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By paulag | June 12, 2013
“How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected, but time is gone forever.” — David Norris
Time is precious in my book. It is the one thing that once it is gone, you can’t get it back. That is why I find it so important to be in the flow when it comes to how you choose to intentionally spend your time. As a business owner how you use time is crucial to:
- Earning money and profitability
- Creativity and innovation
- Serving customers well and delivering high quality work
- The ability to expand and grow
Just to name a few…
Clients and colleagues ask me all the time about what tools I use to simplify and be more productive. While what is or is not considered productive is definitely personal: Some people love time blocking their schedule for instance while others rage against and would take root canal over time blocking. One thing is common across most people. The easier, more convenient, and consistent your systems are, the more likely you are to use and benefit from them.
Here are my top 5 current favorites for making life easier, getting the right things done, and freeing yourself up for what matters most to you.
This handy note taking and filing app can be used on the web and via mobile devices (Android and iOS). It is like a giant filing system of notes you take, web sites that you “clip”, or articles you save. The power is in the tagging. By tagging each note with a category of your own making you basically have a compendium of important stuff at your fingertips wherever you go.
I use this as a swipe files for ideas to use with clients, marketing ideas, and quick notes from seminars, and important tips I receive. I also use it to track books I want to read, wines I want to buy, and recipes I find. It is easy, versatile, and free (there is a premium version but I haven’t needed it yet and I use this all the time). So free yourself of sticky notes and random pages of magazines and check out Evernote here.
Do you create to-do lists? Who doesn’t? This app is a brilliant way to capture all your to-do lists in a way that makes sense. You can nest them, tag them, search them, and mark them complete. It works via the web and mobile devices (Android, iOS). I use this to capture immediate to-do’s and takeaways from meetings and seminars. I also use it for tasks I want to get to but not immediately. This way I don’t forget and I have a focus point for my efforts. Check out Workflowy here. Read the rest of this entry »
Topics: Productivity & Self-Care | 2 Comments »
By paulag | June 5, 2013
Do you think that in order to succeed and be productive that you have to keep pushing and plugging away?
Do you think that if you just work harder, try harder, and force yourself to focus that you’ll figure it all out?
If you do, you are likely falling trap to the myth of pushing through challenges with the hope that the answer you seek is on the other side.
I used to feel like I had to go at it like a person possessed. Whether it was working in my business, riding my bike, or back in the days that I studied guitar, I always had to do things 110% all the time. After all, we want to give our best effort and do what it takes, right?
The problem with this approach is it only leaves you injured/ill, burned out, and frustrated (even if you reach some external goal you were shooting for). Lucky for me I got to be injured, burned out, frustrated, and end up hating the very things I wanted to love.
What is truly needed to perform at your very best is a cycle of intensity and focused work followed by intentional rest.
Let’s take my kittens for example, a living example of peak performance. They can play, leap, chase, and practically fly through the air with intensity and focus that I could only dream of. They run until their mouths hang open panting for air with a thoroughly satisfied look on their face. Then they rest. Full-on, unabashed, and absolute slumber. Their limbs are Gumby-like and they are out cold.
The contrast between effort and rest is what enables them to get up and do it all over again in an effortless display of feline prowess.
The same cycle of focused intensity combined with rest can be found in elite performers of all kind: athletes, musicians, dancers, and business leaders. It is what makes someone a peak performer.
So if you are looking to be that peak performer in your own life, you need to consciously create this yin and yang for yourself. You simply can’t just “suck it up” for “as long as it takes”.
Here’s how you can cultivate this for yourself.
First, the inner awareness:
The mindset shift is perhaps the biggest obstacle in all of this. High achievers feel like they need to be “doing something” at all times which can lead to over-efforting as well as being spread too thin attempting to do and focus on too many things at once. Remember: even my kittens are only successful when they focus on one thing at a time. The minute they try to watch both the bird and the toy, they capture neither.
By paulag | May 29, 2013
I had the huge privilege of attending Pema Chodron’s retreat and teachings at Omega Institute on “The Marks of Our Existence” recently. The workshop centered on what she called the 4 Facts of Life: impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace. It was a weekend of profound depth coupled with practical simplicity (and a few side-splitting laughs) offered up by one of Buddhism’s most recognizable and venerated teachers.
There is so much I am taking away from this experience. One gift in particular revolves around the concept of constriction. Pema taught that whenever we might feel fear, judgment, displeasure, anger, hatred, or some other “negative” emotion about something we constrict. Not only are our minds constricted and fixated on our opinion of a situation, but our bodies follow suit. We experience tightness in our muscles, our chest, our stomachs, our breathing shortens, we work up a sweat, and so forth. We clench our jaws, our fists, and occasionally lash out verbally or physically in our frustration or pain; the intensity of which is determined by the situation and how tightly we hold our views.
- Don’t just take my word for this, test it out for yourself. Bring to mind something or someone that is irritating you right now and notice what happens in your body and mind.
