Envision Possibilities
Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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Envision Possibilities

It's not really balanced...

Work-life balance isn’t really a thing. Betty Friedan has been quoted as saying “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.” Balance implies evenness, sameness, a destination. It isn’t.

No one is ever in balance for more than a moment. Perhaps what we are striving for is harmony. In classical music, sometimes the percussion is louder, sometimes the strings are louder, sometimes the brass is louder. There are forte sections where everything is blaring at once and there are pianissimo sections where sound is barely audible. And there are rests, quiet spaces when no sounds are made at all. Just like life! In life, different parts are louder than others at different times, but as a whole, it can be harmonic and beautiful.

When on a deadline or project, work is loud. During times of celebration or sadness, family is loud. While training for a 5K or other personal endeavor, self-care is loud, and when on vacation there are times of quiet and silence. Framing life like a symphony and striving for harmony seems so much more reasonable.

If one were to divide a “life pie” into four balanced parts — work, family, self-care, other interests —  you would be spending an equal amount of time on each portion.  That’s not how life is.  And we know no day, week, or month is ever the same. To think it would be is not realistic. Additionally, imagine how boring life would be if every day and every week were the same.

What would be possible if you gave yourself permission to live in harmony and not strive for perfect balance all the time?

Harmony at Work

The same concept of harmony applies to work as well. If you are only doing unrewarding tasks and projects, it’s hard to stay engaged. Therefore, when creating your task list, consider the importance of putting meaningful things on your list. If all you do are things to please others, you won’t be very motivated to do your best, most productive work.

Traditionally, around Thanksgiving, I write a blog post about our lives being too full, like a Thanksgiving plate. If we fill our Thanksgiving plate with foods to please everyone else, we won’t have room to eat the foods we love. This results in us leaving the Thanksgiving table unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Then later, we eat more pie than we should. If you want to be satisfied, it is important to make room for the sweet potatoes and stuffing, or whatever your favorite Thanksgiving food of choice is.

In life and work, it’s important to make room for the things that matter too. Is it time to pull your passion projects off the back burner? Is it time to stop spending precious time making unimportant things perfect? Is it time to have more fun? With variety, NOT BALANCE, you’re much more likely to be productive.


This is compiled from Chapter 5 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

 

This is not your typical business school goal setting post! It’s about getting clear about what’s important to you.  Because when you know what is important, it is easier to say yes to the things that matter.

Intentions and Not Just Goals?

Goals are useful in some cases. They just aren’t applicable for everything. Considering intentions (how you want to live) expands your possibilities.

Goals have specific outcomes

  • Make profits over six figures this year.
  • Complete the team on-boarding program by June.
  • Lose four pounds a month each month this year.

Intentions clarify how you wish to live

  • I work smart and provide a great service.
  • I live a healthy, happy life.
  • I give my best self to my family.
  • I continue to learn so I can help other leaders grow.

Goals AND Intentions 

Most people have both goals and intentions. To focus on one and not the other is addressing just a portion of what is important.

My clients tell me they need help figuring out how to get all their work done. In reality, work is only part of the challenge. Many say they would like to take time off without worry, spend more quality time with their families, and even have a bit of time for themselves. As you work through identifying your own goals and intentions, you may want to consider more than work. Remember, a key reason to improve productivity is to have a full and better life.

Use the Planning Map Snapshot format below to plan a better 2023

Step 1: Identify Focus Areas — The life areas you choose to prioritize.

  • Focus Areas are the spaces in which you want to spend your time. In a financial budget, you’d have areas such as home expenses, utilities, clothing, food, and entertainment.
  • Your life’s Focus Areas may include business, work, professional growth, personal growth, self-care, family, spirituality, friends, volunteerism, service, activism, or advocacy.
  • Only Four Areas! Challenge yourself to limit your number of Focus Areas to four. When you spread yourself too thin, you end up accomplishing less. When you force yourself to narrow your focus, you do better work and are more productive.

Step 2: Determine Goals and Intentions — The ultimate outcome you are striving for.

  • A few people can state their goals or intentions off the top of their heads. Most can’t.
  • If the answers don’t come easily to you, start by developing your priorities (step 3). Then use your priorities to back into your goals and intentions. While it goes against every rigid business planner’s process, completing your priorities first can help you see exactly what matters.
  • Ask yourself “what is the reason these priorities are important? What is my purpose in accomplishing them?” The answer will bring the goal or intention into focus.

Step 3: Set Priorities — The overarching projects and tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal or live your intention.

