Have you listened to our Podcast?

Listen

Time Management And Productivity In This Digital Age With Carl Pullein

TBT 106 | Time Management

 

Time management and productivity is so important for Carl Puillein, and in this episode, he explains why. Carl is a renowned productivity and time management coach who has helped thousands of people around the world get better at managing their time and become more productive using technology they carry around with them every day. He coaches companies and individuals around the world through his Time and Life Mastery and Your Digital Life courses. Today, he joins Penny Zenker teaches us how we can manage our time efficiently in this digital age and shares some strategies and tools that he uses for getting through the day.

Listen to the podcast here:

Time Management And Productivity In This Digital Age With Carl Pullein

We are dedicated to bring you tools, tips and resources that are going to help you take back time. I know you can’t change the amount of time that you have but you can be smarter about the way that you work and more strategic. That’s why I have a great guest on the show to help you do that. Carl Pullein is an exact example of that because he’s dedicated his life to working in productivity, time management, goal setting and goal planning. He’s living in Korea, of all places, so we’ll learn a little bit more about that. He’s written three books on productivity and time management. He coaches companies and individuals around the world through his Time and Life Mastery and Your Digital Life courses. He is committed to you and your time management. Carl, welcome.

Thank you very much for having me on.

Tell me what is this passion, obsession, whatever you want to call it? Why is time management and productivity so important to you?

This started way back when I was in middle school. It wasn’t digital when I was at middle school. I’m too old for that, but it was a pen, paper and a ruler. I used to make this revision timetable for my exams. I used to love setting all out the times, everything was on there. I’d plan it out perfectly. The problem I had was I was terrible at doing revision and never followed through. I loved creating the schedules. When I was analyzing this, I thought that’s when the seed started. My parents bought me a Filofax.

I had a Filofax. I know we’re dating yourselves. 

It was yuppie but it was gorgeous. I filled everything out. I gradually went on to Franklin Planner. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that. Years ago, I got into understanding the actual time management part, not just the design and it was fantastic. That’s where the passion grew and it’s always been there. It came because I started my life in Korea years ago. Teaching was where it came from. I realized I could teach this. I’ve done 25 years of playing around with productivity, time management, and goal planning. It’s time I started teaching what I learned. That’s when they all started from.

Tell me, have you embraced fully the digital age? Do you do most of your time management planning digitally or do you still do some on paper?

I’m totally digital now. I have a love of fountain pens and so I can’t give that up completely. If I’m being honest, I’m using a pen once a week.

I’m asking you that because sometimes people feel that they have to switch to a certain mode. I still do a number of things for myself that aren’t digital. I do mind maps and I like to write them out. I do have some digital, but I also like to write out the way that I do my to-do list in this chunking method. What would you say about that to people who are one foot in and one foot out? Is that good or is that not good or what?

One thing I have learned is everybody is different. It’s more a case of the mood I’m in. Friday nights for me, I call it my self-development evening. At some point, I will sit down and catch up on a few YouTube videos I want to watch. Sometimes, I’m in the mood to take notes using this Baronfig. It’s a tiny little notebook but it’s perfect for fountain pens. I’ll start writing the stuff that I’m learning in these YouTube videos. It depends on the mood, but I would say 90% of the time, I open up Apple Notes and start typing. It’s a habit now.

What I want to highlight for people, at least this is my opinion and you said it, everyone is different. You have to find what works for you. Sometimes, I’d like to be more digital. There are certain things that work well for me on Excel but to-do lists or different types of lists, it doesn’t give me a proper overview because I have to keep scrolling. It doesn’t work for me. It creates more stress than it does relieve the stress. That’s an important thing for people is to realize and determine, give something enough of a chance, but to recognize what works and what doesn’t.

That’s a big problem for a lot of people now is they feel that they have to be digital. It’s not true. Bullet journaling, for example, is huge. I love that concept and I do love my technology as well so I tend to stick with the technology. There’s going to be a time when I’m going to give bullet journal in a real go and I will. I can imagine it being so much fun.

TBT 106 | Time Management

Time Management: The 2+8 Prioritisation Method reveals that realistically you can get ten meaningful tasks done a day.

 

You can use your fountain pen.

I can, different colored inks.

It depends, for a creative mind who likes to use different colors. I’ve seen people do mind maps with different colors and different drawings and things. Since they’re more creative, it helps them to bring the two sides of their brain together. What’s your favorite thing to teach and what is it that you teach that makes the biggest impact for people?

The biggest thing that I teach and I would go through this with all my coaching clients and I’ve put it in a lot of my YouTube videos as well on my courses is what I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Method. This came about because for a whole year, I monitored how many tasks I could get done each day. Given that we are in a very distracting world these days, we talked about the digital things, they’re coming at us all the time. I know people will say, “Turn off notifications and get it right.” That’s not necessarily as easy as people might think.

I don’t know about that. I think that we make it hard.

Some people can do it. Text messaging to me, instant messaging is something that I need to know about immediately. I can let go of email, I don’t worry about that. I always do that every day at some point. It’s not when it comes in. I don’t have notifications for email, Facebook and Twitter, stuff like that. I don’t have it. Instant messaging is how my wife, my mother and my students would contact me in an emergency. I need to know. For everybody, it’s going to be different. I don’t like it when people say, “What you have to do is turn off notifications.” That sounds simple but everybody is different. It depends. Living in a foreign country from where my parents are, my mother needed me. I learned the lesson. Don’t send my mother a text message at 3:00 AM, her time.

She’ll be nervous that something happened.

She doesn’t turn on do-not-disturb at night, so it wakes her up. I’ve learned that lesson. I have to wait. Everyone is different in many cases. The 2+8 Prioritisation, I realized that realistically, you can get ten meaningful tasks done a day. This doesn’t include your routines like take out the garbage, walk the dog, two of which I make my objectives. If I don’t do anything else that day, as long as I do those two things, I had a good day. Those can be professional or personal objectives. After Christmas, we tend to gain a little bit of weight. January, I can guarantee the exercise is going to be on my objective for the day pretty much every day. I’ve got my weight back down.

That’s one of the two.

The other one could be write a blog post, record a podcast, do a video, or prepare an online course. It’s always something meaningful, not something that’s trivial. It’s not going to move my life forward.

To put it in my language and the more perspectives as to how people read this, they’ll understand it even better. It’s the strategic things that either must get done that day or are moving you forward strategically in what’s important in your business, correct?

A big problem for a lot of people now is they feel that they have to be digital, which is not true. Click To Tweet

It’s the strategic thing is moving forward. It has to move you forward in a goal or professionally. Those are the objectives. That’s the criteria for the objective. The other eight tasks are normal day-to-day work but have to be done. I might have an important presentation to finish that would be one of the eight. It could be an objective if it was time-sensitive and had to be done that day, but I’m better organized in that. I got myself a bit of leeway on my presentation.

That’s a good representation of the 80/20. The 20% is on your strategic goals, giving you 80% to get the things done that have to get done. I don’t know what you think about the one thing. That’s BS, it’s not life. That’s your thing with the notifications.

The reality for me is that once I picked that one, I started doing that and making sure you do it the night before. If you do it in the morning, you’re missing out on the most effective time of the day for you. You do it before you finish. With my coaching clients, I say give yourself fifteen minutes before you close out the day. If they finish at 6:00, you’ve got 5:45, set an alarm on an Apple watch, on your computer, or on your phone, do the 2+8. You decide what you’re going to do tomorrow and then you can forget about it. There is another advantage here. It means that when you go home, you’re not thinking about can’t do this tomorrow because you’ve already done that. You know what you’re going to do tomorrow. You can go home, relax, enjoy your family time, enjoy your time with your friends or whatever.

When you wake up, you’re often running. You’re not spinning your wheels in the morning trying to figure out.

It’s been working for me fantastically for years now. I couldn’t go to bed without at least doing some of that. The two objectives at least.

It gets you really clear and focus. I love that I have something I call the 135, very similar in that nature. That’s important. For anybody who’s reading this, whatever the system is for you, it’s to plan it the night before, that’s what I’m hearing you say. At the night before, you’re getting a good night’s sleep and your mind is also thinking about what you’re doing in that time. You’re going to make that time even more effective and then you’ll get off and running first thing in the morning.

One other thing is it engages the subconscious mind as well, which is brilliant because most people don’t know about how powerful your subconscious mind is. When you go to bed, you have this big problem on your mind. You wake up, you’ve got the solution, you think, “Where did that come from?” It came from your subconscious mind.

When those two things you’re going to do, your subconscious mind is already doing it. It’s already getting that article ready. 

That’s the most powerful thing that I’ve been doing. I now teach and coach that because it is so effective.

You said you’re 90% or whatever digital. What’s your favorite tool that helps you to organize or do what it is that makes things successful for you?

My life is run by an app called Todoist. I couldn’t live without Todoist. It’s horrible to think because if something ever happened to Todoist, I’m going to be lost. I wouldn’t be lost because one of the things I do know is that I could transport my system into another app if I had to. Fortunately, Todoist is definitely cash positive. They don’t have outstanding loans or anything like that. They’re a strong company. They’re doing amazing things. That is the app that is my go-to. I collect everything in there, it drops into the inbox. It’s so fast, so easy from my phone and on my computer. That basically organizes all my to-do’s.

When you say it drops into you, I don’t know that tool, I don’t use that one. For sure, there are a lot of people reading this who don’t know that. Is it email-based when you say drops into your inbox?

TBT 106 | Time Management

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

No, it’s an app that you have on your phone and your computer. When you tap to open the app, you’re there, your inbox, and you start typing. It’s fast to capture which is important.

If it’s something you have to quickly put on your Todoist and then go back to what you were doing, it helps you to quickly do that. Tell me some other things that features or reasons why you love Todoist?

One of the things that is on the surface, Todoist is very simple to use, which is good. It’s not a big steep learning curve. It’s got the power behind it to go as complex as you want it to be. I’m very much more into the minimalist side of productivity, so I’m keeping things simple. I have a lot of clients, the way they think in projects like projects labels, tags, and all sorts of things, Todoist can do all that for you, if you want to use that power. I personally don’t, but it depends on the processes you have, the way your brain is wired. I’m very much more big picture at viewing. I know a lot of people and work with a lot of people who likes to get into the way they have things detailed planned out, Todoist will do that for you. It has some very strong filters. I can pick. If I want to see a particular view, it could be my objectives for the next seven days if I’d already planned them. I can easily get that and show it in a field. It’s easy to create filters and stuff like that.

Can it manage a process? 

No, that’s more likely the Kanban board. The rumors are the feature will be coming. The Kanban board, if you are that kind of person or thinking, I would recommend Trello because they work best the way they’re set up. Todoist is not like that. It’s more linear, it’s more lists but it works well for me.

Is there any other tool that you swear by?

If we were talking before, I would have said Evernote.

Have you moved away from Evernote?

Not entirely. Evernote is great on my desktop. It’s still solid, it’s brilliant but I’ve been having so many problems with it on my phone and my iPad. I’m using Apple Notes a lot more than I used to. Hopefully, I’m praying that that will be a temporary fix. I’ve been using Evernote for over ten years. Evernote is solid on my desktop and I still use it quite a bit on my desktop because I have a lot of templates that I use in there for planning and stuff. For quick notes like the notes for this, for example, will go straight into Apple Notes because it works on my phone and my iPad. I would say Evernote is still there. It’s still one of my go-to apps.

I like to ask because everybody’s different so each productivity and time management expert has a different way of thinking and has different tools. It might open people’s perspectives to check some new tools out. What’s your definition of productivity and why? I’ve gotten totally different answers from everyone. 

For me, it’s getting what needs to be done, done so that you can spend more time doing the stuff that you want to do. That’s because I worked with a lot of senior executives and generally, they love their job particularly here in Korea, I worked with a lot of regular office workers, middle managers and so on. The look on their face on a Monday morning, it looks like to them it’s a daily drudge to earn some money. That’s not a good life. I understand we have to earn an income, we have to earn a living. If we can shorten that time so we can maximize the time and we can do the things we want to do like hang out with the people who want to do, read the books, create the stuff we want to create, that to me, is the definite. If you’ve got the time to do that then you are being very productive. That would be my definition of productivity. It’s being able to create the time to be able to do the things that you want to do.

Productivity is being able to create the time to be able to do the things that you want to do. Click To Tweet

You mentioned books, tell me what are your top two books that have made an impact on you and why that is?

It’s got to be David Allen’s Getting Things Done because that is the bible. I read that about years ago and I still refer back to that when I start to feel a little bit, “Things are not quite feeling right.” I go back to that book. I also go back even further than that which is a book by Hyrum Smith, The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management. He was the guy who created the original Franklin Planner.

He wrote the intro to my book, so I’ve met Hyrum Smith.

You know Hyrum Smith then?

Yes. 

That’s an amazing book. That was my first real-time management book and I found it again on Kindle. I bought it on Kindle and I re-read it and I thought, “It’s still good.”

You should check out also his The 3 Gaps. Have you read that? It’s his latest book. 

I haven’t. That’s the only one I’d read of his book.

Check it out. It’s based on the same principles but has some different ways of presenting it. It’s a good read. 

That was the first.

What was it that changed for you by reading that book?

TBT 106 | Time Management

Time Management: Have a place that you collect everything that comes to mind because you’ll never remember everything.

 

The biggest thing on both books, both Getting Things Done and Hyrum Smith’s book was writing it down. I believe that my brain had this unlimited capacity to remember everything. When I was at the supermarket, I always forgot to pick up the milk. Something as simple as that and you forget. I knew I needed milk but you only remember when you open the refrigerator door. It’s the lessons I learned from both books. There’s a wonderful example in Hyrum Smith’s book where somebody called him and said, “I’m not ready yet but can you get back to me in three months’ time?” He said, “Sure.” In his Franklin Planner, he wrote it down the exact time of the day. When he called back, “Do you remember I spoke to you three months ago on the second of February at 10:45 AM?” “I’m hiring you.” That story stuck in my head because I realized I have yet to write it down.

It creates more stress to keep it in our heads. For everybody who’s reading this, stop the stress, stop the tug of war with time and write it down, whatever the form is. That’s why there’s an app called Remember the Milk. It’s funny because that’s a great example that everybody has experienced. I wish we could continue chatting and sharing tips, but we’ll have to at least bring this to a close. Is there anything that we haven’t covered yet before I ask you to share the information that you feel stands out in your work that you want to share with the readers?

We covered it there. The biggest thing is have a place that you collect everything that comes to mind because you’ll never remember everything. Make sure you trust that place. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a simple notebook or it’s an app or a simple notes app on your phone. Get into the habit of collecting your ideas, your tasks, and thoughts in there because you’ll never know. One of those ideas might turn into $1 billion business because the businesses have to start somewhere. It could be the next chapter of your life, but it can easily be lost as well, just like that.

When you record it, you have it to go back to.

You’ve got something, “I had the idea several months ago, now I’m ready to do something with it.” Fantastic. If you don’t write it down, you’ve lost it.

Before we go, that brings me up to a point, let’s say everything is written down, do you personally have a process where you go back and review ideas that you’ve captured and things like that so that you can remember, “This is important. I think I’m ready for this now?” What do you do with your old notes?

What usually happens is I find that my notes get linked together. I will have an idea, “I have an Apple Productivity Course and it’s very popular.” I thought, “Why don’t I do a Google one and a Microsoft one?” I had the Google idea but suddenly it starts to link together. I could create a series on something like Skillshare, where it’s a simple basic course to show people how to use those tools that come free with your computers and phones to build an effective productivity system. The first initial idea was, “Why don’t I do this with Google?” came years ago, but suddenly I looked and found the original note. I linked it with the Microsoft Note and thought that’s now in development. The original idea I had was years ago. Thank you, Evernote. I can’t let go of Evernote. Those ideas are in there and I know there’s a lot of ideas that I can pull out at any time to develop a new course, a new program or something.

That is the benefit of having it digitally. I use Evernote for capture too. It’s got a great search system. That’s the advantage as you go, “I had this thought a while ago, let me go and search it,” and then there it is. 

That’s the big tip for me. Write it down. You’ll never know when it might come useful.

Thank you for the perfect thing to start with for people who are getting started or a reminder for people who may have gotten away from capture is doing that. Where can they find more information about you and also some of these courses that you’re talking about? I know that you’re all over YouTube too.

The best place to find me is through my website which is CarlPullein.com because you can get to my YouTube channel, podcast, blog, and all the online courses. All the stuff I do is on there. It’s very easy to find.

Thank you so much for being here. It was a great, successful session. 

Thank you for having me.

It’s my pleasure. For our readers, thank you for being here because without you, we wouldn’t have this. It’s our dedication to bring you these tips, reminders and tools. There were a lot of good nuggets here especially on how to prioritize your day. Carl’s method of 2+8 or whatever format and system that you use but use that as an idea of balancing what’s important and what’s urgent. That’s going to help you during the day to be able to manage both of those and feel good at the end of the day. Thank you for being here. We’ll see you next time.

Important Links:

About Carl Puillein

TBT 106 | Time ManagementA renowned productivity and time management coach who has helped thousands of people around the world get better at managing their time and become more productive using technology they carry around with them everyday.

Carl has written three books on productivity and time management and coaches companies and individuals around the world through his Time and Life Mastery and Your Digital Life courses.

