Business Breakthroughs vs Breakdowns

If your company growth has plateaued, it’s probably because your brain is not firing on all cylinders.

Top CEO’s know that when they feel balance in their life, business and personal growth comes far easier. And this process is simple when you follow a strategic, tactical, proven plan to balance and accelerate your business and personal growth.

Donald Wong International is a thinktank system and consulting for high growth entrepreneurs to boost business productivity, work life balance.

Articles, Tips and Tactics for CEO and Entrepreneurial Success


5 multi-tasking tips for the on-the-go mogul

It’s no secret that the business world – actually, the world in general – is moving at a speed that wasn’t even possible just a short generation ago. Our new tech tools, most notably the emergence of the wireless Internet enabled device, have made communication, logistics, and management a quicker process than ever before. Combine that with the competitive nature of the business environment, and instead of being able to sit back and enjoy the productivity increases of these new tools, we’re often required to get more accomplished – in the same amount of time.

In order to maintain any ability to balance work and life, we must often learn how to get multiple things done at once, just to keep up. These 5 tips are designed to help you - the CEOs, entrepreneurs, and small business owners of the world – get more than one thing done at the same time, business-related and personal, so that you can achieve your goals, and more importantly, feel good while doing so.

The magic of the meal meeting

Any business owner knows that networking and developing strong relationships is key when it comes to finding new opportunities, managing their team, and generating sales. They also know that finding time to get a healthy meal in can be one of the first sacrifices made, and on a regular basis. Considering nutrition is a critical factor in functioning at our absolute best, missing meals can be a slippery slope.

By scheduling as many informal meetings as possible over meals, it’s possible to facilitate strong business relationships while getting the food fuel you need to operate at 100%. By having a coworker or prospective associate meet you over a meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), you’ll not only free yourself time to be in the office when you absolutely need to be, but allow yourself to maintain healthy eating habits as well. The added sense of camaraderie, and opportunity for some small talk, can go a long way too.

Harnessing the power of your smart phone and its email capabilities

Granted, not all of us are blessed with the ability to be technological wizards that know how to make the most of the gadgets we have. However, with a little effort to learn, the time saving capabilities of accessing email on any modern smartphone can be great. As long as your phone is by your side, having your email inbox just a quick glance away can be invaluable.

You’ll instantly know when an important message comes through, and combined with some savvy use of filter settings, be able to keep all your messages organized with minimal effort. Not only does this prevent your inbox from becoming a cluttered, time-consuming, organizational nightmare, but being able to shoot out a quick response while waiting for an elevator, or a small handful while say, waiting for a haircut, can be a huge time saver over the course of a week.

Rethink your commute

For professionals that commute, switching to a passive form of transportation, such as the train or carpooling, can free up a great deal of time over the long term, and allow you to get a ton of less thought intensive tasks done. It might not be the most glamorous way to get to work, but now that so many devices can access the Internet through a cellular signal, being able to answer emails or work on a presentation while you’d otherwise be driving, can eliminate a lot of the work you’d be doing at home, ultimately freeing up time for you to relax or be with your family – and ultimately, help you balance work and life.

Put the “work” in workout

This tip might not be possible for the real work out warriors of the world, who go 100% percent at the gym. But, for those of us that only hit the treadmill to get a light jog or brisk walk in, it can be a great way to “kill two birds with one stone”. Peering over a report, listening in on a meeting (or a recording of one), and doing some light emailing or messaging, can all be accomplished while getting your heart rate high enough to be considered aerobic exercise. Not only does this allow you to multi-task, but also helps ensure that you can take care of yourself physically at the same time. That doesn’t begin to factor in the mental benefits of exercise either.

Master the art of delegation

The most difficult, but also most effective way to multi-task is to make the absolute best use of your most valuable resources – your subordinates, assistants, or employees. Sure, you could argue that this isn’t multi-tasking in a traditional sense, but whenever you’re doing anything that someone else could be doing for you, it drastically reduces your efficiency. As you go throughout your day, make a mental note of the tasks you commonly do, that you might be able to source elsewhere. By effectively “outsourcing” some of them to others who may have some time on their hands, you’ll be able to get that original task done, while actually working on something more complicated or intensive yourself, which can go great lengths to giving you the power to balance work and life.


The effect of stress on the mind, and your bottom line

Stress. As an executive, small business owner, or entrepreneur, it’s probably something you’re well acquainted with. Combine the hectic day-to-day responsibilities of the modern business decision maker, the normal personal issues we all face, and the prospect of maintaining any semblance of a life work balance – and you get the recipe for an extremely stressful lifestyle.

