillionaire philanthropist. To see how productive Joey is this very moment, follow him on Twitter or visit www.joeyrobertparks.com)

A Series of Stresses or A Series of Adventures

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

by Josh Padnick

Although I love what I do, one of the more frustrating aspects of running a business is that YOU are always the bottleneck for everything. The reason we don’t produce sites faster is because I, personally, have to review them. The reason sales are at X but not Y is because I personally have not yet hired the right salesperson and because I personally am too busy to proactively follow up with every single lead. The reason we haven’t developed our new products faster is because I personally have to do some user interface designs but have been busy with other things.

teamworkIt sounds awful even just writing all that! Actually, the obsession with “I personally” is ultimately I think the completely wrong attitude when it comes to growing a company, but that’s the topic of another post I’ve been germinating lately.

Anyway, one unfortunate side effect of being the bottleneck is that it creates a feeling that I’m never finishing everything I want to, which is stressful. In school, we were always taught that finishing 100% of our homework was a good thing. You worked and worked until you finished what you had to do, and then you go have fun.

But what if you’re in a situation where you will literally NEVER finish all your work?

That was by far one of the most frustrating aspects for me of entrepreneurship. I was never “done”; I was never “caught up”. My personal productivity was always less than the amount of things that needed to be done.

So what do you do with a situation like that? Do you just raise the white flag and mentally adjust to “I’ll do the best I can”? Do you enlist the support of others to lighten the workload? Do you try to alter the whole dynamic of it all (stepping “outside” the problem)? Well, yes.

I actually have adjusted my attitude on this to three Key Ideas:

(1) I can only ask of myself that I do my best.

By definition, I can’t possibly do better than “my best.” So it stands to reason that all I can expect from myself is my best, and anything beyond that is simply unreasonable. This was a pretty helpful realization because it relieved me of the stress of trying to get everything done and instead made me realistic about what COULD be done.

(2) Enlist the support of others.

If I want our company to increase revenue by 5x this year, can I work five times as many hours? Can I work fives times as productively. Well, no. And yet there are companies that have grown by more than 5x in a single year. Where does the magic come from? It can only be through leverage: by enlisting the support of my colleagues, by enlisting the financial support of investors, by squeezing more juice out the oranges our vendors send us, by capitalizing on the relationships we have with our clients, etc. I’m still not nearly as good at this concept as I’d like to be, but I’m starting to realize it’s the ONLY way that great companies are ever built.

(3) Make the mental choice: Is your life a series of stresses or a series of adventures?

And finally, after a long talk with my Dad one day, he summed it all up for me so well: “You can either choose to view life as a series of stresses, or life as a series of adventures.”

Wow.

It’s so true. I realized after he said that that there will ALWAYS be something to stress about. Those stresses don’t get in the way of life; they are PART OF life! And so, when the next stressful event comes up, we can choose to be stressed (which is natural, and often healthy even), but we can also choose to see it as a fun little adventure. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, here in the USA most of us have our safety, a roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs, not to mention friends and family. At the end of the day, whatever we’re stressing about isn’t really life or death most of the time.

So those are my three big Key Ideas. I don’t practice them perfectly yet, but at least when I go to the office tomorrow and realize yet again I won’t be able to get to everything that I want to, I’ll have some perspective on it!

Josh Padnick is President and Founder of Omedix, a company that builds web sites for medical practices. This post is reprinted with permission from Padnick’s blog at joshpadnick.com

Building Momentum in Your Business

Friday, December 26th, 2008

by Chris Tingom

“We have a ‘strategic’ plan. It’s called doing things.”
Herb Kelleher, founder Southwest Airlines

Building momentum in business is often difficult. I sometimes ponder other companies ability to crank out products quickly. Ideas aren’t worth much if you can’t make them a reality, fast. There are a surprising number of companies that are able to get a lot of stuff done. How do they do it?

Well, here are things you should be doing:

  1. Making Decisions Fast — It took Congress more than a year and half to actually get around to buying Alaska after the Russians made the offer to sell it. Astounding. Don’t sweat over decisions. Successful people make decisions fast. In most situations, making a fast decision is to your benefit, and in more than half of the situations, you can probably change your mind later.
  2. Just Start — At some point you have to stop planning, and actually start. Doing this sooner, rather than later, is key. Doing stuff vs. talking about it.
  3. Outsource & Delegate — Attempting to do everything in business by yourself is a recipe for disaster. If you’re not good at a certain aspect of running a business, then outsource it! You’ll get more done than you would have by opening up time to do the things you love. And you will be happier.
  4. Focus — The ability to reduce your distractions and control your work environment is very, very important. Being able to focus means you’re not worried about a deadline tomorrow, and you can maximize productivity each day.
  5. Really Spreading the Workload — There are a lot of people out there who work in their own tiny world despite having willing coworkers. Whatever you are doing in your business, if you evenly spread the workload around it makes the project half the size. Try it.
  6. Automate! — There’s a saying: “Penny-wise, pound-foolish.” If you’re spending hours every month invoicing customers one by one, find a way to automate the process. There are hundreds of tools available today that give you the ability to do things automatically.

“There’s no limit to what a man can achieve, if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.”
— Laing Burns, Jr.

What are some ways you have built momentum in your business?

Productivity tips from Tornado!



Teamwork Day 2

A Series of Stresses or a Series of Adventures


Productivity Day 3

Five Ways To Stay Productive In Your Mobile Office


20 Time Savers Day 4

Twenty Time Savers: Plus, the 80/20 Rule


The Purchase of Alaska Day 5

The Purchase of Alaska: Making Decisions


Don't Multitask Day 6

Don't Multitask: Stop Wasting Time


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