  • The next step is to figure out the three most important things you want to accomplish in each Focus Area. Your priorities should be actionable within the established time frame of your plan.
  • The priority should identify what you will do.
    • Start with an action word such as plan, complete, strategize, or implement.
    • Be concise — provide enough detail for you to understand what you want to do, but not so much you can’t easily grasp the action at a glance.
  • When identifying your priorities, it often helps to prime the pump by asking yourself questions such as these:
    • What project, task, or action is critical to my success or my organization’s success?
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • What would I be disappointed with if I didn’t achieve?
    • What do I need to do to be who I want to be?
  • Was it hard to identify three priorities for each life area? Having too many priorities is more often the problem. Remember, it’s better to do a few things fully and well than attempt many things that never reach completion.
  • While you may only have three priorities per goal or intention, when you consider your four Focus Areas, you will have twelve priorities for the entire year. Completing twelve priorities is a challenging, yet generally attainable target.

My wish for you for 2023 is that you take a bit of time to get clear about what’s important for 2023. I suspect that if you do, you will actually have a happy New Year.


This is compiled from Chapter 7 my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

In my last blog post I introduced you to the concept of Structure Preference – how much structure you personally need to do your best work.

In this week’s post we’ll use that information to guide you in finding the way you work best.  Knowing what’s unique about how you work can guide you as you craft productivity systems that fit how you’re wired.

David Keirsey, Professor of Psychology, and co-author of the seminal book Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, streamlined the Myers-Briggs® by identifying personality types based on two specific personality characteristics. He theorized that the way one processes information influences behavior. He believed SENSORS are most affected by the way they function in society, while INTUITORS are most influenced by their decision-making processes.

Applying Keirsey’s concepts to productivity inspired my productivity styles: Catalyst, Coordinator, Diplomat, and Innovator. Use your structure preference to narrow your options. If you are Task Priority Focused chances are your either a Coordinator or Innovator.  If you are Relationship Priority Focused you’re most likely a Catalyst or Diplomat.   Review the chart below.

Can you recognize your Productivity Style?

Once you understand your more about yourself, you’ll understand more about how to set yourself up for success.

For example, let’s look at how people with different productivity styles approach doing a to-do list.

  • CATALYSTs thrive with simple systems. They keep it high level by using their list to capture ideas and identify most urgent tasks.
  • DIPLOMATs benefit from taking time to plan their work. Since their tendency is to verbally process rather than write, committing to the system is key. They make it fun by color coding and using creative labels.
  • COORDINATORs love seeing everything in one place. They plan their work and work their plan.
  • INNOVATORs like to plan but can get lost in trying to improve the system. They do best when they use their list to capture ideas and prioritize, and then quickly move into action.

Are you staring to think differently about how who you are affects your best way to do things? If you’ve ever felt like a square peg in a round hole, understanding how who you are impacts how you do things will shift your perspective so you can consider alternative approaches.

Book News:  The book WILL be out next week.  Available for purchase on Amazon next Wednesday, September 7th.  I’ll send a link to you next week when the book is available.

Save the Date: Virtual Book Launch Party – Wednesday September 28, 2022 from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.  Eastern Time.  This will be an open house so please drop in for a few minutes or longer, whatever is good for you. I’ve ordered these amazing custom bookplates so that I’ll be able to “sign your book.”  And we’ll have give-aways, readings, Q&A, and just celebrate.  Zoom link coming soon.

Welcome to The Better Work Better Life Blog – Here I share big ideas to help you think differently about your productivity, your work, and your life. My goal in this series of posts is to summarize the concepts I share in my new book (out next week) Productivity for How You’re Wired. My promise to you, as it’s been for the last 15 years that I’ve been blogging, is to write something short enough that you can read it in the moment.

 

What’s the difference between a Productivity Coach and a Time Management Coach?This question is a thing.  And I don’t want it to keep you from getting the support you need, so I will share with you my thoughts about what I think the difference is.

Really nothing, and perhaps everything.  Time is fixed and finite.  We all get 168 hours each week and no matter what we do we can’t change that.  It is how we spend that time that that we can control.  Both a Time Management Coach and a Productivity Coach can help you build supports and systems to help you maximize the time you have.

It doesn’t quite matter what a coach calls themselves. A good coach is going to work with you to come up with solutions to the issues you bring. And while you may think the goal is to improve your work productivity – that’s not all. While clients call with the goal to improve things at work, what they really want is to have time, energy, and focus for things other than work. As a coach I work with my clients to routinize the less unique aspects of their work and life so they both do their best work AND enjoy their time not working.

Some of the things I focus on as a productivity coach is helping clients do their work effectively and efficiently.  Common outcomes include:

  • Putting systems in place to control what’s controllable. This results in less stress about work and more focus to do the work
  • Making time off count. The only thing worse than working all weekend is not working, yet not relaxing because of the worry of what’s not done
  • Identifying and doing the work that matters, to the right degree of excellence (not beyond)

Yes, these outcomes are all about how you spend your time.  And while our focus is on productivity, it’s productivity around your time.  If your struggling with stress around your tasks and the pressures of your life, you may want to seek out support from a Productivity Coach or Time Management Coach.  As “they” say, I don’t care what you call me…just call me!

 

This week’s topic comes from a client’s inquiry.  She is seeking a better way to balance freelance work, her full-time job, and everything else going on in her life.