The biological and mental effects that stress causes directly play into every single decision we make, how well we do our jobs, and ultimately, how successful our companies are. As a result, it’s important that every business owner and executive understands exactly what stress really is, why we feel it, and how it affects us. After all, only once we truly understand something, can we begin to deal with it.

What is stress, really?

Naturally, you can probably already describe what the physical symptoms of stress are, and what they feel like. Tight, aching muscles. Headaches. Sleeplessness. Moodiness and emotional instability. Difficulty making decisions. The list goes on…however; very few of us ever stop to think what causes these symptoms, and why we feel them.

Whenever we’re faced with a critical decision that our brain registers as important to our short term or continued well-being, which in modern times can very well be work-related, our bodies trigger what is commonly referred to as a “flight or fight response”. This response causes our nervous system to release a number of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, which provide a temporary boost to our situational awareness, and help us think faster and more clearly. They also help temporarily heighten our physical abilities – such as muscle strength and reaction times – though those probably won’t help you much in the business environment.

So, stress isn’t bad?

It’s a common perception that stress is always a bad thing, so the statement in my previous paragraph: “provide a temporary boost to our situational awareness, and help us think faster and more clearly”, might have thrown you for a bit of a proverbial loop. In small doses, stress can be a great thing. It’s the body’s natural reaction to difficult and important situations, and is designed to help increase both key mental and physical functions in the short term. When the body becomes “stressed” occasionally or at reasonable levels, it can without a doubt have a positive effect on our decision-making, amount of work we can get done, and results.

However, like most biological processes, there are some less than positive side effects as well. The chemicals the brain releases during the “fight or flight response” causes your muscles to tighten up, as if they were preparing for intense physical labor. It eliminates hunger, even if they body needs nourishment, and can lead to difficulty sleeping. They also temporarily lower the importance, and amount of energy, the body places on the immune system – as the body tries to prepare itself for the immediate situation at hand, as opposed to maintaining itself mid-to-long term.

And, if there’s too much of it, the consequences can be dire…

If the body is constantly in a “stressed” state, these negative side effects can quickly outweigh the positives that stress can provide. Unfortunately, with the increasingly fast paced nature of the business world, lack of life work balance, and the issues in our personal lives, that’s often a reality. It can often seem like there is always something important to get done or weighing on us, whether it be family, personal, or work related – which can all trigger the body's stress response.

If applied over a significant period of time, the negative side effects of stress can become downright debilitating. A lack of sleep, appetite, and weakened immune system can very easily lead to illness, both temporary and chronic. A lack of good rest can also lead to a severe – albeit temporary – diminished capacity for critical thought and keen decision-making. Prolonged tightening of the muscles can lead to chronic headaches, due to increased pressure on areas of the spine. In extreme cases, these symptoms can even come together to decrease your overall mood, cause depression, and even lead to “occupational burnout”, which makes it extremely difficult to do even the smallest tasks.

With this in mind, unmanaged stress cannot only directly decrease your overall level of job and personal satisfaction, but very logically make you a much less productive decision maker for your company. If you hope to run your business as well as you can, it’s crucial that you can identify when your body is starting to feel the effects of a prolonged state of stress, and do what you can to help remove yourself from those situations. Granted, that’s often much easier said than done. However, always striving to maintain that ever elusive life work balance can go a long way. These stress reduction tips designed directly for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and small business owners can help too…


5 Stress reduction tips for the always-working business professional

Stress, along with taxes, is one of the few guarantees in the life of any business owner, entrepreneur, or executive. With a never ending - and ever growing - to-do list, long hours, and the constant struggle to balance work and life, it’s not hard to let the pressure and stress of being one of your organization’s key decision makers get to you.

With that in mind, the side effects of becoming overly stressed can be dire if allowed to go unchecked. Not only do high stress levels make it difficult to concentrate on the tasks we have at hand and stifle our productivity, but it can actually lead to a number of physical symptoms, ranging from a weakened immune system to long-term and serious cardiovascular issues.

As a result, it’s crucial that any professional consciously takes steps to help alleviate the effects of stress in their lives, not only to enhance their mood and feel better in general – but to ensure peak job performance, and ultimately, heighten your level of success. Here are 5 simple things you can start doing today that will help you accomplish just that.

1) Set an “unplug yourself” time – and stick to it.

In a world of e-mail enabled smart phones, tablets that fit on even the smallest of night stands, and easily accessed wireless Internet, it’s growing increasingly difficult to step away from the digital forms of communication that dominate the modern business world. While that can be convenient during the working day, it can also give business responsibilities an avenue to leak into our personal lives, make it difficult to balance work and life, and even lead to late-night email sessions that prevent a good night’s sleep.

