Is Creativity Required

Is Creativity Required for Success?

I read an article about skills you need to succeed at anything. Intended for businesses, it talked about communication and listening, decision-making, personal (time) management, analytical skills, and creative thinking – to name just a few.

Okay, improving many of these skills will certainly make a difference and contribute to your success — in business and in life. But creativity in how we think and solve problems? Well, it got me thinking…

When things go wrong or problems arise, how do you resolve them and what do you do? Ever had anyone tell you to get creative or think out of the box? And therein lies the problem.

By definition, creativity means you have the ability to create new or original ideas or methods. But most of us don’t consider ourselves creative unless we are a designer, artist or craft person.  So messages that promote ‘creative thinking’ can fall flat – and the recipient feels doomed before they start.

Innovation Vs. Creativity

Here’s a better approach. Think innovation. By definition, innovation is the introduction of new things or methods. Subtle difference – introducing new methods versus creating them. Innovation does not require originality or uniqueness that is often associated with creativity. It’s simply a matter of continuously looking for better ways to do what you do – and you can use what others have already perfected.

The good news is we all have the ability to be innovative and we don’t need to go at it alone. Make it part of your culture and get others involved too. It’s important if you want to achieve sustainable success in business.

Where to Apply Innovation

So where should you apply innovation in your business? The answer is simple – everywhere. From marketing and sales to customer support, service delivery and team building, all areas of your business will benefit from a little innovative thinking and action!

A process to stay connected with customers to improve retention rates is innovative.

Finding new markets for your products or services is innovative.

A marketing campaign that consistently delivers quality leads is innovative.

Applying technology to a current system — for improved efficiency — is innovative.

Re-packaging products and services to improve margins and sales is innovative.

A system for consistently hiring quality people is innovative.

So don’t get hung up on creativity, but do make innovation a definite priority. It will pay off on the bottom line and may actually make what you do a lot more fun!

More Profit Building Ideas…

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delegate effectively

How to Delegate Effectively

Delegation does not come naturally to most people, but it is a critical business skill that you can develop. When you learn how to delegate effectively, you’ll be less stressed, make better use of your time and skills, help develop your people and substantially increase the amount of work you and your team produce.

If delegation is so important to business success, why do people avoid it? Some owners believe they can do it better themselves. Others may not have the right people for the tasks they wish to delegate. But most often people avoid delegating because it takes time and effort to do it right.

Those with children can certainly relate to this concept. It’s easier to tie a child’s shoe laces than teach him/her to tie them. But once taught, your child feels empowered and you save time!

3 Keys to Delegate Effectively

Choose the right tasks

Not all tasks should be delegated. As a business owner, there are things that you should do or spearhead. Tasks that are critical to your long-term success need your attention. Recruiting and hiring, developing team members, strategic planning or initiatives, and confidential information come to mind.

What tasks should you delegate? If you are uncertain, take a week or two to write down every task, big and small, you perform each day. You may also come up with some tasks that should be done, but are not because you don’t have the time. Add these to the list as well. Use the list to identify tasks or projects you can and should delegate.

As you go through each task on the list, here are a few things to consider:  

  • Is it a recurring task – one that you do again and again? Delegating these can free up time now and in the future?
  • Does this task have short deadlines or turnaround times? Avoid delegating things at the last minute. These tasks may need to be delegated in the future – when you have time to do it right.
  • Can this task provide a way to help develop a skill for one of your team members? Think empowerment.
  • Is this a task critical to your company’s long-term success?  If so, you may delegate portions of the work but still maintain overall accountability.

Choose the right people

If you have people on staff with extra time and needed skills or expertise, it certainly makes delegation easier. Plus, it’s a great way to get them more engaged, help them use and develop other skills and bring a higher level of purpose to their job.

But don’t let your current situation stop you from delegating. Consider part-time help or outsourcing. My clients have effectively used all three options to help them shift work to others and focus on the right stuff – a key to revenue and profit growth.

