Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!



Monday, April 24, 2017

Countdown to Memorial Day: Olalah Njenga's Travel Tips

Spring has sprung, and the countdown to summer's unofficial start on Memorial Day has begun! As temperatures rise, I find that travel planning increases so this is the first in my series of interviews highlighting frequent travelers. We'll cover their preferences and best practices, giving you takeaways to try for your next trip.

This week, I am pleased to share my interview with Olalah Njenga, who is an award-winning strategist. As CEO, Ms. Njenga leads a strategy consulting company that helps business owners and business leaders transform dreams and goals into plans and outcomes. She shares her unique perspective about strategy, leadership and the small business economy by presenting to audiences across the United States. Working with Ms. Njenga is high-impact and results-oriented, leading to clients' greater success. Ms. Njenga's career highlights include the distinction of being a Forbes Braintrust® Member as well as a featured small business expert for the Washington Post. She serves as a trusted resource for major media outlets, including The New York Times, the BBC, NPR, Marketplace, Fox News and local affiliates for ABC, NBC and CBS. A Fellow of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership, Ms. Njenga is appointed to hold the designated seat for Small Business on the NCWorks Commission, where she advocates for initiatives that impact North Carolina's small business economy. Ms. Njenga serves as the Commission's Vice Chair, leading its Strategic Planning Committee. Visit http://olalah.com to learn more about Ms. Njenga's efforts to help private, public and non-profit organizations develop proven strategies for building, growing and scaling in their respective markets.

EP: Do you travel mainly for business, pleasure or both?

ON: Both business and fun.

EP: Do you prefer traveling via plane, train, boat or automobile?

ON: I love airplane travel. I don't have the patience for train rides nor long car rides.

EP: What is your favorite destination and why?

ON: Las Vegas is my favorite destination. There's always some trouble to get into, no matter the time of day or night.

EP: What is your preference for airlines?

ON: I don't really have an airline preference. Somehow, I end up flying Delta more often than not because they always seem to have the best departure times for my schedule, especially when I need to do turnaround trips.

EP: What is your preference for hotels or accommodations?

ON: I am a "Hilton girl" all the way. I've got Hilton Diamond status so any of their properties is fine, though Embassy Suites is definitely my favorite for multi-night stays. The Hampton Inn is my second choice, especially when I need a budget-friendly option.

EP: Do you book your own travel or prefer a travel agency?

ON: I always book my own travel because I am way too picky - A travel agent would fire me for all of the combinations of flight times I would likely ask of her!

EP: Do you have any suggestions for making the most of loyalty programs or points?

ON: To make the most of loyalty programs, keep up with the rewards and adjust your travel to take advantage of bonus rewards. I did that for my daughter's wedding and got 3 suites for nothing but the cost of the tax for the rooms simply by using rewards and adjusting the dates of check-in.

EP: Are you loyal to any particular brands?

ON: In terms of travel, I'm not an all-out loyalist, but I will choose Hilton for hotels and Samsonite for luggage every time when offered a choice. When my husband took my luggage on a business trip, the airline lost his luggage; when we got the check to replace the luggage, I bought the same set in my favorite color of purple. It was a special order and worth the wait. Now, I can spot my luggage anywhere on the baggage claim ramp, and my husband wouldn't be caught dead with purple luggage so he no longer borrows it!

EP: When flying, what do you ensure is in your carry-on?

ON: My carry-on bag contains items that are essential to health, hygiene and my peace of mind, which sometimes means my lucky purple socks, my favorite flash-drive (I named it "sunburst" because it's orange and black) and a hardcopy of whatever I'm doing that requires technology (because I'm paranoid). When it comes to travel, my personal motto is "If it can go wrong, it might go wrong so be prepared."

EP: Do you keep an extra bag of toiletries packed?

ON: I keep a "go bag" of toiletries on the ready in the hall closet. I heard "Hotchner" from the show Criminal Minds refer to his go bag, and I was hooked ever since then. Can you tell that I'm a fan?

EP: How do you organize your time and related details while on-the-go?

ON: I use my mobile phone to manage "where" I'm supposed to be and "who" I'm supposed to meet, but I use my Franklin Planner agenda to manage "what" matters most and "when" it needs to get done. I save everything to my Outlook calendar --- notes, drawings, directions, etc. Then, I sync everything in my mobile phone. Duplicity offers assurance, and that gives me peace of mind.

EP: Do you use technology to help stay productive and organized? If so, what's your favorite program, app, website or tech tool for surviving the chaos of daily life? And what's your favorite for being your best while traveling?

ON: Personally, I don't use a lot of technology because I don't like the eye strain of staring at a screen a million times a day. That might seem strange coming from a former Cisco girl, but I keep things "tech simple". I use Dropbox for storing and retrieving any and all docs. I also use the Dropbox app on my mobile phone. However, for overall productivity, I find that my Franklin Planner (compact size) is invaluable for keeping me on track and productive.

EP: Across all your travels, which restaurant did you enjoy most, why was it your favorite and what was the best food?

ON: A favorite restaurant is an impossible question, but, if hard-pressed, it would be the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. I ordered breakfast via room service, and it was so delicious that I nearly forgot that I was supposed to be on stage to speak to a few hundred people. Yes... It was THAT good!

EP: If you could have one super power to make traveling (or life in general) a little better, what would it be?

ON: Oh, that's easy... My super power would be warp speed movement. As I said, I'm impatient.

Thanks for sharing so many excellent tidbits, Ms. Njenga!

Readers, do your preferences mirror hers? Do you use any of the tools or hacks that she's mastered over her countless travels? Which tip do you plan to implement in the future?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Countdown to Memorial Day: Coach Dave Clawson's Travel Tips

Spring has sprung, and the countdown to summer's unofficial start on Memorial Day has begun! As temperatures rise, I find that travel planning increases so this is the third in my series of interviews highlighting frequent travelers' preferences and best practices, giving you takeaways to try for your next trip.

Coach Dave Clawson
This week, I am pleased to share my interview with Dave Clawson, head coach for the football program at Wake Forest University since December 10, 2013. Known for his prowess in building football programs, Coach Clawson has shown dramatic improvement at every stop: Albany, Buffalo, Lehigh, Villanova, Fordham, Richmond, Bowling Green and, now, Wake Forest. Yet, with all that football success, Coach Clawson faces a tremendous amount of traveling on a regular basis, whether for recruiting, getting to game day and everything in between. Add to that traveling with his wife, Catherine, and two children, Courtney and Eric, and Coach Clawson has plenty of travel experience to share. For more on Coach Clawson, please view his bio here, and continue reading for travel insights to use over your next adventure.


EP: Do you travel mainly for business, pleasure or both?

