Archive for August, 2012
The Happiness Advantage written by Shawn Achor proves how important a positive state of mind is.
Interestingly, the author worked with some accountants in an international firm and he realised that many of the tax auditors and manager were suffering from the negative effects of what he calls the Tetris Effect.
The Tetris Effect comes from the computer game where you arrange blocks. Compulsive gamers reported seeing blocks in real life; they would start mentally arranging boxes on supermarket shelves and even buildings. It would take over their life!
This is the brain running a pattern. This can be good for finding mistakes but bad in other aspects. I think this is why some accountants tend to be glass half empty type of people, whereas business owners are generally see the glass as half full.
The book actually reveals that happy, positive and optimistic people set more goals, make them more challenging and put more effort into achieving them. And, people who expect a positive outcome usually get one. So, for example happy, positive sales professionals close more deals.
Have you ever wondered why some people are lucky? Well, a researcher Richard Wiseman set out to discover why some people seem luckier than others.
Volunteers were asked to count the number of photographs in a newspaper. Some people stopped after a few seconds; the rest took an average of 2-minutes. The people who stopped after a few seconds spotted a message on page two which said “Stop counting there are 43 photos”.
The findings were clear. The happy, positive and optimistic people who considered themselves lucky were more likely to spot the message.
Interestingly, there was a second message half way through the newspaper which said “Stop counting, if you read this tell the researcher and they will pay you $250”. Once again, the people who considered themselves unlucky missed it.
Think of the impact this can have on your business. The happier and more positive you are the luckier you will be so I will follow up with more tips from the book.
Before planning comes “wishing” and “wanting”. These are vital steps which you need to have in place.
Wishing is the idea, it’s in your head and you need to have a clear picture. Wanting is a feeling associated with the wish, it’s in your heart.
On the basis you know what you want and have connected your head and heart then you are ready for some planning. By the way, after planning comes “doing” and then “having”.
First, it’s important to understand that what you wish for can seem ambitious and it may seem overwhelming, a bit like eating an elephant?
So, the way you would do that is to do it one piece at a time! It is easier to get started on something that seems daunting by slicing it up into manageable pieces.
There’s a video on YouTube with Will Smith being interviewed and he talks about his Dad knocking down an old wall outside their house and getting him and his brother to re-build it.
It took two years and Will says it taught him to lay on brick at a time. And, to lay each brick as perfectly as a brick could be laid.
Break everything down into smaller steps that you feel comfortable tackling and doing it bit by bit. You will get it all done. Feel good each day when you lay that one-brick and look back and see how far you have come, not just what’s ahead.
It’s vital you prioritise actions.
It’s important to make sure that when you decide to do something, it contributes towards one of your goals or objectives.
Some priorities are more important than others, so number your lists in order of importance. You must ask yourself “if something doesn’t contribute, then why are you doing it?”
Ask yourself “will doing this help me achieve this objective?” by doing this you will do the things that contribute, and other things will be delegated or done later, or even not at all.
This way you are already starting to utilize your time more productively.
Think about your goals in shorter time spans.
What to achieve by the end of the year, by the end of the month, by the end of the week, today?
Write down the aims and prioritize them. Break down each aim into smaller steps, and prioritize them also. Do this for your monthly and weekly aims. What you are doing is working out a strategic plan. That is the way successful people work.
Start with your personal goals, financial and non-financial.
Link each small task with your most compelling personal goals.
One of the most well known and well respected books on personal development is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
To help you make decisions about the use of your time by deciding whether the activity is important or not, urgent or not. The matrix looks like this:
||Do it now!
||Estimate and book time in you diary
||Delegate or do later
||Don’t do it!
Deal with these activities in different ways, and their priority will depend on this.
If the work is important and urgent, it needs to be top priority.
A long term project could be important but not urgent, so you can create a timetable for it later ensuring you allow enough time for completion.
If something is urgent but not important, this is because of poor planning.
