CAT | Business
A recent trip to Key West, FL, highlighted an interesting truth about branding. In the big picture, branding is about every single thing your business does. It’s not just your logo or your slogan. It’s how you deliver service, how you treat people, how you manage money, how you maintain systems, etc.
In Key West, there are no good options for taxi service. There are two primary companies – pink and yellow. There are smaller companies, but it might be a long wait for a cab. There are no Uber or Lyft services.
The “pink” cab company has a very abrupt (sometimes rude) dispatcher. When you call, she grumbles one word: “Cab!” No matter what you say, she has a standard second response: “How many?!?” which she delivers as if she’s pissed off that you’re bothering her. Her third and final interaction is always the same. She barks the order “Stay there!”
So a typical interaction for a jovial vacationer goes like this:
“Good afternoon. We’re at ABC store on Duval Street. We would like to get a cab.”
“There are two of us. We’d like to go to . . .”
Then she never hangs up. You can just here her answer the next call: “Cab!”
Note: the actual cab drivers for pink are generally friendly. The cabs are new-ish and in great shape. They tend to be boxy and a big hard to climb into if you have old knees. But it’s a very pleasant ride.
After a few cab rides, we decided to try yellow. Much nicer. The dispatcher is clearly in a good mood. Sometimes they even ask if it’s our first day in Key West. They are engaging.
Unfortunately, the yellow cabs are typical American cabs: Old, no shock absorbers, not particularly clean, and the seat belts don’t always work. Bottom line: It feels unsafe. One driver was particularly crazy. The island is only two miles by four miles, so you don’t really need to speed through the side streets or run lights.
After a few rides with each company, we would ask each other, “Who should we call? Rude or Unsafe?” We had narrowed down our options to one word for each company. And our experiences were quite consistent. In fact, one time we called the yellow company by accident. Thinking we had called the pink company, I commented on how congenial the dispatcher was. Then yellow car rolled up and I checked my phone. Ooops.
Eventually, we just decided that it was easier to put up with abrupt/rude than dangerous/unsafe.
And both companies are good examples of why Uber and Lyft exist!
I’m amazed at the behavior differences between giving something away for free versus charging something – anything.
My city recently passed an ordinance (and the State of California did as well) that requires stores to charge ten cents for grocery bags. Now, people can either bring their own, buy an expensive bag, or get a cheap bag for ten cents. When you think about paying $50 or $100 or $150 for a shopping trip, spending a few cents on bags seems irrelevant. But the change in behavior has been dramatic!
There are basically three approaches to the change. First, many people don’t take bags at all. They just put all the stuff back in the cart and then transfer it to their trunk. Some of them do this because they forgot to take bags from their car into the store. So they end up bagging their own groceries in the parking lot.
Second, many people buy fancy bags with handles that can be reused indefinitely – for $1-$3 each. In other words, they avoid paying ten cents by paying three dollars. Then, as often as not, they forget these bags in their trunk and buy more. Or bag their groceries in the parking lot.
Third, some people simply pay for the bags they use. After all, with a shopping cart full of groceries, the price you paid this week versus last week could easily go up or down one dollar in total. So the cost for two or three bags at ten cents each is lost altogether in the mix. Personally, I would have predicted that most people would fall into this category. In fact, almost everyone is in one of the first two categories.
With the cost of little things like chewing gum and candy at the checkout lane, you would think people would spend zero effort worrying about a ten cent bag. But that’s not the case at all. An entire industry of exotic reusable bags has sprung up. People’s behavior has changed overnight.
One of the things that always irritated me with the old system was that too many bags were used. Baggers double-bagged a lot when it wasn’t necessary. Now we’ve gone in the other direction. Paper bags that cost ten cents are jam packed to the rim with cans and bottles that are far too heavy for the bag. I have to tell them to use more bags and try not to sound like a jerk when I say that I’ll spring for the ten cents!