By consciously setting a concrete time each evening to step away from your inbox and shut the laptop down, you can help preserve a solid separation between your professional and personal life, and help ensure that your mind and body have the time to rest and recuperate each night. It might be easier said then done, especially for those of us that work on a global scale, but there are rarely things that absolutely can’t wait until morning.

2) Make a point to maintain healthy habits.

The connection between the mind and the body is often taken for granted by many fast-paced professionals. While it might seem like a difficult time constraint to exercise regularly and pay attention to nutrition, a healthy and well fueled individual will always be more productive and feel better than one who’s hungry and lethargic. Even 30 minutes of light exercise every other day has proven to release a level of endorphins (the chemicals that trigger “happiness” in the brain) that can go great lengths to reducing the reactions in the body that cause stressful feelings.

3) Learn to forget failure fast, and instead, focus on your next success.

A bad memory is one of the greatest traits a professional looking to avoid stress can have. No matter how well prepared, intelligent, or talented you are, it’s guaranteed that you’ll have at least a few major failures in your career. It isn’t a comfortable truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless.

However, letting those failures to linger with you will only cause negative feelings, a lowered overall mood, and an increase in your stress levels. While it’s definitely a talent that requires some practice, one of the best ways to avoid stress is to always keep your mind focused on your next task or opportunity. After all, all it takes is one success to regain your momentum again.

4) Keep your friends close, and your family closer.

Not only do our close friends and loved ones typically provide us with support, smiles (which have also been biologically proven to release endorphins), and help us feel good about ourselves, but allowing work to keep us from them can lead to feelings of guilt and strain those valuable relationships as well. For these reasons, maintaining relationships is the most important facet of walking the tight rope that is attempting to balance work and life.

For obvious reasons, failing to invest our time into these relationships, can lead to often-insurmountable levels of stress in our lives. As a result, schedule time with those closest to you with the same diligence as you would with prospective clients or important business associates. It might get difficult sometimes, but the emotional benefits of healthy relationships will always pay dividends when it comes to managing stress levels.

5) Always remember to reward yourself.

Ambition and drive are both great things, and they’re often what cause us to pursue professional success in the first place. However, when they keep us from ever slowing down to enjoy the fruits of our labor – and lead us to push ourselves too hard – they can turn into one of the biggest causes of stress we face.

With that in mind, when the going gets tough, be sure to always reward yourself with some time off for a mental or physical vacation, a purchase that relates to one of your hobbies, or an indulgent treat from time to time. Not only does this practice help enhance your overall mood and reduce stress, but helps you remember why you’re working so hard in the first place, and provide strong positive motivation as well.


Getting the most from your mobile device
3 “must do’s” for harnessing the power of the smart phone

Now that the smartphone has become the largest segment of the mobile market, it’s very likely that you’re already using one for both your personal and professional needs. But, are you making the most of all the potential it has to keep you moving like a well-oiled business machine, save yourself time, and maintain the always-precious life work balance?

If you’re not sure that the answer to that question is yes, here are three things you absolutely must address in order to harness the power of your smart phone, to ensure that you’re making the most of your high tech mobile device.

1) Keep yourself in “sync”

Once you receive your phone from IT or your service provider, it often comes ready-to-use, so many ignore the seemingly optional step of physically connecting it to their computers to complete the full set up process. As a result, the most common mistake that many professionals make, especially those who might not be extremely “tech savvy”, is to ignore the syncing capabilities of contact information, calendars, and to-do lists. This can lead to having multiple, and sometimes-contradictory schedules, and contacts, which can cause serious headaches, missed meetings, or lost networking opportunities.

By taking the minimal effort to allow your cell phone to regularly integrate with the information on your primary computer workstation, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll only be working off of one calendar and set of contact info. The exact steps required to do this can very depending on the software services you use, and the platform your phone runs on (usually iOS or Android), but are often as simple as connecting your phone to your computer, and following a few simple on screen prompts. Some of this may even be possible wirelessly, due to the advent of cloud-based services, however syncing in this fashion will require some more involved set ups.

2) Invest some time in setting up email filters.

The ability to send and receive email on the go is one of the greatest capabilities that the smartphone offers. However, most of us receive dozens upon dozens of emails a day, many that aren’t time sensitive or are just plain spam. As a result, the constant “dinging” of an unimportant email being downloaded to your phone can get unnecessarily distracting.

In order to avoid this momentum killing stream of annoyances, you can a set up filters on your inbox, that only allows emails from a select group of important individuals, that come from a certain source (say the lead generating contact form of your website), or contain certain words, to trigger your phone’s email ringer. This can go great lengths to prevent your smartphone from turning from a tool for productivity and into a non-stop stream of irrelevant, and attention diverting notifications.

