Sep 26 2017
Want a Few More Hours in the Day?
How many times have you thought, “If only I had a few more hours in the day, I could get all this work done.”? I hear you. As I think about all the competing responsibilities vying for my time and attention, I have a hard time figuring out how to fit it all in.
So, what if we refused to fit it all in? What if we simply crossed a few things off the list?
I know this sounds radical, but stay with me for a moment. Imagine an alternative to your current stressed-out, guilt-ridden state of being. What if you made two lists–the things you must do to keep you and your family breathing, and the things you’ve committed to do (for one reason or another)?
You must eat. You must sleep. If you have children, you must make sure they’re cared for (you may be able to get help in this endeavor). After that, you have choices. Granted, actions have consequences, and not fulfilling every promise on your to-do list means someone will be disappointed, but you do have choices.
I’m reading a book called The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte. It’s one of those books that helps refocus people on what’s most important. Her whole message is about connecting with your core desires and setting goals based on how you want to feel rather than what you think you should accomplish.
As an entrepreneur, I’m an ambitious, goal-oriented person, and I sometimes forget to come up for air long enough to remember why I started my business in the first place–to set an example for my sons (to demonstrate that we should all go after our dreams and do what we love), for the freedom to participate in life on my own terms (not having to ask for a boss’s permission to put my family first, to go on that field trip or attend that track meet), and for the chance at bigger financial rewards.
I love to work, but I don’t love to have too much to do. The idea of letting someone down or failing according to my own high standards makes my gut clench and my heart constrict. Since “time management” is a misnomer (we can’t actually manage time), we need to manage how we use each precious minute.
Here are some of the ways to get more hours in the day that work for me.
- Remove distractions. In this plugged-in world, devices are constantly dinging, buzzing, and flashing at us. Turn them off.
- Prioritize your to-dos. Be as realistic as you can. Figure out what you can realistically accomplish in the time you have available. If you promised to finish a report by the end of the day, but you know it will be total crap if you do, call your boss or your client and let them know you need more time to provide the quality you feel compelled to provide. Then give them a deadline you know you can meet. If they say, “I want whatever you can provide today.” Provide it. Most people would rather have quality. Repeat this process until your day is manageable.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique. With pomodoros, you alternate short sprints with regular breaks. The sprints help you remain productive; the breaks bolster your motivation and keep you creative.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Invest in your relationships. Attend to your personal growth/spiritual needs. It always amazes me when people schedule oil changes every 5,000 miles and full check-ups for their cars every 30,000 miles because they recognize the importance of regular maintenance, but they don’t do the same for their bodies and souls. If you don’t take care of yourself, your productivity will suffer. I promise.
Some days you have to push through, work late and forego the healthy balance. But if this is your norm rather than the exception, something needs to change. Take some time to assess how much of your life feels good (however you define that) and how much feels out of sync, frustrating, stressful, or depressing. Small steps can lead to big change. You may not be able to quit your job or attain your ideal weight by next week, but you can start rolling that snowball down the hill today.
If part of what’s keeping you too busy is the work required to promote your business and you’d like help, let me know.
Sep 18 2017
Forming Habits to Achieve Your Goals
As the weather turns colder and students return to school, many people welcome the familiarity of routine after the comparative chaos of summer. This got me thinking about the value of routines and of forming habits that help us achieve our goals. Big goals can seem daunting, but if we can get into habits that help us tackle them a little bit at a time, we can achieve great things.
So, how long does it take to form a habit?
A plastic surgeon from the 1950s named Maxwell Maltz noticed that his patients typically became accustomed to their new look in about three weeks. He published this information in a book titled Psycho-Cybernetics, and almost overnight, people began assuming there was something magical about this 21-day period.
