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Energy Management, Leadership, Productivity

Four key steps to take before you set your goals

January 8, 2015

How on earth will I ever achieve that goal with what’s already on my plate? I often find myself asking this question and my first solution is to figure out how I can “fit” something else in. However, this rarely seems to work well and often leads to more frustration and overwhelm. This made me start to think about what I wanted to do more – or less – of as I prepared for 2015…

Then I stumbled onto a book called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” The author defines his approach this way: “Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make the highest contribution to the things that really matter.” This idea inspired me to start thinking differently about how I could energize my days and elevate my impact.

As you start to think about 2015, where do you want to make your highest contribution? What is compelling and inspiring to you? I put together four key steps below that can serve as a guide as you start setting your goals and look at where you want invest your time this year.

Step One: Define your highest and best use as a leader. What is most important for you to make the greatest impact at home and at work?

Step Two: Make a list of all the activities and tasks that are not connected to your highest and best use or drain your energy – this can be related to people too. Now make a second column next to it with two options…stop or outsource/delegate.

The first choice relates to low-leverage tasks and the answer for you may simply be: Stop Doing It. Why are you on that committee that you dread going to?  What other tasks seem to wear you out?

The second option is to outsource/delegate. Which items on your list must get done but frequently seem to get put on the back burner? Which ones can you request others to do to free up the space you need? For example, if you are looking for more time and you find yourself dreading spending your Saturdays mowing the lawn or cleaning your house, get someone to handle those chores for you. It can be conflicting at first to pay someone for tasks that you are used to handling, but if it is not connected to your highest and best use or it drains your energy, it could be a good investment in the log run. It might help in the early days to remember that something that might drain your energy is the very thing someone else loves to do. I highly recommend reviewing Tim Ferriss’ blog and listening to some of his podcast for ideas. Below are a few to get you started:

Outsource/Delegate Ideas:

House Cleaner/Laundry Help

Lawn Care

Scheduling/Logistical Support/Project Support – could someone on your team help? Or try a virtual assistant. I have used Worldwide 101 with much success.

Dog Walker

Meal Service Providers – If you struggle with cooking or fitting them in with your schedule, try ordering meals online or getting them delivered. I have tried or heard good things about Simply Fresh to You, Nourish, Mod Paleo and Blue Apron.  I am not a Paleo diet person, but I am loving the Mod Paleo meals.  They are very healthy, taste amazing and have a great variety of meats and veggies in each meal.  They also source their ingredients from local farms, so I like the idea of supporting farmers close to home.

As you look at options for outsourcing or delegating, at times there will be trade-offs. Maybe you watch less T.V. so you can spend more time on that project that really inspires you, or you give up cable so you can get a house cleaner. As stated in the book, “Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?”

Step Three: Make a list of all the activities and tasks that are connected to your highest and best use and also raise your energy. What are the things that inspire you or get you out of bed in the morning? Make a second column next to this list with ideas for how you will do more of these activities. What new habits will you commit to? How will your schedule reflect this? How will this be reflected in your goals?

Step Four: Share your lists with key people in your life at home and at work. Get their suggestions for what you should do more – or less – of. Remember there aren’t really any rules to this so keep experimenting. If you feel that tug to hang on to something remember that when you say “yes” to something you are saying “no” to something else.

As you plan for 2015, I also recommend a tool one of my colleagues put together on “Creating a Breakthrough 2015.” Enjoy your goal and vision planning. Keep me updated on what is working for you or any other ideas you have for outsourcing or delegating. So as you start the new year, what will you go big on in 2015?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energy Management, Productivity, Time Management, Uncategorized

How to create more time in your day

June 29, 2014

So what gets in the way of spending time on things that raise our energy? A few months ago I wrote a post about embracing minimalism related to a recent move and what “stuff” I reduced in my life.  This is something I am also applying to other areas of my life.  It made me think about what I need to do less of to create more space.  Or what habits I needed to form to keep things in order with less clutter.