Remember that just because someone tells you something is urgent doesn’t make it urgent; this is only their opinion. Work it out for yourself for your business.
We cannot manage time but we can manage our behavior; how we spend our time. So, the first thing to do is to understand our current patterns of behavior.
Again, we need to be specific in our business development. In three months I want you to be able to quantify the value of time management. If you manage to get another 15 hours a month into business development this could be worth £50,000 to £100,000.
You only have the same amount of time in a day (24 hours) as we all do. The only way to find out what you really do all day, and how long you spend on it, is to keep a time log.
You need to be honest and include everything you do, however trivial. At work, include phone calls, appointments, interruptions, meetings, dealing with paperwork, projects, writing, planning time, plus all the other activities that make up the working day.
At the end of each week make comments against each log entry and then figure out if it contributed towards one of your key goals. Those important steps make up 20% of your work. Put most effort into them.
So, the first action to implement is to record your time. And, I suggest doing this in six minute units.
An important part of good time management is the weekly project page and daily ‘to do’ list. The weekly page is overall ‘what I want to do’ for the coming week.
List your objectives for the week at the top in order of priority. Keep it no more than you can reasonably handle – three should do it. Underneath this list the steps you need to achieve the objectives, and prioritize the steps. Next is the estimate for the time you think each step will take, and what day of the week you need to do it.
Now you know what to do, and when to fit this in your schedule around your fixed times.
When you start each day you will have a list of things to do from the day before and some you will add. Fill in these tasks using the objectives from the week and you main goals as a guide.
Remember the matrix of important/ unimportant as well as urgent. These have priority in your daily work.
How will saying ‘no’ save you time? First of all, it will free you from non-essential tasks – all those things you do to please other people but that are not essential to your own life. They can add up to a great deal of time being spent on other people’s priorities.
You should be doing things that contribute to your own goals and objectives first; other people’s aims should be included only when you have the time, energy and inclination.
That’s all very well you might say, but how do you say no without seeming rude or aggressive? The important thing to remember is that however you refuse the work, the word should come in the first sentence. If saying no is too direct, then temper it:
….‘no, I’m sorry I can’t help with overtime this month …… but I can help out next month’.
Have you heard “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
It’s nice to think that you can work for 8-10 hours straight, especially when you’re working to a deadline, but it’s impossible for anyone to focus and produce really high-quality work without giving their brains some time to rest and recharge.
So, think of breaks as part of the day. They provide valuable down-time, which will enable you to think creatively and work effectively.
If it’s hard for you to stop working, then schedule breaks for yourself, or set an alarm as a reminder. Go for a quick walk, grab a cup of coffee, or just sit and meditate at your desk.
Take a five minute break every hour or two. And make sure that you give yourself ample time for lunch – you won’t produce top quality work if you’re hungry.
Don’t think that your day plan is fixed and immutable. Planning your day allows you to be prepared for emergencies or changes of plan.
Without a time management system you may have to do everything if an emergency arises, and then work late to catch up. With a weekly schedule and daily ‘to do’ plan, you can see immediately where to allocate time, because you know what has to be done with priority and when.
The worst emergency is when a problem turns into a crisis. This is when time management comes into its own. When a crisis comes, you can immediately put work aside or delegate it, knowing you have planned some leeway in your day.
By planning ahead you can make the best use of your time in an emergency. The planner will enable you to see at a glance what needs to be dealt with so you can quickly re plan and delegate it where necessary.
Have you ever sat waiting for a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment? Do you travel to work on public transport? Have people ever arrived late for a meeting with you? Do you find yourself with 10 to 15 minutes to spare between appointments?
All these are examples of transition time, or ‘dead’ time; the odd bits of time between everything you do. These bits of valuable time are often squandered by hanging about.
To use transition time effectively you need to know when yours usually occur. Sit down with your time log from previously and see where the bits of time occur in the day. Add up these times – you’ll be surprised how much they total.
Some examples of ‘dead’ time are: journey to and from work; between arriving at work and starting work; between meetings; waiting for people. There are probably a few more you can identify by looking at your own routine.
