Time Management

Increase & Conserve Your Mental Energy in 5 Ways

What exactly is mental energy? A good definition can be found at PubMed.gov and can be described as “ . . . the ability or willingness to engage in cognitive work.” Why is this important what can you do to manage your mental energy?

Importance of Mental Energy

Using your mental energy wisely can help you to make better decisions, both at work and at home. From a technical perspective, especially for someone who is considered a “knowledge worker,” the quality and quantity or your work will increase. Better decisions equate to more success.

5 Ways to Increase & Conserve Your Mental Energy

  1. Get enough sleep, especially good quality sleep.
  2. Exercise consistently. It does not have to be an hour each day, but get your body moving. And of course eat healthier.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time. Better yet, minimize the number of tasks that you handle each day to focus on what’s most important.
  4. Minimize tasks that drain your energy levels, both physically and mentally. Delegate these items and on the personal side, get someone else to do them.
  5. Take a deep breath and say a prayer when dealing with difficult people. You can try to avoid them, but more will eventually show up.

It looks like my mental health clients are rubbing off on me, and please feel free to offer additional suggestions.

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Run Your Business Smoothly During the Holidays

Is that a contradiction, especially if you are a retailer? Aside from retailers and the hecticness from all the holiday shopping, the holidays can go somewhat smoothly for your business. Here are a few ideas for non-retailers and those businesses that are not absolutely crazy during the Holidays:

Schedule time off: Some businesses close during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Others take that time off and encourage employees to do the same. It is usually quiet during those times anyway. It can be a good way to recharge and connect with family.

Out of office messages/holiday hours: Make sure you have automated messages on your voicemail or email to let customers and vendors know that you are not in the office and/or if you will be checking messages periodically. If there is someone else that can return calls and/or emails, then include that person in your out of office message. Lastly, don’t forget to update your hours on Google and on your website.

Use the time to catch-up: If your business is a little slower, then take this as an opportunity to catch-up on some important, non-urgent items.

Schedule days and times to do your shopping: Schedule your shopping times so you do not feel as though you are constantly in shopping mode. This will help you to be more planned with the time you spend away from your business.

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15 Minutes to Success

I was going to call this article the 15 minute rule, but then I realized there was a book by the same title, which I have not read. Can 15 minutes make a difference to your success? Here’s my view of how it can:

It Gets You Started

Almost everything takes longer than 15 minutes to accomplish, which is the plain truth. However, if you say that you will spend just 15 minutes on a task, it helps you to get started rather than always putting off the important. Can you imagine all of the tasks that would help out your finances if you eventually started working on them? This is why there are such similarities between money and health. Commit small amounts of time and you will see drastic results over a long period of time. Ignore both and you will see dismal results over a long period of time.

You Can Get Something Done

Although 15 minutes is a short amount of time, you are usually pleasantly surprised by how much you can accomplish in such a short period of time. This is especially true if you commit 15 minutes over and over again. Before you know it, you are working your way towards accomplishment.

It Beats the Procrastination Drag

No one feels good when they procrastinate. Once a task gets started it will give you an emotional boost to continue and the procrastination bug will disappear.

Give a shot and see what you can accomplish in 15 minutes. You may end up writing a blog article!

 

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Productive People Focus on This One Time Management Technique

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of books on time management. Technically, you cannot really “manage” time, but you can control how you spend your time. Here is a technique that seems to trump most of the time management tips, but you must first be able to identify how and when to use it.

Focus on Important, but not Urgent Items

If you focus on this one technique, then your productivity will increase substantially. The problem is that it is easy to let important, but not urgent items slip away. Usually these important items have this in common:

  1. They take more time to complete than many of your other tasks
  2. They require more time, energy, and focus
  3. If you do not do them today, tomorrow, or even next week, then your current situation will probably not be impacted

Examples include:

  1. Projects that are not due in the near future
  2. Actions that have a cumulative effect, for example, marketing tasks for your business or personal actions such as exercising and eating better
  3. Developing and maintaining relationships with people

Take a look at all of the tasks that you are constantly putting off and this is where you should begin to implement changes. A common enemy that fights against the important are low value, urgent activities. Think of important, not urgent items as drinking a protein shake vs. drinking a can of soda.

 

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What Will Your Business Look Like and What Changes Can You Make?

Eventually things will open up fully and business activity will be flowing better than it is right now. What will your business look like and what are some changes you can make?

