Thongtaccong Management

Managers are people who do things right

Author: mimin (Page 2 of 3)

4 Things About Managing People I Wish I Knew When I Started

If I could jump in a time machine and start again knowing what I know now, here’s what I’d tell my 17-year-old self about managing people:

1. Your age doesn’t matter.

When I was 23, I was managing people twice my age. I used to always think to myself “Why would a 45 year old listen to me?” I would get nervous interviewing candidates and a little jittery as we would do our one-on-one and planning meetings.

That wore off pretty quickly, though. As it turns out, age is only a barrier in your head. Being young is not a negative. Sure, you’re learning as you go, but as long as you pick things up quickly and either read books from great leaders or find a mentor, you’ll be more than fine.

When I think about great young managers at fast-growing companies, I think of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Evan Spiegel at Snapchat. Both started in their early 20s and not only lead thousands of people today, but also many people double or even triple their age.

Before starting their companies they’d never managed anyone, let alone people much older than they are. They picked it all up as they went along and the results speak for themselves.

2. You can’t fake it.

Managing people doesn’t mean having a “work” persona and a “non-work” persona. I’m sure you know people who are completely different outside the office. You might see them at a function or dinner and think “Is that the same person?”

Management, or more accurately, leadership, is all about being your authentic self. That means not trying to be something you’re not. It means being comfortable with who you are and leaning on your strengths to manage effectively.

One of the best ways to build relationships with the people on your team is to actually mix your work and non-work personas. And to do that, you need to be your authentic self.

During your meetings, you need to talk about any work issues, but you can (and should) also sprinkle in topics such as what you did on the weekend, questions about employees’ kids, last night’s game or your favorite new restaurant.

When your team does a great job, get them out of the office and do something together as a group that has nothing to do with work. Go bowling. Have a dinner party. Go on a picnic and bring your partners and kids. Get to know who they really are and show them who you are, too.

Definitely take cues from great managers you know, but approach things in your own unique way. There are too many average managers in the world who just punch the clock and take a pay check.

Being your authentic self helps you rise above the mediocrity. Your team will notice and the word will get around. Pretty soon the best people at your company will be asking to come and work for you.

3. You’ll screw up.

Being a manager is hard. You have to think on your feet, make decisions that affect people’s lives and deal with all sorts of interesting and unique personalities.

Sometimes you have to trust your gut or make decisions with limited (or incorrect) information. It’s important to understand that not every decision you make will be correct.

When it turns out you’ve made a bad decision, you can either stick with it or admit you were wrong. Standing by a wrong decision is the quickest way to not only harm your team, but also to lose their trust in you a a leader.

There’s no shame in making a wrong decision if you made it with the best intentions and the best information you could find at the time. Just don’t beat yourself up over it and move quickly to get things back on track.

Most important, tell your team you were wrong and let them know why you’ve changed course. Humility and honesty are absolutely everything when it comes to being an exceptional manager.

4. It’s worth your time.

I had to learn everything I mentioned the hard way. I thought I couldn’t manage people who were older than me. I tried to be a “real” manager. And I stuck by too many bad decisions, just because I didn’t want people to think I’d made a mistake.

Luckily, that’s all behind me now. If you keep an open mind, find amazing mentors (either in books or in real life) and have a genuine interest in your team and helping them succeed, you’ll become a great manager.

Being a great manager unlocks huge career opportunities that you can’t even imagine, quite simply because most managers just aren’t that good. Whether you’re 17 or 70, learning to be a great manager is worth your time.

9 Things Managers Do That Make Good Employees Quit

It’s pretty incredible how often you hear managers complaining about their best employees leaving, and they really do have something to complain about—few things are as costly and disruptive as good people walking out the door.

Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.

The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part.

First, we need to understand the nine worst things that managers do that send good people packing.

1. They overwork people.

Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work your best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.

If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process. Raises, promotions, and title-changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.

2. They don’t recognize contributions and reward good work.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.

3. They don’t care about their employees.

More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts. Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates. It’s impossible to work for someone eight-plus hours a day when they aren’t personally involved and don’t care about anything other than your production yield.

