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4 Time Management Tips of What NOT To Do in Your Morning Routine

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4 Time Management Tips of What NOT To Do in Your Morning Routine

If you are like me, I am constantly evaluating new resources and time management tips of how I can be more efficient and effective. There are some great resources. Classic Time management tips come from Stephen Covey, Hyrum Smith, and David Allen. More time management tips come from Tim Ferris, Brendon Burchard, Darren Hardy and other gurus provide time management tips based on their experience.

Let’s take morning routines for instance. There are many great ideas about what to do for your morning and how to do them. Among the time management tips are meditation, working out, journaling, taking vitamins and drinking water, read something inspiring and so much more. Not many time management tips talk about what derails and distracts us. What should we avoid so we can focus on those things that set the pace for the day, that create power and momentum to our long-term goals?

I dedicate this article on what not to do as part of your morning routine to boost your daily productivity.

#1 No News is Good News

I took an Uber to the airport last week and the driver was listening to the news. Full, I don’t listen to the news. I get my news from others or high profile stuff that seeps through. Yes, I did know that Trump was elected president. The news on the radio was about murder, kidnap, rape and an explosion that opened up the road and appeared to eat two SUV’s. I heard that story 3 times in the 40-minute ride. I got out of the car and felt sick. I just spent 40 minutes immersed in negativity. It was depressing.

When you start and end your day with news, you are filling your mind with negative energy. That energy is what you carry with you into your next activity and it negatively impacts your sleep and your day. STOP IT!

If you must listen to the news, do it mid-day after you have set the tone for the day or early evening before you start to relax into bedtime. First thing in the morning and before bed, I like to focus on gratitude. Gratitude really sets me up for a good sleep and releases negativity if there is any from the day. In the morning it gives a positive lens to all I do.

I understand not everyone is like me and would rather stay away from the news entirely. I don’t feel like I am missing out and neither are my kids. If you choose to listen, choose wisely when you are going to listen. It matters.

Ps. There are more healthy options for news such as Upworthy, which talks about people doing good things in the world. I prefer this kind of news. Both are out there, you can choose what you want to focus on. I am only interested in what positively influences me. You choose what is right for you.

#2 Don’t look at your to-do list

Leave your to-do list for after you get to the most important thing done. This is a hard one for many people. I had several people contact me and say, that they live by their to-do list. I hear you. I am not suggesting you eliminate it. I am not ready to do that myself. However, alter the way you use it and when you use it. Check out this article by Ken Courtright, on different ways to use your to-do lists. (ADD LINK)

To-do lists are important and add a great amount of value for many reasons, but they also typically have many entries. Looking at it sends many people into a mental funk, not knowing what to do first so procrastination sets in as well as too many visits to the coffee room and the procrastination shows up in other ways until the pain of not moving on gets high enough to kick you into action.

The early morning belongs to you. Make this the time you reserve to get you in a great state of mind and focus on what is most important long term for you. If you never make time for those long-term strategies, they never come to fruition because you are always doing the urgent or short-term tasks on your to-do list. This is a very tactical way to approach the day, but if you want to achieve great things you have to start to think and act more strategically, more often.

I actually created a Productivity Assessment that helps people to focus on the 10 core drivers that help them to think and act more strategically because it is so easy to get caught up in all that needs to be done day to day. Taking it weekly helps to recondition the things you focus on.

#3 No Email: start your morning proactive versus reactive

I know, you are thinking “whaaaaaaaaat?”. Yes, you heard me, NO email first thing in the morning.

Resist the temptation to get out of bed and check your email. The minute you open up your email box you are shifting from your agenda to someone else’s agenda. You see various emails that you need to respond to and that makes you start to think about those items and then it triggers you to think about you to-do list. You are now in reactive mode.

When you want to stay focused on the most important things to drive your long term goals, let your early morning hours be that time. You have the whole rest of the day to react and respond to the world around you.

#4 Don’t curse when you wake up

I shared a room with a friend at a self development event and was surprised that when she wakes up she says “Oh Fu_ _!”. What negative energy to wake up to. It made me feel bad too and I didn’t even say it. Don’t get out of bed and say something negative it sets the tone. I recently talked to a marketing director who says they do the same thing. For those up you who do that, it is time for you to take a shift in the morning. A BIG SHIFT.

It is time to shift the morning words to something more supportive. The story you tell yourself about the day, is what you will experience. You create your reality. Our words have energy and form our story. Do a re-write and think of what else you could say. Chicken little started his day with “todays a new day!” He says it with curiosity about what he will discover. What can start your day out right? How about playing a song to wake you up like James Brown “I Feel Good”. I wake up to U2 “It’s a Beautiful Day”.

My favorite phrase at my workshops is to remind everyone that every day is game day. You leave a legacy every day when you go out into your day. So put on your game day face, attitude, and motivation and make it great!

Join me for a quick look at what not to do as part of your morning routine before you get on with your day.

Posted by Penny Zenker on Monday, January 9, 2017





Interview Dr. Heidi Hanna | Energy Management

This week I am talking to Dr. Heidi Hanna best-selling author to the book A Sharp Solution.  A brain based approach for optimal performance.  As a performance coach and keynote speaker.  Heidi has trained thousands of individuals on practical ways to incorporate nutrition, exercise, and positive psychology strategies to improve their health, productivity and performance.  Her vast coaching experience and passionate coaching style help to motivate individuals and teams to develop sustainable success at both the personal and professional level.  Heidi is CEO and founder of Synergy, a coaching consulting company that specializes in customized health and wellness solutions for individuals and organizations.

