Dealing With Distractions


Dealing With Distractions

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In a perfect world, you would be so focused on your work that nothing could distract you. But our world is not perfect, and it rarely works that way. So why does something so minor as an interruption mess up our entire day?

Distractions can be either external or internal. Some distractions are entirely beyond your control, while others are entirely up to you. What they all have in common, though, is the impact on your day. Let’s look at some of these in detail:

Distraction: Overwhelm
Many accountants feel there’s just too much coming at them all at once, most of it needing to be done yesterday. Add in the constant phone calls and never-ending emails, especially during Income Tax season, that seems to need urgent replies, it’s normal to seek escape. Think of it as reacting in a fight or flight way to a scary stimulus. Running to a distraction in this situation is a flight response to stress. Distraction Buster
Establish your priorities for the day. With most accounting businesses it’s impossible to avoid phone calls and emails that need to be returned, but you don’t have to answer every phone call or immediately respond to every email. Set aside a specific time of day that you’ll handle those replies.

Then, keep distractions down by sending calls to voicemail and shutting down your email window. If this isn’t a viable option for your firm, have your virtual assistant monitor the voicemails and emails, and then flag those that need your immediate attention. All others can wait until your designated time.

Distraction: Doing Everything at Once
Multitasking is a huge distraction, simply because it feels productive when you do it. When you multitask, you get less done than you think. Studies have proven people drop up to 20 IQ points while multitasking. This is because the mind is constantly being distracted by every other task you’re trying to do.

You listen to an eBook while exercising but are mentally making a checklist of what you need to do next. You’re on the phone with one person while checking your calendar to reschedule an appointment with another. You’re answering emails while talking to a team member.

It’s everywhere. In the end? How much of that eBook do you remember? What about that phone conversation? Have you really accomplished anything, or do you now need to go back and double-check your work, or worse, re-do it entirely?

Distraction Buster
When you have no guided focus in your day, it’s hard to keep your attention where you need it most. Schedules set out small goals that let you know when you expect to have those goals completed. Without those guidelines, it’s easy for your day to fall apart as minor distractions sneak in to take up blocks of time not meant for anything.

Create your daily task list the night before, don’t wait until that morning when you’re running late for an early meeting, or already looking at a full inbox of emails. Then, use your list. Complete a task before starting the next. If new projects come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. If they need to be moved up, do it at the end of the day, when you’re preparing the next day’s task list.

Distraction: Out of Resources
There’s only so much attention you can give to a problem before you run out of gas. How are you supposed to keep plugging away when you’re tired, exhausted, and worn out? It’s no wonder you welcome distraction just for the relief it gives from having to think or do another thing.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes we just get tired. Consider this, do you find yourself saying “I forgot to eat”, or looking at the clock at night and thinking, “if I fall asleep now, I’ll still get a couple of hours of sleep”, and if so, how often? If we’re not eating or sleeping properly, our bodies start to show signs of fatigue. It’s impossible to tune out distractions when you’re so worn out you can’t think straight.

Distraction Buster
When you don’t want your day to get away from you, grab your calendar, and put things where you can see them. Look at your task list and schedule your tasks (allowing enough time for each), so nothing gets left out or ignored. When you set out a schedule, you leave less room for distraction. Remember to block out time for things unrelated to your goals, such as sleep or time to eat. You’ll be less likely to skip meals or stay up too late if you have these things already in place on your calendar. Distraction: Too Much Time Staring at a Screen
Wow, it’s easy to get focused on electronics. When you constantly check your phone, it quickly becomes addictive. Literally! Studies have shown time spent staring at screens releases dopamine into your brain, making a little screen time every bit as effective at giving you a quick ‘buzz’ as a hit on a cigarette.

Before you disagree, think about the last time you left your phone at home. How far did you get before you felt a little twitchy about not having it? If you’re like most people, it’s not just your smartphone grabbing your attention. Between laptops, tablets, and every other iteration of device connecting to the internet, it’s no wonder it’s hard to put the screen down and get something done.

Let’s face it, they’re interesting. Filled with apps, connection to friends and family through social media, the ability to check email…there’s just too much to do, and it’s all right there in your hands. It’s no wonder you’re distracted!

Distraction Buster
Again, schedule your screen time, instead of letting it become a distraction. For example, you can plan your lunch break to be a time to relax and do things that take your mind off work. Most smartphones today have a “Do Not Disturb” setting. I have mine set for nighttime, as well as during the day when I need to be completely focused. Distraction: You’re on a Treasure Hunt
When it turns out you lack the knowledge to continue, falling into the trap of research distraction is very common. What starts as hunting for an answer to a single question breeds diversion and sends you down rabbit trails that keep you from ever returning to the project if you’re not careful.

How many times did you go to one source, but end up looking at something that wasn’t even in your original search? With all the information including social media that you can turn to; you can easily waste hours without even realizing it.

Distraction Buster
First, you need to realize you’re getting distracted. The minute you notice that your short foray into something has turned into a distraction, stop right there! If you didn’t get the answer within a short time – about 5-10 minutes – then this needs to be added to your schedule for further research. Schedule the time for it and make the conscious choice to focus on something else now. Distraction: What If or How About?
Are you full of ideas? While this is a good thing on many levels, thoughts can also lead to distractions, especially when you start coupling ideas with action.

Moving from one idea to the next, from one project to the next, can feel efficient…at first. In truth, you’re getting less done than you think. Imagine a job involving the remodeling of a house. Say you need to update the kitchen, want to renovate the bathroom, are building a front porch, and painting the dining room. You might think you’re being efficient if you’re doing all projects at the same time. After all, that means you’ll be done at once and have a great house to live in…right? Now imagine finding other home repair jobs as you go and adding to the chaos until the whole place is a mess.

Having too many ideas is very similar. You’re throwing time at first this, and then the next without ever completing anything. You’re adding new things in. In the end, you’re so distracted by so many things to do, that you’ve lost the ability to prioritize, and nothing gets done at all.

Distraction Buster
Keep a notepad nearby so that you can write down ideas that hit you throughout the day and give yourself permission to come back to them later. Distraction: You’re Trying to Save the World
If a team member is having difficulty working through a return and comes to you for help, do you end up doing their work as well as your own?

If you continuously involve yourself in other people’s problems, it’s hard to get your own projects completed. This ‘save the world’ mentality means distraction comes in the form of altruism, which looks pretty on the outside. Nobel, even. On the inside, though, is the stark truth that you’re distracting yourself under the guise of doing a favor for someone else.

Distraction Buster
While it’s great to want to help and lend a hand now and again, you need to ask yourself if this opportunity is just another distraction? If so, is it one you can afford? Next time, ask the team member to offer you possible solutions to their problem rather than just handing it off to you. Distraction: You’re Getting Organized
Simply put, you’re not getting anything accomplished, and now you’re caught up in the spiral of trying to throw yourself into a new system to fix everything. Organization is another one of those distractions that looks helpful initially. After all, every self-help course is going to recommend cleaning your workspace to make it ‘work better for you.’

