Category Archives: Focus

Prioritizing tasks around the house

As a happily married father of 3 with a full time job, a small business, a home, 2 cars, and numerous bills to take care of, things are typically quite chaotic. I have a list of things that need to be done around the house, and as most people will understand, there is just no way of handling every single item on the to-do list.

The first thing that is done is deciding which of these truly need to be completed. There might be something that I would like to do, but it is not urgent and can be put on the backburner. There are other tasks that simply cannot be ignored. For example, winterizing the sprinklers in preparation for the harsh midwest temperatures. If this isn’t handled, then we will find ourselves with huge bills to repair our irrigation system in the spring, or we could just not repair it and let our grass and plants die when the summer heat hits. Either way, we will be paying for something.

The sprinklers are an item that I have no clue about, and to be honest, I have no interest sprinkler-1209900_960_720in figuring out what needs to be done. There is expensive equipment involved and there is a lot of risk that has to be mitigated. I do not have this mindset, or the time to mess around, so I trust a local landscaping company to take care of it for me.

Then there are other jobs that are easy to do, that need to be done, but just take up a lot of time that could be spent in other directions. If I have the option of paying a neighborhood middle-schooler $20 to collect all of my leaves, which allows me to spend an extra couple of hours with my family, it’s a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. Instead of washing my car by hand I would rather use that time to take a walk to the park with my family, and pay $8 at the local Green Lantern carwash for a great clean!

There are other tasks such as repairing the washing machine and tuning up my lawn-mower that can be achieved, and I have achieved, with the help of a YouTube video. calculator-385506_960_720Then there are those tasks that I just have to do such as paying bills, managing the family budget, and monitoring investment accounts that only I can do. I try to save these tasks for later in the day so that I don’t miss time with the boys, and it also bores me, so it helps me get to sleep quicker!

At the end of the day you have to decide what is important to you, and what your time is worth. I pay $8 for a car wash because I would rather spend that time playing with my two sons, or sitting on the patio drinking a glass of wine with my wife. I would rather pay someone to do the more complex jobs where I do not possess the required skillset nor am I prepared to take the risk associated with completing the task myself. However, I always mow our grass as I find it relaxing, it’s good exercise, and my two boys have toy lawnmowers and will be out in the yard with me throughout! Incorporating family into chores around the home is a great way to get things done, save money, and still spend time with loved ones!

What matters to you? What are some things that you will never complete yourself because you value your time too much, and what are some responsibilities that you have no interest in doing due to a lack of technical knowledge? What tasks do you actually enjoy and are you able to get your family involved in any of your regular chores?

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The right thing or the easy thing?

Do your employees always look to do the right thing, or do they look to do the easy thing? This past weekend we visited Nashville, TN to watch the Tottenham Hotspur game at the spurs logoNissan Stadium, as well as squeezing in a couple of site visits and meetings with clients for my husband’s business. It turned out that this was tax free weekend in TN so the resort that we stayed at had very limited availability when we booked it a couple of months ago. Due to the high number of visitors, we actually had to make three different reservations, one for the first night, one for the second night, and then a third for the remaining three nights. This would have meant 3 room changes during the course of our stay, which normally wouldn’t be a problem and would provide us with a clean condo each time, but when there are two young boys in the mix, as well as the fact that I am 6 months pregnant and it’s almost 100 degrees outside, remaining in the same room was much more appealing. When we arrived I asked the gentleman at check in if it was possible to stay in the same room for the duration of the stay, even if it meant having a slightly smaller unit. He took a very quick glance and informed me that there was no way that anything could be done as there were three different kinds of rooms involved with the reservation.

The following morning my husband went down to the front desk and asked again if anything could be done. The employee responded without even looking at the computer system and informed my husband that there was nothing that could be changed as they were very busy, and we should expect our new room to be available at 4pm. This makes life extremely difficult when you have to be out of your current unit by 10am and have 2 young children who are going to need naps, as well as refrigerated and frozen food which is going to be homeless for 6 hours.

This employee then left as her shift had come to an end. My husband went up to the desk and asked the newly arrived employee about the situation, and the response was completely different. Stacey checked the reservation system and noticed that the room that we were due to move into was a 2 bedroom lock-off which actually included the room that we were currently in, so there was actually no need to move anything! We would just open up the door between the two rooms and have double the space for that day! She also saw that the last reservation was actually the second half of the lock off by itself, so again no need to move a thing. My husband returned to the room with a cup of tea for me and the news that we had the comfort of remaining in the same unit for the duration of our trip.  Music to my ears!

