Productive

Three Ways to Be More Productive

How to Make More Money in Less Time:

As we head into the New Year, most people are focusing on goals and resolutions. It is such a fun time to look forward with a lot of optimism. Often time’s goals have to do with money. Of course we would like to make more and more money. One small step that will help you accomplish your financial goals is to be more productive. Doing more with less is one key to growth. Here are three things to help you become more productive.

Time Blocking: This is my favorite way to virtually guarantee that you reach your goals. Time blocking is when you set a specific time each and every day to do a certain task. For the longest time, I have time blocked reading because I think educating yourself constantly is vital to success. Other things I have time blocked that has made tremendous differences is time to look for houses and prospect for sellers.

For time blocking to work, you need to commit to it. Meaning you do it and nothing else. If I block a time to read from 8:30am to 9am each morning, that is what I do with no distractions, NO MATTER WHAT. I don’t get distracted with my phone or email account. In fact, I will turn every distraction off so I can focus. It is not uncommon to feel that something is more important to accomplish, and decide to use the time you blocked off. The second you do that, the idea of time blocking is broken and your success will suffer.

I highly encourage you to time block for your education and for bringing in revenue. If you are a real estate investor, you might consider time blocking to make phone calls to landlords and sellers to find deals.

Prioritize: Deciding what to do next can be stressful and

can really slow you down. Have you ever felt so busy you don’t know where to start or what needs to be worked on? Eliminate the stress, the time waste, and the fact that you could be working on less than important items by prioritizing your tasks. The last thing you want to do is put something off because it is uncomfortable, just to do something more enjoyable but a lot less important. As you prioritize your tasks, consider the 4 quadrants introduced by Stephen Covey.

Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important
Quadrant 2: Not Urgent But Important
Quadrant 3: Urgent But Not Important
Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important

The idea is to focus your time in quadrant 2. If you can stay there, you will be super successful because the money making tasks will get done and very few tasks will ever end up in quadrant 1. The trap here is to spend time in quadrant 3, because a task being urgent feels important to accomplish. The problem with this is as soon as you stop focusing on quadrant 2, tasks move to quadrant 1 and you become less effective and a lot more stressed. Not everything needs to get done, spend your time on things that make you money.

I create a task list each night. I just write all the things I want to accomplish in a day down as a list. In the morning before I start the day, I prioritize my list. When I am not on a call, in a meeting, or in the time I blocked for something else, I work on the next task with the highest priority. There is no question on what to work on, so I waste no time thinking about it. I don’t always complete my task list, but I know that the items not completed are not important.

Single-Task: It was not long ago that I was interviewing candidates for an opening we had with Pine Financial. In many of the resumes and some of the interviews, candidates bragged about being able to multi-task. Multi-tasking, obviously, is being able to work on several things at the same time. I am a terrible multi-tasker. Actually, I believe everyone is a terrible multi-tasker. As soon as you split focus, you become less productive. For someone to say they are good at doing something that I think is a mistake makes me not want to hire them.

This is part of the reason I am such a strong believer in time blocking. If done correctly, it forces you to focus. Focusing not only helps prevent mistakes and keeps quality high; it significantly speeds up the process and gets results quicker. So I can stay focused in my office, I switched the time that my email downloads new messages to 4 times an hour. Before I would get notified each time an email came in, all day long. I can’t even tell you how many times I stopped what I was working on to read the incoming message. What I can tell you is, every time this occurred it took me time to get back into what I was working on. Since I made the change, I have noticed a significant improvement in what I am able to accomplish each day.

Root of a Problem

Getting to the Root of a Problem

There are many reasons why solutions to problems are often ineffective, such as the fact that they:

1. address symptoms rather than the real problem.

2. are based on insufficient or inaccurate information.

3. are made for subjective rather than objective reasons.

4. are made for the sake of expediency.

5. fix only one part of a larger problem.

6. are based on the wrong root cause.

7. are unrealistic.

8. are the wrong solutions for the real problem.

9. do not consider all of the contributing factors.

10. are beyond the scope of those who have to implement them.

11. solve the wrong problem.

12. are based on assumptions.

However, there are three different cause-analysis techniques that can help to focus in on the true causes, or roots, of a problem: (1) is/is not matrix, (2) cause and effect diagram, and (3) top-down flow chart.

The is/is not matrix defines when and where the problem occurs, assuming it doesn’t occur all the time and everywhere. It is helpful when there is a sense that a problem is all-encompassing, when in fact it might be localized and easier to solve. The matrix questions help to organize existing knowledge and information about the problem. Using this technique first to identify the problem can help focus additional problem analysis.