P: Dr. Hanna it is so great to have you here.

H:  thanks Penny it’s great to be here.

P:  It’s funny how we got introduced.  I would like to share the story.  One of my clients was in one of your programs and he was listening to the program and said wow, you sound like you have similar philosophies around energy management.  I was really surprised because not many people have that perspective and use the terminology energy management.  I was so excited when he put me in touch with your book.  After reading it, I felt like we were kindred spirits on the same path.  I almost felt like I could have written this book first. 

H:  I feel that way hearing your introduction.  I wanted to say Amen a couple times.

P:  We have a lot in common.  Your neurological approach you take to energy management and focus, I am interested in that.  Can you tell us about it?

Energy managementH:  Sure.  I have been practicing energy management for about 8 years.  I worked for the company The Human Performance Institute.  What I learned came from Jim Lairs, The Powerful Engagement.  I had the chance to work with them.  I found that I was doing a lot of what I was teaching.  It’s important that we follow our own walk and talk the talk.  I was working so hard and wearing myself thin.  Even though I knew exactly what I should be doing, I found myself getting blocked.  I had this wealth of knowledge, practice and experience, but yet couldn’t make the decisions.  I think that is such a common thing that people struggle with.  It’s really frustrating.  Going through that experience myself, I wanted to learn how the brain works.  The same time I was having this personal insight, I found out that my third grandparent was diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s disease.  Thinking about the brain and performance and being healthy in the moment but also how the brain ages and what to do to slow down that progression.  It’s really that perfect storm that pulled me away at just looking energy management but to a more physiological standpoint.  I really started to look at the brain as the conductor of our energy.  We need to treat our brain well so that it will move us in the direction of our goals.

P:  I was thinking when you were saying that, the brain being the conductor of our energy, how does the physical aspect and psychological aspect come into that?

H:  In the book, The Sharp Solution, I look at training the brain and the body to manage energy more efficiently and doing that from an inside approach.  It still takes into account all of those pieces of the body.  What I do first and foremost is look at the brain and balance of brain chemistry.  A lot of us go wrong, because of high levels of stress, our system is constantly being flooded with cortisol and stress hormones that get in the way of our logical focusing.  As a result, we get into a knee jerk reaction where we are really functioning out of survival instead of making choices that will help us thrive.  The first step is the importance of balancing the brain chemistry by doing relaxation activities.  They are so simple but yet, common sense is not so common.  Its stuff that people know but yet we get into our busy chaotic routine and it totally falls to the wayside.  Making that balancing brain chemistry priority number one, then we can move to engaging the heart on what’s most important to us.  Focusing the mind so that we are clear on what we want to work on.  Chunking that into small pieces.  Energizing the body and engaging the communities.  It’s an inside out training approach. 

P:  When you mentioned those 4 different energies there is a lot of synergy with my ten core elements and how it fits together.  I know the brain to be in a form of muscle.

H:  I love that analogy.  Some people will say, not really.  The brain is part of the body and if you don’t use it you will lose it.

P:  Exactly.  It’s an analogy that I use a lot and people can relate to.  The black hole of unknown.  Even though we are learning more about it, it is still quite mystical.  I have learned from my trainer many things.  I work on a special 30 minute workout that brings my muscles to exhaustion.  He taught me to break down the muscle in order for it to rebuild even stronger.  I also believe that is true about our comfort zone.  I put the two together is when I was living in Switzerland, I did some extreme sports activities, mountain bike marathon, and I actually felt like these activities challenged me so much that mental and physically it broke everything down and built it back up even stronger.  So now I am the bionic woman.  It has made me mentally stronger and more flexible and it aided in balancing that brain chemistry so that I was able to think more clearly.  Be more focused and take the emotions out of the equation in situations.  I really related back to some of those extreme sports experiences.  What is your experience on that?

H:  A lot of the work I have done has been with athletes and elite athletes and looking at their training protocol.  I was a softball pitcher in college.  I relate back to that experience.  You put yourself in a situation to be challenged mentally, emotionally, spiritually all at the same time.  The one thing that most people are missing the recovery time.  Just like your trainer says, you can’t do that routine every single day.  You have to work different muscle groups because the muscles require an adequate amount of time to do the repair work.  What I see happening with people is they are overtraining their brain in certain dimensions and undertraining in others.  Focus would be one of those.  It’s wearing down after time, so we find as the day goes on that we start multitasking more and getting pulled in different directions because we can’t sustain that strain of focus over time without rebuilding that recovery.  With your trip and experiences, I am sure you knew that in order to perform your best, you needed some recovery or downtime that is planned into your agenda.  That is what elite athletes do.  We don’t do it enough in our daily lives.  We blow it off because everyone else is blowing it off too.  A lot of negative self-talk.  Stress addiction that I talk so much about now.

P:  The world health organization has declared stress as a worldwide epidemic.  It has become part of our culture.

H:  Stress is such an interesting thing, our perception of the stress.  There are a couple of things going on.  One is we have to have an energy system to handle stress.  All stress good or bad requires energy.  We have to have that recovery and the right mind set or perspective.  I am sure as you know, two people can be in the same scenario, one person can break down and the other can be built up.  It depends on the other things that are going on in their life.  If they perceive that as a challenge or threat.

P:  To get that adequate recovery, the point you just made is recovery could be very different for two different people.  One of the things that I talk to people about is the concept of we can all wear ourselves down from too much focus.  It’s looking at our transitions in our day where we can build in little pockets of recovery and understand what it is that would give us that recovery.  Like taking a little walk, listening to some music, or whatever that is. What it adequate recovery for people who are working day to day in this environment that you talked about?

