How to get work life balance

When we talk about how to get work life balance, we’re really talking about the fact that we don’t want work to overrun our lives. That’s what it’s really about. Unfortunately, when you’re running a business or working in a business, it’s really easy to keep thinking about work. There’s one specific technique that I’d like to suggest that will make you happier in your life; in your non work time. That is, not check your email. That’s how you can get work life balance.

When work finishes, do not check work email. Put it down and leave it alone. If that means turning off that device, if that means putting it in a closet, you know; maybe you don’t have email accessible on that device, you don’t have it set up, it’s a little bit harder but it’s a step between you and just checking it.

Our brains don’t have the ability to see something and then just forget about it; not think about it. If you check email at 9:00 at night and you see some letter or email from your boss or from a customer or from somebody, you’re going to think about it. You’re going to stress about it. It’s going to ruin your evening.

Honestly, the people that you work with don’t really have a right to expect you to be on all the time. Not only do they not have a right to expect you to be on and thinking about work all the time, it’s really kind of unwise to even want people to be on all the time because you don’t really get the best of people.

If you’re thinking about creativity, people are creative when they have breaks; when they have rest; when their mind can have down time; if you look at the most creative artists or people in the world, they don’t just produce all the time. They have downtime. They section out their time.

Don’t work all the time. Don’t think about work all the time. Do not check your email in the evenings.

How to take a break at work

This video walks you through how to take a break at work so you come back refreshed!

When you’re taking a break, you’re clearing your head. You want to be just abandoning work, which is why I suggest using a timer. So set a timer for five minutes, 10, 15 minutes, however long you want to take a break. The timer is watching the time, you are not watching the time. You’re not stressed about time. The timer will tell you when it’s time to go back to work.

You just leave work behind; and I would suggest, very strongly, that you get away from the computer. If you really want to have a break and rest your mind, go read a book, go for a walk, get outside, go make yourself something to eat. Get away from the computer. The worst kind of break is when you flip over to a website and you just start wandering over the internet.

The problem with that kind of break is A: it doesn’t really rest you; you don’t really come back with any more rest from that and B: the problem is that you can turn a little oh, I’ll just check this website and it’s two hours later and you’re thinking where did my time go? I got nothing done. It’s the break that suddenly took over your day. Now it’s ruined your day.

So, use a timer and get away from the computer. Stand up and get away from the computer!

How to get ready for taxes

It’s HARD to get started, but this video will show you some tricks and how to get ready for taxes.

Taxes is the biggest, baddest to-do item on the block for most people; myself included.

Watch the video above for some tips to get started. Below is a transcription of the video:

Let’s give each of these a little triangle on the right, showing how big it looks while you’re looking at your to-do list. Visually, they all look the same size. Your brain is not fooled. It knows that taxes is not just a little thing. It’s more like a mountain!

Okay, let’s bring you in. Nice cape, very nice. A big project like file your taxes isn’t actually hard, lots of can make ourselves do hard things, the problem is that it’s vague. We don’t know what we have to do next and when it’s unclear we freeze up and we don’t do anything at all.

It’s an interesting effect called the Ellesburg Paradox, after Daniel Ellesburg. It goes like this; Imagine you have 50 red balls. Let’s put them into this container and now let’s add 50 white ones. If we grab a ball at random you probably don’t have a strong preference for which one we’ll get because the odds are 50/50. Let’s add a second bucket here and this one you don’t know how many red or white balls are in it. You can choose from either of these two buckets and you have to bet on the outcome that we’re going to pull out a red ball. You want us to pull out a red ball. Which bucket would you rather choose from?

If you’re like most people, you’d rather choose from the one on the left where you know the odds are 50/50 even though the other bucket could have 99 red balls and one white one. Basically, people don’t like to make decisions when they have no idea what their chances are. It paralyzes us. If it was clearer and you could sort of see inside this mountain, it’s really just a bunch of small steps. Do these steps and your taxes are done.

