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Stop Tracking Your Time Wrong!

FreshBooks time tracking

Time is a precious commodity. In another blog post I wrote about how lost billable time could be costing you upwards of 50,000 dollars a year. Tracking your time wrong is expensive, and worse, inefficient time tracking could lead to wasting time that you could have spent making memories with family and friends or otherwise engaging in the more important things of life. In other words, tracking time properly should be a priority.

The most accurate way to track time, and the way endorsed by the American Bar Association for lawyers and other professionals, is contemporaneous time tracking. That means that you track your time as you are spending it. Not at the end of the day, not at the end of the month, but while you are working.

Now, historically this has not been realistic. Unless you spent all your work time in one office with full access to your time sheets, it was impossible to constantly track your time. A lot of people get out, go to meetings, take business trips, work at home, etc… Not only that, but it was not practical. Spending three minutes getting in and out of a time sheet to track the three minutes it took you to check an email just doesn’t make sense.

However, in recent years technology has made contemporaneous time tracking easy. Through simple time tracking apps on your mobile devices (like Hours, woot woot!), you have the freedom to stop and start timers whenever and wherever you are, and it takes barely any time at all. The benefits can help you: 

  • Save money. As the mass bar association explains: “Say you bill at an hourly rate of $300. Missing a mere six minutes a day decreases your bottom line by about $30 a day, resulting in a total loss of approximately $7,500 a year”. In other words, small lost bits of billable time add up quickly.
  • Save time. You won’t have to waste time reconstructing your hours at the end of the day or month. Time tracking at the tap of a button is easy, you don’t even have to think about it. Eventually tracking your time becomes a habit that seamlessly integrates with your workflow.
  • Save your morals. You won’t have to reconstruct time anymore and possibly overcharge clients.
  • Work flexibly. If you write emails best on the subway or in the middle of the night, you no longer have to limit yourself to a 9-5 work day. If you get into the habit of tracking contemporaneously, you can work whenever and wherever you want without hassle.
  • Stay focused. Having a timer ticking while you work makes you more aware of yourself and your time, which in turn makes you more productive.

Without wasting time or money, you can now track your time effortlessly and ethically. There really is no excuse to not track time contemporaneously. 

Business, Uncategorized, Work & Office

How To Conduct Meetings That Change The World

Meetings have been getting a bad rap lately with countless articles coming out about why you shouldn’t bother having brainstorming meetings and just saying no to meetings. I agree, there are few things more frustrating and counterproductive as purposeless meetings. But that doesn’t mean meetings must be abolished all together. It is in meetings that we can collaborate, brainstorm, inspire each other, and come up with or renew a vision that guides our long term pursuits.

pixar-crew-john-lasseter-2.png

You have to admit, there have been some pretty productive meetings in business history. It was at an informal lunch meeting in 1994 that John Lasseter and three writers at Pixar drafted ideas for four of their most successful films (Finding Nemo, Bug’s Life, Wall-E, and Monster’s Inc.). From that one lunch came the spark that eventually (after a whole lot more hard work by hundreds of people) resulted in four films that earned a combined total of over 1 billion dollars, 15 oscar nominations, 3 oscars, and 2 sequels. Now I would call that a successful brainstorm session.

Another lunch that changed the world was when a Mr. Charles Rolls, owner of one of the first car dealerships in the world, ate with Mr. Henry Royce, a forward thinking engineer. Their goal was to create “the best car in the world.” The two realized that by combining their talents they could do something nobody had done before. They immediately signed a partnership that lead to great leaps in the automobile industry.

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So what are the characteristics of meetings that have really changed the world? I decided to do a study of some of the most impactful meetings in history to see if I could find principles that they shared:

Keep it small.

One thing that all of the the successful meetings I looked at shared was that they were small and tight-knit. Every person invited was critical to the conversation. By inviting too many guests, you risk attendees becoming inattentive. Also, people are less likely to share their honest opinions and beginnings of ideas to a large crowd. 

Steve Jobs was famous for keeping his meetings as tiny as possible. He would actually ask individual people why they were there. If he wasn’t convinced by their pitch, he would show them the door.

Come prepared, but keep it informal.

Meetings are a time where people who are passionate about something can share ideas and get feedback. They should not be a time to hide behind power points haphazardly pieced together beforehand. Everyone who comes to the meeting should come with an agenda in mind and a part of the meeting under their control. Try to avoid formal presentations which tend to be long and boring.

Once you have the right people there, they should be free to say whatever they need to say. A comfortable atmosphere is important so that decision makers don’t hold back from being honest.