Again, the exact methods of setting these filters up will vary based on your email service, or phone’s platform. However, the process is relatively intuitive, and will usually be well documented on the help sections of your email or cell phone providers website.

3) Explore the world of apps

While your smartphone’s most used features will likely be its email, messaging, and traditional phone functionality – in that order – a well-selected collection of “apps” can put a wealth of your business’s most important data at your finger tips, automate certain processes, and even allow you to turn your phone into a portable payment system. The convenience factor, and time saved through the use of these apps can be a much-needed asset when it comes to finding some life work balance.

There are numerous industry and function specific apps, which can provide you a wealth of on-the-go options, and will often be well worth the time it takes to research them, and learn how to use them. While the Internet is full of content from budding app services, which can make it difficult to determine which are truly functional and well-established, using the top “apps” list in the business section of your platform’s app store is often the most efficient place to start your search.

How Regular Exercise Can Boost Your Profits

For some executives and business owners, especially those that struggle to balance work and life, freeing up time to regularly exercise may seem like a pipe dream. With the always-quickening pace of the modern business world, there is never any shortage of responsibilities to address, which can make it difficult to find even an extra half an hour a few times a week to get a decent workout in.

However, when you really look at the physical and mental benefits that regular exercise can provide, and break down how they can help you perform your duties as one of your organization’s key decision makers, it’s not difficult to see how the positive effects of maintaining a regular exercise regimen can easily outweigh the costs of not doing so. With that in mind, here are the five key benefits of regular physical activity, and how they can tangibly affect the profits that you can generate for both yourself, and your company.

1) Less Stress = Better Decisions

Let’s face it, the long hours and number of critical decisions that business owners and executives face on a daily basis can lead to an extremely stressful lifestyle. Once that stress starts building up, it can be hard to focus, and as a result, the quality of the choices we make can suffer.

Physical activity releases chemicals in the body that actively reduce the stress-related compounds that build up in the brain, which helps increase your ability to focus, and think in a clear headed manner.

2) Healthier habits means less sick days

Nothing can derail your momentum as a business owner or executive, more than missing work due to illness or other serious health issues. Regular exercise is known to provide a number of physical benefits, from promoting healthy sleeping habits to increasing cardiovascular health, which can help keep your immune system perform at its absolute best, and help alleviate the probability of other more critical health problems from occurring.

3) It gives you more energy to keep going

While it may seem a bit illogical due its rigorous nature, regular exercise is proven to increase overall energy levels, and a lack of physical activity actually helps promote feelings of lethargy on both the body and mind. By keeping a regular workout schedule, especially if it involves morning sessions, you’re much more likely to avoid the dreaded mid day productivity crash.

4) A Positive attitude is contagious

While it may be one of the more overlooked side effects of exercise, the endorphins (the chemicals that cause “happy” feelings) that physical activity releases might be its most enjoyable benefit. They enhance our mood, which can do powerful things for our leadership and sales ability. Positivity and enthusiasm is often contagious, and because of this, it’s much easier to influence potential clients and subordinates when we’re in a good mood.

5) It gives you precious reflection time

In the fast-paced modern business world, which makes it next to impossible to balance work and life, and find time to unwind, the time that we spend exercising gives us an excellent opportunity to focus on something other than the current task at hand – this is especially true of relatively passive forms of exercise like yoga or jogging. Taking advantage of this time to reflect on the decisions we’ve made, give us a valuable opportunity to learn from our previous successes and failures, which can help lead to better decision making down the road.

In order to reap the benefits of exercise, you don’t need to become a workout warrior, or even work out on a daily basis. Just a half hour 3 – 4 times a week, which can be as rigorous or relaxed as you feel comfortable with, is enough to start seeing a number of these improvements. However, always be sure to check with a physician before starting a new regimen, and most importantly, stick to it once you get going!


Forcing yourself to "unplug", and why it's good for you and your business

With communication technology evolving so rapidly over the past decade, finding a balance between work and life is becoming increasingly difficult, and the divide is constantly being becoming more and more blurry. With a nonstop number of emails streaming directly to your phone, and the ability to bring vast amounts of work related information and software tools home on your laptop, or through an Internet connection, it can be extremely difficult to keep the workplace and home separate.

It very reasonably may seem that constantly being connected to your work or business might make you a more productive professional or entrepreneur. But, that’s actually far from the truth. In fact, failing to keep a firm separation between your personal and professional lives can have dire consequences for both your productivity, and your ability to grow as an entrepreneur or executive.

Why allowing work to creep into your personal time is counterproductive...

It can be difficult to recognize sometimes, but in a professional setting - one in which our value is determined by the effects of our decisions - our productivity is not a simple function of hours worked. With that in mind, our decision-making ability is severely impacted by a number of factors including our stress levels, how well rested we are, and how much time we reflect on the choices we make. If we’re constantly connected at all times, we lose out on the ability to maintain a clear or attentive state of mind, which directly and very negatively impacts our critical thinking skills.

