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Defining Your Keystone Goal Defined
by On February 5, 2013

Over the last few weeks we have had several folks reach out to ask about their Keystone Goal.  Questions have ranged from “What is it?” to “Why is it important?” to “How in the heck do I DO it?”  I LOVE that people are asking.  It shows that the concept is resonating and that folks are interested in improving their lives.  They get that when they have clear, energizing goals, that will help them achieve what they want in business and in life.

In this post, I will attempt to more clearly define the Keystone Goal and where it lies in the big picture of success.  Before we go any further, I HIGHLY recommend that anyone who is curious about the concept of a Keystone Goal pick up a copy of Roger Seip’s Train Your Brain For Success book as he pretty much coined the term Keystone Goal and spends a good amount of text defining it.  Anything you read in this post comes straight from the book.  I’m not trying to get selly-selly by any means, I just want to make sure I give credit where credit is due.

Consider this post a Cliff’s Notes version of his chapter on the Keystone Goal.  If Cliff’s notes were novel-length… (get comfy before you read this one).

Let’s start with the obvious question, “What is a Keystone Goal?”  Stated simply, this is the one goal that, simply by nature of accomplishing it, will support the rest of your goals getting accomplished as well.  The “Keystone” term  actually comes from architecture.  When building an archway, the keystone is the last piece that goes in and supports loads from multiple angles.  Without the keystone, the structure would crumble, but with it, it is virtually indestructible.  For those of you looking for a visual, the observatory deck of the St. Louis Arch is the keystone of that structure.

Or perhaps this image helps as well:

Can you see how if this piece wasn’t in place, the rest of the structure wouldn’t work?  The same theory applies to your Keystone goal.  Without that one accomplishment, the rest of your goals wouldn’t get done.  Well, they might get done at an individual level, but if you are reading this post, just knocking out one tiny goal at a time probably isn’t of major interest to you.

The important thing to remember is that the Keystone isn’t a lone-wolf goal.  It is one of several goals you should have.  It just happens to be the one that ties everything together.  It is NOT some flash-in-the-pan want or an afterthought related to something that would be kinda cool to have or do.  Like all goals, it should provide focus, direction and a sense of urgency.  More on those aspects in Roger’s book.

So let’s talk about why your Keystone Goal is important.  First off, if you haven’t connected with your “Why” or if you are unfamiliar with what that means, STOP and watch this video.  When it comes to setting goals and operating (read: LIVING) in general, it is MUCH more effective to be coming from a place of Why rather than a place of How or What.  This is a topic that has been written on over and over again, but if you don’t have a clear understanding of WHY you are doing something, it really doesn’t matter HOW or WHAT you do.  Your Why provides purpose.  Once you have that clear, the How and What don’t really matter.  If you wanted more than anything to win a bicycle race, would you care if you won by a tire width or 3 bike lengths?  Would you care if you won it in a solo sprint or sliding across the line in a fantastic group crash?  NO!  You won!

The main reason why your keystone goal is important is because when defined and articulated clearly, it serves as the foundation for EVERYTHING you do to move you towards it.  Any time you find yourself questioning yourself, you can ask yourself, “Does this support me accomplishing my Keystone Goal?”  If the answer is no, it’s a great way to “right the ship” and get yourself moving in the right direction.  Your Keystone Goal is the thing that’s going to motivate you to read instead of watch TV or drink a glass of water instead of a Coke.

OK, let’s cut to the chase, How do I establish a Keystone Goal?  Again, I’m pulling this straight from Train Your Brain For Success but there are 5 steps to follow in order to best leverage the power of your Keystone Goal:

1.  Write down your top 6-7 mid-range goals.  A good rule of thumb is to look at what you want/need to accomplish in the next 90 days.  Anything shorter-term than that may not allow enough “oomph”, and anything longer than that can too easily get overwhelming as it is outside what your brain can realistically visualize.

2.  Identify the Keystone.  As you are looking at the goals you wrote down, there should be one of them that kind of trumps the rest.  Your Keystone is that goal.  It’s the one that, by focusing intensely on its accomplishment, you support the majority of your other goals.  In some instances, the Keystone Goal will create the others as a byproduct.  In other cases, your Keystone Goal will require the accomplishment of other goals as a stepping stone to its accomplishment.*  Take a look at your list and find where that is true in one of your goals.  For me, it is tied to a sales number.  Reason being, in order to hit that sales number, I have to accomplish a bunch of stepping stone goals along the way (like # of new coaching clients, # of booked speeches and income needs).