The cause and effect diagram (often referred to as the fishbone because it looks like one) identifies and organizes possible causes of a problem. It is helpful when there is a sense that the problem is very general, which makes it difficult to determine how to approach its solution. It is most effective after the problem has been well defined, although the problem that is initially identified is frequently revised after the contributing branches start to be discussed. The diagram provides a pictorial display of a list and shows the relationships between factors. Of the three techniques, this is the one that is most familiar.

The top-down flow chart identifies the major sequential steps in a process in order to determine which step was overlooked, resulting in the problem. It is helpful when the problem appears to be the result of a process. Once the major steps necessary to accomplish a goal have been identified, the chart can then be analyzed to determine if there are steps that were overlooked and resulted in the problem under investigation.

Each technique can be used independently or in concert with another technique. All of the techniques can save decision-makers from selecting solutions that are based on assumptions.

Business Research

Business Research

Business research is the systematic gathering of data, which, once analysed, can provide useful insights to facilitate profitable decision-making by organisations. With better, and more reliable data, decision-making tends to be quicker and or a higher quality. Furthermore, it can assist organisations in allowing them a greater and deeper understanding of the market place in which they operate. Whilst it is obvious that it should be undertaken, the reality is that it is carried out less frequently than it should. In today’s business world, time is particularly short. One of the casualties of this is detailed research as resources tend to be devoted to core activities.

There are a number of different areas of research, and I outline six of them below.

MARKET SECTOR RESEARCH

Successful businesses need to have a thorough understanding of the markets in which they operate. Such an understanding allows them to sell effectively by targeting customers. Furthermore, it allows companies to compete with other suppliers. Finally, it allows companies to identify new opportunities. There are a number of questions which can be addressed, but these are outside the scope of this article. General trends can be ascertained using published market information, and more detailed information can be gleaned from internal records.

INDUSTRY RESEARCH

There are a number of objectives of industry research, including:

· Understanding the industry structure, competition and levels of industry profitability;

· The assessment of an industry’s attractiveness;

· The identification of key success factors;

· To forecast future profitability;

· To deduce strategies to improve profitability.

COMPETITOR ANALYSIS

This covers a wide range of issues, including image and positioning, objectives and commitment, current and past strategies, organisation and culture, cost structure, exit barriers, strengths and weaknesses, size, growth, profitability, financial performance, and products and services marketed and sold.

It is worthwhile considering who your competitors are. Direct competition includes businesses in the same business. Businesses similar to yours are indirect competition.

CORPORATE RESEARCH

This is broadly similar to competitor analysis in both the issues considered and the models used. The emphasis, however, is not on the competition, but on other organisations. Such organisations might include potential partners, investors, advisors, suppliers or customers.

BUSINESS TOPIC RESEARCH

Often businesses want to understand a specific subject r topic better. Examples of questions include:

· What types of… exist?

· What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

· What does… mean?

· How does the… framework/model work?

· What are the alternatives to… ?

ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL RESEARCH

This research subset analyses the following areas:

· Current, historic and forecast economic data;

· The strengths and weaknesses in the economy;

· Activities and sectors which are growing, shrinking, or stagnating;

· How economies, markets and businesses act and behave;

· Where and why businesses locate where they do;

· Who and what is driving economic growth.

Stay Productive

10 Ways to Stave Off End of Year Boredom and Stay Productive

Year’s end brings with it a great many parties, moments of celebration and much excitement, and while no one is about to complain about the seasonal merriment, it can make focusing rather more of a challenge than normal.

A sprinkle of the following may just help instill the spice of life into the everyday routine at your office.

Emulate your heroes

We all have role models, and chances are we all look up to leaders within our field or industry. Ask yourself who you look up to, and why, then try to instill some of what makes them your ideal into your workplace. After all, the best among us get to be the best because they are never content and always striving to improve.

Show your co-workers kindness, randomly and unexpectedly

It’s been said many times that performing acts of kindness enriches our own lives, and that holds true in the business world as well as in the real world. Showering your co-workers with random acts of kindness from time-to-time will brighten your day as much as theirs.

Share your skills with a colleague

Over time we all pick up little tricks or make innovations in the way we work that make our lives a bit easier. Every now and then take a few minutes to share your latest discovery with a colleague who will benefit in time saved and frustration waylaid. Chances are, your colleagues will return the favor and share alike when they pick up a new skill or trick.

Bring in something cheerful

Treat yourself and your colleagues to a fun bit of decor, a tasty snack or something else fun and festive you can enjoy together.

Organize a special lunch

Delighting in free food is not a habit likely to leave any of us after our college days; it’s simply that the opportunities to revel in gratis grub grow fewer and farther between when we enter the workforce. Arrange to have lunch brought in for your team, or take them out for a company sponsored meal and some quality time.

