Vomit Your Brain Onto Paper

thought vomit with textI call it “thought vomit”.

My mind is very active and I’m sure yours is too. I have all these thoughts that roll around in my head. And if I listen to my thoughts, I find that they are often the same things going around and around and around like a “thought carousel”.

All these ideas and thoughts that are spinning in my head make it difficult to focus and give attention to the things I need to get done now.

I’ve found that the easiest way to clear my mind is to simply throw the ideas down on paper. I don’t worry about organizing the ideas or whether they make sense or whether they have any value. I just get them out of my body as quickly as possible as thought vomit.

Once they’re out I feel so much better. My mind is so much clearer and I can once again focus more sharply on the task at hand.

I have dozens and dozens of thought vomit notebooks. Sometimes there are some ideas that are worth pursuing. These ideas may turn into a business concept, a marketing initiative, a course, or maybe a blog post. Sometimes it’s all just a bunch of nonsense, but in any case it frees my mind to be productive.

Listen to your own mind. Do you hear the same things repeating themselves over and over? Do you feel too distracted to really focus on the work at hand? Then grab a piece of paper. Set aside 15 minutes (timer optional) and just get it all out on paper and see what that does for you.

Tell me about the experience in the comments below or in the Facebook Group set up for this challenge.

Don’t Do It Alone

dont do it alone

Productive people don’t try to do it on their own.

Massage therapists are notoriously cheap and avid do-it-yourselfers. While it’s admirable to see someone embrace challenges that are out of their scope, it’s just not the smartest thing to do.

Do what you do best and enlist others to do the rest.

The way I look at it is like this. If I’m making on average $50 per hour, then it doesn’t make sense for me to do a task that I can pay someone $10, $15 or even $30 per hour to do much faster and better than I can do myself.

So start outsourcing. If you need a website, hire someone to do it right with all the bells and whistles you need instead of spending weeks struggling to put it together and then ending up with a site that doesn’t look or work the way you want it.

If there are ways to automate certain processes in your business, so much the better. So why waste your time picking up messages, returning calls and playing phone tag. Pay for an online booking service and hire a virtual receptionist to take your calls. This provides your customers with better service and allows you to spend your time productively in your treatment room where you’re focusing on what you enjoy most and using your skills to advantage. It will pay off big time.

I can’t tell you the frustration I have in booking massages when I travel. I can make ten calls and not get anyone to answer. I would be happy to book with any therapist with online booking or a virtual receptionist, so I don’t have to waste an hour of my own time. But almost no therapists have these options for me. I have to leave a message and then wait until they are out of the treatment room and have time to call me. And even then I don’t know if they are going to have availability in the small window of time I have.

What other ways can you offload your work? Why spend hours and hours doing laundry? You can’t get more low level than that. Unless you have a washer and dryer in the clinic and just drop them in after a treatment (remember my housekeeping techniques?), then pay someone else a couple dollars to do that work while you do another massage or two at $50 to $100 per hour.

Doing low level tasks yourself takes your attention away from the things that matter most and are major productivity killers.

What are you doing now that you could pass off to someone else or automate? What do you currently give to others to reduce your workload? Give us some ideas. Post your comments below or on the Facebook group.

Escape Cell Phone Prison

cellphoneprison

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So far this month I’ve asked you to shut off your TV, turn off your Facebook notifications and log out of Facebook and email. When will the madness end?

Not yet, my friend.

There is one other major time waster that is probably takes the number one spot in terms of productivity sucking powers: Your cell phone!

The phone with it’s loud, shrill, commanding ringtone and notification beeps just screams, “Pay attention to me instead of important stuff!!”

If the phone were used just for voice to voice correspondence it might not be so bad, but with the advent of the smart phone it’s become a social and entertainment hub with users spending countless hours in unproductive activities.

If you stuck with me though yesterday’s note about the difference between urgent and important you probably know deep in your heart that 98% of what happens on your phone seems urgent, but is really unimportant.

Here’s what I do. If you truly want to be productive, you may want to follow suit, although you may find it just a little too radical and start having anxiety attacks.

I shut off my phone for hours at a time and only turn it on and respond to it at certain times of the day when it is necessary.

