Play this video for a special message related to HOPE Unlimited’s upcoming 10th birthday in April! Please note: the gift cards mentioned for the April giveaway are actually going to be Chick-Fil-A cards instead!

Four Fears that Affect Your Productivity

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One of my biggest time management challenges is allowing enough time for each errand or task of the day. I am not strong at estimating how long something will take, or allowing for the inevitable interruptions or setbacks (i.e. from technology) that come my way. Sometimes I think there is a deeper reason for this than simply underestimating. It can become a heart issue, based in some fears, such as the following:

Fear of boredom. I am the kind of person that really enjoys being reasonably busy–meaning that I have plenty to do but like to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think I fear being bored, so I enjoy having valuable tasks ahead for the day. But I can easily reach the tipping point of having too many tasks on the list and then get stressed trying to meet all the self-imposed expectations.

Fear of insignificance. I like to do things that cause people to think, to change, and to grow. In a strengths finder assessment, one of my strengths is significance–the desire to be important to people and do important things. But I can allow my personal drive to prove myself significant to cause me stress and pressure.

Fear of failure. I get a rush out of accomplishing a lot in a day. So I keep going because I don’t like the feeling of things being left undone. I was valedictorian in high school and have always been at least somewhat driven by achievement. I don’t like to fail at something and want to do a lot of things naturally well, sometimes without having to put a lot of work into it.

Fear of work. this may sound counterintuitive since I have workaholic tendencies. But, sometimes, hidden in that, is a laziness. For example, I can be on Facebook for an unreasonable amount of time each day. I can get a lot done because I’m fast, but that doesn’t mean I always do things well or give them enough thought in the process.

I could apply some time management principles to this, but the bottom line is that my fear(s) interrupt me sometimes from being truly productive and embracing each day. How about you?

Engage: Which of the four fears affects your productivity most?

 

Benefit from: This blog, Time Management Ninja,  has a lot of suggestions about time management.  And my book, Time Management, Jesus’ Way, is only .99 on Amazon!

Revisit: Three Time Management Myths

Also enjoy:

 

Call for Submissions

Contribute to our first “Pros Pointers” post that will publish on April 13 and receive some publicity for your company/blog!

The topic is: Productivity apps

I want to read what YOU would share to help overwhelmed professionals. Click hereBeutler-3226(edit) to contribute!

Five Ways to Fight Communication Overload

Iphone notifications

How big are the notification numbers on your app icons? (The numbers you see on the photos in this post are REAL, bless the hearts of the folks who were willing to share them for my use. Names withheld of course. :)

We are inundated with all kinds of communication everyday, to the point where it can become overwhelming. Here are five tips to cut down on the noise.

Purge your email. Periodically consider whether you really need that weekly email newsletter. For example, in the past, I tried jumping into the couponing pool. I’ve come pretty much right back out (that’s another topic.) In the process of trying it, I ended up subscribing to several sites and then hardly looking at the deals. Time to unsubscribe from a lot of them.

“But Beth, what if you miss out on a deal?” I miss out on deals all the time. I can always find the sites later, or bookmark them into a “saving money” folder so if I get the urge to do something like eat out or some other fun activity, or have something specific I need to buy, I can research sales and coupons then.

Turn off notifications. If you are active on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, adjust your settings so you are only getting notifications for things that really interest you. These days, it’s easy for people to add you to groups, and if you don’t have settings adjusted to your preference, you could have long lists of notifications or emails of when someone posted in that group. I’ve recently done this myself for Facebook groups that I want to remain part of, without being reminded every time someone posts there.

Also consider adjusting notifications on your cell phone. If you use a phone that lets you see email, it may be best you may not need to have a sound or icon come up every time a new email comes in. You can check it when you want once or twice a day.iphone

Be cautious about your cell phone. Many of you may be using a cell phone exclusively rather than a land line. In that case, you really don’t have much choice about  giving out your number. But if you still have a home phone and a cell phone, be cautious about giving out your cell phone number too widely. We already deal with lots of interruptions in life and extra calls may not be necessary in the middle of your days.  Some time ago, I gave my cell phone number out to a business I was calling to inquire about something for a client. We decided not to go in that direction, but unfortunately I occasionally receive calls hoping we will be interested in something currently offered. Thankfully these have subsided, but it makes me realize I can be even more selective about who gets my cell phone number. I could’ve given my land line number which also acts as my business main line. (I’m now able to have the landline forward to my cell phone without giving out the actual cell number.)

