Become a Time Management Master

productivity

Become a Time Management Master

Today I’m going to talk about something I struggle with on a daily basis – time management.

This can be an especially tricky thing to master for those of us who are moms and are trying to run our own businesses. But I know other people struggle with it as well. I used to, even before I was a mom or was trying to start my own business.

Have you tried to manage your time more efficiently but still seem to fall short of mastering the task? I do almost every day.

Do you find it intimidating, or perhaps even boring, to try to use your time wisely and get things done?

Do you find yourself getting distracted easily?

Maybe it’s time you look at time management in a new way. What do you think might happen if you tried to make staying organized more fun by making a game out of it?

Being organized and scheduling everything can be fun? You don’t believe it, do you? Believe me, I understand. I used to be the same way.

But taking control of your time and your life doesn’t have to be boring or monotonous. If you do it in such a way that you enjoy it, you’ll probably get a lot more done. Try it and see. Here are some things to think about to get you started.

accountability partners

Recruit an accountability partner

Having someone to hold you accountable will cause you to get more done because you’ll have to check in with them on a regular basis. You’ll be embarrassed if you don’t make your goals. You’ll want to avoid that embarrassment, so you’ll naturally be more productive.

Having someone you check in with can really boost your focus and productivity, especially if that person doesn’t cut you any slack. There won’t be any playing around or surfing the Internet when you know you have to account for your time and work ethic to someone else.

In a way, it’s like having a boss. You wouldn’t slack on a job in the outside world, so why slack on yourself if you work from home?

It can also be a lot of fun having a friend keep you in check. You get to chat for a few minutes each day and share your ups and downs with each other.

Set a timer

A timer is a great tool for getting your productive brain flowing. There’s something about racing the clock and knowing it’s ticking down that gets you motivated and in a super-productive mode. You can use your kitchen timer, a timer on your smartphone, or download one of the many free timers that are available online. 

If you have a long list and expect to check in with your accountability partner, you may want to set the timer for an hour and see how much you can get done in that time. If that seems intimidating for you, start with 15 minutes to see how much you can accomplish. For big things, like article or email writing, you may want to set the timer at 30 minutes to give yourself time to get into a writing flow.

pink and blue alarm clock

Take frequent breaks

In between productive times as measured by the timer, you will want to take frequent breaks (which you will also need to time). Trying to push yourself too hard will only leave you feeling frustrated, which will kill your motivation and desire to get things done.

This is the idea behind the Pomodoro technique. There are plenty of timers designed specifically for this technique. This is one of my favorites for the iPhone.

Try this method and see if it doesn’t work for you to skyrocket your productivity. It’s one of the only things that’s worked to help me keep on track. I can focus on anything for 15-20 minutes if I know there’s a five minute break coming up during which I can check email or surf through Facebook, etc.  

On some of your breaks, however, be sure to go for a walk. Step outside for some fresh air, or just get up and move around your house or your office. Physical exercise really helps wake up your mind and increases your ability to focus on a task. 

Challenge yourself and make a guessing game out of it

You can either do this activity by yourself or enlist the help of a friend (or your accountability partner). Look at your to-do list and guess how many items you can tick off within a certain amount of time.

Asking someone else to help you will make it more of a challenge for you. If you’re doing this with a friend, tell them how many items you have on your list and have them guess how many you can tick off within the allotted time.

Then get busy working on your list to see if you can get them all done before your time runs out. If you do, reward yourself in some way – like with a nap or a piece of chocolate, or maybe even get your friend to take you out to dinner or a cup of coffee.  

you got this

Getting a grip on time management can seem like a daunting task. If you make it fun and challenge yourself to get things done, or have someone else challenge you, you will eventually master it, get more done, and you might even find yourself enjoying the process.

Turning time management into a game isn’t something you want to do every day, but trying this once or twice a week can be fun and really help you check things off your list in a flash.

Give it a try. You have nothing to lose, and you might just gain a lot!

5 Books To Read to Grow Your Business and Improve Your Mind

recommended business books

Reading is one of the easiest ways to grow your business and improve your mind. That’s because reading can help you see a problem from a different perspective, approach a customer complaint with wisdom, and provide you with the insight you need to do something new.  

However, sometimes it can be difficult to pick just the right book to read. There are thousands of books already out there, and dozens of new ones are being published weekly. And most of them offer really, really good information. So, which one should you read first?

You might want to consider trying one of these five books.

The Power of Moments by Dan & Chip Heath

In this gripping book, Dan and Chip Heath examine what makes some moments memorable while others seem to slip by entirely unnoticed. In the book, the authors describe the four elements that create a special moment—elevation, insight, pride, or connection.

