Monday, January 30, 2006

Working Smarter - more on time management

Cultivating Your Enterprising Nature by Jim Rohn

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Enterprising people simply do more with their 24 hours – working not harder but smarter.

We're all aware that many people feel that we must be careful when focusing on money or affluence or abundance … that in the pursuit of those things, there is danger. If you pursue money and affluence to the exclusion of other values in life, you have lost, not won.

However, let's consider this question: If you could do better financially, should you? In the time you have allotted to labor, economics, success, achievement, productivity, the creation of value, the development of skills and creativity, if you could do better, should you?

I believe one of the greatest satisfactions of living life to the fullest is doing the best you can with whatever you have. Doing anything less than your best has a way of eroding the psyche. We are creatures of enterprise. Life seems to say to us, "Here are the raw materials — your creativity, and 24 hours to use it. What splendid things can you produce?"

The Enterprising Person
Enterprising people are those people disciplined and dedicated enough to seize opportunities that present themselves ... regardless of the current situation, struggles, or obstacles.

Think of a few people you know who are enterprising. Think of people in the news, in your office, in your neighborhood, who manage to succeed regardless of the obstacles. What do these people have in common? They're probably always on the go, developing a plan, following a plan, reworking the plan until it fits. They're probably resourceful, never letting anything get in the way. They probably don't understand the word no when it applies to their visions of the future. And, when faced with a problem, they probably say, "Let's figure out a way to make it work," instead of, "It won't work."

Enterprising people see the future in the present. They will always find a way to take advantage of situations, not be burdened by them. And enterprising people aren't lazy. They don't wait for opportunities to come to them; they go after the opportunities. Enterprising means always finding a way to keep yourself actively working toward your ambition.

However, we humans can be particularly creative at working at less than our potential.

Work Smarter
It's an obvious — yet often overlooked — truth: rich people have 24 hours a day. And, poor people have 24 hours a day.

The difference between the rich and the poor is in the management of that time. Successful people often work harder and longer than most, but they almost always work smarter.

If we get more from ourselves, if we can make an hour as valuable as 10 hours used to be, we can get as much done in a day as we used to get done in a week. Imagine the potential compounding effect of working smarter.

By practicing a few simple disciplines every day, you can use time like the rich — with focus and effectiveness.

1) Run the day, or it will run you. Part of the key to time management is staying in charge. Some will be masters of their time, and some will be servants. Enterprising people become the masters of their time.

To master your time, you must have clear written goals for each day that you keep with you at all times. It helps to create each day's list the night before. Prioritize your goals for the day and constantly review them.

And here's a good question to ask yourself constantly: Is this a major activity or a minor activity? By asking that question, you will reduce the amazingly natural tendency to spend major time on minor things. In sales training, we are taught that major time is the time spent in the presence of the prospect, while minor time is the time spent on the way to the prospect. If you are not careful, you will spend more time "on the way to" than "in the presence of" your goals.

Before you answer an email, ask yourself if this is a major activity or a minor activity. Before you make a phone call, ask yourself if this is a major phone call or a minor phone call. Enterprising people don't let the minor activities distract them from the major activities — the ones that hold the keys to their success.

2) Don't mistake activity for productivity. You probably know some people who always seem to be busy being busy. To be successful, you must be busy being productive. Some people are going, going, going, but they're doing figure eights. They're not making much progress. Don't mistake activity for productivity, movement for achievement. Evaluate the hours in your days, and see if there is wasted time that you could manage better.

Remember there is an opportunity cost to every single activity you do. The time you spend doing one thing is time you could spend doing something else. Before investing your time in anything, briefly ask yourself if this is the highest leverage activity you could be doing to accomplish the most important priority on your list for the day. And, make sure the activities on your list for the day are the highestleverage opportunities to accomplish your short- and long-term goals.

3) Focus. The third key to time management is good concentration. You've got to zero in on the job at hand and, like an ant, let nothing stand in your way and let nothing distract you from the task. Assuming this is a major activity in pursuit of the highest leverage opportunity available, there should be nothing more valuable to invest your time in.

This is easier said than done. Concentration takes a lot of discipline. It takes discipline to demand privacy, to not react to the minor activities that try to demand your attention, such as new emails and ringing phones.

If you have a long list of things to get done within one day, do the toughest one while your concentration is at its peak. If you're a morning person, get the job done in the morning. Don't wait until the evening when your energy is all spent. Do the jobs that need the most concentration when your body is best able to handle them. One of the greatest enemies of this sort of concentration is worry. Worrying about your future can prevent you from being where you are right now. We all have worries, and they are useful. But, don't let worry distract you. Stay focused on changing what you can change — that is the only true way to overcome the source of your worry anyhow.

Enterprise is always better than ease. Every time we choose to do less than we possibly can, we limit our possibilities — we stifle our potential. You can alter your life by doing a little more each day to work smarter, by developing a habit of efficiency rather than the habit of activity.

The Ant Philosophy
When was the last time you saw ants reach an obstacle and give up with their heads down and head back to the ant hole to relax? Never. If they're headed somewhere and you try to stop them, they will look for another way. They'll climb over, they'll climb under, they'll go around — regardless of the effort involved. What a neat philosophy, to never quit looking for a way to get where you're supposed to go.