The truth of the matter is this kind of organizing can take on a life of its own very quickly. What might start as a quick tidying up suddenly devolves into color-coded notepads, a series of highlighters, and a complex system of calendars. Because it feels like progress, you don’t see it as a distraction. It becomes one when you’re losing out on serious work time as you keep poking at the ‘system’ to make it work.

Distraction Buster
Ask yourself, are you spending more time working on your projects or talking about working on your projects? Handoff the organization to your virtual assistant. Work together to come up with the best tools for your firm, then let your VA set it up and put it into motion.

As you can see, distractions are honestly everywhere, surfacing for a variety of reasons, with a lot of baggage behind them needing to be dealt with if you’re ever going to move forward. You are the master of your fate. It’s up to you to tune out the world and put your focus where it matters most. You really do have the ability to control the situation, whether it’s stamping out the distractions before they gain a foothold, or knowing how to put yourself back on track when the distractions find you.

No matter what, don’t expect easy answers. Nothing here is going to happen overnight. It takes time to build new habits and a new way of thinking. If you fail, simply try again. Give the process time. It will happen.

How Productive People Think

productive people
productive people

How Productive People Think

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Productivity is not just about working hard or being busy. It’s about being effective with your time and resources. Productive people are able to focus on what’s important and make sure that they are using their time wisely.

A productive person is someone who has the ability to make their own decisions and take action on them. They are able to prioritize tasks, manage time, and set goals for themselves.

So how do productive people think?

Priorities matter

People who are the most productive are clear about their priorities.  They know that some things are more important than others and they’re able to attack the most important things first.

Start each day by making a list of tasks and placing them in order of priority.  This will help you to get the most important things done first and even help you to eliminate tasks that really aren’t necessary.

Understanding priorities also makes it easy to delegate tasks and avoid things that might take away from reaching goals.

Plan for success

Productive people make a plan.  They schedule their next day at the end of the current workday.  This makes it easy to jump right into work the next day without having to take time to decide what’s next on the list.

Eliminate time wasters

There are many things throughout the day that could threaten to take away from productivity.  Productive people know how to put those time-wasters on the back burner and stick to the important work.

It could be social media, chatty coworkers, emails, text messages, phone calls, or reading online news that prevents you from getting business done.  Set those things aside and schedule a specific time when you will allow yourself to participate in those things.

Take responsibility

Productive people are happy to take responsibility for both their successes and their failures.  Rather than looking to point the finger at someone else, they stay accountable for their work.

Learn from mistakes

Productive people have a healthy attitude toward failure and are able to use it as an opportunity for growth. They are not afraid of making mistakes and they learn from them.

The key is to take the time and think about why you failed so that you can learn from your mistakes instead of letting mistakes throw you off course or cause you to quit.

Efficient tools

Productive people also know it’s important to have the right tools to do the job.  That means having a high-quality computer, the proper software, and even the right desk setup.  When you have what you need in your workspace, it helps you to get more done.

If you want to become more productive, it helps to understand how productive people think.  Think about your own productivity levels.  Where can you make changes in your mindset to become more productive?  Small changes can lead to big results.

5 Tips To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

time management
time management

5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Curve

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Running an accounting firm is not easy, and oftentimes, not the most exciting. There are so many mundane, everyday tasks necessary to keep the business running. Tasks such as filing, billing, and data entry bog down a daily task list; they have to be done, but not by you! Hiring a virtual assistant can be a simple solution. But how do you know when to outsource? These five tips will keep you ahead of the curve by helping you sort through your tasks and decide what you can do and what you could be letting someone else do.

1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Have you looked at where your firm is, and where you want it to be? Do you have a clear road map to get there? Many times, we fail to reach our goals because we haven’t defined them clearly. It’s simply not enough to say, “I want to make more money this year,” or “I’d like to spend more time with my family.” Your goals need to be very specific. They should provide direction, and motivation, and clarify the importance of what you’re aiming for. Setting up SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely is a recipe for success! So, instead of “I want to make more money this year”, say, “I will increase sales 17% by end of Q4”.


2. Know Your Why

Once you settle on a goal and a specific target, you need to clarify the purpose of the goal, or ‘your why’ If your goal, for example, is to increase earnings over last year, determine WHY you need more money. Do you want to take on more clients, or maybe you want to staff the office?


The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’.  Your ‘why’ is the foundation, the passion driving you. If you lose sight of why you have settled on your goal, it will be much more difficult to stay motivated.

3. Work Smarter Not Harder!

Building a successful accounting firm isn’t easy. Many accountants burn out within the first 5 years. They lose the passion and the drive that is necessary to stay competitive, especially if they are too busy working 70+ hours a week. Believe it or not, there is proven research behind the 40-hour workweek. It wasn’t designed to help workers, but to boost productivity, which has been shown to drop dramatically after working more than 40 hours per week for a month. Being busy is not the same as being productive.


time management

Let me say that again – Being busy is not the same as being productive.  Top performers focus on the activities that support their goals. They leverage technology and other services to help them be more productive.

4. Create A Daily Task CheckList

If I were asked which one of the five tips I’m providing is the most important, it would be this one. A task checklist is a visual tool of accountability.  Start the first 10 minutes of your day by writing down all the things you need to accomplish. Ask yourself: which activities generate the most income? Begin prioritizing your most income-producing tasks first using the Eisenhower matrix:

time management

1. Do First

Tasks in the green box should be the core tasks that directly earn you money such as responding to new leads and current clients.

2. Schedule

Important, but not urgent tasks belong in the blue box.  Schedule tasks like continuing education, reading the latest IRS updates and researching virtual assistants.

3. Delegate

The yellow box should be reserved for less important tasks, but need to be done rather quickly. These are tasks that do not necessarily have to be done by you. These tasks can and should be, delegated to someone else. Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a great way to delegate tasks.

4. Don’t do

The red box is for STOP. These are the tasks that aren’t helping you at all. For most people, these will be time-wasters such as spending time on social media related. For example, have you been spending an hour a day on Facebook with nothing to show for it? Probably time for a new strategy. These tasks should definitely be turned over to a Virtual Assistant.

Prioritizing your daily tasks will make you that much more productive and mindful of how you spend your time. By using a Task Checklist daily, you’ll start to recognize patterns in your routine and find solutions to improve your results.

5. Hire a Virtual Assistant


No one person can do it all. Delegate or outsource everything except the stuff you’re good at because it allows you to focus on the tasks that you’re amazing at, like analyzing the numbers!