Later, researchers from the University College London published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology indicating that the time to form a habit varies. The study found that the average time to form a habit was closer to 66 days, but with wide variety–some forming habits in just a few weeks and others taking months to adopt a new behavior. The good news is that skipping the new behavior once in a while doesn’t destroy the habit-forming process and with perseverance, you can create habits that help you achieve the things you set your mind to.
Whether your goals are personal or professional, here’s a great little blog by Madeline Romeo that can easily be used to form all sorts of habits.
While some people naturally excel at consistency and discipline, most of us don’t. For my part, I like creating organizational systems and planning new routines, but I find following these routines to be far less fun. I visit sites like gettingthingsdone.com for inspiration, but when I try to put the methods into practice, I get mixed results. I used to beat myself up about this, but now, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember that today is the first day of the rest of my life. Each day is a new beginning, and I can start forming a new routine right now if I want to.
If you’re a writer struggling to support yourself or one who isn’t making as much progress as you’d like on that novel you’ve been thinking about for years, here are a few great blogs on developing habits to help you. Entrepreneur John Rampton wrote the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers for Forbes. And Author Seth Godin offers some great advice to writers in his guest blog for Balboa Press. If you want to read a great book on writing, consider Stephen King’s On Writing. It is both a memoir and one of the best books on writing you’re likely to find on how to write successfully.
NEED A LITTLE HELP?
If you want help with your writing, let me know.
Sep 05 2017
Five Tips on Formality in Business Communication
In decades past, polite society was full of rules about how to behave. While many of us are happy to say, “Good riddance!” to the stilted formality that once permeated people’s daily lives, the lack of clarity around etiquette these days can leave us wondering just how formal we should be, especially in unfamiliar business settings. At Google, people wear jeans to work and sleep in nap pods during their breaks. At many law firms, even the most junior associates where business suits and no one is napping. So how formal should you be?
When it comes to business communication, here are some tips.
- Respond in Kind – If you have the benefit of responding to—rather than initiating—written correspondence, it is generally safe to mimic the formality afforded to you. If someone addresses you as Mr. or Ms., do the same for them. If they use your first name, it’s usually safe to use theirs. If you are responding to a leader in the field, or to someone who would have authority over you were you to work together, pay attention to how they sign off. If a college professor addresses you, the student, by first name, but signs off with Dr. Jones, use his or her more formal title in your reply.
- Contractions – If you are writing a formal proposal, a white paper, or any other formal document, do not use contractions. If you are writing an email, a blog with a casual tone, or a social media post, I think contractions are fine. In fact, I think they can make writing more readable.
- Good Grammar – If you are texting a friend, feel free to use abbreviations and forget about capitalization; however, if you’re writing almost ANYTHING else, at least in business, use capital letters and proper punctuation. Foregoing grammar can easily result in miscommunication.
- Consider Your Audience – People in the upper echelons of business are often at least 50 years old. Many of them graduated from college without touching a computer, and when they joined the business world, communication was a more formal affair. They are likely to interpret a more formal tone as a sign of respect, which is never a bad thing.
- Non-Verbal Communication – While I’ve focused on writing, remember that you communicate in many other ways, consciously and subconsciously. The way you dress, your posture, the formality of your spoken language (“Nice to meet you, sir.” v. “Hey man, great to meet you.”), and many other non-verbal cues will speak volumes about how seriously you take this interaction. A hospital CEO recently told me that a prospective department director showed up for an interview in her “traveling clothes,” which resembled sweat pants. The CEO wondered, “If the prospective employee couldn’t be bothered to dress up for the interview, would she dress up for work? Would she disregard other common courtesies? Did she even care about getting this position?”
If you feel unsure about your writing and grammar, here are a few of my favorite resources:
- On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
- The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White
- Grammar Girl, Quick and Dirty Tips
- Daily Writing Tips
Whether we like it or not, we’re constantly judged on our communication skills, so before you send that email or publish that blog post, consider your audience and communicate with a tone and formality that will help you achieve your communication goals.
If you would like some coaching to improve your writing, get in touch!