Labor Day Means No Work?

This week we celebrated Labor Day!  Our family went out in the boat and went to a little island on the Indian River for swimming and a picnic. (NOTE TO SELF:  When you put on the sunscreen, don’t forget your face!).  Overall, a great time!
I did a little research to see about the purpose of Labor Day. According to the Department of Labor, the purpose of Labor Day is a yearly national tribute to the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. In other words, it’s a chance for those who work hard throughout the year to sit back a little bit and celebrate the importance of the contribution they have made to making this country what it is today.

Work That Deserves It

There are some though that don’t put forth that effort all the time. They sit back and wait for things to come to them and wonder why they don’t get the success they want. I keep a poster up on my wall in my office to remind me of this. It’s a quote by Maya Angelou that simply says,

Nothing works unless you do
So if you want that success, you have to put forth that effort first.
Here’s some key things to remember to work towards achieving your success that are going to help you throughout the rest of the year.
  • BE IN THE MOMENT. When you are at work, be at work. When you are home, be at home. Focus on giving your best to the moment and you will be more productive and more effective in every situation.
  • REFUSE TO ASSIGN BLAME. Many people want to contribute their lack of success to the economy, the administration, any number of things. But ultimately you have to take responsibility for your own success. If you do that, you can overcome any obstacles in your way.
  • growth by 1% a dayWORK YOUR 1%. We have talked before being a one-percenter; you have grow yourself by 1% a day to be the person you want to be and achieving the success you want to achieve.
  • SETTLE FOR NOTHING LESS THAN YOUR BESTHow you do anything is how you do everything! When you put forth your best effort in every situation, success is naturally going to follow.

What ways do you make sure your work is successful?  Comment below.


No Faith in Complaints

People like to complain.

Yeah, Paul,” you might say, “thanks for that big news flash.

Yes, it’s nothing new.  We like to complain.  People build monuments to their complaining.

A History of Complaining

Moses leads the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  No sooner does the Red Sea return to form then the complaints start.  They complained there wasn’t enough water.  So God gave them water.  They complained there wasn’t enough food (I’m HUNGRY!), so God gave them all the manna they could want.  So they complained about the lack of variety (Is this all there is?)!.  They complained about the long trek in the desert (Are we there yet?).  They complained about their leaders, even the ones who not too long ago led them out of slavery (Do you know where we are going?  Did you check the map?  Shouldn’t you stop at a gas station and ask directions?)!

Come to think of it, they kind of set the precedent for many of the complaints we use today!

Complaining on the Media

Andy Rooney revived his career by acting as a curmudgeon on the TV show 60 Minutes.  Every week, Andy would pick a different topic to take off on and complain about.  One that always stuck out in my mind was complaining about shampoo and how expensive it is and how it is marketed, stating that all he does is take a little bath soap and rub it in his hair.

Then in 2007 there was this ABC news story about a “complaint choirs“, groups of people who put complaints to music.

There’s actually a website called My Biggest Complaint that documents the popularity of various complaint topics.

Local Complaints

We live in what used to be a rural area, which means wild animals.  So one neighbor shortly after we moved in complained about the peacocks wandering the neighborhood and wanted them removed by Animal Control.  Uhhhh, why exactly did you move out here?

No Solution in Sight

The problem with complainers is that there is generally very little action behind it.  In fact, quite often the complaints about things which nobody can really do anything about.  It’s like the old joke that everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it!

People who complain are generally not people who take action.  As Edmund Burke once commented

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

Complainers don’t want action, they don’t want resolution.  They want to tell everyone about it!  If your solve the problem, well, now they can’t tell everyone about it.  I mean, seriously, have you ever tried to help a chronic complainer solve a problem.  They will resist with every fiber of their being and come up with every reason in the book why it can’t be solved.  Why? Because they don’t want it solved, they want to complain.  It’s a happy place!

There is Another Breed

You and I are different.  We want to take action and solve problems.  We want to work towards solutions and help make the world a better place.  I certainly remember graduating from college with the arrogant attitude of changing the world with my ideas.  After awhile, you discover that the world is not as receptive to your revolutionary ideas for changing themselves as you thought they would be.

Changing the world can be a very daunting task.  There is so much to be done!  We don’t have enough people to do it or enough time.

Perhaps the problem is that we are so focused on trying to change what we can’t that we forget to change what we can.  There is an old verse, no one is quite sure who wrote it, that goes like this

“Build a better world,”  God said.   I answered, “How?

The world is such a deep, dark place, oh so complicated now; 

And I’m so small and useless, there’s nothing I can do.”

But God in all His wisdom said, “Just build a better YOU.”