Technology

The use of virtual meeting technology has skyrocketed with apps like Zoom and Google Meet. This pandemic has forced businesses to be nimbler and integrate technology as an essential aspect of business operations. Other technologies that can and should be used include remote servers, cloud-based software, virtual phone systems, and electronic payment processing.

Time Management

Doesn’t the week seem like one big blur? Even though you can have a Zoom meeting with a client at 10:30 PM, doesn’t mean that you should. It is good to keep some structure in place as best as possible. This includes start times, stop times, meeting times, checking and responding to emails, and telephone calls.

Method of Delivery

If you sold products through retail, including restaurants, then now is the time to ramp up your online sales and distribution capabilities. It doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your store front, but online sales and distribution cannot be ignored. The same goes for providing services virtually to your clients. Delivering services online, such as therapy or professional services, has been widely accepted. Rethink if you need to open that second office or if you can be more virtual.

Financial Cushion

Having a financial cushion for your business and also personally is absolutely essential. The weaker businesses will struggle to be up and running quickly, while the stronger businesses can do so easier and may even be able to take advantages of expansion. How much should you set aside? A cushion of 3 months of expenses is a good minimum. It will take a while to do so, so start saving little by little until you get there.

Keep Healthy

There is a great temptation to eat more and exercise less, but this will catch up with you and rob you of your energy and clarity to make good decisions. Don’t ignore your health because it will have a direct impact on your business and ultimately on your finances.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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I Took the Day Off and You Should Too

Technology is absolutely wonderful at times. This is one of those times because I took the day off today, but still didn’t miss my goal of writing one post per week. Everyone needs a day off, a week off, or even a month off and here are 5 reasons why:

Rest and Recuperate

After working intensely or longer than normal hours everyone needs to take a break. The day after tax season is always a day off for myself and my staff, and I like to take at least a few additional days off after that. It’s hard to take a family vacation at this time with the kids being in school, but I get to see them more though.

Spend Time with Family

It’s good to be able to spend some additional time with your family and not being at work all day. You don’t have to fight the commute, come home tired, or still have stress resting on your shoulders when you come home. Most likely you are just a little more relaxed.

Complete a Small Project

Maybe there is a project that needs to be tackled that you haven’t been able to get to. For me, the list seems endless, but it feels good once a project is finished. Be careful if the project is too large, otherwise it will take away from resting and recuperating.

Reflect and Think

When I am able to relax, it makes it easier to reflect on different aspects of my life and the direction of how things are going. Also, ideas seem to flow more smoothly when not under pressure.

Be Thankful and Grateful

Be thankful that you get to have a day off and grateful for all that you have. A little gratitude can help to put things into perspective.

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Want a Quick Productivity Increase in 3 Steps?

Are you trying to get things done, but don’t seem to ever get ahead? Try these out for a quick and almost instant boost to your productivity.

Step #1: Stop Following the Shiny Object

There is a great amount of pressure to work on the newest task at hand while ignoring all of the other uncompleted items that are on your list. The problem with this approach is that it creates more stops and starts, which ends up prolonging the time it takes to get things done, while delaying the older projects’ completion.

Step #2: Listening to the Squeaky Wheel

Usually it’s not apparent at first, but there will always be customers, vendors, or employees that need your attention immediately, all of the time. It’s understandable that this will happen from time to time, but if the same person always needs your attention immediately all of the time, then it probably isn’t a true emergency. In this case, you have to communicate that this is an issue that can wait until later, tomorrow, or some scheduled time in the future.

Step #3: Schedule, Schedule, then Schedule Some More

You would be surprised by the productivity increases of scheduling properly. From medical practices to contractors, scheduling will allow more patients to be seen, more projects to be completed, or more customers to be serviced. Don’t take my word for it, try to visit an Apple store without an appointment.

If you can, also plan out the entire year. There are cycles to every business, every department, and every job, which are usually predictable. Although preparing for the year may seem daunting, try to schedule each week or even a recurring task on a specific day of each week, as a start.