Transition time is not for dealing with the main work of the day. That requires your full attention for long periods. It is useful however for the smaller tasks while can pile up such as responding to letters or reading.
All kinds of short projects can be fitted into transition time. You could maybe do some of the following:
- Make phone calls, send texts or e-mails
- Write rough drafts of letters
- Write office memos
- Catch up on reading
- Outline business plans
- Think – ideas are important
- Listen to information CDs
- Make appointments
- Take a nap.
- Do a mind map
Several studies have found that multitasking can actually result in us wasting around 30% of our time, depending on what we’re trying to do.
It can be hard to identify when you’re multitasking. But there are a few key indicators you can look for:
a) If you have several pages or tabs open on your computer, then you’re probably multitasking. The same goes for your desk – if you have several file folders or papers out that you’re working on, you might well be multitasking.
b) Multitasking is more likely when you’re working on a project or task you’re not excited about. For instance, creating a spreadsheet analysis might be an unwelcome task, so you might frequently check your email or do some research on a new assignment in order to lessen the pain of the current task.
c) Frequent interruptions can also cause you to multitask. For instance, you might be writing your department’s budget when a colleague comes into your office with a question for you. You then carry on trying to tinker with the budget as you answer their question.
One of the biggest problems with multitasking is that it can lower the quality of our work. When we try to do two things or more things at once, and the result is that we do everything less well than if we focused properly on each task in turn.
When we switch tasks, our minds must reorient to cope with the new information. If we do this rapidly, like when we’re multitasking, we simply can’t devote our full concentration and focus to every switch. So, the quality of our work suffers.
Another major downside to multitasking is the effect it has on our stress levels. Dealing with multiple things at once makes us feel overwhelmed, drained and frazzled.
Here are some tactics:
- Don’t take calls when you have booked time to do something
- Switch your email off for blocks of the day
- Put a “do not disturb” sign on your door
Procrastination is the art of putting off doing something. We all find we can find something better to do than the job in hand.
The problem is that the work still has to be done and if you put it off eventually you will find yourself trying to cram it all in to a short time. This will make you more frustrated than ever.
Now let’s do a self-assessment. Are you a procrastinator? Have a look honestly at the following questions, and see how you measure up.
- Do you only start work on a project when the deadline is near?
- Do you find it hard to get started on a project?
- Are you always short of time for getting the work done?
- Does the thought of trying to complete anything make you nervous?
- Have you got lots of things to be done that have been carried over from previous weeks?
If you answered yes to most of these questions you prefer to put things off until the last minute.
So, what is the answer?
Well, it’s in the question; how do you eat a frog?
Do it first thing in the morning.
Next we can deal with perfectionism.
There are three strategies that can help you get things completed.
First, assume everything you do has an 80% chance of failure. This is a useful mindset for a business owner because it means you are less emotionally attached to your ideas and more open to feedback.
When you think what you are going to do isn’t guaranteed to work then you be more inclined to complete what you are working on because there is no need to get it to 100%. You can do that later when you know it works.
Speed of implementation is one advantage we have as a small businesses. Making mistakes is important and if you assume you are wrong you won’t bet the bank.
Maybe your standards are too high, on the wrong things? You shouldn’t need world class copywriting on your Website to make sales if you’re targeting a marketing segment with a distinctively different and compellingly attractive proposition.
Second, setting specific times can help get things done. Book three hours to get a task completed and stick to it.
Finally, shut up. We all have our little inner voice telling us what we are doing isn’t good enough or people won’t like it.
Our On-Track service includes looking at effective business management which includes time management.
It is vital to understand that you cannot actually manage time, you can only manage your behaviour. Tip 1 is about delegation.
A key part of Time Management and being productive is understanding that you cannot manage time, you can only manage your behaviour.