4. They don’t honor their commitments.

Making promises to people places you on the fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honorable (two very important qualities in a boss). But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as slimy, uncaring, and disrespectful. After all, if the boss doesn’t honor his or her commitments, why should everyone else?

5. They hire and promote the wrong people.

Good, hard-working employees want to work with like-minded professionals. When managers don’t do the hard work of hiring good people, it’s a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. When you work your tail off only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top, it’s a massive insult. No wonder it makes good people leave.

6. They don’t let people pursue their passions.

Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies show that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.

7. They fail to develop people’s skills.

When managers are asked about their inattention to employees, they try to excuse themselves, using words such as “trust,” “autonomy,” and “empowerment.” This is complete nonsense. Good managers manage, no matter how talented the employee. They pay attention and are constantly listening and giving feedback.

Management may have a beginning, but it certainly has no end. When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s your job to keep it coming. If you don’t, your best people will grow bored and complacent.

8. They fail to engage their creativity.

The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. If you take away their ability to change and improve things because you’re only comfortable with the status quo, this makes them hate their jobs. Caging up this innate desire to create not only limits them, it limits you.

9. They fail to challenge people intellectually.

Great bosses challenge their employees to accomplish things that seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed. When talented and intelligent people find themselves doing things that are too easy or boring, they seek other jobs that will challenge their intellects.

Bringing it all together

If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make themwant to work for you.

7 Caustic Management Behaviors to Avoid

7 Caustic Management Behaviors to Avoid

The number-one reason employees leave a company is because of poor management, period. And most anyone who’s ever worked can relate to that statement. Each time I’ve left a position, the reason hasn’t been because of low pay or poor benefits. Instead, I left because of what my manager did to disengage me.

Here are the top seven management behaviors that cause great employees to leave for greener pastures:

1. Not keeping your promises

If you aren’t keeping your promises, how can you expect those around you to keep theirs? This behavior can breed a culture that tolerates a lack of accountability within a team. And lack of accountability will lead to poor team performance. It will also decrease the trust others have for you.

2. Ignoring poor performers

Poor performers on a team can de-motivate your good and great performers. They’ll impact the work of others on the team as well as the overall success of the team. The longer you wait to address this poor performance, the higher the risk you’ll have of losing your high performers.

3. Having irregular meetings

When managers make the choice not to have regular team meetings, they send a signal that communication among team members isn’t important. And when a team isn’t communicating on a regular basis, chances are that its members aren’t included in key decisions, progress updates and learning from one other.

4. Dismissing the opinions and ideas of others

No one likes a “know-it-all,” and when a manager dismisses the ideas of others, the message being sent is that he or she is smarter than others on the team. Over time, people will stop sharing their ideas, and innovation will shut down. Ultimately, you’ll lose your competitive edge.

5. Micro-managing

Do you believe that there is only one way to accomplish a task and that you need to make all the decisions? People will probably then refer to you as a control freak or, a nicer term, a “perfectionist.” In the long run, you’ll be showing others that you don’t trust their judgment. Many will start to rely on you for all the solutions, and the next thing you’ll know, you’ll be doing all the work for your team.

6. Displaying arrogance

Just because you are a manager doesn’t make you king (or queen). Do you lecture and talk down to your employees? Or are your employees always “the ones making the mistakes,” rather than you? Arrogance can show up in the form of arriving late to meetings and wasting other people’s time. The bottom-line effect: Arrogance shows a disrespect for others.

7. Not delegating effectively

As a manager, your number one job is to get work done through the efforts of others, which means you have to delegate. Many new managers are challenged with this responsibility, whether it occurs through planning or in real time.

Some managers actually view delegating as risky. And a reluctance to delegate is often driven by fear: a fear they’ll lose control, lose their reputation as the “expert,” or have to face the unknown. Remember that delegating is much more than handing off a task or decision; it requires understanding whom to delegate to; how much information needs to be shared; and how often to follow up on a person’s progress and status.

