Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Alcohol, Sleep, and Exercise – are your habits holding you back?

Wine caves at Schramsberg in California's Napa Valley - NOT chardonnay (photo by Margaret Lukens)

I sometimes joke that here in northern California, it’s illegal to smoke cigarettes just about anywhere, and it’s also illegal NOT to drink Chardonnay.

If you’re not getting as much done in a day as you would like, consider whether your habits are making it harder to manage your time and energy.

Imagine this scenario: I wake up slightly under-slept and have a cup of coffee to help open my eyes. In fact, I need two cups or more to get going. I’m terribly busy, so, much as I’d like to, I don’t make time to exercise. Sometime after lunch, my lack of sleep catches up with me and I begin to yawn. I can’t take a nap — it’s the middle of a work day! — so instead I get something sweet to eat. It gives me that little lift that sleep would have supplied. It also contributes to unwanted weight. By the end of the day, I’m really tired. Exercise feels out of the question. In fact, I just want to relax, so I have my glass of Chardonnay, then another, and maybe another. After dinner I fall into bed on a full stomach and having enjoyed a little too much to drink, both of which interfere with restful sleep. The next morning I wake feeling, you guessed it: under-slept and far from my best.

I’ve written before about times when habit change is better approached by baby steps, but this is one instance where you may get better results by making several changes all at once. If I drink eight glasses of water every day for a week and plan to add another positive change next week, by the end of week one I have no good results to show for my efforts, no positive reinforcement to keep me enthused. But if I decide that for one week I will drink my eight glasses of water daily, skip coffee, walk 30 minutes, eat dinner by 7 pm,  drink no alcohol after dinner, and sleep eight hours, I will feel better after day one. That positive feedback gives me the nudge to keep going for day two and beyond.

Are personal habits holding you back? What do you need to change to make a real difference in your focus and productivity? Leave a comment here.

Delegating vs Micro-managing – can you tell the difference?

I can carry it myself. No, really.

It’s natural for business owners to feel reluctant to delegate. After all, their name and reputation is often all over the work. If the person they delegate to doesn’t come through with top quality work, it’s the owner who suffers most.

Still, learning to delegate effectively is essential to sustainable productivity, because you can’t work as long or as well if you try to do everything yourself. (As I’ve said before, Babe Ruth didn’t sew his own uniforms.)

Consider this key strategy for effective delegation: delegate the result, not the procedure. To dictate the exact path by which someone carries out a task is to micro-manage. When delegating let the other person take responsibility for successful completion of the objective; some leeway is usually necessary.

When I delegate my bookkeeping to someone else, I have not given up responsibility for having my books in order at the end of each month, quarter, and year. (Just ask the IRS whether I’m off the hook; they’ll say “no way!”) Look at it this way: the bookkeeper and I now each have full responsibility for my bookkeeping, but my responsibility has changed. The bookkeeper is responsible for doing the work, and I’m responsible for ensuring that it’s done.

In order for you to achieve sustainable productivity, you must delegate. Practice changing your responsibility from doing the job to ensuring that it gets done.

The forgotten “D”: Delegate

photo of Willie Mays statue in San Francisco courtesy of soulofamerica.com

photo of Willie Mays statue in San Francisco courtesy of soulofamerica.com

You’ve no doubt heard it before. To be more productive, we must:

  • Discard (whatever isn’t needed),
  • Deposit (into files whatever needs to be added to the archive or handled later), and
  • Do (what can be done right now).

What about the “forgotten D”: delegate?

Busy professionals sometimes lament that they aren’t good at delegating or that they don’t know how. We’ll explore some of the reasons people don’t delegate another day. For now, let’s just consider the question of how to delegate.

There are only three steps to an effective delegation.

First, define the scope of the project or task you’re delegating. Clearly identify the goal or final result. What do you want the other person to do?

Second, define the time-frame for interim steps and final completion. Give the other person a deadline, and if the deadline is far into the future, agree when you will follow up with them for a status update or to check on interim goals.

Finally, make sure the other person understands and agrees to do what you’re asking. This may sound obvious, but if the receiver of the task hasn’t accepted responsibility for the objective, then you haven’t effectively delegated that responsibility.

If you’re trying to do everything yourself, remember that Babe Ruth didn’t sew his own uniforms. Work from your genius and let others help you out. Learn to delegate effectively.

What are some tasks that you might delegate to lighten your load?

Want Greater Productivity? Walk This Way.

I’ve written before about ways to exercise when it seems hard to include exercise in your schedule. There’s another tool that I recently suggested to a client who wants to do a lot of exercise with no down-time. It’s a Steelcase desk called the Walkstation.

The Walkstation’s basic structure is a treadmill that operates at low speeds — 1 to 2 miles per hour — with a standing desk attached. The treadmill has a longer deck than normal to allow plenty of room for the desk in front, and a motor that is able to withstand the constant use at low speeds that would burn out the average exercise treadmill.

The science on these walking desks is consistent and solid (original research on the Walkstation was done at Mayo Clinic). The test subjects who got the Walkstations didn’t want to give them back when the tests were over.

Our brains work better after exercise, but even better still while exercising. Our bodies are made to walk all day. (Note: for a compelling and entertaining recap of the research on how exercise boosts brain power, see John Medina’s book Brain Rules.) Walking two hours per day, burning 100 calories per hour, weight loss is pretty much guaranteed. It’s not hard to talk while walking at low speeds; my client reports that learning to type while moving comes quickly, too.

If the $4,200 price tag slows you down, there are a few websites with instructions on how to make a treadmill desk yourself using a standard treadmill, though it’s not entirely easy. It requires a good-quality machine whose motor can withstand the slow-speed use. Also, the treadmill must have level arms to hold the laptop – again, not easy to find. Getting the height right to avoid arm, neck, and back strain can be tricky. The desk must be stable enough so that your computer never meets the treadmill in a fall. Also, the treadmill requires a longer than normal deck to accommodate the laptop, so you don’t fall off the back.

My client is loving the results. What do you think? Would you like to use a treadmill desk? Leave a comment here.

Productivity snack: text GOOGL for free 411

Let’s suppose that as you dash out of your office to do a round of meetings and errands, you neglect to pick up the paper with the address of one of your appointments. Trip wasted? Not necessarily.

Now you can just text GOOGL (46645) with the name of the business followed by CITY,STATE and immediately receive a reply text with the address and phone number of the business. Google’s text-able 411 system is free and NASCAR fast.

Another Google shortcut: to get help locating businesses in an unfamiliar city, text a type of business or company name followed by either the zip code or CITY,STATE — something like STARBUCKS 94010 or OFFICE SUPPLY SAN FRANCISCO,CA and easily find local help wherever you are.

Worth repeating – August posts from New Leaf News

I’m sharing a few posts from the New Leaf archives. Here’s what was on our mind in August during the past couple of years.

Productivity depends on being able to work in comfort. Eliminate at least one pain in the neck with a wireless headset.

Successfully planning for the future requires acknowledging past wins. Are you overlooking this step in your business plan?

The longer I use Evernote, the more I like this free tool for storing, sorting, and retrieving information. Is your desk littered with a bunch of little notes that you don’t know how to keep? Evernote might be the answer to keeping the information but ditching the paper.

Avant-garde artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol understood the art of business and the business of art. Here he speaks about both endeavors.

Happy August to all the New Leaf News readers & writers!

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