H:  It’s different for everybody.  Every day is different for everybody.  It’s difficult to define stress or come up with stress solution.  There is no one size fits all.  We know that everyone needs recovery.  It’s important for people to carve out time to think about what they do that does give them energy back.  Again, you can look at this physically, emotionally, spiritually, across the dimensions.  First and foremost is the simple balancing exercises of breathing.  It’s simplistic and once again, common sense is not common. 

P:  Wasn’t it Jane Fonda that was famous for don’t forget to breathe, right?

H:  Of course we know that.  Again, stress zaps it out of us.  We start short shallow breathing.  That tells the brain that there is an emergency.  Human beings are the only species out there that can perceive an imagined threat and have the same stress response.  So we are having this response all day long.  Just by simply taking some slower, calmer, cleansing breaths, we now trigger the relaxation response that causes that balancing effect.  Even though it seems so basic, some of those things we think are so easy, we don’t do them.  So what I started to do is to encourage people every hour to think about how much time they can dedicate to this practice.  I try to give myself a solid 10 minutes each hour and just do something creative.  Or talk to a friend.  Or do deep breathing.  I personally love doing short recharge breaks where I listen to some calming background noise or ocean waves.  There are a lot of apps available if they want to use some sort of technology.  I laugh using technology to get away from technology.  We do what we need to have some sort of guide.  Eventually it will come more naturally. 

P:  Before we go on break I want to point out that we have been talking to Dr. Heidi Hannah and the number one strategy to reducing stress, is breathing.  People don’t forget to breathe!!  Its time to take a break.  Stay tuned.

P:  Welcome back to Take Charge of Your Productivity.  WE are speaking about multi-tasking and its erosion of our focus and productivity.  We are with Dr. Heidi Hanna.  Welcome back. One of the questions I like to ask everyone is about productivity.  How do you define it?  And why?

H:   Such a good question.  It’s one of those areas that we have so much synergy on.  Being productive is being able to optimize our time and energy.  It’s really bringing our best energy to the time we have.  I think of this idea of full engagement and being able to bring your best physical emotional spiritual and mental self to the moment.  You want to produce something.  I think that often times we look at the quantity or how many things we can cross off of our to do list.  I know working on my new book, I feel that way.  How many pages or words did I get?  I want to make sure the quality is there as well.  Sometimes we have to slow down and do less in order to ultimately have more output.  It’s a very tricky thing cuz we are also stuck into needing to get more done in less time.  That can push us into making a lot of mistakes and transitioning into multi-tasking. 

P:  I do want to plug that book again, The Power of Full Engagement.  When I read that book, it was a book that I totally connected with.  I sent one to all of my friends.  It made a huge difference in people’s lives.  I encourage people out there who are listening, in addition to the Sharp Solution that Dr. Heidi Hanna written, to also look into reading the Power of Full Engagement written by Jim Loehr.  It’s the energy that creates the quality in what we are producing.  The question is it’s compared to what?  The quality of what we produce needs to be judged on what we believe the quality to be.  So often, we have bench marks around us that we are more often than not unhappy with our results because of the way someone else feels about it.  Or how it comes across to the outside world as opposed to ourselves.

H:  We are so good at comparing ourselves to the best of everyone else.  We pick the most elite person and expect ourselves to be that way.  Boy that is a lot of pressure and stress.  Very energy draining. 

P:  We should compare ourselves to the very best of ourselves.  You mentioned earlier four factors, what are the factors that you think have the greatest impact on productivity?

H:  I look at overall energy.  Bringing your best energy.  There are many ways to look at this.  Powerful Engagement looks at physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.  For me, I look at it strategically so that it was a matter of what can we do.  There were 5 different things:  Balancing brain chemistry, engaging the heart (Knowing your passion, purpose), focusing the mind, energizing the body and engaging the community.  Each one of those, that social element adds a big piece to it too because as human beings, we need support.  One of the quickest ways to trigger survival mechanisms is to isolate us from a connection.  What is funny about that is even though we are around people all the time, we are very social creatures, and it doesn’t mean we have a sense of deep connection that we need to function at our best.  That’s one of those pieces I tell people I don’t want to put more on your plate, but being connected, having meaning conversations, and building strong friendships, etc.  Water cooler time is not wasted time, it’s actually energizing to the human system.  All of that ultimately helps with productivity. 

P:  These elements that you are talking about are about balance.  They are so important.  Balancing the brain chemistry, engaging the heart, focusing the mind, energizing the body and engaging the community.  I want to bring those points to people because those are the elements of balance.  I like what you said about community.  That is one that people don’t think about and I have included that in a different context in my first element which is about purpose.  When we add an element of contribution, when we get outside of ourselves, our purpose expands.  It also is a real key factor in reducing stress.  When speakers get up to speak.  They say they are nervous and the best thing they can do is stop thinking about themselves and focus on the audience and the value they are delivering.  That stress or nervousness goes away. 

H:  My focus on aging and Alzheimer’s disease, a great way to boost longevity is to have a sense of purpose.  Looking at studies done across the globe, your reason for being can add up to seven years of your life span.  When you look at thriving populations, they have in common that connectedness.  As they age, they become more valuable to society as opposed to less.  As people age in our society, they tend to lose their sense of purpose.  We are not meant to be all or nothing and that is how many of us function.  We work, work, work, and then we stop and then we have that disconnect.  If we can bring in purpose and meaning outside our work, it will keep us healthier and have a longer life span.