If he had not asked the newly arrived employee, we would have gone through all of the hassle of packing up our belongings, our food spoiling, and our boys going without a nap, bored employeeonly to find that there was no need to move in the first place. This was a very simple thing but the first two employees just didn’t take the time to look into the situation, instead deciding to share canned responses with us. The second employee was about to end her shift, and sat with her jacket on and her bag on her back for 30 minutes before the clock struck 7am. She had no interest whatsoever in helping guests, she was just passing the buck with minimal effort until she could get out of the door.

The third employee thankfully had a focus on customer service, and wanted to do whatever she could to make our experience enjoyable. In the end, she actually didn’t have to change anything, as we had already been assigned connected rooms which meant there was no need to move. However, she took the time and effort to investigate the situation, and made our whole experience much more enjoyable.

In your position at your work, do you do what it takes to get the job done the right way, or do you just do enough to squeeze by and get to clocking off time? Do you have employees who are engaged enough that they will do whatever is needed to make the customer experience a special one? Or do you have employees who do the absolute minimum, and spend the last 30 minutes of their shift looking at the clock with their bag packed and ready to go, as many of us did back in school during the last hour of the day? How do you train this quality? Can it be trained? How do you develop a culture of providing impeccable service? What drives you to do the right thing, regardless of how long it takes, or the obstacles that might be in your way? We are eager to hear your thoughts on this, as well as examples where you have had similar experiences. Until next week stay safe, and expect the exceptional in everything that you do.

Investing in yourself, a guaranteed win

Most people think that investing in the stock market is the best thing that they can do for their financial future. However, investing in yourself is significantly more important for a variety of reasons. Today we look at 11 ways in which you can do just that. 

(1) Get a mentor – Find someone who you respect, has a track record of success, and is beard-2286440_960_720willing to help you grow. You are essentially searching for a personal coach who can help guide you through the many minefields you will encounter throughout your career. Find someone who has been there and done that so that they can save you time, effort and money. This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who is closely tied to the position that you occupy and the industry that you work in. Working with an “outsider” can be extremely beneficial as they have no bias and are naturally more inquisitive to understand your business more. Another benefit of finding someone outside of your company is they don’t have a personal stake in your success, meaning they give you unbiased feedback, share their experiences, and offer the support system that you need to take your career to the next level.

Tip: Your mentor doesn’t have to be older than you! They also don’t have to be in the same line of work. They just need to be successful and be willing to share their secret sauce with you! 

(2) Join a group or organization – This can have multiple benefits as there are many different opportunities that typically arise from surrounding yourself with similar minded people who have common goals in place. You could join a professional organization such as the NSCAA, your local IFMA chapter, or the nearby Chamber of Commerce. All of these will provide you with opportunities to share problems with professionals in similar positions as well as giving you multiple opportunities to network and participate in industry specific workshops and trainings. Associated benefits include newsletters, discounts, the chance to be recognized for your work, and access to thousands of people in the same boat as you.

Tip 1: If there isn’t a group that fits your needs, create one!

Tip 2: Attend your first event as a guest to see if it is something that you see value in before committing financially. 

(3) Volunteer –  Besides the good you will be doing for others, another major benefit of donating your time and efforts is the associated feel-good factor which can significantly improve your health and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.

Tip: Volunteer for something that means something to you, and as above, if it doesn’t currently exist, create it!

(4) Work sponsored professional development opportunities

Speak to your HR department to see how they are prepared to support their employees in their pursuit of professional development. If you can demonstrate how the training will benefit the company, the impact it will have on your work performance, and the total cost of your venture, you should be able to secure financial support.

Tip: Try to find online classes as well as training sessions that are held outside of work hours to minimize disruption to your work schedule and responsibilities. 

(5) Listen to a podcast

woman-977019_960_720If you can’t find anything that fits your needs, create your own podcast! This could even be a collective effort where you collaborate with a couple of other individuals to discuss current issues in your industry.

Tip: Save time and look after your health by listening to a podcast while walking, running or biking. 

(6) Participate in webinars

There are many free webinars that are available online these days, and many of these are available at multiple times throughout the day. The typical structure is that they have the webinar live during work-hours, but upon it’s conclusion a recording is sent to all registrants so that they can watch it in their own time.

(7) Watch a YouTube video

I think that there is a “how to” YouTube video out there for any need that you can think of. My husband and I repaired our washing machine a couple of months ago by following step by step instructions by an appliance repair store who had posted the video on their Facebook page.

Tip: Search for industry leading companies and individuals and see what they are creating or watching.