Failing to “unplug” and maintain a healthy balance between work and life can easily lead to a dangerously rising level of stress, which can stem from a variety of very logical causes, such as strained personal relationships and “occupational burnout”. Answering emails or working on presentations long into the night can crush any hope of being able to obtain an appropriately level of rest. In addition, failing to ever step away from our professional duties can also force us to miss out on the valuable opportunity to gain multiple perspectives on the problems which we’re responsible to solve at work.

For these reasons, keeping a solid separation between work and life is incredibly crucial. It’s needed to avoid the accumulation of stress, and in order to give our minds an opportunity to recharge their critical thinking ability and problem solving creativity.

How to remain diligently “unplugged”

Admittedly, “unplugging” at night isn’t the easiest thing to do in the demanding world of the executive or entrepreneur. However, these three tips might make it a bit more attainable.

1. Set a time, and stick to it – Much like when you had a “bedtime” each night as a child, set a solid time each night that you’ll shut down all of your work-related communications. Just make sure that you’re strict about it.

2. Keep your work and personal tech separate – In this day and age, many of our hobbies are tech based, from reading to streaming entertainment content. If possible, use a separate set of devices for your hobbies, and work use, in order to keep a firm separation between the two. In fact, recent studies have shown that cutting yourself from any type of tech at night may be beneficial.

3. Use an email auto responder each night – One of the biggest reasons that many of us find it so hard to unplug, is that we often expect instant gratification when it comes to digital communication, so we attempt to “return the favor” and respond to each and every email as soon as possible. By setting an auto response message that reads “Thank you for the message, but, I’ll be out of the office until tomorrow. I’ll get you a response as soon as possible”, is a great way to alleviate the pressure of constantly monitoring your inbox.


The Power of Keeping a Daily Business Journal

When most of us think about keeping a journal or diary, our minds are often transported to the potentially embarrassing things we used to scribble before we went to bed back in our middle and high school days. However, nightly journaling is actually one of the best ways to organize our thoughts, catalog our experiences, and measure our progress. As strange as it sounds, when applied to our professional lives, the practice of keeping a brief but structured journal can actually be extremely valuable, and help us become more conscious decision makers.

Not only does taking a few quick minutes to recap at night help us come to a solid point of closure for the workday, which can help incite feelings of a life work balance, but it also provides a number of other tangible benefits as well. While there are numerous ways to go about keeping an effective daily business journal, this short guide should help you learn the fundamentals, and help you understand why it very well might be something that you should be doing.

How to approach business journaling as a CEO

The best way to keep a business journal is digitally, as a running word processor document. It can be formatted however you feel most comfortable, just make sure that each day is clearly marked, and chronologically organized. This allows for easy use of both your word processor’s “search” or “find” function to look for key phrases, as well as a logical way to read through your thoughts relative to when you had them. Since this content will purely be for your personal use, don’t worry too much about presentation, as long as it’s organized.

As opposed to simply having a free-writing session, in which you simply spend a few minutes writing about your day, it’s highly recommended that you keep a standard set of questions that you ask yourself and respond to, in every entry. This helps makes the process quick and easy, but allows you to structure your thoughts in a manner that will ensure that you come up with something concrete and beneficial every time you write.

While there’s a wealth of questions to draw from that could provide value, the list below should give you an excellent depiction of how well-thought out and repeatable questions can turn a quick journaling session, into a growing database of real-world information, and actionable thoughts:

1. Who did I deal with today? - You don’t have to list everyone you spoke to, but make sure to mention new potentially important contacts, and any interactions that had major implications for your business. Listing numbers and email addresses for these people while writing can be beneficial as well, though not necessary. Interesting personal factoids (birthdays, hobbies, family news) are a great idea as well.

This question is designed to help you keep an accurate account of the numerous people you’ll do business with, which can go great lengths to help you prepare for future meetings or in dealings down the road.

2. What did I get done today? - Answering this question not only allows you to positively reflect on the successes you had that day, but more importantly, also forces you to hold yourself accountable if you gave an effort less than your best. Not being able to have a good answer here isn’t a good feeling…

3. What did I struggle with today? - This question is critical in defining the things that you should focus on, in order to become a more well rounded executive or business owner. If you notice a trend in similar areas, you should be able to figure out exactly what skills you should look into developing.

4. What’s one thing I learned today? - The business world is always evolving and changing, and it’s a guarantee that your specific industry is too. As a result, even the most intelligent, talented of senior executives and business owner should always be looking to learn new things, and take in new ideas. By consciously answering this question each day, you can rest easy knowing that you’re progressing along with the world around you.