DC: I travel for both. Recruiting requires me to travel quite a bit for work in December and January. During the season (August - December), we have to travel to away games, but, in the summer, I really enjoy taking at least one trip a year with my family. Each year, we go to a different part of the country or internationally.

EP: Do you prefer traveling via plane, train, boat or automobile?

DC: None! Hahaha! I have to say that the actual traveling is the worst part of travel. Still, if it's further away than a 5-hour drive, I like to fly; other than that, we typically travel by automobile.

EP: What is your favorite destination and why?

DC: I have been to Paris twice, and I absolutely love that. Additionally, I love going down to the beaches of the North Carolina and South Carolina shore.

EP: What is your preference for airlines?

DC: Delta or American, but that's only because those are the two I end up flying the most.

EP: What is your preference for hotels or accommodations?

DC: I prefer both Marriotts and Hiltons because of their consistency - You know what to expect, and their service is usually very good.

EP: Do you book your own travel or prefer a travel agency?

DC: For personal travel, we usually book the travel on our own; however, for work, the athletic department uses Anthony Travel.

EP: Are you loyal to any particular brands or have suggestions for utilizing loyalty programs?

DC: I usually try to travel based on the lowest price for when I need to be going so I don't gravitate towards any specific brand simply because it's the brand. I go to a brand if it's the best price.

EP: When flying, what do you ensure is in your carry-on?

DC: I like to bring a good book and, usually, my iPad.

EP: What's your favorite book?

DC: I love reading presidential biographies. The ones about John Adams and Andrew Jackson are two of my favorites.

EP: Do you keep an extra bag of toiletries packed?

DC: Yes, I do. I always have a bag of toiletries under our sink that is packed, and, any time I travel, I just grab that bag and throw it in my suitcase. It's packed and ready to go.

EP: How do you organize your time commitments and reservation details while on-the-go?

DC: I put everything in my iPhone's calendar. If I'm going to a hotel, I'll put the hotel name, address and reservation number or details in the calendar so I can look it all up with just one click.

EP: Any tools or tactics you use to keep your accommodations organized?

DC: I rarely stay at a hotel for more than one night with my recruiting travel schedule, but I immediately set up my iPad on my desk and try to have it duplicate my work set-up as much as possible.

EP: Do you use technology to help stay productive and organized? If so, what's your favorite program, app, website or tech tool for surviving the chaos of daily life? And what's your favorite for being your best while traveling?

DC: I use the calendar app on my iPhone and iPad a lot; that's probably the technology I depend on the most.

EP: Across all your travels, which restaurant did you enjoy most, why was it your favorite and what was the best food?

DC: Whenever I travel, I enjoy food. I like watching Food Network shows so, whenever I go to a place on the road, I never like to eat in chains. I always like to find what the local restaurant is and what the local food is. If I'm near the shore, I love to get seafood; if I'm in western North Carolina, I like to get the barbecue. It's like when you're in New York and you love to get Italian. When eating at a place that's local, it usually has fresh ingredients and fresh food.

EP: If you could have one super power to make traveling (or life in general) a little better, what would it be?

DC: To eliminate the travel part of travel! If I could just get beamed somewhere, going to the shore could take 5 minutes instead of 5 hours, and that would make life much, much better.

Thanks for sharing so many excellent tidbits, Coach Clawson, here's to a hugely successful season this fall... Go, Deacs!

Readers, do your preferences mirror his? Do you use any of the tools or hacks that he's mastered over his countless travels? Which tidbit do you plan to implement yourself?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Get Top Tech Tools for Rocking It at Work and in Life


One of my most popular workshops is coming up in Raleigh next week, and I know you don't want to miss out on reserving your spot for 6-8pm on Thursday, April 20th or 10am-noon on Saturday, April 22nd if you are local to the Triangle in North Carolina. If you feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done and you might be losing time that you'd like to get back, technology could help. Don't waste your time searching all over the Internet for the tech tools to perfectly fit your needs; I have done the research and heavy-lifting for you, saving you time by sharing the best of the best. Adjust how you approach work, home, community involvement and taking care of yourself to organize for greater success so you better achieve your goals, quickly find what you need when you need it and always know what must be done. With what you learn in this workshop, you will be able to take full advantage of available software, apps and tech tools to achieve enhanced efficiency, greater productivity, larger profitability, an organized workspace and better harmony across all aspects of your life. Space is limited so hurry on over to http://bit.ly/NCLearning, select which of the two offerings works best for your schedule and get registered.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Countdown to Memorial Day: Geralin Thomas' Travel Tips

Spring has sprung, and the countdown to summer's unofficial start on Memorial Day has begun! As temperatures rise, I find that travel planning increases so this is the second in my series of interviews highlighting frequent travelers' preferences and best practices, giving you takeaways to try for your next trip.

Ms. Geralin Thomas
This week, I am pleased to share my interview with Geralin Thomas, an organizing consultant who owns Metropolitan Organizing and is best known for her appearances on A and E's television show, Hoarders. Ms. Thomas is an author, speaker, instructor, consultant and career coach. Prior to becoming a professional organizer, Ms. Thomas worked in the travel industry; now, she travels heavily for television appearances as well as public speaking opportunities. Click for Ms. Thomas' bio on her website, including her list of Free Checklists that offers "Packing For a NAPO Conference", and continue for her most valuable travel hacks.

ESP: Do you travel mainly for business, pleasure or both?

GT: When on the road for business, I try to squeeze in a little fun distraction. Sometimes, it's a visit with a nearby friend or family member. Sometimes, it's a city tour or museum visit. Often, I reach out to someone with whom I socialize on social media, but I make sure to include pleasure with my business while traveling.

ESP: Do you prefer traveling via plane, train, boat or automobile?

GT: In real life, I travel almost always via car or plane. I like direct, cross-country flights because I can accomplish a lot of work in 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted time alone.

ESP: What is your favorite destination and why?

GT: My two favorite vacation places are Positano and St. Barts. Both places offer the best chefs preparing the very freshest meals with simple ingredients, the sea, the sun, fashion and local hospitality.

ESP: What is your preference for airlines?

GT: Delta Airlines is my preferred airline because I feel like they try harder in every single way to make the trip a little more pleasant.

ESP: What is your preference for hotels or accommodations?

GT: When it comes to hotels, I'm not quite as brand loyal. Instead, my priorities are a safe neighborhood, a clean and updated room, WiFi as well as plentiful elevators!

ESP: Do you book your own travel or prefer a travel agency?

GT: I used to be a travel agent so, almost all of the time, I book my own. However, if I were going on a river cruise or something like that which is outside the realm of my experience, I would most likely use an experienced agent.