(8) Read 

You can read fiction books to feed your imagination, or you can read non-fiction and books-1701522_960_720professional development books that will provide you with ideas that you can integrate into your daily activities. You could also look into starting a book-club with colleagues or friends where you get together monthly to discuss how you can take the ideas presented in the book and add them into your workplace.

Tip: If you aren’t able to get together to discuss in person, you can use applications such as Skype and Microsoft Teams for face to face interactions. 

(9) Take a class or seminar

These are available all over the place! A good starting point is to visit an industry specific membership group such as IFMA is you are a facilities manager. You can then view and register for training events that meet the criteria that you have in place. You can Google nearby events, and you can also communicate with fellow professionals for recommendations.

Tip: There are many great classes out there that are available for free from platforms such as Alison and Coursera.

(10) Have a monthly expert present at your place of work

This is something that has had tremendous success for many reasons. The best aspect is giving a presentationthat it can be held at your place of work so that everyone can attend. It’s also great as the content can be tweaked to hit the key ideas that you are looking for support with. Any questions that are asked are relevant to your business, and you will be able to have great follow up conversations with your teammates who were in attendance. Find someone who is an expert in the area that you are focusing on, reach out to them, and see what it would take for them to present to your team.

Tip: Many professionals will be honored to be considered for this opportunity, and they are typically very motivated by the new clients that can emerge from the interaction. 

(11) Attend industry specific trade-shows

This is a great way to keep up to date with industry trends, rub shoulders with potential clients, meet strategic partners, and to get a better understanding of what your prospective customers are looking for.

Tip: Many trade-shows provide free access to the exhibit hall where you will have the opportunity to connect with vendors, see demonstrations, sign up for newsletters, and enter drawings for some cool gear!

Do you manage time or does time manage you?

Time management is one of those ideas that is frequently discussed due to it’s importance in everything that everyone does. Despite the available literature, numerous training seminars, and ever increasing number of apps to help with this part of life, it always seems to be something that causes stress to the majority of the population. Here we take a quick look at 11 ideas that will help you to be more efficient in your daily activities.

1. Delegate Tasks: It is common to take on more tasks than we can, or should, handle. This can often result in stress, burnout, missed deadlines and a reduction in the quality of products. Delegation is not running away from your responsibilities but is an important function of management. Learn the art of delegating work to your colleagues based on their skills and abilities.

2. Prioritize Your Work Tasks: Before the start of the day, make a list of tasks that need your immediate attention as unimportant tasks can consume much of your precious time. Some tasks need to be completed on that day only, while other tasks could be carried forward to next day.  In short, prioritize your tasks to focus on those that are more important. Try listing just three tasks that MUST be completed that day. Once you have completed those tasks, anything else is a bonus!

 3. Avoid Procrastination: Procrastination is one of the things that negatively affects productivity. It can result in wasting essential time and energy and should be avoided at all costs. It could be a major problem in both your career and your personal life if not handled correctly. Instead of putting things off, letting tasks build up, and becoming overwhelmed, try breaking them down into bite-sized pieces.

4. Schedule Tasks: Carry a planner or notebook with you and list all the tasks that come to your mind. Make a simple ‘To Do’ list before the start of the day, prioritize the tasks, google-keepand make sure that they are attainable. To better manage your time management skills, you may think of making 3 lists: work, home, and personal. There are also numerous organization apps available that can help with this process. Two that I frequently use are Asana and Google Keep. Have a favorite organization app? Please share it in the comment box below.

5. Avoid Stress: Stress often occurs when we accept more work than our ability will allow us to complete. The result is that your body starts feeling tired which can then negatively affect your productivity. Instead, delegate tasks to your colleagues and make sure to leave some time for relaxation.

6. Set up Deadlines: When you have a task at hand, set a realistic deadline and stick to it. Try to set a deadline a few days before the task is due so that you can complete all those tasks that may get in the way. Challenge yourself and meet the deadline. Reward yourself for meeting a difficult challenge with some well deserved relaxation and time away from work.

7. Avoid Multitasking: Most of us feel that multitasking is an efficient way of getting things done but the truth is that we do better when we focus and concentrate on one thing. Multitasking often hampers productivity and should be avoided to improve time management skills.

 8. Start Early: Most successful people have one thing in common. They start their day early as it gives them time to sit, think, and plan their day. When you get up early, you pexels-photo-207247are more calm, creative, and clear-headed. As the day progresses, your energy levels start going down which affects your productivity and you don’t perform as well. The other great thing about starting the day early is that there are less distractions that can get in your way and prevent you from achieving your goals. Believe me, as a mother of two (soon to be three 🙂 ) I know how important it is to get the ball rolling before my two ‘assistants’ wake up!

