Before I started working for someone else again, I used to see some women and wonder how they did it all. Yes, my job was teaching people how to use their time more effectively and productively, but these women still had me in awe. One of them in particular, stands out for me: she has a thriving business, a successful charity, two beautiful children, and seems to juggle everything with grace, ease and a smile.
Today, I’m seeing and hearing women say the same about me, because I work full-time, have a business, volunteer between 12 and 20 hours a week as an EMT and executive board member of my squad, and I have a family.
I’m here to tell you that none of us “superwomen” and “supermoms” are able to do this without a lot of help, a solid sense of priorities, and without letting some things slide. While I’m at Back to School Night chatting with you, you don’t see the layer of dust on every flat surface in my home because I haven’t had the time to do cleaning beyond bathrooms and kitchen in three weeks; how many nights dinner is take-out or improvised because I don’t have the time to cook; or how some nights I’m asleep before my head even hits the pillow. You also don’t see all the things I say no to – everything that doesn’t fit within my priorities must be eliminated or delegated for my life to work. Many people help me do what needs to get done, from my husband and my son to my cleaning lady.
Also, women like me are able to do this because we absolutely love what we do, and it gives us extra energy to get things done. I do know that the only way I’m able to do it all is because I very consciously made room for the things I enjoy and that feed me emotionally and spiritually. I know it sounds trite and so-often-repeated that we don’t listen anymore, but the main secret of all the superwomen I’ve met is just that: they do things that feed them – or they burn out very quickly. I’m extremely lucky in that I equally enjoy my daytime job, working with my clients, and helping people in an emergency, but it’s not necessary. I know “superwomen” who don’t particularly love their daytime job, but they are absolutely passionate about something else they’re doing outside of work, and that passion carries into everything they do.
Finally, I think an essential element to being a “superwoman” is to know your limits well and respect them. I always make sure to put boundaries around the different parts of my life, so that I don’t get overwhelmed. For instance, work is strictly 9-5 unless I’m traveling; I take client calls only two nights a week, so I have other days to devote to my family and relaxation. I do just one night a week of EMT duty, and coverage here and there, even though my impulse would be to do more. If I break any of those rules, I start to get really tired, and everything suffers as a result.
Do I sometimes have a short night? Absolutely. Do I sometimes dream of dropping everything and going alone on vacation? Sure. Do I sometimes wonder how I’ll manage to do everything I have on my plate? Oh yes… But loving what I do makes it all worthwhile, and a lot easier to deal with, as it does for all those other “superwomen”.
This being said, times to rest and relax are also very necessary to succeeding in looking like a superwoman. I’m very much looking forward to the vacation – from work, Daily Mastery and EMT – that I’m about to take. J
Presented with an opportunity I couldn’t refuse, I have partially rejoined the ranks of those who have a 9-5 job. I say partially, because I am still very much involved in nurturing and growing Daily Mastery, and will continue to be for many years to come.
But this triggered a major time management change in my life, and I had to start doing things differently, and organizing m life differently. Almost overnight, I’ve had to start using Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of weeks ago, I forgot my phone. Not only did I forget it, but I forgot it in a location that was closed from Friday 5 pm until Monday 9 am… No matter what I felt or wanted, I was without my phone (a smartphone) for the weekend.
At first, I was really upset, and wondering how I would survive a whole weekend without my pocket computer/encyclopedia/planner. I’ve been relying on it for everything.
Then, a strange thing happened: I started to feel free. No phone meant that, if I went out for a while, no one would call me and disturb my peace. No phone meant that, if I was asking myself a question in the middle of something, I would have to write it down (or not if it wasn’t important), go back to what I was doing, and address this question once I was back at my computer, which could be hours later.
As a result, I found myself doing more thinking that I had in a long time, and spend more conscious time with my family too. Being partially unplugged from my electronics gave me another take on life: my life slightly slowed down, I had more time for the things that matter to me, and I had more time to truly reflect and be creative.
There’s a very simple reason for all this: we are surrounded by distractions all the time, and our phones (smartphones in particular) are some of the worst offenders: they rudely interrupt us at frequent intervals (calls, emails, text messages); they are always there whenever we want a distraction. They provide us with all the games in the world.