Use voice mail. Many messages can be handled by a simple voice mail–both leaving one and receiving one. You don’t have to answer every call right away (same goes for email.) Let the phone go to VM if you are in the middle of something that needs focus such as driving or meeting with a friend. Really. It will be okay!

Use “do not mail” and “do not call” lists. From time to time, check the national “do not mail” and “do not call” lists and get your name off of junk mail and telemarketing lists. Now, if you enjoy getting coupons, catalogs, samples, or other pieces of mail, so be it. But if you want to simplify–these services can help you out.

Engage: What one thing can you do to cut down your communication noise today?

Benefit from: Combine your email subscriptions into one daily “newspaper” with Unroll.me.

Revisit: One way to stay uncluttered in life is to say “No” occasionally. Here’s how to do so graciously.
Also enjoy:

Is Your Timing Off?

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“Hi honey. What did the doctor say?”

Innocent question, unless you are asking it at a fast food restaurant, of a man getting ready to serve customers, in front of said customers. Then it is poorly timed and inconsiderate.

This is a true story. I observed it some time ago when I was getting a meal at a a fast food shop evidently owned or managed by these two people. Before you judge this person though, think about the following points regarding your timing when interacting with your coworkers.

Do you allow people to settle in before hitting them with questions? Maybe you don’t mind “hitting the ground running” when you get to work, but many people prefer to have time to take off their coats, get their computer booted up, use the restroom, get coffee, insert routine here______ before tackling their tasks. If you’ve waited this long to get an answer, a few more minutes won’t matter.

Do you make comments in front of others who are not involved? In the case mentioned above, none of us at the restaurant (customers or other coworkers) needed to know what Dr. ________ said. My guess is that the woman was worried (I’m guessing the coworker was her husband or a relative) and as soon as she saw him she wanted to ease her mind. However, she made it awkward for him as he had to turn and say, “I will tell you about it later.”  Be careful to have important conversations out of earshot of other employees who aren’t part of the problem, solution, or project.

Do you interrupt coworkers who are working on a project? Interruptions occur all day long, and your culture may be accustomed to it. But when you can allow workers extended uninterrupted time to get their work done, you’ll help productivity all the way around.

Do you announce information too soon–or worse yet–too late? Workplace communication is a tricky thing. When in doubt, err on the side of giving employees too much info rather than creating a vacuum. Vacuums fill with something…usually rumors.

Consider the ways your approach to conversation, communication, and questions may be just a little off when it comes to timing. Refine your approach, and you will probably see a jump in productivity and effective teamwork.

Engage: What type of interruption throws you off course the most?

Benefit from: This blog post by leadership expert Karin Hurt will help you deal with moody people–and includes a tip about timing. 

Revisit:  Another way to injure relationships at work is by gossiping. Here are three posts from a series I did on Gossip in the Workplace.  Post 1  Post 2  Post 3

Also enjoy: 

Saying “Happy Birthday” with Integrity

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I was listening to a podcast and the speaker was sharing ways to show appreciation to your team. Most of the ideas were spot on, but I was concerned about one of them.

This business owner greets his employee’s birthdays with a “Happy Birthday” email. Nice idea, right? Well, he went on to share how the process was automated so that employees automatically get an email from him on their birthday. His assistant reminds him of whose birthday it is so in case they thank him in the hall, he will know what they are talking about.

Ouch.

That struck me as rather impersonal and borderline dishonest. Now, before you challenge me about automated systems, yes, I think there is a place for them. I, for example, do utilize pre-written text for various communications and greetings. And I like how Facebook, for example, has made it easier to put a birthday greeting on several contact walls fairly quickly. And I confess, sometimes when I put the greetings on walls, I don’t stop to think about the person or truly be mindful of their name. (I’m working on that.)

I just pause, though, at the thought of greetings going out automatically to team members without my personal awareness or effort that day, particularly if the idea is to sincerely wish them a happy birthday and thank them for service to the company.

So my tip to you today is simple. When designing appreciation strategies, be sure to remember that your team members are real people with real feelings. If I was employed by this company and heard the CEO publicly explain this birthday system, I’m not sure I’d feel all that warmly greeted on my birthday going forward when I got his “personal” email to me.

Engage: What do you think? Should birthday greetings and other forms of appreciation be automated?

