Fortitude, Personal Development

Productivity Habits for High Achievers

If I have learned anything in my 20+ years of project management experience, it’s that there is always room to grow and improve my skills as a PM. Some of the best things I’m learning about being a successful PM didn’t come from college, expensive seminars, or even on the job training. What I’m about to share with you are several simple habits and tips we can adopt to maximize our productivity on the job and in life. Since we are all managers of ourselves, these tips can help us be better no matter our profession.

Set the environment to be productive

A quick internet search for “most productive work environments” will provide more than you need know about the pros and cons of every conceivable variable in your work space so I’ll just offer a few suggestions. The point is to minimize the distractions that keep you from focusing on your work.

  1. Since your optimum work environment is based on your personal preferences, try to personalize your space to suit you.  Display photos, inspirational quotes, or a trinket to help remind you of why you are working so hard and to offer a bit of encouragement when you look at it during a stressful time.
  2. Consider lighting. Most agree natural light is best, but if you are stuck under fluorescent lighting, try adding a lamp to soften the light at your work area. You can work better when you aren’t squinting all day from uncomfortable lighting.
  3. Your chair is important. Sitting at a desk all day is bad enough on our body. I’ve heard it said that desk work is as bad for your health as smoking. Get a comfortable chair, try a stand up desk, incorporate Deskercise into your day, and stretch your legs occasionally.
  4. Neat or messy work area? I’m not sure it matters, and everyone defines messy differently. I’ll say that if you struggle to find what you are looking for, then you need to tidy up. Remove items from your work area that you don’t use regularly, and make a sensible filing system. When organizing your files and work area, consider this question, “If I died tomorrow, would someone else be able to pick up where I left off and find what is needed to continue my job?”
  5. Temperature matters too. If you are too warm or cold at your work area, you will use precious energy to manage your comfort instead of your work. Dress in layers and use a personal fan or space heater handy if you need it.

Stop time wasting activities

We all have unique time wasting activities. Find a way to make the activity efficient, delegate it to someone else, or eliminate it. One example for me is social media. Mindlessly scrolling the news feed for “quick break” can end up being 20 minutes or more without realizing it. One trick I do is to kill my news feed on my work computer to eliminate the temptation. For work tasks that seem cumbersome or inefficient, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this a task I must do, or can someone else do it for me?
  2. When is the most convenient time for me to do this task?
  3. What value does this task add? If it’s not valuable, change it to make it valuable, or stop doing it.

Take notes

Write down the pop up thoughts to clear your mind and get back to it later. Sometimes these thoughts are important reminders to do something, but you are in the middle of another task. By writing it down, you free your mind from it, and guard against forgetting about it later. If I’m away from my desk, I’ll add a note or reminder with alarm on my phone. It feels great to clear my head of these pop up thoughts so I can focus on the task in front of me.

The 3 D’s of email

  1. Delete. Our inboxes get filled with worthless mail. If I don’t recognize who it came from, or the subject line is not related to my work, it gets deleted immediately. But first I mark it as spam and have my email service block them from sending me more.
  2. Deal with it. Some work related mail can be dealt with in 2 minutes or less. Those should be done upon reading, otherwise you are just wasting your time to close the email and reopen it later. Just reply and be done with it. Make your reply thorough so you don’t create unnecessary back & forth with the sender.
  3. Defer it. This is the hardest one for me. If I let it, answering email could fill my entire day, every day. To get any of my other work done, I must simply defer some email to a time that fits my day. I do this by blocking out time in my day specifically to handle email. This way, I only handle the email once and it’s done. This strategy helps me fight the urge to react to the “ping” when new mail comes in. When the sender realizes sending urgent email is not getting the desired response, they will call, or meet in person.

-Don’t be a slave to your phone

Unless I’m aware of some mission critical activity taking place after my normal work hours, I simply do not answer the phone. It can wait until morning. In my experience, there is often very little that can be done after business hours anyway. Everyone else is closed, so no action of consequence can be taken until the next business day anyway. Behaving this way teaches others how to respect your time, and your family will thank you.

-Own your morning

In my opinion, how you manage your first waking hours of each day has more impact on your personal performance and productivity than anything else you will do all day. This is the time before the phone calls, team meetings, and the barrage of email, reports, and decisions due throughout the day. Early morning is your time to take care of you so you can best take care of your other responsibilities. Use this precious time to renew your mind, workout, and fuel your body for the day ahead. Keep reading for more details.

-Read & reflect

High achievers read to learn and they take the time to process what they are reading so they can take action on what they learned. Choose any topic that interests you, but it should be for your personal and professional development. Read something that encourages you to be a better human; a better leader, employee, boss, project manager, etc. I like to read long enough to capture an idea to reflect upon. Then I write about it in my journal. The writing exercise grounds me. Thinking and writing about what I just read helps me to process what I read, remember it, and hopefully put it to action right away. I spend about 30 minutes a day on this activity and am convinced it yields the greatest return in my personal productivity for my time investment.