ESP: When flying, what do you ensure is in your carry-on?

GT: My packing list for vacation travel is included on pages 168 and 169 of my book, Decluttering Your Home Tips, Techniques and Trade Secrets, including sections for the basics, personal items, carry-on items and a few extras. Alternatively, for business travel, especially to a National Association of Professional Organizers' (NAPO) Conference, my business trip packing list is on my website.

ESP: Do you keep an extra bag of toiletries packed?

GT: I have a hanging bag with compartments that stays stocked and ready to roll 24/7. However, my cosmetics are kept in a bathroom drawer and packed according to destination, season, clothing capsule colors, etc.

ESP: How do you organize your time while on-the-go?

GT: While I use an electronic calendar for all recurring events, I still prefer a paper planner when it comes to daily, one-on-one, phone or video appointments. In my paper planner, I get very creative. I not only take notes and make sketches, but I play with colors and shapes that suit each client. Most of my "career coaching" with professional organizers and "wardrobe wisdom" coaching is done virtually. That means that, even while on the road, I can easily honor appointments with clients from numerous time zones.

ESP: What tools or tactics do you use to keep your accommodations organized while traveling?

GT: Small, separate, zippered cases are my sanity-saving secret, and it's not just on the road. I use them at home, too. Everything gets bundled and, then, is popped in and out of bigger tote bags as I need them. Here are a few examples:
- travel documents
- receipts
- phone charger
- ear buds
- computer charger
- pool / beach goodies
- fitness necessities
I do this with my "wardrobe wisdom" clients as well, bundling their jewelry in small mesh bags and hanging each bag with whichever garments that jewelry will be worn.

ESP: Do you use technology to help stay productive and organized? If so, what's your favorite program, app, website or tech tool for surviving the chaos of daily life?

GT: I regularly use Evernote, Hipmunk, Momondo, Skyscanner and GateGuru.

ESP: What are your "must haves" for being your best while traveling?

GT: I must have a good night's sleep. For me, that requires the following:
- a comfortable mattress, pillows and bedding
- no ambient light at night
- a quiet room away from the elevators and ice machines
Additionally, I must have a well-lit bathroom, towels that are thick and absorbent, great water pressure in the shower, plenty of outlets in the room so I can charge my devices as well as easy access to hot tea and coffee in the early morning hours.

ESP: Across all your travels, which restaurant did you enjoy most, why was it your favorite and what was the best food?

GT: Don't get me wrong; I've eaten at some very fine restaurants, but I think of myself as more of a relationship person --- not a foodie. I find that a very average meal becomes extraordinary when shared with an enjoyable dining companion. It's usually not so much about the food but more about the company I'm keeping. Some of the very best times of my life were had while eating ho-hum food with interesting, charismatic or hilarious friends, acquaintances or strangers.

ESP: If you could have one super power to make traveling (or life in general) a little better, what would it be?

GT: While traveling, I've often thought that, if I had the ability to understand and fluently converse in all languages, it would be a huge asset.

Thanks for sharing so many excellent tidbits, Ms. Thomas!

Readers, to learn more about Ms. Thomas, click-through to her Wikipedia page. Do your preferences mirror hers? Do you use any of the tools or hacks she's mastered over her countless travels? Which of her tips do you plan to implement?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Countdown to Memorial Day: Laura Doerre's Travel Tips

Spring has sprung, and the countdown to summer's unofficial start on Memorial Day has begun! As temperatures rise, I find that travel planning increases so this is the first in my series of interviews highlighting frequent travelers. We'll cover their preferences and best practices, giving you takeaways to try for your next trip.

Ms Laura W. Doerre
To kick things off, I am pleased to share my interview with Laura W. Doerre, who has served as Executive vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of JELD-WEN, a leading window and door manufacturer with operations in 19 countries, since September 2016. Prior to that, Ms. Doerre was Vice President and General Counsel for Nabors Industries, the world's largest land-based drilling contractor with operations in over 20 countries, where she worked for 20 years. A frequent traveler, Ms. Doerre has visited over 60 countries and is currently on a quest to run a half marathon on all seven continents. Ms. Doerre serves on the boards of The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (2011-present), Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity (2010-present; current President) and Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation (2010-2012; 2014-present). She is a member of Women Executives of Charlotte as well as the International Chamber of Commerce Commission on Arbitration and co-chairs the Corporate Counsel Subcommittee of the U.S. Council for International Business' Committee on Arbitration.

ESP: Do you travel mainly for business, pleasure or both?

LWD: Both.

ESP: Do you prefer traveling via plane, train, boat or automobile?

LWD: Plane - It's so much more efficient.

ESP: What is your favorite destination and why?

LWD: Paris with its wonderful food, shopping and wine.

ESP: What is your preference for airlines?

LWD: American because I live in a hub city and, with all my traveling, have earned a higher status.

ESP: What is your preference for hotels or accommodations?

LWD: I have a few options that I prefer: Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton for their superb quality as well as Marriott and Hilton for the loyalty points garnered from each stay.

ESP: Do you book your own travel or prefer a travel agency?

LWD: I prefer to book my own travel. I usually find better alternatives and better deals.

ESP: Do you have any suggestions for making the most of loyalty programs or points?

LWD: To determine the best values, apply the rule that one point must equal $0.01.

ESP: Are you loyal to any particular brands?

LWD: In addition to the aforementioned American, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Marriott and Hilton, I would include United because I have earned lifetime status with them.

ESP: When flying, what do you ensure is in your carry-on?

LWD: Everything! But, if I'm checking a bag, I make sure my carry-on includes my valuables, essential toiletries and a change of clothes. Oh, and Bose headphones as well as compression socks for the flight.

ESP: Do you keep an extra bag of toiletries packed?

LWD: Absolutely! I started doing this years ago, and it has definitely decreased the aggravation of forgotten items.

ESP: How do you organize your time while on-the-go?

LWD: iCalendar synced between my devices.

ESP: What tools or tactics do you use to keep your accommodations organized while traveling?

LWD: Technology is very helpful. I like using iCalendar along with the app for the hotel where I'm staying. Additionally, to prevent scrambling once you reach your destination, international travelers need to have a curling iron or other frequently used appliances in 220 V versions to take on those trips.

ESP: Do you use technology to help stay productive and organized? If so, what's your favorite program, app, website or tech tool for surviving the chaos of daily life? And what's your favorite for being your best while traveling?

LWD: My iCalendar keeps me on track, particularly with separate color-coding for each aspect of my life.

ESP: Across all your travels, which restaurant did you enjoy most, why was it your favorite and what was the best food?

LWD: Joel Robuchon Atelier in Paris - My visit was a great night with great food and great wine. The seared foie gras with poached apricot is unbelievably good!