Alright, Let’s bust out of here and see what the taxes look like on the to-do list. Before we had file taxes. Now let’s imagine it broken down into smaller steps. Notice, the first few steps deal with finding receipts. We’re actually listing out each of the four different places to look for receipts. We need to look in the medical folder, the car, the desk and then grab the box in the hall closet. Imagine if all of those were under just one to-do and it was called get receipts. That makes sense. The problem is when you go to do that one and you start by checking the car and then you get interrupted. Now your brain has to remember that this to-do item is just ¼ done. If everything is broken down into its own line, you don’t miss anything and you also get a feeling of moving quickly, so everything is more fun.

Quick summary. You want to-do’s to be as small as possible. You don’t want any container to-do’s holding up the other ones inside and everything should be on the to-do list, in front of you, nothing is held back in your head.

How to do inbox zero

If you’re overwhelmed with email, you might be wondering how to do inbox zero? The idea is that you don’t want to be stockpiling all these emails in your inbox that stress you out because you know that your inbox is staring at you with all these emails that you really ought to be replying to. It’s kind of this pressure on you.

Inbox Zero is the idea of you zip through your emails and you keep it at zero. There’s no email in you inbox as a general rule. That’s very hard to maintain. It’s also very hard to get started. How to do inbox zero is a common question.

If you’re interested in trying this idea, here’s one way to get started. Realistically, if you got an email from three months ago from cousin George and you wanted to reply, you’re never going to find that email again. You’re never going to reply. Acknowledge that’s true. You’re never going to get back to that email.

There’s really a buffer of time beyond which you’re never going to go back through your email. I don’t know what it is but honestly, it’s probably just a matter of days; a few days. You rarely will be going back through your inbox so far in time that it’s two weeks ago.

What I would suggest, if you want to try this, is take an hour or two and go back through your inbox as fast as you can, reply to just the emails that you really think you need to. If you want, you can have another folder and just shove them into that folder; to reply; something like that. Go back a week, two weeks tops and then take all the rest of them and archive them. Just move them somewhere else. Move them to another folder. They’re still in your email. You can still get them. You can still search. You can still find them. If cousin Georges says, hey, you never replied, you can find his email and reply, it’s not a big deal. But they won’t be staring at you in a heavy way. Your inbox, 5,000 messages; 10,000 messages, whatever it is, waiting to be replied to.

How to force yourself to do something

One of the tricks you can use to force yourself to do something is to tell somebody what you’re going to do and by when.  Somebody that you respect, that’s the hard part.  You can’t just tell somebody, you know, I’m talking deep down you really respect what they think of you.  The more you worry about what they think of you, the better this idea works so put yourself up towards somebody you really don’t want to let down.

You really don’t want them to see you fail.  You tell them.

You send them an email and say, you know what; and people don’t mind being on the other end of this and helping to hold you accountable; you send them an email and you say listen, I have to do this by Friday. I’m just telling you, I’m going to do this by Friday and you send them that email and watch what it does for your week.  And that’s how you make yourself do something!

I can’t sleep because of anxiety

Have you ever laid, lain, lied; Have you ever been awake at night and you’re thinking about all the things that you have to do and it’s stressing you out? What’s a tip that you can do to feel a little bit less stressed? You can’t sleep because of anxiety?

It’s very simple. Get a piece of paper and a pen and just write down everything that’s on your mind. Get it out of your head. The part of your brain thats job it is to just sort of keep track of everything that’s going on and everything that’s important, that part of your brain makes you anxious because it’s constantly reminding you “got to do this, got to do this, don’t forget this”.

The truth is, that part of your brain has no sense of time. Rationally, you know that lying in bed awake at night stressed about something at work is not going to help you; you can’t act on it right now but there’s that part of your brain that’s thinking about it. And not thinking about it in a good way, like a back burner hmmm, how will I solve this but more of a panicked about it.

If you put it on paper, that part of your brain can relax and say, okay, we got this. We’re okay.

So, a piece of paper and a pen beside your bed will make you a less stressed, happier person.

Setting priorities at work


Have you ever felt, at the end of the day, you knew what you had to work on; it could have been written above your head in huge neon letters; YOU HAVE TO WORK ON THIS; and you just couldn’t get yourself to do it. It’s important to get good at setting priorities at work.

You checked your email over and over again. You went to your favorite websites just to see if something was new. Nothing was new. At the end of the day you’re frustrated. You’re kind of mad at yourself because it’s as if you’re not in control of yourself. It’s as if you know what you want to do but you can’t make yourself do it.

