Use Your Technology to Keep You Organized

With everyone walking around looking down at their smartphone these days, I am always surprised at how little people use those devices to make life easier.   I have a few favorite apps and websites that I enjoy and I thought I would share them with you.  

1.  Planner Plus – This app is not free, it cost $4.99 for the full version, but if you enjoyed using a Franklin Planner you will enjoy this app.  I am a MAC user so I link it to my icalendar, but you can use it as your main calendar as well or link it to whatever you use.  There is a place for daily tasks, with reminders and the ability to make them recurring.  You can make notes and lists and it is as close to an electronic version of Franklin Planner as I have seen.  

2.  Audible – If you love to read but never seem to find the time, Audible is a nice way to read while you drive, workout, or just about anything.  The website is audible.com and you can sign up for free on the site, and then either buy audio books or credits toward the books.  If you buy a monthly credit subscription, you can buy more expensive books using your credits.  I spend $14.99/month and get one credit and use it for one expensive book.  Once you have sign-up, you download the audible app to your phone or iPad/reader and once you purchase your books they automatically download to your app.  

3.  Hi Future Self – This is an app for those of us who put things on a calendar and then forget to look at it.  Let’s say you are supposed to meet your best friend for lunch next Tuesday.  You put the item on your calendar and you are good right?  Well, you still have to look at the calendar.  With this app, you can send yourself a text to the future and remind yourself of your Tuesday lunch date before you forget it or remember only at the last minute.  

4.  Viber – If you have a limited texting plan, you may want to consider free texting with Viber.  As long as you have a wifi connection you can text.  They even have a talk option too, but you have to buy time.  This is also a great option if you have friends in other countries.  We Viber family members in Canada.  Note: the newest version of iPhone has a WiFi calling feature as well, however, you are charged for international calling and texting.  You need to read all the fine print before turning using this feature. 

5.  Talk Feature on Your Smartphone – This is obviously not an app, but I find that this feature saves a lot of time.  Most of us forget it is there but the more you use it, the better it recognizes your voice and the more accurate it becomes.  One can talk to text, make lists, email, just about anything.  Great time-saver if you are a slow typer on small screens.

6.  Siri – Obviously this is for those folks who have an iPhone, however, some androids offer a similar service and you can use if for all kinds of things.  Ask it to find something on a map, or turn on or off a service on your phone.  (Siri turn off cellular data) It takes a little time for Siri to recognize and understand your voice, but once it does, it can be a real time-saver.  

6.  Canva.com – This is available as an app you can use on your iPad and can be used on your desktop as well.  This is useful if you like to create postcards, posts for Pinterest, Instagram or use on your website.  You can even upload and use your own photography to make graphics.  If you are a photographer this is a good site to check out.  They have backgrounds you can purchase and some for free.  I often make use of my own photos to put on Pinterest.  

7. Pocket – Cool little app for people who fall into the trap of surfing and losing time reading articles and viewing videos.  If you find something you like you can put it in Pocket and read it when you have some downtime.  Its best feature is that you don’t need to be online to be able to read or view, it downloads the info to your device.  

There are literally thousands of apps out there that can make our lives a little easier and get a great deal more use from our smartphones.  So the next time you wish you “had an app for that” check around maybe someone else needed one too!  

I Am a Lot Like My Dog!

We have owned our sweet little Sherlock for about a year and a half.  Dachshunds have been part of our lives for most of our married life and we love them.  However, this is the first time we decided to “educate” our new friend.  Shortly after we got our boy, we decided to enroll him in pet training.  

Now if you are a dachshund owner you know that they generally train their owners and in a very short time, you find yourself living your life around what they want. But they are pretty clever and if you lean into the loyalty they have for their owners and their love of treats,  you can accomplish quite a lot with them and have a lot of fun doing it.  

So now our little Sherlock will sit, lie down, stay (most of the time), and rollover when in the mood.  All thanks to a little training.  Recently, though, I decided I would try to do some agility training with him since he is pretty athletic.  We work just a short time every day, and he can jump a barrier, go over a ramp, wind through my legs, and do a circle around an object.  All in just a week or so.  

As I thought about this and applied this to business coaching,  I realized how like my dog we all are when it comes to learning new things and creating new habits. If you want to develop some new, positive habits, take a page out of their handbook.

1. Make changes in small steps.  My dog won’t accomplish big things all at once. When we started training our new habits, we did one thing at a time.  First, we learned to jump, then do the ramp and once we could do those things easily we add new elements.  If you want to make big changes, create small steps.

2. Practice, practice, practice.  Most days Sherlock and I go out for 15 minutes and practice our new habits.  Even though it seems like we are doing the same things all the time, every time we practice it becomes more familiar and soon it becomes second nature.