Here are some new things I am trying that are making a huge difference:

I reduced the number initiatives I was trying to do at work.  I have a tendency to try and do everything and sometimes it can sacrifice quality.  Now I am being rigorous about focusing on clients, companies and the type of work that I really enjoy.

I was able to hire a part-time assistant to help outsource things like scheduling appointments.

I also got a cleaning lady.  At first, I was like is this really necessary? I mean I do have a labrador that thinks he can just drop his hair all over the floor…And this hair never seems to stop growing :). But I decided that if it takes two professional people 2 hours to clean my place twice a month than it would probably take me at least double that.  So it is worth it to spend a little extra to free up what I equate to 10-12 hrs a month. Sometimes you can look at what you can give up to make something like this work. For example with AppleTV, Netflix, etc. I don’t have the need for cable.

I strive to keep my email Inbox at zero. It doesn’t always get there but I file things away after I read them or put articles/videos into a file if I can’t read them right away. I realized that I had several “read later” and “task folders” on top of my task system which made things loose and created confusion.

I started using the dishwasher less. I came across another blog called Zen Habits that inspired me to put everything away after I use it. I used to just run the dishwasher when it was full. Then all the dishes would sit for days because I didn’t want to unload it. So now I just use a few things and then wash and put them away immediately. No more piles of dishes drying.

With all the extra clothes I used to have, I didn’t do laundry for several weeks sometimes and would have 3-4 loads pile up. Then my clean clothes would pile up or the dryer would be come my dresser :). Now when I use a few towels to clean Brooks I wash them right away. I do a small load every week and it is so much easier. With less clothes, it forces me to stay on top of things more.

I am someone who really enjoys the mornings, so I stopped wasting time on the internet at night and am getting to bed earlier.  A few days a week I am getting to bed at 9:30pm, so I can get up at 4:30am.  The first few hours of my day are the quietest, and I am by far the most productive during that time.

For me what seems to work is to keep looking at where my time goes and determine what is satisfying and what is less satisfying.  I try to either outsource, ask for help, organize or stop doing the things that wear me out to help create time for what I really want to do. It is a constant work in progress.

So as you start your week, what is one thing you can try doing or stop doing that may create more time for yourself? Have some fun with it and let me know how it goes.

Energy Management, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Embracing Minimalism

March 30, 2014

I had stuff everywhere. Every shelf was full, closet was packed, furniture in every corner and I found six travel toothpastes. If there was a bit of white space on the wall, I put something up on it. In the course of a recent move, I realized I had way too much stuff and way too much clutter.

I didn’t really notice this until I was inspired after reading a fantastic blog about Minimalism. Two guys named Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus tell the story about getting rid of unneeded possessions and demoralizing jobs to free up space for a more meaningful, fulfilling life. The posts on this blog are like brain candy, and I couldn’t read enough of them.

The minimalist movement is fascinating to me with some people living with less than 100 things. Not sure I will go that far, but the concept of reducing the number of things in life that weigh us down has produced some amazing results for me.

What is kind of funny is that I moved from 700 sq ft to 880 sq ft, however I probably got rid of a 1/3-1/2 of my stuff. Here are some of the things I did to experiment:

1.  I reduced the amount of furniture in my living space to keep things more open with less clutter.

2.  I gave away over half of my clothes and shoes away to Goodwill. I only kept 10 button ups instead of 20. I realized I mainly only really wore about 5-6 pairs of pants, so I got rid of a bunch. I just have my favorite shoes and clothes now. I only keep one suit and two sport coats out and put the rest in storage to see if I really needed them. I realized that someone else could probably use a lot of the stuff I wasn’t wearing as much.

 

3.  I gave about half of my kitchen stuff away. I only kept the things out I use all the time. I realized I had four wine openers, 8 serving platters, etc. all of which I barely used. One of the concepts I love that Joshua and Ryan talk about is the 20/20 rule. Don’t hold on to anything that you don’t regularly use that you can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes.