Now it’s time to match the tasks with the right people. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is there someone who has the skills, knowledge or expertise to do the task with appropriate direction and training from you?
  • Is there someone who has the desire to grow in your company? Some employees love to take on new responsibilities – others don’t. Understanding your staff and their long-term goals are key; but remember to match tasks with skills so it’s a win-win.
  • Is there someone who has time to take on more work? Sometimes the best person for the task is simply too busy to take on more work. Why not consider reshuffling responsibilities among the rest of the team. Take some of the ideal employee’s work and distribute it to others — with training of course!

If you have the right people already, you’ve overcome a big hurdle with delegation. Just remember, YOU must be willing and able to dedicate the time and resources to help them succeed. In addition, be patient with your team. It will likely take them longer to do new tasks or projects – they are learning. But with your help, they will become competent and efficient.

Delegate the right way

Effective delegation requires a combination of instruction, coaching, answering ongoing questions, and follow-up. You are transferring knowledge to someone else to help them develop new skills and capabilities. It takes time and patience to be the leader and teacher your team needs.

 Here are some suggestions to help you delegate successfully to others:

  • Explain clearly what needs to be done – and the desired outcomes or results. Avoid the simple handoff with a “Can you take care of this” comment. It will leave you and the employee frustrated.
  • Discuss expectations relating to initiative and feedback. Let the person know whether to wait for your instructions or make recommendations and decisions. Use discretion based on the task and individual. You can always expand authority as the employee develops.  
  • Provide adequate support and be available to answer questions along the way. This is important so don’t ignore it.
  • Focus on results, not how it is done. If you have ideas or systems, share them where appropriate. But, encourage or empower the person to control the process.  He/she may find better ways to do things.
  • Discuss and agree upon timelines, deadlines, and checkpoints along the way (milestones). If appropriate, pre-schedule progress update conversations.
  • Review work submitted, provide timely feedback and adjust as needed. Your people need feedback to develop so don’t make them wait for weeks or longer.
  • Build motivation and commitment. Help the employee understand why the tasks/projects are important. Connect what they are doing to the success of the business. Provide recognition and rewards when deserved – and consequences, if appropriate.

Finally, avoid “upward delegation” or shifting of decisions or tasks back to you. The employee may encounter a problem or have questions. When they do, don’t jump in or simply provide an answer. Instead, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask for their recommendation – how would they handle it? Help them become a problem solver.

Avoid micromanagement. Effective delegation requires a balance between giving the employee space to shine while monitoring enough to ensure the job is done effectively. Don’t micromanage but do follow-up. Remember, you as the owner or manager are ultimately accountable.

Delegation is a time management strategy that you must practice to master. But when you learn to delegate effectively you will be pleased with the results – more time for you and a more empowered, satisfied team.

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Take Control of Time

3 Habits to Help You Take Control of Your Time

Too much to do and not enough time. It’s a common complaint among business owners, but it’s something you can manage when you take control of your time. With a little discipline and a desire to change, you can improve time management skills — and get more done each day.

There’s no quick fix or silver bullet to improve your skills overnight. But little changes done consistently will put you on the right path. It’s a skill worth perfecting because it delivers some great rewards. More productivity. More time to relax. Less stress from missed deadlines. And when you own a business, more money!

If you want to take control of your time and get more done, then let’s create some good habits. By definition, a habit is a behavior or action regularly followed until it becomes almost automatic.

Here are a few that can make a difference when it comes to managing your time.

Set Goals to Stay Focused

No surprise here. Setting goals and reviewing them daily is one of the best habits you can develop for your business and personal success. Clear goals keep you focused on what’s important. They help you prioritize how you spend your time.

Without goals, everything appears important. How will you decide what to work on now, what to work on later or most important, what you should not work on at all?

The key to building goal setting habits is to keep it simple. Write down five or six goals for the next 12 months. Remember to apply the SMART principle – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic (to you) and time-specific.

Next, for each goal you establish, identify 3-4 tasks you need to DO to achieve it. Refrain from listing too many tasks or tactics. It makes it easier to focus, take action and stay on track. Goals without action are simply wishes or dreams.

Finally, review your goals daily and use them as you prioritize your days, weeks and months. Invest more time on the activities that move you toward your goals. Learn to ask yourself – Is doing this moving me toward my goals?