Yet research has shown time and time again that serial interruptions/distractions such as calls, emails and text messages destroy our focus, making us less productive, and more scattered.
It has also shown that people who make time for uninterrupted relaxation/reflection (often in the form of meditation) are happier, more productive the rest of the time, and more creative too.
Even I, who am very aware of all this research and the effects of interruptions on me, and who can easily ignore outside stimuli, fall for the siren of the smartphone and constant distractions. This even when my emails are only on manual download (i.e. they download when I decide they do, not when they come), and frequently turn my phone in Do Not Disturb mode to give me some space.
So I have decided to regularly have cell-phone-free days (I may extend them to electronics-free days) and I invite you to do the same. You will see that you will strongly benefit from them, and find that time opens up again for activities you didn’t think you could have.
And if you want to fully reclaim your control over your time, join the growing group of people who have experienced the power of the 5-Minute Time Management Solution. In just 5 minutes a day, for 6 weeks, you’ll reclaim time you didn’t know you had, and, most importantly, peace of mind and a sense of control over your days.
This is my last article for a while on goals and resolutions, outside of Goals Mastery. Enjoy, let me know what you thought of this series, and sign up for Goals Mastery – the articles these past four weeks have just been the tip of the iceberg of everything you can do to ensure that your goals and resolutions happen.
On our way to achieving goals, a funny thing happens: we give up. Why is that? In the past few weeks, we’ve seen that it may be due to a lack of motivation; to the fact that we forgot to set up the stage and make it easier for us to do things; or we’re taking on too much at once.
There is a third, critical factor to giving up on a goal: we hate the journey! Think about it: how likely are you to follow through on an exercise regimen if you hate it, no matter how much you would benefit from the added fitness? How likely are you to stick to a time management system if you loathe it, no matter how much you know that this will make your life easier? Read the rest of this entry »
There is a very important secret that people don’t tell you about how to make goals happen. Everyone will tell you that it’s essential to making your goals SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-specific). And yes, it is absolutely necessary… but it is not sufficient.
In order for a goal to really stick, and for you to be able to achieve it, you have to truly want it, and you have to be able to visualize it. If those two elements are absent, you are bound to failure.
So what do I mean by truly want it? There are many things we say we want, yet don’t achieve. This is because we want them only intellectually (and we could replace ‘want’ with ‘should’), or emotionally (you know when you’re emotional). In order for goals to stick, you have to want them with your full being. When you want something with your full being, your intellect, your emotions and your gut all want the same thing.
How do you want something with your full being? I wish there was an easy recipe to make “full-being” decisions, but there unfortunately isn’t. However, here is a proven way to get closer to it: Look at the bad results of not following through on your resolution (the ‘pain’). Then look at all the good things that will happen if you do follow through on your resolution (the motivation).
If the pain is something you can live with, and/or the motivation is not strong enough, your decision to stick with your resolution will not be a “full-being” one. Find other pains and motivations, that spur you to action more.
This may mean re-framing your resolution, for instance from ‘I want to lose weight’ to ‘I want to be able to run with my children and catch up to them’, ‘I want to still be there when my children get married’, or ‘I don’t want to have the poor lifestyle-based quality of life my parents have when I reach their age.’
The second secret to making goals happen is to be able to visualize the result. If you don’t have a picture of where you want to go, of what your goal will look like, it’s hard to stick to it. After all, without a clear destination it’s tough to get there, no matter how determined you are to get there.
For instance, it’s not enough to say that you want to organize your office and finally have all your papers in order. You also have to be able to visualize what it will look like, feel like, be like, and how you will feel having this new environment. If your goal is a completely new experience for you, it may be easier to picture yourself in someone else’s shoes who’s already done it, such as a friend who became organized.
Now go back to the goals you set for yourself this year. Are they SMART? More importantly, are they goals that you truly want to achieve with every fiber of your being (you know you do when you feel like there is no if and but, it just has to be)? Do you have an inspiring vision of what the results of achieving them will look like?
