Tag Archives: productivity

7 Quick Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

It is so easy to slide into the rabbit hole of procrastination, especially when big projects are looming, your calendar is overflowing with meetings, and your devices keep pinging at you. The urgent, everyday stuff like email and social media can lure us away from what we know is most important. Never does “getting organized” seem as alluring as when there’s something you’re uncomfortable or hesitant about doing even though you know you need to.

stop_buttonTry these ideas for beating the temptation of time wasters:

  • Each morning (or the night before) plan what you will get done today that will help you meet your most important goals. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.

  • Do your most creative work when you feel most fresh. Avoid looking at email and social media or taking non-urgent phone calls during those times. Close out of those programs, use the mute button, and focus.

  • Commit to an output goal or number of hours doing something on a consistent basis that helps you meet your bigger picture goals. This makes it harder to “accidentally” not make progress because of everything else that got in the way. For example, I’m going to write  for 3 hours every day without interruption, in two different time slots. Or I’m going to reach out to a minimum of 10 X-type of people through at least X emails, social media messages, and phone calls each week day.

  • Set time limits for how long you’ll spend doing more routine tasks like answering emails or posting on social media. Use a timer if it helps.

  • Are you trying to perfect something that wasn’t meant to be the next Mona Lisa? If you find yourself honing something endlessly, for example crafting the sixth version of anything, consider if you’re caught in the grass blades which is preventing you from looking at the forest. Seth Godin’s points out that there comes the time when you need to execute and complete the stepping stone projects that help you get where you want to go.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals or coming close, whether it’s meeting friends, reading that novel, or watching a fun movie.

  • Is your procrastination your brain or heart’s way of telling you something? If you find yourself elbows deep in cleaning out your desk or closet and you haven’t gotten your most critical goals done, ask yourself what is holding you back. Are you avoiding it because you feel uncomfortable doing it, are unsure of how to do it well enough to meet someone’s standards or your own, or is it taking you in a direction you don’t really want to go? Experts like Chris Brogan speak eloquently about pushing yourself to focus and execute or re-plan your strategy.

For more ideas, check out my recent article 12 Time Saving Hacks for Busy Professionals.

What are your strategies for overcoming procrastination?

 

12 Time Saving Hacks for Busy Professionals

Here are 12 of my favorite ways to save time, with special attention to social media and marketing. For those times when you might feel tempted by the lure  of procrastination, also check out my 7 Quick Tips for Overcoming Procrastination.

The Big Picture

1. Keep your goals top of mind. Is what you’re doing right now helping you to accomplish your goals? What can you stop doing? (Check out my blog articles ClockSaving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Matters Most and How Do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of a Product or Service for tips.)

2. Partner with other noncompetitive organizations and leaders to amplify your efforts and compare experiences. Just be judicious in picking the right collaborators and watching your time spent.

 

Social Media, Marketing & Your Brand

3. Monitor mention of your brand and related keywords through free tools like Google Alerts, Talkwalker and Social Mention. If you do an advanced search in Twitter it automatically saves your search parameters make it quick and easy to repeat.

4. Staying on top of the news in your industry and profession is critical but easier said than done. Use a news filter like Feedly as a central place to read your favorite sources. Follow the topics, companies and thought leaders you’re most interested in on LinkedIn and Twitter to get quick updates.

5. Use Twitter Lists to filter your specific information needs. A Twitter lists is simply a list you set up of Twitter users. You could set up a list of media, competitors, clients, members, donors, etc. How-to instructions from Twitter are here.

6. Judiciously schedule social media posts through a free tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. Schedule your Facebook posts directly through Facebook as a number of experts say the Facebook algorithm favors this approach vs. using an external scheduler.

Scheduling Caveats:

  • Be prepared to change your automated social media posts in case of a crisis or national event that inadvertently could make your tweets or posts seem inappropriate or poorly timed.
  • Also, I do not recommend posting your tweets to Facebook as they tend to look out of place. In general, it’s best not to post the same wording to several social media sites as you should try to vary what you post where and word them differently suited to the tone and environment of each.

7. Focus your social media efforts on a few sites where you will best reach your most important audiences and goals unless you have staff to cover more. Spreading yourself too thin trying to cover too much ground without the resources to do it well can be counterproductive.

8. Review which kinds of automated alerts and emails you get from LinkedIn Groups, Twitter, Facebook, et al to make sure they match what uses your time and serves your needs best.

General Productivity

9. Pause and review critical emails, tweets, and  posts to make sure they are accurate, sound appropriate, and are typo-free. Watch out for errant autocorrects on your devices to avoid embarrassment. This might sound counter intuitive, but spending a few minutes or waiting to send that critical email or post could save you a world of time and angst later.

