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Productivity

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Go for the Gold in Your Goals

Inspired by this week’s featured Reflection Weeks episode of the Mom’s Making Six Figures Podcast episode with Jennifer Becker, Managing Partner of Moms Making Six Figures, who believes in the power of staying the course and finding both your passion and purpose in focused one year commitments emulating the training cycle of high performance athletes.


If you’ve ever pursued a physical goal, like training for a half-marathon, or preparing to hike the tallest summit in your state, or wrestled with improving your health, then you know the battle for success is one fought on a multitude of fronts, from your inner critic, to your daily responsibilities, down to the weather, and everything in between, setting your sights on success requires a plan, preparation, consistency, a support network, and strength in the face of adversity. Simply put, athletes do far more than entertain us, they inspire us because they were us, and they are us.  With enough sacrifice and focused commitment to our training season, we can yield similar performance results in the pursuit of our own personal and professional goals.


 Make a Plan

When I trained for a half-marathon, I had a schedule that I maintained to ensure my success.  My daily runs, down to their pace and mileage, my strength training days, and my rest days were all predetermined.  Because I had a plan, I was able to coordinate all the other moving parts of motherhood and my career around my training schedule.  It wasn’t easy by any means, but it was doable.  Without a plan, and consistent progress checks, I would not have been successful in my training.

If we apply this same approach to a simplified and specific target we have in our career, beginning with our end goal in mind and backwards planning a year’s worth of training, imagine what we could accomplish.  Taking the time to plan is essential to every athlete’s success, and our own.

Prepare

Many of us don’t realize the financial struggles athletes undergo before they achieve sponsorship or they have a signed contract in their hands; just like us, they need a day job to fund their day dream and they have to work diligently in both arenas.  This is only possible with preparation.  When we’re pursuing physical goals this may look like meal preparation, hiring a sitter for our long runs, or taking our running shoes on a vacation.

In our career, many of us are living in the day-to-day without a simplified and specific target with a set duration, and without the preparation to achieve success.  If your goal, for example, is to take on 5 additional clients each quarter, what are the necessary steps you will need to include in your quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily plans to take them on?  Would you be wiling to sacrifice a year of Friday evenings if it meant 20 new clients by the end of 2021? What preparation would help you to protect those Friday evenings –childcare, saying no to social outings, etc.—in the pursuit of long-term freedom and financial stability?

Consistency is Key

Athletes don’t exist in some super human form of detachment from emotions and exhaustion; like us, they are trying to keep all the plates spinning while pursuing greatness.  Unlike us, they show up day in and day out without excuse because they have no option but to; they have skin in the game.  If you miss practice, you miss the game, and if you miss enough games, there is someone who is eagerly awaiting their chance to play in your place.

Cal Ripkin played 21 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles.  In those 21 seasons, he also established the record for most consecutive games played, an astonishing 2,632.  When he was asked what motivated his consistency, he replied, “Any day could have been my greatest day playing the game.”

What could you accomplish in a year of consistently showing up to achieve your goals? Just 5 additional hours a week translates to 20 hours over a month, and 6 additional full-time work weeks over the course of a year.  Mamas, you spent longer growing your babies, bringing them into the world, and waking up with them in the middle of the night.  You can do this.

Build Your Support Network

Even in individual sports, athletes rely on experts like a coach, trainer, nutritionist, and physiotherapist to maintain their peak performance. And this team doesn’t even begin to account for their emotional support network of family, friends, and fellow athletes.

Choose and pursue your support network wisely as they will play a key role in your ‘training year’.  Maybe your support network looks like a grandparent taking your kids for an overnight once a month so you can review your progress on your goals, maybe your network consists of a mentor you have a weekly Zoom call with to refocus and align your priorities, maybe your network looks like your spouse taking over the grocery shopping so you can squeeze in an hour of client calls.  Find your people and return the favor or pay it forward after you’ve accomplished your goal.

Hone Your Strength

Unlike most of us, when athletes fail or experience a setback, they don’t give up and they certainly don’t spiral into self-doubt.  Instead, they lean into their confidence in themselves and their training, a confidence that is unshaken because they know they have prepared, that they have followed the plan, and that they have been consistent.  When you have that much faith in your training, you can recognize that sometimes life just happens, and that you’ll approach your next attempt with new resolve and trust in your abilities.