If we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves.  In fact, that should be our focus.  And that alone is an extremely challenging task.  We are as resistant to change as all those people we tried to change before.  But we have to believe that we CAN change.  We must have faith that we are capable of making the necessary changes.  Faith that we will acquire the wisdom, the courage, the discipline, and the focus to re-invent ourselves and make something new.  When we change ourselves substantially, the world around us changes because our perspective changes, our attitude changes, and our approach changes.

If you want to believe in the world and believe in change, you must first have faith in yourself.  When you believe in you and your ability to simply serve others, the world will change for you.

Action Plan

  1. Create a list of character traits or characteristics you would like to have or improve; like discipline, focus, finish what you started, etc.  Shoot for at least 12 items.  Prioritize the list in terms of which ones need the most attention.
  2. For each one, define specifically what the desired behavior would look like.  In other words, how do you know when you are disciplined? How do you know when you are focused?  Make it measurable if possible.
  3. Try the Benjamin Franklin method of Self-Improvement.  I learned this from Bob Burg a while ago and found it very useful.  I would make that chart available but don’t own the rights to it; so you will have to make your own.  You can probably do this Microsoft Word or Excel.
    1. Make a grid chart with the days of the week at the top going across.
    2. In a column down the left side list the traits you want to work on in priority order.
    3. Attack the first trait in week one.  Concentrate on the desired behavior and each day place a check when you are successful.  You are building precedent for desired behavior.
    4. The next week attack the second trait, while still also being mindful of the first.
    5. Keep going until all traits have been addressed, each time being mindful of previous behaviors.
  4. Don’t worry if you falter on occasion; that’s to be expected. What we are shooting for is Progress, not Perfection.

Too Much Time on Trivia

Spending a little time doing research on this, I wanted to find out what the top time wasters we use are.  While opinions vary there are some items that popped up on pretty much everyone’s list and you probably know which ones.  That said, let’s look at some of the top daily time wasters and how much time they take.

    Is it any surprise that this shows up on the list?  For many people, their world revolves around Facebook and similar social networks.  On a Marketing Charts website article, they report that Americans 18-64 spend an average of 2-3.5 hours per day on social networks.  The number slides higher depending on age group and other demographics.  Interestingly, business owners spend more time on social networks than non-business owners.  In many workplaces, they thought that they had managed this problem early on by blocking social networks.  That worked until people got smartphones with Facebook apps.  Let’s call it 3.5 hours a day.
  2. EMAIL
    time wasters like television destroy productivityAgain, no big surprise.  What do most people do first thing when they get to work or boot up their computer?  Check their email. We check it again an hour later.  And then again an hour after that.  And again.  And again. Many even check it just before they call it a day.  It becomes really time-consuming when we receive mailings from a variety of sources with people who want some of our time and/or money.  We gotta filter through all that and then read the “urgent” stuff.  Another 3 hours per day.
  3. TELEVISIONReally?!  But it is so educational! (yes, that was sarcasm)  Many will tell you that you should find an alternative, like the wonderful recording features on many systems today.  But that just means you will watch it later.  Either way you are wasting time.  Not too long ago our TV went out and was out for a couple of weeks.  We found other things to do.  Most peaceful two weeks in a long time.  Still wondering why I fixed it.  Average of 5 hours per day.

Wow!  Let’s stop there.  Just in those three items we have 11.5 hours of time spent out of our day.  All those things are useful but none of them are critical; if we spend any more than an hour total on any of them we are wasting time.  And this does not take into account the time we spend on other things like instant messaging or texting, pointless meetings, various interruptions during the day, generally surfing the web, and procrastinating.  But there is one that I think is the most critical, first because I think it is the source of most of the others and second because of the effect it has on us overall.  And that time waster is multi-tasking.  We will talk about that on Friday.

Get Time Back

Knowledge is great, but action is better.  How can we manage this a little better?

  1. If Facebook is not part of your work, then you should invoke a no social networking rule during the work day.  Chances are your company does not permit it and even doing it on your smartphone during business hours violates company policy.  Besides that, it’s just not right.  If you simply must, check it during lunch elsewhere.
    If Facebook IS a part of your work, as it is for many small businesses and entrepreneurs, then block time out for it on the schedule in both the morning and afternoon, each one with a 30-minute limit.
  2. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, check your email first thing in the morning.  Save it until mid-morning after you have had the opportunity to eat a few frogs.  Create a tagging system for marking emails.  When you view your inbox, scan the messages and quickly and use your tagging system to mark them as urgent, critical, important, or not important.  Urgent emails you respond to immediately, critical emails within a few hours, important emails by the end of the day, and not important emails either get filed or deleted.  That allows you to get through it within 30 minutes each time, likely even less.  Another thing: nothing stays in the inbox.  Act on it, file it, or delete it.
  3. This one is easy.  Make TV time earned.  Works for children, it will work for you.  Half-hour segments of TV time is earned by meeting objectives or goals.  Or do it by program if you wish.  Either way, the idea is that you don’t watch TV unless you have earned it by accomplishment.  Better yet, just keep it off and find something else to entertain you.  Delegate the time to personal growth.  Read a book or watch a webinar.  Remember the caveat

Really successful people have large libraries and small televisions.

