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Effective Time Management
by On September 23, 2011


We all have the same 24 hours in the day to make of, as we will, but how is it that some people are able to accomplish so much and others are scrambling to get the minimum required in any given day? How can some find the time to balance work, personal life, health, and family and still manage to take that vacation without stress or concern? What abilities do they have that I don’t?

I was asking myself these same questions five years ago as I was struggling to make a living as an actor in New York. I worked two and sometimes three jobs to barely get by and make enough to pay for the necessities of life. I was searching for the magical cure to my busy but unproductive lifestyle and coming up short.

I found myself doing very well managing my time in one specific area of my life and as a result completely fell apart in all other areas, a challenge that has plagued me throughout my life. Additionally, I would get a lot accomplished in the various areas of my life, but many times the tasks accomplished would be secondary in importance, making me feel guilty for not getting everything done. I would catch myself saying things like, “I should have gotten this done” or “I could’ve done more” thus negating the good things accomplished.

If you have found yourself asking the same questions or relating to any one of these scenarios, know that there is hope. I am going to introduce you to four ideas that have had a powerful and profound impact on my ability to accomplish more in any given week. If you’ll apply these concepts to yours, I am confident it can do the same for you.

Before I discuss my strategies, know that none of these are original ideas. I have learned these tips from some of the best. As you read further you may find yourself saying, “I already know that” or “I’ve heard that before”. My reply would be, “If you ‘know it’ already then why aren’t you doing it?” Plus, we can always use some reminding from time to time.

4 Ideas for More Effective Time Management: Delete, Decide, Determine & Do

DELETE: What I mean is to remove the “stuff” that gets in the way of you accomplishing any task. It is the difference between being busy and productive. The two areas that this has helped me most with are my use of the computer as well as reduction of clutter and distractions in my office. I reduced the amount of time spent checking email (twice daily) and simply removed the clutter in my office. Since there was less to distract me, I became instantly more productive.

DECIDE: The first step in the accomplishment of any goal or objective is the decision to pursue or achieve it. You must decide what it is you want or need to accomplish in a given week. Do this for all areas of your life and not just for business.

Plan your week in advance. Take at least one hour (two is ideal) every Sunday to schedule what needs to be accomplished in that coming week. Actually write down what you need to do on a certain day. You will find this to be a super helpful way to focus on the present and what is controllable for the week.

DETERMINE: Once you have written down your objectives for the week, determine your high-priority items and accomplish them first. This will help reduce the “I should have done that” game because you’ll have them completed. Brian Tracy refers to this in his book “Eat that Frog”, stating that you should tackle the biggest and most challenging task first because as the day goes on that task becomes even bigger, more daunting and less likely to be accomplished.

DO: After determining the most important tasks for the week the only thing left is to do it. The sooner you take action to accomplish the most difficult tasks/objectives the more likely you are to achieve them, the better you will feel and the less stress will creep in your life.

If you will follow these simple steps, “Delete, Decide, Determine & Do”, you will find yourself having more time at the end of the day and your stress will be reduced. These steps have also been very instrumental in maintaining the balance between our business and personal lives. I wish you much success and more time to do the things you truly love.

Be free.

David Shoup

Clean Your Home & Clear Your Mind
by On September 12, 2011

Have you ever returned from a trip and found your home to be a disaster? Have you looked at the sink in your kitchen, piled with dirty dishes and told yourself “I really have to clean that” only to walk right past it? Is your office so cluttered with papers, post-its, bills and junk that you can no longer use that space? How about your bathroom? Is it difficult to find a space to put your hairbrush without having to move the hairdryer or facial soap? When you walk across your bedroom floor do you trip over shoes and pair of pants? In your living room, do you need to move over books, toys, magazines and misc stuff just to find a place to set your drink on the coffee table?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above questions than you are essentially hand-cuffing your ability to function optimally in your business. This was the story for much of my last quarter and it clearly showed in my results. You may be thinking, “wait a minute David, my business was booming last quarter and I lived in a tornado zone at home. What do you have to say about that? Booya!!” Okay, maybe the “booya” part is a little over the top…

I’m not saying you can’t be successful while you are living in disorder. In fact, I am sure many can be extremely productive with a little clutter. What I am trying to convey is that when you remove the concern and stressful thought of “I need to clean this” you free your mind to focus on other more useful business pursuits. For example, when we see the same mess in the garage week after week on continue to neglect mowing our lawn, for whatever reason, this causes us more stress and occupies a space in our brain that would be better suited for higher payoff activities.

