How Your Morning Routine Can Change the Way You Work

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For many, mornings are the most dreaded part of the day. Your morning may sound something like this: alarm sounds, hit snooze a few times, roll out of bed, get ready in 5 minutes and rush out of the door. If you aren’t a morning person, it can be quite a challenge just to get out of bed on time…let alone actually getting anything done in the early hours of the day. But mornings have the potential to be the most important and productive part of your day…if you do it right.

The anatomy of the perfect morning routine is different for everyone. But for the most productive people, there are generally common themes you can see in how they spend their mornings. Let’s take a look at how you can maximize your morning routine:

Wake up earlier.

Right now, it might seem impossible to wake up any earlier than you do. But try. In order to have a productive morning, you actually have to make time for it. Wake up a few minutes earlier each day for the next two weeks. Before you know it, you’ll have an extra 30 minutes to an hour every morning. Imagine how much more you can get done.  I recently started waking up at 5 a.m. (instead of 6:45 a.m.) so I can workout, read and spend time with family. It’s made a big difference in my mindset and productivity for the rest of the day.  By the way, I also wake up early on the weekends so that my early morning routine becomes habit.

Avoid coffee first thing.

The moment you get out of bed, you might head straight towards the coffee machine. Even if you crave for some caffeine as soon as possible, try to avoid coffee first thing in the morning.Too much caffeine isn’t a good thing and you become dependent easily. Limit yourself to one cup later in the morning so that it lasts you longer through the day. Working out first thing in the morning has helped with this. Now, I have a full bottle of water during my workout, and don’t have coffee until I’ve been up for an hour or two.

Meditate & reflect.

You might have never given mediation any thought but you should. Spending just 10 minutes in the morning clearing your mind and reflecting can really help you refocus and recharge for the day ahead. Use this time to think about the previous day, what you accomplished, and your overall goals. This helps keep you grounded in your beliefs.

Get moving.

This can’t be stressed enough but never underestimate the power of exercise. Keeping your body in shape keeps your mind sharp as well. Even a brisk 30 minute walk every morning can help you get a good workout. While you might dread working out, find a fun activity you enjoy doing and stick to it. Further, I’ve found that working out in the morning helps me avoid “decision fatigue” throughout the day — that dreaded thought in the back of my head that I have to head to the gym after a full day of work. Get it out of the way early in the morning to free up your mind for priorities throughout the day.

Enjoy a healthy breakfast.

Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. In order to have the most productive day you can, fuel your body and mind. Just make sure you stick to healthy options like fruit and yogurt or a green juice.

As you see, none of these tips involve working. Use your mornings to focus on you, not your job. When your body and mind is happy, you’ll have a much better day.

 

 

5 Signs You’re Terrible at Time Management

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During interviews, one of the most popular questions hiring managers ask is “what’s one of your biggest strengths?” It’s a pretty straightforward question and one of the most popular responses is “time management”. But for most people, that’s a lie. Whether you realize it or not, most of us could manage our time much better. There are things we do everyday that are counter-productive. Even with the best intentions, we spend a lot of time wasting it. If you want to get your time back, you first have to take a look at how you’re spending it. Here are 5 signs you’re terrible at time management:

You don’t have a to-do list(s).

Even if you think you have the best memory in the world, it’s impossible to keep all your priorities straight in your head. Working off of a mental to-do list can backfire very easily. Especially if you have a lot going on, you have the potential to let simple things fall through the cracks. Do yourself a favor and write down your to-do list, either on a piece of paper or on your phone. This will help you keep track of everything you have to do so that you don’t miss another deadline.  Check out our previous post about having two to-do lists.

You are indecisive.

Do you go back and forth whenever you have to make a decision? How much time do you spend trying to weigh out all the pros and cons? Spending a lot of time on a decision makes sense for bigger picture issues but most of the time, you really don’t need to think about it so much. If you’re indecisive, you have a fear of failure when it comes to the choices you make. But think about it this way: even if you do fail, it’s not the end of the world. Just go with your gut.

You can’t say ‘no’.

If you’re always the one to say ‘yes’ to anything that is thrown your way, you’re definitely being a team player. While it’s a great thing to add more value to your team, you have to think of yourself as well. You only have so many hours a week to get your own things down. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you feel like it would just be too much. It’s OK and people will understand. It’s better to be honest upfront then to find yourself in a stressful and unmanageable situation later on.

You wait until the last minute.

Procrastination is tough to beat. But it must be done. Otherwise, you throw yourself into a frenzy at the last minute and you risk not finishing the project in time. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, set earlier deadlines for yourself and stick to them. This way, you can finish earlier and have extra time to look over your work.

You focus on the wrong things.

One of the keys to effective time management is prioritization. You have to focus on what is most important first. Otherwise, you’re not really making any progress, even if you get a lot of things done. When you’re creating your to-do list, put the most important items first. Even though you might be dreading it, get those things out of the way so that you can free up your time.

Even if you’re guilty of some of these signs, it’s not too late to change course. Effective time management takes awhile to master but once you do, it becomes second nature…just like riding a bike.

 

5 Tips to Be a Better Project Manager

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Most jobs require a high level of efficiency and productivity in order to be successful. But one role that takes it to another level is a project manager. Project managers can be found in almost any organization these days. These roles help understand the ins and outs of what their clients or customers want, interact with many different teams, and manage the flow of key projects in the organization. Even though you might not officially be called a project manager, many people take on such a role in their everyday jobs. And it’s not easy. In any given project, there are a lot of moving parts and it takes a special set of skills to organize them effectively. Here are 5 tips to help you become a better project manager:

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to work with a number of teams and people. That’s why communication is the key. There’s going to be a lot of different hands touching the project and it’s up to you to make sure that nothing is getting lost in the shuffle. Be sure to openly communicate with all parties involved so that you know what’s going on and they do too.