Don’t forget the food.

There is something about food. The idea of negotiating over a meal is not a new one. In fact, it has been done across the globe for as far back in time as we can track. Now studies are being conducted to test what it is that makes sharing a meal the most profitable time for business. 

Perhaps it is because sharing a meal helps you to relate to your business partners. Food lightens the mood and creates a shared experience that makes people relaxed and comfortable.  

Also, working over a meal gives you captive time. People expect to spend more time eating than they would in a non-food based meeting. And yet, because they have something to munch on they are less likely to get bored and gravitate to their phones or other distractions. 

Not to mention food gives your body brain power to keep your neurotransmitters working their very best. Eating immediately raises glucose levels which helps the brain work through complex activities.

Meet when you are desperate.

Never call a meeting without a clear goal and deadline. For meetings to be productive, you need a certain amount of desperation driving people to set forth their best ideas and then work through their differences.

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When the big three, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met in Tehran to discuss strategy for WWII, they each came with their own conflicting agendas. And yet, because they realized that people were dying every day in unthinkable numbers and the fate of the war and the world lay in their hands, they were desperate to work through their differences.

Against all odds, they were able to work together and create plans for D-Day and other strategies that led to a remarkable Allied victory.

The point is, don’t just call for meetings willy nilly. Call for meetings when you have a specific agenda and a desperate problem to solve. Bring in only the people who can help solve the problem. Lead the meeting with a  sense of urgency to keep your attendees off their smart phones and focused on the task at hand. By following these tried and true principles, you can plan future meetings that result in your own landmark victories.

Personal Productivity, Productivity & Lifestyle, Uncategorized

If You Want To Be Successful, You Can’t Be Too Busy To Exercise

“I’m too busy to exercise.”

It is the ultimate excuse. When you are are working crazy hours or running your own business, you’ve got a family to feed and places to go, exercise can easily slide to the back burner. The importance of exercise is pushed into our faces by online articles, social media, and our overachieving marathoning friends all the time. But we’ll need more than that to motivate us to throw our sneakers on and head to the gym.

Study after study about exercise have been conducted, each revealing greater benefits than the last. Some recent discoveries include (but are not limited to):

  • Decreased risk of alzheimers by 50%
  • Strengthened bones and muscles
  • Regulated appetite
  • Decreased risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk and treatment for dementia
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • Decreased risk of stroke by 50%
  • Improved immune system
  • improved blood lipid profile

Apparently impending stroke and heart attack aren’t concrete enough to push the majority of us to the gym. While the benefits of exercise are well-known, a new government study estimates that 80% of Americans are not meeting recommended exercise goals each week. We all know that exercise is helpful, and yet the excuses continue to ring.

“I wish I could exercise, but I’m too busy.”

You may be too busy to exercise if all it means is living a happier, healthier, longer life. However, just remember that the benefits of exercise do not end with weight-loss and personal health.

The truth is, exercise is just as important to mental health and cognitive function as it is to health and physique. Without exercise, you cannot work at peak performance. In fact, so much research about the importance of exercise for productivity has been amassed in the last few years, that entrepreneur.com recently posted an article about how “Exercise isn’t just good for you. Your start up may depend on it.”

You see, exercise gets your blood flowing. Improved blood flow results in your body creating more blood vessels. More blood vessels can then penetrate deeper into tissues, increasing the speed of oxygen flow to the brain. The more oxygen you can get to your brain, the more efficiently your brain works.

John Medina makes a compelling argument for exercise in his book Brain Rules. He says that in over 18 studies of adults, exercisers out-performed couch potatoes in numerous tasks important to good business, such as long-term memory, problem-solving, abstract thinking, and reasoning. It turns out that exercise improves many of the skills you need to be successful.

Wouldn’t it make sense to make the time to exercise if it gives you more time to live and helps you to use your time more efficiently?

To summarize, this actonthis.tv infographic pulls together the link between fitness and career success:

Fitness-Career-Success-Infographic

Business, Freelancers, Productivity & Lifestyle, Uncategorized, Work & Office

You Need To Know That The World Needs Your Idea

You have a great idea. You are willing to give it time, money, and emotional stamina because you see a problem that doesn’t have to remain. You see an innovation that could change how people do things forever.

Your idea is all you want to talk about at get-togethers with old friends. It drives you to work late into the night. It wakes you up early in the morning. Things are going well and then BOOM.