Professionals and “Free” Events
I attend a lot of meetings. The common wisdom is that you have to register a lot of people for free events – because 30-50% of those who registered will not show up. This is true even if there’s free food. Some events just have coffee and donuts. Others have actual meals. Some include breakfast, breaks, lunch, dinner, and a reception. Still, fifty percent of those who registered don’t show up!
At the same time, events that cost money are well attended. People rarely pay to get into an event and then fail to show up. Some are still no-shows, but it’s more like one percent, not fifty. Hence one of the new trends for “free” events is to charge a fee like $99 before the event – and you get it back when you attend. This has worked well for some organizations.
I belong to a local business Meetup (see www.meetup.com). It was growing and growing every month. Eventually, this free event grew to have 60-70 people at every meeting. As you can imagine, there aren’t many free meeting spaces that large. So eventually the organizer decided to charge $5 per person so she could rent a meeting room and have a guaranteed meeting place each month.
Attendance dropped to about a dozen people the next month! I was amazed. These are business people who were unwilling to invest $5 in their own business – even though everyone raved about how great the meetings were. Over time, people came back. But the nature of the crowd changed.
The crowds grew back to about 40-50 people per meeting. But the people who showed up were much more professional. After all, they were willing to invest a little in their own business development!
Just charging “something” gets you a more serious following than charging nothing.
The So-Called Internet Economy
One of the great fallacies of the new-ish economy is the idea that you can build an audience with people who get stuff for free and turn them into buyers. This strategy has proven false again and again.
The idea of the original internet bubble of the 1990’s was that a product or service would take over a market by giving everything away for free. Then, once they dominated, they would start to charge. One by one, virtually everyone who tried this failed. Look at the grocery bag example.
Even if something is pretty much required, there are people who will work really hard to avoid spending even ten cents on it.
Today we see a lot of online products that have a free version and a paid version. The free version has advertising, or nags you all the time, or is missing the coolest features. Still, 70% of people who download apps never pay for anything. The crippled, nagging, advertisement-riddled version is good enough for them!
Personally, I avoid free products. For tiny payments (ten cents, ninety-nine cents, of even $19.95) I get the real deal. The developer gets a little money so they can stay in business. I have someone to contact when things go wrong. Personally, for me, the tiny bits I pay give me a much richer experience.
Where do you draw the line? When is the free version “good enough” for you?
And more importantly, what does that say about your bigger picture of the world?
Something to think about.
My favorite Meetup every month is the Sacramento Speakers Meetup (See https://www.meetup.com/sacramentospeakersnetwork/). It’s a Meetup with more than 2,500 members, of whom 35-75 show up at any given meeting.
There are many reasons for this. First, I’ve been going to this Meetup for more than ten years, so I know lots of people
Second, the format is absolutely amazing. I’m not sure how my friend Stephanie Chandler (see http://nonfictionauthorsassociation.com/) came up with the format, but it’s truly genius. It starts with 30-second introductions. People are encouraged to promote their businesses, so they can encourage networking later.
Do the math. At 30 seconds per person, you actually use up maybe 35 or 40 seconds on average. So this part of the program takes about half an hour. Someone always tells a joke. People laugh. Someone else just started a business an gets a round of applause. Someone says something funny unintentionally and ever fourth person after that refers to it.
In other words, the group begins to develop rapport and comradery right from the start.
Next, there are short presentations by speakers who have signed up. One is ten minutes and the other is twenty. Each gets some feedback and coaching.
Finally, there’s the “Five minutes in the spotlight.” A card is picked from the bucket and an attendee gets to ask the rest of the group for help. For example:
- How do I get attendees to my event?
- What should I call the three levels of this program?
- How do I get started with video to promote my event?
- How do I get bookings with schools?
- How do I attract more joint ventures?
This is the juicy fun part of the meeting. Even though there are usually only two or three opportunities for the “Five minutes in the spotlight,” this is where the entire crowd throws out recommendations, book titles, web resources, apps, and other resources. The goal is to help the person who asked for help. But in the meantime, everyone in the room is feverishly writing down the books and other resources that are mentioned.
If you haven’t read Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, you should!
