Sometimes Less is More

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Try harder. Work harder. Do more.

Does that sound like the voices in your head? Maybe that’s just me. (Maybe I should see someone about that.)

We all work hard and want to succeed. That’s a good thing. But, the idea that you must go 100mph all the time to get ahead is just wrong. (Try going 100mph off a cliff and see if going all out all the time still makes sense.)

Sometimes letting off the gas a little is what is needed. Sometimes we need to let someone else have the spotlight. Sometimes we need to listen – really listen. Sometimes we need to stop working so hard, slow down, think, create, and plan.

I went to a musical last night. One of the actresses was a good singer, but something didn’t quite feel right as I listened. Then it hit me. She was belting out every lyric. There were no dynamics, no highs and lows, loud and soft.

Don’t get me wrong, she could really wail. But, there wasn’t as much feeling and emotion in the songs as there could have been. By trying too hard all the time she was actually hurting her performance.

Do you ever do that? I know I do.

If you find yourself pressing too hard today, trying to top someone else’s story, trying to make the most and best comments at the office meeting, or trying to cram too many things in your day, slow down.

Back off for a minute. Re-evaluate. Prioritize. Be more selective about what you say and do.

Let me know how it works out. I’m going to try that today.

Who Else Wants to Get More Done in Less Time?

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You are working harder than ever. From the second the alarm clock goes off until your head hits the pillow at night you are working. It’s slowly killing you and you’re starting to notice that all that work isn’t doing as much as you thought it would.

It’s time to spend less time working to do more.

Ok, get the guys in the white coats. Greg’s really lost it this time.

Nope, never been more sane. I’ve noticed that when I’m trying to put out all the fires and be all things to all people, I let other people determine my priorities. You know what happens then? My most important tasks don’t get done.

When I decide my top three priorities and take them one at a time until they’re done, I get more important things done. That helps everyone more.

Here’s how you do it, depending on if you’re self-employed or you’re an employee.

Self-employed:

1) Ask yourself: What is the most important thing that if you got it done today would make the biggest difference to your business?

2) Do that until it’s done. I know sometimes “things come up.” But you need to schedule time for your most important activities or something will always “come up.” At the minimum, work on this task for one hour. Then take a break for emails, phone calls, fires, etc. Then repeat the process.

3) Repeat steps one and two for your three priorities until you’re done for the day.

4) If time remains, do the next thing on your list.

5) Celebrate a great day! Go for a walk with your spouse. Eat some boiled peanuts and watch a martial arts movie. (Wait, that’s just what I like to do. Sorry.)

If you’re an employee:

1) Meet with your boss and ask him/her and work out what the companies goals are for you – short and long term. What does he expect from you? What are the top three most important things he expects you to get done?

You might think you know this already. Hey, you might. But, you also might be surprised just how different your ideas of what is important are from what your boss thinks.

2) Focus 80% of your time on those top three things your boss wants done. Do this in one-hour increments. Tell everyone, no interruptions during that time. Set a timer. You will be shocked what this type of focus will do.

3) As you show your boss how much important work you’re getting done, see if he will delegate some of your less important work to someone else. (You will be surprised how often the answer will be yes.)

4) Use the other 20% of your time to do the less important but necessary tasks of your job.

5) Win the office fantasy football pool. Whoo hoo! (Whoops, sorry, that’s my stuff again.)

Let me know how this works!

Working Too Many Hours Hurts Everyone

We tend to think that working long hours shows we have a strong work ethic. It’s proof we’re not lazy and it will lead to more success.

Some of us even get in competition with our buddies on how many hours we put in.

But research shows that too much work is actually counterproductive. It hurts your health and your productivity.

A new study, published in the Lancet medical journal, showed a correlation with work hours and risk of stroke.

Compared to the “normal” 40-hour workweek, working from 41-48 hours increased your risk of stroke by 10%. If you worked up to 54 hours a week the risk jumped to 27%. The last group working over 55 hours a week saw risk of stroke increase by 33%.

The reason for this isn’t proven yet. The researches think it could be due to increased stress, longer periods sitting at your desk, or just the fact that you have less time to eat right, exercise and take care of yourself properly.

Meanwhile, a Stanford study shows that after you reach 50 hours a week your productivity takes a big hit. Push it past 56 hours and your work starts to downhill fast. When you reach 70 hours a week, you produce nothing worthwhile with all that extra time.

That study focused on munitions workers so it’s not exactly the same for most of us who do office work. However, many other studies show the diminishing returns from overwork and not enough sleep.

You can get away with it in short bursts for big projects, but if it becomes the norm, your quality of work – and your health – will suffer greatly.

Depending on the survey, around half of American workers now say they put in more than 50 hours a week.

It’s time to start asking ourselves what we – and our employers – get for that?

Is there a better way to work less, get more done and achieve more balance in our lives?

Yes!

I’m going to give some ideas on that in my next post.

Focus, Grasshopper, Focus

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Ever feel like you’re working really hard and still not getting everything done?

Uh, yeah, Greg, like everyday. Was that a trick question?

A friend has been trying a new focus technique that has helped some, but I think we can do better:

Greg,

I have been using the Pomodoro Technique. Focusing on one thing for 22 minutes, then walking around or resting for 8 minutes, and then repeating…

I try to do that to get 22 min of uninterrupted time. If I try longer than that, something breaks it up.

Also, I can usually get 4 of those reps in a day.

What do you think?

Personally, I need more than 22 minutes to really focus and get into my flow. I’ve seen research that says it takes most people 5-10 minutes to get back in a deep thinking frame of mind each time they are interrupted.