Even when I have it on, there are probably not more than 20 people who have my personal phone number, very close friends and family. Those people are contacts in my phone. If my phone rings and I don’t see one of their names and faces pop up on my screen I don’t answer the phone.

I don’t pickup calls just because they are from friends and family. I can see they’ve called and these people know me well enough to know I’ll get back to them when I take a break.

The caller gets a message that says, “You’ve reached Eric. I seldom pick up my messages, so if you’d like to reach me, send an email to eric@bodyworkbiz.com. Thanks!”

I pick up my personal phone messages about once per week!

Texting is probably has even a more negative impact on your productivity because of the perceived need for immediacy.

Of course, when I tell people about my phone habits, the first thing they almost always say is, “What if it’s an emergency?”

There is not one tragic thing I can think of that I might be able to help with or circumvent by knowing about a little sooner.

“What if someone dies?” they say.

I don’t have the powers to resurrect someone.

“What if your son is in a bad accident?”

I don’t own an ambulance and I’m not a doctor. Someone at the scene is going to call 911 and emergency room doctors are going to do their best to help him.

“How about business calls? You need to answer those, right?”

Actually, I’ve stopped answering my business line a couple years ago unless someone has booked a phone call with me.

I work hard to make the user experience on any of my sites as seamless as possible and to anticipate customer questions, so I minimize the need for support right from the start.

If someone calls my business number they are prompted to leave a message and their email address. I subscribe to a service that transcribes the message and sends it to me via email, usually within the hour.

By having messages sent to my email I can respond at times of the day that are not my most productive times or times that I have scheduled specifically for correspondence. When possible (and this is 95% of the time), I respond by email. I can handle in five minutes by email, what would take me 30 minutes to handle by phone.

If something requires a personal phone response, I’ll arrange a phone appointment via email. When I get on the phone. I’ll set parameters for the cal by saying something like, “I have ten minutes, how can I help you?”

Are you aghast? Shocking isn’t it?

When Tim Ferris talked about his radical approach to the phone in his New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek business people from around the world were blown away, but it was something that I had been doing for ages. If you want to be productive, control  your phone. Don’t let it control you.

Now you’re thinking, “I need to pick up client calls?”

The solution is simple: Hire a virtual assistant or virtual receptionist service to do this for you. Or make online booking available for your clients. Both these initiatives are more convenient and provide a better experience for clients.  They also reduce your workload and free up your time for more important activities. We’ll talk more about giving up some of this stuff you currently feel you have to do tomorrow.

Is there any reason why you couldn’t do what I do with your phone? Look at everything you do on your phone from the Urgency/Importance Grid from yesterday. Seriously look at every interaction you have with your phone and put it on the grid (the hundreds of times you interact with that device). I think you’ll find that pretty much everything, with the exception of a few client calls, falls into the “not important/not urgent” quadrant”.

I know the idea of giving up your phone is radical. So I won’t even ask you to respond today. I’ll just let that one sink in. But if you need to, post your comments below or on the Facebook group.

Create a Plan

have a plan

If you always put your big rocks first, you’ll be able to plan your time so that you focus on the things that are most important to you.

We know that all successful people plan, but most of us don’t do it. Why?

Because it seems too complicated to have a business plan, let alone a life plan.

But you may have guessed by now that I believe that you should keep things simple. Simple things get done; complicated things don’t. That’s just the way it is.

So instead of investing major amounts of time developing a business plan here’s what to do. At least this is what’s worked for me.  (You can just as easily apply this to a broader life plan. )

Write down your big rocks on the top of a sheet of paper just so they are always at the top of your mind. If you are going to bust your butt working, it’s important to remember why you’re working so hard.

Then list the major things you want to accomplish. For example, “Increase client referrals.” (For a more complete outline of this process get the Fill Your Practice 101 course at www.bodyworkbiz.com.)

Under those major goals, write down some broad tactics. For example to get more client referrals you may:

  • Educate clients as to range of conditions I treat
  • Ask for referrals
  • Send thank you cards to all referrers

Go through this process for each major goal. By the time you are finished you should have a short document that’s one or two pages at most. It might take you an hour or two to complete.

Voila! You have a plan that should last you a good six months to a year.