10. Do your most creative, thought intensive work when you are freshest. Group similar activities together to be more efficient, such as email, social media/blog commenting, reading. Try to tackle, delete or electronically file items as you go through them so you don’t spend time on them more than once, and answer things that can be handled with a quick answer. Also group errands in similar close proximity together.

11. Put time slots in your calendar for important activities that you want to get done like networking for when it is easiest to fit it in (for example Friday afternoons). Try out a productivity tool like Evernote to organize your notes, projects, and tasks and syncs across your devices.

12. Keep a workout bag stocked and handy to make it easy to get exercise to give you more energy, a fresh outlook and staying healthy. If you travel frequently, keep your cosmetics bag stocked and ready to go to save packing time.

 

Social Media SOS: Help! Do I Have to Be on ALL the Sites?! Am I Doing the Right Things?

I hear this question all the time: With so many social media sites and so much information swirling around about what you are “supposed” to do online,  does it mean I need a presence everywhere? How do I know what to say on all these sites and understand them all? Can I just post the same thing on all of them? Oh, and how am I supposed to get anything else done?! And is this really going to help increase my sales, revenue, donations, number of members, or fill in the blank?

It’s enough to give anyone a panic attack, especially given how busy we all are. Whether you’re a small business, nonprofit, practitioner, association, or entrepreneur, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done as it is. But what people share all the time is their nervousness and growing dartboard_successfulrecognition that social media can be a powerful tool and not having at least a modest presence and level of knowledge could leave them at a huge disadvantage. In fact, harnessing social media strategically can and has given many small organizations or practices a big jump on their competition, even those that are much bigger.

So what is the answer? Start with what you are trying to accomplish, who your audience is, and what your business goals are. Then prioritize which social media platforms and approaches will be most worth your time and effort. Step back and think about what is the right answer for you and your organization. Check out my article on developing a quick and straightforward social media plan, but in the meanwhile, here are some tips:

Prioritize Your Time. Be realistic about what you can accomplish with the resources you have. Do you have staff who can spend time on this or should you be seeking some outside help? It’s better to really engage well in one or two social media sites that hold the most promise for success then spread yourself too thin and not do a good job on any of them. Or to accidentally ignore comments your receive online because you didn’t have time to notice them.

You can have some modest presence on a site like Google Plus for the sake of enhancing your SEO (search engine optimization) so that your content is easier to find when people do keyword searches on Google. However, it’s hard to do Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter well if you’re only going to pay attention to it a couple of times every month or two. You can casually use them, but will you be accomplishing your goals?

Use the Right Language and Don’t Say the Same Exact Thing on Multiple Sites.  Think about who your most important audience is, what their needs, interests, and problems are. Use words and expressions that resonate with your audience. Customize what and how you say things to the culture and environment of the site you’re posting on. Tools like Hootsuite allow you to post to different social media sites in one convenient place and listen to  and engage in online conversations. But using Hootsuite to broadcast the same message in multiple places without sensitivity to the unique environment of each place can make your postings seem out of place or at the least not as effective.

Spend time “listening” and learning the culture of each site you want to engage in and the typical practices and style of each. For example Twitter has a very different feel than Facebook or LinkedIn. Small touches can really increase your success.

Think creatively about imagery you can use to engage people and express your story and message. If you spend time on social media you’ll see the increasing usage and impact of images in all formats, including photos, graphics, and videos.

Compare What Other Organizations are Doing.  You can get great ideas looking at how different organizations are using the same social media sites you are. Especially watch what similar kinds of organizations are doing, though you can also learn from organizations in different fields and apply it to your industry, especially if they seem to have similar goals.

Please Share Your Experiences. Which social media sites are you focusing on for which purposes? Has that helped you use your time and effort wisely? I would love to hear about what is working for you.

 

Focusing on Most Important Goals, Values for 2014

Setting New Year’s resolutions can either sound efficient or pointless depending on how you look at it. Resolutions can be an exercise in setting aspirations or opportunities for failure. Which is why I prefer using the start of a new year as an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to me personally and professionally and set priorities for the year.

start mark at beginning of running trackProfessionally it is important to have in mind the most important goals and priorities so that in the craziness of every day there is something clear to aim for. Otherwise how will we know if we really accomplished anything except the uncomfortable awareness of how easy it is to get distracted by the hundreds of small, urgent pings and tasks surrounding us.