ESP: If you could have one super power to make traveling (or life in general) a little better, what would it be?

LWD: Teleportation.

Thanks for sharing so many excellent tidbits, Ms. Doerre!

Readers, do your preferences mirror hers? Do you use any of the tools or hacks that she's mastered over her countless travels? Which tip do you plan to implement in the future?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Work-Life Integration Is Realistic Way to Tackle What Matters Most

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how work-life integration is a realistic way to tackle what matters most. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the last of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity by providing ways to implement work-life integration.

People often refer to work-life balance; yet, I believe work-life integration is more realistic. In thinking about "balance", I see a scale or seesaw, forcing a perception of costs needed for success, but I do not believe my "work" competes with my "life", seeing how they regularly complement each other instead. Although balance would be static, life is certainly not and requires fluid solutions to address one's ever-changing priorities for work, home, community or society and the private realm of mind, body and spirit. I help my clients recognize how any element we choose to have in our lives adds value to each of the other elements and how harmony is possible. As the various elements of life are layers on top of each other, the emphasis needed for each element continually fluctuates, and each layer adds value to the others, making the total greater than any part.

Some people refer to it as "getting in the zone" while others call it "being on a roll". No matter what you call it, enabling all elements of life to better each other helps you benefit from greater effectiveness so you ultimately perform at your best. Research shows you can learn to get and stay on a roll by tweaking a few simple aspects of how you handle the various aspects of life.

Stew Friedman has been at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, since 1984 where he is the Practice Professor of Management and founded the Wharton Leadership Program. Known as the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, Friedman's research focuses a good deal on the interactions between all the elements encompassed in life: work, home, community or society as well as our own minds, bodies and spirits. Whether in my own life or working with my clients, I've seen great validity in Friedman's finding that "you don't have to sacrifice, tradeoff or balance to have a sane, productive and meaningful work life and home life". The mashup of many layers in life may fluctuate over time, but addressing the priorities of those various elements leads to more successful results, focusing on the three core principles of what the Wharton School refers to as the Total Leadership Approach: be real, be whole and be innovative. As Friedman explains, "To be real is to act with authenticity by clarifying what's important to you. To be whole is to act with integrity by recognizing how the different parts of your life affect one another. All this examination allows you to be innovative."

Over the past few weeks, we've done deep dives on the importance of time being limited, being clear on priorities, proactively planning to best invest time, limit distractions and utilize all available resources; it is work-life integration that pulls together each tenant of productivity for your greatest success.

Looking at your own life, would you like to utilize this integration, harmony and efficiency to fuel more powerful outcomes? Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
  • Plan for all elements of life in the same daily, weekly and monthly game plans. You are one person, whether at home, at work, volunteering in the community or taking time to care for yourself. You can't be in more than one place at the same time, and multi-tasking prohibits achieving the best possible results. Still, there are only 1,4440 minutes in each day, and you must allocate your investment of time as powerfully as possible to address the ever-changing priorities from all elements of your life. With a clear awareness of your priorities, you can include actions that address goals for all of those most important priorities, rather than segmenting your life, and you'll be able to focus on activities that will address your needs in multiple elements at the same time. Instead of compartmentalizing activities by individual elements of your life, schedule your priorities, and bring your priorities together so multiple goals can be accomplished simultaneously.
  • Be creative with simple changes that address multiple priorities at once. With a clarity of which priorities are most important and urgent at any moment in time, you can plan actions to address more than one priority at once; as Friedman explains, aim for "4-way wins, (where there's) improved performance at work, at home, in the community and for yourself." Enhanced productivity and satisfaction come with small changes that are under your control while greater efficiency comes from addressing the priorities from multiple elements at once, which means achieving more of your various different goals concurrently. For example, walking your dog meets your goals to live a healthier life as well as take care of your pet; however, if you brainstorm a big pitch for work or listen to a recording of a book you're reading at the same time, you can accomplish even more via this work-life integration tactic. Likewise, attending a business conference is another excellent example for addressing multiple elements at the same time: you're learning new information, networking with other professionals and visiting new locations.
  • Do great work. When you are good at completing assigned tasks, whether at work, at home or in the community, you better position yourself to do something for yourself or another element of your life as a complement, having those from whom you need buy-in be more receptive to your "why" because you were present and focused during the time they needed you to be in achieving goals related to them. When you perform well as needed, those around you are more understanding about how addressing other priorities will empower you to do even better work and better help the team in the future. As explained by Jennifer Dulski, President & COO of Change.org, "If (others) know they can trust you to deliver high-quality results... they'll be less concerned with when and where you get that work done", but you must prove yourself. Turnover, absenteeism and disgruntled workers are costly; therefore, when your work-life integration leads to the business achieving its goals, more options become available to you.
  • Offer flexibility as a "temporary experiment". When you frame how your solution benefits the entire team, explain how it will be regularly evaluated and can be discarded if it just doesn't work out as hoped. Then, when you succeed, achieving enhanced productivity with greater outputs, everyone will support the continuation of the tactics in your solution.
  • Acknowledge how the resources around you can help. As we discussed last week, it is imperative to utilize all available resources, whether streamlining your workflow processes, creating an organized workspace, hiring consultants whose expertise enhances what you already know or do, outsourcing what needs to be done but not necessarily by you, implementing boundaries or taking advantage of existing tech tools. When you can pull in resources that help address priority goals for multiple elements of your life, it's all the more efficient, effective and, therefore, productive. 
  • Focus on outcomes over activities. Rather than doing things you think you are "supposed" to do, have specific goals mapped out for your week and incorporate actions that will drive those desired results. As I'm planning for all elements of life, I use my Weekly Strategy Session and Daily Wrap-Ups to create a game plan for what particular activities will fuel my desired outcomes and help me stay on track for successfully achieving the results I want or need. By focusing my actions on achieving my desired outcomes, I know whether I'm being successful.
  • Control what you can control. Only you are the boss of you and can control the fate of your week. Life will throw you curve balls, but you choose how to react and with what attitude you face challenges. How much or how little guilt you experience in any element really is in your control, just as you control with what actions you respond to what occurs around you.
  • Complete a regular audit of your time. Experiencing burnout is usually due to a misalignment between your goals, priorities or values and your actions. On a daily, weekly and monthly basis, make sure your actions are consistent with your values, supporting the fulfillment of your goals in whichever life elements are highest priorities currently. For example, are you attending meetings you don't really need to be in just so you can be seen there? If you have trouble staying on track alone, consider incorporating an accountability partner in your efforts, giving you someone to talk through situations where it is more challenging to align your actions with your priorities. Since our individual circumstances changes at different stages in our lives, the percent of each day that needs to be devoted to each element of life will vary, meaning we must keep our focus fluid, and regular reviews of how well you are aligning your actions with your priorities will aid your efforts. 
As you look at the various elements of your life, including work, home, community or society as well as mind, body and spirit, are you integrating those different layers into a mashup that drives harmony, satisfaction, greater outputs and better productivity? Are you pulling the various tenants of productivity (limited time, clear priorities, proactive planning, eliminating distractions and utilizing all available resources) together for work-life integration that fuels your desired results? If not, what simple changes can you make for more success?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - It Is Imperative to Utilize All Available Resources

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how it is imperative to utilize all available resources. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive"; today, I'll do the fifth of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity, offering ways you can utilize all available resources for greater success.