* I pretty much copied this verbatim from the book.

3.  Solidify your WHY.  We already discussed this above, but get hyper-clear on why accomplishing this one particular goal is important to you.  How will you feel when you do it?  How will pursuing it make you better?  What else will I be able to be/do/have once I accomplish this?  Your Keystone Goal will provide incredibly clear answers to these types of questions.

4.  Make it Visual.  You’ve figured out what your Keystone goal is.  GREAT!  Find a visual representation of it and put that somewhere you can see it ALL THE TIME.  Print off your sales number in big numbers, write it on your bathroom mirror, on the bottom of the inside of your windshield; anywhere you KNOW you will see it several times a day.  This forces you to think about your Keystone Goal and helps you visualize your life once you accomplish it.  If your Keystone is a new house, print off the MLS and put it on the fridge.  Some folks call this dream boarding.  Pinterest can be a huge help on this.  If you need help on using that site, call my wife.  She’s an expert (and yes, I’m talking about in the 10,000 hours of experience sense).

5.  Create a supporting ritual.  This is as simple as letting the first words out of your mouth be your Keystone Goal or as complex as 2 hours of affirmations and Power Half Hour exercises.  Get yourself doing SOMETHING that is a
habit of excellence.  It should definitely be something that keeps you motivated about accomplishing your Keystone Goal.

1-3 above are more how to do it, 4 and 5 are more what to do with it.  If you focus on those 5 steps, you should get yourself moving in the right direction VERY quickly.  And remember, your Keystone should be temporary.  What I mean is that once you get good at setting goals and accomplishing them, you’re going to need a better goal to go after.

I trust this has been helpful.  I welcome any comments or questions, I’ll be mindful to answer them ASAP.

BTW, here’s the Visualization for my Keystone.  Enjoy!


Organize Your Mind to Organize Your Life
by On November 14, 2012

By Margaret Moore, Special to CNN

updated 12:55 PM EST, Sun January 22, 2012

Editor’s note: Margaret Moore (aka Coach Meg) is the co-author of “Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life.” She is the director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation.

(CNN) — If there’s one big lesson I’ve learned over the past decade while training thousands of health and wellness coaches and coaching many clients, it’s this: An organized mind enables full engagement in a health-giving style of life.

So I jumped at the opportunity to co-author “Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life” with Harvard psychiatrist Paul Hammerness, where we translate the science of brain organization into six principles, or “rules of order,” and offer self-coaching solutions.

The kind of organization I’m talking about is not decluttering your office or home, or purchasing the latest app to organize to-dos and projects.

I’m talking about the mind’s ability to attain a higher order of order — a calm, wise, positive, strategic perspective — and the skills it takes to get there in small or large domains of life, including health and well-being.

Neuroscientists are opening a window into the disorganized minds of those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD,) providing insights into how to train our brains to become more organized.

We know that disorganization is not just a problem of ADHD sufferers. It’s an epidemic. I don’t know anyone whose mind isn’t frenzied, distracted or divided by multitasking a good deal of the time.

The connection between disorganized minds and unhealthy habits is compelling. The National Institute of Aging concluded from a recent study that symptoms of a disorganized mind, namely impulsivity, chronic negativity, high stress and multitasking, all correlate with higher weight. For example, adults in the top 10% rating for impulsivity (most impulsive) weighed an average of 24 pounds more than those in the bottom 10% rating for impulsivity.

Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore co-authored “Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life.”

Whether or not you have an organized mind depends upon your ability to “drive” your attention and keep it focused when you’re under pressure or faced with challenging conditions.

Just like driving a race car, a lot of skills are required. Fortunately, these skills are built into the brain’s normal wiring. So how do you start to tap into your innate ability to be organized?

Rule No. 1: Tame your frenzy

Before you can focus your attention, you need to take charge of your negative emotional frenzy (worry, anger, sadness, irritation). This frenzy impairs and overwhelms your prefrontal cortex, the brain’s CEO or executive function region, so that you can’t “think straight.”

Too much negative stress damages your ability to focus and harms your health. The great news is that the same things that improve your health can improve your mind’s ability to manage negative frenzy. Sleep well, exercise, do a mindfulness practice or choose the slow lane from time to time, even for a few minutes.