Carl’s passion and dedication to helping people become better at managing their time so they can focus on what is important to them is legendary and his presentations and workshops are highly interactive, entertaining and educational.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

Productivity Tips For Working From Home: 7 Pitfalls To Avoid

TBT 108 | Working From Home

 

New business and new business models have all given way to more unique and varied work arrangements as well, and one of these kinds of set-ups is working from home. Work-from-home arrangements can be incredibly efficient and beneficial, but done wrong, they can also lead one to unproductivity and the inability to continue working. Penny Zenker discusses some of these pitfalls and how one can remain in complete control of the situation. It’s really all in the restraint you allow yourself to keep you away from the distractions found in a home set-up. If you’re working from home, you might just see your work habits reflected in Penny’s list of pitfalls. If that’s the case, then you’re going to have to make a change – and that’s something that Penny’s knowledge can definitely help you with.

Listen to the podcast here:

Productivity Tips For Working From Home: 7 Pitfalls To Avoid

This is special because we are right in the midst of the beginnings of the Coronavirus here in the United States. Many companies are asking their employees to work from home. I thought that I wanted to dedicate this particular session towards those of you who are newly working from home or maybe even you work from home on a regular basis, but there are extra stresses at the moment with maybe kids being at home because school is closed. Also, the concerns of the uncertainty of where the economy is going, concerns about your family, your health and well-being. That stress adds up to be additional distractions from the day-to-day work that we also need to get done. How do we compartmentalize or focus on the work that we have to do and at the same time take seriously what’s going on in the world and set ourselves up for success in other areas of our life as well?

I wanted to share with you a presentation that I did that was dedicated to some tips and tricks of how you can be more productive while you’re working at home and perhaps some of these productivity skills you can also bring back to work when you head back to work. I will be creating a series that will help you with different types of topics around this. Also, I’m going to open up and do a live Q&A for people also to help to ask questions. These are general tips and your specific interests and concerns are things that I also want to address at some point. I’ll send that out. Do subscribe to our newsletter so that you get information about what’s coming up and also different events and activities like that that might be of interest to you. Without further ado, here is my presentation of the seven pitfalls that you can experience working from home and how to avoid them.

I’m the author of the bestselling book, The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time. I want to share with you in these crazy times when you might be finding yourself working from home for the first time or maybe you work from home, but now also your kids are home for the next couple of months. There is a lot of uncertainty in the air with the Coronavirus, the state of emergency that we’re in. I want to do what I can do to help you to be more productive during this time. I wanted to get this out as quickly as possible and share with you seven pitfalls from working from home and how to avoid them. At any time, there’s also a checklist that’s provided with this. You can either read this or you can download the one-page checklist that will help give you an overview of all of the pitfalls to avoid and also some ways to do that.

Distractions

Distractions are the number one thing that is keeping you from reaching your goals, from having more meaning in your life, more money, being healthier. We’ve got to take a look at those distractions. Somehow, they’re things that we tolerate in our lives. The best example for me was one summer when my kids were at home and they weren’t at camp for the first time. I was getting interrupted on a regular basis, maybe every 5 or 19 minutes with a different request of, “What’s for breakfast? I need to get this for school. Can you put this on the shopping list or get it for me? How do I use this printer?” I was getting more and more frustrated, not necessarily frustrated with them, but also frustrated with myself because I didn’t do anything about it. I tolerated it.

TBT 108 | Working From Home

Working From Home: In order for us to be productive, we need to be able to manage and balance being efficient and effective.

 

I also knew that I had the opportunity to leave the house and go to Starbucks or go somewhere else to get some work done. I didn’t. Why didn’t I do that? I want you to ask yourself the same thing. With all the distractions that you are tolerating at work, at home, and even your own emotional distractions, why are you tolerating it? What can you do to create that heightened awareness of what it costs you? What it cost me is all that frustration every time I was interrupted was that I couldn’t get my work done and it meant that I had to work longer hours. Instead of spending more time with them in those summer days, I ended up spending less time with them. It worked against me that I wasn’t doing anything about the situation. That’s why I want to talk about this and create some heightened awareness for you and what you can do.

An interesting, simple, small solution was after I became aware of this, my daughter was also aware of this, and she did me a huge favor by helping me out. She brought me this sign that she put on my doors so that when my doors were closed, not only did they see the closed doors, which was one indication not to come in, but we added a little humor and a little stop sign that she created for me, which said, “Do not disturb me unless you’re literally dying. If you’re dying, call 911, not me.” I thought this was the funniest thing, but the crazy thing is it worked. It worked for her because she created it and she saw that I needed a way to have focused work time so that I could have focus playtime with them. She created this for me, for me also to be aware that I’m going to hold the line. When someone does come through the door, then I can say, “I’m working. Please come back. Please adhere to the sign.” It also worked for my son who was continually interrupting me. A simple little sign of letting people know you’re not available, even though it might appear that they should already know that can go a long way. That’s an example of these things that we can do to protect ourselves and protect our time and our focus.

I want you to understand a little bit about my productivity curve that is listed in my book, The Productivity Zone, to get an understanding of where I’ve come from in this and how it all fits together. In order for us to be productive and be in the productivity zone, we need to be able to manage and balance efficient and effective. That means we want to do things quickly, but not at the cost of everything else. That happens. We do things quickly and then we make mistakes. Being fast doesn’t mean that we’re reaching our result. Also, being effective and achieving our goal is not always that great either if it’s at the cost of speed. Let’s say that we got it done, but it cost twice as much or we got it done, but it took three times as much time. That means that we’re not in the productivity zone, so we’re either over-functioning or under-functioning when we’re not in the zone. We want to be able to be clear as to what we need to do to get in the zone. In my book, I talk about the ten core drivers that help us to get in and stay in the zone.

We’re not going to talk about that specifically now, but you can check that out in my book if you get a chance and if you want to do so. What I want to talk about with these pitfalls is also what keeps us out of the zone. When we are distracted, we are stressed. Distractions are procrastination and perfectionism. Those are the things that are out of the zone. Those are areas that distract us, whether it be physical, environmental or even emotional. Those are distractions and they create stress. It’s that stress that puts us into a fight, flight, or freeze mode and keeps us from the thing that we want. I want you to remember that as part of this process. To start out, I want to create some heightened awareness as to where you are in your distractions.

Distractions are the number one thing that are keeping you from reaching your goals. Click To Tweet

How well do you know what’s distracting you and what you’re tolerating? I created this distraction quiz to start that process off. Go ahead and take this distraction quiz and find out whether you are a wizard, whether you’re a squirrel, a hamster, a deer in the headlights, or a time zombie. Go and find out, take the quiz. Let’s take a look at the seven pitfalls. Number one is we don’t want to get caught up in bad habits. You want to keep the same start and end time to your day. Don’t snooze and sleep in because that’s affecting your discipline first thing in the morning. When you set a time to get up, get up at that time. Be your word. Start and end at the same time. Also, set a daily plan. Before you start your day, identify what it is that you’re going to do that day that’ll help you to be more focused on the things that are most important.

I highly suggest that you create a team huddle that every day you check in with one another and you identify what your priorities are if there are any obstacles that you have that you need some support with. Also, if there are any changing priorities in the group or in the team so that you can get those updates. Most importantly, especially during this highly-volatile time, do not check the news in the morning. That’s only going to start your day with negative energy. That’s not how you want to start your day. Make sure that your morning routine includes focusing on the things that bring you a high level of energy. You can check the news later and see what’s going on during one of your breaks.

Workspace

Number two is taking a look at your workspace. Your workspace, when there’s clutter, it’s clear that your mind is taking excess energy into the things that it sees in the peripheral, in that clutter, and it’s keeping you from being more productive. What you want to be able to do is take things off your workspace. This might be a workspace like your kitchen table and you’re not used to working there and it’s not a dedicated office space, but you’re going to create that dedicated space for now. Here are some ways to do that is instead of keeping all the papers and books and things that you need accessible on the table. Go ahead and get some boxes and put the papers and books in those boxes. Put them under the table and access them only when you need them and only what you’re working on.

It’s the same thing with your computer. You want to close down all the tabs that you’re not using because they do take up mental space and open up only the tabs that you need. There are some great tools out there that’ll help you to be more efficient and effective in organizing your digital space, such as Platstack, which is a new tool that I found that I love. If you’re working on a specific project, it will open up all the links that are associated with that project and you can close down everything else knowing that with a click of a button, you can open it up quickly and get back to where you were. There are other apps that you can install to help you save time. You can look at one of my websites, P10App.com/recommended to find other tools that can support you.

TBT 108 | Working From Home

Working From Home: When there’s clutter in your workspace, your mind is putting excess energy into the things it sees in the peripheral, and it’s keeping you from being more productive.

 

You can use that sign that I gave you, do not disturb, put that up and have a chat with your kids so that as a family, you’re aware of, “Here are the times that we’re going to spend together. Here are the breaks that we’re going to take together. Also, here’s where our concentrated time is together.” People support what they create. If you can come up with it together, then you’re going to have an effective productivity schedule for all of you. That’s the same when you go back to work, you can do that as well. You’re going to find that dedicated space and you’re going to turn off all the notifications, especially if this is your home computer and you’ve got your home mail on there. I don’t know why. That’s one of those things that you’re tolerating. Make your computer and your technology make it where you go and you pull it when you need it versus them pushing it to you all the time. That puts you in control. That’s going to be one of the most important things here.

Turn off all of those notifications on your computer and on your phone so that when you are working, you can focus. On your phone, you can put it on to airplane mode. That’s going to support you and do not put it on your desk. You’re going to want still to look at it because it’s there. You can’t help but look at it. It’s our psychology. We are addicted to it. Do yourself a favor and use this shakeup time that you’re working at home to make some changes. One of those things is to not work with your phone on the desk. Put it away. Put it in the charger across the room or somewhere where you can’t get to it. You’re going to have impulses to want to go and check it and that’s okay. You can even count the number of impulses that you have for fun to see how crazy it is. Also, see each day as they reduce down. I have worked with clients who have done this process and weaned themselves off of checking their phone on a regular basis and it’s been huge for them in terms of the productivity that it’s created for them. These are some things that you can do to improve your workspace.

Procrastination

Number three is procrastination. Maybe you find yourself for the third time at your refrigerator and you’re not even hungry. Maybe you’re making that fifth cup of coffee and you don’t even want any more coffee. The thing is these are little things that happen that we do to procrastinate from the work that we’re currently working on. It might be that it’s something that you don’t want to do. It might be that you’re not connected to it. It might be that it’s not so much fun. It’s a long slog and getting done whatever you need to be done. Whatever it is, we want to put things in place to help you to avoid procrastination.

One of them would be to use short time blocks and to use a timer because the timers are psychologically there. It’s proven to help to keep more focus. Also, with those short time blocks, there’s actually a technique called the Pomodoro Technique that you could see how you can use that 25-minute blocks. You can also make it 40-minute blocks. I like my blocks a little bit longer because I can concentrate, but if you have trouble concentrating, then 25-minute blocks might be good for you. That gives your brain the knowledge that you’re going to take a break after so that you can stay focused on what you’re doing. Once you get started and you get connected, then you’re going to be able to stay more focused. Also, if before you start that time block, you review your outcomes. That’s going to help you be more focused as well because you’re going to be connected and ask yourself, “Why is this important?” What will be different after you complete that?

A simple little sign to let people know that you're not available can go a long way. Click To Tweet

That will help you to get more connected to it so that you can stay in it to complete that time block. There’s also an app called Focusmate and it’s where you might sit with somebody else online and you tell them what your objective is for this time block. They tell you and then you get on and do it while you have an open line together. It’s quite an interesting concept. You can also do this with your work colleagues, but the idea is not to converse back and forth. You’re not going to be able to leave your desk and go to the refrigerator when somebody is watching you and that you are accountable to a third-party. That’s the context behind that. Also, schedule your procrastination. What that means is that you set up those break times so that you can do the chores, you can get your coffee, you can check your email. Those things might be sources of procrastination. You can quasi-schedule them and that will help you to stay focused on the time blocks you’re working on.

Chat Tools

Number four is the chat tools. Chat can be a huge productivity saver because when you have questions and you need them answered quickly, people can be available, but they can also suck up your whole day. Imagine how some people feel that meetings are ineffective. Having chat tools open all day is like having an all-day meeting. It can distract you constantly and detract from your productivity. There are a couple of ways. If you’ve never used chat tools before, you may find that this is a new introduction for your company now that you’re going to be working from home. Here are some tips on how to best utilize these chat tools. First of all, talk to your team about guidelines for how to use these tools. Set up some ways that you can use them most productively together so that you find that you’re working together with these tools. You also want to identify what’s urgent. How do you define an urgency so that you know when something is urgent? How are you also going to contact that person?

Maybe your chat tool isn’t the best place for urgent items. Maybe you have a way to do that via text messaging where only those text messages will go through. You can set that up on your phone on the do not disturb function. You can allow certain things to come through. You might set that up with one another so that you’re clear when it’s urgent, here’s how you contact me. Otherwise, we’re going to meet up at certain times and have open chat hours during those times. It’s like having a coffee together or having a meeting with these chat tools. This is going to be the time when you’re working online together like that Focusmate where you’re open to answering and asking questions. When there’s a lot of back and forth and it’s a longer, more detailed issue, maybe chat tools aren’t going to be the right medium. Go ahead and jump on a conference call where you can see each other by video and you can share screens and do things like that. That may be a lot quicker way to resolve a question or problem that you might have and get to the answer more quickly.

Email

Number five is email. It might’ve already been a challenge for you, but now it might get even more of a challenge because you’re working at home. You may get more emails than you’ve had before. Good email practices are more important than ever. Here are a few tips on how to manage your email. First of all, again, you want to reduce the number of times that you’re checking your email because email can also be a huge distraction. Block and schedule a time for your email. Maybe if you’re setting up 45-minute blocks for your focus, you can check your email for 5 or 10 minutes at the top of every hour. That’ll give you quite a few times that you’re checking your email a day. Kevin Kruse, for instance, he recommends this 3-2-1-0 method, which means three is the number of times you should check your email a day for 21 minutes, hence 3-2-1, and that will help you to get to a zero inbox. That might be too few of the times. If you’re going from the average of 150 times checking your email, that might be a little bit too much of a jump.

TBT 108 | Working From Home

Working From Home: Chat can be a huge productivity saver when you have questions that need to be answered quickly, but they can also suck up your whole day.

 

Maybe you check it those seven times a day at the top of the hour. Use a system that’s going to help you to do that. The key is to check your email less. You also want to make sure that your title is reflecting the content because many times these emails go back and forth and they have a title that has nothing to do with what’s in the email and that’s not helping anyone. You take the responsibility to make sure that each time you write an email, you’re changing the title to reflect the content. While you’re doing that, why don’t you put a call to action in the title and let somebody know if you need a response from them immediately? You can have a quick little code that you agreed together. NRT, Need Response Today or TM for Tomorrow.

You can create some codes so that they know right away from looking at it how they might organize those emails. That leads to the next point of filter and file. If you know that it’s not due until Wednesday, if you keep your folders Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, you could move that into the Wednesday folder and know that that needs to be done on Wednesday. Many people do use their inbox as a to-do list and that’s totally fine. You’re going to want to organize yourself in a way that makes it easier for you so that you can manage the things that you need to manage and leave the things that aren’t important to another day and put them away. Wherever you can, you want to show somebody versus tell them. Put a picture in, make it easier, put bullet points and summaries and structure your emails in a way that’s going to make them shorter because those long emails are not getting read or not getting read accurately. They create more back and forth than are necessary.

Manage expectations. Talk about as a group what your response times are going to be. That can alleviate any frustration or feeling like I need to respond to this right away where you’ve agreed as a group, that response time, unless it’s urgent, is going to be maybe four hours. Therefore, you’ve got time within four hours to check your email and get back to somebody. You go ahead and put that in the footer to remind people and manage those expectations even further. You can do that with clients as well. Let them know due to the situation, this is going to be your response time if it’s changed. If it hasn’t changed, what is your response time so that they also can be aware? If somebody tells me, “I’ll get back to you in 24 hours,” I don’t expect them to get back to me in ten minutes. It could be with our sense of urgency in the way that we are, that if nobody says anything and you usually get back to me in ten minutes, then I might have an expectation that you’re going to get back to me in ten minutes. We want to manage those expectations. Here you’ll see some apps that can help you to organize your mailbox. SaneBox sorted helps you do to-do lists and set up when you’re going to follow-up on things. FollowUp.cc will take it out of your mailbox and send it back to you when you need it. There are different types of tools, check those out and see if they might be of use.

Misunderstandings

Number six is a big one that nobody’s talking about but is important and that’s misunderstandings. The more things that are being discussed by a text or by email can create a lot of misunderstandings because there’s no tone and no body language in this communication. I’ve seen it many times as to where somebody is not in the best state themselves and especially in this time of fear and uncertainty and they read something into an email that isn’t there. The number one thing that we’re going to do is assume positive intent. While we’re doing that, we can get curious and when we do hear or think that there’s a tone in an email, instead of writing an email back, that’s a perfect time to pick up the phone and give someone a call and get curious and ask them a question. “Could you explain more about what you meant by X?” By being curious, it means that you’re not triggered. You’re not on the defense, and therefore you’re going to come across as interested versus defensive and attacking. That’s what we want to make sure that we avoid because the more of that that goes back and forth, that can impact your relationship. That takes up a lot of energy and can definitely take away from your productivity.

