GoalsOnTrack Blog

A systematic approach to achieving goals and getting results.

Boost Your Time Management Skills With These 9 Techniques

By Ciara Conlon

Having problems fitting it all in? Is a 24 hour day no longer enough?

If this is the case, here are 9 useful techniques that you can use to boost your time management skills:

1. Be Clear about Goals and Objectives

A sure way to delay in getting started or to make a job last longer than it needs to is being unsure about the objectives. You will often waste time doing work that doesn’t need to be done or spend too much time on other work. Before you set out get clarity on your goals and objectives.

2. Schedule your Time

If you want to have good time management skills, the first thing you will need is a calendar. Stuff has to get scheduled. If you don’t use a calendar then the dreaded jobs — like doing your taxes and cleaning the bathroom — will never get done. Start by scheduling the essential jobs, the appointments, meetings and any other responsibilities you are committed to. Then you will see how much time you have left over to populate.

3. Delegate When Possible

If you find after doing up your schedule that there isn’t much time left over, then think about delegating work. If you work alone, get a virtual assistant. Remember what David Allen says:

“Only do what only you can do.”

4. Monitor How you Spend Your Time

If getting a virtual assistant or anybody else to assist you isn’t an option, then you should start to monitor your time and see how you are spending it daily. You can use a monitoring program for this like Officemetrics or RescueTime. These programs can monitor all that you do on your computer and give you reports to show you how much time you spend on social media, email, Internet or any other work files. You may not like what you see…but it is always better to know.

5. Avoid Multitasking

Human beings can’t multitask (no, not even women). Our brains have become good at task switching, but cannot actually focus on two things at once. If we try to do more than one thing at the same time we lose time refocusing on the new task. If at all possible, focus on one job at a time and complete it before moving on to something else.

6. Do a Regular Mind Sweep

Do a regular mind sweep where you get a piece of paper and write down everything you need to do. Don’t categorize it. Just dump it all onto a piece of paper. Don’t separate work and home; they don’t have different compartments in the brain. Once you have done this schedule, work on any jobs that need to get done and put the rest into your task management system.

7. Exercise

Remember if Branson thinks it’s important – you don’t argue. Branson reckons working out every day gives him 4 extra hours of productivity a day. Get regular exercise to give you energy, reduce your stress and help you to focus.

8. Eat Healthily

Nutrition is also very important. During the day it is important to eat the right foods to keep you energized and focused. Regular small bites rather than a large meal will keep your brain more alert during the day. Don’t go large periods of time without eating. This will result in fatigue and poor mental abilities. Drinking water will also keep dehydration at bay and keep your body and mind happy.

9. Slow Down and Breathe

Lastly, don’t forget to slow down and breathe deeply as often as possible. Lack of oxygen will make you slow and sluggish, which will affect your performance. The more you rush about from task to task the less you will achieve.

Take your time, focus on the right things, and your time management skills will be top of the class before you know it.

Achieving Your Dream: How to Take the First Step

By Donald Latumahina

Do you have a dream deep in your heart that you want to pursue? If you do, have you taken the first step necessary to achieve it? Taking the first step is perhaps the most difficult thing to do in achieving a dream. There are a lot of mental obstacles that make it difficult to take that first step.

Here are some dont’s to help you solve the mental obstacles:

  • Don’t wait until the situation is perfect.
    You should not wait until the situation is perfect because the situation will never be perfect. No matter how or when you see it, there will always be something that make you think again.
  • Don’t wait until other people agree with you.
    Just like you shouldn’t wait for the situation to be perfect, you shouldn’t wait until everybody agrees with your idea. There will always be opposition, and that is perfectly normal. If you wait until there is a consensus, you will never start.
  • Don’t wait until your skill is good.
    We might think that we need to have good skill before we start doing something. But the truth is, you will learn much more by doing than by waiting. Doing allows you to hone your skill much faster than just learning the theory.

As you can see, the three points above have “don’t wait” in them. So here is the bottom line: the best time to start is now.