5. What do I want to accomplish tomorrow? – The best way to end a business journal entry, and your workday in general, is to close it out with a clear, and actionable list of what your goals are for the next day. This practice allows you to get up, get to work, and get straight to that list – and any productive business owner or executive should understand the value of an organized check list.

As you could probably imagine, taking just a few minutes of your night to maintain a business journal can lead to the creation of a great deal of useful information. While the concept might seem a bit silly at first, having a personal database of information on key clients, a running tally of your most important thoughts, and giving yourself a chance to reflect on each day’s performance isn’t a ridiculous idea in the slightest bit. It doesn’t have to be something you invest a lot of time into, but even just 5-10 focused minutes each night can help you create a journal that provides a great deal of value.


Employee Motivation?

Employee motivation begins at the start of each day, and needs to be reinforced each day. But it doesn't have to be an added task to your agenda.

In fact, a strategy I use with each of my clients is to help them create a series of emails that go out to their staff each and every morning. One short email with one motivating tip for the day.

How?

Here's some examples to get you focused:

Subject Line: Your best effort is all you owe the world.

We often try and find reasons for bad results, or for why things don’t go our way. Don’t, it’s a waste of your time. Your only worry should be that you give your best effort at all times, and make the smartest decisions you can. Those are the only two things any of us can control.

Subject Line: When the journey seems long…

Just remember that there aren’t any shortcuts to anyplace worth going. If there were an easy route, everybody would be on it, and well on their way there already.

Subject Line: Don’t ever let your message get lost in cyberspace.

In the digital age, it can be easy to rely on text messages and emails to get everything done. For small tasks or unimportant communications, those two tools can be huge timesavers. But, for the important stuff, keep it old fashioned with face-to-faces and phone calls. It’s much more personal, and often, much more effective too.

Subject Line: Rest does a body, and a mind, good.

There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep, and there’s no better mind than a well rested one. The best way to get that sleep is hard work. It’s not because you should work yourself to exhaustion though - worrying if you did enough today, to have a better tomorrow, is almost guaranteed to keep you up.

Subject Line: Don’t ever criticize an honest mistake.

Don’t ever judge another’s mistakes or failures. In fact, go out of your way to help them move on from them and understand them. We should all be so lucky to live in a world where we can learn from one another’s hard lessons openly and free from judgment.

It's not just in the words you use, but it's in the delivery...

Your staff will see that you care because you took the time to deliver a short, grabbing email... and because you took that time you'll see an improvement in everything they do.

Mind Mapping:
The simple way to organize your ideas

(click here to get a copy of The Balanced Entrepreneur Mindmap)


As an executive, entrepreneur, or business owner, there’s a very good chance that your mind is pulled in a 100 different directions at various times of the day, and you likely have a number of different responsibilities, in a number of different disciplines. From marketing and sales, to management and logistics, there’s no shortage of different aspects that go into running an effective organization. With that in mind, it can be extremely difficult to organize the wealth of often unrelated, yet peripherally connected ideas, which we have on a daily basis.

Mind mapping, which is a technique that allows you to diagram and list your thoughts in a simple, visual, and organized way, is a relatively straightforward and basic practice, which can go great lengths to help you organize the great deal of varied ideas you likely have on a daily basis. It also has strong applications in team brainstorming and collaborative meeting environments as well.

A typical mind map revolves around one main theme or topic, which is represented by a circle (often related to as a node) that is labeled as the theme in question, at the center of the diagram. After this main theme has been established, smaller categorical thoughts related to that theme are represented by smaller circles that are connected to the main node. Once a few of these larger “sub-thoughts” are outlined, the mind map will begin to take shape, and look like one large circle, with a series of smaller circles connected to it. From these smaller circles, you can then draw lines, on which you write your specific ideas, and use the larger established framework to keep them organized.

For example, let’s say that you were looking to increase sales, and wanted to organize your ideas on doing so. Your main node or circle would be labeled “sales”. From there, you would draw several circles that would describe various methods of doing so (such as “leverage old clients”, “generate new leads”, or “partner with complementary companies”). Then, you would list specific ideas on how to accomplish each. Again, for example purposes, we’ll choose “leverage old clients”. You would draw lines from this circle and write things on them such as, “make follow up calls to all old clients”, “start a quarterly news letter”, “mail a new product announcement”.

As you should be able to see by now, mind maps can be an extremely powerful way to keep a running tally of ideas, and just as valuably, keep them organized. By developing an ongoing mind map for each of your core job functions, you’ll be able to capture all of those small ideas that randomly pop into your head, and use them to create solidly defined plans of action. While the thought of keeping these mind maps on paper is obviously a bit counterproductive, there are a number of software applications, on every major platform from Windows and Mac OS, to Android and iOS, that allow for the easy development and sharing these diagrams.


