Category Archives: Time management

Travel tips for professionals

In the modern world that we live in, it is often part and parcel of many positions to travel the country, and potentially internationally, for business meetings. I am lucky that my husband doesn’t have to travel too much, but when he does there are several things that he does to make the process as simple as possible.

  1. TSA pre-approval – It only costs $85 for 5 years and is so worth it!  Some benefits include skipping the security line, not being required to remove shoes at security, and leaving your electronics in your bag.  airport, amsterdam, arrival
  2. Frequent flyer miles – take advantage of these, whether though the airline or through a credit card.  United offers the added option of admission to the United Club Lounge, which offers free snacks and drinks and a much larger area to relax before a flight.  When we had a 12 hour layover in New Jersey with a one-year-old, the United Lounge was perfect.  There was even a room for families and children where we were able to lie him down for a nap!
  3. A powerpack that is always charged just in case – Some planes are equipped with sockets that you can charge your phone through but many are not.  Power packs are not too expensive and are life-savers when you cannot find a place to charge your phone.  Additionally, there are luggage companies now that offer mobile charging stations right in your suitcase.
  4. Eye drops – to combat the dryness of the air on the plane and the conditions within your hotel room.  This will help you look refreshed for those meetings that are scheduled right as you arrive in town.
  5. A quality carry-on bag – Find a bag that fits your needs and can also fit easily into the overhead storage compartment on the plane.  This saves time when you are checking in and also eliminates the chance of the bag being lost.
  6. Download music and movies on your phone –  This will provide some in-flight entertainment without having to pay for Wifi on the plane.
  7. Book a room that includes breakfast and has a mini-fridge inside the room – onbreakfast-hotel-1921530__340 his most recent trip, my husband stayed in a Holiday Inn and Suites and was able to collect extra food at breakfast that he could then eat when it was convenient for him without the need to go out to purchase food.
  8. Lyft/ Uber app downloaded on your phone – everything is done digitally and one of the great things is that if you leave something in the car, you can immediately contact your driver on their cell phone, which is not possible with the traditional cabs. (Bringing back terrible memories of the time I left an entire suitcase full of shoes in a London cab, never to be seen again!)
  9. Plenty of water throughout to stay hydrated – you often don’t realize how dehydrated you can get on a plane.  Drinking plenty of water will keep your energy levels up and your appearance looking somewhat normal!
  10. Expensify –  digital expense tracking to keep the CFO happy at all times!
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Conference calls: Are they worth it?

If you ever find yourself on conference calls, I am sure you will be able to totally relate to the video below. This is a classic example of something that is seen as being important and necessary for a company to function, but something that has the chance to negatively impact all parties involved. When I watch this video I immediately get flashbacks to previous companies where conference calls were a frequent occurrence.

Anyone who has taken part in a conference call knows that this video is not just trying to be funny.  These things do actually occur, and at the end of the meeting you end up feeling like you have just wasted an hour of your work day that could have been spent in a much more useful manner.  Instead of spending your valuable time on conference calls such as this, here are some alternative ideas that could be very beneficial to your company!

  1. Video conferencing – Skype or other teleconferencing tools are a great solution as everyone can see each other, which will remove some of the difficulties shown in the video.
  2. In person meetings – when possible, meet in person.  If you have an hour or so drive, having one in-person meeting a month will accomplish much more than meeting four times a month over the phone in many situations.
  3. Smaller, more personalized calls – try having fewer people on the call.  Make sure you only have absolutely essential people involved, and avoid bringing those on the line that don’t have much to contribute.  If you only include two or three people, those people can in turn send out a summary of the meeting to those who weren’t involved.
  4. Collaborative work documents – Google Docs, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, etc. are all great options for collaborating through online documents rather than over the phone or even in person.  They give people a chance to really think about their responses as opposed to shouting out the first thing that comes in their mind.

The main thing that I would suggest is to be as efficient as possible and don’t just have meetings for the sake of having meetings. Have an agenda and objectives, and stick to the tasks at hand.  Also, stress to the members of the group the importance of timeliness.  Start the meeting on time, and if people are late do not go back and recap what you have already discussed.  This is especially frustrating for those of us who show up on time and have to listen to something two, or even three times!

Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to conference calls, or tips for making conference calls more effective?  If so, put them in the comments below!  And as always, Expect the Exceptional every day!