I learned this in blogging. When I started my blog, I didn’t have the skill to create good content nor to market it properly. But I started blogging anyway. The first months were really tough. After blogging for four months, I got only ten subscribers. Thankfully, the experience taught me a lot. While there is still a lot of room for improvement, I’m now amazed to see what I’ve learned along the way.

Here are some more things you should do to successfully take the first step:

  • 1. Believe in your dream.
    Believing in your dream is essential to get the motivation you need to achieve it. You simply can’t fool your own heart. Deep down inside you know whether or not you can believe in your dream. Is the dream worth pursuing? Is it something that you want to pour your heart into?
  • 2. Visualize your dream.
    Can you imagine – in detail – how the world will look like when your dream comes true? Visualizing your dream will energize you because you can then see how the world changes for the better and how people live a happier life because of your dream. The energy and excitement is there for you to feel.
  • 3. Expect a hard way ahead.
    While it’s not impossible, achieving your dream is definitely not easy. Don’t expect an easy way; expect a hard one instead. Having the right expectations from the beginning will make the journey much easier for you. That way, you won’t be surprised and lose heart when you encounter obstacles along the way.
  • 4. Take one bite at a time.
    Your dream may be big (it should be!) and that might make it seem overwhelming. But, like the saying says, “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” So take a small portion of it that you can handle. Think about something that you can do within one week, and then think about what you can do today. It could be as simple as calling a more experienced friend to ask some questions.

There is no doubt that you can eat the elephant. But the key is to take the bites early and often.

5 Simple Ways to Increase Your Intelligence

By John Wesley

Your brain needs exercise just like a muscle. If you use it often and in the right ways, you will become a more skilled thinker and increase your ability to focus. But if you never use your brain, or abuse it with harmful chemicals, your ability to think and learn will deteriorate. Here are 5 simple ways anyone can squeeze a bit more productivity out of the old gray matter.

1. Minimize Television Watching - This is a hard sell. People love vegetating in front of the television, myself included more often than I’d like. The problem is watching television doesn’t use your mental capacity OR allow it to recharge. It’s like having the energy sapped out of a muscle without the health benefits of exercise.

Don’t you feel drained after a couple hours of TV? Your eyes are sore and tired from being focused on the light box for so long. You don’t even have the energy to read a book.

When you feel like relaxing, try reading a book instead. If you’re too tired, listen to some music. When you’re with your friends or family, leave the tube off and have a conversation. All of these things use your mind more than television and allow you to relax.

2. Exercise - I used to think that I’d learn more by not exercising and using the time to read a book instead. But I realized that time spent exercising always leads to greater learning because it improves productivity during the time afterwards. Using your body clears your head and creates a wave of energy. Afterwards, you feel invigorated and can concentrate more easily.

3. Read Challenging Books - Many people like to read popular suspense fiction, but generally these books aren’t mentally stimulating. If you want to improve your thinking and writing ability you should read books that make you focus. Reading a classic novel can change your view of the world and will make you think in more precise, elegant English. Don’t be afraid to look up a word if you don’t know it, and don’t be afraid of dense passages. Take your time, re-read when necessary, and you’ll soon grow accustomed to the author’s style.

Once you get used to reading challenging books, I think you’ll find that you aren’t tempted to go back to page-turners. The challenge of learning new ideas is far more exciting than any tacky suspense-thriller.

4. Early to Bed, Early to Rise - Nothing makes it harder to concentrate than sleep deprivation. You’ll be most rejuvenated if you go to bed early and don’t sleep more than 8 hours. If you stay up late and compensate by sleeping late, you’ll wake up lethargic and have trouble focusing. In my experience the early morning hours are the most tranquil and productive. Waking up early gives you more productive hours and maximizes your mental acuity all day.

If you have the opportunity, take 10-20 minute naps when you are hit with a wave of drowsiness. Anything longer will make you lethargic, but a short nap will refresh you.

5. Take Time to Reflect - Often our lives get so hectic that we become overwhelmed without even realizing it. It becomes difficult to concentrate because nagging thoughts keep interrupting. Spending some time alone in reflection gives you a chance organize your thoughts and prioritize your responsibilities. Afterwards, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s important and what isn’t. The unimportant stuff won’t bother you anymore and your mind will feel less encumbered.