No matter whether you work for a large or small company, are a business owner, network marketer, run a charity, or manage a household; getting things done is a matter of managing the things that can waste your time.  Knowing what they are and developing systems to handle them in definitive periods of time will go a long way towards making your day more productive and helping you find time for things you enjoy.

Action Plan

  1. Buy a journal or notebook and document your time from the moment you wake up until you go to bed.  Do this for at least three days but preferably a week.  Include everything, no matter how insignificant it might seem.  What you want is a good idea of how you are spending ALL your time.
  2. Total up the time you spend per day on non-critical things like the activities above.  Remember, social networking is not essential unless you use it to market yourself or your business IS social networking.
  3. Create time limits and block out time on the schedule for those activities.  Make sure that the beginning of the day is spent doing critical activities for the day, especially the ones you don’t really want to do or procrastinate on (eating the bullfrogs).
  4. Follow the new schedule for 3-5 days and again document your activities.  How much free time did you discover?  Were you more productive and effective?

Re-setting Time

Trying to manage timeThis past week was the time for most where we change our clocks to end Daylight Saving Time.  I remembered it always, as many did, by the phrase “Spring Forward, Fall Back“.  Of course, most of us don’t have to worry about it much anymore as our computers and smartphones will do it for us.  That, and a few years ago I got one of those alarm clocks that automatically adjusts for Daylight Saving Time.  After that, my only chore is to go re-set the ones that don’t automatically adjust.

The gist of it for us is that we theoretically “gained an hour” this weekend.  Never mind that we really just get back the one we lost in the Spring, everyone looks at as gaining an hour.

So here’s a question for you:

how much more productive did that “extra hour” make you this weekend?

Since it occurs in the middle of the night, likely the only benefit most see from it is the extra hour of sleep (that you lost in the Spring).  Some, like me, got up at the same time as always, usually around 5 a.m., and followed our normal routine.  Being a weekend, many were taking time off from being really productive anyway; but even if we weren’t it is doubtful that the extra hour made us any more productive.  It has more to do than just with the fact that the change occurs in the middle of the night.

Time is Not Important

Time is not what makes us productive.  With each tick of the clock, time passes no matter what.  Twenty-four hours and today becomes yesterday, tomorrow becomes today.  That’s all any of us ever have; from the President of the United States to the most successful person in your organization to the least productive person you know.  Everyone has 24 hours in a day.  Yet, many times, our time is frittered away with things like

  • Constantly checking our Facebook page (this has become one of the biggest wasters around)
  • Playing games, either online, on a smartphone or tablet, or on a game box
  • Television (and most of it is trash)
  • Procrastinating
  • Going to meetings
  • Being somewhere else in our mind other than where we are
  • Running in multiple directions throughout the day

There is, of course, much more but that is a good start.

Your 110

A good friend of mine and a very wise person, Jeff Bigby of Awaken the Nation, shows the math of our time in his presentations.  Jeff asks his workshop participants about how they spend their 110.  See, Jeff points out the following formula on your weekly schedule:

  • There are 168 hours in a week
    • We spend an average of 56 hours sleeping (assuming you are sleeping eight hours)
    • We spend 40 hours working (or more, not including the commute)
    • About two hours a day in meals for a total of 14 hours per week
    • That leaves about 58 hours per week.
    • Go to church?  Let’s say two hours.  That’s 56 left or 8 hours a day.

110 hours a week is manageable time

So, in that eight hours a day we have “administrative” things we have to do during the day, plus whatever else we want to do to.  Reading, family time, devotional/meditation time, community service, watching television, etc.  The point is that there is a part of your week you have limited control over.  Most of us NEED eight hours of sleep a night.  Most of us MUST work 8 hours a day for five days a week.  Eating 3-5 regular meals a day is CRITICAL to good health (as is eating the right things)!  So we have 110 hours a week over which we have almost total control!

So the issue is not time; it is how productively you are using that time.  You cannot manage time, no matter how hard you try.  So, what do you manage?