Identify challenges before you start.

One of the most frustrating things you can encounter as a project manager is facing issues you could’ve prevented beforehand. To prevent this, identify challenges and risks you might face before you start. Have a solution prepared so that if you do encounter these issues, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress. The goal is to be proactive, not reactive.

Think differently.

Sometimes you have to get creative to get the job done. No matter what you’re working on, always think outside of the box. While tried and true methods might work, they might not be the best approach. Every project is different so aim to look at it with a fresh perspective. Ask yourself: how can you do it differently to make it better?

Roll with the punches.

As a project manager, you have to be nimble. There are always going to be curveballs thrown your way. Instead of getting flustered, roll with the punches. The mark of a good project manager is not how fast you can complete something but how well you can adapt to change. Your project will not going according to your timeline 99% of the time. But don’t let that drive you off course.

Be approachable.

When you’re heading a project, you have to work with many different types of people in order to be successful. As a project lead, you have to be approachable. You want everyone you’re working with to be comfortable to come to you with any issues or concerns as they arise. Adapt a open door policy that you can tackle an questions your colleagues might have as soon as they arise.

It’s not easy being a project manager but it can be very rewarding. With these tips and a little bit of practice, you’re well on your way to getting it done.

4 Simple Memory-Improvement Hacks

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Unlike fine wine, memory is one thing that doesn’t get better over time. Let’s face it. As we get older and busier, it gets harder and harder to remember every single thing. With our hectic schedules, it’s easy to forget something and let it fall through the cracks. However, your memory isn’t a completely lost cause. There are things you can do to gradually improve it and strengthen your memorization skills over time. Let’s take a look at four simple tricks that can help you improve your memory skills:

Write it all down.

How often have you tried to remember something, only to completely forget what it was 2 minutes later? All too often. A simple way to remember something is to write it down. Especially if you often have meetings, it’s helpful to write quick thoughts or important notes down. Otherwise, it all starts to blend together and it becomes hard for you to retain or differentiate it. Make it a habit to carry a small notepad and pen with you so that you can jot down notes at anytime. You can also use your phone. Apps such as Evernote are great for collecting and storing your ideas.

Use a mnemonic device.

Our brains have a tendency to remember funny or interesting phrases that catch our attention. That’s why mnemonic devices can work so well. A mnemonic device is a technique that is used to help you retain something specific in your brain. It can be anything from an acronym to rhymes. For instance, remember the phrase “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” from grade school? That helped us remember order of operations in mathematics. Using the same techniques can help you remember your thoughts, even if it is complex.

Challenge your brain.

When we have the same routine over and over again everyday, our brain gets use to it. It becomes very comfortable for us to do on a daily basis. It’s almost like second nature. However, when you’re doing the same things everyday, you’re not keeping your mind sharp. Make it a habit to challenge yourself everyday. You don’t have to learn a whole new skill. Something as simple as playing a word puzzle can challenge you and your mind and help you think more quickly on your feet.

Repeat it to yourself.

Repetition is a proven memory trick that really works if you do it right. When you have something important you want ingrained in your memory, repeat it over and over again to yourself as much as you need. Pretty soon, you’ll be reciting it subconsciously. This is a great way to remember names and phone numbers. Just make sure you don’t repeat it again and again out loud in public. Otherwise, you might get some stares.

These simple memory tricks can help you remember everything, from the simplest to even the most complex concepts. What’s your favorite memory trick to use?

5 Great Ways to Take Advantage of Your Downtime

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Most days, you’re super busy. But inevitably, you experience periods of downtime. We seem to complain about how hectic our schedules can be that when we actually have some free time, we’re really not sure how to handle it. Downtime can be very valuable but sometimes, we just let it slip by without putting it into use. Don’t let that happen. Be more productive with your downtime, starting with these 5 tips:

Spend Time With Family.

Nothing should be more important than spending time with your family. Have you finished your work early? Read a book to your son. Take a walk with your daughter. Take your kids in the backyard and kick around the ball. Go to lunch with your significant other, or just sit on the couch and have a chat with him or her. These are the moments you’ll cherish and miss when the kids get older.

Read.

I spent 15 minutes reading non-fiction in the morning and 15 minutes reading fiction at night. It’s a great escape for my brain (and the fiction takes my mind off work or other “tasks” before I go to bed). Every time I finish a chapter, it also provides me with a sense of accomplishment as part of my day.

Organize your desk.

If you have some spare time on your hands, take a few moments to organize and clean up your desk. De-cluttering your space can help you de-stress. It also saves you lots of time. You won’t have to rummage through stacks and stacks of papers anymore to find the right one. Take it a step further by organizing your files on your computer and email as well.

Learn a new skill.

It’s always a good time to learn something new. If you have the time, try to pick up a new skill. It doesn’t necessarily have to be job related. Try something you’ve never had the chance to before or just take the opportunity to hone an existing craft. For example, if you’ve always wanted to write, start by writing a poem or a journal entry. Two years ago, I started taking banjo lessons, and I take 15 minutes every day to practice. It’s a great escape and stress reliever.

Just relax.

Lastly, when things are slow, take a moment to relax. Not the kind of relaxation where you sit there and stare into space. But do something that relaxes you and your mind. Read a book, listen to your favorite music, or just meditate. Take advantage of your downtime now because you might not get it again.