When I refer to the resources or tools for your greater success, I never limit that discussion to technology. As you are filling your productivity toolbox, consider streamlining your workflow processes, creating an organized workspace in which you know where things are stored, hire consultants whose expertise enhances what you already know or do, outsource what needs to be done but not necessarily by you to employees or service professionals (including house cleaners and personal chefs), implement boundaries appropriate for your circumstances and

Still, in today's world, technology often plays a big role in how we get things done. Take time to evaluate whether paper or electronic tools might better meet your specific needs, taking into consideration your personality, your existing workflows, where you feel like you are losing time and the expectations of those with whom you work (your supervisor, your team members, your clients, your vendors, etc). Writing out meeting notes, tasks and time commitments on paper can aid in remembering those details; however, electronic alternatives have the benefit of automatic carryover, adding reminders and scheduling recurrences as needed, which can be beneficial for certain individuals. I also find the Time and Space Style Inventory enlightening when determining what sort of resources would be the best fit for any particular individual.

Although Three Dog Night claims "One is the loneliest number", I contend that one is the most powerful number for being productive. As you outline resources to implement, whether paper or electronic, keep in mind the power of one: one calendar for personal and professional commitments, one running data dump of all tasks that funnels into one daily to-do list, one address book for all contacts' information, one set of naming conventions for all files (paper, electronic, email), one place for all the information you must remember as well as reference and one strategy session to plan your week that is maintained with one daily wrap-up at the end of each day. Having one of each better ensures your content is kept up-to-date, you know what needs to be done when, nothing falls through the cracks and you don't get double-booked.

Consider what tools you are using to meet each of these needs and fill in what holes exist as you're working to get things done:
  • How do you block out web and app distractions? When hopping online for research, writing or social media, it's easy to get distracted and lose time. Limit your access for greater focus and more efficient results by using tools like Flipd, GrooveOtter, KeepMeOut, RescueTime, SelfControl and StayFocused.
  • How do you make it easier to set meetings? If you are trying to pull together a group of people, every individual will have different requests for when and where to meet. Instead of opening dialogue with everyone to schedule a meeting, enter options that work for you and let those you want to attend vote on which option works for the majority. Choose from tools like Doodle or Vyte for what best meets your meeting setting needs.
  • Are you able to seamlessly update contacts? People change jobs, email providers, mailing addresses and more; as we're inundated with information, make keeping up more feasible by automating updating your records via an assistant like EasilyDo, EverContact, FullContact or Sync.ME.
  • What do you use for cloud-based back-ups? Computers crash. Fires can destroy all your devices. Emergencies happen. It's not a matter of "if" but "when" your technology will die, but you can be prepared with automated remote storage. Simply "set it and forget it" with a tool like Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, IDrive or Mozy.
  • How do you control an overflowing inbox? Email can be less time-consuming when you send fewer messages out, unsubscribe from those you are no longer reading and choose to process (rather than check) newly received emails; however, don't stop there. Implement tools to take better control of your email like Airmail, Boomerang, Contactually, Mailstrom, SaneBox, Sortd, Spark and Unroll.me.
  • What do you use to store your passwords? As our list of passwords grows, it can become increasingly difficult to remember them all, particularly as components to include vary and with how often they must be updated. Auto-select, retain and autofill logins with a password manager like Dashlane, LastPass, RoboForm, SplashID and 1Password.
  • How can you automate more functionality? Automation is a form of delegation where you delegate to technology and can massively expand how much you can get done concurrently. No one can do everything alone, especially all at once; however, automation tools let things get done while you put your efforts into other, hands-on tasks. Set what rules apply to your needs in automation tools like IFTTT, Podbox, Zapier and social media managers such as Buffer, Edgar, FalconHootsuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social.
Fill your productivity toolbox with the best tools for achieving specific goals and, then, be sure to utilize all resources available for your success. Are you more of a paper or electronic person? What tools do you currently utilize? What tools can you add to your productivity toolbox?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Distractions are Detrimental to Your Desired Results

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how distractions are extremely detrimental to your desired results. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the fourth of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, limiting distractions.

Research shows the average US office worker is interrupted 11 times each hour of the workday, and, then, it takes 3 to 8 minutes to refocus, although it can take up to 25 minutes to really refocus when working in deep thought. My rough math tells me that doesn't leave much time for getting things done, let alone accomplishing your big, hairy, audacious goals. Since time is a very limited resource, it's vital to note how distractions are robbing you of valuable minutes, hours and days; reducing distractions is a valuable skill to learn for boosting your productivity.