Now keep your plan handy on a clipboard on your desk. Every day you start work, look at your big rocks and your goals. Then on another piece of paper write a list of three to six to do’s around the tactics you’ve laid out. These should be little things that you can accomplish today. For example, my to do’s for today may be:

  • Check out BodyworkBiz website and purchase one excellent client education newsletter (Oh my! Wasn’t that a shameless plug?)
  • Tell each client I see today that I am expanding my business and would appreciate referrals
  • Buy thank you cards

That’s it! Add more to do’s if you get through those ones.

Create a new to do list every day in exactly the same way. If you don’t complete your to do’s on your list, just move them onto the next day’s to do list.

Do this consistently every day and you’ll move forward on each of these goals. What’s great about this system is that you’re not focused on the 100 mile journey, you’re focused on taking one step at a time. And taking a single step is easy and immediate.

Creating a plan like this may take a couple hours, but why not start now. Set a timer for 25 minutes and do as much as you can. Then do another 25 minutes tomorrow. By Monday, you’ll have a complete plan and you’ll be ready to rock and roll.

Let me know how that works for you in the comments below or on the Facebook group.

Know the Difference Between Urgent and Important

Focus on the things that are high in urgency as well as importan

One of the key things that has allowed me to accomplish so much is a simple distinction that I learned to make years ago, that is…

…don’t confuse urgency with importance!

Most of us underestimate the degree to which urgency rules our lives. The phone rings. New email comes in. There’s a knock on the door. An employee needs to discuss an issue. A Facebook notification pops up. A deadline sneaks up on you. The mail arrives. You need to do something to get clients now. You’ve just run out of supplies again. You rush to finish on time for your next client.

We get used to the adrenaline rush of handling these crises. We get a temporary high. It’s kind of exciting.

Many therapists (and business owners in general for that matter) secretly love putting out fires because it makes them feel like they are really doing something. They’re taking action and keeping soooo busy. And it’s important to keep busy because it means that they are accomplishing something, right?

Wrong. They’re fooling themselves. Their actions reveal symptoms of a poorly planned practice. They are treating the symptoms instead of getting to the root of the problem.

Doesn’t that sound like a message that we preach to our clients?!

In reality, the things that are most important – the things that contribute to our overall goals and that give meaning to our lives – tend not to be pressing. As a result, we tend to put them off when we should really be focusing and acting on them with a consuming passion.

To illustrate this concept, let’s look at the following grid:

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This grid is adapted from Stephen Covey’s book First Things First and the ideas here are liberally borrowed from that book. I highly recommend it.

Quadrant I represents things that are both urgent and important. We deal with an angry client, fix a broken massage table, comfort our crying child, or meet an ad deadline. Many of these activities become urgent only because we procrastinate or fail to adequately plan.

Quadrant II includes things that are important, but not urgent. Examples include planning our business, developing staff skills, learning and professional development, preparing our marketing materials. And on a personal level, these activities include developing relationships with those who we love and care for as well as taking time to ourselves for rest and renewal.

Quadrant III activities are often mistaken for Quadrant I activities. These urgent activities may seem important to us, but they are really only important to someone else. They include many phone calls, meetings, and disruptions where we’re dealing with other people’s priorities and expectations.

Quadrant IV activities are truly a waste of time. They are not urgent or important. They help make us feel busy, but they accomplish nothing. Things like leafing through the appointment book, surfing the Internet with no real purpose, chit chatting or gossiping with staff, and reading the junk mail. Yes, they can provide a needed distraction, but they really accomplish nothing.

Now look over your activities of the past week. Which quadrant did they fall in? As you mentally go through these activities bear in mind that it is easy to equate urgent with important. Before you put an activity into the important quadrants ask yourself if it contributed significantly to one of your important objectives. If not, it probably falls into Quadrant III.

I suggest you print a copy of this grid and for the next day or two categorize everything you do into one of these quadrants to see how effectively your time is used.

Is this a useful way to prioritize activities? Post your comments below or on the Facebook group.

The Myth of Multitasking

myth of multi tasking

Welcome back to Week 3 of the 30-Day Productivity Challenge!

I’m impressed that you’ve hung around for so long. You’ve got stamina and no doubt have had the most productive couple of weeks that you’ve had in a long time. Let the good times roll!

