Maximize Your Time: 10 Tips for Extreme Productivity

1) Know your work style and use the tools and systems that match. If you work well with technology, use your computer, phone, and apps for your scheduling and organization. If you are a visual person, consider using a paper calendar and a written to-do list. If you are a people person, develop a team around you to complement your strengths. If you work alone, find time to focus and remain distraction-free. If you are a morning person, attack the most important tasks early in the day.

2) Use ONE calendar. Sometimes people will have several calendars: one for family, one for work, one for personal appointments. Keep ONE calendar for everything. Use different colors or type styles to differentiate categories. Personally, I am very visual and remember things better when I write them down, therefore I have a paper calendar for my appointments, but due to the need for dynamic communication I have a Google calendar to support my scheduling, which might appear like two calendars, however, this calendar is a mirror of the paper one and has everything on it. While it is extra work to have both, it is one calendar (paper or digital) with all the information.

3) Make a to-do list at the end of each day. Your mind naturally begins to work on the list as you sleep. When you awake, you are ready to work, are very productive and organized. Estimate how much time each task will take you and only put on your next day to-do list what is reasonable to get done.

4) “Eat your frog first.” A Brian Tracy concept*: Do the hardest thing you have to do all day first before you do anything else. Doing this will provide you with the feeling of success in having a “burden” off your back and the momentum to accomplish the remaining tasks.

5) Have a clear goal; write it down and read it daily. When you have a goal you know what to focus on and work toward. If you do not have this at the front of your mind, it is easy to get caught up with the urgent things of the day or trapped in reacting to e-mail, phone calls, interruptions, and other people’s emergencies.

6) Have a “power hour.” Designate one hour each day to close the door, shut down e-mail, turn off the ringer on the phone and guard yourself from interruptions. Have a pre-picked project that you will work on during this time only. Make sure to go to the bathroom, get a drink, and do whatever else you need to in order to ensure you do not leave once this hour starts. Give yourself 30 minutes after this hour to return calls, e-mails, and care for people with whom you need to follow up that you missed during the POWER HOUR.

7) Touch it once. This means e-mail, mail, papers, etc. Touch it and make a decision. File it, toss it, or put it in a place for action. Sorting bins are helpful for this. Sorting bins often have labels like: read, file, do this week, urgent, bills, etc. Also, if your subject lines in e-mails are accurate, it is easy for both you and the recipient to find the e-mail. Paper, soft copy (computer), and e-mail folders should have matching labels.

8) Have daily habits. After you develop a routine of things that are simple but important, your body will naturally do them. This is important because we can get distracted by our regular routines and use them as vices to interrupt, procrastinate, and prolong important things that really need to get done. If you start your day right, you will be ready to do those urgent and important tasks, increasing your everyday productivity.

9) Pre-prep. Have you ever been amazed on cooking shows how they make a complicated dish in 10 minutes? OK, part is edited TV time, but they also have everything pre-prepped for quick assembly. Why not do the same? Prepare your information packets and new client folders, turn common documents into a template, set up e-mail group/ distribution lists for teams, etc.

10) Maximize car systems. Listen to a book on audio to maximize your windshield time and learn. Have a bin to put important things in, rather than having them all over the car. Have a trash bag to catch the liter. Always have a bottle of water in the car with you; dehydration causes fatigue, memory loss, and low concentration. Make sure your contacts are portable (e.g, phone, planner, business card file book) so you can keep people and numbers at your fingertips (so that you can call if you’re running late, caught in traffic, etc.). Enjoy relaxing, breathing, and taking in the day while driving (rather than cleaning, talking on the phone, etc.)

When you implement a few simple productivity strategies and develop them as time-saving habits, you will quickly enjoy the benefit of more time and energy and overall increased productivity.

*Tracy, Brian. Eat that Frog! 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2001

8 Reasons to Avoid Extreme Sports

People advertise extreme sport events and courses like it’s something safe and cool you want to do. Ha! But it’s not! It’s not like learning to play chess or watching a cool movie, not at all.

Here is why:

1. You can get injured or die.

It may sound very convincing that the rate of people who die in car accidents is higher than the rate of those who die from parachute jump. But no matter what stats they show you, the truth is one – you can die or at least get seriously injured when practicing extreme sports. It happens all the time.

And you know of course, those who don’t do such stupid things live forever.

2. It will cost you money.

Every extreme sport requires some equipment. For some sports like skateboarding it’s cheaper, for some like scuba diving it’s more expensive – but without exception, practicing extreme sports will cost some of your hard earned money.

Isn’t it much better idea to spend your money on fashion branded t-shirts or cool tech gadgets?

3. It takes time.

More often than not practicing an extreme sport requires you to go to a special place somewhere (water, mountain, hill). It takes time to get there, it takes time to practice, it takes time to get back home, it takes time to take rest. Sometimes the extreme sport can occupy all your free time.

Isn’t this sad? You could use this time for such great activities like playing video games instead.

4. Your career may suffer.

The extreme sport will not only occupy your time – it will occupy your brain too. You will think about it, about the good time, about the next good time you’ll do it. This often kills motivation at work and makes you only wait till the end of the work day.