According to author, John Medina we are incapable of dividing our attention. In his book, Brain Rules he says, “… the brain naturally focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time.” So, unless we have supreme control over our focus we will find ourselves continuing to gravitate to those things that cause us the most stress as in the situations explained above. In other words, by default we will place them higher in our sequential order until we can remove them.

This same principle applies, not only to how clean our home is but, to disorganization in our business, our relationships, school etc… All of these scenarios are competing for space in our brains and the more we can reduce or eliminate these scenarios from our thoughts, the higher our brain function and focus will be. As a result our business cannot help but reap the benefits and improve.

So, what is the solution, you may ask? Here is my 2 step solution to clearing your mind.

1) Create a Cleaning List – By walking through your house and noticing all the things or tasks that need to be accomplished and then writing them down you will now have a point of reference to work from. You will also be getting it out of your mind which will help to open up more space for you to focus your energy on better things.

2) Delegate or Do It Yourself – Decide what you can either accomplish yourself or that you can pass along to someone else to take care of it. For example, you can hire a cleaning service once a month to clean your home or recruit the services of a neighbor kid to mow your lawn etc… Be creative. Whatever you haven’t delegated be sure to take care of it as soon as possible. Don’t allow your brain to split it’s energy and focus on silly activities that can easily be handled with a little effort.

Have a great time cleaning your home and get excited about the benefits you will experience as a result. I know it has definitely had a big impact on my production.

Be free.

Top 10 Tips for a Productivity Boost
by On September 7, 2010

Today’s Top 10 Tips Tuesday is a guest post from Leo Babauta, the author of Zen Habits.  Leo has a popular blog on living your best life – you should check it out!  Read this post for a sample of his work and learn how to get a boost on getting things done.

Be Free!

We all need a productivity boost now and then — sometimes throughout the day. We each want to be productive for very personal reasons — to accomplish more, to make more money, to get done earlier to make more time for our personal lives, to accomplish our goals. But whatever the reason, these Productivity Tips will do the trick.

Here they are, in reverse order (click on links for more on each):

#10: Take care of your Most Important Things first. Your Most Important Things for the day — the things you most need to accomplish that day — should take priority over everything else. However, we all know that fires come up throughout the day, interruptions through phone calls and email and people dropping by, new demands that will push the best-laid plans aside. If you put off your MITs until later in the day, you will end up not doing them much of the time.

Try to get all three of your MITs done before moving on to anything else. If you can do that, the rest of the day is gravy!

# 9: Wake up early. Decide what you’d like to accomplish each morning, and build your morning routine around that. Like to exercise? Put that in there. Healthy breakfast? Go for it. Check email? Fine. The mornings are a fresh start, peaceful and free of ringing phones and constant email notifications. If you get your Most Important Things done in the morning, the rest of the day is just gravy. (see How I Became an Early Riser.)

# 8: Simplify information streams, crank through blogs & email. Think about all the information you receive (email, blogs, newsletters, mailing lists, magazines, newspapers and more) and edit brutally. You will drastically reduce the time you spend reading. For everything else that begins to come in after your editing process, ask yourself if you really need to be getting that information regularly. Most of the time the answer is no. Now, after this process, you should be left with less to read. Here’s the next step: crank through it all, really only reading the really interesting ones.

Editing and cranking through the information you receive can free up a lot of time for more important things — like achieving your goals.