3.  Treats yourself when you do well.  When we want to achieve big things, we need to learn to celebrate each small achievement.  Treating works for everyone, not just dogs.  

As always, small changes produce big results.  

Take Time to Set Priorities

Priorities are a personal matter.  You may want to be promoted at work whereas a colleague may be interested in running an endurance contest and work is only a means to an end. Another fellow worker may be saving to start a home-based business or buy a house. The bottom line is this: case-by-case, priorities will be as varied as the individual.  Your priorities are what should drive your planning and goal setting.  Setting priorities is like setting the foundation for a home, priorities are the foundation we build upon to become successful.  

To set priorities personally and professionally, you must first decide what is most significant to you. A good way to do this is to imagine looking back at your life twenty years from now. Which achievements would have been the most crucial to you? What would your life look like ideally? By analyzing what you think you want your future to look like, you can determine your priorities in life.  Determining your priorities is a process and as such, should be done carelessly, take some time to really think about what you most want personally and professionally.  You may want to categorize your priorities in order to more precisely determine what you feel is important.  I often have clients examine their priorities for work, relationships, health, spiritual etc.  By doing this you can get a more precise view of your life as a whole, and not just parts of it.  

Your priorities should be reflected in how you choose to use your time, talent and treasure.  You will have priorities just for yourself such as health and fitness priorities or personal growth and development priorities.  If you are married or in a significant relationship, you will have priorities that relate to that relationship and can be discussed with that person.  

Now that you recognize what your priorities are, you can determine goals with your priorities in mind. Although that sounds simple, it can often be very challenging to set goals that can balance the needs of all your priorities.  If you prioritize both family and getting a promotion, there can often be a clash between the two.  The things you do for each will take time away from the other.  Wading through how to balance opposing priorities can be challenging but the effort is worth it.   

Once you set your priorities and goals, make sure to write them down and keep them in a secure place so that you are able to refer to them frequently. Analyze your actions periodically to see whether they’re in line with your priorities. If they’re not, make adjustments where required.  

Understanding what is important to you can provide a sense of direction that you can hold on to when life becomes overwhelming.  Just because you have set your goals does not mean you will never be challenged.  As circumstances change, knowing what is important to you will keep you grounded and save you a lot of time in worrying about the future. Knowing your priorities can act as a rudder to keep you moving forward, even if it is only a little a time.

Three Ways to Feel Better Immediately!

Like my dog, I love to watch people.  It used to be that if you sat in the center of any mall in the world you could watch people doing fascinating things.  You could see families having fun, children playing and running away from frazzled mothers, senior citizens “mall walking” or individuals hurrying through trying to get something accomplished in a short time.  You would hear fascinating conversations, or bits of conversations, listen to old people tell stories and watch people just living life. 

I was saddened to note recently, that wherever you sit these days what you end up seeing are a lot of people looking down and studying their smartphone screens, interacting with anyone but the people they are standing right beside.  As if the people “out there” in the online world somehow demand more of our immediate attention than the “real” people we can touch and feel.  Children can be screaming, wives nagging, husbands ranting and for the most part, everyone is someplace else.  

Since I often talk to people about how they can improve the way they feel about themselves, how they can make themselves feel more confident, get more out of life in general and reach their goals, it seems to me that there are some simple things we are all missing when we are wrapped up in those tiny screens. 

If you would like to feel better right now here are a few things you can do every day that will make your date much better.

1.  Look up and smile at someone you dont know.  Have you ever noticed how people seem surprised when you look them in the eye and just smile?  No matter how bad your day is going, having someone smile at you makes it better, makes you feel like someone notices you.  Be the one that notices someone and smiles, and you will feel great too because smiling just makes you feel happier.

2.  Look up and compliment someone you don’t know.  A little harder I know, but this one makes you feel great.  When we give a compliment to someone we don’t know it makes us take a look at them and think about what we will say to them.  Because people are so rarely noticing wait staff unless they mess up, it is fun to look at them and tell say something nice.  The response is genuine appreciation, and who doesn’t like to be appreciated.  Start with whoever serves you your Starbucks in the morning, you see them all the time and it should be easy.  

3.  Look up and do one nice thing for someone you don’t know.  I am always amazed at the number of people who just watch people struggle.  If you see someone carrying too many items, or lifting something heavy give them a hand.  Even just being nice enough to open a door for someone can make their day and will make you feel like are a nice person.  