Virtual AssistantLook back on your daily task checklist, how many of the tasks are not high priority or goal-oriented, but need to get done? How many of those tasks can you delegate to your VA – social media accounts, your monthly mailings, engagement letters, administrative tasks.

A virtual assistant is your customizable asset!

Lifetime Learning is Essential

lifetime learning
lifetime learning

Lifetime Learning is Essential

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There is one thing that is certain in life, and that is change. If you are like me, you embrace change because it is another chance to learn and gain something new. I am an avid learner, a lifetime student if you will. I learned early on that if you want to succeed, you must stay one step ahead, and the way to do that is through learning.

Increase Your Confidence and Motivation

A lot of anxiety or fear stems from a lack of knowledge. If you strive to learn something new as often as possible about your niche and the world at large, you will empower yourself to do better, thus making you believe in yourself, and boosting your confidence while giving you the knowledge to be successful.

Keep Up with Your Competition

“The simplest way to learn business is to study your competition and improve what they are offering.” – Ehab Atalla

“Study your competition”, is exactly what Netflix did. Netflix saw a change in technologies and tried to understand and learn new ways to improve its business model as well as its biggest competitor, Blockbuster. They now lead their industry by streaming movies and television shows straight to your T.V. and have become a model for all streaming services.

Tawnya Sutherland, a pioneer in virtual assistant training and networking, fully understands the importance of studying your competition and dedicates an entire section on the subject in her signature, “Virtual Assistant Career training program”; from knowing your customer to introducing your business, she spells it out and walks you through it.

Fully Understand Your Potential

Learning unlocks skills and resources about yourself that you would have never discovered if you didn’t make an effort to do so in the first place.

“Learning is a constant process of discovery – a process without end” – Bruce Lee.

I remember mom always saying, “you can’t say you don’t like it if you don’t try it.” Same idea here, if you don’t continue to learn, you’ll never know what you could be.  And you can quote me on that 😉

Be Successful

To be successful and keep up with your business, you must continue learning new technologies, software services, and social media platforms. And I can’t think of a better “one-stop learning center” than Freelance University. Here you can hone a specialized skill, get live training support, attend workshops and learn the latest technology, all in one place!

But success doesn’t stop with learning new skills. If you want to keep up with the crowd you need to learn new strategies. What worked five years ago, might not work today. As a business owner, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and news in your industry. This way, you can always be on top of what’s happening and address any issues as they arise.

Create the Job or Life You Want

Learning is an important part of our lives. We learn from childhood to adulthood, and it is never too late to learn something new. Learning unlocks worlds, ideas, values, and inspirations you never knew existed. When you learn, you create more choices in life to live the way you want. Not sure what you want to be when you grow up? Check out LinkedIn Learning; whether you’re looking for continuing education, or want to try something new, this is a great source to have. If you already have a premium account, then LinkedIn Learning is free, otherwise, it’s a nominal monthly fee, and has a 1-month trial. 

Learning is a lifelong process that takes place anywhere and anytime – at work or at home, on the bus, or in the car. It can take many forms: reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a video on YouTube, attending a conference or workshop – the list goes on and on. Education, knowledge, and experiences are fun and rewarding. They, together with practice, are vital for growth, understanding, and compassion for the world. Education and learning provide no consequences if you want to accomplish your dreams and be more productive. Keep reading, experimenting, and jump out of your comfort zone to learn and gain more knowledge.

“You’ll never be bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do! – Dr. Suess

How to Take Action on Your Plans

Take action
Take action

How to Take Action on Your Plans

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Do you have big plans for your life or your business, but aren’t quite sure how to get started? Don’t worry. You are not alone! Taking action is the hardest part of having plans! Kristen Rohde, a behavioral science professor, talks about the gap we all suffer between planning and doing in Tedx Talks.

How much our future selves will like what our current self decides today

From changing circumstances to failing to plan, we all have our reasons for not taking action. Below are some tips to help you take action on your plans so that you can bridge this gap and make your ideas a reality.

Eliminate Your Excuses
If you find yourself wanting to take action on your plans but often making excuses for yourself, then the first thing you need to do is eliminate your excuses. You can do this by recognizing when you are making an excuse for yourself and eliminating it. If you go to take action, then find yourself thinking that you probably won’t be able to do it anyway. This is an excuse. You need to tell yourself this and hold yourself accountable. This way, you can overcome the excuse to take proper action. Don’t Wait
Many times people wait to carry out their plans because they believe they are waiting for the perfect moment to execute their dreams. News flash, the perfect time doesn’t exist. You will always be busy and always have responsibilities, so there is no time like the present to start taking action! If you still find yourself struggling with this, ask yourself how you would feel if you never got to do something you wanted. Disappointing right? That’s why you should do it now, so you don’t miss out on your opportunity. One Step At A Time
Do your plans seem opposing? Not sure where to start? You can remedy this by breaking your goal or plans down into small steps. This way, you will know exactly where to start. When you accomplish that one small step, this will help you stay motivated to accomplish the next step. Just like learning to walk, you put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you will be well on your way to achieving your goals one step at a time! Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
Many people don’t take action because they are afraid to fail. Failure, or mistakes, are part of life. The important thing to remember is you must fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and then quickly move on. They really are not a big deal, and you need to recognize this, so you will no longer let your fear hold you back from taking action!

No matter what action you want to take in your life, use the above tips to make your plans a reality. Although stepping from the planning stage to the action stage can be difficult and scary, and you may think that you should wait till a better time, there is no reason not to take action to make your plans a reality today.

Your Complete Guide to Strategic Task Lists

strategy, goal planning
strategic planning, goal setting

Your Complete Guide To Strategic Task Lists

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Here’s the honest truth for entrepreneurs – your task list will NEVER be complete. There will always be more to do! So how can you manage everything without tasks or projects slipping through the cracks? Use strategic task lists.

Why You Should Use a Strategic Task List

A strategic task list is a list of tasks that can help you achieve your goals. It is a tool that can help you stay organized and focused on what you need to accomplish. It can be used for a variety of purposes and is one of the strongest time-management tools you can have in your arsenal.

Strategic Planning:

Use the list to organize your thoughts and plan out your agenda for the day or week with each item representing an action or project you want to complete.

Goal Setting:

The tasks on the list are those things that support your goals, making it easier to remember what needs to be accomplished in order to reach them.

Resource Management:

This type of task list is often used by people who need reminders about what’s happening at work so they know which meetings they need to attend, identify gaps, and maximize capacity.

Change Your Strategy by Having a Strategic Task List

If you have a task list, you are more likely to complete it within time limits which will lead you to accomplish your goals faster.

With a written strategic task list, you are less likely to be derailed or distracted by small tasks that may not seem urgent but actually are urgent. Being able to identify what needs immediate attention is important for an organization’s success.

When there is clarity about what needs to be accomplished time gaps are eliminated and you achieve maximum productivity levels.