-Sweat

High achievers understand the importance of their physical health. Let’s face it, if we aren’t healthy, we can’t be our best. Ignoring your physical health may not seem like a big deal today, but it will in the future. You need to build healthy habits now to increase your probability of a long, healthy future. Spend some time to exercise first thing in the morning. Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise, 3-4 times a week is all you need. While some will say you must do this or that exercise, but I recommend that you just get moving. Get your heart rate up, break a sweat, and challenge your muscles. It will help clear your mind, reduce stress, and rev up your internal systems for the busy day ahead.

-The secret weapon

We have all experienced the energy and motivational slump that occurs in the mid-afternoon. Our mornings typically go by fast, but once lunch is behind us a couple hours it seems extra hard to tackle another pressing task. The reason we struggle at this time of day may not be what you think. Unless you are disciplined about how much water you drink throughout the day, it is very likely that you are dehydrated. The secret weapon to revitalize yourself is simply water. A decent rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For me, that means by 3:00 p.m. I should have drank at least 60 oz of water. Trust me, this works. The sluggishness we feel, the headache that we blame on staring at the monitor, and the irritability we sense is not from “that guy” but from your body telling you that it needs more water. Stay hydrated and plow through your afternoon with vigor and clarity.

 –Create margin in your calendar

Have you ever experienced a work day when everything went as planned? Me either. Despite our best efforts to not double book ourselves for meetings, or to tackle that complex issue right after lunch, the day of a project manager is routinely hijacked by the unplanned, the interruption, and the hair-on-fire crisis. The days can be stressful and frustrating to say the least. That’s why it’s so important to create margin in your calendar. You must block out periods of time in your day and week that are reserved for important tasks. These are closed door, leave-a-message, I’m-not-available-right-now times so you can do your vital task. Block out the time for whatever it needs to be, but you must schedule it. Maybe you need an hour to catch up email or return calls without interruption. Maybe you need to focus on the budget report. Maybe you need to get a workout or eat a healthy lunch. Block it out on your schedule. Here’s what I’ve learned by doing this:

  1. The margin greatly reduces the stress of work. I feel more in control of my time and energy.
  2. I am more productive and produce higher quality work faster.
  3. Work “emergencies” are resolved better when I have uninterrupted focus to handle them, versus trying to multi-task.

While there are lots of good ideas here, I recommend trying just one or two at a time to start. Get those firmly ingrained into your daily/ weekly routine before moving on to the next one. Taking on too much at once is a recipe for failure and discouragement. What are your tips and tricks to optimize your personal productivity? Encourage us with your comments below.

Fortitude, Personal Development

ConQuer Your Mind Part 3 – “Failing Forward”

The following video expands on the chapter three idea “Fail Forward” from my e-book How To ConQuer Your Mind To Achieve Your Goals.

Failing is scary. Nobody wants to fail. We naturally prefer the safe and easiest way especially if we can avoid being scared, embarrassed, hurt, or disappointed in ourselves. Yet the greatest learning opportunities come from failure. Let’s think about failure differently and learn how to embrace it so we can achieve our goals. Take a few minutes to watch this video. Read my review of John Maxwell’s book “Failing Forward” HERE.

You can get the e-book for free from the Team Quadzilla Facebook page, or directly HERE. Stay tuned for more videos to supplement the e-book content.

faith, Personal Development

Uncommon Behavior

Recently as I was searching for some inspiration to write/ pray about in my journal, I happened upon some old notes from an Andy Stanley study on marriage and relationships. The key verse is Matthew 7:12 “…do to others what you would have them do to you…” We’ve heard this our whole life, right? We know this is how we should behave. After all, these are the words of Jesus – a trustworthy resource if there ever was one. Yet we aren’t very good at it. Instead we judge harshly, we keep our distance, we speak criticism much more than praise, we find fault instead of giving grace, etc.
We seem to be naturally wired for this ‘transactional’ type of relationships where the verse would read, “I’ll do to you what you do to me… or if you do this first, then I will respond with that.” This faulty mindset applies for both good and bad behavior. We want justice and revenge for another’s bad behavior, and we hold out to reciprocate loving behavior only after we receive it. Our version of the verse sounds ridiculous and entirely self-centered, but upon sober self-assessment we will agree this is how we typically behave.
Behaving this way doesn’t work for us or the other person. We put all the power onto them for how we can behave – waiting for them to act first. Be honest, have you ever thought, “I’d really like to be nice/ loving/ giving to him/ her, but I just can’t because he/ she isn’t being nice to me.” We do this all the time and don’t even realize it. But that is not at all what this simple familiar verse says. If we want to take back control (and we all like to be in control) of our behavior, and if we want the best for ourselves and our relationships, we would actually do what this verse says.
The verse tells us to be proactive. Be positive. Be the one who loves first. Believe the best about the person instead of assuming the worst. Gee whiz, we are very bad at this. Look at what happens when news breaks about someone behaving badly or is accused of some crime or bad behavior. We immediately judge them as evil, they get fired from their job, they are ostracized from the community, and regarded as a terrible person. We don’t even know the whole story, and the investigation is incomplete, but we immediately assume the worst. Is that how we want others to treat us? I digress.
Like 1 Corinthians 13:7, look for ways to love, give, serve, and care for others. Show grace and patience. Are you perfect? Do you hope others show grace and patience with your weaknesses, imperfections, mistakes, and annoyances? Yeah, me too.
Look, no one wants to disappoint another person, especially someone close like a spouse. Let’s build some margin in our hearts for their “issues” like we hope they do for ours. Wouldn’t this mindset shift do us good? That’s the conviction I have about this verse in Matt 7:12. Stop waiting for the other person to do/ be who we expect them to be and just do our part. Trust the Lord with our heart and hands while we obey this command for how we are to behave and watch our relationships flourish. #preachingtomyself #underconstruction #conqueryourmind