When we are distracted, we are stressed. Click To Tweet

Also, another thing that’s important is if there are any delays or challenges that come up in your work, it’s important that you communicate them because I know that I am a big stickler for anybody who identifies a delay the day before it’s due. It’s extremely frustrating. The way for you to be able to work more professionally is to let somebody know ahead of time, “Here’s a challenge that I’m facing.” You can also say, “Here’s what I’m doing in order to mitigate this challenge.” Maybe the person has some ideas, but you want to let them know that you’re working on it. There is a challenge and it may cause a delay in the end result. That will give them means to check in with you more often or for you to check in with them. That’s important in communication because other people are relying on your work and your timeliness. It’s important that we open up more effective means of communication, especially when you’re going to be working from home.

Temptation

Lastly, we’ve got temptation. You’re working from home and if you’re using your home computer, you’ve got fewer constraints on your computer than you do at work. You might be more opt to jump into social media because you can and that can lead you down a totally dangerous rabbit hole. You want to make sure that you are helping yourself set up what I call gatekeepers to keep you from temptation. The more things that we can set up to protect our time, to protect our productivity and to protect us from temptation will be rewarded in the long run. Some of those things are mentally and psychologically, pretend like you’re not home. I know that sounds crazy, but it works. If you pretend that you’re not at home, then you’re not going to have the same temptations that you have when you’re fully in the mindset that you’re at home.

You want to give yourself only healthy choices of what you’re going to do during your break. Think about it with our kids when they were young, we’d say, “Do you want broccoli or carrots?” We’d give them two healthy choices so that they can choose from. That’s what you’re going to get to do on your break times. You’re going to choose from two healthy choices of going to take a walk or listening to your favorite song. That’s going to be able to help you then get after the break to get back into the work that you’re doing and stay focused.

You can also ask yourself a quick question as you see yourself start to get into something that’s not productive, you can say, “Is this the highest use of my time?” By asking that question, you’re triggering yourself to be more aware of the choice that you’re making. You’re also more aware of the decision that you’re making at that moment. When you say, “Is this the highest use of my time?” When the answer is no, it will help to bring you back on track. Be proactive and know what’s next. If you started your day with a list of things that you need to accomplish, then you already know what’s next on the list and that’s going to help you also to stay focused and stay on track and stay away from temptation. There is a gap in there between when you finish one thing and you’re ready to start something else. When you don’t know what’s next and you’re not prepared and proactive, that can turn into a giant crack and can take you again down the rabbit hole. Be aware. Also, lastly is scheduling those priorities. If you did, do your plan at the beginning of the day, schedule them and that will also help you to stay on track and stay away from temptation.

TBT 108 | Working From Home

Working From Home: Things being discussed by text or email can create a lot of misunderstandings because there’s no tone and no body language in this form of communication.

 

To recap, one of the things that can help you across all of these areas and is a good habit is using this Pomodoro Technique or any type of time blocking which takes those smaller blocks for you and gives you better focus and helps you to string those blocks together. You can go and check out the apps that I recommend on P10App.com/recommended. I also have my own method for time blocking that helps you do a top downtime blocking that allows you to align your goals and your tasks. It’s not about aligning the tasks that you have for the day, but it helps you to set up a process that you’re going to be time blocking according to your goals so that you can be more in alignment.

I also have a specific method that I teach around time blocking. It’s strategic time blocking and it’s a top-down approach helping you to block more of the categories that help you to reach your goals and a process of then bringing that from a monthly, a weekly basis into a daily basis and a regular plan. If that interests you, you can check that out on any of my websites that are available. Also, you want to track your time. Tracking your time at least once a quarter, and this is a good time to do it now that you’re starting to work from home, is to get a heightened awareness of where you’re spending your time and where also you’re wasting your time. A valuable tool for you is to get that heightened awareness and to be able to close the gap into where you might be wasting your time or not spending the time on the things that are most important.

Tracking your time is also a valuable exercise. Do this for two weeks. This is valuable because it’s going to show you where you’re spending your time and where you’re wasting it. I know you’d rather have a root canal than track your time, but if you do this for two weeks, it’s going to help you to align your goals and your tasks. Like with time blocking, those two in combination are going to help you to get and reach your goals faster and be more productive. I am running a fourteen-day time study and a challenge, so if you’re interested in following me with that and giving you assignments each day and helping you stay on track, you can go to AccelerateProductivity.net/14daystudy to check out what that offering is. Either way, make sure that you’re tracking your time so that you can make sure that your goals and your tasks are in alignment and you’re doing the most with your time, energy and efforts.

Also, don’t forget that you can do online workshops. It’s because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you can’t have those effective meetings to work through problems or opportunities for that matter. There are platforms that I use when I facilitate workshops and for whatever we’re doing them online because everybody is all over the world. There’s a great technology that allows you to have a front of the room type of presentation and then break out into tables and work on topics with tables and then come back to the group. Do check that out if that’s something of interest and you can certainly contact me for any more information about that or how I might be able to help you facilitate some workshops in the area of productivity, communication, or even thinking outside the box. Those are my areas of specialty. If you want to reach me, you can go to PennysKeynote.com and there’s a calendar link for me. You can also reach me at my email at Penny@P10App.com. Check out my show and subscribe to TugOfWarWithTime.com/takebacktime and check out my apps that are available on the App Store and Google Play.

Important Links:

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

How To Manage Being Fatigued And Overwhelmed With Danielle Rath

TBT 107 | Stress Management

 

Stress management has become such a key survival skill in the fast-paced world of the present (and probably the future). With this in mind, a lot of people have fundamental misunderstandings about stress management and productivity that should be corrected before they lead to full burnout. Danielle Robertson Rath has used her nearly 20 years of experience researching caffeine and energy drinks to give stress management advice to people as the GreenEyedGuide. Penny Zenker gets down to brass tacks with Danielle to discuss some important misconceptions that people carry to this day about productivity and stress management. If you feel like you’re slowly careening towards burnout territory, this discussion is definitely for you.

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Manage Being Fatigued And Overwhelmed With Danielle Rath

On this show, I search far and wide to find great people to talk to you about topics around productivity, how you can be your best self and this is no exception. I have Danielle Robertson Rath with me and she is going to help you to stay more focused and to beat fatigue. That’s an important topic for us to talk about. She has the GreenEyedGuide. She has years of experience researching caffeine and energy drinks plus several years of experience in risk management across multiple industries, including the food and beverage supplements, manufacturing and IT consulting. She’s got a broad base there. At GreenEyedGuide Research and Consulting, that’s GEG, she said, “We serve people who work long, unusual and unpredicted hours. We help companies where fatigue and caffeine use are the norms. Through our workshops and consulting, we teach people what to drink and how to think for every level of fatigue. This ensures that when fatigue does happen, it’s less likely to hurt the employee or who they serve.” That’s an important topic. Welcome, Danielle.

Thank you for having me.

Tell me why fatigue? Did you have a lot of people end up doing something because they had experienced themselves? What’s your story?

What I do was shaped by my own experiences. As one of my friends says, “Be the person you needed five years ago.” That’s what I’m doing with my business. When I first started college, that’s right when energy drinks came along, they were brand new and people had all these questions about them. Energy drinks are controversial now, but you can imagine how controversial they were back in 2003 when they were brand new. I was studying biochemistry and food science at the time in college. I was also juggling two part-time jobs to help me pay for college. I started studying energy drinks and trying to understand how caffeine affects the body and how these other ingredients in these drinks affect the body and what they do.

A lot of what people were saying at the time about these controversial drinks seemed very black and white. Like, “One Red Bull is going to kill you,” and “These drinks are poisoned.” I wouldn’t recommend these drinks. They’re not the healthiest things. For me at the time, Starbucks wasn’t around. It certainly wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t on every corner. I needed something an energy drink to help me juggle my full-time load of classes and also my two part-time jobs. I was learning at the time some of the things that people said about these caffeinated beverages was an over-exaggeration of the science. Back in 2003, I decided I wanted to be the real voice for people like me that knew that energy drinks weren’t the best option but needed it to get through a rough period in their life or certain occupations where having a fresh cup of coffee wasn’t feasible.

As I grew as a professional, I got my Master’s degree. My first book was called Are You a Monster or a Rock Star? A Guide to Energy Drinks. I published that in 2013 and since then my business has evolved to focus not only on energy drinks, not only caffeine but on fatigue in the workplace. That’s what I’m excited to be working on now. There are certain occupations like first responders, nurses, emergency department staff, third shift workers that for them the advice about sleep hygiene or drinking more water, getting more sleep is not realistic for their situation in life or their occupation.

Through my business and feeling what I see as a gap for these certain occupations where I’m trying to use my science background to help them understand how to minimize side effects from too much caffeine. I’m also addressing the other ways that you can minimize the impact of fatigue. You’ll never beat fatigue in the workplace. In my workshops, I can teach them how to manage the impact of it so their employees are less likely to get hurt. All of that is trying to help people that are like me that are trying to get things done when they’re sleep-deprived and overwhelmed.

Energy drinks are controversial now, but even more so in the early 2000s. Click To Tweet

I’ve got a thousand of questions now. The first thing is you said you studied energy drinks, but you talked a lot about caffeine. Is all caffeine created equal? There are energy drinks, there’s coffee, tea, chocolate. Tell us about good caffeine and bad caffeine.

There are two important things to remember here. The first thing is that when it gets into your body, caffeine is caffeine. It doesn’t matter if it came from a pill, from a cup of coffee, from a tea leaf or an energy drink. Caffeine is going to affect you the same way.

That’s interesting because there are a lot of things that say, “Tea is better for you,” and the type of caffeine. What you’re saying makes sense. It gets in the body and caffeine is caffeine. That’s an important thing for everybody to keep in mind.

It’s so important for parents if you’re concerned about your kids having Red Bull, there are so many energy drinks in disguise, things that don’t look like energy drinks that have as much caffeine as a Red Bull or more. They might have this halo effect because maybe it’s a drink made by Starbucks. It’s as important for parents to talk to their kids about caffeine as a whole as opposed to specific types of caffeine. It’s for that reason. The second thing that I mentioned that’s important to remember is that where caffeine comes from usually provides other benefits, not because of the caffeine. The molecule of caffeine, it’s going to affect you the same way, but what else is in the drink? For example, if you’re getting a cup of coffee, you’re getting the caffeine, which is going to affect you the same way, but you’re also getting the antioxidants in the cup of coffee, chlorogenic acid. There are other things, other ingredients in that cup that you can benefit from that you wouldn’t get if you’re getting your caffeine from a soda or a pre-workout supplement. It is important to look at the big picture of what else you’re getting.

In a way, the delivery mechanism makes some caffeine a little bit better than others.

There are other benefits to the delivery mechanism. Too much caffeine is too much caffeine, whether it comes from coffee or energy drinks.

Let’s talk about that. What is too much? I don’t know if other people experienced this, but my body tells me like, I know that I can have two cups of coffee and that works for me. If I have three or more, I start to get tired. I don’t know if that makes any sense. It also wakes me up but I’m tired. I know and I only have two. Tell us about what’s the right and the best amount of caffeine to have its effect but not the negative effects.

TBT 107 | Stress Management

Stress Management: Over the years, you learn that the things that people all over have said about caffeinated beverages are an over-exaggeration of the science.

 

Let me address this question in four parts. Everyone has different caffeine sensitivity. That’s your genetic disposition. That doesn’t change. You’re born with the enzymes that you’re born with and that’s going to be your sensitivity. Some people have a genetic ability to process caffeine super-fast. They can have six cups of coffee and you’re fine. That’s the way their body handles it. There are people like my husband that can have a cup of tea and he gets all jittery. Sensitivity is different from tolerance. Tolerance is something that changes over time. If you have three cups of coffee every single day, you’re building your tolerance and you might need more caffeine to feel the same level of alertness. In terms of recommended limits, people under eighteen are not advised to exceed 100 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about one Red Bull or one cup of coffee. One standard eight-ounce cup of coffee is 100 milligrams. That’s how much miners can have in one day.

For healthy adults, it’s 400 milligrams or four cups of coffee. For women who are pregnant or nursing, it’s 200 milligrams and these two cups of coffee are also magical because of something that you said, which is if you have a certain amount, you feel more tired than more awake, which doesn’t make sense. There’s this curve that I like, which is magical, called the Yerkes-Dodson Law. They found with sleep-deprived truck drivers and Air Force pilots, there is this sweet spot, this peak in this curve where they performed better with less caffeine. Once you exceed that sweet spot, that peak in that curve, you’re either overstimulated or you’re so anxious that you perform worse. In your case, it sounds once you go past that peak, you get sleepy because your body is reacting to all the caffeine molecules. You can have 400 milligrams in a day, but try and have two cups of coffee or 200 milligrams at a time because that’s where you find that sweet spot, that peak in that curve for most people.

Now, I understand. I have sensitivity and I have the Yerkes curve.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law. I often call it the Barks-Doggie Law, because I’m a huge dog lover. If you’re bored or if you’re depressed, one cute little doggy might come along and make you feel awake. It’s like, “It’s so cute.” If you’re surrounded by 30 yapping dogs, that’s too much. It’s the Barks-Doggie Law or it’s the Yerkes-Dodson Law.

That’s easier to remember. That’s good to know. There is an optimal level and it’s proven by science. There’s an optimal level that’s going to support you. After that, it’s not doing as much value. I heard you say that we’re reaching outside. We need to get you through that difficult time or truck drivers and early response and people who have odd hours. It’s not realistic for them to rely on drinking water. They need an extra outside source. What about exercise? Do we need to go to caffeine or if we took regular breaks and did four jumping jacks or something, would we get the same level of an energy boost? Is there something else outside of caffeine that can give us that same or better level of energy?

I firmly believe that being more tired, more caffeine isn’t always the option. In fact, in the workshops that I do through GreenEyedGuide, what I do is I teach people that there are five levels of fatigue. For each level, there is a caffeine recommendation. You want to save the stronger energy drinks for when you’re more fatigued. There’s a certain point at which no amount of caffeine will save you. You need to sleep.

What’s wrong with the little nap? For the readers, because it’s all about also remembering the storytelling, connecting to your own life. I used to get tired when I’d be driving. I drive back and forth. I used to live in New York and my family is in Philadelphia and it’s not that far, but I would get tired. My solution was I pulled over to a rest stop and I slept for fifteen minutes and then I get back on the road and it feels so much better. I knew that I was alert and ready to go. I want people to realize that I get it. Taking a little nap at work might not be the option, but I know that my boyfriend for lunch, he goes out to his car and he’ll take a nap in his car over lunch and take 15 minutes or 20 minutes in addition to going out and having his lunch. There’s an option there.

Even if you have 20 things to do, you can only focus on one thing. Click To Tweet

As part of my five levels of fatigue, what I teach people in my workshops is that for every level, there’s a caffeine recommendation but more importantly, there is something that you can do that doesn’t involve caffeine. For example, jumping jacks, walking back and forth to the bathroom, to the drinking fountain. That might be suitable for fatigue level one when you’re drowsy because you’re bored or you’re dehydrated because you haven’t had enough water. There’s a certain level in which you are feeling tired, but you shouldn’t have any caffeine. You should do physical exercise. You should get up and move around. If you’re bored because you’re doing a boring task, you should use the Pomodoro technique.

You break up your long, boring tasks into shorter chunks. That’s a great way without involving caffeine for you to feel more focused and more alert. As you get higher in the fatigue levels, there’s a certain point. In grad school, I lived a fatigue level 3 and 4. I would try jumping jacks, I would try climbing stairs and it wasn’t enough. I felt my body was made of sand. There are other things you can do. For fatigue level four, this is level 4 or 5. You’re close to your burnout. You need to delegate something. You need to take something off your list, you need to ease up at that level. That’s something that you can do without caffeine.

For example, when my son was a newborn, I have a high caffeine tolerance, but I was trying to be the superhero mom. I was trying to do everything. I was trying to read emails and do dishes and breast pump. It was all these things. I was losing my mind. I was about to lash out, it’s like, “I’m at fatigue level four. I need to focus on one thing at a time. I feel I’ve got twenty things to do. I feel everyone’s depending on me and I don’t want to let anyone down. If I don’t take one thing off my to-do list right now, I’m going to lose it.” There are several things that you can do for every level of fatigue that will help you to calm down, to feel more alert.

I do that. I want to stop there because it’s not the fatigue for that. It’s also overwhelming. I have a practice where I do that. If I start to feel a little overwhelmed or tired to that level, I’ll step back and I’ll look at what I have to do and I’ll start to de-commit to things. I’ll say, “I’m taking that off my schedule.” If it’s not an absolute must, I’m removing it so that I can focus on what’s next. That’s valuable for people who are reading. It’s to delegate and to remove things. If they’re not urgent, a lot of times we’re putting the pressure on ourselves. We get to say, “That gets done tomorrow,” or “That’ll go on the next week’s list.”

That’s so important too because a lot of people either advise caffeine or sleep to fight fatigue. Even people who are well-rested or fully caffeinated can feel mentally overwhelmed or physically exhausted. Sleep and caffeine can’t cure fatigue 100% of the time. You need these other strategies that don’t involve caffeine. Napping in your car may or may not be an option, but there are things you can do to help yourself to not feel so burned out.

Is there anything else that you feel that people need to be aware of to better manage their fatigue as well as their magnitude of what they’ve got to do?