Create the Perfect Strategic Task List

Creating the perfect strategic task is easier than you might think. Following these simple steps will ensure that your task list is effective:

First, do a brain dump! Using a pen and paper, set a timer for 15 minutes. Write down EVERYTHING that you need to do – business and personal. Do not assign deadlines, edit or prioritize yet. When the timer goes off, try to go for another 5 minutes.

Next, prioritize the tasks using the time management matrix:

Urgent + Important: Must do tasks with a clear deadline such as paying taxes, paying bills, completing work on a deadline. If this isn’t done – there is a clear consequence!

Urgent + NOT Important: Time-sensitive tasks that should get done such as replying to your emails, client communication, working with your team. This is an excellent area to automate and systemize.

NOT Urgent + NOT Important: These are tricky tasks because these are the ‘should do’ tasks we say yes to without determining if they really help us reach our goals. Learn to say NO to these tasks. Outsource to another to handle this area.

NOT Urgent + IMPORTANT: This is where you want to play! Focus your time and energy on important revenue-generating tasks such as marketing, sales, or developing new revenue streams.
Many of the tasks should be based on your goals. I find it helpful to keep a printed copy of my goals on my desk, usually in my day planner, for quick reference.

Finally, check your daily task list at night and prioritize the remaining tasks based on what you should be working on first. Create a fresh list every morning pulling forward the unfinished tasks from the day before.

It is important for any organization to have a strategic task list. Whether your company has 1 employee or 100 employees, using strategic lists will help them understand the steps needed to reach the end goal and thus, provide stability and consistency in your strategy.

It is important for any organization to have a strategic task list. Whether your company has 1 employee or 100 employees, using strategic lists will help them understand the steps needed to reach the end goal and thus, provide stability and consistency in your strategy.

Are You Realistic About Your Goals?

smart goals
smart goals

Are Your Realistic About Your Goals?

task virtual assistant

People often struggle in both life and business with the process of goal-setting-more than likely, you’ve read a lot about creating SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. SMART goals give direction and focus to your efforts. If your goal is without focus, or if you are unable to tell if it’s working, odds are you’ll be wasting time.

Let’s Be Clear

If there’s one thing that keeps people stuck, it’s a lack of clarity.

You know you want to quit your soul-sucking day job in favor of the freedom of self-employment, but you aren’t clear on the steps to take. You want to take an exotic vacation, but you aren’t sure where to go-or how to make it happen. You want to grow your business but aren’t even sure what that means.

The truth is, with ambiguous “goals” such as these, in five or ten years, you’ll still be right where you’re at today. But with a little clarity, you can achieve any goal you can conceive. The first step is simple, visualize what you want.

Start With A Vision

A vision board is a planning tool that allows you to unleash your creativity and daydream in a tangible format. Vision boards can serve to keep you inspired when boredom strikes and remind you of why you’re working so hard when all you want to do is take a nap. Best of all, creating a vision board is easy-and fun!

Start by collecting images that represent your biggest goals. Gather pictures from magazines, photos from a favorite vacation, ads of products you want to have. I had a postcard from the New Yorker hotel I used to keep pinned on a board above my desk. I looked at it every day and knew I would be there one day. Four months later, I accepted a position at a start-up company in New York City!

Use images, graphics, photos that express what you want. Dollar signs, or a specific figure, to represent your desired bank account balance. Phrases and quotes that inspire you. Add it all to your new vision board.

Your vision board is a living document. Your dreams and goals will change. Some you will achieve and remove from your board to make room for bigger and better dreams. Some you will decide no longer matter, and you’ll trade them for some others. It’s your vision, and it’s entirely up to you what dreams you choose to follow.

Keep your vision board within sight; you’ll be better able to focus on the steps necessary to reach your goals. I keep mine hanging on my wall directly opposite my bed. It’s the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see before going to sleep.

Now, Create Your Goals

Using your vision board as your roadmap, create three SMART business goals and at least two SMART personal development goals. Quantitate each goal and include a deadline date. Write your goals out and keep them visible. If this is not feasible, make sure they are easily accessible.

Keep It Real

It’s fun to fantasize about becoming a millionaire or making a high six-figure salary while sitting on the beach. The problem with this is that it’s just not that realistic. It’s not to say that no one has ever done it, but more than likely, they already had tons of resources like money and contacts that allowed them to delegate while they’re lying on the beach.

When you come up with a figure or a measure for your goal to track, you want the number to be realistic and not just pulled out of thin air.

To be accurate and realistic about how much you can earn, you need to figure out the order of operations at your business.  How many hours will you have available for clients, and how many hours will be set aside for business administration? A typical 40-hour workweek will probably give you four or five hours billable in a day, and the rest of the time, you’ll need to work on marketing and other aspects of your business. If your billable rate is $40 an hour, that will provide a gross income of $1,000/week. Reduce that by business expenses and personal draw to reach your net income. Will that be enough to sustain and grow your business?

Perhaps you can find other ways to increase your billable hours, such as outsourcing or hiring full-time employees. The main thing is that you should not leave these numbers to chance. Design your entire day and figure out what is realistic for your goals in each case. Don’t just pull a number out of the air. Think about the number and how it can happen or not happen before you put it in writing.

Personally Speaking

Use the same process for your personal development goals. Think about what skills you want to improve; how long will it take to develop? Are there classes you can take? A good freelance education source is Freelance University. You can find just about any skill development course you need in their extensive library. Now, create a SMART goal. For example, perhaps you want to become more efficient with Excel to maintain your financial plan or even automate some of your tasks. You could write, “By March 1 (or any date you choose), take an Excel course to increase efficiency with some of my business administration tasks.”

Review Your Goals

Now that you’ve taken the time to create some fantastic goals, set up a schedule to evaluate your goals. I suggest reviewing your goals quarterly at a minimum. Assess where you are, is the goal progressing as you anticipated, are you on track to complete as stated? Make any necessary alterations and keep notes as to why the changes are required.

Planning and working towards your goals should not be a source of stress if you remember to not only think about what you want but also how you will get there. This step helps clarify expectations and makes sure that the goal is SMART and worth your efforts.

The Ivy Lee Time Management Method and Why It Works

time management
time management

The Ivy Lee Time Management Method and Why It Works

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Throughout the years, time management has accumulated many rules and tricks. As a result, there are many proven methods of time management techniques that we use today that appeal to your work type. For example, problem solvers and analytical thinkers may use the Pareto Principle or the Time Blocking Method.  Creative thinkers will do well with the Pomodoro Technique, while critical thinkers may thrive using the Eisenhower Matrix. But only one method boasts simplicity and has stood the test of time and efficiency: The Ivy Lee Method.

What is the Ivy Lee Method?