You can use the insights in this book to create special moments for your subscribers, clients, or customers. These moments can strengthen and deepen your business relationships and life experiences in exciting, new ways.

Permission to Screw Up by Kristen Hadeed

Kristen Hadeed’s book on how to fail is not only laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also authentic and inspiring. In this book, she recounts how she began her business and the mistakes she made along the way.

But she doesn’t just share her journey. She goes on to explain the mistakes she made and what she should have done instead. This book will encourage entrepreneurs who are floundering in their business and give them insights into how to course-correct.

Ask by Ryan Levesque

Some entrepreneurs waste months or even years trying to guess what their community wants their business to provide for them. But with this book from Ryan Levesque, you’ll be armed with the information you need to get real answers that can transform your business.

Ryan breaks down how to create surveys that give you valuable data about your customers and shows you how to create customized sales funnels that turn visitors into raving fans. And if the popularity of this book on Amazon and number of reviews it’s gotten are any indication, Levesque really knows what he’s talking about. If you’re stumped as to how best to serve your customers, you need to read this book


The ONE Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

This is a short and simple no-fluff guide. The idea behind it is that you can only focus on doing one thing well at a time. I used to pride myself on being a master multi-tasker, but guess what? I never got anything done … at least not really, really well. The secret to success in anything is to focus on one thing, become a master in that, and then move on to the next thing.  

But if you don’t know what that that one activity is that you need to focus on, this book will help you sift through and identify what will give you the biggest return on your time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your business, this book is the essential guide you need to get back to basics. It will help you cut out the numerous modern-day distractions so you can get the work done that really matters.

Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

One of the biggest challenges any entrepreneur faces is to define his/her brand in such a ways so that customers can understand it. With the information contained in this book, you’ll discover how to clarify your brand, share it with your customers, and really connect with them.

The author gives clear advice on how to share the message you’ve been struggling to communicate. Plus, he devotes plenty of time to the seven story points (defining a character, who has a problem, and meets a guide, who gives them a plan and calls them to action that helps them avoid failure and ends in success). Framing your business in this way gives you the chance to engage your customers in a whole new way. 

People love stories. We have since the beginning of time. I like to imagine the cavemen sitting around that campfire and grunting out stories about the greatest hunt, or the dinner that got away before they turned in for the night. While people may crave more sophisticated stories now, the fact is they still love a good story. Your customers are no different. Stories will help them really connect with your brand, so they’ll be excited to buy from you. 

If you’re ready to level up your storytelling abilities and your marketing efforts, grab this book today!

 

why you should read every day

Don’t put off learning from any and all of these fantastic authors. It really is one of the best things you can do for yourself. So, pick one of these books up today, and get reading!

And if you want to receive monthly book recommendations aimed at entertaining you and improving your mind, sign up for my email newsletter, Making the Pieces Fit. You can join here.

Seven Creative Thinking Blocks and How to Break Through Them

creativity blocks

Each of us has the power to be creative. It’s part of our natural make-up as human beings, made in the image of God. The trouble is that, too often, we block our natural creativity, thus making errors in thinking and give ourselves more problems than we should. Here are 7 ways to open up your natural creativity and keep the channels unblocked.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions

You know what happens when you assume, right? I’m not trying to be crude, but here’s how the saying goes: you make an “ass” of “u” and “me” (quote often attributed to Jerry Belson, but he gave the credit to his typewriter repair teacher – anybody remember typewriters?) .

Assumptions are examples of lazy thinking. We simply don’t wait to get all the information we need to come to the right conclusions.

Consider this story of a customer at the bank who returns after cashing a check and turning to leave, saying: “Excuse me, but I think you made a mistake.” The teller responds, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do. You should have counted it. Once you walk away, we are no longer responsible.” To which the customer replies: “Well, okay. Thanks for the extra $20.”

You see what could have happened if that teller hadn’t jumped to such a hasty conclusion?

Tip: When you feel yourself wanting to draw conclusions, make sure you wait until you have all the necessary information.

2. See Things From Other Points Of View

A truly open mind is willing to accept that not only do other people have equally valid points of view, but these other points of view may actually be MORE valid.

A story is told that the modernist painter Pablo Picasso was once traveling on a train across Spain when he got into conversation with a rich businessman who was dismissive of modern art. As evidence that modern art didn’t properly represent reality, he took a photo of his wife out from his wallet and said, “This is how my wife should look, not in some silly stylized representation.” Picasso took the photo, studied it for a few moments, and asked, “This is your wife?” The businessman proudly nodded. “She’s very small,” Picasso observed wryly.

