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, Nutrition, Personal Development

ConQuer Your Mind – Part 1 “What You Feed Grows”

The following video expands on the chapter one idea “What you feed grows” from my e-book How To ConQuer Your Mind To Achieve Your Goals.

The truth is that until you get your mindset right, your success in any goal will be temporary and limited at best. Watch as I share some thoughts about how you can change your behavior with a focus on mindset first.

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

My 2018 Book List

I enjoy reading. I prefer to read to learn something versus reading for entertainment. I’m always on the lookout for a solid read from a respected author. I’m not one to plow through a book a week because some of what I read needs to be taken in small portions so I can digest it. See what I did there with the play on words?

So here is what I read in 2018 with a few notes about each one. I’m not saying you MUST read everything that I read, but if you are in the market for quality content to nourish your mind and soul, these have been impactful to me.

The Joy of Trusting God by Dr. Bill Bright

Real joy eludes most of us these days. There is so much negativity and terrible things reported in the news that it is extra hard to have real joy in our soul. This book helped me to adjust my focus to trust God through all that goes on around me and allow God to fill me with joy and peace.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This book surprised me big time. So good. I’m not a war history buff, but this is an amazing true story that grips you from page one. If you want to read about fortitude,courage, redemption, and get an insider’s view of WWII, this is it.

Jesus Is ___. By Judah Smith

Fill in the blank.Jesus is greatly revered, harshly criticized, and sorely misunderstood. Judah breaks down who Jesus is and explains to readers how understanding Jesus more fully will not only enrich their lives, but also give them meaning, as well as save them. Judah has a way of bringing well known Bible stories to life in a way that puts you in the story. Very impactful.

Invisible War by Chip Ingram

It might sound strange to you, but there is a spiritual war going on all around us that we cannot see with our eyes. This book uses the Bible to help us understand the evil in the world, how it works, and what we can do about it. It’s actually very helpful and encouraging. All is not lost people!

Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

This book will challenge you to take a sober self-assessment. If we are honest with ourselves,there are attitudes, beliefs, fears, etc. that need to be addressed. This book provides some encouraging insight to help us take control of our heart rather than be steered by it.

A.D. 33: A Novel by Ted Dekker

The only fiction I read this year was this excellent story that shares the heart of Jesus. Dekker’s stories always move fast and keep you guessing. This is both entertaining and soul food.

Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away by Dr. Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman writes,“I believe that in every troubled marriage, one or both partners can take positive steps that have the potential for changing the emotional climate in their marriage.” This book was recommended to me by a dear friend because it has such practical application for ANY and all marriages. In fact, what you can learn in this book can apply to all relationships.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

This is a 365 day devotional book that can change your life. Written nearly 100 years ago, it’s amazing how piercing Oswald’s wisdom is for us today. I read it as part of my morning routine and have found it to be especially convicting and encouraging at the same time.

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

This is the most impactful book I’ve read this year. In fact, I’ve just finished reading it the 2nd time. I probably highlighted something on every page. It is so rich with wisdom and advice for thriving in the most important human relationship we have. This is a MUST read whether you are married or not.

The Heart of Christmas by Lucado, Maxwell, Hybels, Warren, Jeremiah, Hayford

I found this book in our box of Christmas decorations. It’s actually really good. Not only will this insightful book put you in the Christmas spirit, but it will encourage your soul as you think about what this holiday is really all about.

Fitness, Nutrition

Have You Thought About Your Future Self?

Qgraph pic

The other day I was thinking about my personal, compelling WHY. You know, the REAL reason why I take my healthy living journey seriously. You do that too, right?

Wait, what?!?

I decided to let the famous Team Quadzilla closet door whiteboard illustrate something about all of our future selves that might be interesting to you. If not, then maybe you can make fun of my redneck whiteboard, my unpolished presentation, or my frumpy sweatpants. Catch the 4 minute ordeal HERE.

 

Fitness

How To Sleep

sleep1

We spend about 1/3 of our life asleep. So why are many of us still so tired?

People are more exhausted today than ever before. Our exhaustion has spawned an entire field of science to study sleep. Believe it or not, you can even hire a sleep coach! Sleep is now a $7 Billion a year industry.

I’m no sleep coach for hire, but I’ve done some research and learned a few things from my own experience that help me to sleep well. Not surprisingly, I learned that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to sleeping well. We are actually doing it all wrong. That’s funny. We can’t even sleep right! Maybe some of the following sleep tips can help you get that elusive restful sleep you desire. Because we should all be good at sleeping!

Pillow(s) – First of all, how old is your pillow? If it is more than a couple years old, you really should replace it. Old pillows are disgusting. I won’t tell you which pillow to buy, but you should get one to match your natural sleep position.

Mattress – Remember, you spend 1/3 of your life on the mattress so you should be comfortable. Good mattresses can be expensive, but they are a worthwhile investment. Plan for a new mattress every 7-10 years despite what the manufacturer says about their durability.

Pajamas – There is some interesting research on this one. Science says that your body goes thru some amazing regenerative processes in sleep. To optimize your comfort, Choose pajama fabrics carefully. For a female perspective, here’s how to know if your bedtime clothing choices are truly helping your body or actually causing one big nightmare. The bottom line is ultimately your personal comfort. Wear whatever makes you feel the most relaxed. If you have trouble sleeping, changing what you normally wear might help.

Keep it coolRoom temperature is an important factor. Various sources suggest keeping the temp between 60-67°F at night to optimize sleep. So save some money on your winter utility bill and turn down the heat overnight.

Darker the better – Your bedroom needs to be dark to optimize sleep. Use blackout shades, dark curtains, blinds, etc. as necessary to ensure your room stays dark while you sleep.

Eyes off the screen – Want to really sabotage your sleep? Keep right on with the TV watching and trolling social media on your electronic devices right before bed. The blue light messes up your sleep sensors. So shut it down 30-60 minutes before bed. Pick up a real book instead. Maybe use this time to talk with your spouse. Don’t get into heavy topics though. Keep it light.

Snack Time – This was a big one for me since I have acid reflux issues. Laying horizontal with a full belly is recipe for lousy sleep. While some argue late night snacks lead to weight gain, it is not always true. It depends what you eat, portion size, etc. For me,  cutting off eating & drinking anything about 3 hours before bed works well. So if you have stomach issues at night, or you are trying anything to improve sleep, give this tip a try.

Add some noise – If you find yourself being awakened in the night by outside noises (ugh, blasted train!), I recommend enlisting the help of a fan or some other white noise maker that can run all night. There are even free phone apps with a variety of sounds to suit you. I use the app when I travel, otherwise we have a fan at home that MUST be on to drown out the train.

ExerciseA good workout can help you get great sleep. Your body craves the work and rewards you with good sleep. So get your sweat on for 30 mins a day to improve your fitness and help you sleep.

Stay on schedule – Our bodies love routine. Much like young children, adults function best when there is some routine. So get to bed at the same time every night to optimize your sleep quality. Of course that means you should get up at the same time every day as well. Yep, that includes weekends.

So there you have it. My ten tips to help you sleep better. Surely there are many other tips to great sleep, so comment below to share what works for you.