P:  People sometimes dies after six months of retirement because they lose their sense of purpose.  Their self-definition revolves around what they do instead of something greater.  What they do is just one vehicle in the way they express themselves.  Larry Ackermann with The Identity Coat, talks about finding your identity and defining it.  Let’s get back to multi-tasking.  People are waiting to hear about it.  We have a lot of over achievers on the line.  I am guessing there are people out there who spend a lot of time multi-tasking.  In your book you said that there are studies that show multi-tasking is counterproductive.  Not only creates decline in our performance but also stresses the brain.

H:  I remember studying and teaching this for the last ten years.  More and more studies come out.  People know this by now, why do I keep preaching the same thing?  It never fails, multitasking is still happening.  People feel like it’s their only option.  Their work environment is forcing them to multitask.  We do have multiple priorities.  That is different from multi-tasking.  Yes, there are multiple things going on and we have to wear different hats.  The important thing is when we do each task, we are fully engaged in that task.  What so often happens is we start feeling the pressure or stress to get more done in less time.  We shift out of energy focus and into time focus.  Time focus tells us that if I do two things at once it’s better than doing one.  The problem with two things, is we don’t do either of them well.  There are studies that show this.  We only have a limited amount of brain power at any given time.  There is a measurement technique for that.  There is a number for that.  When we are trying to split that number up, it obvious decreases on each side.  Also, parts of the brain are not able to be used simultaneously, even if we want to, it’s not able to.  The piece of this I try to focus on is regardless of productivity, you are stressing the brain unnecessarily because it is not able to handle multiple things.  Our brains are very primitive.  If I was in a survival situation and I had to do multiple things in a deadline, that causes my brain to stress into a fight or flight or freeze response.  That becomes toxic and causes an inflammatory response in the body and also interferes with communication channels in the brain.  You can see clearly that the core of the brain, is fired up and it actually interferes with communication to the logical thoughtful part of the brain.  So now you can see very clearly what the problem is.  What is getting in the way?  All of these sources competing for your time and energy causes an increase in stress.  Which increases cortisol to the brain.  It is the worst thing for you because it actually kills brain cells.  I could go on and on and on.  The story we tell ourselves that says I need to multi task and get more done in less time.  Even our heart believes that success comes from one thing at a time.  But we ignore this.  In the moment when we feel pressure, we slip back into auto pilot that says do more do more do more.  We need to train our brain like a muscle to single task things.  The more we do that the more comfortable we become with that.  Multitasking will eventually become uncomfortable.

P:  In this case practice makes perfection.

H:  In this case, practice creates focus.  It gives us a chance to rewire our brains.  That is the exciting part is that we are able to change if we want.  We can train our brains to focus on one thing at a time.  Allow recovery time and new pathways will be built and pull us in the right direction.

P:  Getting a clear process together of doing consistent practice and also having that recovery in between.  The most important thing is to support yourself within an environment that supports you in achieving that.  I struggle with the root belief that says hey you will get more done if you multi task.  I find that I need to set myself up with different structures with myself.  Like setting objectives, timers, etc.  What am I going to achieve in this 50 minute slot?  That helps me to eliminate everything else.  Shut down email, text and other stuff that can distract me.  That supportive environment that I create to help me continue to do that.  It starts and then builds into a ritual.  If you have the right tools and support around you.

H:  The basic steps of balancing brain chemistry is when we do our deep breathing or meditation, we are building a more resilient system to help us resist multitasking. My newest mantra mediation is mandatory.  I start with 20 minutes of breathing and ending my day that way causes me to be a totally different person.  I need to do this for my brain.  It’s not just an immediate benefit, but more of a resilience you build by doing it over time.

P:  You made a mantra meditation mandatory.  When we create rituals, we are making a choice that then become a part of who we are.  It’s not a sporadic thing.  It gives us the energy that we want to have and to be the person we want to be. 

H:  It’s about convincing yourself to create a new story of yourself.  This is who I am and what I need to do my best. 

P:  I believe that is the crux to true behavioral change.  You say in your book, it’s not a 30 day program to create change in your behavior.  Is that why you wrote that?  It’s more about changing who you are?

H:  We have to change our story about who we are and what we need.  That meditation one is such a good example.  So many people say they can’t sit still and turn off their brains for five seconds.  I was that person and I understand that.  It’s frustrating to me because they try it once and it’s uncomfortable and they stop as opposed to making that commitment to a longer time frame.  Once you see the benefit of it, you will change.

P:  Thank you so much, it’s time for a short break.  When we come back we are going to talk about her message on finding your focus and how to apply it to live a happier life.

Welcome Back.  Today we are speaking about focus with Dr. Heidi Hanna. 

P:  The topic of habits and rituals.  Habits save us energy as they are automatic.  To me, rituals are a positive choice that we make as who we are.  Habits have a presupposition to them in that they have negative patterns or thoughts.  Like eating too much or smoking.  What do you mean by saying habits save us energy but you also believe in rituals?

H:  We have a negativity bias when it comes to what we pay attention to.  Our tendency is to focus on the things that might harm us.  Not really pay attention to the little things like a stick breaking in the wood.  You don’t think it’s some animal waiting for you.  We are hard wired to think about bad things.  Bad habits and what we need to change and fix.  We are always trying to make ourselves better.  What’s important to recognize is we are creatures of habit.  Studies show that 95% of human behavior is actually happening as a habit.  It’s automated.  Habits are our brains way of conserving resources because one something becomes ingrained into a habit, we don’t have to spend energy on it.  We spend energy on rituals and save it on habits.  We do need to create rituals but what’s important is we need to realize that we only have a limited amount of energy and brain power on creating something new.  Rituals are absolutely important.  They are self-selected.  Something that is going to require an energy expenditure.  If that is going to become a habit, we need to invest in that for a while.  Not take on so many things that we are running on fumes and then end up doing nothing.