Christmas shopping tips

We might still be approximately three months away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts! My husband and I actually started this conversation this past weekend as we try to get on top of things before the mad rush from black Friday onwards. Here are some things that you can do to save time and money this holiday period:

(1) Set a budget – Many people suggest spending 1.5% of your gross annual income on dollar-660223_960_720.pngChristmas gifts, travel, and food. In 2014, the average gross family income was $65,751 according to Motley Fool, 1.5% of which is $986.27.  This seems like a lot of money to spend on the holiday, but when you think about the costs outside of gifts, such as food, entertainment, and travel, it makes sense.

https://www.today.com/parents/yes-we-spoil-our-kids-6-000-moms-come-clean-t75131

https://www.stewardship.com/articles/how-much-money-should-you-spend-on-your-kids-this-christmas

(2) Start early enough so that you have a list of gifts for each person. You might be able to track prices on apps like Cartwheel so that you can purchase these items when they are at their lowest price, or at the very least do your research before Black Friday so you can check for big sales on the items you are looking for.

(3) Remember that it’s the thought that counts. Some of the best gifts that I have ever received have been those that were homemade or were tied to an experience that I shared with my loved ones.

(4) Enjoy your time with your family!  Don’t spend so much time focused on gifts and shopping that you lose sight of what is really important, which is time with those whom you love.  christmas-family-time

(5) Are there things that you could make for your family that would save you money and would also mean more to them? Last year I made a range of cosmetic products for my family including an aftershave balm, foot cream, moisturizing cream, and lip balm made from natural ingredients and essential oils.  These were a big hit, and fun to make as well!

(7) Take advantage of layaway so that you pay ahead of time, rather than opening up crippling lines of credit that will continue to grow with interest charges.

(8) Make intelligent decisions about using Christmas bonuses. Don’t plan on spending a huge Christmas bonus which fails to materialize.

(9) Don’t buy gifts just for the sake of buying gifts.  This tends to happen when you wait until the last minute and are walking aimlessly around the store looking for something, anything that you could get for the last person on your list.  You end up buying them something that they don’t want or need, and holds no meaning.  This is disappointing for both of you!

(10) Don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones – it might seem like you can handle the 2fb766eb1dc54a762648ee369217e318--fathers-day-ideas-fathers-day-craftshigh spending habits of your friends, but no one gets an award for spending the most money during the holiday season. Is it really worth it to blow through your budget only to spend the next several months trying to get your head above water and out of debt?  Remember what the holiday is truly about, and don’t get carried away by the hype.

Hopefully these tips are helpful, and as I stated above, it’s never too early to get started!  The sooner you are finished with your shopping, the sooner you get to spend quality time with family during the holiday season.

 

Tips for maintaining a clean home

Our third child is due in mid-November, and I have officially entered “nesting mode.” Image result for pregnant nesting With the other two, I was going strong up until right before they were born; I shampooed the carpets in the week before my second was born, and even attended a concert on the day of!  However, this one feels a little different and I am losing steam much more quickly.  Therefore, I felt it was important to start the cleaning early so I don’t have to worry about being unable to do it later on.  The problem with this is the chance of the house being destroyed between now and my due date, so I have to focus on maintenance, which is not my strong suit so I have come up with a few rules to follow to help me out.  If it isn’t yours either, maybe you will be able to use these tips as you are working to maintain a tidy home!

  1. Laundry – start a load every morning.  If you go to work and don’t want to leave wet clothes sitting in the wash all day, look for a delay start function on your washer and set it for about an hour before you get home.  Also, try to have a basket for each person, as well as towels so you can separate straight out of the dryer instead of creating an additional task for yourself.
  2. Batch toilets – I hate toilet brushes, and have gotten rid of all of ours.  Clorox wands have disposable brush heads with cleaner built inside.  This is a convenient and sanitary way to keep your toilets clean; however, it’s not as cost-effective as a reusable brush.  So to cut down on use, I try to clean all toilets at the same time and reuse the brush head a few times to get more out of each one.  Even if you use brushes, cleaning all toilets at the same time is a great way to stay on track and ensure that toilets are all clean.
  3. Have a drawer for all paperwork and bills so that things don’t get lost – having one specific drawer for these items keeps things organized and minimizes the chance that something will get lost or misplaced.
  4. Straighten up before bed – when I come down in the morning to a tidy house, I am much more likely to keep it that way throughout the day.  On the other hand, if I come down to a mess, it is likely to get worse before better.  This is certainly a mental thing on my part, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences it!
  5. Break up tasks – instead of lying in bed thinking “tomorrow, I’m cleaning the whole house!” and then feeling like a failure the next night when you haven’t done much Broom, Ragpicker, Mop, Picker, Toilet, Cleaningat all, try breaking up your tasks each day.  For my “baby cleaning,” I set a seven day schedule for myself that covered all parts of my house, but was broken up enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed.  I found a few templates online, but in the end decided to come up with my own schedule, specific to my home and my preferences.  This was for a deep clean, but for maintenance purposes you can use the same list; you will just have less to do after the first time!
  6. Go digital with as many things as you possibly can – this is less about cleaning and more about being prepared, but setting things up online is a great way to stay on top of things and make sure you don’t get behind.  This includes utilizing auto-payments whenever you can, as well as automatic shipping on household items, such as toilet paper, diapers, laundry detergent, etc. to make sure you don’t run out.
  7. Remotes for lights – this saves both time and money and is something that we have found extremely useful.  I prefer lamps to overhead lighting, so I have a lot aroundLight, Lamp, Bedside Lamp, Illumination, Lampshade the house in various places.  We had some remotes for our Christmas lights and this year instead of packing them away, we have continued using them for the lights in our house.  When the sun goes down, I simply have to press a few buttons to turn the lights on, and at the end of the night do the same to turn them off.  Rather than walking around flipping a ton of switches multiple times a day, this simple tool saves so much time and also prevents leaving lamps on, leading to a spike in the electric bill.