Mastering the art of the daily to-do list
4 tips to help you turn a piece of paper (or smart phone app) into a powerful productivity tool


Let’s face it, as entrepreneurs and executives, there will never be enough hours in the day. Since we’re the ones being looked on to make critical decisions, steer the overall direction for our companies, and help create a sound strategy for growth, our work will never be “done” on any given day. As a result, it’s critical that we make the most of our time, and big part of accomplishing that is organizing it, and explicitly defining what we need to accomplish. This is especially true if we ever hope to successfully balance work and life, and prevent our professional responsibilities from following us home.

While it might sound a bit elementary, mastering the art of the daily to-do-list is one of the most effective (and basic) ways to take advantage of every precious minute we have during the day. Whether it’s through using the “to-do” functionality of your favorite calendar software, or going the “old school” route and using a piece of paper to write your to-do list, following a daily to-do-list can drive your productivity in a big way. While everyone is probably very familiar with the basic concept of the to-do-list, here are four tips that will make yours much more effective and useful:

1) Try your best to keep it chronological – The foundation to any good to-do-list is to keep it as accurately ordered as possible. Granted, that isn’t always possible with the moment-to-moment calls for your attention that will inevitably pop up each day. However, by giving it your best effort, you use your list as a rough plan that includes even the most minute tasks you need to get accomplished.

2) Write in your scheduled appointments first – While it’s very likely that you already keep a calendar of your scheduled meetings, writing them down each morning on your to-do-list will ensure that you don’t accidentally forget one (it happens). This practice also allows you to fit in your smaller, more flexible tasks in between the ones that cannot be moved.

3) Make a note of how much time you want to commit to each task – One of the worst productivity killers is losing focus, and allowing what should have been a quick simple task to take much longer than you’d consider ideal. By taking a few seconds to put a rough estimate of how long something should take, you’ll have a solid benchmark to hold yourself to, which hopefully helps alleviate the temptations of procrastination and distraction.

4) Log both your personal and professional needs – A productive professional is one that is taking care of their personal needs as well, and it’s for a variety of reasons. As a result, it’s important that you take care of the things you need to get done away from the office as well. From grocery shopping to picking the kids up from school, list the important non-work related things you need to get done. It can go great lengths to help you balance work and life.


Sleep
The busy professional’s most underrated resource

Behind time and cash, sleep might just be the most valuable resource of the modern executive or business owner. Considering that we operate in a culture that praises long hours, and the fact that most business environments are incredibly competitive, a lack of sleep has become one of the new norms for many organization’s key decision makers. Add in the fact that technology has made the divide between work and home life blurry - and maintaining a proper life work balance next to impossible sometimes - sleep deprivation is becoming all too common.

However, this emerging trend of sleeplessness is often extremely counterproductive. Most professionals rely on their critical thinking skills, and operate in high stress conditions. Due to some of the side effects of lack of sleep, failure to get a proper amount of rest have very direct, and dangerous, negative ramifications, on both the health and productivity of those in charge of managing and spurring growth for their business.

Why a lack of sleep can hurt your performance

1. It directly damages your short and long term health – Those who make sleepless nights routine are setting themselves up for both serious health issues down the road, and immediate nagging small problems that can lead to sick days. Those who consistently fail to get 6-8 hours a night are much more likely to fall victim to strokes or cardiovascular disease, and their immune systems are also affected, which can make experiencing the common cold or flu even more likely.

2. Fatigue hurts your memory and attention span – Lack of sleep affects the brain in a number of different ways, but the effects on the parts that are in charge of memory and attention are hit the worst. Fatigue can lead to an extremely difficult time of cataloging new information, and can make it difficult to get back on task once you’ve lost focus. Combined, these two factors can make getting a fair amount of work done a futile exercise.

3. It’s extremely conducive to bad decision-making - Beyond the brain’s ability to retain information and stay focused, the parts of the brain that assess risk and analyze potential rewards are negatively affected as well. That’s a bad combination when you’re being looked on to make critical decisions that affect the long-term success of your organization. In fact, it can make attempting to make these decisions under low-sleep conditions extremely counterproductive.

4 tips to get a great night’s rest...

Now that you understand exactly why a sleep-deprived mind is bad news for your productivity, here are some tips that can get your sleep schedule back on the right track:

1. Limit your post noon caffeine intake – The stimulant properties of caffeine are one of the most common sleep deterrents of the modern professional. Luckily, caffeine metabolizes out of the body relatively quickly, however it’s recommended that you do everything you can to avoid drinks that have the substance once midafternoon hits.