Planning With To Do List.

Routine tasks, those you do daily, likely get done without a reminder. You rarely think about them. They are almost automatic. Meetings you schedule are also likely to happen because they are on your calendar – hopefully.

But what about commitments you make to others? Or unplanned customer or team issues? Or new ideas and strategies for growth that float into your head? Or tasks you identified to support your goals? Or tasks that are important but only need your attention periodically?

As a business owner, you are likely inundated with these things on a daily basis. While most do not require immediate action, they do need action at some point. So you need to capture them easily in one place or they will be forgotten (we are human).

Fortunately, smartphones are a great tool for creating your to-do list. It’s with you most of the time and there are applications to make it easy. While I use Google Task Organizer, Evernote and Wunderlist are also popular apps. Check them out and find one that works for you!

While making a to-do list is important, scheduling time on your calendar to actually work on the tasks is critical. On a weekly basis, review the list and identify the priorities for the coming week. Which tasks do you need to complete or work on? Then block time off on your calendar to work on them.

When it comes to blocking and scheduling your time, keep the following in mind:

– Treat the blocks like appointments – sacred and not to be arbitrarily canceled. If the tasks are important to you and your business, treat them that way.

– Be realistic. Most tasks take longer than we expect and some require smaller blocks over a few days. Don’t over-schedule. You’ll feel better and stay on track.

Plan for Fun. 

Growing up, my dad was a planner. Vacations, family outings, ‘big’ dinners and parties were planned in advance. While we always laughed about it, one day he told me something I never forgot. When you work hard all week, you’ll be a lot more productive when you have things that you look forward to. Think of these as rewards.

He was right. Think about the last time you went on vacation. How much more did you get done the week before simply because you were going away? Whether it’s dinner with your family, a round of golf with friends, trips to the local gym to work out or anything else you enjoy, schedule them so you too have things to look forward to daily, weekly and monthly. It helps my productivity and it may just help yours!

Take Control of Your Time

People skilled in time management stand to gain more from everyday life. And you can conquer it if you take it one step at a time. Try building these habits into your routine. You will feel more in control and your productivity will soar!

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What's Your Story

Can Storytelling Propel Your Small Business?

We all love a great story.  And in business, this can be a powerful tool.  Whether you want to inspire your team, share an idea with colleagues, teach others valuable lessons or motivate prospects to buy – a compelling story can move and persuade people to take action.

Why Storytelling is Effective

  • Simple and Timeless.  You don’t need a degree in communication to tell a good story.  Stories are handed down from generation to generation.  You likely have a few you’ve shared with others too.
  • Memorable.  When you blend a few facts into a good story, people tend to remember.  And what we remember, we can easily share.
  • Appeal to All Learners.  People absorb information differently. Are you familiar with VAK learning styles?  Approximately 40% are visual learners, 40% are auditory and 20% are kinesthetic (learn by doing or experiencing).  Through mental pictures, words, the tone of voice and emotion, a good story works for all learners.
  • Subtle and Informal.  Most people are open to new ideas and suggestions, but rarely like to be told what to do.  Stories provide a way to teach valuable lessons in a way that is informal and doesn’t appear arrogant.
What Makes a Story Compelling?

A compelling story is often about conflict and how you or others dealt with it.  It combines facts with emotion by addressing the following:

  • What challenge or problem are you faced with?
  • What obstacles (3-4)  are standing in your way?
  • How did you confront these obstacles?
  • What was the outcome or result?

Storytelling has become popular in marketing as a way to tell your ‘company’ story in a more compelling way.  But it can be used effectively in other areas too.  Create a story around your vision and share it with your team.  Add emotion and storytelling to your next sales or business presentation to help you ink the deal or drive home key messages. Use stories about a customer experience to help your staff improve customer service.  The list is endless.

So why do small businesses hesitate to use this approach in marketing? According to my favorite storyteller, Adrienne Richardson, fear of putting yourself out there and showing vulnerability tends to stop many of us.

Others simply believe they don’t have a good story to tell. Since most people have experienced challenges in life – growing up, starting a business, changing jobs, losing a loved one, we all have a story to tell.  You simply need to be willing to share it.

