Archive For January 29, 2014

6 Strategies for Work-Life Balance: #5 & #6

5. Actually use your homespace and workspace.

Only one thing now remains: time in the saddle. The more time you spend doing only homey things in your homespace and only worky things in your workspace, the more you’ll develop the state-dependent memory that will trigger the associations you want in either place. When you enter your homespace, you’ll automatically relax, effortlessly dropping effort and negative office juju. (If the urge to think or talk about work arises, note it, then picture it evaporating like steam.) And when it’s time to work, the genuine R&R you’ve enjoyed will help everything you do feel more like flow.

6. Watch the Zen master in you emerge.

If you don’t find this exercise helpful, you’re certainly free to keep day-trading while nursing your twins, or stacking paperwork on every surface in your home, including the oven racks. But I think if you experiment with the methods I’ve described, you’ll come to appreciate them. One definition of Zen is simply “doing one thing at a time”—which goes a long way toward explaining why Zen masters look so calm and live so long. I want you to love going to work, and to love being home. Just not at the same time.


6 Strategies for Work-Life Balance: #4

4. Separate your homespace from your workspace.

Once you’ve assembled a bunch of homey things in your homiest possible place, and a bunch of worky things in your workiest possible place, separate them like a Puritan chaperone dividing teenagers. Even if your office is 90 miles away from your house, some worky things will inevitably infiltrate your home—your job is to keep them out of your designated homespace. If you work in your house or apartment, you’ll need to be extra vigilant. When you’re not working, put all work-related things out of sight. Cover them with a sheet, if necessary.

By the same token, don’t bring a lot of homey things into your workspace. Doing so will distract and confuse you. There’s a reason service dogs mustn’t be petted or played with when they’re wearing their work vests: They need to be clear that they’re on the job. But when the vests come off, service-dog owners must play with their animals in order to keep them from becoming exhausted and depressed. You’re the same way: Having clear boundaries will help you work enthusiastically, then truly rest.


6 Strategies for Work-Life Balance: #3

3. Use your mental states to create physical spaces.

The next step in keeping your work and home lives healthy and pristine is creating physical environments that support each side. Let’s start with your homespace. Find the spot in your current domicile that best matches the feeling of your mental home state—a room, a corner, the box your refrigerator came in. Bring into this space any objects or beings that make it feel even homier. These may include your kids, your parakeet, your softest quilt, and your dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (just not at the same time).

Next, use the same strategy to create a workspace, whether you’re a full-time parent or a merchant marine. Find a space that—no pun intended—works for you, and bring in the people and things that make you feel productive: a fresh notebook, a team of coworkers, a mule. I myself am motivated by high-quality tools (anything from a fancy-schmancy computer to a hammer), absolute solitude, and of course my writing chair, writing glasses, and writing gum—the combination makes me itch to work. Whatever places, people, and things support your internal work state, gather them!


6 Strategies for Work-Life Balance: #2

2. Establish a productive inner “state of work.”

If you’re lucky, you do the kind of work that sparks your creativity and makes you want to meet its challenges. For me that work is writing: Although I find it hellishly hard, it’s the first thing I turn to when I need to express myself or understand the world. I love its very difficulty.

Most of my clients, however, are work Nazis. They think they should force themselves to do things they loathe. If this is your mental “state of work,” it’s also the way you’ll feel about your job, and it will follow you home—likely in the form of depression or rage. You absolutely must create a mental work state more like what psychologists call flow, the total absorption that comes from doing something that interests you at the upper edge of your ability level.

Even if your current job feels more like imprisonment than flow, you can still create a productive mental work state. Start by remembering any kind of effort that absorbed you enough to make time disappear. If after racking your brain nothing comes to mind, periods of interested problem solving will do nearly as well, and moments of productive effort will suffice in a pinch. Tedious repetition is as low as you want to go here (if your job is so awful that it doesn’t yield even an hour of tolerable slog, it’s time to hire a life coach). Now focus on the three best work activities you can remember, smoosh them together in your head, and silently repeat, “Work. Work. Work.”