Here are 10 easy ways to get started limiting distractions:
  • Wear noise-reducing headphones. - Particularly when you focus on strategic thinking or creative production, wearing headphones can block out what's happening around you, even if they aren't playing any sort of music at all. When you work in a shared workspace, wearing headphones has the added bonus of communicating to your co-workers that you are deep in thought and to please not interrupt your efforts.
  • Turn off the pings, ding and pop-ups of tech-related notifications. - Set your smartphone to silent and remove the vibrate that goes with the silent mode. Stop any pop-up notifications telling you when you get a new comment on social media. Deactivate previews of newly received email messages. Instead, schedule time for handling calls, social media and processing email. Then, for anyone requiring immediate responses, like key account clients or your direct supervisor, make them VIPs so you can utilize Do Not Disturb on iOS and Priority Mode on Android.
  • Make sure your scheduled tasks fulfill your goals. - Burnout comes from actions being out of alignment with your priorities, and burnout definitely derails productivity, limiting focus and making you more susceptible to additional distractions. I find it helpful to regularly audit how my actions align with my priorities, thereby supporting my goals.
  • Break projects into bite-sized actions. - One of the greatest distractions is procrastination, and we often procrastinate when we don't know where to start. Attempting to complete a project, not a task, is futile; it is imperative to have a list of smaller, more manageable actions that can be checked off one-by-one. When you break projects down into actionable tasks, you feel empowered to complete each task in a single work session or, at least, get started on doing each in sequence.
  • Be realistic about task management. - Another frequent distraction is the feeling of overwhelm that comes with too long a list of tasks for any one day. While we all wish we were superheroes, we are humans that can accomplish only so much each day; plus, as unforeseen items are going to pop-up and need attention, making sure our daily to-do list leaves some breathing room is important. Schedule no more than 3-5 "must-do" items each day, and make sure that each "what" which must get done is assigned a "when" for its completion.
  • Utilize a timer. - Some individuals or teams use a timer to simply get started, setting it for 15 minutes and capitalizing on the momentum created by that rush to keep pushing toward completion of the task at hand. Others like using a timer to stay on track, setting it for different intervals throughout the time required for its completion and making certain to still be working on the task at hand when the timer goes off at the end of each interval. In either scenario, timers boost productivity.
  • Schedule "office hours" during your day. - In these blocks of time, you can focus exclusively on assigned projects while blocking out the distractions of calls, emails and people stopping by your office. Tell others you will be available before and after these times; then, during each office hours' timeframe, send calls to voice mail, don't check emails and hold off on answering knocks to your door. It is as if you are away in a meeting, but your meeting is with yourself to attend more intently to the work that can be done by only you.
  • Limit the impact of drivebys. - If you have an extra chair in your office, make sure it has something resting in it to keep others from sitting down to chat or position it somewhere more difficult to access so it's less inviting for visitors to settle in for a while. When someone comes into your office without an appointment, stand up and move towards your door, conveying to the visitor that it is not a convenient time. Keep an outbox near your office door so you can take those items down the hall as someone is coming to your office, always encouraging those that make unplanned visits to schedule an appointment for later. You want to help them, but it has to fit into your schedule so you can give that individual your undivided attention without negatively impacting efforts to complete your own work.
  • Practice mindfulness. - For some, this means doing one thing at a time with complete focus, understanding that multi-tasking simply diminishes effectiveness. For others, this means being fully present in the moment, no matter whether in a meeting or working on the computer, to push forward with the greatest impact. Yet, for different folks, this means scheduling more intense tasks when you have your peak energy, whether that's first-thing in the morning, at night or when caffeine boosts your focus in the mid-afternoon. Pick what works best for you.
  • Work remotely when you most need to focus intently. - While a library might help, research suggests the sounds of a coffee shop act as "white noise", helping you block out everything around for the greatest uninhibited productivity. New surroundings can boost concentration.
What distracts you most often? How have you had success staying productive amidst all of life's distractions? Have you had success with any of the tactics listed above?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Proactively Planning Your Efforts Will Boost Achievement of Goals

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how proactively planning your efforts will boost success for your goals. In January, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the third of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success via tactics for planning.

As discussed before, when a team goes into a game, its coaches have scouted the opponent, determined which of the team's strengths match up best to the opponent's weaknesses and created a game plan. Each team adjusts its plan based off how the game progresses, but the chance of winning at all depends greatly on starting with a plan. The same applies to living your life: plan your weeks and days while making adjustments as time progresses so you attack your priorities instead of getting sidetracked by others.

Whether on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, allot time at the end of each week to review the week ending as well as plan for the week ahead. Take control of your productivity by creating your own weekly game plan. I consider this process my weekly strategy session, where I plan for how to address the following:

  • Tasks - Every project needs to be broken down into smaller, more manageable action steps; each of those actions should be assigned a deadline so there is an associated timeline. Evaluate which actions scheduled for the week ending were left undone and should be carried forward; then, determine when each of those incomplete tasks will get done. Decide what new tasks should be added to your to-do list; assign deadlines for each.
  • Team Communications - Get in-depth updates from each member of your team (at work, at home or involved with the community projects you're currently addressing), including what is working, what is not working and what needs attention.
  • Client Communications - Catch-up on processing outstanding emails, calls and snail mail. Reach out to schedule time with those who have been needing your attention. Touch bases with clients from whom you've not heard lately, whether with gratitude, to wish a happy birthday or simply seeing how things are going. Some should include a call to action but not all.
  • Time Commitments - Review the upcoming week's commitments to ensure you've scheduled time for completing whatever preparations have yet to get done. Be certain your calendar includes buffers for travel to appointments as well as time to deal with the unforeseen that might arise.
  • Personal and Professional Development - Determine opportunities for growth, including any training, networking or events that will move you towards your goals. Evaluate anything you've received via email or snail mail that has an imminent registration deadline, and decide whether to attend.

Be strategic and map out a specific plan for addressing all that supports your priority goals, understanding that "every what assigned a when is more likely to get accomplished." I have yet to find a "Someday" on any calendar; there is always Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but no Someday, which means assigning time for completing actions moves the results of their completion from dreams to goals.

As we all know "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry", it is imperative to allocate time daily to reassess and make sure the next 24 hours continue along the right path. We live in the real world, and things happen to derail even the most well thought-out plans. As hiccups arise, adjustments will need to be made, but your days will be guided by your weekly strategy, which will be empowered and reinforced with these daily wrap-ups. Address these items at the end of each day:

  • Communications - Get updates from team members and "hot prospects", new and returning; touch bases with those that need awareness of what's happening and what you're doing.
  • Tasks - Review the to-do list from the day ending, determining which incomplete tasks can be completed when. Prepare the next day's must-do list, documenting what 3-5 action items will be realistic for the next 24 hours so you can hit the ground running to complete them starting first-thing in the morning.
  • Time - Evaluate your schedule for the next day, verifying that you're prepared for it all. If you're not yet ready, when will you make time for completing those preparations.
  • Workspace - Tidy up... File new items, return that day's work into each item's home and set out the materials for whatever you'll address first upon returning to your office.
  • Successes - Celebrate all you've accomplished in the day that's ending. If you got out of bed, you accomplished something! Acknowledging these wins motivates doing more.
  • Gratitude - Make note of that for which you are grateful at the end of each day, whether one item or a list of things, and consider all areas of your life (home, work, community, self).
  • Final Preparations - Plan from where your meals will come, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Will you pack your lunch or go out to eat? Do you need to put something in the slow-cooker that evening or in the morning? Then, check the forecast and pick out each detail of what will be necessary for the next day's outfit, including jewelry and undergarments.

With proper planning, what matters most to you finds time in your schedule, and you stay on track amidst all the curveballs that life throws your way. What steps do YOU take to plan ahead?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Clarity of Priorities Enables Knowing Which Goals to Tackle When

One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how clarity of priorities enables knowing when to act upon which goals. Last month, I looked at what it means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the second of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, looking at the importance of aligning our actions with our priorities.