My whole life has been like that. I started a business 12 years ago and we’ve had a lot of lessons learned. One of the biggest ones for me, personally, was of all the things that held us back as a business, I held us back the most. Not employees or customers or clients or contracts. Nothing. Legal things. Whatever. None of it. Me, personally, and my inability to get myself to take action or prioritize was what held us, the entire company, back the most.

So I decided to look into productivity. I decided that I wanted to get more done with less time and separate out my time. My personal time and my work time. I don’t want to blend them. When I’m with my family and friends, I don’t want to be thinking about work. In terms of work, I want to get it done quickly and get out again. It’s not like when you’re 90 years old and you want to look back and say boy, I sure am glad I spent so much time on the computer.

I read books. I took courses. I discovered kind of a dirty little secret about the industry. That is, an assumption that information is what we need. We need to know what to do; have a system. That’s important. You need to have the right information but really, the challenge is, the real problem here is getting yourself to do it. Getting yourself to take action.

We often know exactly what we need to do but it’s making yourself do it is what is actually the way to win, if you will. It’s really about changing your behavior.

About six months ago I focused on my behavior and changing my behavior. Some pretty incredible things have happened since then. I am now able to focus on what I want to focus on and stay focused on it; stay motivated. I’m no longer distracted by things outside myself and I’m no longer distracting myself from within by searching for newness or exciting new things. I stay focused on what I want to do.

A few things have happened that I did not expect. I didn’t expect that at the end of the day I would feel more energy. I think this is because when you have a great day and you look backwards at your day, you feel great. You just feel energized. If you haven’t had a great day, you just kind of spun your wheels, you don’t feel great. You’re angry with yourself.

The other thing, on a deeper level, I’m just happier because I’m moving towards my goals. I’m able to set priorities at work. Whereas before, a lot of days, at the end of them I would look back and it’s as if the day didn’t happen or it didn’t matter that it had happened because I didn’t move forward. Now that I’m moving forward, I’m a lot happier.

I thought it would be pretty neat to share some of these things so I created an eight week email course. It’s 100% free and you can see the sign up form on that side of the website. Put in your name and email address and I’ll send you the start of the course right away.

Entrepreneurs: Are you a GENERALIST or a SPECIALIST?

There are two kinds of entrepreneurs in the world. Which one are you? This video also tells you how to move your business forward faster.

Time Saving Tips for Managing Email

Here are some productivity tips for managing email overload from Erin Hoffman.

9 Tips to Help You Get More Done

The following 9 tips will enable you to become more productive in your work day:

1. One Touch Email

The Problem: When checking email, we often read a bunch of messages and reply to them later. The problem is we’re reading (and thinking about) those messages twice.

The Trick:
You should only “touch” an email once. Open it, read it and then act on it. That might mean replying, forwarding, delegating, or putting it into a folder.

How it works: Ever notice the little “oooh!” feeling when new messages show up in your inbox? Our brains release a little of the neurotransmitter Dopamine (associated with the pleasure/reward systems) based on novelty. That’s why we find ourselves checking email all day long,(or visiting the same sites over and over again.)

We’re hoping to find something new.

Similarly, because replying isn’t as much fun as reading new emails we often push it off. When we finally get around to replying, we have to read them again, which wastes time.

Stop doing that! ;)


2. The Dash

The Problem: Procrastination. (Yes, we all do it.).

The Secret: Doing the project isn’t the real challenge, it’s getting started in the first place.

The Trick: A “dash” is a quick burst of effort on whatever you’re
avoiding. The idea is to start small enough that you’ll actually
do it. It’s ok if the amount of effort feels “ridiculously small”,
especially if you’re really stuck.

Example: “I’m going to clean this room for one minute” or “I’m
going to open the project and write one sentence.”

How it works: The longer you avoid doing something the bigger it
gets inside your mind. ANY progress that gets you started wipes
away that feeling and gives you a fresh start. From there it’s
easier to keep moving.

I hope this is helpful. If you have feedback you can reach me by
replying to this email.


3. When you just can’t start that big project

The Problem: Large projects can be difficult to start.

The Trick: Instead of trying to start the project, list the steps
you would do to complete it.

The Secret: We don’t resist planning nearly as much as doing.

