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Think You Can't Take A Vacation? The Sound Business Reasons You Really Should
by On June 26, 2012

By Patty Azzarello | 06-26-2012 | 9:00 AM

We know–you’re totally, utterly indispensable to your business. Right? Think again: Here are 10 reasons work is better off without you for a while. Now skeedaddle.


Now that it’s summer, it’s a good time to remind yourself that you should go on a vacation–and not feel guilty about it.


Here are 10 reasons why the business is better off without you for awhile:


1. Going on a vacation shows you are competent. It is proof that you are good at your job because you can manage and plan enough to free up some time in your schedule–and not leave a festering mess in your absence. Not being able to take a vacation for years shows that you and your team are so out of control that you can’t even be gone for a week.


2. No one is impressed if you don’t. Bragging that you have not had a vacation in years or that you have maxed out on vacation days is not scoring points with anyone. If you think your company or your team see it as a super-keen work-ethic, and admires you for it–they don’t.


3. Your team is motivated. When you show by example that you support and allow people to have a life, they will be more motivated to contribute. As long as you don’t send them email every day while you are “on vacation”! Set the expectation you will be generally out of touch. If you can’t stand to let go entirely, arrange 1-2 scheduled check-in points, but don’t just go somewhere else and keep working.


4. Your team gets more productive. When you go away, you give your team a break from doing and worrying about all the things you throw in their way when they are trying to get their work done. After about 2 weeks, they will miss you and need you again, but in the mean time, their productivity will actually go up.


5. Being unavailable helps people develop. Being unreachable for periods of time is actually a very effective technique for developing people. It forces them to step up. If they think they can reach you at all times, they will never bother to think bigger, learn, and take risks–they’ll just ask you. Just be careful not to un-do everything they did in your absence just because it was different than the way you would have done it.


6. You will be more productive. If you step away from the day to day chaos and give your back-of-mind processes a chance to chew on things while you are in a good (or at least different) mood, you’ll think new thoughts. You will solve problems you might not solve if you stay fully engaged at all times.


7. You will prioritize better. Stepping away helps make it clear that some of the things that you thought were vitally important before your vacation don’t actually need to get done after all. When you step away, the difference becomes more clear. The most strategic things re-assert themselves and all the clutter drops several notches in volume.


8. You let other people be “important.” If you refuse to leave ever, you are sending the message that you are the only important person. Giving others the chance to be in charge, make decisions, speak on your behalf and solve problems sends the message that you have confidence in your team. This builds your credibility with your team, your peers, and your management more than pretending that the business can’t live without you for a moment. (Which doesn’t really build your credibility at all.)


9. Your company benefits. Your company prefers people who enjoy their life because they have more positive energy for their work. They are more effective and more productive. People who have interests outside of work also deal with pressures and disappointments in the workplace with more resilience and confidence.


10. You need a break, whether you know it or not!


Finally, if something comes up in your business that you really can’t avoid handling personally, and you need to cancel your vacation, reschedule another one while you are canceling. This will minimize resentment and disappointment, give you something to look forward to–and ensure you don’t get too full of your self-importance, and go too long without a vacation.

6 Practical Time Management Strategies for Freelancers and Solo
by On June 25, 2012

Summary: In this training episode, Jason Womack delivers tips and strategies to use the time we have more efficiently.

As solo professionals, most of us understand that we have to continually nurture our resources to be successful. We sign up for workshops to improve our skills. We take on challenging new projects to broaden our experience. And we attend conferences and join associations to drive our knowledge.

But in spite of all these efforts, there’s one resource we simply cannot grow: our time.

Our time is finite. No matter how early we get up or how late we wind down, there are only so many hours in a day. For many of us, the only way to get “more” time is to use the time we have more efficiently.

In this training episode, Jason Womack delivers tips and strategies for doing just that. Jason is an internationally sought after speaker and advisor who invests his time, energy and focus as an agent of change. He has advised and consulted with companies, governments and entrepreneurs worldwide, and he was honored as one of America’s top 100 thinkers in productivity in 1997.

Earlier this year Jason’s most recent book, Your Best Just Got Better, achieved best-selling status within five weeks of publication.

It Starts With Awareness

I often ask clients to reflect on this question: “When was the last time you took time, energy and focus to study how you work?” As you can probably guess, many people say never.

Developing and learning time management strategies and methods does indeed take time. If you look at the way you currently manage your time, you will likely see that you do what you’ve always done because it has worked¬ — or at least worked well enough to get by.

But to make your best better, it’s probably time to change how you use your time.

During the next few days, I encourage you to be especially conscious (and curious) about how you spend your time. Recognize how often other people interrupt you, how frequently you have to stop and look for things, or how long it takes to complete certain job functions. As you continue studying your methods, look for new practices that you can implement immediately that will help you manage your time better.