When I was younger, insecure and had just started my business, I got this new client. She started with enthusiasm; we had three sessions together; then suddenly she disappeared. Not a word, not an email answered, not a phone call returned. So I naturally started to wonder why she had dropped off the face of the earth this way, and before you know it, I was wondering what I had done or said to cause this.
When she finally got back in touch two weeks later, I found out that her silence had had to do with a tragedy in her family, which she had been busy dealing with.
I had worked myself into a tizzy of stress and been highly unproductive for days for no reason Or rather, because I had built a whole story around what had happened, with not a shred of evidence. The facts were: she attended three sessions; she expressed pleasure and enthusiasm for the work we were doing together; she suddenly disappeared without a word of explanation. All the rest was pure imagination, imagination that caused me stress and lost work.
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever told yourself a story that caused you a lot of stress, only to find out later that it wasn’t true at all?
We all tell ourselves stories around the facts we have; it’s human nature. And those stories have power, in that we quickly end up believing them, and acting and reacting according to them, rather than the facts. Those stories are one of the major sources of stress that I see in my clients, and in people in general.
The good news is that those stories can easily been controlled. After all, you are the one creating them, so nothing prevents you from creating other stories around the facts, stories that create more positive reactions than stress or anxiety.
So how do you separate fact from fiction, so that you can build another, less stress-inducing story?
Ask yourself what is fact in what happened. In other words, what are the things that, had a camera been there, they would have recorded? Actions, words said out loud, clear facial expressions.
Once done, have fun: create several stories that would all fit that particular set of facts, then choose the most positive or benign one. This is the one that will give you the most peace of mind, the least stress, and allow you to be most productive. After all, until proven otherwise, isn’t it a lot better to think that a client disappeared because of a personal issue rather than you (especially when you can’t figure out what it could be anyway), or that your boss didn’t acknowledge you in the hallway because she was preoccupied and didn’t see you rather than because she is angry at you (and then spending your time trying to figure out why)?
What would you say is your most precious resource? Money? After all, without money we can’t do much in today’s world. Or maybe is it health? If you have your health, everything else is possible. Or could it be your time?
If you answered time, congratulations. You can make more money, lose it and regain it. You can do the same with your health – at least most of the time. But you can’t make more time, and you can’t regain it.
I used to think I had all the time in the world, and just lived accordingly, pushing to later things I really wanted to do, not thinking of how precious time really is.
But then my sister died at 31, very suddenly and with almost no warning. She was smart, funny, beautiful (that’s her on the left in the picture), talented; she might have become a well-known painter given enough time – but she didn’t have time.
One of the lessons I took from her death is that we may have less time than we think, and so we should use our time wisely. If you’re using your time for work, work as well and productively as possible. If it is for play, play hard.
But this doesn’t mean that you have to do something extraordinary to use your time wisely: Let’s say you feel like watching TV one night. You flip randomly through the channels, find something you somewhat like, move on to something else, and next thing you know, you’ve watched two hours of random TV. Another night, you sit down in front of the TV, ready to enjoy the 2-hour finale of your favorite show. In both cases you have watched TV for 2 hours, but in one case you simply spent time, while in the other you consciously used your time on something you really enjoyed, that gave you pleasure, satisfaction and good memories. In one case you used time as if you had all the time in the world. In the second, you used your most precious resource to get something of value to you in exchange.
We make choices similar to the choice of watching random TV or watching something we love every day, many times a day.
And this is where we fritter our time the most. Not in the big things (we either do them or we don’t), but in the small things, such as random TV watching instead of calling an ailing friend, gossiping at the water cooler rather than getting work done so you can get earlier to your children, dog or favorite hobby.
Looking at time as our most precious resource means looking at how you spend it not just in the big things, but in the small things too…
So how are you spending your time?
In the last few weeks,
I’ve been dealing with an issue that hadn’t been in my life since my son was very small: regular sleep deprivation.
As some of you may already know, this summer I joined my local volunteer rescue squad. It’s a lot of fun, and very rewarding for me to help people in a medical emergency, but it’s not without cost. Once a week, I’m on call for the whole night. Sometimes all is calm and I can sleep through the night, but more often than not, calls come in to delay or interrupt my sleep. The last night I was on duty, I barely got to sleep…
Sleep deprivation is more of an issue today than it was when my son was a baby, because I’m not as young, and my resistance to sleep deprivation is not as high as it used to be, so I’ve had to really think and work around the issue.