Tips to Become a Better Storyteller
  • Start with the end in mind.    What is the message you want to deliver – the one that will linger with your audience?  Then work backward!
  • Be authentic. Stories are compelling when you are sincere.
  • Be concise.  Most experts believe that storytelling in business should be 3-5 minutes.  A story isn’t a 30-60 second commercial nor is it a bedtime novel.
  • Be creative.  Good stories have ups and downs to build intensity.  Give some thought to the words you choose. Visual and persuasive words can add imagery and encourage action.

Is there a story in your future?  Give it a try.  Create one, practice it and deliver it with passion. Don’t be afraid to get feedback and suggestions from others.  In no time at all, you’ll turn your conversations or presentations into something truly memorable.

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Keys Entrepreneur Success

9 Reasons Successful Entrepreneurs Outperform Others

I was recently asked to speak about some of the pitfalls of entrepreneurship – and the keys to success. In preparing, I started to think about the hundreds of business owners that have crossed my path over the past decade.  What differentiates those that succeed versus those that struggle? Here are some of the insights I shared.

9 Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

Maximize Their Time. They understand that time is money, know what their time is worth and invest it wisely. They are productive, working on what’s important, instead of doing busy work – stuff that is low-value or a waste of time.  Are you busy or productive? The difference can cost you.

Lifetime Learner.  In the words of Ben Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” and successful owners take this to heart. They make learning a priority – so reading, taking classes, attending seminars and looking at what others do is a common practice.  When was the last time you read a book or took a class to learn something new?

Rely on Others.  It’s tough to reach new heights in business by yourself.  Successful entrepreneurs understand this – and embrace the power of delegation and outsourcing. They have teams of people they can rely on to provided needed expertise or simply to free up their time to work on more valuable tasks.  Who do you have supporting your business?

Disengage From Daily Operations.  They understand that a successful business is one that can run without their day-to-day involvement – and that suits them just fine! They also recognize that this can’t happen without people and systems.  So they create processes, set up clear expectations and develop systems to manage the work and help keep the team on track. You too can create a business that works FOR you by following the same approach.

Plan the Work – Work the Plan. It’s no surprise that highly-successful people have goals.  More important, they have a plan of attack to accomplish them – and they work that plan every day. If you are among the many business owners who get distracted or lose focus on what’s important, planning can make a big difference.  It’s not too late to start.  Write down your goals, identify what you need to do, schedule time to work on it and start doing!

Fail Forward.  The old saying, nothing ventured, nothing gained, certainly applies to successful entrepreneurs.  There are no guarantees in business, but they understand that taking calculated risks and viewing failures as learning experiences and opportunities is a critical element for success.  Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from it and move on. It’s all in the attitude.

Numbers Matter.  Business owners love trying new things and are never short on ideas.  Successful owners don’t get personally attached to their ideas and ignore everything else.  They pay attention to the numbers so they know when to cut their losses or change direction. If something doesn’t work, is not profitable or not taking you toward your goals, be willing to make a change.

Look to Improve. Successful entrepreneurs seek out opportunities to get better in all areas of the business. Whether it’s through product innovations, expanding markets, better customer service or improved delivery – continuous improvement is a priority.  What are you doing to make your business better today than yesterday?

More Insights From Others

If you want to become highly successful, apply some of the suggestions above.  If you want to expand your knowledge or gain a little inspiration from others who have made it, pick up or download a few of these great books.

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think positively, big, creative

Are You a Victim of Your Own Thinking?

Do you believe you create your own destiny or think that destiny is a matter of luck? Okay, we can’t control everything in life, but we can control our response to it — what we think, how we feel and what we do about it. Often, it comes down to our own thinking — what we expect or believe.

To coin a quote from Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right’. Have you become a victim of your own thinking?

If so, then it’s time to turn it around. Start by getting clear on what you want to BE, to DO and to HAVE. Write it down in the form of specific goals. When defining your goals, take a minute to think about why they are important and how you will feel when you get what you want.

Now that you identified what you want, ask yourself this very important question “What actions or behaviors do I need to take or change to make it happen?” Be sure to identify what actions you will need to take to get what you want because nothing happens until you actually do something!