The following are some of my favorite strategies for making immediate improvements to your time management process:

1. Start meetings on the 00:15 of each hour.

In my experience, most one-hour meetings can be handled in 45 minutes. In fact, they usually are, especially later in the day when people are running 5 to 15 minutes late. Try scheduling your meetings with clients and partners for 15 minutes past the hour instead of on the hour, such as from 9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. or 2:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Why the odd starting time? It often takes people 15 minutes to prepare for a call or meeting. By scheduling your meetings at 15 minutes past the hour, you may be pleased to find your clients actually show up or join the call “on time.”

2. Make the most of small pockets of time.

Keep a list of 20 to 30 things you can do in less than 15 minutes and have at hand the supplies or information you need to accomplish at least some of these tasks. By having them ready, you’ll be able to make the most of small pockets of time whenever they come up.

You’ll find there are plenty of opportunities to use these little pockets of time. Meetings start late, people fail to arrive on time, flights get cancelled, your child’s soccer practice runs long.

Often these small pockets of time are long enough so you can reply to an email or phone call. In other instances, you might have enough time to review materials for another meeting or project you are working on. If you’re prepared, you can confirm appointments, draft responses or map out a project outline.

Fifteen minutes is about 1% of your average workday. That may not sound like much time, but over the course of a week, you may find yourself with anywhere from 10 to 20 extra 15-minute blocks of time. In 15-minutes of prepared, focused work, you can often get more done than in one hour of unprepared, unfocused work.

3. Gain some ground early in the day.

When you sit down at your desk each morning, begin by working on something you can finish. After a few weeks, you’ll find you’ve completed a lot of little things that needed to be done, and you may have more time, mental space and inspiration to tackle some bigger issues. Completion increases your energy level and sets the standard for consistent forward motion on projects at all levels of importance.

4. Focus on the task at hand.

Part of maintaining focus is minimizing distractions. If you work from a home office, there are always plenty of things that distract. When you think of things unrelated to the immediate task at hand, make a short note of them and then get back to what you were working on.

Try keeping a piece of paper off to the side on your desk. When you think of something non-urgent you need to tell or ask someone, write it down instead of emailing or calling the person right away. When you think of something you need to do or get an idea related to some other project, quickly write it down and then put it aside.

These pages might end up looking like a random to-do list with items like details you need to tell your coworker, a story to add to your next newsletter, or which restaurant to book for your partner’s birthday. By compiling these items instead of immediately reacting to them, you’ll help minimize distractions and keep yourself focused on the task at hand.

As a freelancer, you might think that one of your most important skills is the ability to multitask. But I’d like to encourage you to experiment with NOT multitasking. Try turning off everything but what you’re currently working on. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and only do that one thing for the whole time.

When you get distracted (and you will) practice looking at the countdown timer, and get your head “back in the game.” Sometimes when we multitask, we get pulled in many different directions and little gets done. Instead, try to limit your focus to one thing at a time in 10 to 15 minute segments.

Once you start making changes to manage your time more effectively, you’ll want to assess how well these changes are working for you. I have two methods for doing this: end-of-day reviews and Thursday debriefings.

5. End-of-Day Reviews

Before finishing up work tonight, review your calendar and reprioritize your meetings, appointments and planned work for the next day. Look to see if you can reschedule non-priority meetings to the following day if you need to.

Review the next week on your calendar and ask yourself if you can collapse two meetings into one by meeting with two people at the same time. Find and schedule 30- to 60-minute chunks of a time (perhaps even multiple times per day) during which you can close your door or turn off your email or phone so you can focus on a single project or priority without being interrupted.

My clients have found that this end-of-day review enables them to become more aware of the changes they can make for a more productive, engaging day. Decide what you want to focus on and how you’re going to do it. Understand and take advantage of everything that influences your productivity, and you’ll find you can manage time more effectively.

6. Thursday Debriefings

Next, open your calendar to Thursday, at least one week from today. On your calendar, write this question:

“How have I been managing my time lately?”

When you see this reminder a week or so from now, you’ll be able to assess the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made. I coach my clients to do this kind of weekly debriefing on Thursdays (not Fridays) as a way to acknowledge their work that week and organize anything they need to do before finishing up the next day.

When people ask me why I do my debriefing on early or midmorning Thursdays, I give them the following reasons:

Friday afternoon, I generally want to: (a) go for a bike ride, (b) do aimless online research along my lines of interest or (c) meet up with friends for happy hour.

Friday afternoon, I do not want to have to think!

Thursday, midmorning, is the time I start to think about bringing the week to a close.

Thursday, midmorning, I can remind people of (a) what I am doing for them, and (b) what I need from them. This gives me the rest of that day and all day Friday to get those things done.

By seeing the progress I’ve made over the previous three days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), I get an extra shot of energy to move on to the next two days with gusto.