Are you one of those people who don’t trust anyone else to do what needs to be done? You don’t trust anyone to do a job as well as you do? If so, it’s not surprising then that you get overwhelmed by work, and then complain that you have too much to do. It’s your own fault, learn to delegate and save your time.
But, understand that there is a difference between delegation and abdication. Before you delegate make sure the person has a system to follow. Developing systems can be a more valuable use of your time than marketing because investing your time in marketing returns you a profit over the lifetime of a client, developing systems gives you your life back!
Delegating has advantages other than saving you time, and freeing you up to do tasks that are more important, fit your objectives, and benefit the company more.
If you delegate effectively as part of your time management, your people will become more skilled and committed.
Effective delegation means that although decisions are taken lower down the management chain, they are taken nearer where the work is being done. Quite often your staff has a better idea of what needs to be done than you do! They make decisions faster.
So, by delegating you can save time for more important work and also improve the morale of your staff.
On the other hand, if you fail to delegate when appropriate, you create a burden for yourself. Your staff will not have any authority, responsibility or information to make decisions, and they will lack confidence and become unable to take criticism.
The result is that everything is referred back to you. This means a string of interruptions for you to deal with; you will end up doing their work as well as your own; you will run out of time; your staff will run out of work; they will be checking on you to find out progress on what is something they should be doing in the first place. Not a very effective way to be on top of time management.
This should mean it is easy to see that delegating and empowering your staff is sensible and necessary in good time management practice.
Now let’s do a self-assessment. How well do you delegate? Have a look honestly at the following questions, and see how you measure up.
- Do you like to control all parts of a project?
- Are some of your staff underemployed?
- Do you spend a lot of time answering unimportant questions?
- Do you dislike spending money on something you can do yourself?
- Do you think you have not got enough time to get things done?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you dislike delegating or are unsure how to do it.
Don’t be afraid to delegate – it will not undermine your authority but will free time for you to do what you do best. Delegate recurring jobs and tasks that others can do better, quicker and cheaper than you.
Match the work to the person and don’t just delegate boring and routine work. Time taken to train, monitor and evaluate delegated work is saved by being able to delegate a similar task next time it occurs.
Letters and phone calls can be delegated and suitable standard replies prepared.
You should aim to delegate as much as possible, but don’t delegate work that is your sole responsibility.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor starts by explaining that research from the fields of neuroscience and Positive Psychology proves beyond any doubt that success comes from happiness, not the other way around.
This is profound because it turns everything on its head. The old world view is work hard, be successful and you will be happy. But, as it turns out the opposite is true so you better learn how to engineer happiness because that will make you more successful.
The great thing about The Happiness Advantage is that it provides practical advice on how you can cultivate a happier mind-set for yourself and the people you work with. This posts explains how important having a “purpose” is.
Interestingly, our external circumstances only dictate about 10% of our total happiness; 90% of how we feel is determined by how we perceive the world. We are in control of our mind, we just need to be conscious of how and what we think.
One thing you can do that will have a fundamental impact on your state/mood is to look for real meaning in your work. If you can find your “”calling” then your job/business will have a purpose. This means that every day you will be doing something that is important to you. And, crucially so will your employees.
For example, my calling is helping create a better world. Every day I am working to help my clients increase their profits and cashflow to become financially independent. But, that is just the surface level.
I know that the only way to increase profits is to actually have a better business. That means every aspect of the business needs to be improved. Now, what this means is that the people who work in the business get better leadership, management and training. They are going to be happier because they have more job satisfaction, security and higher pay.
A better business also means happier customers because of better products and higher standards of customer service. It also means suppliers are under less price pressure and get paid faster.
In short, everyone that comes into contact with a better business wins. So, by improving the profits of one business I can improve the lives of many people. And, to top it off, with higher profits the business owner will pay more tax which will help fund a better society for our children, the elderly and less able.
I get up each morning with a purpose. I am literally on a mission and I understand why people carry on working if they win the lottery. Would it be useful for you to associate real purpose to your work?
Would it make you happier? Would you generate more energy? Would your employees be more committed?