Here's another question. How much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for winter? All that it possibly can. Ants don't have quotas or "good enough" philosophies. They don't gather a certain amount and then head back to the hole to "hang out." If an ant can do more, it does. Imagine what you could accomplish if you never quit and always did all that you could do.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Cure for Procrastination

by Earl Nightingale

© 2005 Nightingale-Conant Corporation


Have you ever noticed that the longer you look at something you should be doing, the more difficult it seems to appear? That the longer you put off something you should do, the more difficult it is to get started?

A good deal of frustration and unhappiness could be avoided if people would just do what they know they should do.

The great newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane once wrote, "Don't exaggerate your own importance, your own size, or your own miseries. You are an ant in a human anthill. Be a working ant — not a ridiculous insect pitying yourself." Strong language, maybe, but there's a lot of sense in it.

A person carrying a heavy weight is all right as long as he keeps moving. The minute he stops, puts the weight on the ground, and sits down to rest, the weight seems to become heavier; the distance to be traveled, greater; and the work, just that much more unpleasant.
Sometimes it must seem to everyone that things have piled up so high that there's just no way of digging out. But there is. Pick the thing that's most important to do, and simply begin doing it. Just by digging in, you'll feel better, and you'll find that it's not nearly as bad as you thought it would be. Keep at it, and before long, that pile of things to do that seemed so overwhelming is behind you — finished.

What overwhelms us is not the work itself. It's thinking how hard it's going to be. It's seeing it get larger every day. It's putting if off and hoping that somehow, through some miracle, it will disappear.

The Chinese have a saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. And that step accomplishes two things. First, it automatically shortens the distance we still have to travel, and, second, and just as important, it makes us feel better, more hopeful — it strengthens our faith. If a person will just keep putting one foot in front of the other, he will be taken into new and exciting places, see new and interesting things, and think thoughts that never would have come to him if he'd remained at the starting point. Then the journey is finished. He wonders how or why he could ever have sat so long and worried and stewed about the time and trouble it would involve to do what he knew he should do.

If you'll think back, you'll remember that you've always been happiest, most contented, after having finished a difficult project or faced up to a responsibility you were worried about. It's never as bad as you think it's going to be, and the joy that will come with its accomplishment makes it more than worthwhile.

Work never killed anyone. It's worry that does the damage. And the worry would disappear if we'd just settle down and do the work.

As Calvin Coolidge put it, "All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work. Work is not a curse; it is the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilization."
© 2005 Nightingale-Conant Corporation

Friday, January 06, 2006

Communication Tips 101

I wouldn't have said better than Loren Ekroth so let's give the master of communcation his due. Link to Loren's site at end of post.


As you anticipate the new year, some of you will be seeking changes in your health, life-style, and careers.

You probably know by now that most New Year's resolutions fail. The main reasons they fail are that goals are unrealistically large and that resolvers have no clear plan to reach their goals.

If you want to improve your conversation skills (and thus your relationships), you can do so with a much greater chance of success by following a few simple procedures. Choose small goals, then take small steps to reach them. Making changes in this way helps you to avoid the kick-back effect you'd encounter if you try to make massive changes in a short time. Your current habits have long been anchored in place and resist change.

Three Small Conversation Goals That Have Big Effects:

1. Listen attentively without interrupting. Give your full attention to the speaker, then check to see that you understood accurately by giving a short summary. Doing this two or three times each day for a few weeks will install this skill as a habit. As well, people will begin to see you as a great communicator.

2. Use more open questions and fewer closed questions. For example, "What are your plans for the holidays?" is an open question that requires a detailed response. "Will you be traveling to your parents' home?" is a closed question that requires only a "yes" or "no" answer. Similarly, "What did you like or dislike about the movie?" elicits detail. "Did you like the movie?" may get a one-word response.

3. Replace saying "Yes, but . . ." by saying "Yes, and . . ." When someone says something you disagree with, don't make them wrong with "Yes, but." Instead, let them know you have a different point of view by adding, "Yes, and in my experience there is another way of understanding that situation." Huge distinction here! - mm

People who are successful at conversation leave clues. As a professional observer of talk-patterns, I have noticed the patterns that work and those that don't. The three small patterns above are relatively easy to install, and adopting even one of them can make a big positive difference in your conversational effectiveness.

Write Mini-Goals and Simple Plans

It's helpful to set one or two small goals, then write them down and read them over once each day. For example:

Goal: "I give my full attention to what others say and check to see that I understand." Deadline: February 2, 2006 Plan: "I will practice giving my full attention when listening at least twice each day until I can do so with comfort and ease."

Partner with Another

If you have a friend who is also making changes, you can partner with them and hold each other accountable by checking in from time to time. For example, Joe wants to lose ten pounds, and you want to listen more effectively. Each of you shares your goal(s) and plan, then every few days checks in with "How are you doing with your goal(s)?

Use Reminders

Because we are so habit-bound, it's easy to forget about what we are trying to achieve. To deal with forgetfulness, use reminders such as wearing your watch on the other hand, or putting a rubber band around your wrist and giving it a little "snap" if you forget. Also, reading over your goal and plan daily will help a lot. You can write your plan on a note-card for review.

If you select a few small goals and take small steps to achieve them, please let me know of your success. Meanwhile, best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Loren Ekroth © 2005 Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life. His articles and programs strengthen critical communication skills for business and professional people. Contact at Check resources and archived articles at