So, between now and next Thursday, practice some of these time management ideas. Here are some specific things to think about as you move toward working smarter and improving your efficiency and productivity.

Are you making the most of small pockets of time?

Are you making progress on important areas and goals?

What could you change that would move you forward on the path of productivity, so that you get done more of the important things during the day and increase the amount of time, energy, and focus you have once you’re done work for the day?

Good time management doesn’t just happen. Like most aspects of your business, it requires conscious assessment and effort to change and improve. Whether you’re a freelancer, solopreneur or small business owner, implementing these tips and strategies will help you get the most out of your time.

What Other Tips Work For You?

Jason Womack is the author of: Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012). He works globally with leaders maximizing tools, systems, and processes to achieve quality work/life balance. He focuses on solutions that are valuable to organizations and the individuals in those organizations. You can reach Jason at





8 Steps To Knock Out An Impossible Punch List
by On June 21, 2012

By Kaihan Krippendorff | 06-21-2012 | 10:00 AM

This article is written by a member of our expert contributor community.

First, take a deep breath. Good? Now read on for advice on “constructive urgency.”

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”–Thomas Edison

Our impact on the world depends on our ability manage urgency. Right now, I’m not doing so well. On my flight racing over to Honduras, my mind is wandering: What should I do first? Write a blog post? Prep for next week’s workshop? Watch a movie? I’m in a state of paralysis, which John Kotter, the Harvard Business School guru of change leadership calls “false urgency,” and I like to call “destructive urgency.” There are three types of urgency:

1. Complacency: You make no effort because you think things are fine.

2. Destructive urgency: You are stressed, worried, know things must change but you don’t know what to do, so you waste your time looking busy but achieving little.

3. Constructive urgency: You feel an energizing sense of purpose and direction, what Kotter calls “real urgency,” that “is not something that wears you down…real urgency produces success, which gives energy back.”

To win whatever game we are playing, we must push people past complacency, steer clear of destructive urgency, and land in the constructive urgency zone.

So how do you create constructive urgency? This week I read articles and books, and interviewed experts and compiled this eight-step summary.

Step 1: Orient

Glen Manchester, by all accounts, was doing wonders with Thunderhead, the customer engagement technology company he launched in 2001, growing at 40% annually and being ranked as one of the world’s most innovative tech firms. He had revenue approaching $70 million, over 200 employees, hundreds of marquis clients, and yet he realized he was in trouble. Thunderhead was flying into a storm.

“I saw we had so much innovation potential that our clients were not buying [because] we were selling to the wrong people,” said Manchester.

The future buyers of client engagement solutions should be chief marketing officers, not IT departments, and if Thunderhead didn’t adjust now, another competitor would soon. He and his team sat down and played out the scenario until they realized their strategy had to change.

Only when you realize that change is necessary, is the possibility for change born.

Step 2: Paint a new future

So Manchester and his team proposed the question: “What if we extract IT (technology) out of the equation…if [customer engagement] solutions were not built for CIOs and call centers,” but rather for the marketing department? They realized this paradigm changed everything that required you to attack in “a clean sheet way.”

Step 3: Create meaning

Logic doesn’t move people, emotion does. To build commitment to your new future you need to have it mean something to your team. Thunderhead did this by connecting with its core aspiration to be a global player, not a once-ran.

Step 4: Find the strategic concept

Plans fall apart quickly once the battle begins. So in fast-paced change efforts, simple, easily communicated strategies work best. Manchester came up with a brilliant one. “We were going to acquire ourselves,” he said, and disrupt the company before someone else does. Thunderhead would create an alternative persona,, buy the old Thunderhead brand, and execute a bold transformation program.

Step 5: Put up blinders

Your success will inevitably trigger naysayers., for example, is creating a new product category that “no one is really talking about [yet]; no one is saying this is where things are going.” How do you immunize yourself from such disbelievers? You reframe the doubters. “If it’s feeling easy, it’s wrong,” Manchester told me. This is like elite athletes who work with, even seek out, the pain as sign they are improving.

Step 6: Remove the drag

You will get distracted by bureaucracy. There are always forms to fill out, procedures to learn, paperwork to slow you down. Remove the drag and focus on the actions that really matter. When Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was once told by a manger they couldn’t connect servers because their new building had not yet been wired, Ellison supposedly hammered a hole in the drywall, pulled through a loose cable, and told the manager he was now wired. Cut down the drag to pick up speed.

Step 7: Produce results

Successful change efforts produce results early. For example, the South Beach Diet took the U.S. by storm five years ago not because of its breakthrough science but because it was simple to follow and produced noticeable results in two weeks.