Yes. There are two tips I would recommend for everyone. One is making a habit of always checking in on yourself. Having that mindfulness to say, “Where am I on a scale of zero to five?” Zero being perfectly amazing and wonderful, awake and alert, five being a walking zombie. Where am I? Even if you do nothing about it, knowing how tired you are or how overwhelmed you are can sometimes make a difference. If you know you’re exhausted or you’re overwhelmed, then maybe you should take a few seconds before you say something out loud. Having that mindfulness can help you. That’s the biggest thing. The second thing is, if you are someone who consumes caffeine 100% of the time, you should A, drink water first and B, know how much caffeine is in the thing that you’re about to drink. It may not be so easy to find that number if you’re drinking coffee or tea because that number isn’t always on the label or the menu board. It’s so important for that Yerkes-Dodson Law, that Barks-Doggie Law that we talked about. You have to know your numbers because then you can adapt based on how tired you are on a scale of one to five or based on how that much caffeine is making your body feel. That’s so important.

TBT 107 | Stress Management

Stress Management: A valuable skill for people managing their time is learning to delegate, especially if they’re not urgent.

 

That’s something you put in some of your documentation. We push past it. We ignore how we feel or what we recognize in our bodies. It’s so important with that check-in to be able to recognize what’s working and what’s not working and where we are. I do this as well. I have people put things on a scale because they’re typically not things that we can measure. By simply putting it on a scale, 0 to 5 or 0 to 10 and check-in where you are, it gives you that mental note. When you have to give a number to it, I find that psychologically it makes you think about it more and in a way that makes you own it versus saying this is how I feel. It gives you that piece to own where you are.

This is key for anyone that’s trying to improve their time management or their productivity. With these check-ins, you will start to learn when you can push yourself further and get more done versus when you’re headed to a burnout. It’s for the long-term benefits of your productivity to know how much you can handle.

What about organizations? That’s the individual. Let’s have a tip for an organization of what they can do to help their employee base. A lot of people will push responsibility on somebody else and say, “These are the hours that are imposed upon me,” or “These are the pressures that I have and I can’t delegate or take anything off my plate.” What can the organization do?

There are two things an organization should do. One is to stop punishing people for admitting that they’re overwhelmed or tired. If your employees have a greater incentive to hide that they’re feeling overwhelmed or that they’re about to fall asleep on the job, your company is going to suffer. They’re more likely to make a mistake, which is going to cost you money either in workers’ comp or in a lawsuit if, heaven forbid, your employees mess something up which hurts your customers. You need to weigh the cost benefits of asking your employees to push past something versus having a safe space to confess when they need a five-minute break to get some sleep or something. Have that be acceptable.

I want to comment on that because some companies say, “We’re doing that. We’re putting in this lounge space and we are allowing people to take naps in these cubes,” or whatever. Interestingly enough, I was at a company that had all of those things in place, but they still had the mentality that if people were using them that they were wasting their time, that they weren’t being productive. It’s got to change in the culture. It’s not about that there’s a room for taking a nap or for relaxing, but it has to be part of the culture where it’s accepted.

You don’t want the person that’s spotted coming out of that room to feel they have a scarlet letter on their chest. That brings me to the other thing that’s so important for companies to realize. If you get up at 5:00 and go to sleep at 10:00, that’s seventeen hours. If your employees are awake for seventeen hours, their performance is affected as much as one alcoholic drink. If you’re asking them to stay late, work around the clock or if they’re doing work for your company at that seventeen hours, if it’s okay for them to have a drink of alcohol, okay. If it’s not okay for them, then you need to weigh that. If it wouldn’t be okay for them to drink, it shouldn’t be okay for them to be awake that long. There are some companies like, “If you had a drink last night, don’t come into work.” The post office does this. Their employees aren’t allowed to come in if they’re on call if they’ve had an alcoholic beverage, but being awake for 24 hours straight, that’s fine. It affects your brain the same. We need to treat being awake that long with the same risk and caution as we would if someone had been drinking. It will hurt your employees, your company, your company’s bottom line and your liability the same way.

They need to be conscious of and taking action around this topic of fatigue. I always say that we won’t sleep when we’re dead.

Make a habit of always checking in on yourself. Click To Tweet

I’ll give one more story to emphasize this. I work with a lot of first responders and a lot of volunteer firemen. Some of them were telling me that they’re volunteer firemen, but they have a real job and their boss doesn’t make any exceptions. If they’re fighting a fire all throughout the night, they’re still expected to show up to work at 9:00 AM. The problem is if you have an employee that’s been awake for that long and you’re that strict about them showing up at 9:00 AM, if they make a mistake, you’re the one that’s going to pay for worker’s comp. They were doing this thing on their job, now you’ve shifted the liability to themselves. It would be much easier for employers to say, “I know you’ve got this side gig thing going on. Why don’t you come in an hour later, maybe two hours later? I will miss you at work and maybe things have to get shifted around, but that’s going to save my company and that’s going to make you more likely to keep working for me versus quitting or getting hurt.” You have to weigh the costs and the benefits that way.

Flexibility and leadership is what I’m hearing. It doesn’t work that that inflexible leadership or the dictatorship that may have been a part of a previous generation or decade or whatever. We see the effects of more accidents happening. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom here. I know you’ve got a new book. Tell us about the book and where they can find out and how they can get a copy.

If you go to eBook.5LevelsOfFatigue.com, you can learn all about my book, which is going to be live on Amazon March 23rd. This book is about getting stuff done when you like to feel crap. I’m not swearing. Those are some of the words in the title, but essentially the title is, how to get stuff done when you feel crap. This is exactly for the audience that I was talking about. The people that are sleep deprived or mentally overwhelmed but still have a job to do, whether that’s a real job or a side job or parenthood. This book walks through the five levels of fatigue. The caffeine side, as well as what we talked about. When do you delegate, when do you take a nap? It provides all of that information and all of the science behind it. I’ve got all the science sectioned off. If you’re not a science person, it’s very clear what you can skip and I give you permission to skip that science piece.

There’s the geek session section and there’s the other section.

It’s in a little box and I give you permission to skip the box.

It’s good that it’s sectioned off so that you can read it or not read it and for different personality types. That’s fantastic. I’m excited about the book. It’s so valuable for people to focus on where they are in terms of this area of fatigue and overwhelm. It seems it’s a bigger issue now than ever before. Is that true? Is it a bigger issue or have we pushed past and it’s become more chronic?

That’s a complicated question. I think it is a bigger issue now because employers have some harder expectations. It takes a lot more to keep up with the market these days. There are a lot more companies that have 24/7 operations in the digital world. I do think there are legitimately more expectations and higher expectations. You also have a workforce of Millennials that watched their parents work their butts off and then either get phased out because they were too old or retire for nothing. You have a lot of people like me that are like, “I’m not going to burn my soul out at this job because I’m just a body to you. I’m not a human being.” It’s twofold. It’s a mentality, but there are also higher expectations.

TBT 107 | Stress Management

Stress Management: With check-ins, you will start to learn when you can push yourself further versus when you’re headed for burnout.

 

That’s a good thing. If there’s a new generation that says, “No, not me,” and is more focused on finding that balance and the purpose, but I’m not sure that they’re not burning themselves out in a different way.

You do need to take some personal responsibility. It’s a mixture of things.

Thank you so much. I’m sure we could talk on and on, but we’ll let people get your book and find out more information about you. If there’s anything else that you want to share, please do that.

Anyone can find me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and my websites. They’re all GreenEyedGuide. If you want to learn more about my workshops, you can go to 5LevelsOfFatigue.com and you can learn all about the book and sign up for alerts so you can be the first to know when it goes live. That’s eBook.5LevelsOfFatigue.com.

Danielle, thank you so much.

For those of you who are reading, pay attention and do that check-in exercise right now. Where are you on a scale from 0 to 5 in terms of fatigue and being aware? Identifying what’s going to be some good strategies for you so that when you realize that you hit a certain level in these five levels of fatigue that you’re able to come back from and lower your level of fatigue. It’s about energy management and managing fatigue is one of those areas. That is what’s going to make you more productive.

Important Links:

About Danielle Rath

TBT 107 | Stress ManagementDanielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”) has nearly 20 years experience researching caffeine and energy drinks, plus 10 years experience in Risk Management across multiple industries including Food/Bev, Supplements, Manufacturing, and IT Consulting.

At GreenEyedGuide Research and Consulting (GEG), we serve people who work long, unusual, or unpredictable hours. We help companies where fatigue and caffeine use are the norm. Through our workshops and consulting, we teach people what to drink and how to think for every Level of Fatigue. This ensures that when fatigue does happen, it’s less likely to hurt the employee or those they serve.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

Creating True Work-Life Alignment With Lisa Danforth

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

Do you feel distant from your business or work? Do you find yourself unmotivated and longing for a goal that seems unreachable from where you currently are? If you answer yes, then this episode will help you gain clarity about the choices you’re making. Penny Zenker interviews business strategist, coach, and speaker, Lisa Danforth to share with us the tips, tools, and tricks that are going to get us in a place to be able to think and act more strategically. At the heart of it is learning how to create a true work-life alignment or balance and fulfillment for ourselves. Lisa examines the choices we make that keep us from living the life we truly want, questioning whether or not we need to pivot and/or change our mindset. There is so much wisdom that Lisa shares with us on this conversation, so don’t miss out!

Listen to the podcast here:

Creating True Work-Life Alignment With Lisa Danforth

On this show, we are looking for tips, tools and tricks that are going to get you in a place to be able to think and act more strategically. I’m excited to have Lisa Danforth with me. On paper, she’s a business strategist, coach and speaker, but for real, she helps women, business owners and leaders. If you’re not a woman, she can still help you to identify and create the boundaries that build a bridge to creating a true work-life alignment, also known as balance and fulfillment. That’s what we’re going to talk about. Over many years, she founded and operated two catering companies, so she knows what it is to run a business and to manage that work-life balance. It was called The Wooden Spoon and Hot Betty BBQ, a professional cleaning company as well, and an international wholesale children’s wear company, which she sold for over 35 times her initial opening investment. For the last years, she’s been a business strategist. You can see why Lisa’s got some tips that are going to help you. Lisa, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I can share the tips that work and don’t work, so either.

That’s the benefit of running all those businesses is you know what works and what doesn’t work. What’s the biggest lesson that you learned from building those businesses and selling them?

There are many different things. What it boils down to, it sounds simple but it’s not always easy, is be yourself and be authentic. When we’re trying to fit in and we’re trying to do those things that aren’t in alignment with who we are, we’re constantly struggling. Whether it’s creating a new business, bringing on a team, all the relationships that we need to have within our businesses, we need to be authentic so that we are belonging. As Brené Brown says, “The greatest barrier to belonging is trying to fit in.” People can sense that and then we’re always out of alignment and there’s an incongruency that makes us struggle with every single day.

When you’re building a business to be the best leader you can be is to be authentic. That means to admit mistakes and admit you don’t know everything.

Also, admit when you need to pivot. That’s a big thing. For me, I’ve had five different businesses and when I’ve reached the point where it’s taking more than it’s giving me the fulfillment and the joy is no longer there, even if it’s financially successful to be authentic and this is no longer where I want to be, instead of being defined by what I was a cater for years. I can’t tell you how many people said to me, “You can’t quit catering because you’re the best.” I was like, “Watch me.” It was hard because I had allowed it to define me as well. That’s why I stuck with it longer. When we are authentic with who we need, we want to be, and where we want to go is when we can set the boundaries. It creates the action steps and the productivity that we need to get where it is that we want to be moving.

When we're trying to fit in and do things that aren't in alignment with who we are, we constantly struggle. Click To Tweet

There might be a lot of people on this show too who are in the process of building their business. Sometimes in the building, there isn’t the joy. Does that mean it’s time to pivot? When you’re building your business, how do you create that alignment and still be moving your business forward? You’d like to pivot, but it’s not in the cards for you to pivot at that time. How do you continue on but still be authentic to yourself and still be creating that alignment or come to that word balance? That’s what people have in their head that there needs to be this balance.

We should always have joy. If the business that you’re starting is not bringing you joy at any level, that’s when we need to stop and look at, “Why is it that I’m doing this?” The clarity that we’re needing so that we can in our bigger why, if you’ve read any of Simon Sinek’s work, we have a bigger why so that we know why we’re saying yes to the things which are essentially adding more work to our plate at the moment so our balance is off, but the alignment is still there. We know where we want to head, so maybe we are working 10 to12 hour days, but we’re consistent in where it is that we’re headed in aligning our choices.

If we look at the balance, “I’m working 12 hours a day. This is horrible.” When we’re clear on our vision of where we want to head and who we need to be to get there is we can connect to the joy. I remember staying up late, 10:00 to 11:00 on some catering nights, doing dishes. I had joy because I knew I was building my business even though I’d probably work at 12 to 15-hour day. I knew that I wanted or needed to do that to get to the level that I wanted to get to. I could have pivoted, but having that clarity about where you want to go and why you want to get there is going to allow you to make the choices that are aligned with creating the balance that works for you.

Here’s what I’m understanding and I love what you’re saying is that a lot of people out there are seeing the word balance as the number of hours worked. That means, “I’m working as many hours that I don’t have the time to work out or I may be sacrificing something else.” What I hear you say is stop chasing and putting judgments on that. It’s about the number of hours worked and that’s what it is about aligning those choices. When your choices are aligned, you’re going to feel more balanced and you can find that joy.

When we are out of balance, it’s easy to stay perpetually out of balance. Imagine yourself leaning back and someone putting one little finger on you. You were perpetually off-balance. When we’re seeking balance, it’s like, “I’m working 8 to 10 hours a day and seven days a week.” We need to get super clear on what it is that we’re working towards. We’re creating the gap where we’re sitting in where we are and we’re looking at where we want to be, which is maybe sipping Mai Tai’s on a beach in a year and thinking, “The things that I need to do to get there is going to be astronomical.” We’re focusing on the gap rather than a goal to get to a place to come from and not get to. When we can sit in the energy of being the person creating an identity-based goal of who we need to be. Sitting in the joy of that success, we can feel the success. We’re not waiting for success to come to us. We all know that when we finally achieve that goal, it moves.

When we’re able to do that, we can make those choices that are aligned with where we want to go, as opposed to highlighting that gap and thinking, coming from a place of lack, “I need to do this. I’ve got to add this program. I need to bring these networking events in.” All of these different things because we’re focusing on the gap. That’s where the balance is and it gets completely out of whack. When we come from the goal feeling, “Who would I be in this moment? What is the choice that I would make as a woman who was making $250,000 a year?” Of these different achievements that we’re looking for, our choices are different when we’re sitting in that success, rather than focusing on the gap and we’re out of balance.

I talk about focus all the time and where your focus is going to dictate the quality of your choices. It’s going to dictate the quality of your experience. If you’re focused on scarcity and the gap, then you’re going to bring more stress to your life. What you’re going to experience and what you’re going to get as results are completely different than if you’re focused on, what it is you’re looking to achieve and why that’s important and all of those things.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: When we are authentic with who we need, who we want to be, and where we want to go, then we can set the boundaries.

 

When we’re sitting in that stress of needing to do more and adding more to our plate and throwing us even further out of alignment, it’s virtually impossible to think about the future because you’re trying to survive. “My life is out of balance.” It’s this perpetual, we’re making choices from where we’ve been rather than where we want to be. It completely keeps going to repeat itself over and over again. When we are hijacked by stress, when our amygdala doesn’t know whether it’s the email or the saber-toothed tiger, we’re making choices from a place of stress. That’s never a time to be creative. That’s never a time to be making those choices and it’s impossible to look towards the future. We are looking, “Where’s the exit? Where can I go?” It’s caveman days.

We’re in our reptilian brain, that fight, flight or freeze mode. We hear that it’s about work-life alignment because balance is BS. I understand that you have some tips. Now that I get that, I think some people can see it differently. I’ve been looking and searching and fighting for balance. You’re never going to find it because it doesn’t exist in the way that people are looking for it. I understand that my focus is on alignment. Three things can help people to find that alignment, find joy, and be in a better place in their life. Let’s talk about that.

The top one is slowing down to gain clarity. The sad thing is many people that I speak with, work with, and talk to because I love getting out and speaking is, “I don’t have the luxury to slow down.” My thing is that’s like going down the highway at 150 miles an hour saying, “I don’t have time to stop for gas. I’ll be at AAA.” It’s slowing down in order to speed up. It’s like archery. After we need to step back, aim to catapult forward and hit our target. We need to slow down and be able to gain that clarity of where it is that we want to go and who it is that we want to be, we need to be to get there. It’s not a luxury. How do you determine what your goals are? How do you determine how to prioritize your actions so that you can be productive? Gary Keller asks, “Why do we have goals?” Everyone’s like, “To make money,” whatever it might be.

His thing is that a goal is to be appropriate at the moment so that we can make appropriate choices, which I love. To be appropriate is to move us closer to the success that we seek. I want to say success, according to what success is to you, not what others want, need, or demand from you. To be appropriate, we need to know where we’re headed. Creating a business is no different than driving from Vermont down to Texas. I’m going to take my GPS and I need to know where I’m at. I need to know where I’m going so that I can create a map. Clarity is how you’re going to get it. Slow down and take some time to figure it out. There’s a ton of tools on gaining clarity. I’m certainly happy to answer any questions about that.

