How to Finish Strong: The Mid-Year Review (Part 1 of 2)

It’s mid-year already…whoa.

Crazy I know, but a hard reality we all need to face no matter who we are, or what we do for a living…it’s mid-year and time to figure out what you want to do with your life over the next six months.

The most underrated practice so many well-intentioned entrepreneurs lack is taking a good hard look at where they’re at with their business. 

Have you taken a few moments to reflect?

The 3 Biggest “Side Hustle” Mistakes Parents Make

The 3 Biggest “Side Hustle” Mistakes Parents Make

Side hustles are sexy. 

If the boss sends you packing on a Monday, you can rest assured there’s an alternative in place that doesn’t require you and your family to rely on anyone but yourself, right? 

Why wouldn’t you want your own side hustle?

While there’s a ton of reasons why you should, there’s an even greater number of non-sexy, overlooked reasons why some of you shouldn’t, especially if you’re a parent. 

3 Ways You Can Spend QT w/Family & Still Get Things Done

3 Ways You Can Spend QT w/Family & Still Get Things Done

I used to get pumped about weekends! 

Time with family, people we to hang with, summer events, picnics at the park, S’mores over campfires, oh the possibilities!

Then, reality always set in.

I’d come home after a long week in the office and tell my wife how excited I was to do (whatever it was I was excited to do) that weekend. 

Like clockwork, she would inevitably remind me how I promised to finish up the remodeling project in the kitchen, or pressure wash the fence for the party next weekend, or deep clean all the bathrooms, or patch the hole in the wall from whatever sporting event the kids were conducting in the house on Monday…

How do you get this stuff done while still spending quality time with your family?

Home Task Batching - Five Ideas for Better Home Productivity

Home Task Batching - Five Ideas for Better Home Productivity

It’s no joke, learning how to “batch” will improve your efficiency tenfold.  I didn’t believe it at first, then I started tracking my time, in somewhat painstaking detail.

It's been an ongoing experiment on my personal productivity and the results are huge!  So what’s this “batching” thing and what does it have to do with home productivity?

I'm SO glad you asked...

3 Things You Can Do to Leverage Productive Work Habits at Home

3 Things You Can Do to Leverage Productive Work Habits at Home

We KILL it at work Monday through Friday, but how is our performance at home on the weekends?

All we want to do is relax; we don’t want to be bothered with figuring out where to take the kids, or what work needs to be done around the house, we’re home!

These statements paint a very clear picture of my attitude before I pulled my head out of my rear, back when I was working in Corporate America full-time. 

Then I woke up and made a big change...

Making Time Tracking “Buckets” That Work for You

Making Time Tracking “Buckets” That Work for You

There's no one-size-fits-all for how we spend our time; nor should there be.

Listeners of The Make it Snappy Productivity Show asked me to shed some light on which buckets I use to carry my time, and hence, served as a catalyst for this blog article.

If you find it helpful, or if you have your own "buckets" you're willing to share, please leave a comment!

How to Track Every Moment of Your Life (and Why)

How to Track Every Moment of Your Life (and Why)

Measuring performance is our topic of the month, all month long on The Make it Snappy Productivity Show podcast, so my goal is to give you everything you need to hit the ground running.

 

It starts with tracking how we spend our time.

 

Track everything.  

 

Seriously, everything.

 

Only then, can we get a clear picture of how we’re actually spending our time.  

 

Only then, can we create a baseline to measure how we’re doing.

 

Here’s the trick though...

7 “Snappy” Strategies to Take Control of Office Interruptions

7 “Snappy” Strategies to Take Control of Office Interruptions

Setting boundaries in the office isn’t one of those topics that’s readily discussed in the productivity space and I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s because we’re more focused on the expediency of human interactions, maybe even the tools and technology that foster efficiency for communication, rather than on the interpersonal relationship itself.

Nevertheless, establishing healthy boundaries and personal policies in and around boundaries is one of the most productive practices the productivity enthusiasts can participate in each and every day.