We spend so much time each day looking at ourselves; checking our Facebook page, tweeting our feelings or opinions, posting our pictures, taking selfies, that it becomes so easy to stop looking at those around us.  We become isolated and we don’t even realize it.  Soon we can be in a room full of people and be completely alone because we are no longer connecting with the real people in our lives and we begin to feel sad.  So start smiling and make someone else’s day and soon you are going to feel pretty good about yourself.  

Organizing Strategies For Entrepreneurs

For the entrepreneur who struggles with disorganization, it can cost both time and money. Those who suffer from it bring their symptoms to the workplace and often annoy co-workers and can even create conflict.  If you are an entrepreneur and you are disorganized, the problem is magnified because you now affect your own ability to make money.  You may be late for important appointments, unable to juggle many things at a time and be so difficult to work for that hiring assistance is almost impossible. 

Developing simple life strategies for managing disorganization can be the difference between success and failure and there are a few simple steps you can take.  

  1. Be diligent about setting goals for yourself and your business.  This will allow you stay on target with growth for your business.  As you set these goals, create a realistic path to for completion.  In the beginning, your goals may be short term, but as your business grows, if you have developed the habit of creating goals and achieving them, you will be able to look further into the future and create a sound growth plan for your business.  
  2. Lists are your lifeline.  Because entrepreneurs often have more than one job to do on any given day, it is important to keep track of all that needs to get done.  Be sure that you keep your task list in a single place, like a notebook, day planner or an electronic device.  Sticky notes placed all around a computer screen will not give you the control you seek.  
  3. Develop a routine work schedule.  If you are chronically disorganized or suffer from ADD, it will be important for you to create a schedule that includes time to complete your daily task list, return phone calls, work with clients etc.  Since an entrepreneur’s life can be very unpredictable, creating a simple work schedule to allow you to get simple, but important work done, will keep you from spinning out of control.  
  4. Create a space to put things you can’t handle immediately. Bills need to be paid, calls need to be made, invoices issued and so on, but it can’t realistically all be done at once.  If you have a space to place all items that need attending, it will be easier to clear these projects and tasks off your list quickly.  
  5. Group your phone calls and emails into single slots of time. If you have to be on your email frequently because people need information fast, set aside five or ten minutes every half-hour and do it all at once.  When you stop what you are doing and check your email every couple of minutes or when you see a notification you waste a lot of time.  Best to set aside small pockets of time to return emails and phone calls in blocks.  
  6. Develop a good contact management system. People are the lifeline for any business, and being able to get in touch with them is vital, so having a good contact management system prevents you from wasting a lot of time looking for phone numbers and email addresses.  It can be whatever is easiest for you.  If you are fond of electronics, develop the habit of inputting contacts into your phone or computer. You may prefer to keep cards if that is the case file them into a binder so you can find them when you need them.  

Although most of us hate to admit it, life can overwhelm us when we can least afford it.  If we are able to draw on some simple strategies to make our work run more smoothly, we will enjoy success and the journey we are on to get there.  

Advancing Your Goals

1. Treat each goal like a project, and start with the end in mind.

Because setting goals, whether for your personal life or your business, is very much like any other project, one must begin by thinking about the outcome desired.  You may not have all the details in place, but creating a picture of what your achieved goal will look like in the end will give you the motivation to keep moving forward. 

2. Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals.

Dreaming too small limits what can be achieved.  Although it is always good to start out with small, achievable goals, as you get used to achieving your goals, learn to dream bigger and set larger, more ambitious goals for yourself.  I am not suggesting that all of your goals should be massive, but I am saying that having one goal that is more challenging will stretch you.  There is nothing like the feeling of achieving a goal that was years in the making, you will feel like you can do anything.  

Don’t be afraid to fail a little.  When we dream bigger, we achieve bigger and even if “bigger” isn’t completely achieved, it is always more than we would achieve without the stretch.  Learn to try things just beyond your reach so that you learn to stretch just a little every day.  

3. Take advantage of what others have learned.

It is said that there is nothing new under the sun, so that means that someone has likely achieved what you are trying to do in your business or personal life.  Someone else has lost 100 lbs, someone else has built a business online, someone else has achieved advanced degrees, take advantage of their knowledge.   Unless your goal is to add another element to the periodic table, there is likely an expert out there who has written a book, a blog or a forum on just how to get started with your goal.

4.  Give yourself enough time to complete your goals.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when goal setting is they assume they will feel good every day, it will never rain, or the boss won’t make them work overtime.  They look at the time it will take to achieve the goal with an unrealistic timetable in mind, and expect smooth roads and sunny weather along the way.  When they don’t reach the goal in what they think is plenty of time, they give up and decide setting goals is just too disappointing.  