I’m not saying you need to sit on the floor cross-legged and chant ‘ommm’. Anything that allows a bit of prolonged solitude will do. One of my personal favorites is taking a solitary walk. Someone famous said, “All the best ideas occur while walking.” I think he was on to something. Experiment to find the activity that works best for you.

Conclusion - I hope you aren’t disappointed that none of the techniques I’ve proposed are revolutionary. But simple, unexciting answers are often the most valid. The challenge is having the will to adhere to them. If you succeed in following these 5 tips, you’ll be rewarded with increased mental acuity and retention of knowledge.

All things are created twice. What if the first creation is not yours?

***in honour of Stephen R. Covey***

“…to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.”

Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Some people are happy to go through life NOT setting goals.  And yes, it is possible to go through life without setting formal goals, although we DO set informal goals for ourselves all the time.

A definition of a goal is: an outcome towards which effort is directed.

A short while ago I was sitting and brain-storming, and I thought I would go and have some tea when I was done. That was a goal in itself (admittedly not a life-changing one but a goals none the less). It started with a thought and ended with an action which accomplished the goal.

It was a jolly good cup of tea too!

Stephen Covey says that all things are created twice.

My thought – having tea – was the first creation.

Making the cup of tea and drinking it was the second creation.

My first creation involved

· Self-awareness – I am loosing concentration

· Imagination – I could see the steaming cup of tea and feel the warmth moving through my body. I could relish the break from work.

· Conscience – yes I have worked hard this morning and it’s OK to take a break

The first creation encompasses the first two of the 7 Habits for Highly Successful People :

· Habit 1 (Be proactive) which involves personal vision. You are the creator.

· Habit 2 (Begin with the end in mind) which involves personal leadership. You create the vision.

The second creation is the physical manifestation of the first creation. This encompasses

· Habit 3(Put first things first) which involves personal management. You manifest the creation.

When we set goals for ourselves and we work towards their manifestation, we are creating twice.

The first creation is the thought about what you are going to do. The second creation is the doing or the manifestation.

But what if the first creation is not oursand ,yet, we are involved with the second creation?

This happens often.

· You are working for a boss – who tells you what to do (first creation) and then you have to go and do it (second creation). You feel unheard and disempowered.

· Your family believes strongly that a woman should stay home with her kids (first creation) so you happily stop working (second creation).

· Your parents believe strongly that you must get a practical degree (first creation) so you go and study accounting (second creation) but you would much rather be doing drama.

· Your best friend asks you to host a baby shower for a colleague (first creation). You say yes and do it (second creation )even though you feel resentful about having the mess in your house.

Think about the past month. How often has your second creation NOT come from your OWN first creation?

What is important to note here is that it is not always BAD when your second creation does not flow directly from your own first creation.

The way to tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing is to become aware of your feelings. If you feel satisfied/ empowered/ motivated or any other ‘good’ feeling then it’s OK. You’ve embraced the first creation as your own and it ties in with your value system.

If you are experiencing negative feelings about a second creation like unhappiness, resentment, disempowerment, or any other ‘bad’ feelings then it’s NOT OK.

What can you do? Try one or two of these:

1. Know that in these instances you are not honouring yourself or being true to your own values. Becoming more aware of your feelings and what they mean for you will help you to think more carefully about accepting another’s first creation.

2. If you HAVE to accept the first creation – investigate how you can envision your own first creation in a way that supports you in manifesting the other person’s first creation. If your boss tells you to do something, how can this benefit your career? How can you do it in the best way possible? How can you do it in a way that grows your skills and talents? Find a way of re-framing the first creation in a way that works for you.

3. Learn to say NO. The best way to start is not to answer immediately when offered a first creation, but to inform the other that you’ll think about it and get back to them.

4. When someone offers you their first creation notice what is happening in your body. Your body always (even if it’s subtle) knows what will work/ not work for you. Learn to listen to your instincts and honour them by following them.