# 7: Declutter your workspace; work on one thing at a time. The decluttering your work space part of it is simply to remove all extra distractions, on your desk and on your computer. If you’ve got a clean, simplified workspace, you can better focus on the task at hand. (See more on how to do this.)

Now, with distractions minimized, focus on the task at hand. Don’t check email, don’t work on five projects at once, don’t check the stats on your blog, don’t go to your feed reader. Work on that one task, and work on it with concentrated focus until you are done. (See How NOT to Multi-task.) Then celebrate your achievement!

# 6: Get to work early; work fewer hours. My best days come when I get into work early, and begin my work day in the quiet morning hours, before the phones start ringing and the din of the office begins it crescendo to chaos. It is so peaceful, and I can work without interruption or losing focus. I often find that I get my MITs done before anyone comes in, and then the rest of the day is dealing with whatever comes up (or even better: getting ahead for the next day).

Added bonus: you skip rush-hour traffic.

But just as productive is the second part of the tip: leave early and work fewer hours. It’s paradoxical, but if you work fewer hours, and know that your time is limited, you will be more focused. Then you have more hours to yourself! Everyone wins.

# 5: Avoid meetings; when you must meet, make it effective. I find it best to say no to meetings up front. I just say, “Sorry, I can’t make it. I’m tied up with a project right now.” And that’s always true. I’ve always got projects I’m working on that are more important than a meeting.

Now, you probably won’t be able to get out of most meetings, so here are some tips for making meetings more effective.

# 4: Avoid unnecessary work. If we just do any work that comes our way, we can be cranking out the tasks, but not be productive at all. You’re only productive if you are doing work that moves you towards a goal. Eliminate non-essential tasks from your to-do lists, and start to say no to new requests that are non-essential.

If you do not take these steps and speak up, and say no, then you will be overloaded with work that you simply do not need to do. Cut out the non-essential tasks, and focus on those that really matter.

# 3: Do the tough tasks first. You know what those tasks are. What have you been putting off that you know you need to do? Sometimes when you put things off, they end up being things you don’t really need to do. But sometimes they are things you just gotta do. Those are your tough tasks.

Do them first thing in the day.

# 2: Work off-line as much as possible. To increase your productivity, disconnect your Internet connection. Have scheduled times when you’re going to check your email, and only let yourself check your blogs or surf the web when you’ve gotten a certain amount done. When you do go online, do it on a timer. When the timer goes off, unplug again until the next scheduled time.

You’ll be amazed at how much work you’ll get done.

# 1: Do something you’re passionate about. This might not seem like the normal productivity tip, but give it a thought: if you really want to do something, you’ll work like hell to get it done. You’ll work extra hard, you’ll put in even more hours, and you’re less likely to procrastinate. It’s for work that you don’t really care about that you procrastinate. Read the full post for tips on how to find your dream job and do work you truly care about.

Source: Zen Habits
Author: Leo Babauta

Compartmentalization Increases Productivity and Decreases Stress – The How and the Why
by On July 8, 2010

Have you ever had so much going on in your personal life (good or bad) that it disrupted your productivity at work? I am sure you have at one point or another in your life.

If you don’t have problems, get some quickly – problems build character. If you don’t having anything exciting happening outside your business, change that, too! There are many instances that could affect your performance at work such as:

Relationship troubles
Death of a family member
Planning a wedding
Looking for/Buying a new home
Parenting Challenges (unruly teenagers anyone?)
Or even just personal challenges within yourself
And the list goes on….

As the daughter of an Intelligence Agent – my father always told me when I was having personal challenges, “You must put your problems in a box and put it to the side while you work and focus on another box.” When I first heard this, I just didn’t get it. Though now, I find compartmentalization incredibly valuable. And like any skill, you get better and better at it.

Compartmentalization is defined as:

“The act of splitting an idea or concept up into (sometimes more or less arbitrary) parts, and trying to enforce thought processes which are inhibiting attempts to allow these parts to mix together again. This process is performed in an attempt to simplify things.”

The question is….how do you do this??

There are many possible ways to practice this.