Next, give affirmations and visualization a try! I know some of you may be skeptical – I certainly was until I starting doing it – and found that it worked. Positive self-talk and visual pictures depicting your goals, puts the power of your sub-conscious mind to work for you! Your mind is a powerful tool – and it never takes time off!

Finally, start asking yourself better questions! When faced with a challenge, too often we ask questions that are almost victim-like in nature such as, why do I have to work so hard to make so little or why can’t I find better employees? These focus more on the why or what you don’t want … and certainly won’t do much to inspire you.

If we agree you are a victor, not a victim, who takes responsibility for making things happen, then start replacing the why with how or what questions. These force action or doing — and isn’t that a key to getting what you want?

Here’s a few ‘victor-like’ questions that I picked up from author, Steve Chandler:

  1. How can I use this circumstance to my advantage?
  2. How can I differentiate myself in the customer’s eye?
  3. What’s something creative I can do this week to get my customers talking?
  4. What steps can I take to grow this business?
  5. What can I do better to insure I can spend more time with my spouse and/or children?
  6. How can I help my people (or customers) more?

Do you see the difference? So stop asking why and start asking what or how! Change your attitude and become the Victor you were destined to be!

broken-chain2

3 Steps to Kill the Limiting Beliefs That Sabotage Success

What beliefs do you hold to be ‘true’ that really aren’t? We all have some – those little self-sabotaging thoughts that act as constraints in our business.

Here’s a few common ones: It’s impossible to earn a profit in this economy, I can’t get good help, customers are never satisfied, customers only care about price, marketing doesn’t work, I can’t get my people to do anything unless I’m there watching over them or I can’t make more money unless I work more hours.

Any sound familiar? The problem with paradigms like these – they give you an excuse to settle for less, accept mediocrity or give up completely. After all, how committed will you be to ACT if you believe your actions won’t matter.

Create Positive Thoughts

So how do you make them go away and get on the path to success? Here’s a simple way to turn negative beliefs into positive thoughts.

First, write down all the negative beliefs that you hold to be true. Big or small, write them down.

Next, turn each negative belief around – and create a powerful statement of what the ideal would be. For example, replace ‘It’s impossible to earn a profit in this economy’ with ‘I’m so grateful my profit has tripled in this economy’.

Finally, write all your ‘new’ positive statements on an index card. Each morning and evening, read them out loud, with passion, like they are already true. Add a little visualization – envision how you feel with your new ideal belief — and you are on your way.

It may sound crazy, but it works because the brain believes whatever you tell it. It doesn’t judge! You can change a negative belief, attitude or behavior into a positive one within 30 days. Once you kill the paradigms, you have the foundation for taking action.

Don’t let attitudes held by others, but not supported with fact, hold you back. Kill the paradigms and start taking action to go from where you are to where you want to be.

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procrastination steals time.money

Ready To Stop Procrastination?

Procrastination is an enemy of small business owners, stealing both your time and money. It’s not a matter of laziness or a lack of ambition. Most owners are committed to hard work and very motivated.

Why People Procrastinate

While we all procrastinate at times, here are some common reasons and what you can do about it.

#1 – You feel overwhelmed. You have a never ending to-do list, take on too much and have difficulty prioritizing.  Overwhelm often leads to inaction or maybe starting but never finishing tasks. In many cases, this is a result of poor organization and time management skills.

Fortunately, these skills can be learned and developed.  Plus, the tools you need, including a to-do list and calendar, already exist. Check out 3 Habits to Help You Take Control of Time to learn more.

# 2 – You don’t like the task.  When you perceive a task to be boring, time-consuming or difficult, you try to avoid it. It’s human nature. And since you are focused on the negative, such as it’s too hard, it’s really about attitude.

Solution.  Change the focus to something more positive. For example, I will learn something new or it’s a good opportunity for the business. With a different attitude, you’ll find the motivation to get started.  Taking the first step is often all you need.

#3 – You get distracted. Technology has increased this problem. Smartphones and social media have made it easy to access everything from videos and news to everyone — family, friends, staff, and customers.