Benefit from:  My book, Boost Your Workplace Morale is full of practical ideas to encourage and uplift your co-workers.

Revisit: It’s a good idea to remember what you’ve been given (and forget what you give.)

Also enjoy (my sharing of other blog posts should not be considered an endorsement):

Five Ways to Ease Tension at Work

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Most of us want to enjoy positive relationships in our workplaces, yet the workplace is often a source of relational frustration. Here are five tips to help you mitigate some of the tension that occurs in workplace relationships.

Understand personalities. Begin to study the people you work with. What makes them tick? What ticks them off? Over time, you can see patterns and learn to smile about some tendencies. You can also develop strategies when you know what you are dealing with. For example, if your co-worker is very talkative when you walk in the door, plan your arrival time to be a bit earlier than him or her so that you are already busy at your desk when they come in.  Have a boss that is a quick mover and decisive? Don’t go into his office with information that will take several minutes to download. Tell him what you need from him in a bottom line fashion, and then ask if he wants rationale.

Accept that everyone is different. This is not new advice. But we often have trouble making the connection between saying we understand this concept and living it. If you feel a rise in your blood pressure whenever someone thinks differently than you do, you might want to begin to examine why it is so important to you to be around Yes people. Successful companies invite respectful disagreement. It often helps create new ideas and solutions.

Find something to be thankful for. Watch for coworkers to do something well and thank them for it. Make it a practice to say “thank you” at least a couple of times a week. (Don’t overdo this or it will seem insincere after awhile. This is usually not a danger in most workplaces though.) People crave a pat on the back, and encouragers often receive kindness and cooperation from others in exchange.

Engage in non-work conversation. I know an individual who has build great relationships with people she regularly needs info from. They are willing to break their necks for her because she simply treats them well and engages in reasonable conversation with them that does not always center just around work. Yes, you can overdo workplace chit-chat, but relationships are fluid and personal/work lives will intersect no matter how much you try to divide it. So instead, build bridges and relationships that will naturally lead to productivity.

Lighten up. Feeling irritated more and more often lately? Is it possible that YOU are at least part of the problem? Step back and think about why you think the world is against you (or your coworkers.) Be willing to see the hard things about yourself and make some changes.

While we can’t create perfect workplaces, we can do our part to make them more pleasantfor ourselves and everyone else.

Remember:  This is the post that was shared when my Boost Your Workplace Morale book came out. (Note that some promotional info no longer applies, but there is still helpful and fun info!)

Benefit from: My book, Boost Your Workplace Morale gives lots of practical ideas for easing tension at work. You may also be interested in my “Strife vs. Peace” workplace Bible study download. Only $1.99!

Engage: What causes the most tension at your workplace? People, workload, or lack of resources?

Also enjoy (note: I have looked over these articles but this does not mean I endorse all content on other sites):

Seven of the Most Dangerous Words in Time Management

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Take note:

It’s funny what you can learn about a person’s day via Facebook.

Here’s the status one of my friends put up (sharing with her permission):

My Day: Wake up and and tell myself to write two stories, find a missing tax file, and fill out a detailed form. Then leave the house for six hours to go to a consultation and then run all kinds of errands—since I’m out anyway. (Do you ever do that?) Now I’ll have to leave again in an hour to take the cat to the vet for a followup. In the end, not a great day for writing two stories, finding a missing tax file, and filling out a detailed form.

My friend fell victim to seven of the most dangerous words in time management. (I can relate.)

What are they?

“While I’m here I might as well…”

Any of the following sound familiar?

  • While I’m in town, I might as well go to the dry cleaners.
  • While I’m in the break room, I might as well wash the dishes.
  • While I’m filing this paper, I might as well pull out those old files from last year.
  • While I’m talking with my boss on the phone, I might as well check my email.
  • While I’m working at home, I might as well get five loads of laundry done.

Maybe you are more disciplined, but sometimes I’m a victim of believing that multi-tasking is generally a good thing. I haven’t fully bought into the current mindset that multi-tasking is more harmful than good, although I’m starting to wonder if it is.