Let’s share a quick tool because I think they get that. There are those excuses that come up that say, “I can’t slow down. I can’t gain clarity or where I think I have clarity.” I’m 100% in agreement. Clarity is critical. People think about it that’s why planning is clarity. It’s a part of that process. Connecting with the why every day about why you do things is helping you to get clarity. Those are tools too, but what’s the tool that you recommend most to help people to put that into action?

I’ve got to say everyone is different. One thing that I can say can make someone spill it and other ones are like, “I don’t know.” One of the things that I love to do is when I’m sitting down with a client and we’re mapping, one of the first things that I do is I sit down and say, “We’ve had our time together. We’ve been coaching, and then you’ll give me a call three years from now and I answer the phone.” You’re like, “Lisa, you wouldn’t believe what the last three years have been like.” Sitting down and imagining where you would like to be in three years. It’s even a year at the end of 2020 and sometimes it is hard to envision it out too far, but to talk about literally out loud.

I love using my app on my phone. My notes can record and transcribe. It’ll have it all down then I can send it to my email, but I’ll sit there and talk through, “In three years, I can’t believe it. I thought all I wanted to be making was this, the clients or the impact. This is what I’m doing. This is where I am.” Talking it through and connecting to it, emotionally. We do things because of our emotions and because of our feelings. We can be thinking we need to do something, but it’s the emotion that compels us into action. Talk it through to play around with it and see what connects. You’ll see there are certain things. You’re going to start going down this path and talking about it and you’re going to get excited.

Authenticity creates the action steps and the productivity that we need to get where it is that we want to be moving. Click To Tweet

What comes up is not necessarily what you thought. That’s your assignment to help you to gain greater clarity. Whether you think you have it or not, whether you have goals written down or not, this can help you with the process and it can further deepen the process is do that. Turn on your phone onto a record and pretend like you’re talking to a friend that you haven’t seen for a year. Tell them about all that you’ve achieved, how excited you are about it, how you got there, why it was important and what’s different in your life. That is a great exercise and I’m excited to hear back from people. Hopefully, they’ll let us know what that did for them.

To add to that quickly, then turn that up a notch. What would it look like 25% more? Play around with it. We get into action because of our thoughts. We need to be thinking about what it is that we want to do. Don’t get focused on the, “How am I going to do it?” That’s not going to stop it right there, play. The second tip that I truly recommend is looking at your identity and looking at your self-image. We will not do anything inconsistent with who we believe ourselves to be. I like to say, we all know someone around us, whether it’s a friend, a colleague or a family member that’s not living up to their full or true potential because of their belief about themselves. Same thing as for us. We don’t see it quite as well. Looking at what is our self-image because our image defines our actions of what we’ll do or what we’ve simply won’t do. We might start doing something, but we create this goal and we might do 1 or 2 actions to move towards it, but then we fall back.

We sabotage when we stop because we don’t see ourselves in that place. “I’m not a million-dollar earner.” We don’t think about it. It’s unconscious, but we unconsciously sabotage ourselves.

Once we’ve set this goal and we don’t follow through with the habits that we want to follow through on, then we lose belief in ourselves and then we stop. One thing to say, “I’m a person who wants.” Another thing for a person to say, “I am this because we live into who we believe we are.” Those habits, you need to start slowly and small to create the habits for the identity that you are moving towards.

As it relates to work-life alignment, that can go across various aspects of that identity. You’re speaking my language. I love this stuff. Let’s help people understand. What is it that’s going to be that action for them to get more into their work-life alignment with that identity and with those habits?

After we put things on our plate, we feel, “I should be good at this. I should be good at that. I should add this. I should want this.” We don’t look at what our identity is. Our identity creates our habits, and our habits define our identity, our self-image. One of the things to look at is, what are 1 or 2 habits that you could implement that would lay the foundation for that image, that identity that you want and need to be that person that you want to be? This comes back to a goal is a place to come from, not get to. As a healthy person, my choice would be the salad and not the pizza. As a person who is looking to increase my sales by 50% is going to be picking up the phone and making those sales calls and not watching cat videos on Facebook.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: Our identity creates our habits, and our habits define our identity, our self-image.

 

The more that we do that and the more that we cast the votes towards that identity, we’re creating the habits that allow us to define what does alignment looks like to us. The aligned action for where we’re headed is choosing to pick up the phone. The aligned action is, “I don’t want to go to the networking event, but this is who I am and this is the goal that I want. I’m going to go and do it. I may only walk in and stay for five minutes, but I’m going to get myself there.” Once you’re there, you’re probably going to stay for longer. There are many different avenues. Get the ball rolling so that you’re aligning your actions to the goals so that you can be appropriate and step forward in aligning your actions with who you want and need to be.

I love talking about identity, but for some people it’s like, “That’s too heavy. That’s too deep. That’s too much.” I like what you said about bringing down into what it is aligning our choices. The goals that we set and our choices. It’s the actions that we’re taking those habits. When we take actions that are going to align with what’s important to us, our health and doing the thing that’s right for us versus the easiest thing. The problem is we default to what’s easy.

Even if it’s not creating the success we want.

That makes the connection for people to understand that’s how we reinforce the identity that we want to be at that level of reaching that goal that we might not be fully stepping into that, but that’s how we do that is through our actions and our choices.

We’re aligning it. How many of us have said, “I’m horrible at the time, at productivity, at math, at writing?” Therefore, we live our thoughts at the beginning of an action that directly impacts the outcome of the activity and the action that we’re about to take. We are looking at what is my belief? Do I believe I’m horrible at writing? If I know I need to do it, then what are the skillsets that I need to get myself more adept at it and then aligning my actions to where I want to go.

What I love is there’s the tool. Let’s use that as the tool for everybody is what’s the thought that happens before you take action. Is it empowering you to take and make the right choice and the best choice? Is it giving you the easiest direction? One of the things that I might suggest here is I had a client do this where he has a jar and he puts money in the jar every time. It’s a disempowering thought. That way, he can see what it costs him. You’ll see in terms of your results, but it’s fun to see it as the jar piles up for you to be able to see in terms of money and what it costs you.

That’s fun to say it out loud. It’s helpful to say it out loud. “I’m not going to go to the networking event because I don’t feel like it. I’m going to sit on the sofa and have some popcorn and watch a movie.”

We need to slow down to be able to gain clarity of where it is that we want to go and who it is that we want to be. Click To Tweet

That’s a good one. How does that make you feel?

That will make you uncomfortable. It makes you look in the mirror when you say it out loud. This is where we get tripped up. It’s simple, the look can kill you, why do we smile? It’s not easy. That’s where we get tripped up and that’s where we need to shift our identity and how we’re showing up and aligning our actions.

The interesting thing about those choices is that when we make the choices that are good for us, we feel good afterward. This is a way to know if you’re not making good choices. We feel bad after we make an easy choice, but doesn’t get us the result we want. We beat ourselves up and then we do it again.

We keep doing the things that we don’t want to do and we keep getting the results that we don’t want to get. We can’t figure out what’s going on. Our brain releases a chemical when we check something off from our to-do list. Have you ever written something on your to-do list after you’ve done it to check it off?

I haven’t, but I know people who do that.

It releases a chemical in the brain that makes us want to do more. It’s putting on your sneakers to go out for a walk and saying, “I’m going to do two minutes,” but feeling that dopamine and you’re like, “I’m going to do half an hour.”

What’s the third thing? Let people know where they can talk to you further.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: Those of us who don’t have the structure in our lives are constantly short on time, on money, and the emotional feeling of success.

 

The third thing is taking your clarity and understanding of what your choices are or time chunking. What I like to do is either Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, I’ll sit down and I will time chunk out. I color code and time chunk out my weeks on my Google calendar. I’m working on my CRM or Customer Relationship Management. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days that I’m working with my clients. Mondays and Fridays are admin, all of these different things. When I know where I want to go, then I gained clarity on the action steps that I need to have. I make sure that the color coding and time chunks how you want to do it in my calendar are aligned to the prioritization of the actions that I need to take.

Often, the urgent gets put to the front burner and the important gets put on the back. When we have clarity and we can look at our calendar and say, “I’m not working on that,” It allows us to say no to adding more to our plate so that we know that the actions that we’re taking are moving us closer to our goal. I keep a little scratch pad beside my computer when either an idea pops up or I need to reply to an email. I take it out of my head and I pop it down. If there’s the time at the end of the day or the end of the week, then I will go through and do it. I’m prioritizing my actions to achieve what we want. I don’t know about you, but a lot of the people that I work with are entrepreneurs. We tend to be somewhat creative. They’re like, “I don’t like structure.” My thing is structure equals freedom. How many people do you know that have the structures in their lives and they have the freedom to do the things that they want to do? Those of us who don’t have the structure in our lives, we’re constantly short on time, on money and the emotional feeling of success. Take some time, slow down, fill up your gas tank, gain clarity, figure out what the prioritization is that you need to do, what you need to do to be appropriate at that moment and time chunk it out.

I feel like I’m listening to myself. I’m smiling because we use a lot of similar phrases, but that goes to show you the best practices. They don’t need to be created here. It doesn’t have to be something new. These things work. This is good stuff. Thank you for sharing your wisdom in such an inspiring way. Tell people where they can reach you.

You can go to my website, LisaDanforth.com or LinkedIn is where I do most of my social media, @LisaDanforth. I like to keep things nice and simple. If you want to email me, it’s Lisa@LisaDanforth.com.

People are always looking for some tools and some things that may support them, electronically or by paper. What are your top two tools that you can’t live without?

My top one is my CRM, my Customer Relationship Management tool. What I love about that is it helps me to look good, to be honest with you. When I meet people, whether it’s out networking or maybe I’ve met with someone who said, “I would love to meet with you, but we’re selling our house. I can’t even think about it until June.” I go home, I write down all of the details of the conversation. I answer all the contact information into my CRM and then create a task to follow back up. I’ve taken all of the information out of my head. I’ve plopped it into my notes so when it’s time to pick up the phone, instead of, “Who was that I was supposed to get back with in June? I can’t remember.” I got all of the information. Maybe she was moving to Southern Vermont, but she was traveling to France, in between and whatnot. I can come back in and I’m picking up the conversation and I’ve had all that information right at my fingertips. It may sound awful, but I haven’t thought about it well much for months. What I did do was set myself up for success so that I can serve her at the level that she needs to be served by utilizing my CRM.

A goal is to be appropriate at the moment so that we can make appropriate choices. Click To Tweet

You have that reminder because you already put that task in to remind you in three months that you need to make that call. What tool is it that you use for CRM?

I use Pipedrive. It’s $15 a month. Less Annoying CRM or LACRM is another one. I don’t like it quite as much because it’s not as visual, which for me, it is more compelling and that’s $10 a month. If you want the crème de la crème, Nimble is the one that connects all of the social media and all that.

There are many great tools. I use HubSpot. It’s free and it also provides me with a lot of integration with other tools and things. There’s a ton of different tools out there. The key is I wanted people to know what you’re using, why you’re using it and what’s great about it. Is there anything else that you’d want to share as a tool that you think would be beneficial for the group?

I love this tool. It’s called Asana. It’s a project management software. It’s free. You can bring people into a project that you have. You can have different workspaces. I have my private workspace. I have my business workspace. I’m on the leadership team for the eWomenNetwork, Burlington chapter. We’ve got that workspace. Everything is separate and you can break things down into activities. Let’s say each January you start a five-day challenge. You can copy it each year and put your notes in. You don’t have to be reinventing the wheel every single time.

You can use templates. There are project templates you can use in Asana. It’s good.

You can assign dates and pins. What I also love is each project has its email address. If you go into my contact list, I’ve got several Asana emails. When an email comes in, I can start typing, Asana, it’ll have the list. I’ll click on the appropriate one and it will immediately drop it into that project that I can go through and sort. It’s easy and it’s free. There is a paid version, but you don’t need huge. You don’t need that.

I think that’s another key thing. There are lots of great free tools and I want to put out there. I do ask people, “What tools are out there?” For readers, you’re going to get some great tool ideas, but remember that it’s not about the tool, it’s about the process that you create in using the tool. Don’t go tool happy and jump from this tool to that tool because you think it has a few more features or whatnot. It’s not working, not because of the tool, but because of the way you’re using it.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: If you are ever at a crossroads of what your decision needs to be, slow down and listen to yourself.

 

It is the habits that we have. We need consistent habits that reinforce us, as a person, who uses the CRM. Stay consistent with our clients potentially.

Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our audience before we close out the session?

Other than stay authentic, trust yourself, trust your gut, you know what you need most. If you are ever at a crossroads of what your decision needs to be, how to be appropriate at the moment, slow down and listen to yourself. I’ve never known anyone who when they do that, that their choices are wrong.

Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate you being here.

Thank you. This was a lot of fun.

It is my pleasure. Thank you for being here because you’re an important part of this process. We would love to hear your feedback, especially when you put these things into practice and hear how they worked for you. Another great thing is when something works for you, share it, like you’re going to share this show with your friends to tell them that you learned a couple of great tools. You learn some great tips. That’s what this is all about. Help us to grow the community so that we can better serve you. We will see you in the next episode. Thank you.

Important Links:

About Lisa Danforth

TBT 105 | True Work-Life AlignmentOn paper, Lisa is a Business Strategist, Coach, and Speaker.
For real, she helps women business owners and leaders identify and create the boundaries that build a bridge to creating true work-life alignment, aka, Balance & Fulfillment. In the process, her clients learn to flip the self-sabotaging stories they’re wired to tell themselves so they can create more impact and income with less overwhelm and more joy.

Over the course of the past 27-years, Lisa has founded and operated two catering companies: The Wooden Spoon & Hot Betty BBQ, a professional cleaning company, an international wholesale children’s wear company which she sold for over 35x her initial opening investment, and for the last 4-years as a Business Strategist.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

Work Wherever You Want: On The Tropics With Jonathan Green

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You Want

 

Have you wondered if working anywhere you want is a possibility? Jonathan Green is the living proof that it is. Jonathan is a best-selling author with a passion for helping people escape the slavery of nine to five cubicle farms. In this episode, Jonathan shares his vision and his success in doing business from an unconventional work environment—on a tropical island. He tells the story of why he did that, the initial struggles he went through, and how his business eventually grew from that. Jonathan also emphasizes the need to separate work and business from pleasure and entertainment in order to get more things done. When he’s not on the beach with his wife and kids, he writes books, hosts the Serve No Master podcast, and travels the world sharing his secrets.

Listen to the podcast here:

Work Wherever You Want: On The Tropics With Jonathan Green

In this episode, I have Jonathan Green and he is an entrepreneur who left his teaching career behind. He had to learn how to manage his time without a manager. If you’re an entrepreneur, you get how difficult and challenging that can be without having someone tell you what to do and when to do it. He went from living in his mother’s basement to working from a tropical Island. I think that’s a time management challenge too because I’d much rather be sitting on the beach drinking from a pineapple than on my computer. Jonathan, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, Penny. I’m excited to be here and I love talking about time management and building a business. I’m excited about this conversation.

I want to know how you ended up on a tropical Island. What’s up with that?

When I started working for myself, which was a big challenge, everyone always says, “I will work for myself. I want to work from a beach,” and then all of my friends who are in the same business, they started hiring teams, renting office space and buying new suits. When I said, “I’m moving to the beach,” they all said, “What are you crazy? You’re going to kill your business?” I said, “I thought that was our deal? I thought that was our plan?” A lot of my friends have big teams and they’re making a lot of money, but they’re still putting in big hours. That’s not what I wanted. A part of it is I was traveling the world full-time, which I was able to do because of my business. I met my wife and I said, “If I’m going to live in this country, we got to live in the best possible place. We tried all these different beaches. We live in an amazing surf spot. We live about 87 meters from our front door to the waterline. It’s close and we swim in the ocean not every day, but almost every day.

Was the inspiration for you was to live that beach lifestyle and to go out on your own?

The whole reason to work for yourself is to live wherever you want. I know some people, that’s not their dream. Some people want to live in the mountains or some people want to live by the beach. For me, I was like, “I want to live where I want.” From what I believe in and my philosophy at Serve No Master, you should be able to make your own decision. That’s what it comes down to. For me, I tried a lot of different places. There are other things I’d love to do. My family’s never seen snow. We’d love to go snowboarding. We live in the tropics. We live right on the equator. There’s no snow here. There’s not even any cold rain. You have a trade up.

I spent one Christmas in Ukraine and I said, “No.” The ground was four inches of ice, so the bottom of your feet was always cold. I said, “I’m done.” I moved from there straight to the tropics. I said, “That’s enough.” I tried the Russian winter. I get it. I don’t like it. I moved somewhere that was my dream location. Sometimes my wife or my kids are like, “Let’s go on vacation.” I’m like, “No, we live on vacation. We’re already there.” We live on vacation island and it’s all part of knowing what you want and then you build a life around getting there. From wanting to move to this Island, it took us two years of planning to get here.

Planning is an important part of designing the business that you want. If it’s a lifestyle business that gives you the lifestyle you want, you have to plan it. You said there are people that you know, they’re growing their businesses. You have to plan what you want and I found this with my business, otherwise, it runs you and you’re not in control. The whole point of having your own business is to be in control.