P:  I believe ritual comes after a habit.  We go into automatic mode.  That is who we are.  We live in our own matrix.  I believe that ritual is that part of our identity which is even more effortless than habit.  Habit to me is there is a presupposition that there is resistance.  Resistance then creates an expenditure of energy.  That is just my definition.  Once we get to ritual, we have dealt with that inner self talk.  Sometimes I use religious examples because it’s easy to understand.  A lot of religions have specific practices that they don’t even think about it.  It’s a part of who they are.  It’s just something they do all of the time.  That’s how I see that.  Just a different twist on that.  My perspective.

H:  No matter what you call the habits and rituals, it’s important to understand that willpower is so inconsistent and that it is a limited resource.  Plenty of studies have shown that the more we use willpower we can start to weaken that.  It’s important that recognizing that wanting to do something is not enough to engrain those habits or rituals.  It’s the training process.  It’s the training that allows us to remain consistent. 

P:  Do you have one or two tips to share?

H:  My book!!  Ha ha.  The whole thing is about just that.  How do we train our brain and our body to make these healthier choices more automatic pilot?  We do that by having a system in place.  Breathing and balancing our brain and getting the recovery we need throughout the day.  Having 50 minutes of work with 10 minutes of break as part of your routine and as who you are is what I talk about to get your optimal performance.  Then when you have to make those tough choices, you will have energy in the tank. 

P:  Being tired and wired seems to be representative of our culture.

H:  I am working on a new project called “Stressaholic.”  It’s a personal experience I am going through with some adrenal fatigue.  When I speak, I see people in tears who are so fried and burnt out with the demands that are being placed on them.  It’s not just demands on their time but their energy.  They are so exhausted because they can’t turn their brains off at the end of the day.

P:  That is exciting that you are working on another book.  I can’t wait to see what comes across in that.  The Sharp Solution is the book to get.  Read through it carefully so you are ready for the next book.  What else are you working on?

H:  I am trying something new.  I am working on one project at a time.  I am still finishing up a book tour.  I am hitting 80 different cities this year for the book tour.  Meanwhile, I am trying not to do any writing for the next 6 weeks.  We often teach what we most need to learn.  The stressaholic process has been a challenge for me.  I laugh because I know I am one.  So what do I do?  I write a book about it.  How stressful!

P:  I am glad that people are hearing that we are teaching from experience.  We are running out of time.  I need to close up and would love to have you back. 

H:  Sounds great.

P:  In summary, focus is a combination of intention and attention.  As we learned today, Dr. Heidi Hanna, there needs to be alignment between the two.  The marriage of the heart and the logic of the brain.  I challenge you to take that concept a step further to decide where you will put your energy and focus.  To focus your attention with intension.  Intention is what we focus on as a result of our vision or purpose.  In order to manage your energy productively we need to consider both forms of focus.  What we pay attention to will have a dramatic influence on our lives.  Where we put our attention will direct our thoughts and alter our perception of the world.  You have the power to direct the creation of the energy.  Choose to pay attention to your language, questions, meaning you assign to people places and things.  Pay attention to what you want and why you want it.  Focus your attention with intention and there is nothing you can’t achieve.  Take charge of your time and energy.  It’s a choice you can feel good about.

A Time Management Happy Dance

This site is about time management right? What is time management? In my opinion, the most successful people are the ones who invest time today to create more time tomorrow. They work on mindset, systems, culture and other elements that help to create future leverage. Staying physically fit is one of those time management tips to create greater leverage in yourself. Most people feel that these activities such as staying physically fit take away more time away than adds time. In the short run, maybe short term but there is no doubt in brain science or from personal experience that creating physical fitness builds your focus, willpower and mental stamina in the long run.

I was having lunch with a friend of mine, Suzi. I was telling her about my new move into CrossFit. I told her that I have been working with a personal trainer for years and love it. I know that I need to have someone to be accountable to get the results I really want. I just don’t push myself when I workout on my own. My trainer always has me do those last few lifts that are a bit outside my comfort zone. I love the feeling afterwards and I love the power it gives me mentally. I told Suzi it had become a little stale and I was ready to mix it up.

Male and female athletes doing box jumps at gym

Male and female athletes doing box jumps at gym

I went on to tell her how I got started. One of my clients was telling me how much he loved CrossFit so I thought it was time I should try it. The instructors told me that my trial session was one of the hardest classes. I had to do these squats, lifts and arm raises all in one with weights on the bar and some very complicated combination. The instructors said these were created from the lifts that body builders do when lifting in competition. We had to do 15 of them followed by 60 jump rope loops and then do 3 sets of that. It doesn’t sound like much but it was a struggle to get through and I have been lifting weights for a while.

As I sat there telling Suzi about it, I felt my muscles tight and sore all over my body and this was days later. I loved it. It was a fun to do it as a team and a great challenge. The workout definitely gave me the push I needed and wanted. I felt more focused over the next fews days, my willpower was high and I stayed away from the leftover Halloween candy. I felt confident and good about myself. It boosted my overall happiness.

Suzi chimed in and said “working out makes me happy too”. She told me that working out was part of her DNA because when she was a child, she had a problem with her spine and the doctor gave her daily exercises to do. At the age of 5 she had a weekly calendar, she would track her exercise and if she did it everyday her parents gave her a reward. Classic conditioning. 5 or 55 the same techniques work, just the rewards might be a little different.