faith, Fortitude

Why Forgiveness Is So Hard

Much has been written about forgiveness. It is scary and difficult, yet necessary and liberating if we are to be our healthy best. It seems very common and easy to hate, to resent, to withhold favor from another because of past wrongs, especially when some past wrongs feel “unforgivable.” We know that it is healthy to forgive, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Have you ever thought about hate, resentment, bitterness, or withholding favor being a heavy burden that YOU carry around? As you read these 4 ways that forgiveness is hard, I hope you will find encouragement to really forgive. Note: I get regular emails from Dr. Raymond Force who writes and counsels on relationships. Below are his words on this important topic.

There are a number of reasons as to why forgiveness is hard, especially when it comes to marriage. Here are five reasons that should help to shed a little more light on why we tend to struggle with forgiveness.

Forgiveness Defies Logic
 
Logic says that if you hurt me, then I am going to hurt you back. Or, if you have harmed me, then you will never have an opportunity to do that again.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, says if you hurt me, then I will love you. If you have harmed me, then I will take the risk of loving you again even though you may not love me back.

Forgiveness Goes Against Our Natural Bent
 
I am the father of seven children. Believe you me when I say that human beings must be taught to forgive those that have harmed them.
In Romans 3, Paul gives God’s description of mankind. It is not a pretty picture, and it accentuates the fact that peace-making is not something that comes natural for us.
In Romans 3:17, Paul, in reference to man, says, “And the way of peace have they not known:”. In short, he is stating that we do not naturally have very good conflict resolution skills. And, if you need proof of that, just sign your child up for Little League baseball. You will quickly see that what God said about us in Romans 3 is more than accurate.

Forgiveness Makes Us Feel As If We Are Appearing Weak To Others
 
Though forgiveness makes us feel like others are looking upon us as weak-minded, I believe the opposite is true. In fact, I have found that I always maintain a sense of influence and even power when I possess a spirit of forgiveness. I also find that people are quite mesmerized when they see a truly forgiving spirit, and they usually end up respecting the forgiver all the more.


 
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.“

Romans 12:20-21

I love the expression used in verse 20. Paul tells us that when we love those that despise us, we heap coals of fire upon their head. I have always taken that to mean that as we show love toward those that have harmed us, they will often feel a fire of shame and remorse burning within themselves. In my book, that’s not exhibiting weakness as much as procuring strength.

Forgiveness Requires Risk
 
When Jesus taught that we are to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29, I believe he was teaching us that love requires risk. In other words, there is always a certain risk that we take when loving others in that, when we love, we put ourselves in a position to be disappointed, taken for granted, or rejected.
When others harm us, the temptation is to pull back so as to guard ourselves from any further pain or disappointment. Though protection is especially necessary in an abusive relationship (Matthew 7:6), in more normative situations, Christ commands us to react differently. According to His teachings, our duty is to turn the other cheek by loving someone even if it means that they could hurt us once more. This is always the difficult obstacle to overcome when contemplating forgiveness. So how can we forgive like that, and why should we? Stay tuned. We’ll address that in a separate article.

Fitness, Fortitude, Nutrition, Personal Development

ConQuer Your Mind Part 2 – “Your Driving Force”

The following video expands on the chapter two idea “Compelling Why” from my e-book How To ConQuer Your Mind To Achieve Your Goals.

A common obstacle to goal achievement is obstacles. “Wow, that’s brilliant Chad. You are quite the guru.” I hear you. Just hang in with me. There will be obstacles to any goal worth achieving. Often, we give up when faced with obstacles because it just gets too hard. Ever been there?However, a clearly defined driving force will motivate you through your obstacles. Do your goals have a compelling driving force behind them? Watch the video to learn more.

You can get the e-book for free from the Team Quadzilla Facebook page, or directly HERE. Stay tuned for more videos to supplement the e-book content.