- Do you feel constriction in your thoughts? Your body?
- Does the world and its possibilities seem smaller? (Something like: “You’re wrong, I’m right, things shouldn’t be this way”?)
In times like these, Pema taught us a simple (not necessarily easy!) and very practical approach to navigating these murky waters. That is, when you feel constricted, tight, and fixated on something, open up and expand.
In my translation, that means you ask yourself:
- “How can I stay loose in this situation?
- How can I stay loose with these feelings or sensations I am having?”
From here you can open up or expand into more possibility, greater peace of mind, and equanimity.
Some ways you can do this practice in the heat of the moment are to:
- physically move
- open your stance
- spread your arms wide
- go for a walk
- breathe more deeply
- gaze at an image that expands your view (nature, spiritual icon, a beautiful object, flowing water, etc.).
- anything else that makes you open wide …
From this space you can stay loose in your experience thereby opening your possibilities, your heart, your ability to respond to what lies before you.
Again, don’t take my word for it… try it. Read the rest of this entry »
By paulag | May 22, 2013
You promised yourself that you’d leave the office at a sane time for the upcoming weekend or that long-awaited vacation, but do you?
Or do you try to do “just one more thing”?
You decided to be your own boss because you wanted freedom and flexibility. But, are you giving it to yourself?
I can attest that once I became my own boss, I became my own worst nightmare. I would jam my schedule tight and find myself working late into a Friday evening and grinding it out like a mill worker. I’d get to the coveted weekend/holiday weekend/vacation and find myself practically in pieces from exhaustion.
If a corporate boss told me to do that, I would’ve complained up a storm and likely just left when I felt like it. Yet, as my own boss solely responsible for generating income and creating success, I was a slave driver. It took me over 5 years to finally “get it” and create sufficient space before and after time away to actually make it rejuvenating. Call me what you will (slow learner and a stubborn Polish woman come to mind…) but I share this because I sense you might be hurting too.
So, what made the difference for me? The cycle of tired, frustrated, and exhausted was doing me in and souring my life’s experiences. I couldn’t’ take it any more mentally, physically, or emotionally. I hat to surrender and give myself permission to create what I want NOW instead of waiting for “someday….later…”.
So while I am not less busy (I actually have more opportunities in the mix these days), I am performing more at my peak because I am far less frazzled and more in the flow. I can ease into time off like a gentle wave instead of thrashing in the surf.
Here is how you too can buy yourself more time off, space, and peace of mind without sacrificing quality work or opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »
Topics: Productivity & Self-Care | No Comments »
By paulag | May 16, 2013
You need perspective in your business and life to succeed. Sometimes you need to open up to relieve the stress of over-thinking so you can see the big picture. Other times you need to focus in on just one small part of the horizon to find what might be hidden from you.
If you’re lucky enough to go outside somewhere to shift your perspective to the vastness of it all, it will help you gain peace of mind and a new lens on any challenges you might be facing. If things feel overwhelming, drill down to the tiniest focus. Join me here on the beach as I notice sea creatures within the tidal pools that teem with life we otherwise would never notice.
Need help gaining some perspective? Contact me for an exploratory conversation via phone to see how working together can help you untangle your thoughts and move forward.
By paulag | May 8, 2013
I can’t tell you the number of times my overwhelmed women business owner clients come to me because they feel like their schedule is running them into the ground. Each day is carefully constructed with each minute booked (or double-booked) so that if one little thing does not go as planned, everything goes askew. They feel (and sound) breathless as they recount all that is happening, everything that needs to be done, and how it just feels so out of control!
My peeps are smart, intelligent, competent, and achievement-oriented women. They know deep down that an electronic or paper calendar can’t actually hold them prisoner or control their life. Why a calendar doesn’t even have opposable thumbs! They know where the delete key is on their keyboard. Their mouth is quite capable of saying the word No. And yet, like a hamster on a wheel, they try to keep on running. Deep down they know this isn’t going to work, but somehow if they feel if they could just work harder things will magically get fixed.
I know this feeling and I’ve been that hamster. Sometimes I can still be tempted to throw on my hamster suit and run a few laps. Then it hits me like a brick – This way of navigating life or business does not work. There was a time while building my business that I let everyone and everything control me. I was burning the candle at both ends and busting my butt with no respite. Just Do-Do-Do! And Go-Go-Go! Saying, once I finish <insert the blanket project, client work, marketing step> THEN I’ll have time and space freed up. Guess what? It never happened. This was the trend that went on and on and on for months and months and months until I started to burn out entirely. I hated my business, myself, and anyone who crossed my path.
When I hit bottom I was finally willing to admit the truth (with a little arm twisting because I can be THAT stubborn):
Trying to do it all and let my schedule have its way with me simply does not work. It is not profitable, it is not sustainable, it is no fun, and certainly is not scalable.