Suzi is a sole proprietor of her business and she often works alone. She needs a little pick me up during the day to boost her energy and stimulate her thinking. She showed me a cool app called Seven that she uses a few times a day to take a 7 minute break.

Who doesn’t have 7 minutes for a short break throughout the day? If you don’t, you are either telling yourself lies and you know it or you are doing something wrong in how you manage your time and you need to read a few other articles on this site and then come back to this one.

My favorite little exercise that Suzi shared is that she stops a few times a day and does a “Happy Dance” whether she is happy or not. Yes, I said a “Happy Dance”. She imagines something exciting just happened that she is celebrating. A new project won, good news from a friend, a happy customer and then she moves her arms up and down and shuffles her feet for about a minute.happy women taking a fitness class

Afterwards she sits down happy, reenergized and rejuvenated. She is happy. This is a great example of how the body tells the mind how to feel after making certain movements, chemicals are released to her brain to make her feel happy. She faked it until she made it. It is scientifically proven that our body effects or infects our mind and Visa versa. Harvard professor and best-selling author Amy Cuddy says “Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize it.”

Not only does this help Suzi be more productive throughout the day and approach her time management more effectively, she has even lost a few inches as a result. She said when she went to the tailor to have some pants shortened, the tailor made mention that she lost a few inches on her waste and hips and nothing changed but her new happy dance. Another benefit of the “Happy Dance” over time.

A variation on the “Happy Dance” is to “Shake That Ass”, another article I wrote about moving and creating a physiological change that boosts your energy. It is all about energy management!

I understand that not everyone is fit for CrossFit but you see we can do a lot less on a day to day basis to get fit and be happy. Just do the “Happy Dance”. Take a 7 day challenge and do your “Happy Dance” 3 x a day when you energy is low. Set your alarm, go outside, in the bathroom, the stairway or anywhere else you feel comfortable to do it and I dare you not to feel happy!

Penny Zenker is a strategic business coach and trainer, boosting productivity for business leaders and entrepreneurs. She leverages her personal experiences of building up and later selling a multi-million dollar business, as a senior executive at one of the worlds largest market research companies and working with business leaders all over the world as a Tony Robbins Business Coach. Penny proven and practical approach help people to get results quickly.


Control Your Impulses and Improve Time Management

How to Improve Time Management by Taming Your Impulses

Imagine that we have two parts of ourselves who work together or against each other. One in the impulsive side of us, wants to take the easiest path and the other that wants what is best for us in the long term. This is our self control. Brain science tells us that there are two distinctive parts of our brain that function like that.

Person checking messages from multiple sources

Know that all parts of us have a purpose and value, so be respectful of their role.

To support you and your relationship with both parts, name them. I know it sounds silly but you will be able to better recognize them when they show up.

Since this site is dedicated to helping you improve your productivity, reduce stress and provide time management tips, lets look at a day-to-day challenge such as email.

Email is the perfect example of impulse driven behavior. A study from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s annual Internet Trends report., showed that people are checking their email 150X a day. No wonder productivity and engagement are at an all time low. In my coaching practice, people come to me all the time with this very basic and very real productivity drain in how they handle email. As we all know technology is a blessing and a curse depending on how you use it. Such flexibility, access and reach, lead us to needing more process and self control to make technology work effectively and efficiently for us.

Constantly checking your mail is being driven by that impulsive part of you. Checking your email is benefiting you in some way. One of the biggest culprit is that every time we check our email, our brain is releasing endorphins (a drug hit) to your brain to make you feel good every time you go in and find a new email. This is how we are unconsciously training ourselves to check more often.

I started to recognize this impulsive behavior in myself both with email and text messaging. Because I was now on the alert, I would recognize it when I was scrolling through my mail. It made me crazy! It was effecting my time management and productivity. Why am I doing this! I don’t want to keep checking my mail, I know this is not productive but I keep doing it. We often know that things we are doing are not good for us but we often continue them anyway.

Impulsive Checking of email and Text Messages Is An Addiction

Another area that afflicts many people is texting and driving. It is bad and we know it, but we still do it. I wanted to understand this better so I did a test with my phone in theperson texting while driving car. I put it in the trunk so I couldn’t reach for it at stop lights or while I was driving. In a 7-minute ride I had more than 20 impulses to grab my phone. I felt real discomfort not being able to reach for it or see it. The discomfort grew as the impulses continued and the impulses kept coming. This was the realization that this impulsive checking of email and text is an addiction.

This checking email/text impulse isn’t only an issue in personal distraction; safety and productivity drain but it can also affect your relationships. It is extremely annoying to others who happen to be sitting with you for a meeting, a meal or hanging out see you constantly break connection with them and pull out your phone to check email or text messages.

The unintentional signal that you are sending them is that they are not as important as your messages. It signals disinterest and lack of focus and attention on that person. Parents sit with their kids and help them with homework but are constantly texting, the children don’t remember them helping with homework only that they were constantly checking their messages and NOT present. You might even be telling yourself it is productive, That is the impulsive side of you rationalizing your behavior. The other part of you will tell you that the long term consequence is your children, your spouse, your co-workers wont feel connected to you.

I’ve got to get control over this, I thought to myself. I mean I’m a productivity expert for goodness sake. I’m just subject to human behavior and habits as anyone else but I have to help myself and help others. How can I apply my training in NLP and behavioral therapy?

How Do Wrestle Back Control?

Here are a few tips from my program.

