focus
Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
-1
archive,tag,tag-focus,tag-35,bridge-core-1.0.4,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,footer_responsive_adv,qode-theme-ver-18.0.8,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.7,vc_responsive

focus Tag

Be a More Productive Leader

Thrilled to be quoted in the same article as Bill Gates!

As the boss of MicrosoftBill Gates would take one week, two times a year, and escape by himself to a secret clapboard cabin somewhere in a cedar forest in the Pacific Northwest.

It was what he called his “Think Week.”

Gates would arrive by helicopter or sea plane, and spend the week reading papers written by Microsoft employees pitching new innovations or potential investments. He read as many papers as possible, sometimes doing so 18 hours a day, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, according to The Wall Street Journal.

”…I would literally take boxes out to a beach place and sit there for a week reading them day and night and scribbling on them to putting it entirely online,” Gates said in 2008 video of of Microsoft’s CEO Summit.

Work done during one Think Week eventually led to Microsoft to launching Internet Explorer in 1995. And in 2005, Gates was reading a paper called “Virtual Earth” that described building a virtual map with information on traffic and live images of final destinations.

Gates’ Think Weeks started in the 1980s; the first ones were quiet visits to his grandmother’s house. As they evolved, no visitors were allowed to the cabin during Gates’ Think Week (other than someone who dropped off two meals a day at the cabin, and on year a Wall Street Journal reporter) and Gates’ cabin was stocked with Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke.

“When I talk about the early days, it’s hard to explain to people how much fun it was. Even with the absurd hours and arguments, we were having the time of our lives.” – Paul Allen

View image on Twitter

Gates’ “week in the woods” idea is smart, says Laura Stack, president and CEO of consulting firm The Productivity Pro. “I would recommend this approach,” Stack tells CNBC Make It. “People should have a ‘third place’ that isn’t work or home, where they can find focused time to think and create and clarify your strategic thinking,” Stack says. “We must create an environment that gives us the ability to focus our minds without interruption from coworkers, spouses, children, pets and technology, or we’ll never be able to concentrate on higher-order activities.”

 

Leadership coach Ellen Faye agrees: “While exercise, yoga, and meditation are great solutions to managing the stress of every day, there’s nothing like disconnecting for a longer period of time to create the space for important decisions and objective creative thought,” she tells CNBC Make It.

“I think of it as a one week long shower. Because we know that in the shower we have these really great thought processes, but those are flashes and moments, and when you go away for a period of time alone you’re able to get more significant results,” she says.

Stack and Faye both employ the technique in their own careers.

“I check myself into my third space — a local hotel up the road — every quarter to write for 48 hours. I’ve published eight books in 14 years using this approach,” Stack says.

Faye says she spends at least four or five days alone at a yoga retreat every year “for deeper creative thought.”

But your “third place” doesn’t have to be far away or fancy. it could be “Starbucks, the library, or the gazebo in your garden. I recommend at least eight hours, but it’s best to take several days to ‘clear the decks,’” Stack says.

As for Gates, his Think Week eventually expanded from just him reading about ideas and providing feedback, to later Microsoft’s top 50 engineering “thinkers” throughout the company doing so.

In the 2008 summit video, Gates said, “We have institutionalized it as kind of a grassroots process and this is a way that somebody who is even just a year or two into the company and has ideas that may or may not relate to the group they are in can write something up.”

 

 

Helpful in the process of getting clear on what’s important is identifying and understanding your core values.

  • A value is your assessment of what is important to you in your life.
  • Your core values are those values that define you as concisely as possible.

Try the following Core Values exercise and see what you learn. Keep in mind that there is no right way or wrong way to do this exercise.

View or Print the Core Values Worksheet here.

Step 1) Circle 16-24 words from the list that best reflect your values.  Feel free to write in any values that are important to you that are not on the list.

Step 2) Narrow your selection by grouping related values together in the boxes provided.

Step 3) Select the one value per box that you feel best identifies a core value. Write that one core value in the corresponding box below.  You may use all 6 boxes, but if you only identify 3 or 4 values that is equally excellent. Example: Courtesy, empathy, friendliness and kindness are somewhat related. By grouping them together it may be easier to determine which of those terms would be your core value.

Do your intentions, focus areas, and characteristics align with your core values?

Do you need to make any adjustments to your intentions, focus areas or characteristics to match your core values?

Do your values support your living the life you want to live?

Take a few minutes and journal about what you’ve learned.