Sustaining Email Improvements | How to be Lean with Email Using “5S” (Part 5 of 5)

Sustaining Email Improvements | How to be Lean with Email Using “5S” (Part 5 of 5)

Email junkies are either scared or lazy.  It’s not difficult to reduce the amount of email we receive.  It's something we can do TODAY!  The problem is most of us are either too scared or too lazy to revert back to productive human interactions.  Sustainable email improvements take commitment and accountability; if you want to get the right things done each day, it's usually not done over email.  This article will help you solidify your email habits and provides strategies for long-term lean email success.

KEEP Shattering the Chains of Your Inbox with “5S" | How to Be Lean with Email (Part 4 of 5)

KEEP Shattering the Chains of Your Inbox with “5S" | How to Be Lean with Email (Part 4 of 5)

A few weeks after taking my leap into entrepreneurship I decided to commit to making my bed each morning.  It was a small win; a small win that completely aligns with the 3rd “S” of the Lean/Six Sigma 5S principles for process improvement.  For email, the key to maintaining a solid process (and work in general, for that matter) is to start with a small win and a clean slate. 

How to Be Lean with Email | Analyze the Numbers (Part 2 of 5)

How to Be Lean with Email | Analyze the Numbers (Part 2 of 5)

It's the big shocker of 2016...THREE hours per day on e-mail!  If you read and implemented the tactics from Part 1 of our series on email, you may indeed fall into this camp.  To get to the root of what's going on, it's important to not only just get a handle on how much time is spent, but also why we do what we do when we're banging away on our keyboards and responding to auto-notifications.

How I Invested in a Wake-Up Call

You got me…busted.

The guy who helps people with their overwhelm and distractions is feeling a little overwhelmed and distracted; having trouble setting priorities.

There’s been a lot of changes in life; in the way my work day is structured, in the way I think about things.  I find myself wasting time, doing things I know I’m not best suited to do. 

I too am a victim; falling into the continuous trap of being consumed by noise and administrative burden.

We’ve all been there. 

There's certain tasks that need to be done and we just can’t stand doing them. 

There’s others we’d like to do, but convince ourselves we don’t have the time to do them.   

Inherently, we know there’s a better way.   We could be using our time more wisely, but we fight it. 

I still fight it at times.

I’ve become quite adept at conjuring up grandiose justifications for how I can do it all myself; how I can save money if I “go it alone,” how I’m not ready to spend my time on my value-added tasks yet.

Maybe I’m not ready.

Maybe I need a little more pain before I pull the trigger and pivot...

That’s how I was feeling.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to reach out for help.

 

How I Knew it Was Time to Get Help

It comes back to making clear decisions about how I want to spend my time and what I’m realizing may be even more important, how NOT to spend it.

The “To Do” list can seem overwhelming, but the “Stop Do” list is downright scary.

It feels like we’re quitting, like we’ve failed.  

Yet, if I quit my comfortable, six-figure income to start my own business and I’m sitting here earning money as an entrepreneur spending entirely too much time working on tasks that don’t fulfill me, have I succeeded or failed?

Sometimes we need to muscle our way through a painful process in order to understand what needs to be done.  Sometimes it’s a long-term strategy and the benefits aren’t apparent. 

Other times, we’re fooling ourselves and it needs to be offloaded.

 

Understanding What it Takes is One Thing...

During the launch of my podcast, I deliberately made a decision to do it all myself. 

I wanted to see what it takes to do it “right,” and get a feel for the commitment necessary to deliver quality content, how disciplined I need to be, and whether I can get the show and everything else done in 25 hours per week.  

The answer was, and still is, a resounding “no.”  

Why 25 hours per week?

Well, I’m grateful for the fact that I currently consult for a fabulous client who has me on retainer for 20 hours per week.  We worked out a retainer contract that guarantees work for a minimum of 20 optional hours per week. 

I start my day at 5AM, but work doesn’t get cranked up until 6AM, after I pray, read and journal. 

As such, I have the ability to work a 9-hour day without issue.

If I hold to my commitment of not working nights and weekends, there’s an additional 25 hours left if I am to leave  (in my case, “stop”) work on time.

During the weeks leading up to the launch of my podcast, it wasn’t difficult for me to get everything done, meet my retainer hours and support my client’s business needs as originally intended. 