Godin talks about how ideas spread like viruses. And certain people are “Promiscuous Sneezers” of ideas. In other words, they are people who casually say things like, “If you haven’t read this book, you should. It’s amazing.” And they do this a lot. All the time.
You should hang out with Promiscuous Sneezers for one simple reason: They will help you filter the world of overwhelming information. Promiscuous Sneezers are usually mavens with regard to the topics at which they excel. That means they’re well informed and spend both time and energy getting good at it. So when they casually throw you some advice, it’s probably worth taking!
I miss a lot of meetings of the Sacramento Speakers Network due to travel. But I always make it when I’m in town because it’s a room filled with really smart, motivated, Promiscuous Sneezers.
I hope you have a similar group where you live. If not, start one!
One of the emerging trends in the U.S. is unplugging. As we become more connected to our technology every day, the need to uplug becomes greater.
In fact, unplugging has become popular enough to have its own day. National Day of Unplugging was March 6th of this year. The day was started by a group called Reboot.
And now, Jenifer Novak Landers – life coach, author, and entrepreneur – has developed a stylish way to unplug at home or at the office. She is creating a line call Unpluggables and raising starter funds through an Indiegogo campaign. See https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/unpluggables.
There are three primary reasons we all need to unplug. They are personal, social, and business.
More and more, research is showing that our constant use of technology is harmful to our bodies and brains in several ways. This is particularly true with cell phones, which have become the all-in-one entertainment center of choice. We’re beginning to see research that supports much of what we already suspect: Cell phone addiction can have negative impacts on our lives – both physicially and psychologically.
For a place to start looking at the research, see https://student.societyforscience.org/article/watch-out-cell-phones-can-be-addictive – or just Google “cell phone addiction” for other links.
On a personal level, over-use of mobile gadgets could be stimulating your brain in harmful ways. On a much more personal level, we all need to take time to relax, disconnect from others, and fully appreciate ourselves and our lives. We need to stop communicating with the outside world and spend more time in reflection. That’s a fundamental precept of my Relax Focus Succeed® philosophy.
On the social level, we all know that “devices” are bad for family communications. Kids won’t put them down. Sometimes adults won’t put them down. Some people literally cannot go five minutes without checking their cell phones. Watch people on a date at a restaurant. Even those who avoid their cell phones whip them out the second their date gets up to use the restroom.
Jenifer tells the story, in her Unpluggables video, about putting a sign on her TV when her daughter was young. The sign read “Magic Happens” because magic happens when we turn off technology and spend time with each other. That was the original idea that became Unpluggables.
Basically, Unpluggables are stylish cases to put your phone into as an outward sign that you are choosing to set aside the technology and pay attention to the people in your life. My favorite design is the wedding set. Hers is white with a veil and his is a little tuxedo. Unplugged weddings have been around about five years. Other unplugged events are growing. For example, see An Unplugged Weekend: 7 Tips To Make It Happen.
Families need to unplug during meals. The Unpluggable line makes it easy to do this with a visible sign that people are choosing to spend time with each other.
On the business front, cell phones are often the cause of great frustration. Forbes recently posted an article entitled How To Get People Off Their Phones In Meetings Without Being A Jerk. And Entrepreneur magazine publishes articles like, Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones Into Meetings.
Jenifer’s Unpluggables line will include sets that can be used at meetings, weddings, and other large gatherings. She’s even going to have decorated boxes that can be passed around at meetings, so folks can just give up the device for an hour.
Give and Get
Please contribute to Jenifer’s Indiegogo campaign. She needs money to create designs, acquire materials, and find manufacturers for Unpluggables. If you contribute, you can get an Unpluggable or several other “perks.” You could even get a starter kit so you can become one of the first resellers for Unpluggables.
Please look at the campaign here.
Donate whatever you can afford.
At least two elements of Relax Focus Succeed® are easier when you unplug: Relax and Focus.
That’s why I’m supporting this awesome campaign.
One of the most obvious examples of “workaholism” is simply over-working. Over-working means that you continue working after you are no longer productive. You might do this out of guilt or frustration. You might just be completely overwhelmed. And that’s precisely why you need to force yourself to stop working and recharge your batteries.