One day you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, forget your coffee, and begin to wonder, is it worth it? The cloud of self-doubt overshadows you. You are doubting your idea. You are doubting if it is possible. Even worse, you are doubting whether or not it was even necessary in the first place.

self-doubt

PC: f3fundit “I Feel Like A Fraud”

I am here to tell you, the world needs your idea.

Whatever it is, from small niche to audacious new enterprise, the world needs it and the world needs you to make it happen. It is the innovations of entrepreneurs like yourself that really change our world.

Every election year, presidential candidates juggle smooth slogans and catchy sound bites about changing the country and the world, but how much can they really do? Our country was designed with built-in gridlock. Our founding fathers didn’t want governmental change to be easy or fast. They worried that people might be stirred up by events to make big changes with long-term problems. As a result, change in government is slow and gradual, baby step after baby step, with a few leaps backward along the way. Innovation is almost impossible.

Big businesses are often too afraid of risk. This hinders them from pushing the limits of science, technology, and what people have tried before.

You, on the other hand, do not have a speed limit. If you believe wholeheartedly in your idea, you can take a great leap forward that nobody else can. Think of how much our daily lives have been changed since the recent invention of the iPhone and Facebook. People like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg have had ideas, executed them, and actually changed the world within their lifetime.

Entrepreneurs are uniquely placed to make big changes and execute big ideas. They can find problems and solve them far quicker than those working through the baby step system of government and/or big business. You are needed because you can take risks. You are not afraid of failure.

Entrepreneurs find problems and solve them. Whether you are working directly for a ‘good cause’ non-profit organization (DuoLingo, Khan Academy), or fixing a problem to make a profit (AirBnB, Apple), either way you have the ability to change the world for the better.

Maybe your idea seems arbitrary to some. Entrepreneur.com recently published an article about why the world needs more brilliant stupid ideas. The article charges entrepreneurs to look at the world through a “stupid filter” and see all the potentially lucrative albeit dumb sounding projects. For example, doggles, fashionable sunglasses for dogs, may at first glance sound like just about the dumbest thing ever. But doggles is a real company that makes over 3 million dollars a year.

Perhaps dog’s sunglasses aren’t fixing any huge horrible problem in our society, but it is providing jobs for hundreds of people. There are 202 million unemployed people today. As long as there are unemployed people, the world needs entrepreneurs to expand the economy and accommodate the increasing numbers of job seekers.

People will tell you that it is stupid. People will tell you to give up. No one else may believe in you, but you’ve got to believe in yourself. Turning ideas into reality is hard work. If you have a passion for your idea, that passion will become the intensity you need to travail until your idea is produced. No one else has the vision and passion to make your idea come to life.

Remember that in 1903 the president of a bank warned an investor against Henry Ford’s automobile by saying “the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” The radio was poo pooed in the 1920s when potential investors said “the wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” And Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper company because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

There will always be people to doubt you. Don’t doubt yourself. Only you can make your idea happen. So get back to work.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas A. Edison

Life Hacks, Personal Productivity, Productivity & Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism

Author: Greg McKeown Publication date: 2014

Publisher: Crown Business

Length: 261

Rating: 5/5

As I pursue a life of maximum productivity, I’ve enjoyed reading as a way to decompress and learn from experts about how to make the most of my time.  One of the best books I’ve read about productivity so far, is Essentialism, by Greg McKeown.

Essentialism is more than just tips for being  productive. It offers a whole new outlook on life, work, and time management. McKeown’s premise is that being incredibly busy is not necessarily a good sign. In fact, a lot of the time we stay so busy doing nonessential stuff that we don’t have time for the things that are truly important to us.

Our current work culture tends to glorify those who seem able to handle a superhuman amount of work. However, just because someone is heading up three projects, starting a freelance business on the side, organizing a local running club, and volunteering as a little league coach doesn’t mean that said person is happy and productive. In fact, less could be more both for work and life. If we can learn to say no to the things that aren’t absolutely essential to us, we will have more time to focus on things that really matter. Essentialism is about doing less better.

One of my favorite parts of the book were the simple illustrations and charts inserted throughout the text. They broke up the pages and made the book fun and easy to read. Though the graphics were simple, the way he was able to represent his points visually was powerful.

essentialism

McKeown didn’t just study essentialism, while writing his book he practiced what he preached. A lot of business related books I read drag on way longer than they should. The actual juice could have been condensed into an 800 word blog post. It is frustrating to have to comb through a lot of unnecessary filler paragraphs to get to the value. Essentialism isn’t like that. I learned something new and was inspired afresh by each chapter and almost every paragraph.