  • Unitask: Multitasking? Not such a good idea (sorry Moms). Unitask is the key here. Look at one problem and one project at a time. This will especially help reduce the global view of “my whole life is screwed up at the moment”.
  • Organize: Think of your brain as a receptacle that holds paper file folders. While at work, keep the personal issues in the appropriate folder and focus on the work tasks at hand.
  • Schedule Accordingly: Good time management is a good way to organize your time for dealing with tasks and problems. Set aside time in your calendar for dealing with particular issues. For example: during lunch – schedule all the personal calls you need to for a big vacation coming up that is distracting you. Sometimes just knowing you will be able to deal with something later in the day will allow you to focus on more important tasks at hand in the current moment.
  • Focus on the positive: Oh yes….that attitude adjustment…we all need it sometimes. There are always good things to focus on, and sometimes that allows you to quit fixating on what is going wrong.
  • Practice Quiet Time: Spend time practicing mindful meditation. Quieting your mind is a skill that takes a ton of practice! Where might you start? Try a breathing exercise–counting to 6 on the inhale, 6 on the exhale.
  • Take Action: If there is something out of your control happening in your life, try taking something in your control that is within your power. What that may look like for you is: looking for new employment, finding a therapist, setting a new exercise goal, trying a new hobby, or fixing something in your house. Taking initiative is empowering.

There are many ways of letting go of challenges that we are facing. I know some people who write down a problem on a piece of paper and leave it by their bed. When they go to sleep, they know it will be there when they wake – but for now, it is time to rest.

How about writing down a problem on a piece of paper and burning it? (please don’t burn your house down while you are at it, this could create more problems for you)

I would love to hear more suggestions.  How do you compartmentalize to keep yourself productive at work?

Be Free!

Jana Owen

Fast Company Video – How to Write a To-Do List that Actually Gets Done
by On May 21, 2010 posted an article and video earlier this month on how to accomplish what you set out to do each day.  Enjoy!

A to-do list is a fundamental tool for getting things done: it helps you plan your day, see what you’ve accomplished, and what you should work on next. But a badly-written to-do list can actually sabotage your productivity instead of boost it.

The best part of using a to-do list is crossing items off of it as done, finished, complete. Some tasks are easier to tick off as done than others, so you want to make your to-do list as doable as possible. A common mistake is assigning ourselves impossible tasks that never get done because we didn’t think them through. If you put in some thought up front, you can pare down your to-do list to the tasks you’re most likely to check off the list.

First, know the difference between a project, goal, and a task. A project is a big undertaking that involves several tasks. A goal is something you want to achieve through both tasks and repetitive actions. “Clean out the garage,” “Save $5,000,” “Learn how to speak French”–these are projects and goals, and they don’t belong on your to-do list. They’d just sit there and haunt you, because it wouldn’t be clear where to start. Reserve your to-do list for the next steps that move a project along. Your goal to “Save $5,000” is going to start with a simple task, like setting up a monthly savings transfer.

Second, break down your to-do’s into small, manageable bites. Don’t put “Write 50 page report” on your to-do list. Try something smaller, like “Jot down 5 main ideas for the report.” Use specific action verbs. Instead of writing “Ask Susan about her French class,” opt for “Email Susan” or “Call Susan.” That makes it easier for you to see what tasks you can do in certain situations. If you’re at your computer, you can quickly send an email; if you’re in the waiting room at the dentist, you can make a call on your cell phone. Give yourself enough information to get the task done wherever you are.

Finally, purge your list of the stuff that’s not moving. Your to-do list should be a fluid document, changing every single day. Still, we all have items that have stuck around on our lists for weeks, months, or even years. Every once in a while, audit the oldest stuff on your list, and think about why you’ve put it off so long. Can you break it down into a smaller, less procrastination-worthy tasks? Is it something you need to do at all? Try to recognize your block around the task and clear it away.

The most popular tool for keeping track of your to-do list is plain old pen and paper, but some computer-based tools are fantastic, too. is a Web-based to-do list you can access from work, home, or from your smartphone. Things is an iPhone app that lets you work with your to-do’s on the go. If most of your tasks come in through email, try Gmail or Outlook’s built-in Task lists.