The solution.  Identify your most common distractions and ‘turn them off’. Put the phone away, turn off the notifications, shut your office door when you don’t want to be disturbed. Next, create a work environment that is pleasant and organized.  Files, excess papers, and magazines can also cause distractions. Put them away or throw them out!

#4 – You sabotage yourself. Whether it’s fear of failure, perfectionism or staying within your comfort zone, your self-limiting beliefs hold you back.  They prevent you from taking action, trying new things or finishing tasks until everything is perfect.

The solution.  Recognize procrastination when it happens. Ask yourself, why are you procrastinating? Acknowledge your thinking and then look for the opposite of your thinking pattern.  For example:

  • If perfection is a problem, remind yourself that 80% today is far better than 100% next month. Good is good enough!
  • If you feel overwhelmed, simplify complex tasks into smaller ones that you can tackle one piece at a time.
Additional Ways To Get More Done
  • Share your goals and deadlines. Tell at least one other person so they can lend support, help you stick with it and hold you accountable.  Find an accountability partner.
  • Celebrate and reward yourself. When you finish or accomplish things, especially those pesky tasks you’ve been putting off, reward yourself.  Then check it off the to-do list – it feels great!
  • Plan some me-time in your day. Staying focused on the tasks at hand is easier when you have something to look forward to – your reward for being productive.  So schedule some time to do at least one thing you enjoy every day – from exercise to video games.

Remember, procrastination is simply a habit you form – and it often creates more stress. You can change any habit by recognizing the cause, changing the behaviors and taking action!  Try some of these tips to help you get more done each and every day.

 

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Personal growth

Invest In Yourself: It Pays Dividends

Accelerating your success does not always require huge increases in effort, time or money. Brian Tracy uses a great analogy to make this point. In a horse race, the first place horse might earn $100,000 while the second-place horse might earn $50,000. The first horse got twice the money not because it ran twice as fast as the competition. It only had to be a nose ahead.

So what can you do personally to create distance between you and your competitors or improve your results and income? The answer is simple – invest in yourself by learning new things and developing new skills. As Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” It also translates into higher earnings and income. And it doesn’t require a lot of time or money – just a commitment to personal growth and passion for success.

Reading: A Competitive Advantage

Consider the fact that the average person reads 12 books in a lifetime. While this is a sad statistic, it clearly demonstrates an opportunity! According to Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, if the average person read for just 15 minutes per day, they would read 12 books per year and well over 600 books in their lifetime. Talk about a competitive advantage – and for just 15 minutes per day!

If you spend a lot of time on the road, invest in audio books and turn your car into a learning center. Today, most of the best-selling business and personal development books are available on CD or audio download. They are also available for Kindle or other readers — so you can always have a book handy while on the road! Don’t feel a need to listen or read them once. I’m always finding new ideas from books I’ve read or listened to previously.

Want to maximize your learning while leveraging your time? Here are a few tips you might want to consider. First, invest in an executive book summary subscription. The summary provides a recap and key ideas contained in the book – without reading the entire book. Busy executives and professionals use these to stay abreast of changes and develop new ideas – you can too! Second, join a book club and gather with others to discuss and learn. Some professional organizations offer these as a member benefit.

Do you learn more effectively with the help of others? If so, attend interactive workshops, seminars or webinars to improve knowledge gaps or simply to get new ideas. If you can take away and implement just one new idea in your business, you’ll find the results will amaze you.

Finally, make an effort to meet and build relationships with other successful business owners – inside and outside your own industry. Sharing information is a great way for both of you to learn and improve your businesses. Whether you do this with a group or one-on-one, make spending time with other successful owners part of your personal development plan. A word of caution here. Surround yourself with owners who have a similar passion for success. Avoid those who constantly play the role of victim since they will simply pull you down.

In conclusion, learning new ideas and ways to do things better is one of the keys to success. But at the end of the day, you must take action or do something with what you learned in order to impact results. Remember, the only difference between YOUR income and lifestyle now and in five years will be the people you meet, the knowledge you build and the actions you take – applying what you learn. So start investing in yourself and you too will reap the rewards.

Are you looking for some great books to help you learn and grow?  Here are some of my recommendations for business owners.