Yet, as time progressed closer and closer to my podcast launch date, it became increasingly difficult to get my productivity coaching, training, podcasting, and blogging work done in 25 hours; not to mention taking any time at all to develop new products.  

Back when I left my comfortable, six-figure income, my wife and I agreed that I would build a business that gave me more hours with my family and that removed the burden of my long commute and days in Corporate America. 

I got into this entrepreneurship gig under the premise of working less, freedom-filled hours, and I made a commitment (whether reasonable or not) to cap my hours at 45 per week.  

My number one responsibility is being a good husband and parent, not build a business. 

 

Refuse to Settle for Less

I’m living my dream right now, and dang it, and I don’t care if building a business is hard work, or if it requires overtime. 

I have a dream to live a certain lifestyle, and I'm committed to doing whatever it takes to make it happen!

I believe in productivity, and I won’t accept or settle for indefinitely long workweeks!  

My commitment, my mindset drove me to my first strategy.

To get it all done on time, I began borrowing hours from my guaranteed 20 per week, and not billing my retainer client.

I thought I was making an investment in my productivity business. 

Yet, what I was invested in was a wake-up call.

Blog_160126_alarm-clock.jpg

Not billing my guaranteed number of hours gave me a very specific, measurable, and unquestionable resource that gives me a crystal clear report, every other week of whether I’m working productively.

When I don’t have enough time to do retainer work, I don’t get paid.  My bank account shrinks and there’s absolutely no denying it.  

This strategy has proven unsustainable.

Sure, I’m making up a little of the difference through my productivity coaching business, and that’s what I should be doing.  I mean, it’s the reason I do what I’m doing, to help people!  

It was time to execute another strategy.

Yet, it’s all the peripheral stuff that needs to go; this is the stuff that’s costing us money and sucking my energy dry!

The hilarious (but sad) fact is that I could actually hire an assistant to perform my peripheral tasks at a lower hourly rate than what I’m currently sacrificing by not billing retainer hours!  

So now that I understand what it takes, HOORAY! 

Ok, so what am I going to do about it? [crickets]

So, understanding what it takes is one thing...


Executing What it Takes is Quite Another

I began an exercise of relentlessly tracking how I spend my time each day and I was shocked, at how much time I was spending on podcasting - up to 8 hrs per week! 

I couldn’t believe how long a 1-hr face-to-face meeting took from my day.  I most cases, it was around three hours! 

So there’s actually two overarching solutions I’ve identified to get my time back. 

Two time sucks that need to be addressed, and surprisingly, it’s not email or social media.

It’s a much more complex problem, one that takes time and preparation to solve...

...one that requires making tough decisions.

The thing is, if we want our time back, we need to decide what to (1) stop doing and (2) let someone else do.

Such a beautifully simple concept.  So taxingly difficult to execute.

Here are two few commitments I’ve put into practice that have helped me save time and execute more effectively.


1 - Commit to a “Stop Do” list

No one likes to say “no.”  No one likes to stop doing something, even when it’s obvious to everyone around us but ourselves, we don’t want to quit. 

We don’t want to feel like quitters. 

Yet, Seth Godin says in his book, The Dip:

"The old saying is wrong - winners do quit, and quitters do win." -Seth Godin

Winners know when to quit and when to stick.

I’m quitting the majority of my face-to-face meetings.  Unless I have something going on in an area and the meeting directly contributes to my goals, I’m limiting face-to-face meetings to Wednesday mornings, that’s it. 

It’s convenient because I already meet a study group at 6:30AM, every Wednesday morning.    

Since I’m already out, traveling time is already accounted for and a one hour meeting can remain a one-hour meeting.

There are plenty of other “stop do’s” to commit to, but face-to-face meetings is the biggest time suck for me that I know if I stop doing, will automatically generate at least four additional hours per week and get my schedule back on track.

Further, if you read last week’s post on “My Kardashian,” starting small is key.  I’m not going to overwhelm myself by biting off more than I can (stop) chewing.


2 - Commit to Outsourcing

This is a really scary thing for me as well, as I’m sure it is for most people adept at “doing it all.” 