  • Recognize the behavior in others and see how you feel about it and how it reflects upon them. Sometime when we see the behavior we don’t like in others it is a deterrent for us to recognize that is not who you want to be.
  • Start observing your behavior. After reading recognizing these behaviors in yourself and others will happen automatically. At first you won’t recognize it until you are already doing it, then focus on recognizing it earlier and earlier in the process.
  • Control your environment and anticipate situations where this impulse will arise and be ready. This means shut down notifications and other obvious triggers.
  • When you catch yourself in the behavior stop it immediately. Maybe playfully call out the name you gave that part of yourself and say “Got ya!” or raise your hands in the air, snap your fingers, laugh or do something with your physiology to break the pattern. Physiology changes are the easiest and most effective way to break a pattern. Once you keep breaking it, it is like scratching a CD it wont play any more.
  • Ask others to help you. Give them permission and call you out in a professional safe way if they see that behavior.

Managing your impulses is part of time management strategies that is often not utilized as a way to improve time management. Time management skills aren’t only about planning and scheduling although they can help reduce impulsive behavior because they set up a structured environment to support focus.

Your self-control has to overcome the desire to do the opposite. The more you practice self-awareness the greater your self-control.

Penny Zenker is a strategic business coach and trainer, boosting productivity for business leaders and entrepreneurs. She leverages her personal experiences of building up and later selling a multi-million dollar business, as a senior executive at one of the worlds largest market research companies and working with business leaders all over the world as a Tony Robbins Business Coach. Penny proven and practical approach help people to get results quickly.

Standing Desks And Their Impact On Time Management

Take a stand on time management and productivity!

The day may come when we enter someone’s office when, instead of being greeted by, “Take a seat,” we will be told to “Stand by me.”

Recent studies of employee productivity at a call center have shown those utilizing standing desks increased their output by 46% over a six month period. The employees spent most of their days conversing with clients on the phone about health issues, and their productivity was graded based on metrics such as whether they delivered pertinent information and whether callers decided to continue being clients. Also significant was the change in employees’ outlook as researchers noticed differences in workers’ comfort, attitude about work and how they felt about themselves.

Woman at standing desk

While sitting is unlikely to go out of fashion, spending the larger part of the day in a chair may damage your productivity and health significantly. They have actually dubbed sitting as the new smoking. Currently the average person spends around 9 hours sitting every day yet it has been shown that, sitting down for just 6 hours a day increases the risk of dying in the next 15 years by 40% higher than that of someone sitting for just 3 hours a day. Yikes, although I was aware we need to get up and stand more, I was shocked at this statistic!

So beisdes extending your life, utilizing a standing desk increases productivity. People report higher levels of energy. Standing helps you burn more calories during the day lowering the risks of obesity. They say that an afternoon of standing can burn 170 calories. That is 850 Calories a week. And people have reported a reduction in apetitie so it is benefiting them further to sty away from snacking.

Standing also reduces the likelihoods of back and neck pain that comes from the odd ways that we sit when typing or working on the computer. Standing will also reduce stress, releasing less chortisol in your system. Standing is the apple a day you need to keep the doctor away, since stress is said to be the reason for 70-90% of our doctors visists.

First you need to know that sitting or standing in one position is not good for the body. Knesiologists teach us that the body wasMan Standing at desk designed for movement, so we need to move about to get the best from our bodies. You feel it too, stay in one positon too long and you feel stiff. You are uncomfortable and are almosted forced to move. So mix it up. No time for exercise, that is no excuse. Standing can provide you with a change in your physiology which will make a notable difference in your health, energy, and attitude.

Getting starting with standing desks? Like any change, there may be initial difficulties, especially for those who have spent much of their working life sitting. Consider a transition period and a step by step process to ease the physical changes.

First, figure out what tasks you do best sitting and standing and then to alternate between them. Making these transitions throughout the day, as well as moving around, is the healthiest arrangement for your muscles, bones and blood flow and brain.

Slowly incorporate standing, pacing and other forms of activity into the normal work day. Some kinds of tasks are more conducive to standing at a desk, for instance, talking on a phone, watching video, reading, whereas typing may not be so easy. I tend to walk around and pace on the phone so that was easy for me. Set up a standing workspace to make it easy for you to test this out for yourself. Then take some time to figure out what works for you.

Create resting intervals with some sitting, alternating sitting with standing. Make sure you segment your work into various periods, and take a break every hour or so from standing. A 5-10 minute break per hour can go a long way to enhance your productivity.

Also take some consideration to footwear and clothing, the former being exceedingly important if there are to be long periods of standing. If the workplace has very hard surfaces it might be prudent to install a shock absorbent mat in the area around the standing desk or change your shoes while standing at your desk.

Don’t do it alone, stand up together. Start standing up at regularly held meetings and make your and watch them become more productive too. Stand up stations are popping up at trending young companies as well as adjustable desks that move up and down to meet your needs throughout the day and get you standing more.

So consider incorporating some standing time into your workday – it may just be the boost you need to bump up productivity, Reduce stress, to increase creativity and improve your all round health. Nobody will be able to say, “Well, don’t just stand there!” as if you are not working.

Penny Zenker is a strategic business coach and trainer, boosting productivity for business leaders and entrepreneurs. She leverages her personal experiences of building up and later selling a multi-million dollar business, as a senior executive at one of the worlds largest market research companies and working with business leaders all over the world as a Tony Robbins Business Coach. Penny proven and practical approach help people to get results quickly.