It’s easy to paint yourself into a corner. We first came here for a visit several years ago. We came for a month, a little vacation. We were living a little further up north. We’ll go out for 3 or 4 days at a time. The power would go out for 4 or 5 days at a time. I needed to rebuild a business around a different schedule, around what happens if the internet goes out. I made a lot of changes. That’s why I have a lot of books on Amazon. That’s why I moved into that. Even if I can’t get online, at least my books are still running. Now, things are a lot better. We have some more infrastructure and we’re going to do a live call. This would have been impossible when I first moved here. I wouldn’t even have considered it. A lot of times, if I have to do a whole bunch of live events, I’ll leave the Island and that’s part of the trade-off is going, “I want to do webinars or phone calls and I need to record.” Sometimes I have to leave. It’s getting better and better. It’s also the middle of the night, so no one else is awake using the internet, so that’s why I do these calls instead of outside. Instead of you see me out on the beach, I’m in the house because it’s pitch black outside. You wouldn’t see anything except for mosquitos attacking me in a rage from the laptop lights.

You talked about time management is one of your biggest challenges. Tell us a little bit about that.

I am terrible at analytics, spreadsheet and at an organization. For a long time, I’ve been disorganized. I get more and more organized as I continue to grow. The year 2020 is where I’m totally focused on organization and that’s why my business has grown a lot. Since I said, “I’m going to learn how to use project management software. I’m going to learn how to have a schedule.” I remember the first time I hired an accountant, she said, “How much money do you make?” I go, “I don’t know.” She goes, “What do you do when you run out?” I said, “I make more.” She was like, “That’s the opposite of what I believe.” That’s because that’s what I do. We have a slow month, we work twice as hard. When I have a good month, I slow down and learning not to do that was a big lesson for me.

My first year in business, I had a month that was good. On the first day of the month, I got payment. That was my goal for the month. I took 3.5 weeks off after that, which is not what you’re supposed to do. It’s learning to change how you do things and learning to build operations. For me, I finally started using project management software. I probably tried ten times in my business and this is the first year I said, “No, I’ve got to do it.” I spent weeks learning checklists. I kept trying to hire people that were product management experts and it never worked for me. A certain point you go, “I got to do it myself.”

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You Want

Work Wherever You Want: One benefit of planning is that you do what you should be doing instead of what you feel like you should be doing in the moment.

 

I have a better structure. I know what I’m going to work on each day. I know what’s the most important thing. I have a good team around me that we have a good communication structure. They use project management software to probably 90% more than me. I set it up once, I put in all the checklists and the structure and then it’s better and better organized. Putting it in place took me a long time and you think it’s not a big deal if things are working at your business, but when you start to realize how you spend time. I was working on a project with someone and he’s like, “Most people get up. They work, they have a big plan for the day, but they start opening emails and going through all that stuff and then it’s lunchtime and they go, ‘I didn’t do anything yet.’” They go, “I can’t tell you what I did.”

I have those moments too. Sometimes I feel not productive and my other issue is I have no choice but to be productive. I have an eye condition that limits how much time I can spend on the computer. Some days I can only do 1 hour or 2 hours on the computer. That means there’s no room for messing around. You have to get the most important thing done or you get behind. I’ve also learned to be efficient and to use my time strategically when I’m on the computer and how to be faster when I’m not on the computer because I want to be working as little as possible. I want to be on the beach or I want to be with my kids. Those things have come in place and those had been the big waypoints for me.

I want to go back and talk about a couple of things that you said. You say the introduction and the consistency in using the project management software. I guess what that is planning ahead of time and knowing what you’re going to do each day has helped you to get more consistency and stability in your business. Is that what I understood? I want to highlight that point for the people who are reading because it’s these points of systems and organizations that people resist. They go, “I got in my own business to be more flexible.” I think that by having project management systems and other types of support structures, they give you more flexibility rather than take them away. How would you describe that to someone? Because everybody thinks, “You’re such a system person,” which is not true. I do it because I’m all over the place and I have to do it. Otherwise, I’d be all over the place. How would you encourage people to embrace it rather than resist it?

The first thing is the benefits. For me, I know what’s going to happen. I used to wake up and go, “I wonder what I’m going to email about,” every single day. I did that for a few years. You’re scrambling and you go, “I wish I’d emailed about this.”

Did scrambling bring stress for you?

Yes, and it also created a lot of empty days. It could lose me money or people wouldn’t get emails and they forget who you are. You leave a lot of money on the table that way. That’s one of the things. You’re not there and you missed the big opportunities. A lot of the things I promote you have to apply for 2 or 3 months in advance. At my team, it’s me and I have an amazing project manager, Paris, who’s good at organization and structure. She’s good at timing and she runs all of our calendars because we’re in different markets. She knows what we’re going to mail about three months in advance.

Separate the business from how you feel. Click To Tweet

I have to look, I go, “This is what we’re going to do.” At least I can look. I set up the system with her. Whenever I hear about a new possibility, I go, “Should we do this one or that one? Here’s what I think.” We plan it out. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m getting better and better. I’m still planning. When were you going, “We need that tighten up the promotion we planned a few days in advance, it’s no longer the day of?” That’s gotten way better for me. A big part of it is preparation. The other benefit is that you do what you should be doing instead of what you feel like you should be doing in a moment. You wait until the last minute. You’re always chasing your tail and you’re doing whatever seems like it’s important.

One of the things I’ve learned as well as the things I can promote, the products I can participate in are a lot bigger than I used to believe. I wasn’t thinking big enough and we tested some ideas that Paris had and they made a big difference. She said, “Let’s try these bigger things.” I said, “I don’t know,” but we tried it and they worked well for us. We’re learning that, when you plan in advance, you can do bigger things, you can promote bigger products, you can be part of bigger conversations and it allows the business to grow. A lot of our revenue has changed. The amount of followers I have has grown significantly since getting focused on structure and the systems. My audience has grown about 7X in the last few years. It made a huge difference because so often we didn’t have things planned out. I have things on my Trello board. It’ll say, “Two weeks before this happens, we need to do this.” Even if it’s a recurring event, we have the before launch sequence. That means that we can replicate and that’s the only way to do it, at least of all the ways I’ve tried. It’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me.

Coming back to the point, you said to work on those things that you should be doing, that you purposefully are doing because it allows you to go after those bigger things. That if you’re reactive, you’re going to miss those opportunities. It’s being purposeful and taking those actions purposely.

It’s easy when you first wake up in the morning, you go, “Here’s what I’m going to do.” You get that first message and it’s always an emergency. I do some client work, not a lot. I work with maybe a couple of clients a year. The last time I did a big ghostwriting project, I wrote a book for someone. They go, “You have to get it done. I want to launch it.” You get it done on time. I delayed another project and he didn’t even read it for a year. The hard lesson is that people don’t value your time. This is in every industry. My father was a lawyer and he used to have the same thing. He goes, “It’s always an emergency until you give it to them and they have after review it, then it’s not anymore.” You have to learn that it’s okay. I used to be obsessive about email. I used to get those feds and buzzes from your phone when you think it’s ringing. I have to look around because I don’t know where my phone is almost all the time. My phone is set to give me no alerts. Unless I’m looking at the screen, I won’t know if it’s ringing. It doesn’t make a noise and nothing flashes. I have every alert turned off because what’s the point?

I do the same thing. If you want to be focused on one thing, you have to turn off the other things. I don’t understand why people still have them on. I get it if they need to have an emergency setting so that certain things come through. If you’re blocking out an hour, I don’t think anything can’t wait until the end of that hour.

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You Want

Work Wherever You Want: When you plan in advance, you can do bigger things, promote bigger products, be part of bigger conversations, and allow the business to grow.

 

We all think that we’re surgeons. I remember when I had my first pager and cell phone. We think, “Now, people can resonate it,” but it’s never important.

I think it makes people feel significant. We do it for emotional reasons because it’s like that whole back in the day when it was the, “You got mail,” from AOL or whatever. I think that’s multiplied that the more likes you get and the more notifications and replies are that there’s a significant factor that says, “I’m important and we don’t need that to feel important.” We need to get the things done, reach our goals and be consistent in that way. That’s going to make us feel much better at the end of the day than a shallow lake.

It’s important as you’re setting up the strategy, planning your time management and your business planning is to know what your goals are. I had a conversation with someone who was bragging about how they have a reach of four million. I go, “I don’t even know what reach means. I measure my business with one metric and that starts with a dollar sign.” To me, nothing else matters because it’s the only score, but we’ve created all these sub metrics that make us feel good.

I disagree with that a little bit. Let’s converse about that. It’s good to have some discussion because I think when we look at the sales that come in, that’s a lag indicator. It means it’s already passed. We can’t influence the number that we made up. I do believe that some numbers are important because they could be lead indicators that help us to identify that if I tweak this, then that’s going to create more income. What do you feel about that?

There are certain things like list size, open rates, having people reading my blog posts. All of those things lead towards that final score. They’re part of it, but I feel we’ve created a whole bunch of extra ones like reach how many people could see what I had to say. I’m like, “I understand measuring your follower account. I get that because then that tells you what the odds are.” We’ve started creating these extra metrics that are potential. What’s your social popularity score, your cloud score? We keep adding extra things and I’m sure if you have an Instagram-based business, then it makes sense. Your followers and your open rates, your comp rates. Those all matter towards it. We’ve started adding extra ones, which we don’t need.

It’s like, “How many likes did I get?” It doesn’t lead to anything else. It’s like, “People will like me.” I remembered Facebook called everyone your friends. It’s like, “I have 5,000 friends.” I’m like, “Do you?” It feels good to call it that, but it’s not what it is. It’s easy to get distracted by these things because they feel good and they sound nice, but you have to look at what is my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is I want my kids to eat every day. I got to pay for a house every month. Those things are the most important. Those are what I rate the most. I do look at other metrics. I don’t even look at my list size often except for if people ask me, but I look at is how many people open each email I sent.

When you know what you're going to do, you know you have room for a new project. Click To Tweet

That’s the only thing that matters. How many people would click the link? That lets me know how many people are connecting with my messaging. Am I talking about the right topic? Is my audience still interested in me? I used to be obsessed with drop off rates and unsubscribes. How many people are no longer interested in me? I’d be like, “I don’t want to send an email because they don’t want ten people to unsubscribe.” I’d rather have no one read my message and have ten people leave the list. That became a paranoia. It’s not a critique of you. You have to start separating the business from how you feel. It’s not a critique of me. There’s plenty of people who get tired of my messaging or it’s not the right messaging where they’re looking for someone else or they wanted something free and they never want to hear from me again. All of that’s fine.

You can also celebrate because that’s not your target market. If they’re dropping off, then they’re not people who are going to buy from you. Let’s get them off the list and keep people on the list that are going to engage and buy from you. I see that as good that you’re tightening and it doesn’t matter. The potential to reach matters to the people who are taking action.

It’s not about how many people you’ve sent an email to and how many people open it and read it. That’s why I’ve been more proactive about pruning my list. I prune it every month. Anyone hasn’t opened an email in 30 days, I go, “They probably don’t want to be here.” I actively prune as well because I know that I get higher open rates, I get higher engagement when I email people that want to hear from me. It goes back to when you’re planning, you have to know what metrics you want to measure so that when you start your day, you don’t get distracted. My wife and I started working with a personal trainer and when we go to the gym, he’s like, “I’ve got this cool app and you can track all your exercises.”

I have to bring my phone with me, which makes my eyes hurt and I’m getting constant alerts, emergency. I was like, “This is not working. I got to go low tech.” He sends me a worksheet. I print it out and I bring it with me. That means no one can distract me while I’m there. I don’t need constant alerts. I used to think it, “I was important,” because I have a lot of email addresses. I get a lot of emails. I spent a lot of my time programming the rules and my mail software to say, “This goes into this folder, this goes into that folder.” I have a folder that’s called Fluff. It’s not spam. I’ll look at it once a week if I’m in the mood. I have this other app that takes all of these messages and turns it into one email a day that comes in in the morning, so I scroll through it. I say, “Do I want to read any of these emails?”

What’s that app called? That sounds interesting.

It’s called Unroll.me. What it does is it goes, “This is a newsletter.” I only use it on my private email. I used to get 50 or 100 emails a day. Now, I get twenty. It cuts it down. I don’t need all the newsletters. I don’t read them every day. I don’t need them all coming in. It forces me to look at one time. The other thing is it doesn’t let me look throughout the day. I get the email once I can scroll through it. I’d probably click on one of the emails. Maybe once or twice a week, I have to read one of the emails in it. It lets you realize, these things aren’t that important. We get caught up in thinking, “I need to know.” “I have to know all the news or I have to know all this information to make decisions.” We get caught up because there’s too much information. It’s easy to have information overload. If I’m not organized, my team doesn’t know what to do and that can lead to problems. They start working on their project or they start going down a rabbit hole. They start fixing something that’s not broken. I have to be on top. When you’re the leader, you have to pay attention to these other things. Any mistake I make as far as the organization gets magnified.

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You Want

Work Wherever You Want: Sometimes, we have to learn the hard way that you have to have a separation. It’s tempting to work all the time but if you don’t have any non-work time, your efficiency drops.

 

That’s the benefit and the negative of having a team. My team grew too fast and had a lot of people that we’re going in the wrong direction continually. We shrank down and I still have five people with me full-time, which is a lot to manage until you have good project management software that tells them what to do. As soon as they finish the task, they go, “Here’s what’s next.” I’m able to get a lot more done with a lot less communication. The other beauty of having project management software is that I only have to explain how to do something once then it gets put into the system. The next person can do it by going through those checklists. It all connects once we start to realize the value of efficiency because I’ve certainly sat down and I’ve worked for 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours. I go, “I don’t think I did anything.”

All I did was I answer emails and then I watched a couple of YouTube videos. We start to mix business and pleasure because email doesn’t separate business and pleasure much. I get all of my emails in one big app because I have all the different projects. I have all the emails there, personal emails, an email from my wife might be right next to an email from a customer. We start to mingle those mindsets and it’s important to separate business time from personal time. I don’t play video games on my computer. I don’t watch YouTube videos for entertainment on my computer. My computer’s for work. That way, if I’m on the computer, I know it’s work time. That is an important delineation because if we mix our work tool with our entertainment tool, then we don’t know what we’re doing. If I’m sitting at this desk, I’m working. I would never sit here and do fun. I don’t go on Facebook as I did 10 or 20 years ago. I don’t go on Facebook at all. For me, it’s not a toy. I only do it for work. I’m not there reading old people’s posts and liking someone’s comment or saying, “I’m sorry about your breakup.” I’m focused on business. I’m either on the computer working or I’m with my family.

I like that distinction that you have certain tools that are for business and others that are for private. When you separate them, you can be present to one versus the other. There are some people I know they carry around two phones. They have a work phone and they have a home phone. I’ve heard people say, “That’s stupid. Use one phone. You don’t need two phones.” I could see the intelligence behind it because work stays with work. When you put it down and you’re not looking at your work phone, then you’re done with work. You can put that down and then you can have access to your other phone. Don’t play games on the same machine because it leaves you that opening to procrastinate while you’re on that machine to go to that thing that you also do to pass the time. I think that’s a smart mindset capacity. Because we have to have these little hacks and tricks for our brain because we’re easily distracted and whatever we can do to stay on target is absolutely key.

A big part of what I do as well is I do things in specific orders. If I’m working, then I sit down, I follow my start work ritual. I get in position, I do these things, whether I’m working on the phone, on the beach, at another location or whether I’m working here. I follow those steps in a specific order. If I’m not working, I don’t do it here. I don’t do entertainment stuff at this desk. I’m almost 40 but I have a PlayStation and that’s because if I want to play a video game with the kids or something, it’s in the other room on a different TV. There’s no possibility because you can’t do work on a PlayStation. There’s no possibility of that being a work machine.

That’s why even though there are some, I love playing games. I used to play loads of games on the computer, now no way. It’s separate and you have extra devices or some way to do it. On my phone, I only get personal emails. I have another device that I use that’s an eReader that I get my business emails on and I can check the help desk. I separate how I use things because for me I need those limitations. When I put structures in place that are built around my personality and other people are different. Maybe there are some people that can play games on the computer then work on it. That hasn’t worked for me. For most people, it doesn’t work.

I want to build off of that whole idea because I think it might work a little bit for some people, but if they would recognize what difference it would make if they stopped. That’s part of you said, you recognized the difference when you consistently implemented the project management system. You need to see what the difference is. In another context, I hear people talking about TV in the bedroom or having the iPad and the computer in the bedroom. We do have different rooms for different purposes and it should stay like that. I have no TV in my bedroom.

The further advance you plan, the easier it is to put everything into place. Click To Tweet

I do not use my computer or ever do anything in the bedroom other than sleep. Those are the things that you want to do in that room, that you want it to be that space of relaxation. It makes total sense that you’ve got that office space. I know for myself, I didn’t have doors in my office, so I put in doors to make sure that I also had a place that I could close and walk out of and then not come back in and creating that transition time when I leave the office. Those things are hard. It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it easier when we create those limits and those boundaries for ourselves. You’re spot on and it’s working for you.

As I have more kids, we’re working on the next one. There’s less and less time that I can spend wasted. We have to be efficient with the kids. We have to be efficient with meetings. We have to be efficient with work. At first, it feels like you’re creating a prison. I have to do this at this time and this at that time. I don’t have a schedule like that. I can work whatever hours I want, but when I start working, I have that structure. I only check email once a day. That was a big change for me. I tell people all the time and all of my books, at some point I go, “You can email me, but give me 1 or 2 days to reply. Give me at least 24 hours because I’m not going to check the email in real-time.” Some people email me right when I’m checking it and they can’t believe I replied instantly. I’m like, “You got lucky. This isn’t going to happen again.”