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 3rd in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

When setting intentions and goals it’s helpful to categorize, or as professional organizers like to say; group like things together.  When we see things in categories it’s easier to make choices.

My favorite example of this is black dress shoes. If you put all your black dress shoes together you will likely have about 10 pairs.  When you see them all in one place, it is easier to decide which pairs matter most. Only then you can give away the shoes that don’t fit, hurt your feet, or are too worn to wear.  Grouping like things together brings clarity to what is most important.

We can apply this concept of grouping to the activities, obligations, and priorities in your life as well.  When we “see” them all together it helps us focus on what is most important.

Look back at your definitions of success from last week.  Now consider how you are spending your time.

Are you doing the things that support your definition of success?

How can you group your life areas together in a way that respects the uniqueness of what really matters to you? Here are some examples to spark your creative juices. Feel free to use your own words as well.  I recommend picking the 4 or 5 “buckets” that reflect the things that support your definition of success:

Self-Care Family Spirituality
Friends Volunteerism Service
Activism Business Growth Career
Work Professional Development Health
Personal Growth Fun & Leisure Home Environment
Creativity Relationships Exercise

 

Your UNIQUE Focus Areas:

  1. ___________________________
  2. ___________________________
  3. ___________________________
  4. ___________________________
  5. ___________________________

 

CHARACTERISTICS of your Focus Areas

The next step is to identify CHARACTERISTICS of your focus areas, and in turn the actions that support what is important to you. This will help you get clear about your focus and priorities.

Remember, only when you are clear about what you want to FOCUS on can you FOCUS on it. 

Here are some examples that can be applied to your non-business self:

  • Self-care:
    1. Go to the gym twice a week
    2. Make time to talk to four friends at least once a week
    3. Meditate 20 minutes 4 times a week
  • Family:
    1. Spend at least one hour a week reading, playing games, or actively engaging with my children/grandchildren/nieces/ nephews/etc.
    2. Have lunch with mom once a week
    3. Have a date night with my partner two times a month
  • Service:
    1. Volunteer at least 5 hours a week
    2. Identify one cause to stand behind
    3. Don’t spread myself too thin

And for work:

  • Professional Development:
    1. Read at least one business book monthly
    2. Listen to a podcast once a week
    3. Prepare for certification exam by October
  • Business Self-Care
    1. Leave work by 6pm most days
    2. Work from home 1 day per week
    3. Have lunch with one new colleague each week/month
  • Business Growth
    1. Complete XYZ project
    2. Develop program to improve customer feedback X%
    3. Improve department profitability X%

 

What are the characteristics of your unique focus areas?

  1. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  2. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  3. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  4. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  5. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________

 

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 2nd in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

 

Email – you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it. It seems to take on a life of its own and it seems to impact everyone’s productivity. Today we will look at some email best practices that if we all followed would make everyone a little more productive.

Email Composition

  • Keep the SUBJECT relevant – update the subject line as topics change. Remembering that people search by subject will hopefully motivate you to take that extra second to check that your subject line is relevant. During the course of an email conversation, if the topic changes, change your subject line.
  • Be concise – make your point as briefly as possible. Long and complex emails are often put aside, never to be looked at again. If you want an answer, keep your message simple and short.
  • Be decisive – minimize emails going back and forth by making decisions. Instead of saying “should I call you or do you want to call me,” say, “I’ll call you.” Instead of saying “should we talk at 10 am or 11 am,” say “let’s talk at 11 am.” Better yet, say “I’ll call you at 11 am unless I hear from you otherwise.”
  • Share sentiments sparingly – while “thank you” and “great job” are lovely thoughts, email may not be the best venue to share them. Be mindful of email overwhelm before you share kudos and DO NOT REPLY ALL.

Email Triage

  • Get extraneous emails out of your inbox immediately
    • if you have reviewed an email and it has no use to you, DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY! You wouldn’t leave trash around your house, why would you leave it in your inbox?
    • For emails containing information that you might need some day and CAN’T GET ANYWHERE else, MOVE the email out of your inbox into a folder.
  • Unsubscribe – when sitting around waiting at the doctor’s office, for the train, for carpool, or on hold, use that time to unsubscribe from emails that no longer serve you. The fewer that come in, the more you’ll be able to manage the important ones.
  • Set Rules – if your email client (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) offers the option to set rules, use them to automatically move emails that are not important out of your inbox. I have one folder called RULES that I use for things that I don’t need, but sometimes like to see (favorite store ads, newsletters, political information, etc.)  The rule is set to automatically move those items from the inbox to the RULES folder. That way I can check if and when I want to.