How it works:
Creating a list of small specific steps makes it’s
easier for your brain to say “oh, I can do that!” For example,
it’s easier to get started with “Find accountant’s phone number”
than with “Handle taxes”.

Your goal isn’t to make a short list, it’s to leave nothing out.
Many small items on a list gives you a feeling of progress as you
check things off. It’s more fun too.

Have a great weekend.


4. The Checklist

The Problem: When you’re finally getting things done, the last thing you need is to be interrupted.

The Trick: Create a list of the ways you typically get interrupted. Examples might be a phone ringing or someone sending you an instant message. When you’re trying to focus, go through the list turning off anything that could distract you.

The Secret: Avoiding distractions is easier than ignoring them when they happen.

How it works:
When the phone rings it’s hard not to look at who’s calling. That often changes your focus to who’s calling, why they might be calling and whether or not you should answer the phone.

If the phone can’t ring, it can’t distract you. Later when you’re finished working, turn on the ringer and check for messages.


5. The Butterfly Pad

The problem: “Butterflies” are distracting thoughts that pop into our heads while we are working. If we pay attention to them, it’s easy to spend the day “chasing butterflies”, switching constantly from one thing to another.

The trick: Keep a pad of paper and a pen handy. When a butterfly
pops up write it down quickly and keep working.

The secret: When doing creative work, changing focus costs time because when you come back to a project you have to remember where you were, what you were thinking about and what you were about to do.

Why it works: We’re not very good at holding thoughts in our heads
while we do other things, so we interrupt ourselves to do something
right away so we won’t forget it. Writing it down means it’s out
of your head, but not lost. It’s “safe”, and you can stay focused
on what you were working on.

PS: Even small butterflies (“Oh, this will just take two minutes”)
are dangerous when your goal is to stay focused.

That’s it. Have a great day.


6. The 3-Minute Plan

The Problem: We often jump straight into work, and spend the day reacting to what other people want and neglecting our priorities. At the end of the day we think, “Argh! I never worked on _______!”

The Trick:
Before you start work, take three minutes and decide your top priorities for the day. You’re never going to get everything done – what is MOST important for today? Write them down and put them somewhere you’ll see them all day.

The Secret: You’ll find that simply having priorities will give you a sense of empowerment and control over your work, even if there are days when you can’t stick to them.

Why this works: When you first start working, your mind is fresh. It’s a GREAT time to write, plan or do creative work. With your priorities in place it’s easier to choose what to work on first and avoid “stumbling into your day”.


7. Time Boxing

The Problem: Projects expand to fill the time available; the more
time you have the longer the project will take.

The Trick: Give yourself a short time limit to complete the project. For example, “I’m going to finish this in one hour.”

How It Works: We don’t like to work on this that will take “as
long as they take.” When you add a time limit you can see the
finish line, and it’s easier to get started.

PS: This tip was written in 30 minutes. Usually I spend an hour!


8. Worry Folder

I ran across this next idea a few years ago. It’s made a big
difference for me so I wanted to share it with you.

The Problem: You’re worrying about so many things, it’s hard to work or sleep.

The Tip: Write the word ‘WORRIES’ on a folder in big bold letters.
Using index cards or paper, write down anything that’s bothering you and put it in the folder. When you can’t think of anything else, take a big deep breath and see how you feel.

The Secret: Your conscious mind knows there’s no point in worrying about things you can’t control. Your subconscious mind doesn’t work that way, and it’s trying to help you remember everything when it keeps you up at night yelling, “Hey! Why aren’t you working on all these really important things right now?”

How It Works: Writing things down lets your subconscious mind relax because your worries aren’t only in your head, they’re also ‘safely’ in that folder there.

It sounds a little strange.. but it works!


9. Don’t let the internet KILL…your productivity

The Problem: Getting sidetracked by checking email or your favorite websites.

The Solution: When it’s time to get some serious work done, take some deep breaths, give yourself a big hug and…disconnect from the internet. If possible, unplug your router or your ethernet cord and put them in another room so you have to stand up and do something physically to get back online.

How it works: You’re putting an obstacle between yourself and distraction. When distractions can’t “sneak up on you” you feel more in control of your work. Later, when you do waste a little time online, you’ll actually enjoy it MORE because it was a choice.

Unplug and be free!