Setting expectations removes that pressure. A lot of it is if we make everyone think we’re always available. This is my biggest mistake. When I first started in the business, I was doing all client services doing local services for small businesses and I said, “I’m available 24/7. Call me anytime.” They do. What was I thinking? I said, “That was an empty promise. Don’t call me at 4:00 in the morning to ask about one of your search engine rankings or your YouTube video.” We were keen to get those clients and to grow our business that we make these big promises. We have to learn sometimes the hard way is that you have to have a separation. It’s tempting to work all the time. If you don’t have any non-work time, your efficiency drops. I used to write all my books by hand back when I was able to. At a certain point in the day, I would start misspelling every word. My fingers wouldn’t do what my brain wanted it to do. I’m like, “No, I want to write another 1,000 words.” My fingers are like, “They’re all going to be misspelled.”

You have to admit your limitations and everyone’s limitations are different. You have to build in a structure of relaxation time and hard work time. When I dictate my books, it’s the same thing. I do an hour session because if I do longer, I start to get sick or I get a sore throat. My focus drifts and suddenly, I’m talking about totally the wrong topic and then it becomes useless content. My editors have to delete an hour of my work. You have to know your limitations and build in structures for when it’s time to relax. When it’s time for entertainment. When it’s time to stop working for the day because your efficiency’s dropping off. It’s hard to have a day off, but I have to give myself time off in the week because I would rather work every day because I like what I do. You end up what you don’t want to be. You don’t want to be someone who misses life because you’re working all the time.

The best ideas come typically when you’re not at work.

I do a lot of my thinking when I’m with the kids, when I’m surfing, when we’re paddle boarding or when I’m walking on the beach or swimming. That time is important as well because you have to have that mix of your spirit, your mind, your body and your work. It’s tempting for me to work all the time and let my health drip. Now, that I’ve been exercising a lot more and work with this trainer, exercising with my wife, and being focused on this process, I’m able to do better work because my body’s operating at a higher level of efficiency. We forget everything’s all connected sometimes because we get distracted by projects or life happens. It’s easy to go off track. That’s why having a plan and I’m planning more and more in advance. I have a lot of friends who are planning everything they’re going to do the next year. I’m like, “You plan the whole year in advance?”

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You Want

Work Wherever You Want: Most of the success, whether it’s in business or life or health, comes from our relationships, of being around other people.

 

That’s more and more of where we want to move to. Because the further advance you plan, the easier it is to put everything into place. Part of it is when you know what you’re going to do, you know when you have room for a new project. Sometimes we take on projects that we shouldn’t or it with clients that we shouldn’t or pursue an idea. One of the other things that I do is I do a lot of 80/20 reviews. I had a conversation with a friend of mine. He publishes books in the horror space. He has 150 books. I said, “I’ll never read any of them. Those were too scary for me.” I said, “Where does all of your revenue come from? New books or books that you’ve published all the time?” He goes, “All that catalog.”

I’m like, “Why are you still focusing on new books then?” He’s like, “95% back catalog.” The same thing in my business. A lot of what I thought was the most important thing, it’s not and I have to reassess constantly. My favorite thing to do is to write books and every book I put out it’s almost a rounding error. That’s how little difference it makes on the bottom line. It’s the least financially viable thing that I could do. I’ve stopped working on any new books for that reason. I love doing it. My audience loves it, but it doesn’t generate revenue. That’s the way to look at it. Unfortunately, some of the things we love to do or the things we’re the best at aren’t always the best way to spend our time.

In advance, it can be hard to predict the best ways to use your time, but if you reassess and go, what did I do that got me the closest to whatever my metric is? Whether it helped me lose the most weight or help me make the most money or helped me make the most friendships. What was the best use of my time? Looking at that will help you to plan your next move and I do that all the time. I’ve been doing some 80/20 stuff, looking at, “What’s the most efficient use of my time?” I look at things like which of my products are the most popular? Unfortunately, the practice I liked the most usually is the least popular.

I work with that 80/20 all the time. I had an a-ha moment many years ago that helped me to always consistently and constantly step back and reevaluate what is that 20% that’s most important that gets 80% of the results. I want to let people know where they can get ahold of you so that they can find out more information to get some of these great books that you’ve written and to hear more about you.

A big part of my growth and we didn’t talk about it as much as I thought we would, but it is about working with other people and how to lead my team and how to find partnerships and alliances. It’s like how we connect with each other. It’s all strategic. It was all on a spreadsheet in a project management software. If you go to my website, ServeNoMaster.com/blackbelt, I have free training all about how to get your blackbelt in networking. It’s about how to find people you want to work with, how to figure out where to meet them, how to have that conversation and how to go into business relationships with them. How I’ve continually grown my business is I’ve surrounded myself with people that are doing better than me and asking them questions and getting them to share projects with me. Those things can make a big difference. A lot of our growth is about taking them to the people. When I started working online, I said, “I have never talked to another person again.” It turns out it’s the opposite. The more time I spend on other people, that’s how my business grows. It’s about relationships and it’s a thing we discount the most.

It’s the right relationship too. You talked about it with your list before that it’s having the right people on your list, the people who are attracted and connected to you. It’s getting those right partnerships that are the best synergy and that are going to help you to move forward. If you were to say, out of 100 people, there’s going to be those few people that are going to be the best partners that are going to move you forward. It’s identifying who those are.

A lot of what we do when we’re first starting in any new ventures. We partner with whoever’s near around us and sometimes you end up, I remember when I went to my first conference. One of the people I knew already, he met ten other beginners and began to hang out with them all the time. I said, “What do you talk about?” They don’t know and no one has hit the next level. If you surround yourself with people that are a level above or who are in the same industry or there’s a reason for that connection, then you know what you want from that relationship and so does the other person. Sometimes it’s a mentor-mentee relationship. Sometimes it’s partnerships, sometimes it’s like a mastermind.

If you are connecting with people randomly, then you can surround yourself with people that aren’t good for you, whether it’s a friend who isn’t a friend or a relationship that’s toxic or sucking the energy out of you. I look at all my friendships. I go, “How do I feel after I hung out with that person? If I feel bad, I feel worse about myself, then I don’t want to hang out with them anymore. I used to have a lot of friends like that when I was younger. I struggled with friendships when I was young and took me a long time to analyze it and look at it strategically and say, “I want to be around people that make me feel good, that encouraged my business, that understand what I want from life and that is on the same path as me.” Once you start to form those alliances, everything becomes a lot easier. It’s a lot easier to be surrounded by ten other people that are on the same path as you than with ten people that are trying to stop you because they feel like you’re betraying them because you’re changing.

It comes down to networking or any part of where you spend your time and energy and being purposeful versus being reactive. It’s the same type of thing. It’s going after those purposeful relationships and knowing what relationship you’re looking for out of that relationship. It’s smart networking. What do you look for? I know you’ve got a whole course and we’re sending people there. What’s the one thing you’d say that you learned the most or that’s the biggest thing that you look for when you look for partnership?

I look for people that are on the same path as me that are more either as successful or more successful than me, so there’s something I can learn from them. I usually like to be around people that are doing something different than what I’m doing. I don’t hang out with other authors. I don’t hang out with a lot of people in the authorship niche. I look for people that are focused on the same metrics as me. I find that in the authorship niche, a lot of people are focused on high school type stuff. There’s a lot of gossip and fighting. I find out about it last. I didn’t even know that existed until one of my friends is like, “My reputation’s in trouble.” I was like, “With who?” He’s like, “Other authors.” I was like, “I don’t even live in that world.” I can’t imagine having to worry about what someone I’ve never met in person thinks about me. I got in trouble for a podcast interview I did in 2019.

Someone’s like, “I can’t believe you let that lady interview you.” I was like, “Why? She seemed nice enough.” He was like, “I don’t like her approach to romance novels.” I was like, “I don’t even know what that means. I don’t read romance novels. I don’t know what to tell you.” He was all against ghostwriting. I was like, “That’s how I feed my family. I ghostwrite and I did it for a long time and grew my business.” People that’s caught up with those things, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in people that are passionate about what they do and have confidence. A lot of people I meet are like, “What do you do?” They don’t want to tell me and I go, “Bye.”

If you’re not confident about your job or you’re not confident about what you’re good at and everyone’s good at something. Everyone has something to bring to the table. I want to hear about that. If you used to be a professional athlete, don’t bury the lead. That’s your best thing. Let me know. It’s not bragging letting people know you’re good at stuff. I look at that and I then look at, “Do I want to be around this person?” Sometimes there are people that can be good for your business, but they’re horrible people or they’ve done things in business that are extremely unethical. Someone approached me about a business project and they’d been fined by the FTC for many millions of dollars for ripping off many thousands of people. Someone approached me and he goes, “I found someone who’d be great for your next ghostwriting project,” and the guy had ripped off children with cancer with a fake scam. I said, “Are you kidding me? That’s not what I want to be.”

What you’re saying is to know what you want out of a partnership and research the people. There are lots of information out there to check to see if it’s somebody of integrity because nobody wants to get involved with drama and lack of integrity.

A lot of times, you have to learn the lesson the hard way because you are so excited that anyone wants to work with you, that you don’t pay attention to the red flags. That happened to me as well a long time ago. Part of the growth cycle is figuring out who do you want to work with and what are you looking for in a partner? What are you looking for in relationships? It takes time to figure that out and that will change as you grow and as your business grows. I look for people that I would want to hang out with, to have dinner, to meet my family and that screens out a lot of the people out there. There are plenty of people that I would never let to meet my family even though they might be great for my business.

The whole reason to work for yourself is to live wherever you want. Click To Tweet

That helps you start to sort it out because you only have so much time. It’s better to invest in relationships that are worth it. Relationships have ups and downs. Friendships go in and out of style and sometimes you have a disagreement with someone, but those things are all part of life. The important thing is to realize that most of the success, whether it’s in business or life or health, it comes from our relationship. It comes from being around other people. We’re social creatures. It’s tempting to think. “I’m going to go at it alone or I don’t need anyone’s help,” but you grow much faster.

Most of my growth in my business is about finding other authors that are doing cool things, promoting their book, running their podcasts or supporting them in different ways. Those grow my business more than anything else. It’s relationships. My business is built on a foundation of relationships. That’s why it’s important to me. That’s why it’s my most important course. That’s why it’s what I believe in. Whether you’re building a team, it all comes down to finding the right people and then using your time efficiently with those people.

Thanks for it. You summed up the whole show. It’s doing planning, using your time wisely and picking and choosing your partners wisely. Thank you, Jonathan, for being here.

Thank you for having me and I hope you enjoyed it.

Thank you all for being here. There were a couple of important nuggets that I hope you wrote down. You go check out Jonathan’s course that he’s got offered so that you can see how it is that suggests that you take a look at networking and how to make networking be a productivity tool for you. I appreciate you all. Our goal here is to help you to take back time to work smarter, not harder and to be more strategic in the way that you think and act. We’ll see in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Jonathan Green

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You Want

Born in Los Angeles, raised in Nashville, educated in London – Jonathan Green has spent years wandering the globe as his own boss – but it didn’t come without a price. Like most people, he struggled through years of working in a vast, unfeeling bureaucracy.

And after the backstabbing and gossip of the university system threw him out of his job, he was “totally devastated” – stranded far away from home without a paycheck coming in. Despite having to hang on to survival with his fingernails, he didn’t just survive, he thrived.
In fact, today he says that getting fired with no safety net was the best thing that ever happened to him – despite the stress, it gave him an opportunity to rebuild and redesign his life.

One year after being on the edge of financial ruin, Jonathan had replaced his job, working as a six-figure SEO consultant. But with his rolodex overflowing with local businesses and their demands getting higher and higher, he knew that he had to take his hands off the wheel.
That’s one of the big takeaways from his experience. Lifestyle design can’t just be about a job replacing income, because often, you’re replicating the stress and misery that comes with that lifestyle too!

Thanks to smart planning and personal discipline, he started from scratch again – with a focus on repeatable, passive income that created lifestyle freedom.
He was more successful than he could have possibly expected. He traveled the world, helped friends and family, and moved to an island in the South Pacific.
Now, he’s devoted himself to breaking down every hurdle entrepreneurs face at every stage of their development, from developing mental strength and resilience in the depths of depression and anxiety, to developing financial and business literacy, to building a concrete plan to escape the 9-to-5, all the way down to the nitty-gritty details of teaching what you need to build a business of your own.

In a digital world packed with “experts,” there are few people with the experience to tell you how things really work, why they work, and what’s actually working in the online business world right now.

Jonathan doesn’t just have the experience, he has it in a variety of spaces. A best-selling author, a ”Ghostwriter to the Gurus” who commands sky-high rates due to his ability to deliver captivating work in a hurry, and a video producer who helps small businesses share their skills with their communities.
He’s also the founder of the Serve No Master podcast, a weekly show that’s focused on financial independence, networking with the world’s most influential people, writing epic stuff online, and traveling the world for cheap.

All together, it makes him one of the most captivating and accomplished people in the lifestyle design world, sharing the best of what he knows with total transparency, as part of a mission to free regular people from the 9-to-5 and live on their own terms.
Learn from his successes and failures and Serve No Master.

Important Links:

About Jonathan Greene

TBT 104 | Work Wherever You WantBorn in Los Angeles, raised in Nashville, educated in London – Jonathan Green has spent years wandering the globe as his own boss – but it didn’t come without a price. Like most people, he struggled through years of working in a vast, unfeeling bureaucracy.

And after the backstabbing and gossip of the university system threw him out of his job, he was “totally devastated” – stranded far away from home without a paycheck coming in. Despite having to hang on to survival with his fingernails, he didn’t just survive, he thrived.
In fact, today he says that getting fired with no safety net was the best thing that ever happened to him – despite the stress, it gave him an opportunity to rebuild and redesign his life.

One year after being on the edge of financial ruin, Jonathan had replaced his job, working as a six-figure SEO consultant. But with his rolodex overflowing with local businesses and their demands getting higher and higher, he knew that he had to take his hands off the wheel.
That’s one of the big takeaways from his experience. Lifestyle design can’t just be about a job replacing income, because often, you’re replicating the stress and misery that comes with that lifestyle too!

Thanks to smart planning and personal discipline, he started from scratch again – with a focus on repeatable, passive income that created lifestyle freedom.
He was more successful than he could have possibly expected. He traveled the world, helped friends and family, and moved to an island in the South Pacific.
Now, he’s devoted himself to breaking down every hurdle entrepreneurs face at every stage of their development, from developing mental strength and resilience in the depths of depression and anxiety, to developing financial and business literacy, to building a concrete plan to escape the 9-to-5, all the way down to the nitty-gritty details of teaching what you need to build a business of your own.

In a digital world packed with “experts,” there are few people with the experience to tell you how things really work, why they work, and what’s actually working in the online business world right now.

Jonathan doesn’t just have the experience, he has it in a variety of spaces. A best-selling author, a ”Ghostwriter to the Gurus” who commands sky-high rates due to his ability to deliver captivating work in a hurry, and a video producer who helps small businesses share their skills with their communities.
He’s also the founder of the Serve No Master podcast, a weekly show that’s focused on financial independence, networking with the world’s most influential people, writing epic stuff online, and traveling the world for cheap.

All together, it makes him one of the most captivating and accomplished people in the lifestyle design world, sharing the best of what he knows with total transparency, as part of a mission to free regular people from the 9-to-5 and live on their own terms.
Learn from his successes and failures and Serve No Master.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:

Time Management: Too Much To Do With Jones Loflin

TBT 103 | Time Management

 

What do you do when you think you have too much to do yet have so little time? In this episode, Jones Loflin emphasizes why time management is important. Jones is an internationally recognized speaker, corporate trainer, and author. He helped many Fortune 500 companies develop and deliver practical solutions that specifically address the complex needs of an organization such as time management, focus, motivation, and work-life balance. Prior to all of this, he served as the “Trainer of Trainers” for the best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese? Jones discusses some common reasons why we don’t get everything done on our to-do list and shares some tricks for actually accomplishing them. He also reminds us that proper time management leaves no facet of life neglected and unaccomplished. Are you ready to stop and reevaluate what needs to be done in your life?

Listen to the podcast here:

Time Management: Too Much To Do With Jones Loflin

We are talking about too much to do because that’s what’s going on with a lot of people. They’re too busy, too much to do, overwhelmed. I’m excited because on this show, we’re always bringing on the best guests to talk about cutting-edge tips, hacks and ways to look at things that are different that give you the edge up and help you to manage this too much to do. I’m excited to have Jones Loflin on. He has made it his life’s work to deliver powerful ideas and practical solutions to individuals and organizations who are struggling with too much to do. His books are described as illuminating and his presentations as unforgettable. In his many years as a speaker and trainer, he’s helped countless people to regain confidence in their ability to achieve greater success in work and life.

Jones’ innovative solutions on leadership, change, and time management has attracted the attention of organizations around the world including Federal Express, Choice Hotels, Toyota, Raymond James Financial, State Farm and even the United States military. Prior to becoming this international recognized speaker, Jones was an educator. His past work includes serving as “Trainer of Trainers,” for the best-selling book Who Moved My Cheese?. Jones is also a co-active coach focusing on the areas of leadership, change, and time management with his clients. He’s a member of the National Speakers Association as well as the Association for Talent Development. Jones, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Penny. I’ve been excited about the opportunity. I love the list of topics that you address and the variety. I find that in my world, it’s not always about trying to get improvement in one area. If I can pick a nugget or two from lots of different types of podcasts or interviews, I find that serves me well. I’m glad to be here.