Manage YOU Not Time

I am no different from you on this.  I waste time pretty much every day.  But I have become aware of that and aware of my ability to make choices in changing that and examining my time wasters.  If I can do that, I am extremely confident that you can too.  Here’s some of the things I am doing to help bring that under control:

  1. Prioritize and Categorize
    Establish things into areas of must do, should do, nice to do for the week.  Ideally, do this on Sunday night or Monday morning.  Within each of those categorize them based on the part of your life they address; such as work project, family, health, etc.  Within each category, number them based on importance.  The importance is determined by time constraint, critical stage, or just your own personal plan.
  2.  The Daily Big Three
    Each morning, or the night before, list the top three things you need to carry out that day.  Take the top items of each category and place them on your list.  Number those according to importance.  There may be more than three, but the point is that you don’t go to bed tonight without accomplishing the Big Three.  Place the bullfrogs at the top of the list; the things you procrasitate on or simply hate to do.  Get them out of the way first thing and the rest of the day will be pleasant by comparison.
  3. Self-Talk
    It doesn’t matter what others say to us, it matters what we say to ourselves.  Encourage yourself. Talk yourself up.  Remember what you are made of.  Many of your tasks will be things you don’t want to do, have often gone out of your way to avoid, and might even be incredibly boring.  If you don’t talk yourself up, you will simply find another excuse.
  4. Reward System
    For each item accomplished, provide a reward of some type.  It should be a reward that is quick, easy, and yet provides incentive.  If you are a Facebook fanatic, each item completed earns you 15 minutes of Facebook time.  Now, for that to be a real incentive has to mean that you aren’t getting Facebook time without accomplishing the task.  If you are going to do it anyway, it’s no incentive.
  5. Consequences
    Sometimes one of the big three does not get accomplished due to something out of our control, but that’s a rarity.  Either way, fault or not, provide a consequence for not completing one of the big three.  Just like providing consequences for your kids, it has to be timely, connected, and reasonable.  For example, I read about what person who uses the consequence that when he doesn’t accomplish his tasks he wakes himself up in the middle of the night to work for an hour or two.  He values his sleep so much that it provides him incentive to manage himself better and avoid that consequence.  Be careful, though; if you find yourself administering a consequence too much it starts to lose its impact.  Change them up from time to time.
  6. Analyze
    At the end of the week, take a look back and see how things have gone.  Did things go better or worse?  Where could things have gone better?  Why?  How could you do it differently?  What can you tell yourself to help make it better?

So this is a little system I use for me.  How about you?  How do you manage yourself daily?  Got tips and tricks?  Be a river and not a reservoir!  Share them here

A Dream in Your Head is Called a Fantasy

One of the things I have noticed in my talks with people about their dreams is how many have to search their minds for exactly what their dream is.  In fact, that’s the only place they have their dream documented.  “I have it all up here!” they proudly proclaim, yet seem to have trouble finding it in that filing system.

It doesn’t work!  You need to get your dream out of your head and down on paper!  When you write down your dream, you have made it more than just a dream.  You have made it a goal.  You have given it substance.  As Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich

A goal is a dream with a deadline.

When you document it, you commit to it probably truly for the first time.  Things written down tend to have more meaning and permanency to them, like an ancient king making a declaration and then saying, “so let it be written, so let it be done!

If we put it down on paper, we put it not only in our minds but in our hearts as well.

visualize your dreamNow when I say paper I simply mean documented somewhere.  You can do it in Word on your computer.  There are lots of apps out there for tablets and smartphones.  I use Evernote because I can synch it between my tablet, my smartphone, and my laptop and access the same information everywhere.

However, you do it, DO IT!

When it is documented it takes on legs.  And wings!  It spurs you on to action so much more than if you simply keep it “all up here!”  It creates a visualization that helps you really paint a vivid picture of what you dreamed about.  It becomes detailed and real and tangible.  You begin to see it, feel it, touch it, taste it!  It moves from the realm of “one day, it would be nice” to “gotta have it NOW!” and you begin to build your case and your plan.

How to Record Your Dream

Here’s a few great ways to get your dreams down “on paper”.  Remember that detail is important here.  The more you write down the dream with all the trimmings — the who, what, when, where, why — the more real it becomes and the more likely you are to take action.

  1. The simple one is…get a sheet of paper and write it down.  Or buy a composition notebook.  Or if you want a lot more guidance along this lines, buy a goals planner.  Zig Ziglar publishes a great one but it can be pricey.  Here is a shorter version you can download as a PDF. I used this and it was sufficient for the time being.
  2. Use an online application or use Evernote to write down your dreams in detail.
  3. Create a “vision board” using pictures to represent your dream or dreams.  Vision boards are great because it completes that step of visualization, making your dream real and tangible, that we talked about earlier.  If you want to have an online version of this, consider using Pinterest.  You can create a page with your vision board and make it private.  It’s about the only real good usage I have found out of Pinterest at all.

Action Plan

  1. Set aside time tonight to think about your dreams.  Brainstorm for 15 minutes and write down every dream that comes into your head.  Don’t evaluate them, write them down.
  2. After the 15 minutes is up, look at what you wrote.  Pick out the top three to five to start working on right away.
  3. Write them down in detail using whatever method you have chosen.  But write them down, don’t keep them in your head.