Find your unique formula to tame your frenzy so that you drive your attention to its best possible focus.

Rule No. 2: Sustain your focus

Now that your mind is calm, identify one task and one task only. The brain was not designed to focus on more than one thing at a time. Tell your brain what the intention or goal is for your focused session. Turn off your phone and e-mail, shut the door and set the timer for 20 to 30 minutes as a first step.

Rule No. 3: Apply the brakes

Your focused brain also needs to be able to stop, just as surely as a good pair of brakes brings your car to a halt at a red light.

Your brain’s radar regions are always scanning your internal and external environment, even when you are focused. Distractions are inevitable if you are human. Rather than mindlessly succumb to a distraction while in the midst of an important task (including health-giving activities such as exercising, cooking a healthy meal or relaxing), stop, breathe and consider whether the distraction is urgent enough to trump the current priority.

If not, bring your attention back to the important task until it is time to take a brain break to recharge your brain’s batteries, or move to a new task.

Rule No. 4: Access your working memory

Your brain is designed to store a basket of bits of information in short term memory (aka “working memory”). Accessing your short-term memory, turning over various elements in your mind, helps you problem-solve, generate new ideas and insights, and see the new patterns that lead you to a strategic perspective.

More great news: The same strategies that allow you to tame frenzy enable you to better access your working memory — exercise, deep breathing or meditation, and a good night’s sleep.

Rule No. 5: Shift sets

Now it’s time to move your focus to a new task. Move all of your attention fully to the next task and give it your undivided attention. This brain skill, called “set-shifting,” allows you to leave behind one task and leap to a new one with a fresh and productive focus.

Set-shifting is also described as cognitive agility or flexibility. Often our most creative ideas come, seemingly out of the blue, when we’re taking a brain break or focusing completely on something else.

How interesting it is that having a fit and flexible mind is just as valuable to a life you love as a fit and flexible body.

Rule No. 6: Connect the dots

You’ve learned how to tame your frenzy and focus your attention on one thing at a time. You can handle distractions. Your working memory is ready for action when you need it. You are nimble, able to shift deftly from one task to the next. You take breaks, move your body and shift your focus to invite new ideas, insights and connections.

Together, these “rules of order” will help you change not only your habits of attention, but the way you look at your life. Instead of being stressed, you’ll be calmly in control.

You’ll be more productive and therefore have more time to do things that are healthy for your body and mind. You’ll feel good about yourself, and positive emotions are health promoting. And you’ll be able to use your organized mind to set health and fitness goals and focus well on achieving them.

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





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!

The 2-Hour Solution from 30,000 ft.
by On May 29, 2012

My first post on getting the 2-Hour Solution back into my life generated a lot of interest from folks.  That is AWESOME!  I’m glad to hear you feel like you have room for improvement.  In the words of Roger Seip, “That FIRES me up!”

The first thing we should do is make sure you have a basic understanding of what the 2-Hour Solution is all about.  In a nutshell, we are talking about taking a chunk of time and dedicating it to laying out how and where you will put forth effort within a specific window of time.  It’s a bit more detailed than that, but based on where we are at in this whole process, that definition should suffice.  For the sake of this post, well be looking at a two week window.

A few things to know and have with you before you start this process (in order of importance):

A One-to-Two Hour Block of Time – Where you can’t and won’t be interrupted

Your Desire to Improve – Because that’s what this is all about.  How much better do you want to be at managing your time?

Your Why – This one is a hot button topic lately, but incredibly important to the process. Why are you here?  Why do you need to be better at managing your time?  Why and where will this effort improve your life?

Your Core Values – What is your foundation; what are YOU all about?

Your Vision – Where do you see yourself a few years down the road?

Your Calendar – It’s the blueprint we’ll work off of to make you super-efficient

If you don’t have all of the above, don’t stress…too much.  To really maximize the process you should have taken the time and effort to identify all of the above.  If you need help with this, a P.A.C.T. course will be a step in the right direction. (Yes, that is a shameless plug for a 100% guaranteed program that will help you identify these things)

The process goes like this: The first thing you do is find a block of time where you can disappear and get unplugged.  No TV, no radio, no social media, no family, no phone, no birds; Angry or otherwise.  This is time to focus on YOU.  Anything that is a distraction during this step of the process will be a distraction in getting things accomplished outside your “bubble”.  Sure, these things probably have importance to you, but like they say on the airplane, you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can take care of others.  Get committed to being 100% focused during this block of time or you’re just setting yourself up for failure when it counts.