Hopefully these tips help you as much as they have helped me!  Do you have anything else you like to do that I have forgotten?  Please put it in the comments below, and as usual, Expect the Exceptional in everything you do!

Ways to become WELLthier

My current city of Overland Park, Kansas, was recently named in the top America’s WELLthiest cities.

This list was compiled by looking at data from across a variety of aspects including health and fitness businesses and amenities, healthy eating establishments, and activities around town that promote healthy living.  The article also included reviews of these places and their popularity among residents.  Overland Park was recognized namely because of their expansive arboretum and botanical gardens, availability of fresh produce at the farmer’s market, as well as the outdoor  walking and educational activities available at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.

Even if your city wasn’t recognized on this list, there are so many ways you can ensure a “wellthy” lifestyle on your own.  Here are a few ideas to get you started!

(1) Walk daily: walking trails are everywhere.  Even if there isn’t one connected to your pexels-photo-504881neighborhood, it’s nice to drive to new places and explore the area.  This is especially true if you live near a busy road, as most trails are a safe place to take your kids and let them run!

(2) Visit your local farmer’s market: you wouldn’t believe the great deals you can get on produce at a farmer’s market vs. a grocery store.  Not to mention the other fun things they have, like honey and jam and beautiful flower bouquets!

(3) Participate in physical activities: going for a run or to the gym may not be your cup of tea, but maybe you love to play basketball when you get the chance.  This is a great way to get exercise and have fun at the same time, so find a league and join up!

(4) Work-life balance: it’s important to take a break every now and again to clear your mind and enjoy time with family.  Be sure you have a healthy balance between work and home life so you can get the most out of every day!

(5) Annual medical check ups: this is a great way to make sure your health is on track.  doctor-medical-medicine-health-42273Don’t forget about the dentist, dermatologist and optometrist when you are making your appointments!

(6) Stay hydrated: when I notice my energy levels are low, I can usually pinpoint the cause as dehydration.  If constantly drinking water feels like a chore to you, try adding some flavor or even eating watermelon!  This is a great way to stay hydrated and get some vitamins as well.

(7) Sun screen: don’t leave home without it.  We all know the risks associated with sun exposure, but many of us will only apply if we are spending the day at the pool or beach.  Even if you are just out running errands, it’s a good idea to lather up before you go as you will be in the sun more than you think!

(8) Get a good nights sleep – this means a good night’s sleep, not lying in bed for several out of bedhours looking at your phone.  The light on your phone can cause insomnia, so turn the blue light filter on if you do have a habit of playing games or browsing Facebook before you sleep.

(9) Sign up for an event so that you have something to work towards – signing up for a 5k or Tough Mudder “forces” you to create a fitness regime so that the day of the event isn’t a complete disaster!

(10) Family time – spend time with friends and loved ones. Workout together when possible so that everyone is involved and something that typically isn’t enjoyable becomes something that the whole family looks forward to!

Staying healthy in the workplace

Most American workers live a fast-paced life that can feel hectic at times. In this new economy, many companies require employees to do more with less. To be effective and to work healthy, you must learn to properly manage your time and stress levels.

chart americans work long hours

On average 39.2% of American workers reported work weeks in excess of 50 hours. Does this mean that American workers are more dedicated to their jobs than others? Does it mean that they are more fearful of losing their jobs? Are their bosses more demanding of their time? Or does it mean that American workers are just very inefficient at what they do? All of these items should be considered when looking at this problem.

I personally believe that the economic crash of 2008/2009 had a huge impact on most families, and workers are now doing everything that they can to prove their commitment to the company. I also believe that some people just really love their jobs and don’t see it as work. My husband is so passionate about what he does that he will frequently work on tasks in the evenings and weekends because he believes in the company’s vision, and loves the challenge that he faces!