If you fill your life with the little things that don't really matter, you leave little to no time for more meaningful things... Start with what's most important! If you purposefully make room in each week or day to address actions fueling what really matters to you, there is still room in your life to fill in with some of those less meaningful actions, but you'll move more rapidly towards achieving the goals that matter most. Comparing the time limitations of each day with the space constraints of a jar, this video displays how making room in your schedule for those priority actions first leaves room for filling the less important activities around later, like starting by filling the jar with the rocks before adding the pebbles and sand around those rocks.

Focusing on your priorities is a powerful time management tactic to overcome the limitations in saying "I'll get to that someday." I have yet to find a calendar that includes "Someday". Every calendar has Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but not "Someday". Since we are more likely to get something accomplished when it has a specific date and time assigned for its completion, especially amidst the clutter on today's calendars, it's unlikely something you're going to do "Someday" will ever get accomplished. Remember that every "what" assigned a "when" is more likely to get done, and determine what finds a home on your calendar each day, week, month and year.

Each day, we have only 1,440 minutes to accomplish all our goals for work, home, community and ourselves, including taking time to eat, sleep, bathe, exercise and spend time with those we love. With our resource of time being so limited, it's imperative to invest each minute wisely, but how can we know which goals are important enough priorities to earn an investment of our own time?

I have two tools I prefer using when evaluating my current priorities. First, since my brain is not a reliable retention tool, it's important to dump the information out of my head, but I like to do that data dump in the most organized manner possible. I create three columns on a sheet of paper: one for rocks, one for pebbles and one for sand; then, as I move to-do items from my brain to the paper, I sort by level of meaningfulness into those three columns. The most important tasks, those that fuel my most valuable results and move me to my priority goals, are listed in the "rocks" column. The time sucks that distract me from what I want to achieve or are more a priority of others get listed in the "sand" column while those actions falling more in the mid-level of meaningfulness go in the "pebbles" column.

Second, once everything needing my attention has been pulled out of my brain and written out so I can view it all at once, I'm able to better utilize the Eisenhower Matrix to evaluate my current priorities. Similar to training from Stephen Covey, the Eisenhower Decision Principle evaluates tasks using the criteria of important / unimportant along the left-hand side as well as the criteria of urgent / not urgent along the top; tasks are placed in according quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix for determining next steps. If something falls in the Important / Urgent box, it is to be done now. If something falls in the Important / Not Urgent box, it must be done but can be delayed to a later date. If something falls in the Not Important / Urgent box, I consider whether it can be delegated. If something falls in the Not Important / Not Urgent box, I consider whether it can be deleted.

When you are evaluating which actions on your running to-do list are priorities, consider a few enlightening questions... Does this task truly need to be completed? If not, can I delete it? If it must get done, does it need to be done by me? If not, to whom can I delegate it? I find this mental checklist very helpful in determining which tasks earn a portion of the very limited time on my calendar.

How do you determine which tasks are priorities? How do you use that prioritization to plan your next steps?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Redefining Productivity for Greater Success - Time is a Limited Resource and Needs to Be Invested Wisely

How do you invest time for best ROI?
One of 6 tenants to productivity being "efficiently working at effectively achieving desired results" is how time is a limited resource and needs to be invested wisely. Last month, I looked at what it really means to "be productive" or "boost productivity"; today, I'll do the first of 6 deep dives into specifics for redefining productivity to achieve greater success, looking at our limited resource of time.

Each day offers only 1,440 minutes while each week is made of no more than 168 hours. As any clock keeps tick, tick, ticking away, time stops for no one and nothing. We cannot create more time, and, once any amount of time has passed, it cannot be lived again.

Whether the resource being invested is money or time, there is always a measurable return. A financial advisor will talk with you about investing your money so that it can grow and make you more money. As a productivity consultant, I talk with you about investing your time to get a slightly different return on that investment; how you invest your limited resource of time will determine how well you achieve your goals, and the actions in which you invest your time reflect what are truly your priorities.

Next week, in the second installment of this blog series, I'll follow that train of thought further, looking at the importance of aligning our actions with our priorities; meanwhile, in considering wisely investing our limited resource of time, there is one mantra to keep in mind: Saying yes to doing something means saying no to anything else using that time. It's not possible to be in two places at the same time, and no moment can be lived twice.

One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when a client told me, "I never realized how valuable 15 minutes could be until I started working with you." We can improve only what we measure, and we must know how we are investing our time in order to invest it better. Therefore, if you are struggling to grasp how much time different tasks take or how you are currently investing your time, take action... Set a timer to see how long common actions take you to complete. Further, keep a time journal for at least a week to track how you are spending all your time.

How keenly aware are you of the limitations on your time? What steps do you take to make sure that time is invested wisely?

Friday, February 10, 2017

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

To give you a taste of what's to come in Emily Parks' series of travel tips that will count down to Memorial Day, we welcome Sarah Smith of ThePersonalIncome.org to present today's post.

People like reading about travel tips simply because travel can be overwhelming and confusing. There are tips about booking cheap flights and getting the best hotel accommodations for a good rate. These are, of course some of the main concerns of travelers, but there are other things about which a person who travels a lot might be concerned. Packing and taking great photos are two of those.

Many people worry about what to bring and how to cram everything they need for a few days into small pieces of luggage. Did you know that rolling your clothes makes them easier to pack and leaves them less wrinkled? You will benefit from packing mostly dark-colored clothes since they don’t get dirty very easily. You can just hand wash them with soap and water in your hotel room and hang them at the clothesline if there’s no laundry service. This way, you can reuse the same shirt or pants several times during your trip.

You can bring shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste in sachets since you'll need only a little of each, but bring a lot of sunscreen, especially if you will be spending a lot of time under the sun.

If you are traveling with your loved ones or friends, it will also do you well to book tours. It will make going around islands or cities much easier since everything will be taken care for you. The itinerary will also be laid out, and you won’t even have to worry about meals and other incidentals.

This timely infographic details travel hacks and other tips that will serve you well during your next trip:

7 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Before You Go

Monday, February 6, 2017

Productivity Best Practices from Super Bowl LI

Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots, is often called a "legend" or the "greatest of all time", and his team's win in last night's Super Bowl LI reinforced those beliefs for many who had been thinking that way. At halftime, the National Football Conference champions (the Atlanta Falcons) led the American Football Conference champions (the New England Patriots) by a score of 21 to 3, and most folks were saying the game was over. No team had ever overcome that large of a deficit in the Super Bowl, especially when the lead stretched to 28 versus 3 in the 3rd quarter, but no one counted on the spectacular play of Patriots' supporting cast members, like running back James White, tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Danny Amendola, defensive lineman Trey Flowers and wide receiver Julian Edelman. There are a couple important productivity lessons brought to light by this Patriots' win, and we can implement them to organize for success in our lives.