It’s so much better to be a good employee, grow in career and get good stable salary!

5. You may fall in love.

There are two ways you may fall in love – first, you may, and most probably will, fall in love with the extreme sport you are doing. This is so bad because of the reason already mentioned. Second, you may fall in love with some of your partners, a trainer or instructor.

What an uncomfortable situation, it’s much better to stay in your comfort zone and avoid falling in love with crazy things.

6. You will feel bad at the times when you can’t practice.

You’ll miss your extreme sport when you are at work, when you are far away from appropriate place, when you have no time or money, when the weather is not good… You’ll miss it all the time. And missing something hurts, believe me.

Life is a lot more painless when you have nothing to miss and nothing to lose, isn’t it?

7. Your old friends will think you are crazy.

I bet they will. Imagine how they’ll look at you when you tell them you won’t join the Friday party because you have to raise up early and go to skydive. They’ll think you’re fool. Many of them will be bored when you excited tell them about your latest achievement in mountain biking. Some will even feel bad when you become more fit as a result of the extreme sport.

And just think a minute about the moment when you get some injury. “I told you so, I told you so!”.

8. You will lose interest in some regular activities

Practicing an extreme sport will brainwash you so much that you may stop being interested in some regular activities you enjoy now. It’s not just work. You will stop being interested in cool things like watching TV shows, playing video games, and even doing funny tests in Facebook.

Can you imagine this? Horrible!

How to Be an Extreme Encourager

Many years ago, when I first shared my dream of being a songwriter with one of my best friends, she knitted her brows and said, “Huh?”

I can’t say I was deflated by all of the warnings that followed. After all, I had always been surrounded by this kind of “practical thinking.” In fact, I probably shared my dream with her just so she’d talk me out of it.

During this fumbling stumbling time in my life, I met a man who became an unlikely best friend and mentor. He was a brilliant jazz musician, and he could do pretty much anything on the computer. 

One night, after he performed at a local jazz club, we were walking towards my car. I told him my dream of being a songwriter. Without even blinking, he said, “Honey (he always called me Honey), you’d be a fabulous songwriter. That’s perfect!” And he meant it.

At that moment, I felt like I was falling into a soft clean bed. I had never experienced such direct and truthful encouragement without a single “practical” warning attached to it. This friend set me free by offering one simple thing:

Encouragement.

Fast forward many years and successes and failures later. I’m surrounded by encouragers.   I’m sure there are doubters around.   But they don’t register anymore. 

Also, I have become an extreme encourager myself.

I’ve observed extreme encouragers. I’ve also recognized some traits that they all have in common. Here they are:

o An extreme encourager lives by example

The best encouragers are the ones who live it. Whether they’re just getting started, or they’re veteran risk-taking creativity-living wild-women – the encouragers are the ones who want a bigger life for themselves and are willing to “go there.”   This is why my jazz musician friend could simply offer encouragement when my other friend could not.

o An extreme encourager actively listens

Encouragers know that encouragement doesn’t mean you just tell people to “buck up” or “get over it.” They know how to listen. This means looking at the speaker, listening to her, setting agendas and judgments aside, and honoring the speaker as a wise soul.

o An extreme encourager avoids clichés

Avoiding clichés is actually a result of actively listening to someone. Being an extreme encourager doesn’t mean that you blindly tell people “You can do it!” or “Let go of fear!” It’s deeper than that. It’s seeing the truth of the other person, especially when they cannot.

o An extreme encourager acknowledges the hooglie-booglies, but doesn’t focus on them

We all have the hooglie-booglies. These are the voices that tell us we can’t, or we shouldn’t, or we’ll fail, or we’ll look stupid. An encourager doesn’t focus on those voices because she knows they they’re trying to hook her. An encourager simply acknowledges that the voices are there and that you can’t make them go away by arguing with them. An encourager knows that those voices aren’t the truth. They only SEEM like the truth.

o An extreme encourager remembers that no one knows what’s best for anyone else

An encourager knows that we are all wise and that sometimes we make choices that might not seem so wise. An extreme encourager calls out our deepest desires and then helps us see the thoughts and fears that hold us back.

o An extreme encourager accepts miracles, grace and mystery as the deeper truth.

Extreme encouragers are often mystics of sorts. They know that the so-called “woo-woo” stuff is more real than the so-called “logical” stuff. They celebrate the divine as a simple fact of everyday existence and don’t get caught up in the “prove it” mindset.

o An extreme encourager knows that you can develop the needed character traits as you go

In other words, she knows you’re ready now, even if you’re not perfect yet! I shudder when I read advice that discourages people from trying something because of character traits “required” in advance. “You shouldn’t blog if you’re not disciplined.” “If you don’t have focus, you can’t be a writer.” Most of the successful people I know developed these traits as they went. I certainly did. Encouragers understand the huge potential for growth in each human, especially when someone begins to follow her heart. 

I’m grateful to the encouragers! And I’m grateful to be able to pass it on to others – either my friends, or to women in my retreats or my coaching clients! 

Who has given you the encouragement you needed in your life? And do you pass it on now?