The method goes back to 1918, when Charles Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, sought help with making his team more efficient. So he scheduled a chat with Ivy Lee, who was a respected businessman and productivity consultant.

Lee agreed to help, free of charge. His only request was to spend 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s executives. Then, he said if the method worked within three months, Schwab could send him a check for whatever he thought the process was worth. Fast forward three months, and the method, although simple, was worth $25,000 in Schwab’s eyes, saying it had been the “most profitable advice he received.”  

Ready to see the steps for this incredibly simple but powerful time management technique?

The Steps

Step 1:
At the end of each workday, write down six tasks you think are essential to accomplish tomorrow. Step 2:
Decide priorities for each of those tasks, ranking them in order accordingly. Step 3:
First thing tomorrow, get started on the first task. Work on it until you finish and then begin the second task. Continue to work through your list, one task at a time. Step 4:
When you finish your day at work, look at your list. Move any unfinished items to tomorrow’s list of 6 tasks for the day. Step 5:
Repeat this method every day of the workweek.

Why it Works

As I said, this method is simple, which is precisely why it works so well. With cell phones, social media, and all other forms of advanced technology, we’ve become activity addicts. As a society, we’re often restless and antsy to do a million things at once, multi-tasking.

We used to believe that multi-tasking was the most effective way to work. But neuroscience has now proven that it is the exact opposite. We get less done in more time and end up frazzled at the end of the day. It can take our brains up to 25 minutes to get back into a work rhythm after we’ve been interrupted. When we multi-task, we switch quickly between tasks and never get into a rhythm, which kills our productivity and stresses us out needlessly.

The Ivy Lee Method is straightforward and goal-oriented. It keeps you on track so that multi-tasking and distractions do not interfere with the important stuff. It provides you will the kind of laser-focus that will help you get through your work tasks without breaking a sweat.


Want to learn more about prioritizing your tasks and get more done in less time?

Our FREE workbook along with the complete time management series will help you take control and manage your time.

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Part I – What Is Your Time Vampire

Part II – 12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part III – Improve Focus and Productivity for Better Time Management

Part IV – The Truth About Procrastinating

4 Easy Tips To Help You Focus On Success


4 Easy Tips To Help You Focus On Success

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Does this sound familiar: It’s 5 o’clock, you’ve been at your desk for eight hours, but nothing has been crossed off your task list? It’s so easy to let your mind get preoccupied and lose track of your goals. And the world is more full of distractions than ever before, and they are all at our fingertips – social networking, computer games, television, mobile devices, Tik Tok! Even if you don’t give in to those distractions, there are life distractions – kids, household chores, errands… How do you stay focused on success?

First, it’s important to understand that no one can remain focused on one thing all day every day. That would be impossible, especially in this world where multiple demands are characteristic of the average day. But you can focus on success by adopting a successful mindset. Here are some ideas on keeping focused on success.

Keep a Log

Every day, write in a log or journal about what you did for your business that day. Highlight all your successes and things you did toward your goals. If you spent the morning designing a logo, that’s not wasted time – that’s a success, and a step toward your goal. When you log in this way, you will also be able to see areas where you are losing focus and need to step things up a bit.

Write Your Goals Down

You probably know this, but writing down your goals is important. What you may not have thought of is displaying them where you can see them. Keep them nearby – maybe even frame them – so that you can look often and get your mind back on achieving success. I keep mine pinned to my bulletin board and review them often. 


Visualizing takes the concept of the daydream up several notches. You remember the movie  “If you build it, they will come”, same with seeing it. Take some time every day to visualize your success. It only takes a few quiet minutes to envision yourself succeeding. Be specific – imagine yourself meeting clients, making them happy, and then imagine those clients telling others. Try to make it real, as if you’re watching it happen. Think in vivid colors, sights, and sounds.

Go For It

Experts say that it can hamper your success if you keep thinking you need a backup plan “just in case.” It may be better just to go for it 100 percent and not look back. Otherwise, you may jump into your backup plan at the first sign of trouble, and success takes effort.

Gaining control of your focus is no easy task. Once you get into the habit of setting your daily goals and visualizing your successes, you’ll get more done with seemingly very little effort.  Taking the time to create new positive habits, and challenging yourself to focus more can all result in a changed attitude and the ability to focus on success.

Not sure where your time is being spent? Download our FREE Time Management workbook and learn:

✓ How to identify things that waste your time

✓ How to determine what is getting done, and if it’s the right things

✓ How to better organize your priorities

✓ How to plan your days, weeks, and months to reach your yearly goals

✓ How to improve your focus and productivity

✓ How to stop procrastinating habits and patterns so you get more done in less time

 …and a whole lot more!

What Is Your Time Vampire?

Time Vampire

What Is Your Time Vampire?

Part I of our Time Management Series

One of our most valuable resources is time. In fact, in some ways, time is the only limited resource. Every person has the same time each day to accomplish whatever it is that they desire. On average, most people have approximately the same number of years of life to achieve all that they want too.

If that’s true, why do some people seem to get a fantastic amount accomplished, while others seem to lack time to do the same, even given the same time to get things done?

The truth is that many people sabotage themselves when it comes to being productive. They waste time without even thinking about it, in ways that do not notice, and then wonder how they’ll ever be successful with the limitations given to them.

The first thing to do to eliminate time wasters in your life is to recognize them for what they are and how they affect your life. Once you identify what is wasting your time, either delegate the task or item or eliminate it. That sounds easy, but some things may be more challenging to identify than others.

Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place, turn off your phone – set up a no distraction zone, and find your time vampires.

Be Honest About How You’re Spending Your Time

You’ll need to get real with yourself. It’s so easy to say that you don’t have time for things, but how much time are you really spending on Facebook, watching TV, surfing the Internet, gaming, and doing things that do not lead you toward meeting your responsibilities and realizing your life’s goals? Can you spend your time better? Absolutely!

What is a Timewaster?

For most people, time wasters are apparent. They consist of activities like watching TV, surfing social media, playing games, and doing things that get in the way of productivity haphazardly. For others, they may need to dig to figure out where they’re leaking time. For example, is a friend calling you every day and talking to you an hour or more? Does a co-worker stop by your desk for “one quick question” that turns into a 30-minute chat session?

Even things that seem significant on the surface, like talking to your co-worker, can end up becoming a time sucker if you are allowing it to get in the way of your overall schedule. Write down any item that you think might be a timewaster.

Do you procrastinate on this task?

Now let’s look at some tasks at which you tend to procrastinate. Make a list of them without any judgment. Right now, don’t deem them as timewasters or essential tasks. If you tend to put it off, or often don’t do it until the last possible minute, or even at all (even when it’s needed), write it down.

The truth is, most of the items you procrastinate about are going to be timewasters, but they might not be something you think of immediately as a timewaster. Of course, you must pay your bills, but if you put it off, pay them late, do it last minute, and aren’t scheduling and organizing, you’re wasting time someplace.