Next, take some time to review your Why, your Core Values and your Vision.  Remind yourself what is important to you and why you do what you do.  Reminding yourself of these foundational topics will help as you are prioritizing your activities for the next two weeks.

Next, take a look at your calendar and start to identify, categorize and prioritize all the things you need to do over the course of the next two weeks.  How you do that is up to you.  You might use numbers, colors, pictures, or phrases.  Just keep it consistent and make it mean something to you.  I prioritize my top revenue-generating opportunities and and I use the color green (like $$) to identify them.

Crucial to this step is identifying and prioritizing where you are going to put your efforts.  Meetings, tasks, phone calls, preparation, etc.  It might get overwhelming, and that’s a good thing.  Could be a sign that you are taking on too much.  Here’s a great litmus test to use when identifying and prioritizing your efforts.  Ask yourself the question, “Does doing this move me closer to or further away from my Vision?”

Then identify the time you want to dedicate to personal development.  When are you reading/listening to audio/attending seminars?  This is the time you spend honing your craft and making yourself a better professional.

After that, it starts getting fun.  Once you have all the above items on your calendar, start to look for holes around those activities.  This is your flex time.  This is where you can allow for a schedule change or an unexpected task to get done.  Once you have your flex time nailed down, add your ReCreation (spelled that way on purpose) time.  Daily Exercise, Date Night, Poker Night, Sudoku, whatever.  This is what you do to re-charge and relax.

Sounds like a lot, huh?  It is.  But if you take the time to do this right you will notice something you have even more of than scheduled stuff and that is free time.  By prioritizing and committing to specific times to do the things you NEED to do, it leaves you more time for the stuff you WANT to do.

OK, I realized that we just dropped below 5,000 ft and that was not the point of the post.  If you want to learn a bit more about how others have used this approach, there have been a TON of articles pop up recently.  A couple examples are David Allen’s short video talking about how he takes some time to do this and we recently posted a link on our Facebook page to a distilled 1-hour version of this concept.

Anyone else getting excited about maximizing their calendar?  Considering the fact that summer is right around the corner here in Wisco, I sure am!  Feel free to drop any comments below, or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Time Management the Second Time Around
by On May 11, 2012

I experienced a VERY embarrassing few minutes last weekend.  At our annual sales meeting, the concept of time management came up and Roger and Eric were reinforcing how effective the 2-Hour Solution was.  When asked how often I used it, I replied, “What’s that?”  Not good.  It’s the basis for our Time Management program.  My answer spurred an impromptu 15-minute “refresher” on the concept.  The bad news is that about 17 seconds into the description, I realized I DO in fact know what the 2-Hour Solution is all about.  At 18 seconds, things went from bad to worse as I realized as a P.A.C.T coach, I have TAUGHT the 2-Hour Solution (successfully, I might add) to clients.  I always just called it the “Time Management Exercise”.  I learned it a while back and have used it (successfully, I might add) in my own life.  At 25 seconds, I reveled in the bliss that was my weeks being laid out well in advance, unexpected tasks not getting in the way of my regular workload, my regular workload getting done and still having plenty of time to exercise and play with the kids.  Then I remembered the size of my checks coming in and how I was starting to feel comfortable in life.

Unfortunately, in that comfort zone, I stopped using it consistently.  Maybe I took it for granted because I have access to our programs every day, maybe I decided to prioritize something else, maybe I just thought I was better than I really was and didn’t need it.  Whatever the case, I was reminded of what a great thing the 2-Hour Solution is and how well it did work for me when I was actively applying it.  All of this happened inside of a minute.  Anyone who has been through the Memory Training knows that the brain thinks seven times faster than other people can speak.  I was easily doubling that.

For the next 14 minutes, my life was a whirlwind of listening, taking notes and brainstorming.  I got to thinking; I’ll bet there are LOTS of folks out there just like me who have a tool in their toolbox, but either let it get dull or even worse, just haven’t put it to use.  So here’s the plan: I’m committed to making the 2-Hour Solution part of my life again, and you are invited to come along for the ride.  This will be the first of a series of posts I’m doing on integrating this AWESOME program into my day-to-day.