Many of us lack this confidence in our careers because we haven’t pursued the training necessary to be successful, or we abandon our goal well before the expiration date arrives that we said we would give it.  If we can recognize that failure and setbacks are inevitable without throwing in the towel, and instead refer back to our plan, and rely on our preparation and consistency, we will develop our confidence to face adversity.


As we watch the 2020 Summer Olympics and hear the stories of trials and triumphs, maybe we can reimagine our own training plan.  If we were to commit one year to one specific and simplified goal to grow in our career, with a clear plan, the necessary preparation, consistently showing up, and with the support of our chosen team, then perhaps we could also develop our confidence in our own strength in the face of adversity, like the competitors have with all of the challenges presented by the pandemic.  Trust in the training and stay the course.

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Own Your Calendar to Own Your Life

Inspired by this week’s featured Reflection Weeks episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with our founder, Heidi Bartolotta, who believes in owning your calendar to own your life.  There is freedom in taking back your most finite resource: time. 


One of the perks of mentoring teens through some of their most tumultuous years is getting to be a first-hand witness to their astounding growth as they step into their identity and find their passion for life.  Their contagious energy is also wildly admirable (yes, I realize they sleep in absurd stretches of time, but have you seen what they juggle and accomplish when they are awake?!) and I often find myself thinking back to my own college days while drinking my third cup of coffee, “How do they do it? How did I do it?”

Quite simply, young adults are experts at time management (please suspend your disbelief, I can hear your cries of outrage echoing across the internet).   Really, it’s true.  Their schedules are every bit as demanding and filled to the brim as our own, but they have the hard-wired training and resources to manage all the moving pieces (with our guidance, chauffeuring, and financial support of course). They know the secrets many of us have forgotten when we left the world of 18 credit semesters and part-time jobs behind: the secrets of time blocking and a balanced calendar.  Here are six strategies you can begin implementing today to take back your calendar, and your time, to find freedom for fun and pursuing your passions.


Time Blocking

Unlike teens and university students, most of us don’t have dedicated and focused amounts of time (blocks) throughout our day for specific and similar tasks, like our ENGL 101 course. When we were students, whatever remained to be completed at the end of a class got put on the back burner while we focused our attention on the next block, and it didn’t come back to our mind until we hit our study block later that day.

Looking over your own calendar, begin by identifying all the daily tasks that are an essential and necessary part of your routine, both personally and professionally.  Group like tasks, and assign blocks of time to each.  Instead of living by a to-do list that will inevitably lead to burn out, with time blocking you focus your attention and energy on related tasks in a set period of time; what remains to be done, will remain to be done, and you move on to the next block.

Color Coding

Now that you’ve organized your calendar into blocks of time, designate each block with its corresponding color of your seven chakras.  This isn’t just some new age magic or an excuse to play with colorful pens, instead this technique allows you to see, visually, where your calendar and likely your life is out of alignment.  Each of your chakras corresponds to one of seven energy points in your body; if we’re trying to better manage our time, motivation, and energy, it would make sense to start from a point of reflection to achieve more synergy.

Here is just one way to approach this technique according to LinkedIn blogger John Rampton, “For example, because red is the root chakra symbolizing survival and safety, you would want to use that color for all work-related tasks.  For creative tasks, you might choose to use orange; yellow would represent the items that help you grow; green is reserved for personal events like lunch with a friend; blue equates to activities that express your mind like writing, and indigo is meant for activities that deserve your attention.”

E-mail

It’s a necessary part of doing business, and most parts of our modern lives.  If we don’t manage our e-mail, our avoidance of it will eventually manage us.  You have to commit time to organizing your personal and professional communication, and once you have a system in place, in order to maintain it, you need to give it its own block in your day.  We said we what we said, there is no way around it.  See Do It Yourselfbelow.

Eat the Frog

There’s a reason this time management technique took the business world by storm when it first debuted, and continues to do so.  According to Brian Tracy, the technique’s founder, when you tackle your Most Important Task of the day before you turn your attention to anything else, you can, “go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things are going to [go] all day long.”  Even science proves that our most productive and focused hours are in the morning, before other distractions and tasks consume our energy.