Whatever to-do list tool you do decide to use, remember to keep the tasks you put on it small, manageable, and specific to increase their chances of getting done.

Author: Gina Trapani is the author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of Work Smart appears every week on


Some Perspective on Your To-Do List
by On May 12, 2010

it 2 is skin problems. If such

more acne the the: in.

get around by simply pushing a few buttons and pedals. When you’re in the shower, enjoy the warmth, the steam, and appreciate actually having a shower and hot water and a place to call home. When you are picking up your kids, imagine the joy and and sense of wonder and how they make everything else seem rather, insignificant. Get the picture?

Use that head of yours to create positive images of anything and everything. Relax and slow down with your lists and self-imposed pressures. Most of it can wait or be done more efficiently. When you relax, even for a moment, your imagination will flow. It’s all a matter of perspective…your perspective.

Be Free!

Ken Budka
Training Coordinator

Tips for Faster AND Smarter Meetings
by On May 10, 2010

Abby Marks BealeMANY people have been complaining recently about their time management problems specifically around having an inordinate amount of meetings to attend on a daily basis. This leaves them with little or no time to tend to their emails, voice mails or anything else, for that matter. The incredible stress this causes can be greatly reduced.

First off, know that you really DO have control over the number of meetings you attend. If you use a group calendar system like Outlook and your calendar is empty at the time a meeting is called, then you will be scheduled to attend it. However, if you intentionally block out time (translate = show busy) for your email and other projects, then you won’t be going to that meeting! Certainly there are some meetings that you HAVE to go to, but limit your time available by blocking out time for you, first.

Another simple strategy is to just say “NO”! Of course this needs to be used judiciously but remember it always IS an option!

Secondly, do you REALLY have to attend every meeting you are invited to? Of course we all want to feel needed and important but some meetings are just a plain waste of time. Find out from the meeting organizer what the meeting will cover and why you need to be there if you are at all unsure. You might just buy yourself an extra hour by spending 2 minutes checking.

Also, has your organization learned the ways to running efficient meetings? They include things like:

– Timed out agendas sent ahead of time
– Clear purpose and objectives
– Basic meeting ground rules
– STRICT start and end times
– A meeting timekeeper to keep on track
– A meeting minute taker (to share with those NOT in attendance, maybe you??)
– A meeting facilitator
– Evaluate meeting for productive or unproductive outcomes
– Set next steps

If you and your colleagues are meeting’d out, want to make your meetings more efficient or spend less time in meetings, then I hope this gets you thinking about making some changes to reduce your stress.

Be Free!

About the Author:
Abby Marks Beale is founder of The Corporate Educator, a professional speaking and training company specializing in helping with busy people work smarter, faster and just plain better. Go to

Video – Randy Pausch on Time Managment
by On May 7, 2010

Randy Pausch, author of the Last Lecture, gives his perspective on how to deal with the commody of time.

When presented with a task or looking at your to-do list, Randy suggests asking yourself these questions:

Why am I doing this? What is the goal?
Why will I succeed?
What happens if I choose not to do it?

Another great point he makes has to do with gaining experience. He says:

“Good judgements come from experience, and experience comes from bad judgements.”

So when you make a mistake, remember it is an opportunity to learn from it and you will be able to use that experience to make better decisions in the future.

Be Free!

Video – Time Management and the 80-20 Rule
by On April 23, 2010

The average person has about 300 projects to take care of right now. The fact is, you will never get caught up – but you WILL start getting your life under control when you STOP doing things.

What should you stop? How do you determine this?

Take a look at your tasks to finish. Ask yourself, “If I could only do one of these things before I was called out of town for a month, what one thing would I be sure to do before I left?” Obviously, that becomes your number one priority for that day.

According to Brian Tracy, the key to time management is setting priorities. When you identify what your most important priority to finish RIGHT NOW, and disciplining yourself to finishing it, RIGHT NOW, you will achieve greater results in your life than working on many low priority tasks.