6 Strategies for Work-Life Balance: #1

The time has come to write. I feel this on an almost cellular level. Why? Because I’m sitting in my writing chair, wearing my writing glasses, chewing my writing gum. Now, I could sit in this chair, wear these glasses, and chew this gum while knitting tea cozies, juggling jelly beans, and husking corn (just not at the same time). But I wouldn’t. See, I write at home, and I’ve learned the hard way that unless I strictly divide my writing time from everything else, my work bleeds into my home life. Then I can never relax, because, just like an ax murderer in a horror movie, my work is always lurking.

These days almost all of us work at home to some extent. Maybe you spend evenings brooding over spreadsheets from the office. Maybe you’re in the house all day doing the hardest work imaginable: caring for the young, the old, or the ill. Or maybe, like me, you have a job—sort of—but no official physical workplace. All of which is to say that when I talk about “home” versus “work,” I mean the activities that replenish your energy versus the ones that drain it. In an age when bleed-through is the new normal, it’s more crucial than ever to separate the two. Here are some strategies that help me.

1. Establish a replenishing inner “state of home.”
Some people spend years in an office cubicle without ever feeling the energetic involvement of real work; others do brilliant, inspired work without ever leaving their bed. This is because both work and home are first and foremost states of mind. So to begin separating your work life and home life, we’ll concentrate on creating a mental “state of home” inside your head.

To do this, focus on memories that feel relaxing, nourishing, replenishing—in a word, homey. Remember baking with your grandmother, or talking with your sister, or snuggling in bed with a loved one (fabulous sex is an excellent way to feel at home, as is cuddling with your beloved collie—just not at the same time).

If you don’t have many homey memories, your mental state of home may feel tepid at first. Persist! Remember the most comforting times and places you can: the branches of the tall tree where bullies couldn’t reach you, Uncle Joe’s bomb shelter, the warmest corner of the prison yard. (Ideally, you’re looking for a sense of joyful replenishment, but happy relaxation is nearly as good, pleasant neutrality will do, familiar boredom is better than nothing, and defensible concealment—well, you get the idea.)

Once you come up with three memories that qualify, hold in mind the feelings they bring, while silently repeating, “Home. Home. Home.”

Read step two in tomorrow’s!


The 15-Minute Strategy to Get More Done Everyday

You have 1440 minutes between right now and this time tomorrow. Only 1440 minutes. How will you use that time? One percent of that time is about 15 minutes. What, you ask, is so important about 15 minutes? It is a block of time that’s small enough to make room for and large enough to get something significant done.

My most important strategy to get more done every day is simply to always be ready. When you are ready, you have what you need when you need it. This means you can use “found time” productively to move your business forward.

I can hear you asking: “What is ‘found time'”? Have you ever been to a meeting that didn’t start when planned? Far too many meetings start several minutes late. When you are ready to use those “found” 15 minutes, you can effectively make a dent in all you need to get done each day.

For example, when I have magazine articles I want to read, I tear them out of my magazines and carry them with me for a day or two. Then when — not if — “found time” appears, I use it to read those articles. This helps me stay in touch with what’s happening in my industry, making me more effective with my clients.

In my experience, many people use “found time” to check their email. While this may seem productive at the moment, it doesn’t always move you forward on your long-term goals. When you really look at your goals, there are often tasks that would help “get you there” that take between 15 to 45 minutes to complete. Get clear about what tasks you can accomplish in 15 minute chunks. Then, always be ready with what you need to accomplish that task. You will immediately become more productive.

A good exercise is to make a list of 20 to 30 tasks you can accomplish in less than 15 minutes. I keep and update this list in Evernote all the time. This is not a list of to-dos, but rather the extras. Then set yourself up with the supplies or information you need to complete those tasks. Make sure the needed items are with you when you go to meetings, leave the office or otherwise suspect you might have a bit of extra time. By being ready, you can take advantage of these windows of opportunity.