What Bottlenecks can you Identify?

Look at a day, or a week, of your life. Write down any times of the day that seem overwhelming in terms of the time you have available versus what you need to accomplish. For example, are you having trouble preparing healthy meals on practice nights? Are you missing deadlines to submit work to clients? Do you often feel rushed and overwhelmed? Write down each time that happens during the week that you monitor.

Each situation needs to be analyzed so that you can figure out how better to accomplish your tasks. For example, on practice nights, eat leftovers for dinner, such as leftover turkey wraps that can easily be thrown together in 15 minutes and eaten with the hands.

Are You Losing Track of Time? Why?

During some portions of your day, you may find that you’re losing track of time when you’re doing those things. For example, some people lose track of time while surfing on the internet, or social media. They’re looking for a 30-minute recipe to cook their favorite meal, but they get sucked into the internet, and it takes an hour or two to find the recipe.

Other things might be less noticeable. However, if you think something takes 30 minutes to do and it really ends up taking an hour or more to do, you’re either losing track of time for some reason, or it really takes longer, and you’ve scheduled incorrectly.

Can You Identify an Outside Source That’s Distracting You?

Some timewasters almost seem as if they’re utterly uncontrollable because they come from outside sources. They can be family, friends, colleagues, and bosses, and others, causing the issue for you. Identify these issues for yourself. Once you realize what’s happening, start setting boundaries, or find a way to work around the person or thing distracting you.

People really cannot multitask/ Our brains are simply not wired for it; we just think we can. If you have set aside time to journal each night to become more thankful, you may be wasting time by keeping the television on while doing it. However, knitting a birthday sweater while you watch TV might work out great. The only way to know whether you’re more productive without multitasking or not is to try doing things without multitasking and time yourself.

What Is and What Is Not Getting Done?

Believe it or not, sometimes, the things that are getting done don’t even need to be done and get in the way of you getting important things done.

Make a list of things and tasks that are and are not getting done. What was the purpose of the tasks you completed? Were they a part of your plan, or did you get sidetracked? What about the tasks not getting done at all by you or anyone due to being overlooked. Put all these in order of importance. If you want them to get done, put them at the top of the list. If they don’t matter in the scheme of things, put them at the bottom, and then eliminate them.

Time Vampires

Let’s talk about a few of the typical time vampires that you probably want to work on stopping right now. You’ll likely find more as you work toward discovery in your situation, but most people can agree that the following are common time suckers that you should stop doing now.

Not Setting Goals

The very first thing you should do is to set goals based on your morals and values for your entire life. Set life goals for your life psychologically, physically, and spiritually in each area of your life, including personal, relationships, and work. For example, if you want to be healthy, you’ll need to set healthy eating goals, healthy exercise goals, and so forth, according to the results you desire.

Once you have set your goals, you need to look hard at the tasks you perform and ask yourself:

Does this task align with my goals?

If you feel any resentment at all about a task, it’s important to ask yourself questions about your goals and how the task helps or does not help.

What deliverable will result from doing this task?

When you do this task, what is the result of doing it?

Does doing this task move me closer to my goals? How?

All of us can be guilty of doing busy work in life. By asking how the task moves you nearer your goals, you will find you can eliminate most busy or filler work. If the task is not moving you toward your goals, and you can do it another way, you should examine that other way to figure out if it’ll work for you. A task that many can identify with is going to meetings. So many meetings are useless and time vampires.

Not Planning and Scheduling What’s Important to You

Once you have identified what’s important to you, it’s essential to create a plan and make a schedule of the steps in chronological order of what you need to do to get to success and reach your goals in the time frame you’ve set up for yourself. For example, if you believe it’s important to eat dinner with the family four nights out of seven, what are you doing to ensure it happens? Likewise, if you want to publish an 80,000-word novel by December, what do you need to do to get there?

Lack of Organization and Systemization

One reason people don’t reach their goals promptly has to do with not organizing based on the actual amount of time you have to do the tasks. If you want dinner on the table at 7:00 pm each night, plan the meal carefully, consider the time it takes for prepping, cooking, and setting the table.

Plus, not creating systems with automation in place is a huge time sucker. For example, there is no reason to spend hours paying bills each month when you can automate the process via your bank. You can even organize and systemize family dinner by assigning each person a task to do that ends up with dinner being on the table by 7:00 pm in a realistic manner.

Not Delegating and Always Doing Everything Yourself

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a salary earner, or an entrepreneur, you can’t do everything yourself. It’s imperative to your future that you learn to delegate and stop trying to do everything yourself. There are people in your life that can help you, and if you don’t have those people yet, you can find them.

Ask yourself: What is the point of doing this task? What is the reason you’re doing it? Assess every task to decide whether you need to do it yourself, or you should let someone else do it.

Delegate any task that you do not need to do specifically. Underline any task that you can transfer, even if you don’t think you know who to ask or you don’t think you can afford it. Just note the ones that you can delegate.

Not Setting Boundaries and Saying Yes Without Thought

This is usually related to being a people pleaser, too. Some people call these people “yes” people. You see them in every single PTA, Church Group, Office, and volunteer opportunity. Some may see this person as the “go-for,” who gets things done for others. These people are often stressed, overwhelmed, and have low self-esteem.

Many people-pleasers say yes to every single ask of them without even thinking. This is a huge time vampire because there is no reason why you need to say yes to everything. First, weigh the things people ask you to determine if it’s worth being involved or not. An excellent way to decide is to have criteria for saying yes.

Ensure that doing this will get you closer toward your goals in each life area. Check your calendar to be sure that you do have the time available before saying yes. Say yes with enthusiasm or no without guilt.

Now take a look at your own life and start identifying time vampires. Only you can truly determine what a time sucker is and what is not. For some people spending five minutes on social media is a time suck, but it might be how you schedule your downtime. It’s your time, so if you can reach the goals you set for yourself, you can choose what tasks you want to do and what responsibilities you don’t want to do.

Tell us what your Time Vampires are.

Use the workbook along with the other guides in this series to take control and manage your time.  [download_after_email id=”2240″]

Part I – What Is Your Time Vampire

Part II – 12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part III – Improve Focus and Productivity for Better Time Management

Part IV – The Truth About Procrastinating

12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

12 steps time management time vampires
Time Management, Time Vampires

12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part II of the Time Management Series


Now that you’ve identified the time-vampires in your life, you can now work on finding more time in your day. Once you let go of time wasters and focus on being productive without over scheduling, you’re going to meet your life goals faster than you think.

1. Check Your Attitude

If you don’t believe you have control over your own time and that you can eliminate time wasters, gain more time, and get more done, quite simply – you won’t. When it comes to time, it can be challenging to develop an abundance mindset. Not only can you eliminate time wasters, but with smart delegation, you can buy more time.