New Monthly Article & Business Tools

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

Productivity-MakeThingsBetter

15 Barriers to Personal Productivity

When it comes to personal productivity, most of us have room for improvement.  But before we can effectively create better time management habits and ultimately make things better, we must recognize and acknowledge the why.  What are you doing or not doing today that prevents you from being productive?

It’s time to work smarter and eliminate the barriers that hold you back.

Common Roadblocks You Can Overcome

1.  Tasks have no home.  You haven’t set a specific time aside in which to do the tasks that need to be done.  Lists provide a reminder of what you need to do – but they won’t get done until you actually schedule them on your calendar.

2.  You set aside the wrong time.  Are you working against your energy?  Some of us are morning people, others night people.  Align your tasks with your energy levels.

3.  You miscalculate how long tasks take.  We often think tasks take less time than they actually do. It’s a common issue. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and add some buffer time for the unexpected.

4.  You’re the wrong person for the job. Do you operate under the premise that you need to do it all?  Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness?  Or maybe just looking for a way to save some money? Your time is valuable, so put it to work on the things that really matter!  Learn to delegate or outsource low-value tasks or projects that fall outside your scope of expertise.

5.  The task is overly complex.  It’s human nature to avoid tasks that are too complex or cumbersome.  They often take a lot more time. Finding big blocks of time in your day to work on them makes it easy to understand why we put them on the back burner! The best solution is to chunk complex tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces – then attack them over a period of time. One-hour blocks over seven days often work better than a seven-hour block on one day!

6.  You can’t remember what you have to do.  If you don’t have a method to capture ‘to do’ items in one place, easily and effectively, chances are you will miss important tasks because you simply won’t remember.  Kill the post-it notes that get lost or forgotten.  Your phone is full of applications for to-do lists.  Choose one and your to-do list will always be close at hand!.

7.  Your space is unorganized.  If the physical environment in which you work is disorganized and cluttered, it will steal a huge amount of time and energy from your day.  If you spend a lot of time ‘looking for stuff’ to get started or finish a project, then it’s time to organize your workspace.  Can’t do it alone, hire a professional organizer to help you!

8.  You have unclear goals and priorities.  Without clear goals, you have no basis for making decisions on how you spend your time or prioritizing the many choices you face on a daily basis.

9.  You have an unrealistic workload.  Sometimes life does overload you and usually (or hopefully) these are temporary.  Recognize it and delegate or eliminate the non-essentials during these times.

10. You are in transition.  Life changes sometimes make it difficult to determine how to invest your time.  The best way to overcome this is to re-identify your goals and create a roadmap for the change.

11. Your work environment is full of interruptions.  Being easily accessible or readily available has its drawbacks.  Recognize this and plan for it.  Create a block of time each day that is interruption free and under your control – even if you must leave your office to get it.

12. You need to be a Helper.  Assisting others personally or professionally can make your life rich and rewarding.  But only when it’s kept in balance.  Too much can make you resentful and overwhelmed.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our own need to be appreciated and feel valuable that we don’t let other people help us.  You empower people when you allow them to contribute, so let others help you too!

13. You love creating.  You keep starting projects but have a hard time finishing all or any of them.  But half-finished projects don’t deliver results and the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting things done.  This actually zaps energy and hurts productivity. Get some results-oriented people involved with your projects — employees, colleagues or a business coach can help.  Spend some time with people who love getting things done. 

14. You have a need for perfection.  Not all tasks are created equal.  Do you feel compelled to do everything at the same level of excellence?  If you set the same high standards for every task, you will not finish anything.  Adjust your standards based on the specific tasks.  Some are worth your extra effort, some are not.  Remember, sometimes good is good enough!

15. You have a fear of losing creativity.  Some people fear that imposing structure or routines in their lives will squelch their creativity.  As a result, their lives are chaotic and often stressful.  You need to learn to trust that you can put structure in your schedule and still be creative.  You don’t have to plan every minute and hour, but you can map out a general rhythm to your day.

The first step to making some changes comes from recognizing the need to do so.  Don’t try to fix them all at one time.  Focus on one then move to the next.

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