The problem with these seven words is that although they sound efficient (after all, isn’t batching tasks or errands a good thing?) they generally derail us. Here’s why:

  1. They lead to unplanned tasks. Notice it doesn’t say, “When I go into town, I plan to (list.)” It’s, “While I’m in town I might as well (list).” Big difference. A spontaneous, as-you-go approach can sometimes lead to more stress, kind of like picking up extra items at the grocery store that weren’t on your list, and your receipt is much bigger than you budgeted. You are often better off making a plan first.
  2. It leads to unrealistic expectations. Just because we are in proximity of a task, doesn’t mean this is the best time to accomplish it. We often think it will only take a few minutes but it often steals more time away than we thought it would.
  3. It keeps us away from other tasks--ones that were planned and prioritized. In the example above, my friend had important tasks planned. But she got derailed by what looks like the efficient batching process and handling things as they come up. In the end, it left her priority tasks undone.
  4. It derails our focus. Spontaneously adding on more tasks takes our minds off the things that we were planning to get done.

How to fight back:

  1. Use a timer. I advocated this in another blog post, but a timer is a great friend. Many of us have smart phones now so it’s easy to find a timer app to suit you.
  2. Use lists ruthlessly. When you think of something else you could have done “while I’m here” jot it down on a task list and stick with your original plan. The very act of writing it down will help you pause long enough to think it through.
  3. Retrain yourself. You probably go through similar errand loops or task sequences weekly. When you get that spontaneous urge to add something to your current process/errands, make yourself add it to the list for NEXT time instead. This will help you retrain your brain to be comfortable with waiting, knowing it will get done in the next cycle. You’ll learn to trust the system you set up.
  4. Give in–sometimes. In other words, add enough cushion into your calendar that if it really WOULD be practical to add that extra errand “while you’re there” it won’t derail your day completely.

Revisit: 5 Ways (Some) Multi-tasking Can Work for You 

Benefit from: Here’s an app we use for managing grocery shopping. My husband and I can sync it so he can always have the latest version of the list. But you have to add things to the list as you think of them to make it work!

Engage: When is the last time you got derailed by “While I’m here I might as well…?”

Also enjoy (note: I have looked over these articles but this does not mean I endorse all content on other sites):

Please share this article! Thank you!

Three Steps to Overcome “Paralysis of Analysis”

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Think about:

There you sit, staring at your desk. There are piles of work–reports to write, messages to return, letters to type–you fill in the blank.

You’re paralyzed in thought because you don’t know what to do next. They all seem important, urgent even. Experts call this paralysis of analysis. Here’s the Wikepedia definition:

“Analysis paralysis or paralysis of analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises.”

So how can you use a timer to get moving when faced with several options? Here are three suggestions.

  1. Set a timer for five minutes and do something that will reduce your stress. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in five minutes. At the very least, organize the piles of work so your desktop is less cluttered. Go get a fresh cup of coffee. Use the restroom. Wipe out those 10 emails that feel like mosquitos hovering. Just be prepared to STOP after 5 minutes. (This also applies at home. Keep yourself in one room for five minutes and pick up, gather, etc. before moving on to another. That’s a tip from our book, Organizing from the Heart.)
  1. Set the timer for three minutes to think through what larger project you are going to do now.Take the momentum you got from your five minute sweep and pick one project to direct it to. Make sure you have everything you need nearby to attack it. Don’t overthink it. Maybe you do need to do the urgent thing that is due in two hours. But if there isn’t anything due within two hours what’s the most important thing? What will either make you feel less stressed, or will contribute most to the advancement of your business today? Ask yourself: in two hours, what will I be most happy about having gotten done or gotten past?
  2. Set the timer again, this time for a longer period that allows you to accomplish a good bit–or all–of the task. For example, if you are supposed to pre-load social media updates for your company for a week, and it usually takes you 30 minutes, set the timer for that and stay focused on the task. If it takes you an hour to write a weekly report, set it for 60 minutes and get to work!

When you’ve completed step three, go back and repeat the process as needed throughout your day!

A timer is your friend!

Remember:  Here’s another post about using a timer: The 7 Minute Organizing Challenge

Benefit from: A timer app that I have found helpful is Alarm Clock Xtreme. Photo above is a screen shot of one of the screens.

Share: which of your colleagues would benefit from some encouragement about prioritizing and getting things done? Share this with your friend or networks today and tell them to subscribe to receive 11 Strategies for a Less Stressful, More Productive Workday – a free printable!

Join in (at the blog or on social media): When’s the last time you used a timer? Why? Was it helpful? Join the conversation at the blog or on social media.