Productivity happens when time, energy and attention meet. We’ve focused largely on time and energy for the first two weeks, so I’m going to focus a little more on “attention” this week. And today’s tip is:

Don’t multitask!

I know people like to brag that they are excellent multitaskers, especially moms (I’m a single parent, so I consider myself a mom). And I know if you are one of those people you will hang onto that belief til your last dying breath. But the reality is that nobody multitasks well. There is not a shred of evidence that indicates otherwise. Some of us may be a little better at focus shifting and can make transitions more easily, but the idea that we can multitask is a myth.

You feel busier because you’re doing lots of things. So you feel better about all this activity that’s happening. But busy does not mean productive. It just means busy.

The research shows that:

  • Multitasking causes you to make more errors
  • Tasks take longer to complete
  • Your memory and recall are compromised
  • It negatively affects your performance
  • It causes stress

Here’s the exception: The only time you can multitask is with low level activities that do not require major brain power. For example, you can listen to a podcast while you’re driving, walking or doing housework.

So my suggestion for you this week is to minimize distractions and focus on one task at a time:

  • Turn off any notifications that are being pushed to you through your phone.
  • Check your Facebook account and your email on a schedule. Make sure your email and Facebook windows are closed and resist the urge the check them every five minutes.
  • Only have browser windows open that are needed for the task at hand. Close all other programs.
  • Turn off your phone for an hour or two at a time, then fire it up and respond to all messages and texts at once.
  • Do not have the TV running in the background unless you are doing something routine or monotonous.

Those are all simple things, but I know that some of you won’t be able to let those distractions go. If you are one of those people, either post evidence supporting your case in the comments below or give unitasking a try. How’s that for a challenge?!

Show Your Vices Who’s Boss

show vices who is boss

spacerWe all have bad habits. They may not be really horrible, but every time you do them you feel guilty. You know you shouldn’t do them and yet you continue to do them. Even worse is the fact that you ruminate endlessly over them. It’s a constant self-reminder of how weak and pathetic you are. It’s all so exhausting.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can feel more energetic just by showing your vices who’s boss by putting them aside for a bit.

Last month I gave up alcohol, but just for the month. I don’t have a drinking problem, but I like a glass of wine with most meals and I like a nightcap with my girlfriend at the end of a productive day.

The alcohol makes me a little sluggish and I wasn’t waking feeling completely rested. As well, two drinks is about 300 empty calories per day. That’s the equivalent of about 2 ½ pounds of fat over the month that I have to exercise off.

So I just made a commitment to not drink for the month of August. Did I miss it? Hell ya! I love to have a beer on a hot summer day, but honestly it was no great sacrifice.

Now that September is here I’m drinking again, but I got out of the habit, so I’m just drinking occasionally instead of every day. In fact in these first 12 days of the month I’ve only had three glasses of wine.

I feel more rested, I lost a little belly fat, but even more than that I’m in control. I’m the boss!! That’s right. I showed my vice who was boss.

So here’s my challenge to you: Give up one vice for the rest of this month. You only have 18 days before the end of the month. That’s no time at all.

For September I’ve decided to give up ice cream, cookies and chocolate – my “go to” desserts and snacks. I had cravings for the first week (especially for chocolate) while new habits kicked in, but now I don’t even think about it and I feel good about myself.

Choose a vice that is not serving you well, whether that is sitting in front of the TV in the evenings (are you still doing that!), drinking one too many drinks each week, indulging in sodas daily, eating take out every day, staying up too late, or whatever you consider a vice.

Just give it the boot. Show it who’s boss for the next 18 days. You’ll be glad you did.

So what do you think? Are you up to that challenge? What vice are you giving up for the rest of September? Post comments below or in the Facebook group.

PS Remember that September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

 

Why Limit When You Can Upgrade?

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spacerYesterday, we talked about limiting refined sugars. But if “limiting” anything just seems like a bad idea to you, then think of upgrading instead.

If you are going to eat chips, then eat them with some salsa or some hummus so that you’re getting better nutrition and a little fiber.

Throwing a pack of instant noodles on the stove because it’s quick?Then throw in a handful of spinach or romaine, any leftover protein you have in the fridge, a half cup of frozen corn or peas, etc. You get the idea.

noodle upgrade

Here are some noodle ideas: Upgrade your noodles.