Any of these sound familiar to you? If so, make a plan on how you can change these behaviors to avoid the risk you’ll lose your top performers. And, finally, remember that changing behaviors takes discipline, commitment and time.

6 Ways to Better Manage Your Focus and Improve Your Productivity

6 Ways to Better Manage Your Focus and Improve Your Productivity

One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is always having to be “switched on,” to be constantly vigilant and on the lookout for new opportunities that will build brand awareness and promote a product or service.

Except being “in the zone” all the time is tiresome. The brain, just like any muscle, gets tired the more it’s used. Heck, mine is already tired from writing this article. The point is that learning how to manage your mental throttle control is critical if you want to stay at the top of your game. Every athlete, speaker and entrepreneur needs rest becausethat’s when new insights and reflections come to mind.

Daniel Goldman, author of Focus, said it best: “A failure to focus inward leaves you rudder-less, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.”

To mitigate the potential for suboptimal focus — and hence, diminished productivity — here are six ways to build more rest and renewal into your daily routine:

1. Turn off your email

Yup, I said it. Ignore your email for one hour and see how much more productive you become. Better yet, schedule two-hour intervals where you will check email beginning at the start of the workday.

2. Shift from high gear to low gear — and back to high

The Pomodoro technique is a way to manage not only your time but also the amount of concentration during that time. Here’s how it works: grab a timer and set it for 25 minutes. Ready? Now go work. Once the clock hits zero take a three- to five-minute break. Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four pomodori (or roughly two hours) then take a longer, 15 to 25 minute break.

The purpose of this mental-interval training is to get the brain to “stretch” for a given time period before it “retracts” and relaxes — similar to a rubber band. The contraction-expansion effect trains your brain to be more agile and shift from a “low gear” to a “high gear” when needed.

3. Silence your phone

Similar to the email isolation above, turn off your phone to guarantee uninterrupted focus. If you’re worried about missing an important call, you can set your smartphone (it is 2015) to “do not disturb” and set the one contact that gets a pass. This way, the random telemarketer won’t disturb you doing your work, but you also won’t miss the call(s) that are important.

4. Systematize

If there is one commonality amongst successful people, effective leaders and great teams, it’s consistency. To be top notch in any field requires strict focus and a consistent effort, which comes from deliberate practices conducted at specific times over and over again. In other words, practice doesn’t make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect.

5. Listen to your grouch

If you find yourself being short fused or snappy with people, chances are you’re stressed. When you notice this, take it as a sign that it’s time to step back and reassess your current life demands. Additionally, you’ll want to …

6. Get your sweat on

OK, not necessarily “sweat” per se, but performing some physical activity. Taking intermittent breaks throughout the day or simply going for a walk helps recharge not only your brain but also your physical and emotional capacities that allow you to keep focusing. In anarticle by Harvard Business Review, the authors studied 106 employees at various banks and prescribed strategies for strengthening their energy levels at work. The result: A 13 percent increase in productivity in the first three months of study.

Entrepreneurship is a long-term focus, and taking care of yourself every day determines how effective you’ll be the next. Save the mental sprints for when they’re needed.

10 Simple Productivity Tips for Organizing Your Work Life

Productivity is all about efficiency — doing more, faster and with less.  And with increasing demands from today’s anytime, anywhere workplace, it is has never been more important. To get the most out of your day, you need to focus on these three segments of your life:

Time

Humans are notoriously poor multitaskers, so managing your time is critical to improving productivity. The biggest time suck is unexpected (and usually unimportant) tasks. We all know that urge to read the email that just came in or to peek at the latest notification to pop up — an inclination psychologist Daniel Levitan, author of The Organized Mind, calls the novelty bias. This unintentional task-switching eats up more time than you might think. University of California information scientistGloria Mark found that it takes an average of 26 minutes to recover from trivial interruptions. To avoid this, plan out your day and compartmentalize unexpected interruptions:

1. Start the day with structured ‘me time’: Go through email and social media updates that have piled up overnight and triage the backlog. Knock out quick responses and referrals, so other people can start working on tasks. Schedule the bigger tasks. And delete the stuff that is informational or not important.