Here’s the thing about too much work: Eventually, everything floats to it’s natural level. So if you exhaust yourself, your body will eventually collapse and you will catch up on sleep whether you want to or not. Or maybe you will get sick, forcing you to slow down.
Here’s what happens when you work too much. As we all know, there are “diminishing returns” from too much work. You focus too closely on what you’re doing and your brain gets tired. That’s why people who work on heavy equipment and critically important jobs (like airline pilots) are forced to take breaks. Accidents happen much more frequently when people are tired.
And tired doesn’t have to be eight or ten or twelve hours. Depending on the combination of physical and mental activities, you might be worn out after only a few hours.
Most of us don’t work on those critically important jobs. For most of us, when we get tired, there are no dire consequences. No one dies. No one is injurged. But we ARE less productive. We DO make more mistakes. And the overall quality of our work is lower. That’s why it’s important to take breaks throughout the day.
As you work day goes along, you gradually become less productive over time. So you are most productive during the first hour of work and least productive during the last hour of work. Everyone has a threshold of productivity. There is literally a point where you move from productive to un-productive. If you keep working, you will eventually be counter-productive.
Most of us are vaguely aware of the line between productive and unproductive. We tend to tell ourselves that we’re really just “less” productive. In reality, we’re making very little progress except in a mechanical sense. For example, we’re not able to write a coherent memo, but we thing we can sort files or clean up minor tasks. We don’t realize that we’re maknig mistakes.
The line between unproductive and counter-productive is essentially invisible. This is where mistakes happen. We do work that has to be thrown away, un-done, or completely re-done. We are creating re-work and don’t even realize it.
But we feel productive because we’re still working! And we feel like we’re doing something instead of nothing.
One of the biggest culprits in over-working is anxiety. You might have a deadline for work or home. (Most often, it’s work and not personal.) You may have stress related to money problems or a big project. Anxiety and worry raise the levels of cortisol in your system. (Strictly speaking, they reduce your body’s ability to regulate the production of cortisol.)
Stress and anxiety are related to sleep disturbances, early death from all causes, occupational injuries, heart attacks, suicide, risk of type 2 diabetes, divorce, breast cancer, and just about every bad thing ever in your life.
With stress, anxiety, and high levels of cortisol, your body gets “stuck” trying to address the panicky feeling you have. Your physical body wants to be “on” and to solve the problem. In some cases, this is good behavior. But the classic example of fighting off a saber tooth tiger should be enough for you to realize that you almost never find yourself in a true fight-or-flight situation.
As a long-term, chronic condition, this is very, very bad.
Physically, your body is 100% ON and wants to stay on. At the same time, you are unproductive, tired, and probably irritable. When you slip into being counter-productive, you don’t even realize it.
You’re essentially in a panic. You can’t sleep because your body is filled with natural chemical stimulants. You are making no effective progress. And you’ve into the counter-productive zone.
You can’t relax. You can’t stop.
… And that’s exactly why you HAVE TO stop. You have to force yourself to NOT WORK.
Breaking the Cycle
The best way to get yourself out of this high-anxiety over-working situation is to train your body to relax. Here are a few tips:
1) Physically put the work down. Wrap it up. Put it away. Go in the other room. Whatever it takes to be out of the work area, do it.
2) Engage in a non-work activity. This might be reading, watching TV, writing, or even playing a game of solitair on your phone. Your brain might only be half-engaged, but it’s not engage in work.
3) Meditation can train your brain to slow down. Meditation reduces stress. In fact, studies show that it reduces cortisol quite significantly. Meditation also increases endorphins – the feel good chemicals associated with love and pleasure.
4) Pour yourself a cup of tea – or a glass or wine. The ritual, along with the senses of smell and taste, will become a powerful signal to your body that work is done for the day.