Determine when your “Power Hours” are and dedicate that Time Block to your biggest work frog each day; best to eat it before lunch so you can cleanse your palate as the day continues.

Schedule Everything

If it isn’t important enough to make it on your calendar, it probably doesn’t deserve one of your time blocks.  Conversely, there are aspects of our lives that are essential to our well-being and our soul’s nourishment; if these areas aren’t making it onto your calendar, you’re likely experiencing some alignment issues between your personal and professional life.  Just as you would schedule a block of time for meetings, schedule a block of time to take care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you. And, if you have a tendency to allow your work day to linger long into the evenings and time with your family and friends is continually being compromised, it’s time to begin scheduling an ‘Out of Office’ time as well.

Make yourself an optional list of ‘electives’ and ‘extra-curriculars’ you’d like to pursue if there are openings in your schedule, but that can also be the first things to be removed when your calendar begins to feel chaotic or life begins to feel unbalanced.  And perhaps the biggest challenge, dare we say it, begin to block open time into your day every single day that you can choose how to flexibly fill depending on what the day and your dreams demand

Do It Yourself

When you find the system, or systems, that work best for you, the most successful entrepreneurs have found that as soon as they begin to outsource their time management, they begin to outsource their control over their own life as well. Maintain your own calendar, reflect on it and refine it often, and share it with the people who it affects the most, but never outsource your schedule to someone else to plan for you.


Teens and young adults are exceptional at time-management because they have no other choice but to be.  When you own your calendar, you own your time and ultimately you own your life.  Fine tune this skill and achieve your personal and professional goals while also gaining better alignment and freedom with your most finite resource: time.

 

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Manage Your Mind

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brooke Paulin who believes in the practice of managing your mind and the small daily habits that lead to great success over time.


 In a world where we are inundated with more information and more access to it than ever before, we are faced with new challenges like ‘consumer fatigue’, information overwhelm and digital burnout.  The media and social media industries are designed to be addictive in nature, releasing dopamine or cortisol dependent on the nature of the content, that keeps us coming back for more and ultimately conditions our behavior.  Information, and the way in which we access it is not the enemy, instead it is our passive consumption of that content that can wreak havoc, particularly when we are bombarded with negativity, click-bait headlines, and divisive rhetoric.  Just as we fuel our bodies and health with nutrition and exercise, we must manage our mind and the information we choose to fill it with.

With nearly 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the US using social media, it is time for us to become active participants in managing our minds, our mental states, and our mental health.  Here are a few small changes you can make to be better prepared and intentional with the information and inputs you choose.


Reality Check

We would never let our children sit for hours on end, absent-mindedly in front of screens and we shouldn’t allow it for ourselves either.  While it may not seem like you’re spending that much time on devices outside of necessity, your Weekly Activity Report likely shows something different.

Start by taking an inventory of the current time you spend consuming content intentionally vs. out of habit or boredom.  Once you have begun to inventory your passive or active consumption tendencies, track for a day (or longer) every piece of information you digest with a “+” if it is beneficial to your personal life, work life, or overall well being, a ”–“ if it negatively impacted or took away from your personal life, work life, or overall well being, and an “=” for no impact other than time lost.

Seeing our habits in black and white allows us to see where our own struggles actually exist.  It takes five positive interactions to offset each negative interaction; is it any wonder we are more anxious, depressed, and lonely than ever before?

Schedule (and plan) Your Screen time

Self-monitoring and scheduling your consumption habits can change not only your perception of the information you digest, but also, your behaviors.  In 2018 the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that observed the behaviors of 143 undergraduates.  One group was asked to limit all social media activity to only 10 minutes per platform, per day, while the second was allowed to use their social media as usual for three weeks.   The group that limited their scrolling “showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression during those three weeks over the group that continued using social media.”

As Brooke pointed out in this week’s podcast, “I don’t think that some of the top CEO’s, and, you know, multi-million dollar female business owners … I don’t think that they’re scrolling through social media that’s not feeding their mind. There’s no room for that.”  What would you be able to accomplish in a week of limiting your scrolling habits?

