Archive for the 'Managing Projects, Tasks & Time' Category

Why I Always Read Email First Thing Each Morning

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Time-management pundits are always harping on how we waste time reading emails first thing in the morning. I think they’re full of manure.

First of all, a 2013 Marketo study found that 58% of people read email first thing in the morning, many reading email before they even eat breakfast. Is it just addiction — or is there a good reason for it?

As a small business owner, I have a HUGE reason for reading email first thing in the morning: my customers matter to me more than anything. Most of my clients, students and mentoring group members communicate with me via email, so taking care of their needs first thing in the morning is simply good customer service.

Why do the time management folks act like email is evil? Because we don’t segregate “important” email from “read this when you get a chance” email.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with reading email first, just like there’s nothing wrong with writing your blog post first each morning or doing yoga first thing or working on a major project first thing. You have to pick your priorities and you have to focus on the task at hand. It’s all about goal setting and self-discipline.

  • For instance, I do not use my personal email address when signing up for ezines and email newsletters. That way, my personal Inbox doesn’t get crowded with non-essentials and stops a lot of spam from ever reaching me. If something is in my personal Inbox, it’s because it’s important, like an email from a client, student or my business partner. (A colleague told me that she has 2,500 new emails each morning. My question to her is: WHY do you allow so many emails get into your personal Inbox? They can’t possibly all be of the same importance level.)
  • Another reason I read email first is that it’s the only real quiet time I have during my working hours. Typically the phone doesn’t start ringing until 9AM and using the pre-phone time to read email allows me to focus.
  • I’ve delegated much of my email reading to my business partner who handles any routine customer service questions from people who have bought my ebooks or audio programs, or students who have lost their login ID.
  • I quickly scan my new emails and only answer those ones that are most urgent. I leave the rest of them for later in the day, after I’ve done my other daily prep work.
  • Finally, I read email first because it’s when I’m the freshest and smartest. Do you really want to be writing emails when your brain is fuzzy?

If email is an important part of communicating with your customers then go ahead and read it first thing. Just pay strict attention to whether you’re keeping focused on the Communicating With Customers task or veering off to read articles, news, jokes, quotations, or watching YouTube videos of Surprised Kitty instead of doing your work. Set a time limit, say 30 minutes, and get through the most important emails first.

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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The Imposter Syndrome

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Do you feel like a fake? Are you waiting for the day that someone will discover that all your success was brought about by luck?

You’re not alone.

According to this article in Inc. Magazine, as many as 70% of all people feel like a fake at some time. Back in the 1970’s, psychologists studied this phenomenon, dubbed “The Imposter Syndrome.”

The Imposter Syndrome is divided into three sub-categories:

  • Feeling like a fake
  • Attributing success to luck
  • Discounting and downplaying success

And it isn’t just new entrepreneurs that feel this way. According to this article from CalTech, it’s the high-achievers and the already-successful who suffer the most. The CalTech article goes on to discuss ways you can overcome your Imposter Feelings.

This topic came up recently at one of my mastermind group meetings. A mastermind participant, a highly-successful and sought-after author and entrepreneur, said she was just waiting for someone to discover that she didn’t know anything, really, about her topic because she didn’t have a Ph.D. (although she’s written three books on the topic, has studied it for over 10 years, has major sponsorship endorsements from large corporations, and an education and product line to go along with the books). Her worst fear: that some interviewer will ask, “Who are YOU to write about this topic??”

In the end analysis, a reality-check is in order. Have you accomplished things because of your intellect, your creativity, your tenacity, your heart? For every failure you’ve had, haven’t you also had an equal success?

Each day, when you catch yourself in the bad habit of moaning about everything that went wrong, reach for “balance” and remind yourself of all the things you did right. And when you have a big success, reward yourself and celebrate this wonderful moment!

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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10 Tips for Managing Information Overload

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Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?

Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never seem to get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!

Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)

Here are 10 tips for managing information overload so you regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks:

  1. Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list and YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Don’t set yourself up for information overload by trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time without setting up “assimilate and implement” time. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
  2. Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take in a lot of information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. When you try to keep all that thinking in your brain, you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump and writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format, will help clear things out.
  3. Practice OMD: Off My Desk. I have a bad habit of collecting thoughts on bits of paper, which form massive piles on my desk. Once a month, I have an OMD hour…every bit of paper gets looked at and acted upon, and then the paper gets filed or tossed, clearing space on my desk and in my brain.
  4. Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three things that you can take action on within a month, and put only those three things on your Action Items list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
  5. Make a decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel immediately better.
  6. Stop saying, “I’m too distracted to focus.” Choosing to focus on one goal or one task is a decision you make. You are perfectly capable of focusing and getting things done, but you’ve got to train yourself to do it. It takes practice, and reminding yourself that you are choosing to focus on one thing instead of allowing yourself to get sidetracked. Don’t buy into the cultural slide of “I’m too distracted.” You’re better than that. Step up to the plate. If you want to be successful, you have to do what successful people do: focus. Focus is a decision. Focus is a skill you can learn and enhance.
  7. When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
  8. Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important, which is why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas you’ve accumulated at your fingertips.
  9. Make a conscious choice to prioritize the information you allow into your brain. Let’s say for a moment you’re on Facebook and you see a link to an interesting article. STOP RIGHT THERE. Ask yourself: Is this article merely interesting or is it really, truly important? Do I have time to read interesting-but-not-important information right now? How will this article help me achieve my overall goals? By making choices about what to pay attention to, you automatically take yourself out of information overload. The beautiful thing about information is that it’s always available: whenever you are ready to read about a certain subject, information about that subject is just a Google search away.
  10. Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done and all required research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post. So I put the other things on the back burner, and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose ONE of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.