Relaxation is a habit. Once you train yourself to relax, your body will learn to respond. After you learn to relax, your brain will literally pick up the signs of relaxation and help you to get there quicker. Once you’ve broken out of the anxiety/work cycle, you need to rest. Whether that means sleep or play, you will recharge your batteries as long as you are not trying to work.
And don’t try to cheat! If you say “Well, I’m *just* reading, or *just* doing this one thing …” your brain still knows that you’re working. Any attempt to work will prolong the stress and the anxiety. You have to really stop working in order to break the cycle.
Tomorrow will always be there. And it will always have work to do, and bills to pay. Tomorrow will always bring temptations to over-work.
In the long run, you will get more productive work accomplished when you are well rested. But that’s a habit you have to create.
Comments off · Posted by karlp in Balance, Beliefs, Business, Challenges, Exercise, Family, Goals, Meditation, Muscles of Success, Patience, Positive Attitude, Relax Focus Succeed®, Vision or Mission, Wealth, Workaholism
Relax Focus Succeed®
Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both
Five Mondays – July 28 – Aug. 25, 2014
Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.
Save $50 right now with code RFSClass
This course will show you how to master the concepts of Relax Focus Succeed® – a program for balancing your personal and professional lives and finding more success in both.
This course is intended for anyone who is stressed out, over-worked, and ready to take their whole life to the next level. We all lead busy lives, filled with too many demands. Many of us donâ€™t get enough sleep or exercise. We fight to be successful at work and at home.
Taught by someone who’s been there. Karl Palachuk was diagnosed with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 39 and spent several years getting the disease under control. With two businesses to managed and a young family, he found himself unable to work more than a few hours a day. That’s when he developed a process for achieving goals at a very high level without working himself to death.
Many of us chase the entrepreneurial dream – but few of us reach our entrepreneurial vision.
This is an intensive teleseminar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.
Topics to be presented include:
- Balance your personal and professional lives
- Focus on the single most important things in your life
- Develop your vision for self-fulfillment
- Relax – in a meaningful way
- Be the same person in all elements of your life (overcome Jekyll/Hyde syndrome)
- Put the past – and your present – in their place
- Build your muscles of success
- Stop working 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks
- Avoid being interrupt-driven
- Slow Down, Get More Done
- Work less and accomplish more
- Define Goals: Long-term, Medium-term, and Short-term
- Build quiet time into your life
The course will include a number of recommended do-it-yourself exercises.
Save $50 right now with code RFSClass
Enter code RFSClass to bring this price to only $149
I was in a meeting today and one of the attendees is a tax professional. It’s tax season of course, so she was explaining that she will be working until midnight.
Maybe I’m odd, but my first reaction is that I don’t want my taxes to be prepared by someone at midnight. Or 11 PM or 10 PM. In fact, I don’t want my taxes prepard by someone who was up until midnight last night either!
I want my taxes prepared by someone who is fresh and well rested – and on top of their game.
I don’t want my accounting handled by someone at 11 PM.
I don’t want my tech support handled by someone at 10 PM.
I don’t want my surgery to be performed by a doctor in the last two hours of a ten hour shift.
I don’t want my legal documents reviewed by an attorney after ten hours at the office.
Do you see the pattern here? We all see this behavior in others. We know that they have diminishing returns. We don’t want them at their worst. We want them at their best. We don’t want to pay full price for the ninth or tenth or eleventh hour of work.
When you see someone working like this day after day, you know that they are mostly spinning their wheels and becoming less productive every hour. And after several days of overworking, they are becoming less productive every day.
It can be very frustrating when my flight is cancelled because the pilots sat around waiting for delays until the FAA says that they have to go home because they’ve been on duty too long. But the FAA knows a very clear truth: People make more mistakes when they are tired. Mistakes can kill people.
And What About You?
It’s easy to see this behavior in others, but what about yourself? Are you overworking day after day? How productive are you in the last hour of your long work day?
When most of us make mistakes, no one dies. But that doesn’t mean that we are doing good work, or that our clients are getting their money’s worth. Certainly, our families are not getting what they deserve when we are working eleven or twelve hours in a day.