One of my favorite uses of “found time” is to write thank you cards. Watching for people to acknowledge and thank also makes my day better. Plus, thank you notes touch people in a unique way. In fact, I write at least one thank you note each week. This means I send a minimum of 52 hand written — yes, always by hand — thank you notes a year.

Of course, I accomplish this by always having note cards, envelopes and stamps with me. When a meeting is late, I can quickly jot a note of thanks, pop it in the envelope and send it off. Expressing gratitude is a fabulous use of “found time.” Plus, saying “thank you” makes the recipient feel valued, sets you apart from the crowd and leaves you feeling good.

So my favorite strategy to being more productive is to always be ready. Take time to figure out how your day is likely to unfold and make sure you have the supplies you need with you. When you are always ready, you can truly get more done each day.

Jason W. Womack is founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012).


3 Life-Changing Habits of High Performers

When it comes to being successful, high achievers have a number of habits in common. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be right up there with them.

Here are three qualities all successful people share and how you can make them your own:

1. Say ‘no’ to distraction. Every. Single. Time. Successful people make better use of their time because they are disciplined goal-setters. I’m referring to those high performers who experience no down-time. Sure, there are vacations and time spent with the family, but that comes after success has been achieved.

Successful people have that same list of tasks to accomplish as anyone else, but the difference is they make time to get them all done with no excuses. They may not enjoy it, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that it gets done. They are disciplined in planning their work and sticking to their plan.

Even when you’ve achieved that level of success, the work doesn’t stop. I am always on the lookout for a great, profitable investment. I might be out with my family, but my brain is always aware of business opportunities around me. I don’t just shut it off when I’m not at work.

2. Read something new everyday. Successful people read constantly, find mentors who can teach them and value new information that can help push them forward. Whatever field you are in, you have to learn before you earn. Learn your product, customers and competition. And then: keep learning.

3. Flaunt your failures like a champ. Fail as many times as you can. Everyone fails. It’s part of life. Too many people take failure as a sign it’s time for them to give up. Those people don’t get very far. What sets successful people apart is the ability to get up and give it another go with a better plan for how to be successful the next time around.

If you want to embrace the habits of successful people, you’ve got to make the change within yourself first.

Reblogged from Entrepreneur Online.


The Artists and the Jocks

I don’t know who you wound up hanging out with in high school, but it seemed to me that the Artists were heavy on imagination, vision, and dreaminess while the Jocks were about results, goals, and action. As I look at the people I work with now, I can see this classic high-school saga play out — the vast majority of either group rolling their eyes at the other. The Artists are weird. The Jocks are stupid.

Truth be told, I work with more artists than jocks. Artists tend to dream big and forget to wake up, get a cup of coffee, and take some action. Quite honestly, some artists get lost on the way to the coffee pot, never to be heard from again. When I start to talk goals or plans with them, all of a sudden they look at me like I’m in an athletic uniform on the other side of that cafeteria — like I just don’t get them or I am not one of them. In their mind, Artists do not work that way.

Jocks, on the other hand, might be very successful in their lives, but they feel empty on the inside. They got the job done, they scored the goal, and their team is giving them praise, but it just isn’t giving them the same thrill it used to. When I start talking about vision, dreams and life purpose with them, they start noticing that I am dressed a bit funny and think that maybe I am a little too flaky to help them out.

However, what rarely happened in high school needs to happen in our lives. The Artists and Jocks need to hang out together — and even enjoy hanging out together. This needs to happen or we are not going to be able to bring our dreams into reality. If we have vision and no action, we eventually have frustration. If we have action with no vision, we also get frustration. When the Jock and the Artist figure out that they really make a great pair, we have some of our favorite high school movies — satisfaction.


Sloppy, Stupid and Unprofessional

OK, so I cannot spell. You must have noticed by now. That, and I have several other learning disabilities. I have heard my entire life how sloppy, stupid, or unprofessional I am because of these difficulties. I can’t say it hasn’t stung from time to time but it has been a great teacher.