I believe in you. I believe you are capable of learning what you need to learn in order to have a successful business. I believe you will find time in your day for all that needs to be done. I believe your dream is so important that you’ll move mountains to get it. I believe you can move mountains, with focus, perseverance and strength.

I’d love to hear from you: how to you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Dealing With Overwhelm

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As I sit here writing my “to do” list for the upcoming months, I can feel that weird little tingle in the pit of my stomach: Overwhelm. There’s so much to do! How will I get it all done?

Then I remember all the tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years of how to manage entrepreneurial overwhelm:

1. Breathe. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take several deep breaths. Close your eyes and take a visual and emotional break from the craziness.

2. Get Organized. Write down your “to do” list all in one place (instead of having all those little Post-It notes all over your desk). Next, write a priority next to each item on your list. Is it urgent (“U”)? Is it Important But Not Urgent (“I”)? Is it something that has to be done this month, or can it wait until next month?

3. Get Help. Look at your list and determine if everything on it must be done by you. Don’t fall into the trap of “Oh, it will take me longer to explain it to someone than to just do it myself.” Instead, think of the “explaining time” as an investment: once you explain it one time, the other person can document the procedure and repeat it over and over again.

4. Action Alleviates Anxiety. Pick one high-priority task on your “to do” list and do it. Nothing relieves stress better than getting off your butt and taking action. Don’t fall in the trap of picking a low-priority task just because it’s easy. Do the things that matter.

5. Just Say No. Look at your “to do” list and ask yourself if you can simply say No to any of these tasks? Remember, you are in control of your task list and your calendar. Only you can overbook yourself, so only you can say No to requests for your time.

6. Focus. Avoid the temptation to multi-task and choose instead to focus solely on the task in front of you. If you have to, set a kitchen timer and tell yourself you’ll work on the task for 15 or 30 minutes without taking a break or doing other work.

Want more tips? Read my blog post 44 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm!


I think I’ll start by taking a nice long breath…

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Controlling the Time Monster

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Jackie asks, “How can I control the time monster? I have so much to do in my business, I never seem to have enough time to get it all done.”

Watch this video on YouTube:

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Category: Ask Karyn Anything Videos, Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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Pay Close Attention or Your Feet Will Get Wet

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Aly and I spent the day at the beach on Sunday. Having been to the NJ Shore many times before, I had a sort of sixth-sense about which waves would come up higher on the beach and soak our feet, and when it was safe to walk on the hard-pack sand near the water’s edge. But Aly wasn’t used to walking on the Atlantic Coast beach and he couldn’t gauge the waves.
I tried to explain it to him and found that something I thought I was doing naturally and almost intuitively, really did come from experience and pattern-matching. I had to make a conscious effort to try to decipher the “rules” about how I knew which waves were safe and which waves needed to be scampered away from, before our feet got wet. I looked for patterns so I could explain it to Aly. Once he got it, he became quite proficient at spotting foot-soaker waves.
I think we do know the “rules” or “clues” about what works in our lives and businesses, and what doesn’t. But from time-to-time, we have to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the clues and their consequences.

One of the women in my mastermind group, Susan, tells a story about how she sensed that a new employee wasn’t going to work out, but still kept training her and hoping that the new employee would change. Finally Susan paid attention to the pattern of her own feelings (hoping that someone would change, hoping that training and guidance would help) and the results she was getting in her business (the real-life actions of the new employee), she was able to let her new employee go, even though she didn’t have a replacement. And guess what? A new, perfect employee showed up from an unexpected source within a few weeks!
Sometimes we first realize that we’re not paying attention to the clues when we notice that we’re not getting what we want (we already have wet feet or a poor business relationship). Then we can work backwards, figuring out what caused that unpleasant feeling/situation, and make a decision to change in another direction. If we do this often enough, the clues and pattern-matching becomes internalized and we recognize much more quickly when something isn’t right in our world — and make a change sooner and more skillfully.
And when someone shares their story with us (thank you, Susan, for sharing your story), we can refresh our memory of the lessons inherent in the story, remembering the clues again. For me, next time I come across a person who is “not quite a good fit” in my life or business, I’ll be less likely to believe (hope) they will eventually change, and instead seek to find a more compatible friend/colleague/client/employee.

Where do you pay close attention to the patterns in your thoughts, feelings and perceptions? And where have you been avoiding paying attention to patterns and trends that need revisiting?

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business

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