The average American worker is interrupted 50 times a day! No wonder we feel like we never get anything done.

Other research says most of us can focus for 40-50 minutes at a time.

I turn all notifications for phone, email, text, twitter, etc. off and do 45 minutes or so with zero interruptions. Then I’ll take a break for a few minutes, do another hour and then work out. Then I’ll check all messages, turn everything off and get another hour in.

I don’t do that every day, but when I do I get a ton done and feel awesome. If you are worried you will miss something really important you can leave your phone ringer on, but nothing else.

It helps to tell others what you’re doing. I have it in my email signature “In order to be as efficient as possible, I only check my email at 9:30am and 6pm. If there is an emergency, you may call me.” (People who would need my number in an emergency already have it.)

I got the time block out technique from Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s book, The ONE Thing. Their idea is to block out four hours each day to concentrate on your ONE Thing. Let everyone know what you’re doing and why. (Start with one hour and build from there.)

Be protective of that time.

In an interview with Forbes, Keller put it this way:

“Think of it like going to the movies. You’re there for ONE Thing—to see the film. Because you’re really clear about that, you turn off your cell phone, you grab snacks in case you get hungry, and you probably even make a pit stop before you go in. All this so you can have an uninterrupted experience.

“When you time block your most important work and treat it like going to the movies—you make a stand around avoiding distractions—amazing things happen. When you start thinking of your days this way, the burden of always having to be ‘on’ goes away and you end up accomplishing more.”

You will have to get creative on how you block out that time. Make sure everyone who needs to know understands why you are doing this. Your boss and your colleagues will be very happy when they start to see the increased creativity and productivity in your work. If you are the boss, or you’re self-employed, you are going to be shocked at how much more of the important stuff you get done when you start focusing four hours a day on the ONE Thing.

Action Steps: 1) Explain to others how and when you are focusing without distractions. 2) Get a timer. 3) Set it for 50 minutes. 4) Focus and Go! 5) Take a break, talk with friends, check messages. 6) Repeat.

Questions for comments: Have you tried this? Does it work for you? What do you do to stay focused?

Workin’ Hard or Hardly Workin’?

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We all work hard and it seems like there’s always more work to be done.

I’ve noticed something about myself and I’m wondering if it’s the same for you. When I plan out my day and stick to the plan I get a ton done.

When I just have an idea of what I’m going to do, I don’t get as much done. Yet, I still feel like I worked just as hard. How does that happen?

This morning I realized how it happens for me.

I work from home in the mornings and I had great plans on important things to do. Then I decided I needed to upload the video of my daughter’s recent musical performance. My phone didn’t sync with my Mac, so I had to download a program – 30 minutes gone.

Then I noticed a few hundred photos on my phone that were taking up space so I decided I needed to upload select photos from my phone to my Mac – another 20 minutes gone.

And so it went:

Check my email — four different accounts – 25 minutes

Send YouTube video I created to a contact (and watch some of my old ones) – 30 minutes

Check FB messages and notifications – 5 minutes

Renew my library books online – 5 minutes

I finally shook myself and realized that although I felt like I was working I had spent almost 2 hours doing absolutely nothing on my daily planner. Not good.

I hadn’t planned well, and I wasn’t even sticking to my not so great plan. It wasn’t that the things I was doing were bad, it’s just that they were taking me away from the more productive things I really wanted to get done.

Focus, Grasshopper, focus.

When I stick to my plan and work in hour blocks on my most important thing that aligns with my purpose, great things happen.

We can spend all day working on things that aren’t very important, or we can focus on the things that really matter. At the end of the day we’ll be tired either way.

The first way is an empty, dissatisfied, frustrated tired.

The second way is a job well done, life is good, earned relaxation now kind of tired. I love days like that.

Let’s GO!

If this post resonated with you, Please subscribe to my blog and get my free eBook — 5 Steps to Finding Your Passionate Purpose. You can also purchase my book, GO!

Easy Way to Wake Up Energized

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I’m not a morning person!

Very few of us are. My oldest daughter, Faith, definitely isn’t. Yet, she is the one who just reminded me of the easy way to wake up energized. Love where you’re going.

Faith is just about to turn 16. She tends to stay up a bit too late most nights by the time homework and getting ready for bed stuff is done. When we wake her up in the morning she is usually in full grump mode. It takes her a while to become her normal, happy self.

But this morning she got up on her own, came downstairs fully dressed, bright eyed and chipper.

What changed? Where she was going. And how she thought about where she was going.

Going somewhere you’re not excited about – school? Wake up in grump mode.

Going somewhere you are excited about – Starlight acting camp? Wake up energized!

Aren’t you motivated in the same way by what you love to do and look forward to?

Are you looking forward to where you’re going today? Tomorrow? If not, what can you do about that?

You can change where you’re going. You can change what happens where you’re going. You can change your mindset about where you’re going. You can control how you act and react when you get there.

You are in control. You get to choose.

Greg, it’s not that easy. I can’t just change everything today. I have responsibilities and bills and…it’s complicated.

I get you. You’re right. It’s not always easy. But, it’s always worth it. It’s never too late.

(Shameless plug alert!) That’s why I wrote a whole book on how to do this. Click here to buy my book, Go How to Find and Pursue Your Passionate Purpose, on Amazon. You can sample the book for free by requesting it on the right hand side of this page.

Action steps: 

1) Honestly assess your excitement level of getting up in the morning on a scale of 1 to 10.

2) List the reasons you are, and are not, excited in the morning.

3) Brainstorm ways to change your mindset and your environment to increase your morning excitement level.

4) GO!

Questions for comment: When was the last time you woke up energized and looking forward to the day? What did you do to create that experience?