5. Use your Journal to learn about your habitual way of dealing with first and second creations. Make a note every day of first and second creations that you have been involved in, and your feelings associated with them. Make a note of what your gut was telling you. Think about what you could do differently, and then start taking small steps to change your habits.

Stephen Covey gave us the 7 Habits, and the learning that all things are created twice. He passed away on the 16 July 2012. His wisdom lives on.  RIP.

What will you do with this learning today?

Kirsten Long is a coach who takes people on a journey towards Self Mastery. She is passionate about personal transformation and shares her experiences and insights on her blog www.coach4life.co.za/blog . Because she is grateful to Harry and goalsontrack.com for this opportunity, Kirsten is offering you a “Magic Motivation” workbook that’ll guide you further along your personal journey in goal setting. Check out the Magic Motivation Page, drop your email address and you’ll be able to download the work book.

7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit

By Pick The Brain

People at the top of every profession share one quality – they get things done. This ability supercedes intelligence, talent, and connections in determining the size of your salary and the speed of your advancement.

Despite the simplicity of this concept there is a perpetual shortage of people who excel at getting results. The action habit – the habit of putting ideas into action now — is essential to getting things done. Here are 7 ways you can grow the action habit:

1. Don’t wait until conditions are perfect - If you’re waiting to start until conditions are perfect, you probably never will. There will always be something that isn’t quite right. Either the timing is off, the market is down, or there’s too much competition. In the real world there is no perfect time to start. You have to take action and deal with problems as they arise. The best time to start was last year. The second best time is right now.

2. Be a doer - Practice doing things rather than thinking about them. Do you want to start exercising? Do you have a great idea to pitch your boss? Do it today. The longer an idea sits in your head without being acted on, the weaker it becomes. After a few days the details gets hazy. After a week it’s forgotten completely. By becoming a doer you’ll get more done and stimulate new ideas in the process.

3. Remember that ideas alone don’t bring success - Ideas are important, but they’re only valuable after they’ve been implemented. One average idea that’s been put into action is more valuable than a dozen brilliant ideas that you’re saving for “some other day” or the “right opportunity”. If you have an idea the you really believe in, do something about it. Unless you take action it will never go anywhere.

4. Use action to cure fear - Have you ever noticed that the most difficult part of public speaking is waiting for your turn to speak? Even professional speakers and actors experience pre-performance anxiety. Once they get started the fear disappears. Action is the best cure for fear. The most difficult time to take action is the very first time. After the ball is rolling, you’ll build confidence and things will keep getting easier. Kill fear by taking action and build on that confidence.

5. Start your creative engine mechanically - One of the biggest misconceptions about creative work is that it can only be done when inspiration strikes. If you wait for inspiration to slap you in the face, your work sessions will be few and far between. Instead of waiting, start your creative motor mechanically. If you need to write something, force yourself to sit down and write. Put pen to paper. Brainstorm. Doodle. By moving your hands you’ll stimulate the flow of ideas and inspire yourself.

6. Live in the present - Focus on what you can do in the present moment. Don’t worry about what you should have done last week or what you might be able to do tomorrow. The only time you can affect is the present. If you speculate too much about the past or the future you won’t get anything done. Tomorrow or next week frequently turns into never.

7. Get down to business immediately - It’s common practice for people to socialize and make small talk at the beginning of meetings. The same is true for individual workers. How often do you check email or RSS feeds before doing any real work? These distractions will cost you serious time if you don’t bypass them and get down to business immediately. By becoming someone who gets to the point you’ll be more productive and people will look to you as a leader.

It takes courage to take action without instructions from the person in charge. Perhaps that’s why initiative is a rare quality that’s coveted by managers and executives everywhere. Seize the initiative. When you have a good idea, start implementing it without being told. Once people see you’re serious about getting things done they’ll want to join in. The people at the top don’t have anyone telling them what to do. If you want to join them, you should get used to acting independently.

New Feature: Task Start and End Times

We are excited to announce that a long expected feature to allow assigning start and end times to tasks has been officially launched.