Tip: Don’t try to have a monopoly on how things are. Things aren’t always what they seem. Be ready to consider other points of view.

wild mood swings

3. Avoid Yo-Yo Thinking

Some people tend to have a tendency to swing from a highly positive mood one minute to a highly negative one the next, all because of what they see in front of them. It’s like a yo-yo: up one minute, down the next. I’m not talking about Bipolar Disorder here. That’s a different thing altogether that needs to be dealt with under the guidance of a professional counselor or psychiatrist. I’m talking about just your average, everyday mood swings and tendencies to overreact that some people have.

It’s far more healthy (and less nerve wracking) to stay neutral and not let emotions get the better of you. Take a deep breath, count to 10, whatever you need to do to give yourself some time to refocus on the situation and perhaps see things differently.

Tip: Remember that things are rarely as good – or as bad – as you think they are.

4. Get Rid Of Lazy Thinking Habits

Habit can be a major stumbling block to clear thinking, and it’s another example of succumbing to laziness.

Try this experiment. Write down the Scottish surnames Macdonald, Macpherson, and Macdougall and ask someone to pronounce them. Now follow these with the word Machinery and see what happens. Most people are likely to mispronounce it. This is because we tend to think in habitual ways and don’t like what doesn’t fit.

Tip: Don’t think that just because things happened in a certain way once before they will happen like that again. The world is constantly evolving and changing, and we should be too.

5. Don’t Think Like An Old Person; Think Like A Child

Research shows that the number of synapses, or connections, in the brain is greater in a child of two than in an average adult. The reason for this is that a child of two has no limiting worldview like adults do.

Think of a sculptor who starts off with a large block of clay, more than he needs, and then gradually removes the clay as he molds his sculpture. What would happen if he used the excess clay to make

If we use our brains like little children (even Jesus noted how important it was for adults to change their minds to think more like children in Matthew 18:3), accepting everything without judgment, we can actually halt and reverse the brain aging process.

Tip: Don’t worry about the threat of cognitive decline with age. With the right stimulus and passion for learning, you can actually improve your brain’s powers, no matter how old you are.

blind men and the elephant

6. look at The Big Picture, but pay attention to the details

You may know the poem by John Godfrey Saxe called “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” It tells the story of how six blind men of Indostan go to see an elephant and each try to work out what it is from touching it. One blind man touches the tusk, another the trunk, another the tail, and so on. Of course, not being able to see the whole elephant, they come to wildly different conclusions about what the elephant is.

This kind of goes along with #1 above. You have to wait and get all the information before you can make an educated assessment of any situation. Put you want to really pay attention to that information to make sure you’re getting the clearest picture possible. Remember, “God is in the details,” but the devil is too. If you don’t get all the details, or if you don’t put them all in the right places within the bigger picture, you can really mess things up.

Tip: Try to keep the big picture in front of you while looking at details. It will help to put everything in its proper place and context.

7. Think For Yourself

One of my favorite songs ever is the Beatles’ “Think for Yourself.” It’s not a very nice song. It’s like the narrator is telling some former (or soon-to-be former) lover, “Hey, you better start thinking for yourself, because I’m not going to be around to help you.” But I always liked it because of the title and the idea behind it – think for yourself; don’t get your answers about who you are and what should do from other people. Figure it out for yourself. That’s the essence of creativity.

Taking time out to form your own thoughts is still frowned upon within many organizations that prize activity over creativity, like most traditional schools where we send our children to be educated (read: indoctrinated). People who work in creativity-constrained organizations are likely to think the way they are supposed to think, or as others think, or as has always been the way to think.

It’s like the blinded following Hans Christian Anderson describes in his story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Everyone in the land refuses to see that the emperor is naked and has been duped into believing he is wearing a splendid costume for his coronation. Only a young boy who has not been party to the cultural brainwashing can see the truth and cries out: “Look, everyone, the Emperor is wearing no clothes!”

Don’t be the crowd; be that kid (remember #5?).

Tip: Don’t let others tell you how to think. When others ask your opinion, tell it to them straight.

If you keep these 7 things in mind as you go through your day-to-day routine, you’ll soon find something amazing happening. You’ll be able to come up with fresh, innovative, creative solutions to all your problems – and maybe some other people’s too!