That is why only you can take back the reigns and choose how you invest your time and energy. No one is going to do it for you and someone else is always going to want a little extra from you. You get to choose when and what you can give. You get to choose what you consider “work hours” and you get to choose what becomes “family time”, “play time”, “me time”, etc.
Things are not going to change unless you step up to the plate and change them. You wanted to be in charge when you went into business for yourself, so here’s one of those challenges known as opportunities.
First Inner Awareness:
1) First take a good hard look and be honest with yourself: does your schedule feel out of control and/or suffocating to you?
2) Do you find yourself complaining, blaming, or otherwise hoping something will change because you simply yearn for more space (mental, physical, emotional, and practical) ?
Now Practical Action:
3) Get clear on what your desired schedule looks like. Be honest about what you actually want, not what you think you should.
4) Start to ease your way into creating that framework on your calendar right now. This will involve:
- Letting some things go.
- Setting boundaries.
- Saying no.
- Getting really clear on your business model, systems, and pricing, so you can do what you commit to in the time and space you desire.
It might feel scary but I guarantee you my clients whoop with great relief when I help them break free of the bondage they’ve put themselves under.
Need help putting all the moving pieces together so you can break free of your own hostage situation? Ready to set up systems in your business so you’re more effective and free up time? Contact me and we’ll set up a time to talk via phone to explore your challenges and how I might help!
Topics: Productivity & Self-Care | 3 Comments »
By paulag | May 1, 2013
When you are a business owner it’s all go-go-go. Yet if you learn to take a momentary retreat in your day and throughout your week you will realize 4 benefits that seem elusive otherwise.
It might seem counter intuitive to take a break right in the middle of your busy day, but it is exactly what you need to realize 4 critical “P’s”. Join me in this video on the road in Tofino, BC as I walk you through how one moment of retreat can bring you more perspective, playfulness, presence, and peace of mind and what that means for you and your business in terms of creativity, innovation, fun, and satisfaction.
Enjoy the view (and my hat!)
Topics: Productivity & Self-Care | No Comments »
By paulag | April 24, 2013
How much would you like to be awakened in the early morning hours by a customer having a bad experience that was of your own creation?
Not a great deal I suppose.
Yet that is exactly what happened with a small glitch that happened while I was away on vacation.
The beautiful oceanfront cabin we stayed in was simply superb. We were having a wonderful time. On the last morning of our stay we really wanted to walk down to the property’s private beach for one last communion with the sea before heading homeward. It was shortly after dawn and we walked down to the gate for beach access, entered the security code we were given at check-in and then nothing happened. The gate stayed locked and we were disappointed and a bit irked. Apparently they changed the code but never told us (even though at check-in they assured us the code would not be changing during our stay).
Since the office was not yet open for the day, we had no way of getting the new code. I could’ve gone back to my room annoyed, an otherwise perfect stay marred by this last incident, but I didn’t. We got creative and called the after-hours number on the office window. That’s when I woke the owner of the property who said he’d be right down to find out the code (which was locked in the office) and let us through.
To his credit, he was extremely good-natured and kind about the problem. I thanked him profusely for coming to help. He said it is a recurring problem that happens now and again and said he should find a solution someday. “If I did,” he said, “I’d still be asleep!” That’s when I offered a suggestion (after all, it’s right up my alley). I invited him to consider having a system for this ongoing issue. Simply implement a process that when maintenance changes the code, that same day (before the office closes for the night), the cleaning crew should leave a pre-printed slip in each room (as part of their regular rounds) that says “The gate code has changed to ____.” Since they have to visit each room daily anyway (even if you don’t want clean towels regulations require they check the fireplace and private hot tub), there is no additional labor involved other than a printed slip. He liked the idea and time will only tell if he takes action on it to save himself some sleep and avoid future customer dissatisfaction. I, personally am willing to go back to Vancouver Island to Beta-Test the process!
This story drives home the point that whether you want to grow your business to have many employees or yearn to be a solopreneur for your entire career, you need to think about having systems within your business. Systems (even for the little things) do three things:
- Boosts your productivity personally and allows you to expand your team when and if you desire.
- Ensures consistent, quality experience for each and every person you serve.
- Gives you peace of mind (and you can rest easier knowing your bases are covered and you didn’t forget anything).
How do you know if you need a system for a given process?
Ask yourself the following:
- Has this problem occurred more than one time?
- Do I do the same set of tasks repeatedly based a given event (new client, continuing client, project start, project end, speaking gig, etc.)?
- Do I ever worry that I forgot something or missed a step in the process?
If the answer is yes to even one of these questions, you can benefit from creating a system for it.
By system, it doesn’t have to be long, complex, or take a long time to create. Think simplify. The time you take to implement it will be realized ten-fold and beyond over the course of time.
Wouldn’t you like to get more sleep?
Need help identifying, creating, or implementing systems and processes in your business, contact me for an exploratory conversation about how I can help.
Topics: Business & Prosperity | 1 Comment »