First, there's no I in TEAM, and, together, everyone achieves more. Although quarterback Tom Brady was awarded the Super Bowl MVP in 2015 and 2017, he acknowledged in both cases that he could never have achieved such a big, hairy, audacious goal without everyone on the team carrying their share of the workload. In 2015, he gave the truck he was awarded as MVP away to Patriots' cornerback Malcolm Butler; then, earlier today, Brady again acknowledged this win coming from a real team effort by saying "I think James White deserves it" in reference to the truck Brady was awarded as the 2017 Super Bowl MVP. Situational football plays a key role in such an epic comeback, and there are so many critical plays that contribute to a team performance of this magnitude: James White set a Super Bowl record with 20 points and 14 receptions; Trey Flowers sacked Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan in a pivotal play late in the 4th quarter, which is one play Ryan truly wishes he could change; Julian Edelman might've saved the day with a miraculous, gravity-defying, history-making and absolutely incredible catch, which you should click here to watch now if you've yet to see it or follow a step-by-step breakdown of the play here. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts", but it is through the culmination of all these players' contributions that the entire Patriots' team won.

Second, focused efforts without distraction over the duration of a project lead to effectively achieving desired results. When trailing by over 8 touchdowns, the Patriots could have easily given up, and most folks could have related to that feeling of being unable to overcome such a large deficit, particularly as such a Super Bowl comeback had never been done before. It's hard to believe you can accomplish something no one has done before, but the Patriots exhibited the mental toughness necessary when it might've been most difficult. One of the mantras for which Coach Belichick is most well known is "Do your job", and, for each member of the Patriots' team, doing his job consisted of diligently and attentively playing football, working beyond his limitations and showing mastery for all aspects of his game throughout the entire 60 minutes of four, 15-minute quarters as well as the first 4 minutes of overtime. No more and no less. Some have said the Falcons' defense appeared tired in the final quarter of the game while others have said the Patriots' offense finally figured out how to overcome what the Falcons' defense had been doing; regardless, the New England Patriots fulfilled Coach Belichick's expectation of doing all the little things it takes to win. Diligently paying attention to details led to the Patriots' success.

The men's basketball team for North Carolina State University was coached by Jim Valvano from 1980 to 1990, after which he famously battled metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of bone cancer. One of Coach Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993, during which Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love and persistence and included his famous quote of "Don't give up, don't ever give up." In last night's Super Bowl LI victory, the Patriots chose to never give up. Couple the Patriots' persistence with teamwork and each team member doing his job with great focus as well as attention to detail, and it's easy to see why the New England Patriots were rewarded with a remarkable Super Bowl victory.

What productivity practices make your organization most successful? Do you practice teamwork? Do you reinforce focusing on the details to do your job well? Do you have a culture of not quitting and not giving up?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1st is Change Your Password Day

No matter how diligently you plan for your financial future, chances are pretty good that you put your future at risk every day. If you are like me, you have online accounts that run the gamut, including logins to download music, purchase clothing, pay bills, communicate on social media, share documents or information and much, much more. Back when the Heartbleed security bug exploded in early 2014, we all had to take stock of our online accounts to change passwords for all the infected sites, and I realized how long my list of accounts had gotten. Couple the vast number of accounts with password security ranging from horrible to somewhat mediocre, and our risk is very scary.

According to CNN, half American adults were hacked in 2013 alone, and evidence indicates that situation is not slacking off. Looking at the list of biggest data breaches in 2016, there are some big names that can invoke real fear for those of us dependent on the Internet. A plethora of databases (from the U.S. Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service to LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Weebly website design, Cisco and Wendy's) are all included. Yes, I did say Wendy's the restaurant chain, and there's no telling what 2017 has in store.

Back in 2012, Gizmodo declared February 1st to be "Change Your Password Day", which I think is a pretty good idea. Using a password manager can increase the security of your passwords by having them created via the technology itself rather than your brain and secures those passwords electronically; however, even if you choose an alternative method for keeping track of all your online accounts, it's probably been awhile since you've refreshed your passwords. Take action today and change your passwords!

How do you keep track of the logins and passwords for all your online accounts? Will you take time today to assign each online account a new, more secure password?

Friday, January 27, 2017

What Does It Really Mean to "Be Productive" or "Boost Productivity"? Redefine Productivity for Greater Success

Productivity is a popular topic at networking events, in office conversations and for articles across many business-focused publications. I often hear people talk about how productive they are. Some folks use this buzzword to describe the rate at which a person does useful work while others use it to reference how much is getting done or how capable someone is to accomplish all that is needed. Maybe it's as simple as accomplishing what one sets out to do, fueling greater peace, happiness and success.

Although the dictionary definition of productivity is "the quality, state or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance or bring forth goods and services", I think it is so much more than simply getting more done in less time; from my viewpoint, productivity is about efficiently working to effectively achieve results desired for all elements of life. The emphasis on each element of life fluctuates as priorities change while our actions and efforts in each element of life can complement the other elements rather than having them compete with each other.

All individuals must determine what is "right" for their own productivity based off varying priorities and desired results, knowing there is not one best way to do this. Here are 6 common themes in how I help my clients boost productivity:
  • Time is a limited resource and needs to be invested wisely. Each day gifts us only 1,440 minutes; each week is only 168 hours. Saying yes to doing something means saying no to anything else using that time. Once we have lived that time, we cannot get it back; unlike money that can be invested to grow, the return on time spent must be greater than simply more time. How each of us measures the return on our time investment should reflect directly on our priorities.
  • Distractions are extremely detrimental to your desired results. Research shows the average US office worker is interrupted 11 times each hour of the workday and, then, it takes 3 to 8 minutes to refocus, although it can take up to 25 minutes to really refocus when working in deep thought. I'm not a mathematician, but even I can deduce how that doesn't leave much time for getting things accomplished. Since time is so limited, reducing distractions is a valuable skill to learn.
  • It is imperative to utilize all available resources. Each of us has different assets in our productivity toolbox, but we all have tools to use. Resources can include apps or websites, streamlined workflow processes, an organized space in which you know where things are stored, consultants hired for their expertise, employees or service professionals to whom you delegate (including house cleaners and chefs), calendars, timers, boundaries, to-do lists, email, automation and much more. Sometimes, an unbiased individual with a fresh set of eyes can best find additional sources of help, but there are always tools to support our efforts and make life easier.
How do you define being productive? Do you tie it to literally producing more, helping you feel more in control, making more money or something else? When thinking about boosting productivity, are results or feelings more important to you? What do YOU consider productivity?