Having those big picture aspirations can make it easier to prioritize the mundane from the future changing opportunities. Check out my previous post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most for tips on creating a stop doing list.

Reflecting on what is really important to your business and personal future can make all the difference. This also includes thinking about how you balance the two so you have quality time for your family, learning new things, taking care of yourself, and some volunteering – the various spheres of your life. What gives you energy and inspires you, what leaves you sapped, who and what you really care about.

And while the instinct to think about the future is great, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished in the past year. It’s so easy to think about what could have gone better or the negative, but looking for the positive and happy times will leave a much more joyous momentum for the new year.

Wishing everyone a very happy. fulfilling year!

 

Are You Working Toward Your Most Important Goals and Dreams?

Are you making the impact you want? Are you doing what is most important  to you?

When was the last time you stepped back and reflected on what your most important personal and professional goals and aspirations are?

chair_on_the_beachBeing more than midway through the year, take a few minutes to think about what inspires you, what you care about. What do you love doing, and wish you could stop doing? What gives you joy versus heartburn?

When you pause between the overflowing virtual inbox, emails and daily crises, are you making progress in making your dreams come true?

Think about it – three years from now where do you want to be? What are the big things you’ll need to do for that to happen? What will matter most that you are doing now? What are the stepping stones that will get you there?

Whether you take a long reflective walk or think about your inspiration in the back of your mind while enjoying a wonderful summer vacation, regularly reflecting on the big picture will help you from getting too mired down in the every day to build the future you are dreaming of.

What do you do to keep an eye on what you want to accomplish amid the every day rush of things?

Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have enough to do in any given day. Since most of us are instead trying to figure out how the days fly by so quickly, regularly assessing what we can stop doing is vital to make more time for what matters most.

Clock showing time flyingA stop doing list is crucial to free up time for all the exciting new things we could be doing instead. But that can be easier said than done in the nitty gritty of the endless daily to do’s and urgent last minute small and big crises that come up.

Take a step back and think honestly – if your mentor or best friend was looking at what you do in a given day, what advice might they give? Are all your meetings, processes, and day-to-day tasks truly necessary? What role do they really play? How do they help you accomplish your most important personal and professional goals?

checkbox ticked offSo many organizations get enmeshed in processes, forms, and a meeting culture that can sap too much energy and time that could be used for getting the actual work done. It can be very easy to feel tied to these daily and weekly procedures and hard to see the forest for the trees. But reflecting on what purpose they serve and discussing them with colleagues can open up new possibilities. Just try to resist the temptation to substitute one process or procedure for another one if it doesn’t serve an important purpose.

Seek out efficiencies at work and in your personal life whether reserving certain times of the day for email and social media or grouping errands. Think about what times of the day you are at your best for creative activities like writing or strategic work like imagining what the best future for your organization would look like and developing new products or services. I try to reserve those times for that higher brain creative work and do more rote work at other times. It’s hard to feel productive if I do the rote things when I would have been at my most creative, and then try to be creative when I am tired.

In my previous post I discussed the process for regularly assessing your products and services to decide when it is time to stop providing something that is no longer profitable or meeting the goals you had for it. But  seeking out the opportunities to cut out some of those hundreds of little and big tasks and routines we all do can be equally fruitful.

What strategies do you use to make the best use of your time?

 

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of a Product or Service?

As challenging is it can be to develop great new ideas, it seems even harder to discontinue a product, service, or event. Reflecting on what is really working and not working is crucial to the future of any organization. Nonprofits and associations also need to keep an eye on whether each membership benefit and program is still serving its purpose.

Whether your products, services, and events are profitable is the obvious, critical measure but other factors include:

  • stop red_buttonWhat do your most important audiences want and need? What problems do your key customers or members need help solving? Do all your current products and services still meet these needs?
  • Given changes in technology and how people live and work, are you delivering the right products and services in the right way?
  • Do they fit with your organization’s mission and priorities?

Products developed a long time ago may no longer fit those parameters but it can be very difficult for staff to step back and have an objective perspective, especially those who are closest to developing and maintaining them. It is natural for people to be emotionally invested and to fear change and how it might affect their jobs.

Graph ImagesUsing data that clearly illustrate the trends over time for sales, usage, expenses, and net revenue can help keep the conversation on the facts. Look at the role the product was designed to serve versus what is currently happening, and how the marketplace has evolved and is likely to change in the next year or two.

Honestly assessing what is working vs. what might be best to transition to a different iteration or to discontinue is critical to the future of the organization. It can affect people’s perception of your brand if they think you are stuck in the past with outdated products. Consider how discontinuing or revamping a product that is no longer fruitful can free up time and resources for exciting new ventures.