Using coffee to keep me awake on the day after is a last-resort option, given my hyper-sensitivity to caffeine, so, instead, I’m using other tools: Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome to Week 2 of your mid-year review. This week, the focus is on your tools, from your computer to your stapler.
Take a mental (or even better, a physically) tour of your workplace, and identify every tool you use (leave your computer aside for the moment, we’ll tackle it later). Are all your tools in good working order? For instance, is your stapler working well, or does it tend to staple correctly only every other page? Is your label maker working properly? Which are the tools that frustrate you because they’re not working right? Take them one by one, fix them, have them fixed or replace them.
Now, take a tour of your home, following the same process: room by room, think of all the tools and appliances that you use regularly. Is there any frustration or aggravation associated with this appliance or tool? For instance, is the vacuum suction not quite what it used to be? Or is the oven not quite cooking as evenly as it should? Have the source of those frustrations and aggravations taken care of.
What about your car? Could it be soon due for a check up? Do it, or at least plan it, now. This way, it’ll be one less thing on your to-do list this fall.
Now, let’s look at your computer, as well as your smartphone and/or tablet if you have one. Once again, mentally walk through the softwares and apps that you use regularly. Any frustrations? Any elements where you use a workaround to do what you want, but it’s not exactly straightforward or easy? Any elements that you do on a very regular basis, but that take longer than you’d like them to? Any app or software that has a tendency to crash? Take care of any problem now that you have time:
- have your computer checked for viruses and malware if it hasn’t been done in a while, and install automatic checks if you don’t already have them;
- learn the keyboard shortcuts to functions that you frequently perform in the softwares you use most often (here is a list of all the keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft products http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/keyboard.aspx, and here is one for Macs http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1343);
- have your tech support (whether it’s the tech people at work or your child at home) uninstall then re-install the apps that tend to crash – or replace them with alternative ones if it turns out that it’s a design flaw (you’ll find out by looking at the reviews for any given product).
Taking care of all those elements right now will save you lots of frustration and aggravation later.
It’s the second half of summer, a perfect time to review your tools and environment. Starting in September, the pace of things at work and at home will accelerate, until it becomes the good old end-of-year rush. Doing this review is an essential thing to do if you want to enjoy a happy, stress-free end of year. Doing it will eliminate all the little annoyances that now are minor frustrations, but will transform into full-blown problems once you don’t have time to work around them anymore.
In this three-part series, we’ll look at reviewing and optimizing your environment; reviewing and optimizing your tools, especially your electronics; and reviewing and optimizing your routines. I guarantee you that, if you do all three this month, when it is slow, you’ll have a much better – and less stressful – experience come November and December.
So let’s start with your environment: Read the rest of this entry »
Because of my profession, people often think that I am productive 24/7, but I am only human, and like everyone else I have my moments. Among other things, that means that sometimes I procrastinate or have zero energy for what I want to do.
I recently had one of those days. Read the rest of this entry »
How I solved my no-time-, no-energy-to-cook dinner problems with some simple Daily Mastery and productivity thinking
Eating well has a big impact on energy and productivity (if you doubt it, make an experiment: for 3 days, eat healthily only, then, for the next 3 days, eat the typical American, fast-food diet. The results are quite striking). You know it, I know it, yet we often don’t do it.
I, for one, have known this for a long time, down to and including experimenting to see for myself, yet I wasn’t eating as healthily as I could. No matter my good intentions, by evening time I had lost them, and would end up either make an easy staple, get ready dinners on the table, leave everyone to make their own dinner, or order in. Which of course didn’t help my energy the next day, or my waistline over the long term.
At first I thought it was a time issue – cooking just took too much time -, so I decided to Read the rest of this entry »
A few months ago, a client of mine had trouble installing the morning routines that would allow him to be more effective and productive. He understood the power of the tools we had discussed, such as not checking his email first thing upon arrival to work, of creating a daily roadmap, etc., but he had trouble putting this knowledge into practice.