2. Keep technology out of the bedroom – Televisions and laptops have become common place in many bedrooms these days, but the mental stimulation they provide can prevent the brain from “relaxing” enough to achieve a state conducive to good sleep. Not taking work into the bedroom is also one of the best ways to help ensure a proper life work balance as well.

3. Exercise in the morning – Exercise is important for many reasons, and should be something that any professional attempts to fit into their schedule. However, it does help jumpstart your metabolism, and boosts short-term energy levels. By working out in the evening, you risk making falling sleep more difficult to achieve.

4. Stay on a schedule - The body develops natural cycles of rest and awareness states (Circadian rhythms), which help determine when it will be easiest for you to fall asleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends) helps these rhythms promote rest when you need it most, and also assists in the prevention of morning sluggishness.


Why “Hungry” Employees Boost Productivity

Less than 33% of all employees are actively engaged at work. In other words, about 66% of employees are disengaged in their work and are less productive as a result.

What’s the cost of having disengaged employees in your company?

At least $2,246 per disengaged employee every year.

On the other hand, engaged employees generate at least 25% higher profits and operate at 40% more productivity.

So, how do you get your employees engaged in your company?

This is done by creating a working environment in which the workforce is not satisfied with their current performance and is driven to do even better.
Simply put, making them continuously “hungry” for success.

The creation of such an environment can be formed by implementing a few tips below:

1.) Specific definitions of success and failure – High performance cannot be achieved if everyone is unsure of what to go for and what to avoid. Be specific. For example, a failure can be defined as year-end profits being below $100,000 and a success would be defined as above $100,000. Avoiding failure is a powerful emotional motivator and can incite your employees to be very active in work.

2.) Emotional discomfort for low performers – Any low performer must be put in a state of emotional discomfort in order to signal the need for improvement. They have to know that they are not doing as well as they could and need to improve their performance. If they have what it takes, then they will improve. If they remain as low performers, then they should be dismissed in order to make room for the employees that are “hungry” to prove themselves.

3.) Tightening the range – People generally compare themselves with their peers. For example, if person A’s performance places one in the middle of a seven-person team, then person A is not at risk of getting fired and may feel content. But after the company fires the three lowest-performers, then person A suddenly ranks in the bottom. This makes person A feel the immediate pressure to improve in order to avoid being the worst performer. We are tightening the range. Collect high performers, and then tighten the range again by dismissing the poorer performers. Repeating this process will result on building a team full of driven workers who know they must strive hard since their peers will be equally talented to them.

Taking any of these steps can create a highly productive working environment full of engaged employees that increase profits and boost productivity in your company. If you want to learn more about work life balance, then click here for a 2 minute productivity assessment.

References:
“ Studies show that engaged employees generate an average of between a quarter to a third more profits for their companies.” [quarter to a third = 25% to 33% more profits]
“According to one eye-opening study, fewer than a third [33%] of all employees can be classified as actively engaged at work. Put another way, some industry statistics show that 66% of employees are disengaged and 60% are actively looking for work.”
Forbes. “How to Get Your Employees to Stop Job Hunting”
http://www.forbes.com/sites/causeintegration/2012/07/10/how-to-get-your-employees-to-stop-job-hunting/

“ a recent Towers Watson survey indicated that nearly two–thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result.”
Forbes. “(Almost) Everything We Think About Employee Engagement is Wrong”
http://www.forbes.com/sites/dovseidman/2012/09/20/everything-we-think-about-employee-engagement-is-wrong/

Calculating the Cost of Actively Disengaged Employees
Gallup developed its $292 billion estimate of the annual cost of actively disengaged employees through a three-step process. First, it applied its proprietary formula to the Q12 survey results to calculate the number of actively disengaged employees in America. Next, widely used published statistical guides (standard utility analysis methods) were applied to the $30,000 per year U.S. average salary. This yielded $2,246, which, multiplied by 130 million U.S. workers who are 18 years old or older, produced the $292 billion estimate. Gallup Business Journal. Gallup Study Indicates Actively Disengaged Workers Cost U.S. Hundreds of Billions Each Year
http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/466/gallup-study-indicates-actively-disengaged-workers-cost-us-hundreds.aspx

“The offices with “engaged” employees were as much as 43 percent more productive.” (Pg 3)
Hay Group Consulting. Engage Employees and Boost Performance.
http://www.haygroup.com/downloads/us/engaged_performance_120401.pdf

Specific definitions of success and failure (section)
Emotional discomfort for low performers (section)
Tightening the range (section)
Forbes. Why You Need Dissatisfied Employees

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertsher/2012/08/03/why-you-need-dissatisfied-employees/


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