Step 8: Create perceived motion

Talking to successful entrepreneurs like Manchester usually feels like being on a bullet train. Things are moving quickly and if you don’t grab on you will be left behind. Humans are designed to notice motion, not static movement. So create a sense of velocity for your investors, employees, and customers. Don’t just talk about what you are doing until you succinctly describe how the world is changing (e.g., “technology is getting simpler, consumers are driving adoption, China and India are emerging … and that is why this opportunity is available now for the first time”).

Putting it to work

Have you reached discontent? If not, find it, talk about it, get your team a (little) depressed. But jump to step 2 quickly, before you lead your team to destructive discontent.

Does your new vision make you anxious or complacent? If so, redesign it. I personally see some parts of my vision completely excite me, others less so. So I’ll revisit those.

Is realizing your vision important? Does it link to your values? If not, ask “why is this important to me and to the world?” I, for example, am building an online tool based on my process and sometimes forget why: to help everyone make smarter decisions every day. Reconnect to your purpose.

What strategic metaphor captures your plan? For me, it’s to build the “Bloomberg” for change makers. If you don’t have one, create one.

What will you do to block doubters from sapping your enthusiasm? What works for me is a group of mentors I can call, who think big, and can inspire me.

What are you wasting time on? Stop doing that. For example, I spend too much time setting up conference calls. I’m going to start picking up the phone instead.

What immediate results are you playing for? For me, it’s to launch “proof of concept”…which we will get to you next week!

What preamble will create a sense of acceleration for your idea? If it does not feel like a bullet train, rewrite it. I tend to start with theory. That doesn’t work. Instead I will launch into my “accelerator” preamble every time I speak to a new client or investor.






The Anatomy of Results
by On June 21, 2012

This TEDx presentation was released several days ago and is already one of the most viewed new TED talks on the internet today.

Eric Plantenberg breaks down the Anatomy of Results and highlights why some people are able to consistently create terrific results, and why most people do not.

If you are not familiar with – here is a brief overview of their mission as posted on their website.

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched in April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress, and you’re an important part of it.

At Freedom Personal Development, we are thrilled to promote as we believe that ultimately we share the same purpose: to deliver the Freedom to Choose. Good ideas make that possible. Congratulations to Freedom Personal Development president, Eric Plantenberg, for being invited to share his ideas along side of the planet’s “most inspired thinkers.”

Please post your comments about his talk on YouTube or this blog.

Be Free!

Freedom Personal Development

The Power of Owning Your Time
by On June 14, 2012

Not a whole lot to share this week with regards to my use of the 2-Hour Solution.  We are out in Bend, OR for Strategic Planning so I cleared my calendar.  That being said, I started doing something that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time but in retrospect really helped boost our productivity in these meetings.

I changed the outgoing message on my office phone to reflect my travel plans (go ahead and check it out) and to let people know that the best way to get a hold of me was via my cell.  Great, now all calls should be coming to my cell.  But I know I will be in meetings most of the mornings, and then again in the afternoons.  And these mornings and afternoons are two hours behind my clients in the Midwest.  Plus, these aren’t exactly the type of meetings that I can jump out of in order to take a call.  I need to focus on these meetings, but I also don’t want to miss a client call! (Can you feel my stress level rising?)

So here’s what I did, and it’s not rocket science.  Thanks to the genius that is my iPhone, I can change my outgoing message REALLY quickly.  I simply decided when I would make myself available on a daily basis and shared that with anyone who called.  Here’s an example:

“Hi, you’ve reached Robb, today is Tuesday and I am in Bend, OR attending meetings in the mornings and afternoons.  I’ll be available to return calls from Noon until two o’clock Pacific time so go ahead and leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  Make it a great day!”

This week I’ll simply update my outgoing message every morning so I can focus my energy in the mornings and afternoons.  I’m not stressing about who is calling or leaving messages because they know my plans and when they can expect to hear back from me.

Try this out.  I realize it’s just a little thing, but sometimes that’s all it takes.

What are the little things you do to every day to be totally clear with your schedule and your time?  Drop a comment below.

Coming Up Short But Still Going Long
by On June 6, 2012

more time connecting with clients later on.

I found myself stressing about the next week – There is a fair amount of prep that goes into my job and by limiting myself to only planning one week at a time, I found myself constantly thinking about stuff that I hadn’t yet accounted for. I think my experiment in one-week scheduling may come to a crashing halt.

I have a ways to go before I am solid with the 2-Hour Solution – I never physically put in my ReCreation Time or enough Excellence Time. If past experience is any indicator, I start kicking a LOT of butt when I invest in me. Also, I need to plan further out in order to be able to do this effectively. I let my “experiment” get in the way of my productivity.

Overall, I had an awesome week – By consciously scheduling all my mandatory “work”, I was able to open up more play time.

How has the 2-Hour Solution been working for you? How was your first experience? What realizations do you have? Feel free to share them below or email me or mention me in a tweet!

Looking forward to what next week’s Solution looks like!