If you decide to discontinue or change the product, a careful transition plan that involves all affected staff is critical to success. Think through potential pitfalls and reactions and be prepared to be responsive, caring, and follow through effectively so that your provide as smooth a transition as possible. Testing the transition plan either casually or more formally with a small group of customers can help you anticipate issues and questions that might arise and how to best communicate the changes.

How do you periodically review your products, programs, and events to ensure they are still compelling and worthy of continuing?

What Will Success Look Like in 2012?

When you think about what would ideally fulfill  you personally and professionally, what does it look like? Can you visualize what success would feel like, what you would experience?

What are the key steps it would take to get you there? What things are holding you back? New Year’s is the perfect time to step back and think about what is most important to you, what would give you the most satisfaction, and what the road map would be to get there.

red carpet award runway up steps to trophy prizeVisualizing can be a powerful tool to thoughtfully reflect on what would bring us joy and fulfillment – whether it is personal wealth, starting a new business or changing careers, meeting an organizational vision or target (e.g. increasing revenues or specific segments of donors, members, clients, customers), balancing spending truly quality time with your family, and/or meeting personal fitness goals. Brainstorming and creativity techniques like mind mapping can be useful to articulate your ideas and vision.

Can you think of people who have achieved similar goals or who you admire that you can turn to for advice and encouragement? This can include people you personally know and people you would like to get to know – including thought leaders in your field you can follow on twitter, google plus, facebook, et al to soak up their philosophy and thought processes.

Are there things you are doing now that just use time that you could use to fulfill your dreams and vision? Whether endless meetings that don’t bring you closer to your dreams or enhance your team’s collaborations, or the allure of mindless email or other time wasters, curtailing them can help buy us the time we need to meet our personal and professional goals.

Here is to a very successful – and most importantly – fulfilling and joyful 2012 spent pursuing our dreams and what is truly most important to us. What are you envisioning for 2012?

7 Ways to Avoid Procrastinating and to Achieve Your Most Important Goals

Overcoming the temptation to procrastinate can be challenging with the constant inflow of email, calls, seemingly pressing but not critical tasks, and 24/7 social networking. But you don’t want what you aren’t doing to stand in the way of your own success.

With two businesses and family priorities on my mind, here are seven tips I use to balance the goals in the different quadrants of my life and get the most important things done:

1) Pinpoint your most important goals and what you need to accomplish each week to achieve them

2) Each morning take a few minutes to visualize what you’ll focus on and do a gut check as to whether you have covered your priorities. Is what you’re devoting  your time to helping you meet your most critical goals?

3) Set a schedule and stick to it – carve out the time you need for each of the most critical things on your list. If you need to write or do other creative, thought intensive work, block out interruptions and pledge to spend the next hour or however long it takes to get that stage of your project done.

4) Post reminders everywhere within reason that you can – for example, I use my online tasks list and notes on my online calendar but also have white boards posted in a couple of strategic locations to keep my goals front and center.

5) Don’t always say yes. Be politely assertive about saying you can’t do things that you know will derail your goals by taking time away from your priorities. If you are torn because you really want to do something that you know you don’t have time for now, you can always say you would love to do it but in a few months or next year.

6) If you’re stuck, sometimes the best approach is to take a walk and take along a notepad, smart phone, or iPad so you can think through the issues while you stroll and stop and jot down notes as they come to you.

7) Refuel your energy by exercising, getting quality sleep, and eating healthfully most days of the week. I became enthusiastic about exercising when I realized I could recharge and refresh while doing my metabolism and health such a great favor.

I think most people have days when you knock it out of the ballpark and other lower energy days, it’s about plugging away at what’s most important but taking time for fun, relaxation, and family that balances everything.

What are your tips for meeting your goals and making the most of your time?

What Will Success Look Like?

In the midst of never ending projects, emails, calls, colleagues stopping by to chat, and social media updates, do you have a clear perspective of which are the most important goals you want to achieve in your professional and personal life?

It is so easy to be pulled into the maelstrom of seemingly urgent tasks and lose sight of what will really take your career to the next level, or more importantly, feel most satisfying to you personally.

Seagull flyingWhat are the top three professional goals that will take your organization and career to the next level? What about in your personal life? What is truly most important to achieve and how will you know you have succeeded?

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a professional serving a large or small private sector company or a nonprofit, keeping your eye on three overarching goals and the milestones and measures to get you there is critical for success. The same is true for your personal life — for example, striving to keep work/life balance through getting regular exercise and/or spending quality time with your family.

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