2. Use commute time to complete coordination tasks: It’s crazy not to use commute time to winnow out time-intensive tasks. During my morning commute, I do a roundup of my external consultants — getting an update on open projects and finding out if they need assistance. By the time I arrive at the office, I have an accurate picture of my projects’ status.

3. Reduce all meeting times by 25 percent: You will get the same amount of work done, because so much time is wasted dealing with conference call setup and useless banter. (See this humorous video for a demonstration.) If you cut one five-person meeting per day from one hour down to 45 minutes, you will gain back 25 hours a month of work time. That’s roughly 300 hours a year — almost two months of work!

4. Schedule regular breaks during the day: Running from back-to-back meetings is not productive, because you get tired and lose focus. Block off time in your calendar and take breaks. Making these breaks a routine increases predictability, creating a regular schedule to keep your mind organized. If you can afford it, take a 10- to 20-minute power nap after lunch, too.

Space

“Space” refers to your environment — your office locale as well as to your virtual space. Workspace may not be the final frontier, but it is an important element for increasing work productivity. Here are a few space-related tips:

5. Work ‘offsite’ when it makes sense: When you need to write a document or research a topic, the absence of office interruptions will improve concentration. Some companies are finding that letting employees work from home has other advantages including reduced commute time, shorter lunch times and fewer sick days. See how you can apply documented strategies from Chinese travel site Ctrip, theAIIM and WordPress to your own work environment.

6. Consolidate the number of places you need to go for information:There are too many apps to navigate — email, microblogging tools like Yammer, chat tools like Lync, social media utilities like Twitter and LinkedIn and operational systems like SAP, Oracle and Salesforce. Make notifications from each application appear in one place.

7. Switch off popup notifications on mobile devices and on desktop:Don’t let applications interrupt your concentration with annoying popup messages. Shut them off. Now. And limit checking your email to set times during the day. You won’t regret it.

Mindset

Put yourself in a position where you can focus on doing the right task for the moment:

8. Converse, don’t email: Pick up the phone or walk down the hall and talk directly to colleagues. For geographically remote folks, use chat. You can give precise direction and clear up misunderstandings quickly. The amount of time wasted perpetuating endless email threads is mindboggling — and the pointless mistakes generated.

9. Chop up big problems into smaller chunks: This will reduce the feeling of overload and the procrastination associated with taking on big jobs. One practical way to do this is to adopt Agile techniques for managing your work tasks. Born in the software development world, Agile’s big contribution to task management is breaking big jobs down into short sprints. Having a solution in hand throughout the process reduces the anxiety of tackling big jobs.

10. Use checklists for repetitive tasks to reduce errors: Particularly when you are overworked or are operating under time constraints, checklists keep you on track. For an excellent guide for using checklists, take a look at Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.

Here Is How to Effectively Manage Your Stressful and Busy Schedule

About twenty years ago, a group of college students at Stanford University headed home for winter break. While they were gone, they were given the task of keeping a daily journal.

In this journal, some of the students were asked to write about their most important personal values and then describe how the events of each day connected with those values.

Another group of students was simply asked to describe the positive events that happened throughout their day.

When the students returned to school after the break, the researchers discovered that those students who wrote about their personal values were healthier, experienced fewer illnesses, and had better energy and attitude than the students who merely wrote about the positive events in their lives.

As time has gone on, these findings have been replicated in nearly a hundred additional studies. In fact, according to the book The Upside of Stress (audiobook) by Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal:

 It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.

But why?

The power of personal values

Why would such a simple action like writing about your personal values deliver such incredible results?

Researchers believe that one core reason for this is that journaling about your personal values and connecting them to the events in your life helps to reveal the meaning behind stressful events in your life. Sure, taking care of your family or working long hours on a project can be draining, but if you know why these actions are important to you, then you are much better equipped to handle that stress.

In fact, writing about how our day-to-day actions match up with our deepest personal values can mentally and biologically improve our ability to deal with stress. In McGonigal’s words, “Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of the students’ values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”

Living out your personal values

My own experiences have mirrored the findings of the researchers. In fact, I stumbled into a very similar practice by accident before I had even heard about these research findings.