Also enjoy (although I have looked over the recommended blog posts by other bloggers in my “Also Enjoy” section below, that does not mean I endorse all contents of any other website/blog you link to from my site):

7 Strategies to Help Professionals Stop Stressing Over Meal Planning

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Take a look.

Sigh. I had just finished a very full day working at home and my brain was drained. I was trying to wrap things up by 5:30 and then still had to think about making dinner.

5-6:00pm is a tricky time for me. I’m starting to get hungry. I’m feeling the pressure of not having the task list to the point I wanted it to be by now. (In other words, done.)  I am trying to eat healthier foods more often. And cooking dinner doesn’t feel like a relaxing hobby. So what’s a busy professional to do?

Come up with a strategy.

Sometimes half the battle is won in planning. It’s easier to execute good habits when you’ve taken the time to strategize. So here are seven ideas to help you combat the stress that can come with meal planning.

1. Assign themes to specific days.

Here’s an example:

Sunday: Spend/Social/Simple Sunday (go out for lunch, spend time with friends, have simple meals like leftovers or maybe do the big family meal)

Monday: Meatless Monday (roasted veggies, salads, fruit dishes or quiche can be a healthy way to start the week and provide leftovers to use as sides the rest of the week)

Tuesday: Timer Tuesday (any meal that can use an appliance with a timer, such as a crock pot)

Wednesday: Wing It Wednesday (everyone is on their own…eat leftovers, have cereal, or I guess you could get wings!)

Thursday: Tureen Thursday (Anything that would cook up in a pot, such as soup. This is also a good way to throw in some leftovers from earlier in the week)

Friday: Fun/Finger Food Friday (quick fun stuff like pizza, sandwiches, etc.)

Saturday: Spirit/Social Saturday – (as the Spirit leads, time with friends)

2. Establish healthy routines. There’s nothing wrong with having a power smoothie every morning as your breakfast, if that works for you. So what if others would think that is boring? Find healthy versions of food themes mentioned above and use them. For example, you can make or order healthier versions of pizza. Only stock food that is reasonably healthy. If there are no chips in the pantry, you’ll find something else to eat.

3. Plan ahead. It’s a good idea to plan your meals at least a week in advance. I’m training myself to also plan my lunches and snacks, which can help me consume healthier items than just grabbing something.

4. Always make a little extra. Leftovers are great for next-day lunches and if you make a double portion of some types of meals (like pasta), you can freeze half for another full supper in a couple of weeks. This is helpful no matter the size of your family.

5. Utilize your freezer. Depending on your family size, you may want to get into the “cooking for the freezer” movement and stock up for several days or even weeks in advance. You can also pre-freeze cut up onions and veggies to throw into stir fries, soups and casseroles and have bags of frozen fruit ready for making homemade sherbet or to throw into smoothies. I freeze breakfast portions of steel cut oats, scrambled eggs, and cut up pancakes and fruit to grab as a light breakfast when I’m going to be working in an office away from home.

6. Carry at least one healthy snack with you at all times. Sometimes just staving off that feeling of hunger can give you the strength to then cook a healthier meal.

7. Save money when eating out. Watch for coupons, frequent customer cards, and savings books. We bought an Entertainment book for a fundraiser and have had fun tracking our savings. So far we’ve saved over $100 in about six months using coupons from that book during times when we would likely have gone out anyway. Plus we’ve gotten to try some new places.

Engage (at the blog or on social media): How do you usually handle meals during your busy work day?

Think about:

Why is it important to take the time to strategize about areas that cause stress for you?

Does your company encourage healthy eating?

What snack can you share with your colleagues this week that will bless them?

Do you follow a meal plan for your personal life?

Does your spiritual life play into what and how you plan for your food needs?

Do you agree or disagree with the following quotes?

acts food

Paul Prudhomme Food

 

 

Sources: Acts 2:46      Brainyquote.com

Remember:  Last year I participated in a 15-day food detox. Here are 12 things I learned from the experience.

Benefit from: I highly recommend the services and resources provided by Chris DeHollander Health Coaching at Nourish2Live. She uses a variety of means to encourage us to live in a more healthful way.

Share: which of your colleagues would benefit from some fresh ideas or reminders about meal planning? Share this with your friend or networks today and tell them to subscribe to receive 11 Strategies for a Less Stressful, More Productive Workday – a free printable!

Also enjoy (although I have looked over the recommended blog posts by other bloggers in my “Also Enjoy” section below, that does not mean I endorse all contents of any other website/blog you link to from my site):