Seven Ways to Beat Anxiety Naturally

SEVEN WAYS TO BEAT ANXIETY NATURALLY

beat anxiety naturally

Anxiety is something many of us deal with on a daily basis. The car breaks down, the baby gets sick, there’s too much month at the end of the money…

All these things can cause significant amounts of stress — and even some degree of anxiety when the effects or feelings of stress last long after the event that caused them has been dealt with. Some individuals are incapacitated by constant thoughts of anxiety. These people cannot find peace of mind, their activities of daily living are affected, so they need to actively try and get their anxiety under control. Maybe you’re one of these people.

While there is medication available to help with anxiety, it should not be the first line of treatment you seek out, as these drugs come with lots of adverse side effects (which you’ll know if you’ve read my blog post on my unfortunate experience with pain medication), and they may even lead to dependence.

The much better option is to seek out natural ways to beat anxiety- those that won’t have lingering negative effects and will likely improve your ability to better cope with stress in the future. 

Let’s examine a few:

GET MORE SLEEP

anxiety affects sleep

Lack of sleep causes your brain to go haywire, playing all sorts of tricks on you and decreasing your emotional tolerance as a whole. You may find that your performance during the day will significantly decrease even after just one night of poor sleep, and you will definitely be prone to anger and agitation. Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of per night to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

EXERCISE

beat anxiety by exercising

Exercise is one of the best medicines we have at our disposal, as there are few things that can even come close to comparing in terms of health benefits. Exercise, similarly to sleep, helps to naturally manage anxiety and depression by increasing levels of the feel-good, stress-busting chemicals known as endorphins.

High levels of adrenaline may worsen feelings of anxiety. But although exercise does temporarily increase adrenaline levels, the endorphins temper its effects and improve your mood for hours after you exercise.

EAT DARK CHOCOLATE

health benefits of dark chocolate

Yes, we actually have permission to eat more chocolate — as long as we stick to the dark stuff. Dark chocolate has numerous health benefits. It is particularly effective in reducing the impact of the stress hormone cortisol on our bodies. Cortisol’s mode of action of unique, as it relays relaxation from the stomach to the brain through the vagus nerve. Higher levels of cortisol leads to higher anxiety, so if we want to reduce anxiety we definitely want to reduce cortisol.  

GET OUT IN THE SUN

get out in the sun

People in colder climates often experience something known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months when their sun exposure is limited. I know I always get a little down during December, January, and February, when it gets cold and gray here most of the time.

Symptoms of SAD include depression, irritability, and increased anxiety — all of which resolve with exposure to sunlight. If you do live in such a climate, and you are unable to get exposure to the sun when winter comes, artificial light therapy also helps improve symptoms.

CONSUME MORE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Omega-3 fatty acids are strong antioxidants that may help to block the causes of your anxiety. Typically, the two hormones that are elevated in response to stress and anxiety are cortisol and adrenaline, both of which respond negatively to the influence of oxidation.

Omega3 fats combat excessive oxidation and are antiinflammatory. As such, they help boost the production of serotonin and dopamine, which help keep your anxiety response down.

TRY AN ESSENTIAL OIL BLEND

essential oils

Essential oils have been used for centuries to treat and prevent a variety of health problems, including anxiety. One of my favorite essential oil companies provides an anti-anxiety blend that includes tangerine, bergamot, lavender, ylang-ylang, rosemary, cedarwood, and roman chamomile.

This can be used either topically (I recommend dabbing a few drops on the soles of your feet, and then cover your feet up with some warm, fuzzy socks) or in a diffuser. Just three or four drops for 30 minutes at a time will do the trick.

PRAYER/MEDITATION

do not be anxious about anything

Last, but definitely not least, let’s talk about prayer and/or meditation (note: the only type of meditation I recommend is meditation on Scripture) should be the cores of a natural strategy aimed at managing anxiety, since it helps ground your irrational fears and connects you to an outside, Higher Power. While we all may experience some apprehension when we’re thinking about the future, prayer and meditation help us refocus on the present.  And, more importantly, they help us refocus on the One who can truly help us overcome our anxiety.

As the Bible says, in Phillippians 4:6-7 (NAS): “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

[bctt tweet=”Be anxious for nothing … Philippians 4:6-7 (NAS)” username=”woweditor12″]

Get started first thing tomorrow morning. Just sit peacefully for 5 minutes at the beginning of your day. Let thoughts enter your mind freely, but do not let them linger. Pray them away, and let God replace them with His comfort and more peaceful thoughts.  Don’t give your anxious thoughts the power to ruin your day.

So, tell me: Have you tried any of these? What are YOUR favorite ways to reduce anxiety?

You might also want to check out my post on 3 Ways to Quickly Relax Your Body When You’re Stressed.