Each year, I conduct an Integrity Report. This report has three sections. First, I list and explain my core values. Second, I discuss how I have lived and worked by those core values over the previous year. Third, I hold myself accountable and discuss how I have missed the mark over the previous year and where I did not live up to my core values.

I have found that doing this simple exercise each year actually helps to keep my values top of mind on a daily basis. Furthermore, I have direct proof of how and why my writing and work connects with my most meaningful personal values. This type of reinforcement makes it easier for me to continue working when the work gets stressful and overwhelming.

If you’re interested in writing about your own personal values, I put together a core values list with more than 50 common personal values. You are welcome to browse that list for inspiration when considering your own values.

Whether you choose to conduct an integrity report like I do or keep a journal like the Stanford students, the science is pretty clear on the benefits. Writing about your personal values will make your life better and improve your ability to manage stressful events in your life.

7 Management Lessons From a 7-Time CEO

Yet, as CEO of my now-seventh company, I can cite many, many practical tips I wish first-time CEO Jack Sweeney — circa 1993 — had known in order to make better management decisions.

Looking back at my 22 years of setting management direction, building teams and analyzing markets, I’ve come to a rather obvious conclusion: The world has changed a heck of a lot since my first job as CEO, and so has my management style.

Early on, I made decisions by the seat of my pants and was micromanaging my staff. Today, I make choices using quantitative support, and let my team — the true experts — do their jobs. Because the reality is, my own success has always been a result of my team’s success.

The bottom line is this: As the world changes, so should your management style. That goes for whether you’re managing a team of ten, or ten thousand.

To help you effectively manage your own team and guide your company to greatness, I recently tapped into my own Top 7 Management Lessons. If anything, read them on behalf of first-time CEO Jack Sweeney — he highly recommends you take a look:

1. Trust your team and get out of the way.

When I was a first-time CEO, I had difficulties trusting anybody. I worked hard on tasks I’d “delegated” to others, and wouldn’t let them fully execute without my input. Now, I stay out of my team’s way and let them do their jobs, advising them before and after they’ve worked at accomplishing a task, versus throughout the entire process.

You can get much more from team members by assigning them tasks and critiquing them afterward. This time frame gives them a chance to grow and fosters better communication. In the early days, I barely had an opportunity to critique since I was so involved in the process myself.

2. Use quantitative support to make decisions.

As I mentioned, I based a lot of my decisions as a first-time CEO on subjective information. It wasn’t all on the fly, but we certainly didn’t have the quantitative support or technology we use today. These days, I’m using measurable data as much as possible, drawn from dozens of systems I use to guide my latest company, SevOne. There are a lot of productivity tools to help management leaders accomplish their goals, whatever their line of business, and it’s important to identify and arm every business unit — not just sales and finance — with what they need to operate at their best.

3. Learn how to manage a mobile workforce.

There’s no doubt the workplace has changed. I rarely need a private office or even a computer (I have one in my back pocket). Nor are the goings-on of the company central to where I’m sitting. These changes have caused a lot of business leaders to struggle with managing an increasingly mobile and global workforce.

So, you must adapt yourself and your company to meet the needs of today’s employees. Now that I look back, I see today’s ability to work anywhere as amazing. My dad, God bless him, wasn’t able to make it to any of my basketball games because he was too busy making a living.

I’m proud to say I’ve never missed one of my son’s basketball games because I’ve got tools that allow me to be wherever I want to be and still get my job done. Either embrace the trend, or be left behind, because tomorrow’s best talent doesn’t want to work in yesterday’s office.

4. New to the company? Don’t be overly helpful.

It takes a long time to understand what people have done to make their companies successful. Accordingly, as a CEO, I’ve disciplined myself to not fully insert myself into too many areas of the company for the first two to six months, unless there’s a crisis.

If you’re the new leader at a company, treat it as if you were going onto a busy highway: Be careful merging into traffic and get up to speed before switching lanes. Take time to figure out what’s going on and then start changing directions without slowing down. When it comes to management, I truly believe that if you move too fast, you often make mistakes. Again, the only caveat is: as long as there isn’t a crisis.