From now on, you can assign an exact start time and end time for a task due on a particular day. When you create tasks on Tasks page, look for the “Set Time” link on the form. It will toggle the start and end times fields to be shown. By default, you may still only assign an estimated completion time without setting the start or end times.

Another much easier option to set times is to do it on Calendar page. Because now on Week or Day views on Calendar page, you can simply drag and drop a task to assign their start time, and drag the small handle at the bottom of the task box to set its length.

What’s more, you shall also see the start times on Dashboard page. If you sync your goals and tasks to Outlook or Google calendar, you may also see the start times on these external calendars.

We hope you find this feature useful and please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Thanks,

Harry

How to Increase Your Personal Productivity

By Brian Tracy

Your body is like a machine that uses food, water and rest to generate energy that you then use to accomplish important tasks in your life and work.

One of the most important requirements for being happy and productive is for you to guard and nurture your energy levels at all times.

The rule is that your productivity begins to decline after eight or nine hours of work. For this reason, working long hours into the night, although it is sometimes necessary, means that you are usually producing less and less in more and more time. The more tired you get, the worse is your work and the more mistakes you make. At a certain point, like a battery that is run down, you can reach “the wall” and simply be unable to continue.

The fact is that you have specific times during the day when you are at your best. You need to identify these times and discipline yourself to use them on your most important and challenging tasks.

Most people are at their best in the mornings, after a good night’s sleep. Some people are better in the afternoons. A few people are most creative and productive in the evenings or late at night.

A major reason for procrastination is fatigue, or attempting to start on a task when you are tired out. You have no energy or enthusiasm. Like a cold engine in the morning, you can’t seem to get yourself started.

Whenever you feel overtired and overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time, stop yourself and just say, “All I can do is all I can do.”

Sometimes the very best use of your time is to go home early and go to bed and sleep for ten hours straight. This can completely recharge you and enable you to get two or three times as much done the following day, and of a far higher quality, than if you had continued working long into the night.

According to many researchers, the average American is not getting enough sleep relative to the amount of work he or she is doing. Millions of Americans are working in a state of mental fog as the result of working too much and sleeping too little.

One of the smartest things you can do is to turn off the television and get to bed by ten o’clock each night during the week. Sometimes, one extra hour of sleep per night can change your entire life.

Here is a rule for you. Take one full day off every week. During this day, either Saturday or Sunday, you absolutely refuse to read, clear correspondence, catch up on things from the office or do anything else that taxes your brain. Instead, you go to a movie, exercise, spend time with your family, go for a walk or any activity that allows your brain to completely recharge itself. It is true that “a change is as good as a rest.”

Take regular vacations each year, both long weekends and one and two-week breaks to rest and rejuvenate. You are always the most productive after a weekend or a vacation.

Going to bed early five nights a week, sleeping in on the weekends and taking one full day off each week will assure that you have far more energy. This added energy will enable you to overcome procrastination and get started on your major tasks faster and with greater resolve than you ever could if you were tired out.

In addition, to keep your energy levels at their highest, be careful about what you eat. Start the day with a high protein, low fat and low carbohydrate breakfast. Eat salads with fish or chicken at lunch. Avoid sugar, salt, white flour products or deserts. Avoid soft drinks and candy bars or pastries. Feed yourself as you would feed a world class athlete before a competition, because in many respects, that’s what you are before starting work each day.

By eating lean and healthy, exercising regularly and getting lots of rest, you’ll get more and better work done, easier and with greater satisfaction than ever before.

How to Get Everything Done by Doing 1 Thing

By Craig Jarrow

How do you eat an elephant?

How do you move a mountain?

How you do begin a journey of 1000 miles?

The answers are all the same… you do it bit by bit…

One bite at a time. One spoonful of dirt at a time. With a single step.

You cannot do the whole thing at once.

The same is true of life. You cannot do everything at once. But, it is through incremental progress that success is achieved.

How do you get everything done?

The answer to this question is the same too. You get it all done… one piece at a time.