9. Take Some Breaks: Whenever you find yourself a spare 10-15 minutes, be sure to take a break. Too much stress can take toll on your body and affect your productivity. Take a walk, listen to some music or do some quick stretches. The best idea is to take off from work and spend time with your friends and family. Relax, freshen up, recharge your batteries and then get back to it!

10. Learn to say No: Politely refuse to accept additional tasks if you think that you’re already overloaded with work. Take a look at your ‘To Do’ list before agreeing to take on extra work.

11. Does it really need to be done?: According to Planet of Success, the idea of using four quadrants to determine the priority of a task was introduced by American keynote time-management-matrix-stephen-covey-royal-servicesspeaker Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s system makes use of four different quadrants that allow you to prioritize tasks in relation to their importance and urgency, helping you to decide whether you need to address a task immediately or if you can postpone it, or if you can just completely ignore it. Don’t waste your time working on things that aren’t urgent, or important.

Please take a moment to check out this great Time Management video from Randy Pausch, the legendary Carnegie Mellon University professor, and organization guru.

What are some ways in which you manage your time efficiently and effectively? What are some techniques that you have tried that haven’t worked so well? Please share your comments in the box below, and until next time, Expect the Exceptional in everything that you do.

Setting and achieving goals

Our society’s focus on technology and innovation forces us to strive for “bigger and better” every day. Regardless of the industry you are in, it is important to be on the cutting edge in order to stay ahead of your competitors.

But when you are sitting in a meeting discussing how to be the best, does it ever feel like the goals being set are unreachable? Sure it would be great to be ranked number one in your field by the end of the year, but as a new company, is that really possible?  Setting goals that are impossible to reach wastes time and money, when your focus could be on something that will actually be accomplished.  There is no harm in striving to be the very best, but be sure that you are not spending time in an area where you will not succeed.  In order to do this, it is important to set SMART goals.  The SMART acronym was first published in a 1981 issue of  Management Review by George T. Doran.  While times have changed, these guidelines can still help individuals and companies alike tailor their goals to the kind that can be achieved, rather than the kind that get forgotten after many failures.

Specific – make sure the goal you are setting is targeting a specific area in need of improvement.

Measurable – you should be able to track the progress of your goal, beyond arbitrarily deciding whether it’s going well or not.  When you can decidedly track and assess progress, the excitement you feel toward reaching your goals is a great motivator to keep going.

Achievable – as mentioned above, you don’t want to set a goal that is out of your reach.  So much time will be wasted trying to accomplish something that will never get done.

Relevant – it is important the goals you set actually matter to you and will help you achieve other relevant goals.  There may be a promotion available at work for the head of marketing, but are you actually interested in marketing?  Would getting this promotion better your life, or would it simply be one more thing to add to your resume, just because?

Time-related – set a due date for your goal to avoid putting it off for another time.  If you decide you want to lose 10 lbs, that’s great!  It is specific, measurable, achievable and relevant.  But if you don’t set a date to accomplish this goal, you may spend years working on those 10 lbs, when realistically, you could have been enjoying a healthier, happier you after just 6 months.

Setting goals is important.  It keeps us going.  It gives us a reason for being.  But setting the wrong goals, or going about achieving them the wrong way, can be frustrating and demoralizing.  Make sure your goals are smart so you can continue being the best you possible, at work and at home.

 

Living in the present

Have you ever been at a family function and looked around and noticed every single person was on their phone?  How did that make you feel?  Did you laugh it off, or was it frustrating that your family is no longer conversing with one another outside texting and Facebook?family-on-phones  Or maybe you’ve been in a work meeting and it’s your turn to present, but when you look up from your notes you realize no one is even listening to you, as they are all glued to their tablets.  My husband used to be a bartender at a pub in England and he has fond memories of the camaraderie and community that was developed over conversations had at the bar, even among strangers.  Now when you see people at the bar, they aren’t even watching the plethora of games available, they are simply watching their phones.   It’s not realistic to hope for things to go back to how they used to be; as more technology is developed, the more people will use it in their everyday lives.  However, while you can’t demand that bar patrons put their phone away (although that is a good concept if you are looking to start a business!), there are things you can do in your own home and with family to ensure that the time you spend together is about quality and not just quantity.  Because after all, you are not interested in the time you get with people, but the energy you receive from them when you’re together.  Here are some tips to separate yourself and loved ones from common distractions:

1 – leave your phone at the door.  Whether you take this literally or figuratively, it’s a good idea to detach yourself from your phone at the end of the day.  You may choose to actually leave your phone in your car, or maybe simply put it away in a desk drawer for the evening.  You don’t have to turn it off, but if you do choose to leave it on, think about changing your ringtones.  I like to have a separate ringtone for family, so if I hear that I know that I should probably pick up.