I suggest setting daily minimum standards for tasks relating to each goal.  Doing a minimum amount of work each day toward the goal is a nice way to keep focused on the goal, without letting the goal overwhelm you.  

5.  Every once in awhile, take a little break.  

While achieving your goals is important, taking a break from time-to-time can be helpful in letting you step back and assess your progress and determine if there are adjustments you need to make to the process.  Let it rest for a short vacation.  Come back to it refreshed and ready to implement new strategies or add new ideas.  

Achievement in life is what makes us feel alive and invigorated.  Most of us spend the first part of life achieving goals, learning new things and setting our lives in place for a career and family.  Then at some point, we cease to challenge ourselves and we stop setting goals that stretch our minds and our abilities.  Don’t waste your life thinking there is nothing more to accomplish, instead ask yourself what you can do next.  You are never too old to learn a new skill or climb a new mountain.  

Become a Confident Presentor

When you own a business you or you’re a professional, it is very hard to avoid giving presentations or at the very least, talk to groups informally about what you do.  If fact, one of the best ways to promote your business or build your career is often to speak publically and draw attention to your talents.  Not coincidentally, one of the things many of my clients have in common is that they find it difficult to speak confidently in public.   By making some changes to the way you think about, and prepare for, public speaking you can deliver confident and powerful presentations!  

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t like presenting very much so here are a few simple tips you can use to conquer your worries. 

First Remember;

  1. Know you can do it — it just takes practice and preparation.
  2. Few people really like presenting.  Some of the best, most well-known speakers and actors have confessed to this.  So, when you look out at your audience, know that you’re always in good company.
  3. What actually comes out of your mouth is only about 10% of what gets communicated.  That leaves 90% to non-verbals.  That means if your body language, expression, and gestures communicate confidence, you will come across as confident.

Communicate with Confidence

1. Know your content

The first key to confident communication is to clearly identify your message and create bullet points that tell your story in order.  If possible use a presentation tool like a power point presentation or failing that, notes on paper.  Enhance your messages with supporting tools, and interesting visuals—it will be a perk for your audience, and it takes the spotlight off of you.  

2Practice makes perfect

Practice delivery of your lines.  Do this in the mirror.  You might feel funny talking to yourself, but it works. Watch your body language.  Find your “confident look.”  Stand straight be sure to use smooth hand gestures, and limit unnecessary movement (e.g. rocking back and forth from one foot to the other).  Practice until the words flow like water.  Remember to not rush through your material.  When you’re ready, practice in front of a friend or two.  Ask them each for 3 things you did well and 1 thing you could improve.

3.  Create your “winning scene”

See yourself delivering your presentation.  Many professional athletes find success by mentally going through their performance in their sport before they start their sport.  This exercise can also work for presentation preparation as well.  Going through your presentation mentally will help you internalize your points and make your presentation come very naturally to you.  

4. Just Do It!  

You are prepared, you know your material and the message you want to convey.  It’s time to squelch your negative thoughts, take some deep breaths and step out and make your presentation.  As you present, keep eye contact with as many people as you can—this conveys confidence and will help you feel more confident.  Be mindful to keep your pace slow so you make your message clear. 

Once you have given one presentation, look for opportunities to speak in front of groups.  Once you have learned the techniques involved in creating a presentation, the best way to overcome your fear of speaking, is to do it often, especially if you are someone who does not enjoy the spotlight.  But by making some small changes to the way you prepare to speak you can get big results.  

Staying Motivated to Achieve Big Goals

Getting motivated to accomplish a goal may be easy, but it is staying motivated is a different matter entirely.  Motivation often feels like an elusive shadow that can leave you as soon as the sun goes down or it is 5 a.m. and time to run.  Sometimes it feels like we can never quite hold on to motivation long enough to accomplish what we set out to do.  

Since we are all motivated differently, finding out what motivates you can be the difference between success for failure. Some are born with that inner conviction that provides them with all the motivation they need,  while others need something external, a person pushing them forward, reward for sweating it out or still others need a deadline to keep them pressing forward.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep your motivation strong and your success rate high.

  1. Don’t make excuses for yourself.  It is sometimes easy to let ourselves off the hook when life gets a little busy, or circumstances change, interrupting our goals but the reality is…life happens.  If you give yourself a way out each time it gets inconvenient to keep up with your goals, it gets easier and easier to do so.  Accepting no excuses will keep you on track. 
  2. Get accountable.  Many people make the mistake of “going it alone with their goals.  This is a recipe for disaster especially if you are not highly self-motivated.  Find someone who will hold your feet to the fire and not let you back down from your goals or make excuses when you miss the mark.  
  3. Stop and check your progress periodically, and celebrate the small successes. When you reach a milestone in your goal, take the time to celebrate your achievement.  Pat yourself on the back and then put your shoulder to the wheel once again.  
  4. Believe in yourself and don’t let past experience dictate future outcomes.  Just because you failed once or twice doesn’t mean you will fail again. Not everyone makes it to the top of the mountain on the first try, you only fail if you quit trying. 