It’s somewhat like sending your kid off to Kindergarten on their first day of school…it’s tough to let go and trust someone else to take care of your baby.

It also forces us to put our money where our mouth is. 

If we’re going to spend our hard-earned dollars letting someone else do our work for us, we’ve got to make up the difference and then some by working on higher-value activities.

For me, I'm fortunate because it’s rather easy.  

If I spend less than my retainer fee on a third-party contractor to handle my peripheral burden, I free up real time to work more hours for my retainer client.

This will result in my goal of billing my retainer client for a full week’s work, while still getting everything done in a given week.  

For others, it may not be so cut and dry. 

If we’re spending time on administrative burden and we know we could be more effective doing higher-value work, we need to develop a plan to perform and get paid for that higher-value work!

Without a retainer client or part-time job, the time freed through outsourcing must be used on activities that will generate more revenue than what’s spent on outsourcing, not just on doing tasks we enjoy instead of those we hate.

For example, the time liberated through outsourcing can be used to create more relationships with potential clients or to develop products faster.

For me, I now outsource the majority of my podcast editing activities.  

I use my outsourcing strategy to free time for more retainer work, but I could also use it to free time for additional coaching, or to develop my coaching business.

Outsourcing is a fantastic strategy, if the future payoff is commensurate with the benefits gained.  Executing an outsourcing strategy and “stop-do” list takes deliberate thought and planning - both of which are difficult in practice.

Do you need someone to help think through your personal outsourcing strategy and “stop-do” list? 

Please let me know what you’re up to by leaving a comment below.  If you’d rather talk in private, send me an email: nick@makeitsnappyshow.com.

There’s freedom in productivity; there’s power in community.

I encourage you to reach out and connect with someone who can help you achieve purpose.

Just Give in and Plan! (Part 2 of Using Project Management for Personal Productivity)

Just Give in and Plan! (Part 2 of Using Project Management for Personal Productivity)

“Dude we just need to let it flow, don’t put me in a box!” said the consultant to his client.  I thought to myself, “sure man, let it flow.”  Let those creative juices cascade down like white water rapids - don’t let that schmo interfere with your process!

 

How’s that going for you? 

 

So you spent six hours working on that banner ad because you let it flow; you were in the zone…I’ll admit, that banner was dope!  You’re more brilliant than you know…

 

The thing is, you have a business to run and you’re client is ticked off now.

Using Project Management for Personal Productivity

Using Project Management for Personal Productivity

Ahhh, no alarm.  No ringing.  

The pleasure of waking up when my body wants me to.  It’s something I reserve for every Saturday and Sunday morning and further, something I take pride in.  So when my body naturally woke me up at 5:15AM the day after New Year’s I was like, “Cool, time to get stuff done!” 

By “stuff,” I mean work. 

It felt natural to creep out of the bedroom without bothering up my wife; to quietly close my office door and not to wake up the kids.  It was the weekend; a grand opportunity to get ahead for the upcoming week and I absolutely LOVE what I do, so it didn’t feel like a grind.

I worked vigorously from 5:15 to 7:20AM when my youngest woke up and gave me a hug.  I felt great!  I got ahead, took care of some nagging “to-do’s” that I didn’t know how I’d otherwise get done.  So when it was time to shut it down and focus on family I almost sprung out of my chair with a smile on my face!

Then my wife woke up...

The Key to Being Mentally Present when Workload is High

“Why did you take the cap off the salad dressing?”  

My wife asked me, slightly chuckling.  “You can just flip the cap open.”  

Why are you laughing?” I asked.  “Because I know you’re mind is somewhere else,” she replied, “I know you, you’re not present.”  

Dang it she’s right (I hate that).

She knows me better than I know myself.  It was the result of me slipping back into poor habits; the all-consumed, “put my blinders on and go until he passes out,” Nick Snapp of the past.  

It was a glimmer of the guy who turned a 90-day book project into a 13-month neurotic masterpiece that only my sister and mother read, a guide for installing trim and molding for baby nurseries…what the heck was THAT all about anyway?

I’m still not sure, but I thought I learned something.

It was the BIG PUSH at the end, the light at the end of the tunnel, and all I could think about is my podcast launch.  Who has room for keeping tabs on salad dressing caps?