Which brings me to the idea of perfectionism, a topic that was repeated again during the last session of my Serious Success 2 Business program. We discussed the importance of moving forward rather than getting stuck in the idea with a false belief that things, at some point in time, will be perfect. They won’t be.

There was a point in my life where a mistake like what I just mentioned would’ve caused me physical pain. I would have cringed at the idea of people witnessing such an “obvious” oversight. However, at this point in time, a mistake like that only reminds me of my humanness — something I have to say I’m becoming very good friends with. I have learned that compassion with myself is a vital part of my success.

I’m going to recommend that you become friends with your own limitations, shortcomings, and oversights. Not because we want to devalue our work or lessen its impact but because, in order for the world to change — and in order for our lives to change — we need to move forward, take action, and make a difference. If we are doing that, the mistakes along the way will fade and our successes will become that much greater and more memorable.

I am grateful that I do not need to be perfect. I will, of course, try my best, but doing my best truly is good enough, and makes the work and the challenges faced that much more enjoyable and deeply fulfilling.


Seven Secrets To Increase Business Success

Being successful generally does not just happen, it requires taking action. As with many things in life, being focused can greatly increase your odds of achieving an important goal, or goals.

Success is no different. If you want to be successful there are actions you can take to help improve your odds. Here are seven secrets of success you can focus on to greatly increase your chances of being successful.

  1. Get serious: Being successful is not about taking it easy, it’s about getting serious and being committed to task. You should also be serious about seeking excellence. While focus and getting serious means you should not have to work every hour of every day, you do need to be serious about taking action every day in pursuit of your goals.
  2. Training: Archilochos, the Greek soldier and poet once said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” We can imagine all the success at an activity we want, but at the end of the day, we will execute only as well as we have trained. What skills do you need to tune and practice? It’s essential you train hard and your train often, if you want to achieve success. It’s also wise to use a coach that can provide feedback and help you achieve peak performance.
  3. Surround yourself with the right people: Success demands hard work, determination and the right support. You can only be as good as your team. You can have the best quarterback in the NFL, but if the rest of the team sucks, your team is not going to the Super Bowl. In another example closer to home, take a look at the “tiki bar” at the Snook Inn. When it’s busy during happy hour, lunch or dinner, the bartenders work really hard. More importantly, if you watch them closely, you can see they work as a team. They could never keep up with demand during these peak hours if they did not support each other. You want to surround yourself with competent, positive team members, who also are willing to give 110 percent toward being successful.
  4. Physical health: Your physical health is extremely helpful for business success. If you are working long hours, or a road warrior, being in good health allows you to keep going in the face of adversity and long days. Physical health also improves energy, speed and charisma. All of which are useful in achieving success.
  5. Be self-aware: This may be the most challenging of the seven for most of us. It’s not only important to understand others, we must be self-aware of our own behavior. This can be critical in assuring we bond with customers, partners and suppliers, as well as those that may be able to help us through the day. Smile when speaking on the phone, treat others with respect, and learn to listen. Practicing these skills will allow others to be more empathetic when you need help and support. Life is too short not to spread the good cheer.
  6. Take positive action every day in pursuit of your goals: Be proactive in reaching your goals. As an adult no one else can best do this other than you. Accept responsibility for the outcome you achieve and you will find that you will achieve more. If you lose a sale, instead of blaming someone or something else, look in the mirror and say, “What can I do better.” Ask yourself how you can work harder, learn new skills or help your team.
  7. Work harder than the rest: When you are in charge, there is no try, there is only do, or no do. By giving 110 percent you will find that over time your results are much greater than average, because most won’t give 110 percent. It takes time, preparation and commitment to task to be successful.

– – –

Andy Singer is the president of Singer Executive Development, a professional training and development company that helps optimize business performance of employees and executives. They work with companies of all sizes optimizing performance and key skill sets in areas such as sales, marketing and operations. Singer is also on the board of directors for several organizations.