Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

Evolving good intentions into consistent habits

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Early in 2011 I unveiled my new SEO-friendly website (The Loeb Group) and embarked on a strategic web-marketing effort. I thought more carefully about how I used LinkedIn, tweeted daily (mostly sharing others’ tweets that I found insightful), made a point of actively participating (aka commenting) as a member of many professionally-relevant LinkedIn groups and focused on writing two to three blogs per week. I was on a roll and very soon started to reap the benefits of my hard work. Prospective clients found me via google searches. Long-standing clients checked back to discuss doing more work together.

I’m here to testify that this web marketing stuff does work! The only problem was that I soon found myself without a spare moment to keep up with my good web marketing intentions. A week went by with no new blogging. Then a few weeks, a month and too quickly more than two months had passed. While google searches still generated many Beryl Loeb and The Loeb Group links, I could no longer boast that there were pages of links.  

My good intentions had not yet evolved into consistent habits.  Worse…Without doing something quickly — blogging, posting and tweeting — I ran the risk of becoming less and less visible. So I’m back…chastened and committing to getting into the web marketing routine again. 

I’m filled with the best of intentions and hoping that this time, with the knowledge that the effort pays off and that I absolutely need to keep working at it, that I will really, really, really make web marketing a habit.  

Wish me luck…

Just One Thing

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
What’s your “one thing?”

May 2011 bring you just one thing. Focus and specifically focus on what really matters!

Today’s world conspires against being able to focus.  Text messages, Blackberry messages, IMs, Pings and e-mails.  Phone calls from clients, friends and family.   And our too-long to-do lists.  I’ve cautioned in previous blogs about too-long “laundry list” to-do lists. But today, in this new year, I’m proposing that you answer one question in order to determine how to spend your time.

What is the single most important thing you could accomplish today that would help you be successful? (Of course…it helps to have previously defined what success is.)    But once you’ve clarified what success means to you, would writing a blog, networking with 5 new potential clients, sending out a proposal, planning new service offerings, doing research, updating your website or simply de-cluttering your office be the most important thing you could do today?   The tough part is narrowing down your “would like to do’s” to that one, single most important thing.  Your day will still be busy with other meetings you need to attend, calls you have to make and deadlines you have to make.  BUT, you’ll be sure to accomplish the one thing that matters most!

Once you’ve got that one thing — just one thing — figured out, then you need to quickly set aside prime time (not later when you get to it or tonight after you’ve finished all your other work and will most likely feel too tired to think straight), identify what the first step will be and anticipate what the subsequent bite-size steps will be.

Then do it!

Remember you get to identify a different “just one thing” tomorrow.

Einstein persevered

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

While I’m fairly certain that Albert Einstein was, in fact, that smart, he raises a good point.  In an era of non-stop 140-character tweets, beeping e-mail, pinging IM’s, and buzzing text messages, we’re being trained to have shorter attention spans and barely any patience.

This is reality — not news — as my 17-year old daughter noted.  While maybe not news, I still feel bombarded by the growing number of ways in which everyone is being trained to talk and think in short, quick bursts.   Millenials never knew anything different.  But many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are being reprogrammed as technology evolves.   (Apple’s iPad is the latest example.  Steve Jobs launched his latest wonder reclining in a leather arm chair — but this new product makes it easier and faster to flit between book, e-mail and internet searches.)

But while we are moving more quickly, and our brains crave more frequent stimulation, we still, like Einstein, need to s-l-o-w down and tune out all those noisy distractions in order to focus on a problem, mull the possibilities and come up with that solution, that idea, that way of phrasing a message that will prove to have been worth the added time.

  • Don’t rush to ask for help on a problem because you couldn’t immediately figure out a solution and you’re distracted by the new e-mails piling up in your inbox. Persevere, and then if you’re still stuck, absolutely talk the problem through with someone else.
  • Don’t hit send immediately after replying to a valued client’s question just because the digital clock on your laptop is reminding you that seven minutes have gone by.  Breathe.  Read the e-mail aloud.  Then save it as a draft for sixty minutes.   Then read it again — but this time as if you were your client opening the e-mail.
  • Don’t let the barrage of text messages and IMs rush you when you’re drafting an important proposal.  Instead, draft the proposal and let it sit for 24 hours (really…24 hours!).   More than eighty percent of the time you will make worthwhile edits.

I wonder if Einstein’s solutions would have been as brilliant if he’d interrupted his thought process to tweet or respond to a text or search for another song on his iPod.

Resolute — Not a Resolution

Monday, December 21st, 2009

My office is filled with great ideas.  My desk is piled high with articles I’ve saved that are worth referencing in the workshops I lead. The must-read books I’ve collected over the past month or two are lined up on what is supposed to be my work space (next to the oversized workshop materials from sessions I led in November and December).   I just added one more title to  the growing list of smart, new workshops-to-develop posted on my bulletin board.   My current projects are no farther away than my elbow.  Yes…my office is overflowing with great ideas but the net effect is brain (desk and office) clutter with no clear action plan.

Rather than procrastinate (so tempting when there are other things I could do…), I’m dedicating time this week to converting that excited but overwhelmed sense of potential into a prioritized and workable plan.  What better way to prepare for the new year — not as a resolution, but resolutely acting now so that I am ready-to-go in 2010.