Some of you may not have any idea what the 2-Hour Solution is all about.  PERFECT!  You are going to see first hand what effective time management can do for you.  Others of you might know about the 2-Hour Solution, but like me you stopped using it for one reason or another.  PERFECT!  You are going to be reminded how easy it is to re-integrate it into your life and can work along with me to get it back into your day-to-day.  Or you might be a 2-Hour Solution Evangelist.  PERFECT!  You can comment and share where it has helped you and the benefits it has brought to your life.

Feel free to follow the action here by adding us to your reader (click that link on the top right), or connect with me on twitter or Facebook.  I look forward to answering any questions and sharing how I get this crucial solution back into my life.

Be Free!

6 Time-Management Tips From Accelerator Programs
by On May 2, 2012

By Alina Dizik

Want to work work smarter–not longer–hours? Start here with advice from Y Combinator, Techstars, Founder Institute, Excelerate Labs, and Seedcamp.

For startup accelerator programs, teaching wannabe entrepreneurs time management skills is critical. These camp-like incubators have one of the steepest learning curves of any professional environment, and making sure entrepreneurs stay productive is the key to success. For startups, managing time is a matter of sink or swim, and infant companies can only succeed if they stay on task.

Of course, balancing your time isn’t reserved for startup founders tackling the first part of their business plan. It applies to anyone who’s eager to work smarter–not longer–hours. So we asked founders and partners at the world’s top accelerator programs for time management tips they always share with bleary-eyed entrepreneurs. Here’s what they said:

1. Avoid the email time suck.

“Email is my worst enemy, so I only check it three times a day,” says Jonathan Greechan, partner at the Founder Institute, an accelerator program in 13 cities around the world. “Keeping email open all day is the quickest way to kill your productivity.” Instead, he’s developed a schedule when dealing with email: “First thing in the morning I glance over most emails and address only the critical ones. Midday I check progress on the critical emails I addressed in the morning. And before I go to sleep my main goal is to clear volume and smaller or menial tasks. On especially busy days I only check twice a day, cutting out the midday scrub.”

Sometimes taking longer to respond can be even more effective, Greechan says: “It may sound bad, but ignoring emails is a good way to make people not as dependent on you–in most cases, they can find the answers or solutions themselves. If you are always quick to answer, they will get lazy and be always quick to ask.”

2. Choose your most important goal each week.

Techstars chief executive David Cohen tells entrepreneurs to focus on one big goal each week. “This mental exercise makes you figure out what really matters, and focus time and energy on it at the cost of other, less important things,” he says. “Focusing on the right priorities can help you do more faster. I remember when Isaac Saldana of SendGrid decided he wanted to bring in an outside CEO. He focused on this until it was finished as his number one priority, and it accelerated the company more than anything else he could have done. Now SendGrid is on fire, and Isaac contributes as the technical leader, which is further propelling the company. It’s all because he focused on the biggest and most important thing through to completion.”

3. Know your productivity limits.

“Most people have a maximum for productivity,” says Troy Henikoff, chief executive of Excelerate Labs in Chicago. “I had an employee that would produce the maximum amount on 55 hours a week. The rest of us had to work 80 hours to get done what he did in 55; but if he worked more than 55, his total productivity started to drop. Make sure you know your limits and the individuals on your team’s limits.”

In addition, be sure you understand the most important tasks that need attention. “Do not get urgent confused with important–it is easy to get sucked into all those urgent issues, but you really should be prioritizing by what is most important,” he adds.

4. Be like Dorsey: Take breaks to prevent burnout.

“We encourage founders to not underestimate the importance of exercise, sleep, and taking breaks to restore energy and creativity,” says Harj Taggar, a partner at Y Combinator in Mountain View, Calif. “It’s better to average eight solid hours of productivity a day than it is to output 12 hours of mediocre ones. [Twitter cofounder] Jack Dorsey is running two $1 billion plus companies and he finds time to take Saturdays off to recharge.”

5. Skip some meetings.

It’s tempting to take every meeting that comes along, but it can be more distracting than productive, says Y Combinator’s Taggar: “Don’t waste time on meetings,” he says. “Once you’re a YC company, there will be an endless stream of people wanting to meet with you–investors or people offering ‘mentorship’ who will pull you in all sorts of different directions. During YC, block these out and focus on the two things above. One meeting can blow an entire day of productivity.”