4.  I only put my favorite things up on the walls. I resisted the urge to fill up all the space.

5.  I went from probably 50 spices in the kitchen to 11. I had spices I hadn’t used in years and it was distracting when I only really use a few of them. If I need them for a recipe, I will just go get them again.

6.  I am now almost entireless paperless with my files and use Evernote and Box for all my files. This allows my office to essentially be anywhere I sit with my laptop, so I don’t need a separate office/desk area now.

Here is what I am noticing so far about embracing my own version of minimalism:

I feel like I have more time for myself.  This is my first blog post since November.

The clean physical space creates a sense of freedom, and I feel more creative and energized when I work from home.

I am spending less money because I am not worried about buying anything that isn’t essential. Now I spend my money on things that really add value or I enjoy.

I spend less time looking for things or organizing.

I am spending more time with good friends and doing my favorite things like doing a Madabolic workout or hitting up Atherton Mill Market and Luna’s Living Kitchen.  It was actually a friend of mind at Madabolic who first posted the article on Minimalism that inspired me. I generally just feel lighter and happier.

I definitely laugh at myself more about some of what I used to hold on to. I no longer keep trinkets from conferences :).

I have been applying these ideas to other areas of my life and plan to share those in the near future. Until then, I didn’t want to clutter up this post :).

So as you look around at your space and the things you own, what could you let go of? What is getting in the way of more freedom, productivity and being able to spend time on the things that matter to you?

So my challenge for you this week is to see where you can embrace your own version of minimalism. Experiment with works for you and see what you notice.

Energy Management, Exercise, Gym, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Is exercise the access to greater performance?

November 3, 2013

A few months ago, I noticed I was starting to slack on some of my workouts. I had been running but not really putting the time in for some of my workouts at the gym. I would try to squeeze in 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there and always validated reasons to cut it short. Did I really have time for a whole hour????

However, this all changed when I joined a gym called Elite Wellness with a trainer named Jason Boudrie who puts together some amazing group interval workouts. After the workouts, I immediately noticed I was more focused and my energy levels were through the roof into the afternoon.

On one particular day when I did a really tough workout, one of my colleagues said my some of my work was the best she had seen in several months. I could tell my heart rate was up more than ever during Jason’s workouts. And lately, I have I started doing some fantastic group interval classes at Madabolic. Not only is it a great workout, but I leave feeling refreshed by the sense of community and comraderie.

What I have noticed over the past few months is that I am able to get difficult tasks done quicker and with better outcomes than usual. My concentration levels and general sense of well-being and aliveness have been great.

box jumps

What I experienced is that making my exercise a priority is the access to greater performance. A noted Harvard Medical School professor and brain science expert named Dr. John Ratey outlined these ideas in a fascinating book called “Spark.” Dr Ratey’s research showed that “the real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping (through exercise) is that it makes the brain function at its best…building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are essentially side effects…the point of exercise is to build and condition the brain.” This has some interesting implications for leaders that want to tap into greater creativity and innovation in themselves and others.

Dr. Ratey’s research also showed how organizations can produce powerful results when their culture is built around wellness. A school district in Naperville, IL started educating students on a healthy lifestyle versus just getting them to play sports. At some schools they started using heart rate monitors to make sure students did some hard physical activity before their most difficult class. This was all designed to make sure the brain was ready for their most challenging tasks of the day. In 1999, Naperville district students scored first in the world in science on the Trends in Mathematical and Science Study (TIMSS) and 6th in Math.  By comparison, the rest of U.S. students ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

Unfortunately, many times our exercise is the first thing we drop when life gets busy or we just try to “fit in a few minutes” like I was doing. What could this be costing us with the performance of our organizations and our overall well-being? I know I feel like a new person every time I leave a great workout. It isn’t always easy to commit an hour to exercise, but the results are too strong for me to ignore. As Dr. Ratey points out, exercise is huge catalyst for greater performance and can also take us to the next level with our happiness, satisfaction and energy. Instead of trying to fit in exercise, what if our lives and organizations were built around when we exercise?

 

This was also posted on the blog for The Center for Intentional Leadership