When you collapse at the end of the week and are “useless” to your family, then you really need to re-evaluate why you’re working so hard.
Under-serving your clients (or boss) while under-serving your family is the only long-term result of chronic over-working.
If you’re a thoroughly modern person, you are probably pretty well tethered to your technology. That means you are never far from your email, cell phone, text messages, and social media. Generally speaking, these are good things. But you might be too connected.
If you are too connected, your addiction to these technologies is actually detrimental to your success, detrimental to your peace of mind, and detrimental to your health. Really. More and more research is revealing that constant tethering to technology is resulting in a new kind of neurosis or addiction.
If you can’t ignore email, text messages, and Facebook for two hours with without feeling agitated, you have a problem. This might sound funny – unless you’ve experienced it. From time to time we all legitimately wait for a special email or a special text message. But addiction comes in when you aren’t waiting for anything in particular – you just crave some kind of interaction on your phone that will make your brain produce some neuro-chemicals that give you a little a positive “hit.”
The Pew Research Center reported in 2012 that 44% of respondents said they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week. My guess is that the number is higher today. For many of us, a little beep or tweet from the phone actually causes a chemical reaction in our brains.
Dopamine is a chemical created in your brain. Often called the pleasure-seeking neurotransmitter, it creates and enhances pleasure-seeking impulses. So when you get some little indicator of pleasure, dopamine pumps into the pleasure center of your brain and you go seeking more. Remember Pavlov’s dog? When the bell rings, the dog starts to salivate.
How about you? When your phone beeps, do you start to salivate? Do you rush to see whether it’s a text message or a Tweet or a Facebook alert? Dinging computers, email pop-ups, and instant messages are all the same. A little taste leads to a larger desire.
And what really happens is that one little ding results in fives minutes pleasure seeking. You make sure you’re all caught up on the alerts and emails and other activity. When you’re sure you’ve got it all, you can put your phone down. But for many of us, we start seeking the next electronic-inspired hit of dopamine as soon as we put the phone down.
Whether it’s just a habit or an actual addiction, you can get carried away with being tethered to your technology. Let’s look at how this behavior affects our lives.
On the business front, constant interruptions just make you less productive overall. Really. I’ve written many times about the fact that multi-tasking is a myth. Human beings cannot focus on two things at once. Again, more and more research is demonstrating that the best we can do is to jump between tasks doing each of them less effectively. And interruptions cause us to lose time as we switch gears. We think we’re doing more because we confuse busy-ness with productivity. We might be busier switching tasks all the time, but we are far less productive.
You need to turn off the distractions. You need to silence the alerts. You need to disable the pop-ups and instant messaging. You need to take control of communication and decide when you’ll check those things. Do not be interrupt-driven.
I am not trying to be preachy here. I really take this very seriously. That’s why I can’t ask you to just drop it all at once. If you’re addicted to the BEEP, you need to slowly ween yourself off of it. You need to un-tether, but you need to do it in a way that decreases your anxiety instead of increasing it.
The goal is to be able to ignore your disruptive technology so you can be more productive and more focused. Here’s a plan to do that without guilt, stress, or temptation.
Step One: Believe and Commit
First, you need to accept that the world really is going to be just fine even when you are not monitoring it 24/7. Intellectually, you know that you can watch a movie at home or in the theater and everything will be just fine if you don’t check your text messages during that time. And the same is true with dinner, and with sleeping at night.
So we know in our intelligent brain that we can ignore email, social media, and text messaging for hours at a time. But when we have access to these technologies we tend to turn them on and keep them on – ready to interrupt us at any time.
You have to accept that ignoring these technologies for longer periods of time is okay and that nothing bad will happen. A big piece of this is that YOU will control the entire process. You will decide when to look at email or check the phone.
Step Two: Plan Out A Morning Routine
The morning is key because it gets you up and going and sets the tone for the day. The biggest change here is that you will not check your phone (or email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) first thing when you wake up.