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10 Small Improvements That Have a Big Profit Impact

Improvements do not have to take an enormous effort to make a huge impact on your profits. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up over time. Here are 10 simple improvements that can have a significant impact on your profits:

  1. Schedule work better: Are you wasting time by scheduling work poorly? For example, do you allow enough time for you or your employees to complete a project within the scheduled time? If not, then there will be too much stopping and starting which kills efficiency. Another scheduling challenge is to make sure that you do not have too little or too many staff members scheduled at the same time.
  2. Set aside time for high value activities: High value activities are not usually urgent, which makes them get pushed to the side. In order to get these items done, you need to schedule this type of activity, even if just an hour or two a week.
  3. Look at your financials: Do you look at your financials or tax return just once a year or possibly not at all? For starters, you should review your financials at least once per month to see how you are doing versus the same time last year. Your financial statements are the measurement of your business’ results, and you need to know how you are doing to make better decisions.
  4. Consistency of pay: When possible, try to keep your pay and distributions consistent, unless paying yourself a bonus or bonus distributions. This makes it easier to manage your cashflow and reduces the temptation to take too much just because you had a good month.
  5. Work less: Working crazy hours will burn you out over time and is not sustainable. Try to consistently reduce your hours over time to give yourself a breather. If you become depressed or develop a health problem, then you will not be able to work at all.
  6. Acknowledge people: Show sincere appreciate, gratitude, and respect for your employees, customers, vendors, and especially your family for bearing with you during good times and bad.
  7. List your activities for a week: Over the next week, jot down everything that you do and how long each task takes. Then, ask yourself, “Should I be doing this, should someone else be doing this, and does this even need to be done?”
  8. Pay extra towards your debts: Even a small amount will add up to quickly pay off your debts. You will save interest and eventually increase your cash flow. You’ll also think twice before incurring more debts.
  9. Contact an old customer: Is there an old customer or client that you liked to work with and have not heard from in a while? Maybe there was a misunderstanding that you can easily resolve or maybe no reason at all and they just need to be asked to come back.
  10. Use a pricing worksheet: Instead of just winging it with your pricing, why not develop a pricing chart? It will take the guess work and emotions out of pricing, which ends up causing you to undercharge.

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5 Ways Your Calendar Will Help You to Work Less Hours

Are you using your calendar as a tool to be as productive as possible? Most people do not use their calendar in a way to maximize its effectiveness, but if used properly, it can help you to reduce the amount of hours you work. Here are 5 ways your calendar can help you to work less:

Scheduled tasks get done: When a task is scheduled there is a high probability that it will get worked on. Have you ever had the feeling that you did not get anything accomplished on a particular day? The main cause is most likely due to not having tasks scheduled.

Allocation of time: How much time should you allocate for a specific task or meeting? By allocating specific time slots and durations, this will help to alleviate the open-endedness of meetings and tasks. Parkinson’s Law states “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Batching of activities: Similar activities may benefit by scheduling them close together or within the same day(s). For example, new clients or patients may need a much longer time slot for an appointment, which can all be scheduled on a specific day.

Schedule key tasks early on: Important, but usually not urgent tasks, should be scheduled first thing in the morning or early in the week. There is a constant pull for your time and if you do not focus on important items first, then you may never get to them.

Long-term planning: A calendar can include tasks that are several weeks or months in the future. This can include both tasks and meetings. If you can plan your vacation months in advance, which is very important, then you can and should plan business tasks well in advance also.

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What if You Just Don’t Feel Like It?

Ever have one of those days? It’s a struggle to get out of bed, and once you do you feel like you are walking around with weighted boots on your feet? What’s the solution to this common problem aside from going back to bed? Because your energy levels and health have a significant impact on your productivity and the ability to achieve successful results, here are a few tips to overcome sluggishness when it comes about.

Just start: Even though you don’t feel like getting out of bed, starting a project, or exercising, you must resist the temptation to give in to these feelings. All you need to do is get past that initial resistance and just start doing. Once you are out of bed, you just won the first battle against sluggishness. Did you ever notice that after you start something then you end up continuing the task and finishing?

Routine and daily scheduling: The more you schedule important tasks the more you will eliminate the thought process of what to do. For example, if you wake up at 6 AM every morning to go for a run then it will be easier and easier to do as this becomes a habit. Also, if you schedule tasks on your calendar then it creates a sense of importance and things get done.

Avoid sluggishness: The best way to overcome sluggishness is to avoid it in the first place. Take a look at your life, including habits, routines, schedule, diet and anything that impacts your energy levels. Years ago, I dramatically cut sugar out of my diet by reducing the amount of sugary beverages I drank and my energy levels skyrocketed. I do miss drinking sweetened iced-tea and soda, but I sure don’t miss the drain on my energy.

Look around you and take notice of the energy levels of people around you. Generally those with higher energy levels are more productive and quite possibly more positive to be around.