I Never Get Anything Done!

Do you ever wish that you could get more done in less time?  Does someone else, like a boss or spouse, wish you could get more done in a day?  Regardless of why you want to improve your productivity, you are always reminded that you are not working hard enough at any given moment in time.  Sometimes it’s not about working harder, but more about working smarter.  I know that sounds like more buzz words, but let’s think about how you can tweak the way you approach your day and come up with some strategies to change that will improve your productivity.  

1. First, examine how much time you spend on each task.  

Only about 20% of people are accurately able to discern passage of time.  In other words, most people think they spent 30 minutes working on a specific project, when in fact is more like 2 hours.  If you lose track of time regularly, then that could be the reason you are not getting more done.  You may want to time each of your tasks.  So if you only have 30 minutes to dedicate to a project set an alarm and quit when the alarm sounds and move onto the next project.  

2. Give yourself a little break throughout the day.

I know it sounds a little counterintuitive to take breaks when you are not getting everything done.  But there is some research that suggests that taking breaks during a long project actually keeps your level of productivity at a constant level.  So yes, breaks are good.

3. If you see it, do it.

Most of us have small windows of that we just let slip through our fingers because we think a couple of minutes is not enough to accomplish anything important.  Let’s say you are walking from your office to get a cup of much-needed coffee.  As you leave your office you see that there are some files stacked on the corner of your desk.  You can put them away right now, or leave them for later.  If you do it now, you have accomplished something while on your way to do something else.  If you do that 10 times a day, there will be a lot less little things to do giving you more time for the big stuff.  This “two-minute rule, as Steve Olenski calls it, will make a big difference in how much you accomplish each day.  

4.  Stop multitasking – it just makes most of us crazy.

I know everyone thinks multitasking gets more stuff done, the truth is it gets more stuff done poorly.  Committing yourself to a single project, completing and moving on to the next one eliminates the need for your mind to have to shift gears and refocus.  That transition can be very difficult for people and can make all tasks just take longer.  

5.  Stop trying to be perfect.

Believe it or not, most of my clients are perfectionists.  Excellence it empowering but Perfectionism is crippling.  Perfectionists get stuck, lost in the details and often don’t get a lot done.  Admit that nothing will ever be perfect, and do your best and move on to what’s next.  Remember also, that even if you deem something to be perfect, someone else, like a boss, will just come along and say it’s not, so it’s better to do your best and leave your perfectionist tendencies behind.  

6. Be the master and commander of your schedule.

It is easy to start your day by allowing the world to tell you how it’s going to go.  We do this by immediately responding to our phone or emails as they come in.  A better habit is to schedule time to answer calls and emails at set periods during your day.  A good rule of thumb is to check voice and emails once per hour.  Schedule the “to Do” items generated by both according to importance.  You may need to get that report on your boss’ desk in the next hour, but your co-worker doesn’t need a copy of the expense report until tomorrow.   This puts you in command of your schedule allowing you to decide what needs to be done next.  

Clarity

Some time ago I took a course that was designed to teach class members how to create a clear and concise message for advertising.  In order to make that possible, we had to spend some time gaining clarity about our business offerings, who could benefit the most from our services and what those people were “really” looking for when they shopped for our specific services.  That exercise in clarity was very challenging.  We all believe that anyone and everyone can benefit from our services, but when we try to get specific about who gets the most from our services, it can be very challenging.  Clarity is like looking through a camera, you can look through the lens and see a blurry bunch of color and then you can adjust the focus and bring that picture in loud and clear.  Either way, you can always see something through the lens, it’s up to you how clear to make the picture. 

No matter what we are trying to accomplish, gaining clarity is important and lack of clarity can be the biggest obstacle in our growth.  If we want to accomplish our goals, we first have to know what it is we really want.  Most people walk through life as what Zig Ziglar called a “wandering generality” and never really accomplish much.  In order to accomplish big things we first must spend some time figuring out what those “big things” look like.

Clarity is not always easy to find.  If you are trying to accomplish big or new things or trying to move on to a new stage in your life or business, it is a good idea to sit down and get very specific about what you really want.  Turn the lens on that camera until the picture gets clear and crisp.  Enlist the help of trusted friends or family if necessary, but don’t dive into anything big until you first take this step seriously.