5. When things get complicated, go back to basics.

People have a tendency to overcomplicate management when technology is involved, but sometimes your style and mindset just need to go back to basics. Having a company “elevator pitch” and clearly communicating it to your team, for example, is important because it conveys exactly what you do in a digestible way that your team can use next time it answers that question at a networking event.

Additionally, using an analogy from the past to explain your business is helpful. Things change but are often similar to what’s happened in the past. If you can find an easy way to tell customers and investors how your product or service emulates something they already know, you’ll find it easier to communicate.

Google, for example, uses electricity to explain how the internet is going to be everywhere. Going back to the basics is a lesson I would have shared with my first-time CEO-self.

6. Your feelings are going to get hurt.

Recognizing that your feelings will occasionally be hurt  comes with the territory when you’re a CEO or other business leader. But if you’re not willing to listen because you’re afraid to hear bad news or constructive feedback, you’re going to miss the opportunity to learn about the real issues and what you could be focusing on.

I always tell people: I love bad news. In fact, I always want the bad news first. The reason is, I want to be informed, feel more in control and be in a better position to resolve issues and manage them appropriately. Plus, if you’re a leader who’s not open to bad news, and your team knows it, it’s impossible to build trust.

7. Hire someone you’d be happy to see in the hallway.  

Maintaining a culture and motivating people, while building a company at the same time, can be challenging. I personally admire people like Joe Tucci at EMC and John Chambers at Cisco, for both having accomplished that. Since my first job, I’ve learned that hiring people who are perfect in the interview and on paper is good. But hiring people you look forward to seeing in the hallway — people who are capable but also nice — is equally important.

Additionally, always admit when you’ve made a hiring mistake, because you’re not going to be perfect. When you make a bad hire, it’s probably not the best fit for the person you hired, either, so own up to it.

12 Steps to Help Manage Your Work-Life Balance on the Go

f you are like most information workers, you can now get work done wherever you are — from the local coffee shop to your child’s piano recital.  Most of us initially welcome this flexibility, but it isn’t long before this “freedom” begins to chafe.  Work incursions into private time and space quickly become a source of frustration and friction.

Now, more than ever, it is important to define work-life borders – so that you can be productive at work, yet maintain stability and peace of mind at home.  But the incursion of work into your private life (and vice versa) requires you to manage more than your time. To maintain a healthy balance, you need to manage your space, online identity, data, equipment and not least of all…your sanity.   To help you create and maintain that fragile work-life balance, here are some tips for being productive while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Managing your time and space.

1. Set specific times of day for answering email, holding meetings and for doing creative work. Different people are able to focus better at different hours, so do what works and stick to it.

2. For creative work, identify work times when there are fewer distractions and do your creative work during these periods. Researchdone by Victor Gonzalez and Gloria Mark at the University of California-Irvine found that it typically takes over 20 minutes to resume tasks once they are interrupted, so eliminating distractions will do wonders for productivity.

3. If you have creative work to do, turn off automated alerts.  Email, Twitter and instant message popups are one of the biggest causes of interruptions.

4. When working outside the office, find a place to be “alone in the crowd.”  For example, work in a café, library or public park but disconnect with music using a pair of headphones.

5. Set aside time during the day to exercise. If you are like most people, sitting still and focusing for long periods of time is difficult, even without digital distractions. Exercise is a great cure for this and it doesn’t need to be intensive or long.

6. Internalize the idea that even when you are not “connected,” you can still do valuable work. In fact, thoughtful, contemplative work is often best done offline. So, while the 9-to-5 workday is long gone, it is still important to define times when you can disconnect.  For example, take William Powers’ excellent suggestion and declare a weekly Internet Sabbath.

7. Don’t take email to bed. Studies show that keeping smartphones in the bedroom can cause insomnia, which leads to work problems.

Managing your online identity.

8. Decide how much you want your personal identity online to be associated with your business persona. One suggestion is to segment your online identities. For example, use LinkedIn for business and Facebook for friends and family.