If you keep your todo list visible, you are aware that you have many things to do. Very few us ever get our lists to zero. (If you do…I might reason you are not living up to your potential…)

So how do you get it all done? You cannot do your whole todo list at once. You have to chip away at it. Effective productivity is not done in one fell swoop. Yes, there are bursts of rapid productivity.

However, small incremental steps is how life gets done. To get everything done, you have to start with one item.

The 1 thing you weren’t going to do today

We all have things that sit on our todo list for days. Weeks. Months in cases. Some of these items may turn out to be things we never really needed to do in the first place. That is good, we can cross those off.

But, there are other items that have to be done and will not go away. Leaving tasks undone can create more work for us and cause more life friction and stress.

Ever try to do your taxes at the last moment? Or do a project the day before it is due?

The strategy is to pick one thing you were not going to do today.

And make that item a top priority today. Maybe it is to track down the one tax document that you know you will need before mid-April. Maybe it is start the research on a project you have been putting off. Or perhaps that expense report that is rotting on your desk.

Do it today. It is not an option.

How to get that 1 thing done

OK, so we have spotlighted one thing that has not been getting done and we are committing to doing it today. Here are some tactics to ensure success:

  • Keep it top of mind - You may have many top priorities today, but ensure you put your one incremental task on top of your list. If you keep a “today” list, it goes there. If you rank or prioritize your todos, it has a top ranking for today.
  • Make it non-negotiatible - Doing 1 extra thing today that you wouldn’t have otherwise is a choice. Make that choice. For you, it is non-neogtiable even if you have to make sacrifices in other areas. You skip that social lunch or you work just a little later.
  • Announce it to others - We tend to let ourselves off easy. But, we don’t like to let others down. So, tell your friends, spouse, co-workers that you intend to do this task today. Just mentioning it to them will raise your internal obligation to get it done.
  • Do it to done - It feels good to finish things. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of starting a dozen things and not finishing any of them. Take care to start and finish your important 1 thing.
  • Celebrate it! - You did it. Now take a moment to be happy that you completed something important to you. That feel good moment will serve to continue to boost your productivity.

Success is a Marathon

By Harvey Mackay

The key to success is sometimes just the willingness to put one foot in front of the other one more time. Here’s how I do it.

I have ten marathons under my belt, including four New York races and one Boston. When you are running a grueling race with thousands of people, for the most part it doesn’t matter where in the pack you finish. What matters is simply that you finish. It’s all about persistence.

Even the elite runners - those who make the 26.2-mile trek in a little over two hours - have to convince themselves to take the next stride. Imagine how a runner who is still at it after four or five hours feels! Then think about the rush that comes when the finish line is in sight.

The difference between those who finish and those who give up lies in the old axiom that successful people do those things that unsuccessful people don’t like to do. Successful people have the determination, the will, the focus, the drive to complete the tough jobs - like running a marathon. Or launching a business.

You may recall the story about when I was starting out, and asked a colleague I respected how many calls he would make on a prospect before giving up. He told me: “It depends on which one of us dies first.”

Keeping your eye on the prize is usually easier said than done. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the demands of a long-term project. Here’s how I stay motivated.

  • Focus on what you can accomplish rather than the obstacles that stand in front of you. Direct your energy toward achieving a goal, and tackle the problems with an emphasis on edging closer to a successful result.
  • When you identify a roadblock, develop a realistic plan to overcome it.
  • Work with your colleagues or employees to make it easy for them to say yes to your requests. Provide options so they can contribute to the best of their abilities.
  • Never ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. That is the essence of leadership.
  • Be assertive without being aggressive. Set the direction and take responsibility for results.
  • To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.

Persistence and determination are what keep us hammering away. I’ve known entrepreneurs who were not great salespeople, or didn’t know how to code, or were not particularly charismatic leaders. But I don’t know of any entrepreneurs who have achieved any level of success without persistence and determination.

When you have a dream that you can’t let go of, trust your instincts and pursue it. But remember: Real dreams take work, They take patience, and sometimes they require you to dig down very deep. Be sure you’re willing to do that.

Mackay’s Moral: Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.