2. Go to Bed and Get Up and the Same Time Each Day

It might seem counterproductive when you want more time, but by going to bed on time and sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night, avoiding over or under sleeping, you will create a situation where your mind and body get used to functioning at the time you need it.

Going to bed and rising at the same time every day is going to give you more energy. You’ll be more productive after a good night’s sleep. When your mind is clear and not sleepy, you can do more, better, and faster.

And finally, it gives you the same amount of time each day to be super productive.

3. Breathe

Take the time to take a few deep breaths. In through your nose on a count of four, slowly – now hold it in, count to four, and then slowly let the air out of your mouth on a count of four.

Practicing this breathing technique for 5 minutes is a great way to center yourself before starting your day.

Take one or two deep breaths before each task to calm you and set your focus.

4. Organize Tasks by Priorities

Essentially, you need to organize tasks in one of four quadrants to determine how you should schedule it.

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent – This includes crises, projects with deadlines, and pressing problems.

Quadrant 2: Important and Non-Urgent – This includes building good relationships, new opportunities, and recreation.

Quadrant 3: Not Important and Urgent – These include issues like emails, phone calls, meetings, interruptions, and especially things happening now when you’re trying to do something else.

Quadrant 4: Not Important and Non-Urgent – These types of tasks are often called busy work and can include calls, emails, fun games, water cooler chats, and are usually time wasters.

5. Schedule Everything Realistically

Once you have an exact list of things you need to do, learn to schedule everything realistically with deadlines. Batch all tasks or errands, and use your time wisely.

Are you running errands? Combine efforts to ensure you don’t spend too much time in the car. If your dry cleaner is near the market, drop off your dry cleaning before picking up groceries. You’re going to pass it anyway, so don’t make a second, time wasteful trip.

Don’t schedule time wasters and always add high-value tasks over low-value tasks. High-value tasks move you closer to your goals. Low-value tasks do nothing to advance your goals and can even take you backward.

6. Delegate More

Delegate jobs when you can. In some cases, you can delegate household tasks to family members according to their age.

For many of your business tasks, you’ll want to hire someone. A virtual assistant can easily assume the low-value but necessary tasks that take up so much of your time.

Spending money is often a roadblock when it comes to delegating. However, it can be seen as a money-saver, particularly if it’s eliminating your time vampires and helping you stay on track. For example, ordering groceries for delivery might have an additional charge. Still, the fact that it eliminates a couple of hours of work, plus the possibility of picking up junk that interferes with your goal of eating healthy, is a win-win.

7. Plan Your Day the Night Before

8. Cross Things Off Your Schedule

Each night at a specified time, set aside 10 minutes to plan tomorrow’s tasks. Look at your master schedule to quickly see what you need to do at a glance, and then organize it in order of importance. Do the most important tasks first.

This is also an excellent time to review your day. What did you get accomplished, what needs a follow-up, and what tasks didn’t you have time to do.

As you accomplish your tasks on any given day, make sure you take the time to cross them off your list. This will provide you with another look at your schedule and calendar, so you don’t forget anything, plus it feels good to check something off the list.

I have a whiteboard calendar, and I use small post-it notes to keep my month on track. My daughter saw this and immediately adopted her own version. She says it is very satisfying to take that sticky note off, crush it in her hand and toss in the garbage when she completes a task.

My point here is, the more you focus on feelings of accomplishment, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going.

9. Use Gap Time

No matter what you do, you’re going to find that you have some gap times in your day. You’ll be waiting in lines, waiting for your doctor, commuting, waiting to pick up your kids, waiting while they’re at practice, and so forth. Sometimes you know when you’re likely going to have to wait on something, but sometimes it’s going to be a surprise.

Keep something with you that enables you to be productive during gap times. If you knit, bring your knitting; if you read, bring a book. If you are a writer, you can bring your laptop. It’s up to you what you do during gap times, but it’s an excellent time to be productive, and it’s also a perfect time to read for pleasure. It depends on your goals what you choose to do during your gap times.

10. Let Go of Guilt

One problem people often experience when they try to get rid of time-vampires is guilt. No one wants to explain to their mother why they cannot talk for an hour every day at 3 pm. However, know that guilt is a wasted emotion. Choose to do things or not do something and just let go of the blame.

11. Arrive Early

One other way to get more time in your day is to arrive at every appointment you have 15 minutes early. That might add gap time to wait, but you have a plan for that. More than likely, it’s going to ensure that you are on time, not rushed, and due to that keep, your mind functioning at a high level.

12. Be Done When You’re Done

One thing about being productive and managing your time better is that it is crucial to accept that perfectionism and procrastination are roadblocks that waste time. It’s okay if the towels are not folded the way you want them as long as the folding gets done.

It’s okay if someone formatted the report slightly different from how you’d have done it if it’s what the client wants. It’s okay that dinner was delivered tonight instead of made from scratch. It’s okay to stop tweaking something when it no longer changes the substance. Let go and accept being done, and you’ll discover so much more time in your day.

For most people, the first step toward eliminating time vampires is identifying and acknowledging them and then working toward replacing them with planning, goal setting, and decisive action. TV, internet, games, email, social media, and so forth can be substantial time-vampires, but that doesn’t mean you should never participate in those fun things. Of course, you should. However, when you are doing it, do it with purpose. Know how long you’re going to spend and make it a fun event and not something you do out of habit.

If you find that you are procrastinating on doing anything, you have to dig deep into the why of it. Organize things better, set a deadline, cut out all distractions, and get the thing done as quickly as possible. The ball is in your court.

Next week I’ll show you how to improve your focus and productivity so you can manage your time better.

If you have any comments or questions, please post them below or on our Facebook page. Have a wonderfully productive week!


Use the workbook along with the other guides in this series to take control and manage your time.  [download_after_email id=”2240″]

Improve Focus and Productivity For Better Time Management

focus and productivity
focus and productivity

Improve Focus and Productivty for Better Time Management

Part III of the Time Management Series

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Improving your focus and productivity so that you can manage your time better is within your grasp. It’s all about knowing how to set goals, create well thought out to-do lists, and then implement the actionable schedule you create. With planning, mindfulness, and mindful dedication, you can become a very productive and focused person in all areas of your life.

Create and Set Smart Goals

If you want to be productive, and focus on your goals, learn how to set SMART goals. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. When you ensure that your goals meet the criteria, it’s easier to create a to-do list that leads to your desired results.

For example, if you want to keep your home organized, the first thing you need to do is write a SMART goal for it. Depending on your goal, it may look similar to this one below.

Smart Goal Example and Elements

“By December 20, 2020, every room in the house will be organized and decluttered for maximum productivity. All items unused the last year will be donated or thrown out; items kept will be organized for maximum usability. I will accomplish this by tackling one room per week in my home, including the garage and the car.”