Managing your data.

9. Make sure your company’s smartphone “remote wipe” technology does not remove your personal data without your permission.

10. Make sure your personal data, such as contacts, pictures, music and videos are backed up in a safe place.

11. Clearly delineate where personal and professional data is stored on your device with separate apps for work and personal life.

Managing your equipment.

12. Sign up for a voice over IP (VOIP) telephone number and use it for your personal contacts. Have the number forwarded to your mobile device. That way, if you have to surrender your phone when you leave your place of employment, you can automatically reroute your forwarded number to a new device, and none will be the wiser.

Finally, as technology continues to shrink time and distance, we will continue to struggle demarcating the boundaries between work and personal life.  So, my last piece of advice is to do a bit of research before exposing your personal life to your business contacts, because the ramifications can be long lasting.  I still see old business contacts pop up from time to time on Facebook, because I was naïve enough to accept their invitations when I first signed up.  And like I said before, who has time to manage those group lists, especially when there is so much work to do.

4 Tips to Better Manage Your Email Inbox

Email is an extremely useful communication tool in business. Less intrusive than a phone call, email is convenient and fast. It empowers entrepreneurs to run their businesses from just about anywhere.

You can communicate with clients and customers, check in with employees and set up important meetings from your office or on the go.

But when used inappropriately, email can hinder productivity. More than one-quarter of a worker’s day on average is spent answering and reading emails, according to research released in 2012 by the McKinsey Global Institute. Its survey found that email is the second-most time-consuming activity for workers, next to “role-specific tasks.”

Business leaders, CEOs and managers often receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a day. Reading and responding to every message can become a drain on time and energy.

A cluttered email inbox — filled with old, unopened or unimportant messages — will not only frustrate you. It will prevent you from maximizing your time and distract you from other obligations.

Here are four strategies to better manage your email and keep the messages in your inbox to a minimum.

1. Set aside time to read and respond to email.

Don’t leave your email program open all day long. Alerts and beeps from incoming messages can interrupt your work flow and leave you unfocused.

Instead, schedule specific blocks of time throughout the day for checking your email. You might even try marking your calendar and setting your availability to “busy.”

If necessary, turn off your cellphone and shut your office door to prevent interruptions by family members (if you work from home) or employees.

Craft an email reply like this one cited by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week:

“Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12:00pm ET [or your time zone] and 4:00pm ET.

If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12:00pm or 4:00pm, please contact me via phone at 555-555-5555.”

The amount of time required for reviewing email and replying will depend on how frequently you check messages and how many you typically receive. Some entrepreneurs find it more effective to dedicate 10 minutes every hour to email. Others prefer to only check email just two or three times a day.

2. Take action immediately.

Making quick decisions and pursuing immediate action will help keep your email inbox under control. The idea is to not delay until tomorrow what can be accomplished right away.

When you check your messages, browse the inbox for emails that can be immediately deleted such as spam or promotional emails. Then select messages that don’t require a response and delete or archive them. Once you’ve pared down the number of messages in your inbox, you’ll be able to better evaluate which ones are the most critical.

Don’t let important emails sit in your inbox for days. Unless you’re on vacation, respond within 48 hours. Reply to the sender as soon as you’ve read his or her message.

If you’re unable to respond immediately, communicate to the sender that you received the message and will be in touch shortly. Set a deadline and follow up.

3. Organize an inbox with labels, folders and categories.

Although a majority of emails can be deleted, you’ll most likely want to retain messages related to key aspects of your business. Correspondence between clients, colleagues and employees can help clarify any miscommunications. Most email programs let users mark messages with specific labels or categories.

Prioritize, group, sort and file messages to keep your inbox organized. The better your filing system, the easier it will be to locate specific emails when you need them. Create parent categories for broad subjects such as the following: clients, projects and finances.

Then use subcategories to file emails related to specific clients or projects. Before you file a message, ensure the subject line is search-friendly. If it doesn’t accurately describe the content of the email, edit the subject line before it’s categorized and archived.