You need to actually wake up, acknowledge the new day, and calmly enter the world before you choose to tether yourself to technology. That means you will want to make sure that the phone is left in the kitchen or the study at night – not in your bedroom. Not next to your head. Not where you can reach over and get your first hit of dopamine before you crawl out of bed.
A good morning routine for everyone includes a gentle start. Wake up. Make coffee or tea. Have a very light meal or snack. Like a small yogurt. Just enough to give you a boost of energy. Then exercise for 30-60 minutes. Of course I recommend quiet time (meditation, prayer, etc.). Then you can shower, have breakfast, and get ready for your day.
THEN you can check your email and phone.
Step Three: Create a Regular Schedule for Email and Phone
I know it sounds drastic, but I encourage you to totally silence your phone and turn off all reminders and alerts for email and social media. In other words, nothing in your environment should be beeping and tweeting and buzzing. YOU will decide when to check these things. They do not have the right to interrupt you.
Whatever you are doing right “now” is absolutely more important than whatever interruption happens to occur. You’ll prove this to yourself in the next step.
For now, set yourself a non-interruption policy. Turn off all the alerts.
Then, set yourself a schedule. For example, let’s say you go through the morning routine above and check the phone, email, and text messages between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning. If you are heading to work at an office, I highly recommend that you do NOT check email until you get there. The first email session of the morning usually involves filtering through a lot of crap you’re going to delete anyway. The rest of the day, email can usually be handled in 5-10 minute sessions.
What’s your schedule? The best is probably 60 or 90 minutes. That means that you check all of your electronic communications, and then close it out or ignore it for 60-90 minutes. Do not check email every few minutes. Do not have a Twitter (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) feed scrolling on your screen. Do not have pop-ups or audible alerts.
YOU decide to check your email after 60-90 minutes. I think you’ll be amazed that you’ll catch up on everything in 10-15 minutes. Then you can go silent again for 60-90 minutes.
Eventually, you’ll stretch out this time. Maybe you’ll end up checking email at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 4:45 pm. That’s much better than twenty times an hour. Really.
Step Four: Keep a Log of Important Communications
One of the lies we tell ourselves about the technology tether is that we’ll miss something important. But the reality is that 99.999% of the time, the phone call that interrupts you is LESS important than whatever you’re doing at the time. Email is even less likely to be more important than what you’re doing. Twitter and Facebook less than that. Instagram less than that. And so forth.
Here’s a sample log format. Simply mark down the time you you check email, etc. and then log the number of emergencies and high priority items that you did not respond to in a timely manner. For example, if someone is stuck on the side of the road in the rain with a flat tire and they decided to call you instead of AAA, did you respond to them quickly enough?
Time Check . . . Emergencies High Priority ----- ----------- ----------- -------------
8:00 AM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
9:30 AM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
11:00 AM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
12:30 PM Voicemail 0 1 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
2:00 PM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
3:30 PM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
5:00 PM Voicemail 0 0 Email 0 0 Social Media 0 0
Note: There’s no need to track Medium and Low Priority items since they can wait 60-90 minutes. They are not, by definition, Emergencies or High Priority.
Keep a log like this for a week. You can track it during the business day or all day from when you get up until you go to bed at night. What you’ll see is self-proof that you don’t need to camp out on your phone waiting for urgent tweets.
. . . Or Do Something Different
This approach might not be right for you. But if you look at your technology tether and decide that you need to be less tethered, please come up with a different plan that does work for you. I don’t know what the future holds regarding technology. But I know this: We will only become more tethered to more technologies as time goes on.
Take control of your communication. Separate the entertainment factor from the work factor and focus on what needs to be done. Focus never happens by itself. You have to choose to focus. Which means you have to choose to un-tether.
Yesterday, my daughter wandered in and asked me if I had a good day. Yes. Yes I did!
“Oh,” she said, “What happened?”
Oddly enough, nothing spectacular. It was a not-too-busy day, but still filled with lots of good little things. No big events. No big projects. No surprises. Nothing spectacular.
But . . .
Wii Fit says I’ve lost a pound and a half in the last month!
I’m moving my latest book from 99.9% complete to 99.99% complete. Just waiting on two tiny things I can’t control.