Email Communication:

  • Feel no obligation to respond – just because someone asks you a question or wants your time doesn’t mean it is productive to respond. It is okay to delete something that is unsolicited or not important.
  • Stop the REPLY ALL craziness – Use Reply All very sparingly. Almost all the time your answer is most relevant to the sender and a time suck for everyone else.
  • Use Bcc when sending to a group – if sending out emails to a group be sure to use the Bcc (blind carbon copy) option rather than the Cc (carbon copy) option. This will ensure that others in the email string don’t have access to everyone else’s email address. It is poor form to publicly share other people’s emails with your group.

Shift your Perspective

Think of email like snail mail.

  • Do you feel obligated to open every piece of junk mail that comes into your home and office?
  • Worse yet, could you imagine KEEPING every piece of junk mail that comes into your home and office (gosh I hope not; and if the answer is yes, I have wonderful Professional Organizer colleagues that can help you!)
  • Just like you get rid of the garbage in your physical life it is necessary to get rid of the garbage in your virtual life too!

We’ve all gotten pretty good at squeezing in an email, quick call, or text in a moments time, however when we have project work or multi-step tasks it a bit more complicated. Both productivity and performance improve when we are in flow.

Daniel Goleman, the Father of Emotional Intelligence, describes FLOW as a state in which people become utterly absorbed in what they are doing and their awareness is merged with their actions. He says “you know when you are in flow; work becomes easy, you lose track of time, you feel happy, and joyful, and productive.

It makes sense that we would want to create the flow state for when we finally get to doing our really important work. For the brain to engage, work has to be challenging enough to stimulate the brain. The challenge itself is energizing and motivating.

However, there is more we can do to propel ourselves into flow:

  1. Clearly define the goal and create an outline or plan. Being specific minimizes your getting off task.
  2. Create your optimum environment by eliminating distractions. This can mean no noise, white noise, music with words, or music without words. Wear headphones so people know not to interrupt you, close your office door (if you’re so lucky to have one), or find a secluded place to work.
  3. Clear the decks. While some people can jump in and “eat the frog”, others need to get the little nudgy annoying tasks off their plate so they can concentrate and be completely engaged.
  4. Block off enough time. Some people can work in micro blocks – 15-30 minutes, and the next day pick up right where they left off. Others need 2 or 3 or 4 hour chunks so they don’t have to waste time ramping up to get to where they were the day before.
  5. Build in accountability and feedback. Outside support often helps to stay on task.

 

When I dig into a task this is what works for me:

  1. I write out my goal and put it in front of me. Then I outline the steps to reach the goal, often on post-its, organizing the process. And, it helps me stay motivated when I can throw away a completed post-it.
  2. My optimum environment includes finding a quiet spot where no one can talk to me. I turn off my phone, ALL social media, and often the internet. I prefer to have either white noise or music without words playing in the background
  3. I clear the decks almost 100%. My desk surface only has the current project – nothing else.  My critical email are completed, my phone calls are made, and I try to have completed as many  little annoying tasks as possible.  This enables me to solely focus on the important work.
  4. I block out time in big chunks, preferably 4 hours. I waste too much time remembering where I was and getting back to that point if I work in lesser amounts.  If I am working on a presentation or something with lots of moving parts, I may block out the entire day.
  5. My accountability to myself is enough for me, so engaging others isn’t helpful, but many clients and colleagues do benefit from knowing they will be reporting in on their progress.

 

The one most important thing to know about flow is that it happens when we are working on things we love doing. What do you love doing?  How can you create your environment to get to do the work you love more?

Happy New Year loyal weekly tip readers:

I know I’ve been gone a while. I’ll be honest and tell you I didn’t write much last year because I didn’t feel I had much new to say.  I’m tired of all the content clutter out there…the same stuff over and over again.  I will not waste your time with that.  I will write this year when I have new thoughts that I think you would find valuable.  I hope that will be often.

Many of you signed up to receive my weekly tip years ago when I wrote exclusively about organizing. I have evolved and so has what I’ll share. I will be writing this year about organizing, productivity, and leadership as they relate to quality of life and making life easier.

This week I want to share with you my alternative to New Year’s resolutions and goals.  This year I want to ask you to consider writing down your intentions.  For many years people wrote about SMART Goals with the SMART meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  I’m asking you to throw that out the window and write your SMART Intentions.  Here’s a graphic I made to help you:

Consider what you want for this coming year.  Set your intentions today and I am sure you will indeed have a happy NEW year.