4. Unsubscribe from unwanted promotional emails.

Newsletters and advertisements can overwhelm your inbox and bury important messages. Clean out the clutter.

Unsubscribe from receiving messages from specific senders if you no longer want to receive their missives or don’t have the time to read them. To make the unsubscribe process quick and painless, search your inbox for the term “unsubscribe.” Review the search results and determine whose emails you would continue to welcome and the missives you would prefer to live without.

The 80/20 Rule of Time Management, Stop Wasting Your Time

Small-business owners waste their time on what I call $10 an hour work, like running to get office supplies. Meanwhile, they forgo the activities that earn $1,000 an hour, such as sending the right email to the right person, or negotiating a lucrative contract, or convincing a client to do more business with you.

Entrepreneurs don’t realize the same 80/20 principle — the adage that 20 percent of customers equal 80 percent of sales — applies to every dimension of business. And that includes time management.

We entrepreneurs are extremely prone to rationalize, “I can do it myself.” Then we spend six hours trying to extract a virus from our computer or fix a leaky faucet.

Sure, we may be competent to do that little job. And sure, sometimes you have to do everything when you start out. But now you’re doing a $10 or $20 per hour fix-the-faucet job and you’re not doing your No. 1 job, which is getting and keeping customers. That job pays $100 to $1000 per hour.

Many a promising business has been killed by those little jobs. When someone says “time management,” you probably think of time logs, goal lists, and “Getting Things Done.” But getting busy is not what makes you rich.

We’re tempted to hire out the toughest jobs, like sales and marketing and public relations. These are extremely high-skill tasks. It’s almost impossible to delegate those tasks to someone else. How about hiring someone to do your laundry, or sort through your email?

Five things you should do immediately in order to stop wasting time and start earning the real dinero:

Hire a maid. If you have a significant other, he or she will thank you. It is easy to find someone who knows how to cook. Easy to find people who know how to clean. They will love you for paying them $10 to $13 an hour to do those jobs. Somebody’s praying for that job now.

As a go-getter, your core entrepreneurial skills can earn you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So there’s no reason why you should be scrubbing your own toilets. In fact, I argue that it is your moral obligation to hire someone to do that.

Downton Abbey fans will recall that the aristocratic Crawley family thought it was their duty to have servants and provide them employment. Same goes for business owners. The United States would be back down to 5 percent unemployment if entrepreneurs stopped taking out their own trash.

Just get over yourself and….

Get rid of your $10 an hour stuff. Let’s assume you are no longer wasting time vacuuming your own carpets or listening to your own voicemails. You are still hurting yourself if you are obsessed with being “efficient.” That is not an 80/20 approach to time. Instead, ask: “What else am I doing that is so menial, it could be cheaply outsourced? What am I doing that I should stop doing altogether?”

Hire a personal assistant. With some effort you can hire a perfectly competent person at $8 to $15 per hour and they’ll be happy because it is more interesting work than flipping burgers. I don’t care where they are. Virtual is fine. In my case, I hired a friend of a friend, Lorena, whom I heard was looking for work. I started her out changing furnace filters and taking my car to the mechanic. Within six months, she was managing my email box, doing triage to ensure that I only read what really matters. The time she saves me is worth its weight in gold.

Don’t feel guilty about relaxing. The most productive people are a little lazy. If there are really only a few hours a day in which you do $1,000-an-hour work, does it really matter if you screw around for the rest of the day? Downtime gives you the mental space you need to think. You can’t be a great strategist when you’re hustling from morning ’til night. Feed your brain instead, so you’re sharp when you’re negotiating the next sales contract.

Focus on your most productive time slot. Everybody has a timeslot in their day when they do their finest work. Ernest Hemingway wrote first thing in the morning. Barack Obama is a night owl. (He reportedly even outsources decisions on what to eat and wear.) I do my best work between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. I don’t do email before 10 or 11 a.m. I keep that space open. It’s reserved for writing or doing really strategic jobs. That’s the part of my day when I’m most productive.

Make these changes and you’ll hit consistent stretches of $1,000 an hour many days of your week. Then and only then will you reap the true rewards of being an entrepreneur.

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