Why are you dedicated to helping people with too much to do? Was this a major issue for you in the past?

Many of us in the learning and development world start out with, “I’m struggling with this. How do I find something that works for me?” I’ve always been a huge fan of time management. In the late ‘80s, I was one of those people who carried around the brown FranklinCovey planner. There’s even an updated version of that, but it was beyond that. It was this whole idea that, “We’ve got this limited resource of time and how do we use it as effectively as possible to accomplish what’s important?” It’s always been a struggle for me. I began to figure out some solutions that worked for me. I started offering them to other people. That became a book, training programs, and those things. That was my journey to getting here.

You know the struggle with time. Why are we focused on time?

Because it’s a limited resource, but we treat it like it’s not. We don’t plan our days as efficient and effective as we could. We subconsciously sometimes go, “I’ll have time for that later. I’ll get to that later.” There’s always these things that come along that fill up that space that we were going to use for something more important. We’re relegated to Stephen Covey’s old saying, “We’re focusing on the urgent and not the important.”

The focus on time creates scarcity mode. Shouldn’t we be focused on our outcomes and what we want to achieve? When we’re focused on time, it creates more stress.

You couldn’t have said it better. It does. If we were focusing on outcomes and how we were going to use that time, that’s one thing. When we’re constantly looking at, “I’ve got fifteen minutes. I’ve got an hour,” or we’re looking at the time component, it does create this sense of hurry for us. A lot of times, it isn’t healthy in getting to those most important things.

I could argue both sides. A lot of times, we think that we have so much of it that we squander it away. It’s interesting and important to be thinking about what our relationship with time is.

Time is a limited resource but we treat it like it's not. We don't plan our days as efficiently and effectively as we could. Click To Tweet

That’s a great statement. What’s our relationship with time? Do we look at it as an asset or do we look at it as a liability? It is both. It’s not one or the other, but many times we’re looking at it as a liability. We’re overly concerned about how we use it at the moment and not looking at the bigger picture of planning out our days and our weeks to get our highest priorities accomplished.

How did we get stuck with all this? Do we have more to do now than we had 10 or 20 years ago? That’s what people are saying that they feel like. What do you think about that?

One of the things is the expectations that we place on ourselves. I’m not one of those people who says, “It’s all because of technology.” Technology had a huge influence on that because the information can pass by more quickly. It can be transferred between people more quickly than it could 10 or 20 years ago. Because of that, it creates an expectation that if I need something from you, you can get it back to me a lot quicker than you could 10, 15, 20 years ago. Something else that happens when we talk about the expectations is, we’re looking around at other people who seem to have it all together or seem to be getting the right things done. We think we have to do the same things that they’re doing. There are a number of things that have gotten us to this point where we feel like there’s so much to get done. The other thing we won’t do is we won’t stop and go, “What is most important to me?”

Why don’t we do it? What’s your answer to that?

The reason we don’t do it is that it seems counterproductive. If I’ve got a busy day, my natural tendency is, “I need to check out the next time. I need to get it done.” As I often say, just because you’re checking the item off doesn’t mean it was the most important thing for you to do. Stopping to examine what would help me move forward? What’s professionally important to me or personally important versus, “I’ve got 37 things to do. I need to get all 37 done.” Maybe not. Maybe if you’d stop and go, “If I get 7, 11 and 15 done, that will move me forward a lot more than getting the other 34 done in my day.”

What’s a tip or trick or hack that you use to help people to remind themselves to do that and to get into that flow?

It’s not anything new necessarily but it all starts with planning your day. It starts by stopping and then looking at how your day is going to go. One of the things that I challenge people in training programs or when I’m coaching or whatever the environment is that never engage with technology before you start planning your day. It seems simple but statistics say that 75% of us or more sleep with the phone next to our bed or technological device. Our first tendency in that morning is to pick it up and then we get caught up in, “I’ve got to get this done. This is happening,” instead of stopping to go, “What have I been trying to accomplish these past few weeks or few months? What’s important to me? Who do I want to be? What do I want to become?” Beginning to then say, “What does that mean that this day should look like?” versus reacting to the urgent, the emails, the messages that are on that device. That’s one strategy.

The one strategy is not to touch technology before you start your daily plan. Do you suggest to people that they schedule it?

As far as scheduling their planning, absolutely. That’s how critical that first thing in the morning or even in the day before or the evening before you go to bed. Schedule that planning time and spend some positive time thinking about what it is that you want to accomplish. Also, reflecting on how the previous day went as you are making your plans to see what needs to be brought from previous days or the past week. That has to be a part of your day. That’s counterintuitive to me because people start their mornings in a hurry trying to get everything done at home. They then rush to work and many times, there’s that first urgent thing awaiting them. They don’t stop and go, “I’m going to plan.” It does have to be scheduled.

TBT 103 | Time Management

Time Management: It’s critical that we start with purpose and then begin planning what activities need to go into our day to help us move toward that outcome.

 

When we start in a hurry like busy, we don’t think. We go stressfully into one thing and the next. We’re not purposeful at all. It’s key to get that time to get purposeful about what it is that we want to create and what the results are that we’re looking to achieve.

You hit it well, it’s the purpose. One of the things I teach a lot around. One of the models that I use is you should need to manage your work and life like it’s a circus. In my training program, I’ll ask them, “What’s the purpose of the circus?” Immediately, they will say, “The purpose of the circus is entertainment. I’ll start talking on them.” I said, “If the purpose is entertainment, what acts need to be in the lineup?” They’ll start listing some different acts that need to be in the lineup. I’ll look at them a few minutes later and I’ll go, “You’re absolutely wrong.” I’ll stop them and go, “I want you to think for a moment, what’s the purpose of the circus? What’s the outcome that the circus wants from the performance if you’re the owner of the circus?”

They’ll go, “It’s money. To make a profit.” I’ll go, “That’s the why, as Simon Sinek would say. How do they do that?” They’ll go, “By entertaining.” I’ll say, “Does that change the way you think about the lineup?” They’ll go, “Yeah.” In the same way, it’s critical that we start with purpose. What’s the outcome I want from this day, this week, this month, then began planning what acts or activities need to go into our day to help us move toward that outcome?

I love that imagery. Having those types of analogies or visualizations help us to see it outside of ourselves. When we’re part of the problem, we can’t see the problem. It does help us to step outside and see it from a different perspective.

We take it to the next level in lots of ways. We talk about how if you’re going to manage your time, it’s not just around one ring if you want to call it a circus. You’ve got three rings. You’ve got a work ring, self ring and relationship ring. If you want to manage your time effectively, you can’t think in terms of one ring because you neglect the other two. A great moment in a keynote is when I said, “How many of you in here would say that the work ring is the most important?” Some people raise their hands. The other rings, different people raise their hands. I say, “Who’s right?” You have people say, “All three of them are important.” I go, “Good. Here’s the big question, which one do we neglect most often?” Everybody goes, “Self.” It’s such an important moment to understand that time management is not about, “How can I get 47 things done at work?” It’s, “How can I manage my time effectively in all those areas?” because they’re interconnected. They’re not inclusive. We’ve got to manage all three.

What other tips did you share with the audience to help them with this idea? By putting it into three rings, you give some categorization to it. Maybe it reduces the stress a little bit. Sometimes when the list is without any categories, it stresses a little bit. There’s still so much that they’re juggling with all of these three rings. What are some other key tips that you offer?

One is a tip that’s not from me. It was from a participant in a training program a few years ago. I loved it and I use it often. When I was talking about this whole concept of juggling elephants when we’re trying to get everything done, it’s overwhelming and heavy. One of my audience members said, “I guess you’ve got to ask yourself the question, what are you willing to fail at?” None of us wants to talk about what we’re willing to fail at because we’re going to succeed at everything. It’s such a powerful question. If I’ve got so much going on, what am I willing to fail at? I’m willing to fail at having everything in order in my office. I’m willing to fail at having the cleanest house in the world so that I can succeed at being a great parent or I can succeed at being present with my team members when I’m at work. That’s a strategy that’s important when you start feeling that pressure. I can’t get it all done. What am I willing to fail? They begin to identify some of those things and understand that by identifying those things, it gives you space at least mental, if not physical, to say, “What do I want to succeed at?”

I love that because it goes back to what you said around the expectations. By asking that question, you’re allowing yourself to shift the expectations of yourself and say, “It’s okay to have lower expectations in this area so that you can live up to higher expectations in another area.” That’s a great connection to where you started on expectations.

It is all about being mindful. You’ve had guests on your show that have talked about that. It’s about you’ve got to stop and think and reflect. Sometimes those jarring questions will help you to do that and to go a little bit deeper into yourself so that you’re not just accomplishing the task, you’re moving your work in life forward.

Jarring questions help you go a little bit deeper into yourself so that you're actually moving your work in life forward. Click To Tweet

Asking questions is simple and yet powerful. To put the right question in there to help you reflect, step back and evaluate is super powerful. For whatever reason, another simple trick that we forget and we don’t do is ask more questions.

Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers is phenomenal. He talks about the power of daily questions. I have instituted some of that in my own life. When I’m trying to make a change or manage my time more effectively, I find that if I will come up with 3 to 5 questions to ask myself at the end of each day, that helps me to evaluate how my day went and what I need to do differently, especially if I rate myself on that scale of 1 to 10. A phenomenal book that I’ve gained much from was Triggers.

I thought that was a great book too. People can arm themselves by asking more questions. For myself, through some of the coaching that I’ve done and even in my own life, I learned that in the beginning when somebody would give me an assignment as a consultant, I want to please. Everything is urgent. I think if you’ve given me something, I have to have it done by tomorrow. I would have too much to do and be totally burnt out. I realized I could ask a couple of questions to manage expectations and say, “When do you need this by?” How many times did I hear, “I’m going on vacation. I don’t need it until the following Friday?” You’re like, “What?”

Had I not asked that question, I would have rushed it there. I wouldn’t have gotten any response because they weren’t there. They want to get that hot potato off their chest or back and get it to you. If I ask a couple of questions like, “When do you need this by? Can I split this up into different deliverables or different pieces?” Ask 3 to 5 questions on that when somebody gives you an assignment or asks you to do something that you can get clarity. You can also understand what their expectations are, manage them, and set your own more accurately. We have this American thing. There was a book published a long time ago called The Stuff Americans Are Made Of. One of those things is we’re made with a higher sense of urgency. Now with technology and everything, we’ve got to manage that totally.

You bring up such a good point. Managing our time is about communications. It’s not just about the tips and the tricks in managing procrastination and ABC and all that stuff. It’s about how we are communicating with other people. How are we communicating our current workload? There’s a strategy that I try to teach people. It’s okay to communicate your workload. You’re not whining, especially if you’re focused on the organization’s highest priorities. If you’re doing what your boss wants you to get done, it’s okay to say, “Working on this as you’ve asked me to is going to cause me to have to slow down on this,” then asking for help from that position of strength. That’s what your manager or supervisor gets paid to do. It’s to help work that out. Asking that question, “Help me understand which one of these is most important because I want to focus my time and energy where you need me to be.” Many people won’t take that first step and ask the question because they’re afraid they’re looking weak. Your boss already knows you’re not getting everything done because you’re not turning in to stop.

They don’t always know everything that you’re working on. There are matrix organizations where different projects are giving you different things to do and your boss might not be privy to all of that.

In one of my training programs, I’ll ask that question that you said. I’ll say, “What percent of your current workload does the person you report to understand? Of everything that’s on your plate, what percent do they understand?” When I go down the line, it usually averages out to about 50% to 60%. I say to them, “If your boss only understands 50% of your workload, why is it a problem for them to ask you to do one more thing?” People go,“Yeah.”

Why should it be a problem for you to communicate what it is that you have been going on if they only know 50%? I love that. That’s good stuff. We talked about expectations, management of self, and the communication aspect of it. We talked about planning and how important that is. What’s one of the things that a mentor or that you learned the hard way? It’s one of the most important things for you now because of that?

The thing that probably has resonated with me the most, and we put this in the book Juggling Elephants as far as in the story, was this whole idea of taking an intermission and stopping to see how things are going. You talked about how Americans work. We usually work until something breaks. Either we snap at a coworker or we got a migraine or we looked at a four-line email and we don’t have a clue what it said because we’re out of focus. In managing your life like a circus, the whole idea is you’ve got to stop. Da Vinci talked about every now and then, go and have a little relaxation. Remaining constantly at work will diminish your judgment. There’s tremendous power in stopping a strategic stop and saying, “Where am I right now? How am I doing on the work that I’m doing?”

TBT 103 | Time Management

Time Management: There’s tremendous power in a strategic stop and saying, “Where am I right now? How am I doing the work that I’m doing?”

 

I want to know personally, what did you almost lose or did you lose because you didn’t step back? I would love the readers to know from you personally what it was.

I’ve been self-employed since 1994. I charted the success of my business with lots of different matrices. Every time I got busy working in the business or that whole thing of taking care of all the stuff right in front of me, that’s when my business suffered. It was those moments when I would stop, be strategic, reflective and go, “How am I doing?” and evaluate my current success. I could then take better steps and choose the best course of action instead of a good course of action. I nearly lost my business in 2000, simply because I was busy. I had a great year in 1999 and felt I need to keep doing the same thing. Often, we won’t stop to reflect on how things are going and what we need to do to improve.

How many people have woken up because they had a big health scare because one of those rings wasn’t taken care of? They were working excessively and stressed. They’re not breaking themselves and then getting the wake-up call there or the business is at risk where some of your key people leave because you’re not managing your people. It’s key to step back and see where your time and attention is most needed. Is there anything else that you wanted to share?

I love the line of questioning. My takeaway is reminding ourselves how important planning is to make each day effective and understanding that we can’t get it all done. That one statement alone, “If I can’t get it all done, what’s the most important to get done?” It’s aligning our daily activities to those outcomes instead of failing to plan because we say, “I’ll have time later.” Time is a limited resource.

That’s the one thing that everybody can definitely take away. Put it in your calendar and plan every day, every week, and every month. It’s that little bit of time that you put into planning that helps things to go smoother. It reduces stress and keeps you purposeful. It’s critical. Jones, thank you for being here and sharing. I know it’s a tiny tip of the iceberg of all the great strategies and tips that you have. Thank you for sharing.

It’s my pleasure. Thank you for the work that you’re doing to help all of us take back our time.

Do you have a website or a place where people can find you and get more information, have you come speak or any and all of the above?

The best place to start is JonesLoflin.com. They can go there and find all kinds of resources and more information about me. They can also check out my YouTube channel, Jones Loflin. There are over 180 videos of three minutes or less that help gives you some tips and ideas on time management. It comes out once a week and doing it every week. There’s one that came out about how to better manage your energy level to make sure you’re fully present in the moment.

I always say energy is everything and you’ve got a lot of it. You can tell that’s contagious. I agree and people should check out that video. That’s where the day starts. It’s the energy that you bring to it. Thank you, Jones.

It’s my pleasure to be a part of your show. Thank you.

Thank you for being here because it’s your time and energy that is invested wisely. You are planning because you’re following this show and other shows that are going to help you to work smarter and not harder. The goal is to be smarter in what you do and how you approach it. There were a lot of great tips in this interview. I want you to take a moment to plan, what is one action that you’re going to take as a result of what you learned? What are you going to do that’s going to make something more consistent that’s working but not all the time? What’s something new that you haven’t done that’s going to make a difference? Maybe it’s asking that question when somebody gives you an assignment or a couple of questions at the end of the day. Whatever it is, write it down and put it on your computer so that you’re ready to take action. Schedule a time that you can take the first step that you’re going to do to implement that. We’ll see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Jones Loflin

TBT 103 | Time ManagementJones Loflin has made it his life’s work to deliver powerful ideas and practical solutions to individuals and organizations struggling with too much to do. His books are described as “illuminating” and his presentations as “unforgettable.” In his 24 years as a speaker and trainer he has helped countless people regain confidence in their ability to achieve greater success in work and life.

Jones’ innovative solutions on leadership, change, and time management have attracted the attention of organizations around the world. His client list includes Federal Express, Choice Hotels, Toyota, Raymond James Financial, and State Farm as well as the United States military. His international clients include Saudi Aramco, Gillette, and Aramark Canada.

Looking for ways to expand the reach of his message, Jones chose to become an author. Always Growing offers fresh strategies to lead whether you have been leading for two days or two decades. Juggling Elephants is a witty and profound parable about one man’s search for a better way to get everything done. The book is available in the US and over 14 countries. He is also the author of Getting The Blue Ribbon, a unique story offering simple strategies to get better results. Getting to It is considered a field guide to accomplishing what is most important.

Prior to becoming an internationally-recognized speaker, Jones was an educator. His past work includes serving as the “Trainer of Trainers” for the best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese? Jones is also a Co-Active coach, focusing on the areas of leadership, change, and time management with his clients. He is a member of the National Speaker’s Association as well as the Association for Talent Development.

Jones believes the key to success is being passionate about certain things in life, including family, spiritual beliefs, career and relationships. One of his favorite quotes is by Zig Ziglar: “Go as far as you can see, and when you get there you can see farther.”

Jones is grateful for every opportunity to work with individuals and organizations seeking better results. He lives in North Carolina with his wonderful wife Lisa and their two perfect daughters.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take Back Time community today:
Test

Pin It on Pinterest