If you need a sugary drink, why not have a fruit smoothy instead of a soda.

Having a bowl of cereal in the morning? Then add a handful of berries or chopped fruit. It tastes better and it’s better for you.

And upgrades don’t just apply to food. Instead of taking a quick shower in the morning, why not take an extra five minutes for a quick tub soak with some aromatherapy oils?

I’m sure you do some upgrades like these already. What are some of the food upgrades you do already? What are some non-food upgrades you do? Share them below or on the Facebook group.

Limit Your Sugar… But Not Too Much

sugary stuff

spacerSugar gives you a quick boost and a faster crash. The more you can avoid refined sugars the more energy you’ll have.

How fun is it to go sugar free?

No fun at all.

So don’t go all sugar free. Just take little steps to reduce the amount you consume.

  • Do you get a Big Gulp soda mid-afternoon? Downsize to a small. Or if a small seems like too much of a sacrifice, downsize to a medium.
  • Don’t keep a tub of ice cream in the freezer. If you are feeling the need for a cold treat, take a walk to the gelato shop down the street and get a single scoop.
  • Don’t pull a bag of cookies out of the cupboard  and start eating from the bag. Walk over with a small plate, take two cookies and walk away.
  • Make a commitment to eat a piece of fruit instead of a dessert once per week.

You get the idea: If you sacrifice too much you become cranky and have no friends and that just makes you want to eat more chocolate. So every time you would normally have something sweet to eat, find a way to do with just a little bit less, but not too much less.

For the month of September I’ve committed to not eating ice cream, cookies or chocolate. Yes, I know chocolate is a health food, but it’s usually wrapped around sugary candy bars.

Am I giving up sugar? No way! I’m going to put a little sugar in my coffee. I’m going to eat sweetened yogurt. I may even eat some gummy bears. But as we discussed yesterday, giving up ice cream, cookies and chocolate bars for one month is the smallest palatable step I’m willing to take.

And you know what? I’m ten days into it and I don’t even miss what used to be a daily habit.

What will your strategy be for reducing the amount of refined sugar you eat? Post your comments below or on the Facebook group.

Break It Down Until It’s Eatable

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One of the biggest issues in getting things done is that we see them as these big jobs, projects or tasks that are overwhelming, so instead of actually doing anything we just get all angsty and just put it off.

That thing, whatever it is, not only doesn’t get done, but it just becomes a bigger thing, either in reality or in our minds.

So how do you tackle those big projects?

How did this man eat an airplane? (Yes, he really ate the Cessna 150 airplane.)

One bite at a time.

eat a plane

That’s the secret. You just break things down and find the smallest possible piece that you can tackle.

Let’s say you want to meditate. Does 30 minutes seem too long? How about 15? Still too long? How about 10? Five? You can do five? Boom! Done. Do five minutes. You’ll likely find that it seems too short and will try a longer timeframe the next go around.

For me, cleaning my house used to seem overwhelming, especially as a single parent with a young boy. So to break it down I just made a commitment to do one thing every time I moved from one room to another. Going from the bathroom to my office: Pick up a truck and put it in the toy box. Going from the bedroom to the kitchen: Grab my son’s dirty glass and put it in the dishwasher. Leaving the bathroom: Take a cloth and wipe the floor quickly. Going from the kitchen to dining room: Take a cloth and wipe the table.

It’s become such a habit that I basically spend very little dedicated time on housework anymore. My house is tidy and clean (mostly). And on the weekends I do a Pomodoro with my son to get the sweeping, vacuuming and dusting done.

Yesterday, when we looked at exercising, I suggested that if you do the littlest bit possible – if exercise isn’t something you love. Don’t see it as a big commitment. Little drips will fill a tub over time. The impact of doing something… even a little at a time… can be huge!

After writing yesterday’s post I decided to work at being able to do 100 push ups and 25 pull ups in seven weeks. To do the sets for each only takes five minutes. I can do anything in five minutes. And in seven weeks I’ll be able to do 25 pull ups. I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to do that many.

So pick just one thing you’ve been putting off because it seems impossible or overwhelming. What’s that one thing that’s been sitting over your head? What’s the smallest task you can do on that thing? Do it before the end of the day, then at the end of your day post what you’ve done in the comments section below or in the Facebook group.