So I had him to an unexpected exercise: I asked him to, once a day, visualize himself doing those daily productivity actions, in as much detail as possible and with the corresponding feelings of satisfaction and control he told me they brought him when he actually did them.
Lo and behold, within days he started doing those actions, without effort, and very quickly, they became matter-of-fact habits he was doing every day. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently was giving a talk on getting more done in less time when someone raised his hand. This gentleman said that he had tried everything to beat procrastination. It worked up to a certain point, but he still procrastinated much more than he wanted, and he was at a loss as to what to do.
Did I have a sure-fire way to get rid of procrastination?
“As a matter of fact, I do”, I told him. It’s a very simple method, and it’s highly effective, so let me share with you what I told him:
Read the rest of this entry »
A clear desk… It seems to be the dream of every worker, and it does have its advantages:
A clear desk leads to fewer distractions. It’s been shown many times, in various contexts: it is harder to stay focused when the environment is cluttered than when it is clear. Clutter affects concentration, distractibility and attention span.
A clear desk also projects a positive image. Rightly or wrongly, people associate a clear desk with a clear and organized mind, and a cluttered desk with a cluttered, disorganized mind. According to Brian Tracy, executives, by an 80% margin, are more likely to promote the person with a clear desk over another person with equal abilities and performance, but a cluttered office. Some even hinted that they might do so even if the person with the cluttered desk is slightly more qualified/performs slightly better. Perception is important.
A clear desk also provides you with more space to work on, which is convenient when you
need to see a lot of information at once.
Historically, every worker took breaks throughout the day. Most of our ancestors were doing manual labor (from farming to sewing to cooking to building), and it’s been known since time immemorial that the body needs breaks on a regular basis in order to perform. Push it too hard and it will punish you with injuries and/or pain.
When we moved to the industrial age, people in factories quickly got those breaks too, and office workers soon followed suit. Coffee breaks and lunch breaks were the norm.
However, in the past 20 years, with the advent of the modern computer and wireless technology, which makes us available any time, anywhere and accelerated the pace of communication and work, the habit of the breaks during the day has eroded, to the point of often disappearing.
Interruptions seem a fact of life in today’s world. Email, phone, cell phone, the people around us, everything conspires to make it difficult for us to stay on task and stay focused. Yet, it is more important than ever that we do stay on task and focused, since the world has accelerated, and results are expected faster than ever.
Many think that this is not an issue, because we can multitask, or interruptions, while time-consuming, are just changes in the way we work: we just need to stop often what we are doing, and take it back afterward.
Interruptions however come at a very high cost in terms of time and quality of work, Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of years ago, I signed up to be an exhibitor in a trade show. It was the first time I did it, so I wasn’t quite sure of how to negotiate with the organizers and prepare for it, but I expected it to be a success, based on their say-so. In reality, the attendance to the show was much lower than I had been led to expect, and I was placed in a way that made it even more difficult to get people to stop at my table. To top it off, the table ended up being much larger than I had been told. I didn’t get many contacts, and I didn’t get any business, as a result of this show – it was $250 thrown out the window.
Once back in my office and over my disappointment, I asked myself the golden question: Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, I set out to change some of my habits, and create new ones…
Ok, I’ll be fully honest and admit publicly: I’ve decided that I want to be back to my fit weight. This requires some changes in my diet, among which tracking my food intake and doing some exercise every day. I set out, in accordance with the method I outlined for you on how to create new habits and change old ones, to make very simple changes to my routine to get started on that road. In my case, I started with tracking my food intake (no judgment, just tracking), and power-walking at least 15 minutes a day. I started to do this, and faithfully did it for a week or so. Then a day came when I didn’t do one of those simple things. Then another day, a few days later. It wasn’t so important, I was still doing my habits most of the time.
After a little while, I realized that putting in practice my small daily habits “most of the time” had come to mean “half of the time”. Read the rest of this entry »
Close to the end of the year as we are, you are probably working very hard at getting all your projects finished before the 31st. Here is a 30-second time management method that will give you a boost of productivity, while requiring almost no set up, and that works whether you are a busy executive or a busy stay-at-home mom. No long explanation this week, so let’s dive immediately into it: Read the rest of this entry »