2- set some ground rules.  If you have kids, I’m sure you have screen time and phone guidelines set.  However, are you following some rules yourself?  Sometimes, it’s nice to unwind by playing mindless games on the phone.  But that can eat up time very quickly, time that could be spent with family.   So you could try to limit your screen time to when the kids are sleeping.  Or maybe, delete the games from your phone to avoid the distraction.  Whatever works for you, as long as you are aware of the amount of time being spent in this direction.

3- phone basket.  If you are having family over for dinner, it’s a nice idea to ask everyone to put cell phonestheir phones in a basket upon arrival.  People will probably complain initially, but eventually everyone will be having such a great time actually speaking to one another, they will forget all about it!  This could also work for some office meetings, depending on the content.

4- no charging.  On the weekends, choose not to charge your phone.  This will force you to think about what you are using your phone for, and will probably start to curb the habit of randomly picking up your phone and checking the screen for no reason at all.

5- keep it in the backseat.  Obviously, in most places it is ILLEGAL to drive with your phone, not to mention how incredibly dangerous it is.  However, some people still do not get it.  If you are someone who finds yourself picking up your phone at every stoplight, and then continuing to use it when the light turns green, you may want to think about keeping the phone in the back seat.  Turn on your bluetooth if you have it so you can answer important calls, but everything else really can wait until you get there.  I’m begging you, for the sake of my children and yours, PLEASE stay off your phone when you’re driving.  Nothing is that important.  Check out this website for some scary stats if I haven’t convinced you.

At the end of the day, your family, friends and coworkers want your focus and energy far more than your presence alone.  If you can learn to separate yourself from distractions, you can give them what they need.  Take some time to look around and enjoy life and the people in it!

 

Your WHY

Why do you get out of bed in the morning?  Is it to make money for yourself and/or your family?  Is it to take care of your children?  Is it because you love your job and can’t wait to get to work?

Whatever reason you have, it’s important to keep in mind that this “why” can drive your day, week and even your life.

“Your Why provides you with clarity, meaning and direction. It is a filter through which you can make decisions, every day, to bring your cause to life.”

-Simon Sinek

Personally, I have chosen to stay home with my children because I feel that is where I can be of most use, and it is where I will be the happiest me I can be.  This direction is not for everyone; some feel they are better suited conquering the corporate world, or providing the world with delicious pastries.  Everyone has a different why, the point is to find out what that is for you and to remind yourself of this throughout the day in order to stay on the right path.

Recently, my little guys have been a little challenging.  The oldest is three going on 13, with an attitude and brains beyond his short years.  He tests my patience by the hour, and to add to that, my youngest is 16 months and teething like crazy.  There are certainly moments where I wonder what the heck I was thinking staying home!!  In those moments, it is important that I think about my why.  The reason why I decided to stay home was because I cannot stand the thought of missing important moments; I cannot stand the thought of someone else having to deal with these behaviors because they definitely will Inspirational Typographic Quote - When you feel like quitting, tnot be as patient as I am!  I know that this is the best place for me because it is what I have always dreamed of doing and I never dread “going to work.”  Most importantly, I NEED to be able to give them hugs and kisses anytime I see fit.  So, when I begin to question this decision, I remember this why and get myself back on track by squeezing and smooching to my heart’s content.

Obviously, not every work problem can be solved with hugs and kisses; in fact, unless you work with your family I would strongly suggest you do not attempt to solve problems in this way.  However, it can be helpful to remember why you are doing what you are doing from time to time.  The same can be said for businesses as a whole, as opposed to just the individuals within them.  As time goes by, it is easy for a business to get into a rut, doing the same thing every day just because it’s what you did yesterday.  Remembering your why can help guide your business to where you want it to be.

Royal Services has paid special attention to their why recently; in fact, they developed a why statement specifically for this purpose.  This statement is a great way to bring all departments together and remind everyone of their common goal; in this case,

“To provide our customers with superior project management, innovative programs, and a single point of accountability for facility solutions so that Royal, our clients, and our vendors can all thrive.”

Does your business have a why statement? Do you?  If not, come up with one!  Or at the very least, take some time out of your day to remember why you are doing what you are doing; remembering your purpose may help give your days more meaning.