Given the ridiculous number of hours that employees are currently spending at the office, we are going to look at some ways in which you can boost your health, and consequently your productivity.

Time management – ask any for-profit business owner and they will tell you that the output is more important than the input. Being at work for 60 hours per week, and completing the same amount of work that it takes someone else to complete in half the time is extremely inefficient. High quality time management strategies can help you to complete more work in less time! Creating to-do lists, prioritizing tasks, delegating, and collaborating are all ways in which you can work more effectively and efficiently. This creates more time for you to exercise, relax, and spend time with loved ones.

Taking advantage of breaks – all workers are legally entitled to breaks throughout the day and you should take advantage of these. It’s important to get up out of your chair, stretch your legs out, get the oxygen flowing, and give your eyes a break from staring at the screen or papers in front of you.

Diet – the extra time spent at work, and the associated time spent travelling means that personal time is being squeezed out of the common American worker. Lunch breaks are shorter or non-existent, employees are bouncing from meeting to meeting, and they are having to make phone calls in the car or check email on the train in an attempt to stay afloat. With this hectic lifestyle and constant rushing, many people do not take the time to eat a healthy diet through the day. It’s often an energy drink out of the vending machine when they arrive at work in the morning, fast food for lunch, and frequently a drive thru on the way home. On the surface, these practices appear to be freeing up more time for work, but does this behavior actually lead to the productivity levels required in today’s world? Check out these tips on how you can eat healthier during the workday.

Getting fresh air and sunshine – It has been shown that sunshine can lead to improveddubai-977365_1920 (1) mood, stronger bones, reduced chances of depression, and improved skin conditions. Getting outside for 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes in the afternoon can have a tremendously beneficial impact on your overall health. Find a colleague or two and complete this daily activity collectively.

Staying hydrated – America runs on coffee, but unfortunately this drink’s popularity, or intake, isn’t matched by that of water. Everyone manages to find time to grab their morning cup of joe, but many people will then go the entire day without drinking anything else because they do not leave their desk. Have bottled water in a drawer at your desk, use the water fountain every time you visit the bathroom, or take a water bottle with you each day and make sure that you drink it all over the course of your time at work.

Make a healthy change – most of us are guilty of one unhealthy behavior or another.  Maybe you have a weakness for soda, or are a smoker.  You could have a box of candy hidden in your desk drawer at all times, or get all your meals from the vending machine.  All of these things will negatively effect your work performance.  Dedicate yourself to making a change in your unhealthy behaviors and you will definitely notice a difference in your everyday life!

Participating in group fitness activities – we all know the benefits of exercise on individual health. A great way to promote healthy living in your place of work is to have men-1179452_1920your entire workforce participate in physical activities. This could be a 5k run/walk, completing a marathon as part of a relay team, a sponsored bike ride, or even adopting the local highway and being responsible for the upkeep of the adjacent areas. All of these activities allow people to exercise with their colleagues around them, which provides the added bonus of team building!

Choosing insurance policies where a healthy lifestyle is promoted AND rewarded – many policies now have options where holders are rewarded for participating in certain activities that positively impact their health. Our current policy rewards you for the number of steps you take, annual medical screenings, dental check ups, and participating in fitness activities such as 5k’s or other sporting events. If your policy doesn’t have these benefits, provide your HR department with the following example of Humana and their accompanying well-being program, Go365.

Making the most of vacation time and PTO – We are all given vacation time and personal time for a reason. The thing that you need to remember to do, is to take advantage of it! Many people in the current economic climate want to show their bosses and owners that they are committed to their job and pass on vacation time. In the long run this tends to have a negative impact as the employee gets burnt out and their performance starts to drop. Take advantage of the days that you have at your disposal. Take that time off to go and help at your child’s field day, use a day to accompany your daughter on her college visit, and take those few days to go and visit loved ones. If you relax properly, you can recharge your batteries, and be even more productive upon your return.

Getting up and about and moving – Being sat in the same spot for more than an hour at a time is not healthy. Try to get up to use the bathroom, get a drink, go to the copier, or even just to walk around the office to get your blood flowing again! You might also want to speak to your HR department about the possibilities of incorporating group stretching activities into your daily routines.

We spend over a third of our day at work, so it is imperative that we are taking great care of ourselves during these hours. Hopefully the above suggestions will help give you a nudge in the right direction towards a healthier lifestyle. Make sure to take care of yourself first and foremost, and maintain a healthy balance. Next week we will take a look at what you can do to stay healthy at home! Until then, stay healthy, and expect the exceptional in everything that you do.

 

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.