Techstars’ Cohen tells entrepreneurs to avoid meetings that last longer than half hour. “Meetings with no goal, also known as ‘coffee shop’ meetings, can be huge time wasters if you’re not efficient with them,” says Cohen. “Always know why you’re meeting, and make sure it’s important–try to keep them to 30 minutes, max.”

6. Say “no” when you need to.

Reshma Sohoni, partner at Seedcamp, a venture accelerator in London, tells entrepreneurs that accepting offers of everything from meetings to seemingly related projects can quickly kill productivity. Sohoni teaches newbie founders the importance of saying no. “Entrepreneurs–especially early on–will say yes to everything. It’s really a hard balance to strike,” she says. “Whether that’s in having too many meetings or taking too much on for the team, entrepreneurs really need to make decisions fast about when and where to say no. It’s a critical skill [we] all need to learn.”


Overcoming Being Overwhelmed
by On November 6, 2011

I have re-learned something this week that has really helped me look at my time and how to take more control of my time.  For most of us we have a lot to do and it sometimes seems that we do not have enough time to accomplish those things.  Whether it be on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis.  This article will help you take control of the emotions and feelings that you have about your time to then get more things done.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with the amount of tasks, duties, etc. that you need to get done?  Are you being stretched in too many directions?  Are you thinking about other tasks while performing the task that you are in?

Guilty, we all are.  For me, this week was all of the above.  It was a piling on affect for me because I had not been able to get things done leading up to this week.  I had been constantly thinking about other things that needed to get done while I was performing work tasks.  Scatterbrain is a great way to describe me last week.  Almost like being a novelist.  Someone who knows a little about everything however they know nothing about anything specific.  A jack of all trades but a specialist in nothing.

What I found is that NOT being focused on the task that I was presently performing, I was not performing any task to the level that I am capable of.  I was spinning my wheels.  Putting in a lot of effort and going nowhere.  Frustration is the end result feeling.

I got punched in the face yesterday, woke up and played out the events of this past week.  I got a voice mail from my mother saying that my father was in the hospital with stomach pains and had been in the hospital since Sunday.  He lives alone and had recently overcame pancreatic cancer, so we are always worried about him.  A weight hit me in my chest.  Not because he was in the hospital but because I knew that he was in the hospital.  I had spoke with him and his nurse on Tuesday.  He is just fine, nothing serious.  Thank God.  I felt heavy because I had this information on Tuesday and did not call my mother or my sister to let them know.  Looking back on the situation, the only reason that I can think of why I did not make those phone calls is because I was “too busy”.

This is where my learning comes from and why I say that “You are not that busy”.  Wow, such a reality check for me to look back and think about where my priorities had been for the past week and possibly longer.  This situation with my dad has put things into perspective for me.  Sometimes it takes something like this to happen before we take ourselves out of the situation and really look at it.

I had been so consumed with ME and the things that I needed to get done, that I missed the biggest task of the week.

OG Mandino says in his scroll from “Greatest Salesman in the World”.  I am master of my emotions.  So I started telling myself that I am master of my emotions, I have plenty of time, I have enough time to get everything done, I spend quality time with my wife and my family, I use my time to it’s fullest potential, I am master of my time.  This is the first thing that I recommend that you do, tell yourself what is truth.  The truth is that there is plenty of time and it is up to you to control it and not let it control you.  Knowing that you DO have plenty of time, you are able to prioritize tasks and accomplish them.

The other lesson here is to take the time to simply RELAX.  When you feel yourself getting worked up and spinning, RELAX. Great thing is that it only takes a couple minutes to RELAX.  Take some deep breaths, feel that calmness around you, feel the abundance, feel the love, feel the power you have over your time.  When you take small breaks throughout the day, actually take that time, clear your head and simply relax.  You can do this even when you going to the kitchen to get something to drink, let those arms go limp, relax your head and take some deep breaths.  When you relax, your ideas and thoughts are flowing more free, which leads to remembering more things that need to get done or better ways to get them done.

Schedule it and JUST DO IT.  When you are doing your weekly planning, put everything that needs to get done on your calender.  When that time comes to perform that task, don’t think about it, JUST DO IT!

I have an abundance of TIME, I get things done, I am a man of action.

Be Free!

Alan Mong