If you focus on clearing up little things first, you will find that the small things multiple and you will spend your entire day clearing up the little things.

Do the worst first, and stay with it until you are done. If you can make a habit of doing this, you will double your productivity each and every day.

Be Free!

Top 10 Time Management Mistakes
by On April 20, 2010

all (“it’s all in my head”) to tasks lists 10 pages long. The sad reality is that most task lists don’t work because they are too long or too short; not prioritized; too complicated; or simply in the wrong format or medium for their user. On the other hand, a well thought-out task list, adapted to your needs and style, is an extraordinarily effective tool to plan, prioritize, save time and increase your effectiveness. Quick example: A client was spending about an hour each day updating their overlong task list, never finishing their priorities. After some simple re-tooling, the update time fell down to less ten minutes, and my client found their effectiveness sky-rocket.

5. Not taking time to sit back and look at the big picture

No matter your occupation, it is very easy to get caught up in the “doing” of things, and consider thinking time a waste, “because there are so many things to do.” Yet taking a step back on a regular basis to assess the big picture of your life, career, or current project, and taking some time to plan your next steps, before diving back in the daily grind, makes all the difference between being busy (i.e. doing a lot of things) and being effective (i.e doing the things that matter), even on a day-to-day basis.

6. Not taking time to relax

Sufficient sleep is necessary, but not enough to ensure that you function at your best, and make the most of your time. Providing your mind with rest is just as important to effective time management. By not giving your brain breaks from work on a regular basis to do completely different things ? engaging in fun activities that have nothing to do with work or obligations ? you slowly lower our performance level, always resulting in much lower performance (hence more hours at work to achieve the same results) and sometimes ending in mental burn-out.

7. Ignoring your own time management style

There is no such thing as one-size-fits all in time management, but the different styles and the corresponding techniques are not widely taught. So you most likely learned your time management skills from our parents, a teacher, a mentor. If this person had the same time management style as you, you learned and improved your skills. But if this person had a different style, no matter how much you tried, you never were able to replicate their habits successfully, and probably blamed yourself for it. Don’t? All you did was try to use for yourself a solution that is not adapted to who you are. Learning your personal style will allow you to develop tools and strategies that actually work for you.

8. Reinventing the wheel

In my professional life, I’ve seen too many people re-inventing the wheel on a regular basis. Too many don’t take the time to sit down, think through a procedure for activities and tasks that they perform on a regular basis. As a result, every time they need to re-create the whole process, again and again. Taking a few extra minutes to think it through and create a written procedure or checklist can save you untold amounts of time: a client of mine, whose profession requires her to prepare events several times a month, reduced her event preparation time from an hour and a half to 20 minutes just by taking the time to create a checklist of everything she needed.

9. Not delegating enough

This is one of the most common, and most time-consuming time management mistakes I see. You have built your business on your own; or you have built a career based on your ability to get things done. You now have resources to delegate, but you still perform many tasks that would be more profitably and/or effectively done by others. As a result, you waste time on tasks such as filing, or packing, or drafting letters. You’re also wasting money in the process: if your hourly rate is $100/hour, it is the same whether you are in front of a client or filing your papers. By delegating tasks that can easily be done by others, you are freeing time for you to do more of the things that only you can do, and using your resources much more effectively.

10. No emergency planning

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2006 a building caught fire every 60 seconds or every day in America. In other words, most people will be directly affected by a fire in their lifetime. Unfortunately most people don’t have a plan to deal with such an event, and will waste enormous amounts of time, money, stress and effort in trying to recover from it. When life’s smaller emergencies strike, it’s often the same: there is no set plan B, or even plan C, if their child falls sick the evening before an important meeting, or if they themselves fall sick right before a critical deadline at work. Having a backup plan, on the other hand, allows you to immediately spring into action and deal with the emergency effectively and quickly, then be able to move on without stress.

Source: Top 10 Time Management Mistakes