Identify which elements below have been included in the sample goal above to help you format goals for your personal needs.

  • Specific: Every room, including the car and the garage, will be organized and decluttered. Write down everything you’re going to do as precisely as possible.
  • Measurable: It’ll be done, one room a week, by December 20, 2020. Write down what constitutes done for each area. Go ahead and list out each room and what you will do in every room.
  • Achievable: There are 12 “rooms” when you add the garage and the car. I will list in the calendar one room and spell out what is to be done in each room for that month, each day, including putting the task list on each day of the month that I should be doing it.
  • Realistic: I know that I have 1 hour a day to devote to the organization and decluttering of my home.
  • Timely: One room will be done each week, at one hour of work per day, from 7 am until 8 am five days a week, and I will complete all rooms by December 20, 2020.

Go through your objectives and create SMART goals based on the result you want to achieve. Whether it’s home, work, personal, or family issues, you can accomplish a lot by taking the time to truly get your goals into writing and then break them down. Be as precise as possible; this will allow you to create a useful task list.

Create Effective Task Lists

Once you have developed SMART goals, use those objectives to build your to-do list. The list will become your schedule that you put in your calendar. You’ll use those entries to make daily task lists that help you get done with the things you’ve set an intention for doing.

Creating useful to-do lists will increase your productivity because it’ll be clear what you need to do to complete any item on the list. You will know if it’s a small step toward a bigger goal or just a step in your day that you want to hold yourself accountable for doing.

Choose the Right Tools & Technology – You know yourself best. What tools will you use? Don’t waste your time trying to use something just because everyone else is using it. However, do give technology a chance because you never know when you’ll find a tool that resonates with your way of doing things.

Write Actionable Tasks – When you write down your tasks, you want to write them down very specifically in actionable terms. Use words that truly describe the action you need to do to get to the result you want to reach. Instead of “clean the drawers,” try “Clean out the top drawer in the master bath for 15 minutes by tossing anything not used for a year and organizing the rest in containers that make it easy to see what’s in there.”

Prioritize Your Lists – It’s essential to know how to set priorities. It’s easy to put things in order of due date. Therefore, assign due dates to anything you want to get done promptly.

Daily Scheduling – Your to-do list should only consist of the things you will do in that one day. For best results, you don’t want to fill each day from wake up to sleep time because you’ll run out of time. Put only the actions you’re going to do that day on the list.

Set a Time Limit – Give yourself a time limit regarding when you should be done with the task and how long you think the task will last. Make the time limit realistic, and give yourself a slight buffer before and after each task.

Understand What You Need to Focus On

One thing that can be confusing is that busy is not the same thing as productive. You can be busy and be productive, just as you can be busy without ever being productive. Outside forces can also decrease your focus. For example, if you don’t feel well, it will be hard to focus on anything.

Know the Goals and Results You Expect – If you have a business, you may want to focus on tracking the results from your Facebook Advertisement. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to monitor your calories, micronutrients, and exercise. If you’re going to learn a new language, you will want to track your lessons and practice sessions to find out if you’re improving over time. Whatever you need to focus on will be due to the result you’re hoping to achieve.

Focusing on the right thing often requires you to make an educated guess about the situation and track the results. You can always adjust as you move forward.

Prepare Your Brain for Each Task – One issue that many people have with getting things done is a lack of direction. They jump from one thing to the next without knowing why they’re doing it or what the results should be from doing whatever it is that they’re doing. If you want to be successful and productive, take the time to prepare your brain for each task that you need to do.  Read my blog on Mastering Brain Power for Success

Stop Between Tasks – Give your mind enough time to transition between tasks. Setting up your day so that you don’t overwork yourself in any area while getting things accomplished on time will help you focus more. When you plan for breaks in your day, you’ll end up enjoying your day more, and you’ll get more done too.

Review Your Actions – First, you need to ensure you have created SMART goals so that you have something to measure. Then use technology to measure the results of what you are doing. For example, if you are trying to get more traffic to your blogging site, you’ll want to look at the traffic generating actions to compare what works and what doesn’t. If you’re trying to think more positively, it might take more work to track your negative thoughts and your positive ones, but you can do that too.

Discover Your Peak Time – Everyone has a time when they can do specific tasks better than others. There are day people and night people. Some thrive on a high-pressured deadline-driven day, and others do not. Find the way that works for you. The way that you enjoy working and get the most accomplished for each task. If you assign yourself the task during your peak time, you’ll do that one thing best; you’ll see more results.

Test and Adjust – Once you note what works and what doesn’t work, do more of what is bringing the results that you want. Then track the results. Most things need a minimum of 21 days to find out if they’re working in the way you want them to, but some ideas might take more time, even up to a year, to know if it’s the most productive that delivers your desired result. Once you try the new plan, analyze it, and then adjust it if you need to so that you can make it even better.

For example, what if you could exercise only 30 minutes a day and get the same results as a 40-minute workout? What if you can eliminate a task because it doesn’t produce results compared to another action you can take? How much time will you be saving then?

Know What Makes You Tick

One thing to keep in mind about improving your focus and productivity is that you’ll need to take a deep dive into what makes you get excited about working to your full potential.

SWOT Analysis – What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Do this in each area of your life, personal, professional, spiritual, and social, each as needed.

Why Do You Get Up in The Morning? –  As Simon Sinek suggests, “Start With Why.”  What inspires you to do what you do? What do you hope to achieve in your life overall? Try writing your obituary as if you die at 120 years old after living the life you really want to live. Remember to write it from the perspective of every critical aspect of your life.

 What works best for you? –  Do you learn better by doing, by touching, by watching, by example, or what?

Do you feel energized or drained after spending time with others? How do you communicate with others best? Are you a morning or night person? Knowing this about yourself is vital. All of these are things that you can improve or accept them and work around them.

For example, suppose during your discovery phase, you learn that you’re spending 4 hours a day watching TV or surfing on the internet. It will be up to you to accept that this interferes with your productivity if you truly want to do better. No one can do that for you.

Likewise, if you discover that you’re a night person, but you have to get up at 5 am every day for work, you may have to accept that this is not ideal until you can find another way to generate income. But you can still work around it by moving detailed tasks to later in the day when you’re able to focus better.

When you apply the knowledge you have gathered about yourself to improve your focus and productivity, you will find it easier to manage your time. Whether you need to do the hard things in the morning or at night, it does not matter. The best solution is the one that works best for you and enables you to tap into your most productive times while reaching the most productive results.

Use the workbook along with the other guides in this series to take control and manage your time.  [download_after_email id=”2240″]

Part I – What Is Your Time Vampire

Part II – 12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part III – Improve Focus and Productivity for Better Time Management

Part IV – The Truth About Procrastinating