The word that comes to mind is RUTHLESS.  She will have to be ruthless in her planning, her priorities, AND her follow through.

A solid plan is paramount:

  • Treat this like you have two different jobs – treat the freelance job like you had a boss and you had to show up. If you’re serious about the other responsibility you can’t not do it just because you don’t feel like it. This holds true for freelance/gig/second jobs, volunteer commitments, family tasks, and other responsibilities.
  • Quantify time allocated to each commitment – If you want to work in your freelance job 20 hours a week and your regular job 40 hours a week, get real about what a 60-hour work week will be like. What do you have to say “no” to to say “yes” to this?
  • Plan it out on your calendar – now let’s bring this to life by clarifying what your week is going to look like. Plug into a calendar grid what you’ll do when. Create a spreadsheet beginning with what time you’ll wake up and what time you’ll go to sleep.  (I call this Ideal Week planning – ideally, if all things go well – my week will look like this…)
  • Pledge to yourself that your 2nd responsibility is as important as your day job – not necessarily in hours, but in commitment. Monitor your actions.  Log your time. If it’s not working ask why not.
    • Are you too tired?
      • Are you working with your body clock?
      • Can you swap office and freelance time?
    • What can change?
      • Are you going to bed at the right time?
      • What other work can you delegate/pass on? – hire someone to clean your house, have your groceries delivered, take your laundry to a wash and fold service.
    • Are you motivated enough?
      • How much do you really want to be doing all you are doing?
  • Assess success weekly – is there a friend or coach you can check in with to discuss how it’s going? Or is it enough for you to be accountable to yourself?
      • Did you reach your goals?
        • If so – what worked?
        • If not – what didn’t work?

At the end of the day there are only so many hours. If you are going to say “YES” to multiple responsibilities, what do you have to say “NO” to?

Be a More Productive Leader

Thrilled to be quoted in the same article as Bill Gates!

As the boss of MicrosoftBill Gates would take one week, two times a year, and escape by himself to a secret clapboard cabin somewhere in a cedar forest in the Pacific Northwest.

It was what he called his “Think Week.”

Gates would arrive by helicopter or sea plane, and spend the week reading papers written by Microsoft employees pitching new innovations or potential investments. He read as many papers as possible, sometimes doing so 18 hours a day, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, according to The Wall Street Journal.

”…I would literally take boxes out to a beach place and sit there for a week reading them day and night and scribbling on them to putting it entirely online,” Gates said in 2008 video of of Microsoft’s CEO Summit.

Work done during one Think Week eventually led to Microsoft to launching Internet Explorer in 1995. And in 2005, Gates was reading a paper called “Virtual Earth” that described building a virtual map with information on traffic and live images of final destinations.

Gates’ Think Weeks started in the 1980s; the first ones were quiet visits to his grandmother’s house. As they evolved, no visitors were allowed to the cabin during Gates’ Think Week (other than someone who dropped off two meals a day at the cabin, and on year a Wall Street Journal reporter) and Gates’ cabin was stocked with Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke.

“When I talk about the early days, it’s hard to explain to people how much fun it was. Even with the absurd hours and arguments, we were having the time of our lives.” – Paul Allen

View image on Twitter

Gates’ “week in the woods” idea is smart, says Laura Stack, president and CEO of consulting firm The Productivity Pro. “I would recommend this approach,” Stack tells CNBC Make It. “People should have a ‘third place’ that isn’t work or home, where they can find focused time to think and create and clarify your strategic thinking,” Stack says. “We must create an environment that gives us the ability to focus our minds without interruption from coworkers, spouses, children, pets and technology, or we’ll never be able to concentrate on higher-order activities.”

 

Leadership coach Ellen Faye agrees: “While exercise, yoga, and meditation are great solutions to managing the stress of every day, there’s nothing like disconnecting for a longer period of time to create the space for important decisions and objective creative thought,” she tells CNBC Make It.

“I think of it as a one week long shower. Because we know that in the shower we have these really great thought processes, but those are flashes and moments, and when you go away for a period of time alone you’re able to get more significant results,” she says.

Stack and Faye both employ the technique in their own careers.

“I check myself into my third space — a local hotel up the road — every quarter to write for 48 hours. I’ve published eight books in 14 years using this approach,” Stack says.

Faye says she spends at least four or five days alone at a yoga retreat every year “for deeper creative thought.”

But your “third place” doesn’t have to be far away or fancy. it could be “Starbucks, the library, or the gazebo in your garden. I recommend at least eight hours, but it’s best to take several days to ‘clear the decks,’” Stack says.

As for Gates, his Think Week eventually expanded from just him reading about ideas and providing feedback, to later Microsoft’s top 50 engineering “thinkers” throughout the company doing so.

In the 2008 summit video, Gates said, “We have institutionalized it as kind of a grassroots process and this is a way that somebody who is even just a year or two into the company and has ideas that may or may not relate to the group they are in can write something up.”