I was working my tail off to get everything in place for the launching my podcast, and my wife recognized I was putting in more hours and not always present.

Yet, I did learn something this time; it wasn’t like it was before.  I learned how to listen without shutting everyone out.

Our salad dressing conversation dug a lot deeper than I wanted it to. It was like a root cause analysis. I fought it at first, but our talk helped me come to terms with what was going on; why I was going back to my old MO. 

As a result, I was able to be honest with myself and shut down my natural habits quicker than before, back when I wrote the “Baby Nursery Survival Guide,” (yikes). 

Who knew a podcast launch was so much work?  Who knew how quickly I could fall back into former tendencies?

I was so passionate about getting my message out about the show, that I started throwing all my productivity habits out the window…talk about an oxymoron!

When We’re Not Mentally Present

I’ve traced this back to something I know and talk about all the time…the open loop.

When I’m working during the day, I’m working - that’s all there is to it.  Being mentally present with my family during work hours isn’t an issue, because my job is to be mentally present with my work; it’s completely planned out and expected…no stress.

I take pride in the fact that I’m supposed to leave work on time.  When I lose childcare at 4PM every weekday that’s supposed to be it; shut it down!  Nevertheless, the workload is high at the present moment...

So what to do?

I’m good about knowing what the most IMPORTANT thing I can do each day is.  In fact, I put videos together every day, and I manage a community, Productive Yours & Mine (PYM), where we discuss just that, EVERY single DAY.

So when it comes to thinking about, knowing and understanding the ONE thing I can do each day to move my business forward, even if it’s a scary thing, I usually knock it out of the park.

Through PYM, we’re developing the habit of identifying these things each day, and planning our days accordingly.

So What’s the Issue?

My business would be just fine if I worked on that one important thing each day.  Nevertheless, I'm the “Productivity Guy,” now, and that makes me feel like I need to do more.  I push myself to do more each day, even if it’s not all that important to my business.  I'm excited about my work now!  To quote Shawn Blanc, I delight in the details!  

The issue for now is letting go.  

I talk about "Productivity for Purpose," so what’s the purpose of delighting in the details?  It's definitely something I need to consciously think about.  As much as I recognize why I’m in business, and why I’m working hard on things like this The Make it Snappy podcast launch, I still need to fight my natural tendencies.  I still need to think about the purpose of it all.

I’m doing this for my family!  They're my reason, my purpose.

Yet, when it comes to realizing the fruits of my labor, appreciating my purpose and spending quality time with my family, I’m not taking full advantage.  I have trouble shutting it down!

So how does one shut it down?

 

Close the Open Loop

I’ve come to realize that even if I have trouble letting go, even if I want to do it all and then some, I probably can, if it’s done the right way; but there’s a crazy-important distinction that we can’t miss, and it’s a simple one:

There’s a time and place for everything.

Appropriate times and places are prepared in advance.  If not, if we’re depending on unscheduled time to get something done.

If we’re squeezing time in whenever possible, and then obsessing about it when that time doesn’t come around, we’ve created an open loop...

game over, we've failed.

There’s indeed a time and place for everything, and it's not the time we attempt to create as life's moments pass by.  

For me, I’m least present when I have something to do (list write a blog post) and I have no idea when I’m going to get it done, i.e., my open loop.

For whatever reason, our minds tend to obsess about open loops, especially during times we can’t do anything about them.

The only way I’ve found to close the open loop is to schedule the extra work in advance.  For me, it’s with the person it affects the most, my wife.

All it takes is a simple conversation; a mutual agreement, about what needs to get done and why this particular thing is taking longer than my allocated work hours.  Most times it’s not that big of a deal; just something to negotiate. 

On the flip side, leaving open loops “open,” can cause relationship destruction.

Times of high workload will come and go; everybody gets that.  Yet, to manage them and still be present in the moment, that’s where true talent come to shine.

This Christmas, figure out when you’re going to get your work done so you can be present with your family, and have that conversation ahead of time. 

Your family deserves your attention, and you deserve being there to enjoy them.

May God bless you and your family with a happy and healthy holiday season.

Merry Christmas!