I had a nice chat with someone who has been a sometimes-competitor and is now developing a new project – and wants me involved.
Then I had a nice long chat with another sometimes-competitor who has realized that we could create some amazing stuff together.
I outlined a new book I hadn’t thought about writing before. It’s now third in line on my list of products to create!
One of the organizations I’m speaking for asked me to make a connection that could lead to a much stronger relationship between two of my favorite clients.
I made a new friend that I’m certain will add fun and intellectual stimulation to the remainder of the year.
And I finished the evening with a meeting of people who get together once a month and are genuinely happy to see each other and share our victories and defeats.
So when I say nothing really happened, it was the kind of “nothing” that makes a day perfect.
Now let’s see what today brings.
I’m a big advocate of balance. In work and play and everything else. Ironically enough, you have to WORK at balance: It simply won’t happen by itself.
Part of balance means saying no. Make that “NO!”
Business owners tend to be doers and joiners. When someone drops a request on our laps, we tend to say yes. Whether its a client, a service organization, a church, or even our own business. When the world puts an abandoned puppy on our porch, we take it in.
But we all know that we have a tendency to do too much. We find ourselves on committees and members of clubs, starting new ventures, and joining others. At some point, we simply can’t live up to all of our commitments.
January’s gone and February is upon us! If you haven’t complete a beginning-of-the-year review of your commitments, there’s still time. Just ask yourself whether you might be over-extended.
When you’re over-extended, several things are wrong:
– You’re not living up to your commitments.
– Others are relying on you and you think you might be letting them down.
– Your business may be suffering due to inattention — or attention to the wrong things.
– You feel stress because you “can’t do it all.”
In the big picture, you’re spending time doing the wrong things. You’re energy is bound up trying to figure out what you should be doing — instead of doing something (anything) fruitful!
So why don’t we stop? Why don’t we drop some of these activities? The two primary reasons are guilt and habit.
Horace Mann said “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.”
There’s very little we can do about our habits except to commit ourselves to change. Once committed, we must unravel our existing cable one thread at a time and begin weaving another to take its place.
Guilt is another matter.
Perhaps the best way to deal with guilt is to get some perspective.
Ask yourself: are you really obligated to [this cause/this committee/this organization/etc] simply because you have participated in the past? Probably not. So why do you participate?
Legitimate Reasons to Continue:
– I find it personally fulfilling
– I need a change from the other activities in my life
– I enjoy the people/the project/etc.
– It makes me feel good/important
– It helps me in my business
– People express gratitude for what I do. I’m not taken for granted.
– It makes me happy
– It contributes to my physical or mental health
– It is profitable!
Poor Excuses to Continue:
– Other people expect me to be there
– If I don’t do it, who will?
– I made a commitment at some point
– I started this and now a lot of people are expecting it
– If I quit, I’ll feel like a loser
Notice I added an extra line there?
Above the line are legitimate reasons to continue. Below the line are poor excuses to continue. Most of them involve you believing that the stuff won’t get done without you. Sorry to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
Some time ago I took on the job of program chairman for an organization because the president was over-worked and needed help. Two years later I found that I had taken on too many “outside” activities and needed to cut back. I felt that this one thing needed to be done by me because no one else would step forward.
Then I realized that was stupid. After all, the group existed for many years before I joined and has many members. Any group that relies solely on my participation for it’s existence has a pretty weak foundation.
Some people go through this filtering process once a year. Some more frequently. In January a gave up a number of projects and commitments that just we’re working anymore. Part of me wants to feel guilty about that.
But I know that achieving balance means taking stock from time to time and deciding where to spend my energies. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is arrogant and selfish to think that communities, organizations, and projects can’t survive without you.
When you re-evaluate and re-organize your commitments, you’ll end up with more energy to dedicate to the remaining activities. You’re time and talents will be more keenly focused and your contribution will be more meaningful.
So do yourself a favor: Re-evaluate your commitments. Put it all in perspective.
And have a happier, healthier, more balanced year!