Behavioral Psychology and The Power Pose

How To Use The Power Pose

Human behavior is fascinating right? I think so too. About 10 years ago, I decided to immerse myself in understanding how and why we do what we do. My studies took me a little deeper into body language and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which a form of behavioral psychology studying the way we think, communicate and patterns of behavior. It was during this part of my journey that I came to learn about the impact of power poses.

Man in a power posePower poses are a way to make yourself appear and feel more powerful and more confident. Yes, with a simple positioning of your body you can change how you feel and the way others perceive you. This can come in handy just about anywhere you can think of in life. It is an amazing resource for leaders and managers. I liken a power pose to an adult pacifier, because it can shift our mood in a moment. The coolest thing about it is we have it with us all the time and can access it in a pinch.

Tony Robbins is one of my mentors and I worked as coach for one of his organizations, Business Breakthroughs for many years. If you have ever attended a live Tony Robbins event, you understand that he teaches his participants how to use power poses and in practicing this throughout the event he gets the participants to feel a certain way throughout the event. He will tell you through the leadership training to “make your move” which meant to call upon that power pose. He is training you to use this powerful tool when you leave his event. Brilliant.

You might be thinking, this is too good to be true. If that were true everyone would be using power poses, right. Why wouldn’t you? You don’t because you (and I) forget to use your resources at times. For instance, when we are stressed, we loose get fuzzy from fight or flight mode responses. Ever stand up to do a presentation that you thought you knew pretty well but because of the stress you forgot to mention some of the key points. I can recall a few situations where this happened to me. You wonder who was at that meeting, because it wasn’t the you that prepared for the presentation. It isn’t enough just to know it. You need to practice it. I tell CEO’s that I am teaching how to improve the impact of their presentations to practice it. Practice not only the presentation but how you will get in the zone, access that power and confidence, shift your state of mind, access high energy before you start your presentation. Practice the power poses and power moves.

My brother is very analytical and he says to me “This is all BS. Show me the evidence”. Well it does work and there is plenty of evidence and the poses even have names.

It’s All in the Science

There is scientific evidence that proves that power poses reduce stress and improve confidence.

The science tells us that doing any of the poses can lower cortisol which is the stress hormone. See how powerful this can be at work with the stress levels at an all time high.

A study conducted by Amy Cuddy, who is a social psychologist, proved that sitting or standing in a power position for only two minutes, raised testosterone levels and lowered cortisol. These lowered levels of cortisol can increase one’s tolerance for risk. Instead of worrying about what risks come with a bad presentation, putting yourself in a power pose can change that and you won’t worry so much about the actual risk. So now that you know this, does it really improve your work performance? Thinking about confidence in general, good things tend to happen when you’re confident. Having the mindset that you can do it and will be successful usually leads to a better result.

The experiment conducted by Cuddy and two other colleagues showed that men and women who were put in power positions chose to roll the dice, literally, and it was found that the levels of testosterone in both genders was raised by nineteen percent. 86 percent chose to roll the dice compared to the 60 percent who were not subject to the power poses.

What are the Power Poses?

According to Cuddy, power poses are more open and expansive so it is fairly easy to distinguish power poses from regular posture or even someone who is shy and has low self-esteem. Your legs and arms are going away from your body where as someone who is not as confident may have their arms and legs crossed or close to their body.

Amy Cuddy presented these findings during a TedTalk and gave examples of people doing power poses and what they looked like.kick back and relax Any Cuddy named her “CEO” pose after seeing a picture of Oprah being a total boss. The pose is leaning back in a chair with arms extended over the back. Another power sitting pose is sitting with hands behind your head and her feet on the desk. Present Obama is often seen in the expansive pose.

Poses such as ‘The Wonder Woman’, “Pride” and ‘The Loomer’ are some of the most popular ones.

The “Wonder Woman” can be described as setting your feet apart, putting your hand on your hips and tilting your chin upward. This pose is meant to make you feel powerful in general. Guys, Superman uses it to so feel free to use this pose to step into your power. It really works. I use this in workshops to show people the power our physiology has on our mind. We can change the way we feel in a moment with this pose. Go on, stand up and do it now and you will see.

“Pride” is an instinctive reaction; even people born blind naturally raise their arms up in the air in a Vshape and raise their chin when they are in celebration just like you see an Olympic champion as they cross the finish line. I often use this before I go on stage and run up the isle with my hands raised it the air to boost my energy as I start.

“The Loomer” is simply standing up and leaning forward, placing your hands on the table or desk. The pose is typically used when trying to land a major deal or to show off dominance in a meeting.

Let’s look at the times you might need to access a power pose.

Before any of the following events or activities will help you be at your best:

  • An interview
  • A difficult discussion at work or at home
  • Performance review
  • Your first day at work, school. or anywhere for that matter
  • Presentation
  • Sales meeting
  • Team meeting
  • Management training programs
  • Anything you are procrastinating on
  • Walking in the door after a long day

I am sure you can think of some others too.

The power is this, we can immediately change our body chemistry and as a result change the way we will experience any event. Think about it. If you are feeling insecure, timid and doubting you will experience an interview in a very different way than if you go in feeling confident, powerful and bold. Your results will also be dramatically different. Wouldn’t you want to choose your experience? Now you can.

So the next time you’re feeling low on confidence, your procrastinating, you need a boost in time management, want to enhance your leadership presence in a meeting, or even want to reduce stress bring out a power pose and in as little as two minutes you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of your day.

Penny Zenker is a strategic business coach leveraging her personal experiences of building up and later selling a multi-million dollar business, as a senior executive at one of the worlds largest market research companies and working with business leaders all over the world as a Tony Robbins Business Coach. Penny proven and practical approach help people to get results quickly.

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