  1. Surface Sweep — Today, not tomorrow or next week, I’m organizing the surfaces in my office so that I can see and think clearly.   I’ll evaluate what needs to be filed or tossed.  (Putting stuff back in the same place is not an option.) I’ll decide which book I’m reading next and shelve the others according to whether they are about leadership, management, communication, creativity or business trends.  (Keeping my office library well-organized means that I can find the books I need when I need them.)    I’ll sort through the files and piles on my desk, so that the only thing in view relates to current project work.
  2. Prioritize — I’ll create a list of all the great ideas on one piece of paper vs. post-it notes or piles.  Once captured, I’ll need to decide which of the many ideas will have the greatest impact.   Which ideas will have shorter-term benefit and which are longer-term initiatives that need to be started now in order to pay off by June 2010?  What are the top three (vs. a laundry list of ten, twelve or twenty)?
  3. Make it Happen! — What’s the first step for each of the three most important projects?  What are the do-able “baby steps” to keep the momentum going?  And my commitment to focusing and prioritizing won’t be done until I schedule those first steps — and the subsequent baby steps — on my calendar.

There’s still more I would like to do and will do, but just imagine the impact of the three projects I’ve now scheduled to make happen.  No more time to write this blog….I’m resolute about ending this year uncluttered and focused!

Just Do It!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

“Just do it!’  The often-quoted Nike tag line captured our attention because it is such a compelling call to action.   Here are three ways in which we need to “just do it” in order to successfully complete our projects.

  1. Just capture all the to-do’s cluttering your brain.  The first step is to create the list and only after you’ve got it all down in front of you can you prioritize, realistically assess the importance, urgency, amount of time needed to successfully complete the task and determine if you need any additional resources.  The first step is to know what needs to get done!
  2. Just break down the big, daunting project into bite-size, do-able chunks and then jump in.  The sense of completion you feel after you finish the first chunk will ease you into the rest of the project.  The second step is to battle the tendency to procrastinate because the project feels overwhelming or we don’t know where to begin.
  3. Just transfer all the high-priority and now do-able tasks to your calendar so you block out time to get the work done. If something unexpected pops up don’t give away the time you’d set aside for the task without finding another time slot on your calendar.  Re-think how you schedule your time so that you leave chunks of time open for doing your work. The third step is to schedule the time to get it done!

Just do it…with the confidence that you’re in control.

Open to Options

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

A recent tweet from @SirHendrix on Twitter correctly suggested that “strategic thinking is thinking in options, not being bound to fixed ideas.”  Yes!  Ironically, I would say the same about creative thinking.  Being open to options, open to possibilities, wondering why, asking “what if?” — all helps us think both more strategically and creatively.  

Sounds so simple, but it takes re-training ourselves away from the quick and easier, template, formulaic, fill-in-the-blanks way in which so many of us think, operate, write, make decisions, plan and manage.  

I work really, really, really hard at considering my options when making decisions vs. reacting with a knee-jerk response (though my two teenagers might say I need to work even harder…)   Years of experience, maturity and wisdom have certainly helped me come to a wide range of fixed ideas.  But, what if….?   What are we really trying to achieve and why?  Have I thought about….? What would Joe or Joanna suggest?  How would it alter my decision-making if I make the problem bigger or narrow the scope?   What’s the most optimistic way to think about potential outcomes, and what is the worst possible thing that could happen?   

We all need to rewire our brains so that we stop and wonder, and resist deferring to the way we’ve always done things.    Experience and accumulated wisdom are invaluable — but we are only at our strategic and creative best when we open ourselves to possibilities we haven’t yet considered!


Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Yesterday my internet provider challenged me to find ways to be productive without access to e-mail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blogs.  As the repairman struggled to find the source of my problem, I confess that I was initially a bit disoriented at being so disconnected.    Of course, I wasn’t completely cut off thanks to my still-working Blackberry so my clients were able to reach me….but my routine wasn’t the same.  Despite my baby boomer status (which means I came later-in-life to the internet and social networking), I love searching online for whatever information I crave about anything or anyone.   For whatever reason, I really like overstuffing my already cluttered brain with the endless knowledge I find thanks to my internet connection.

 Unplugging for a day was an adjustment, but, I’m happy to report that it was a healthy and productive one.   I remembered again how much of my work I do offline, untethered to the outside world via my internet connection.  At least my laptop still worked…At least I wasn’t worried yesterday about the Conficker worm…

Linking to LinkedIn Poll

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Created a poll on LinkedIn, asking “What’s the biggest deterrent to high performance in the workplace today?”  So far the data (a small sample and far from scientic) points to lack of clarity about priorities.   What do you think?     Is it:  anxiety over job security, work overload, web 2.0 distractions, lack of motivation or lack of clarity re: priorities?  

Check it out.   Cut and paste this url and let me know what you think:   

Any good anecdotes to share?  Is your response different today because of tighter budgets, shorter deadlines and fewer people?  The responses so far vary by gender, work title and company size.  Interesting…

Monday Morning Brain Clutter

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

My Monday morning to-do list defies the time management and organization best practices I espouse.   “I’m only human,” I keep chanting as I look at the sea of colorful post-it notes adorning my bulletin board, laptop, and too-many piles on my desk.  Though I know to ask myself, “what is the most important use of my time right now?” my brain is too-cluttered with reminders to send a client pre-workshop readings, to call the plumber about a leaking toilet before 25 guests arrive for this weekend’s early Passover seder (a Loeb family tradition), to call the store about my daughter’s prom shoes, to send the invitation for another client’s workshop, to draft the debrief from last week’s super creative and fun planning session with the Loeb Group trainers, not to mention posting a blog….  So I remind myself to breathe, to do a brain dump (in one place) of all the myriad tasks, to realistically anticipate how long each will take and which should come first.  I step back and rationally identify my goals for this week (keeping in mind what is humanly possible) and then prioritize.   Okay…I’m back in control, making smart decisions and have stopped anxiously biting my cuticles.  Life is good.