Allow yourself to daydream

While it probably doesn’t behoove most of us to wistfully dream willy-nilly at work, many of today’s greatest innovators and business leaders sing the praises of freeing up their thinking. Let your mind wander with purpose, ponder your business and see what shakes loose.

Throw a unique office party

Sometimes the best way to maintain focus over a long period of time is to indulge in the complete abandonment of focus for a short period of time. Every office has a unique culture all its own, so rather than throwing a cookie cutter end of year party, cook up a celebration that will suit your company perfectly.

Make a suggestion

Ideas never become reality unless they are voiced and shared. Share a suggestion with your team, trust them as your sounding board and see what contributions they have that can make your idea an even better action for the company.

Monotasking

Monotasking: Productivity’s Silver Bullet?

THE HAMSTER WHEEL

About ten years ago, I experienced what I can only describe as a complete, all-out functional crisis. A state of utter paralysis induced by an emerging awareness that, although I was working longer hours and “doing” more each day than the day before, I fell more and more behind. It was as if I was in quicksand and the more frantically I tried to dig out, the deeper I sank. At the end of each day, after mostly doing whatever my inbox told me to do, I would stare, bleary-eyed, at my computer screen or my to-do list wondering if I had really accomplished anything at all.

During this same period, I started having trouble remembering names, errands I needed to run, calls I had to return, sometimes even what I’d eaten for lunch that day. But the final straw that brought it all to a crisis point was when I realized that I was beginning most emails and conversations with some sort of apology for not getting back to them earlier, for the delay in the project timeline, for the oversight in the product specs, for forgetting their birthday. I saw so clearly that I could not continue to live as this scattered, frenetic human being, but I had no idea how to regain some semblance of control in my life. Lucky for me, someone else did.

Scott, a friend and colleague at the time who was an eye-witness to my near meltdown state, told me about a book he thought would help me find clarity and refocus my priorities. The book was Getting Things Done, by David Allen, which I am sure is well-known to many these days. But at that time, the concept of auditing my life, setting priorities, goals, and next actions, and then maintaining focus on those important things by controlling all the various communication outlets constantly shouting out information, was nothing short of a revelation. I followed the Getting Things Done (GTD) mantra to the letter and, soon enough, I was no longer doing what the top of my Outlook inbox told me to do but, instead, was able to focus on projects, product development, client proposals, and other priority items. And after about 3 months of diligently sticking to the process, I felt like I was back in the driver’s seat of my life.

THE WORLD KEEPS ON SPINNING (ONLY FASTER)

I would love to say that this turning point closed the book on my productivity challenges. But unfortunately, GTD, like any other effective system, requires consistency and habit. And there are an awful lot of distractions out there in the world that seem to have a knack for knocking me out of the saddle. While I did manage to pull myself back on a few times, it felt like I could never regain that initial Zen-like clarity I experienced when I first implemented Allen’s GTD practice into my life.

And it is pretty clear that I am not the only one relapsing. There seem to be more books, new methodologies, and “game-changing” behavioral models promising the to cure the woes of our overworked, constantly-distracted, always-busy-yet-less-productive world. And lately, there has been a lot of talk about Monotasking, which is quite literally just the idea of doing one thing at a time. Not an incredibly disruptive concept, right? I believe, though, that this word is suddenly getting so much play (from a recent articles in the Sunday New York Times to the TED stage) because of the growing consensus that the modern workplace is designed for multitasking.

And there is no shortage of information out there on the perils of multitasking. The charges against multitasking include everything from lowering workplace productivity to actually lowering our IQ. Yet many people believe that multitasking is foundational to the way we work and communicate today. We work on multiple monitors, toggle constantly between a literal index of open browser tabs, read and respond to Slack messages while on conference calls, and have specific ring tones or text message alerts for our bosses, spouses, or the babysitter. All, presumably, to help us manage life’s competing priorities and get the most done each day that we possibly can.

However, experts agree that multitasking is more often diluting our productivity. According to one such expert, an MIT neuroscientist named Earl Miller, the human brain is not at all designed to multitask. He is quoted in Daniel J. Levitin’s research-laden missive, Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain (view full article here):

When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.

That cognitive cost is exacerbated by the psychic load of our 24/7 accessibility and the distracting knowledge (that grows with each new IM alert or email ping) of one, then another, then another task competing for priority and attention. But what are we supposed to do? Just opt out?

DEVELOPING YOUR DIGITAL LITERACY SKILL SET

Rather than viewing all of this as a stalemate