Empty the Junk Folder

Once you’ve taken inventory of the information and input you’re allowing in, and you’ve refined your mindless scrolling by replacing it with intentionally scheduled time for content consumption, get rid of anything that isn’t serving you, your mental health, your professional life, or your personal life.

Once you’ve emptied the Junk Folder, take note from some of the most successful people and follow suit by replacing what wasn’t serving you with content that does.  According to research, what makes highly successful people less stressed, happier, and more productive is scheduling their personal priorities before tending to other people’s priorities.  That goes for what you’re consuming too.  Instead of starting your day by checking email, dedicate an hour of your morning hour to be your Power Hour where you replenish your motivation with podcasts, books and curated content that supports your goals, challenges you, and leaves you feeling ready to tackle the day.  Ask your mentors what they listen to, what they read, and who they follow on social media to begin refining your palate.


In order to be successful in managing our mind, our mental state and our mental health, we must be intentional about what we consume and prepare our daily activity and schedules with discernment.  Just as nutrition is fundamental to achieving our health and wellness goals, so is the information we consume.  We avoid pitfalls of hunger by meal planning and preparation, and we can avoid the pitfalls of media and social media by planning and being thoughtful consumers.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” –Alexander Graham Bell

Productivity sleep

How to Sleep Your To-Do List Away: Part I

For us moms, it’s always a balancing act to get enough sleep to function throughout the day and still accomplish enough on our to-do lists.

Many of us think that in order to be successful, we need to wake up early and burn the midnight oil. But we’ve also been told that getting sufficient sleep is essential to our overall health. So, what if we want both, productivity and improved health?

Well, we can have both—because more sleep leads to increased productivity! Science has shown that we need a healthy amount of sleep every night to be productive during the day.

In the next two articles, we’ll tackle the tough topic (for moms!) of sleep—why it’s so important, and how to get more done while still getting more sleep!

First things first: Here’s why sleep matters so much.

Why More Sleep Helps You Get More Done

Sleep Supports Optimum Brain Function

If you’ve had a newborn, then you’re familiar with the negative impact that lack of sleep has on your energy level and productivity! We all have days when we drag ourselves through the endless hours with lots of caffeine and still struggle to focus.

According to a study by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), sleep deprivation impairs our alertness and attention, negatively affecting certain brain structures and functions. All of these adverse neurological impacts also have an effect on our productivity. If we’re constantly drowsy and our attention is fleeting, no wonder we’re accomplishing so little during the day!

We’re also more likely to make mistakes when we’re tired, meaning that we spend more time correcting our errors. Getting enough sleep in the first place keeps us from having to backtrack to fix something and waste precious time!

Sleep Reduces Procrastination

If you’re like me, when you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is make decisions and deal with a never-ending list of daily responsibilities like work, chores, and helping the kids with homework. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!

When we wake up tired, we’re much more likely to push off difficult tasks for another day, which just means more work is piling up and adding to our ongoing overwhelm.

When we’re well-rested, on the other hand, we’re more likely to tackle the day’s tasks instead of procrastinating. We’ll also be much more willing to attempt the more difficult, important tasks on our to-do list when we’ve had enough sleep—like taking the car in for service, filing that health insurance claim we’ve been putting off, or helping our child with their science project.

But HOW Do I Get More Sleep?!

I get it, there are only 24 hours in a day and something has to give, right? Well, not if you’re strategic about managing your waking, and sleeping, hours. In my next post, I’ll share some helpful tips for getting more sleep and getting more done while you’re at it. Yes, it is possible, I promise!

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Maximize your Busyness and Become More Productive!

Are You More Productive When You’re Busier?

Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day?

As working moms, our days are stacked with responsibilities—pick up and drop off the kids, make that work meeting, finish a work project by the deadline, cook dinner, and more. With all this stuff to do, we’re always too busy, and productivity tends to fall to the wayside. All our energy is focused on the day-to-day tasks just to get the bare minimum done.

Being “too busy” becomes a regular excuse—a crutch to avoid the hard tasks that might actually bring about positive change in our lives. We get caught up in an endless cycle of being busy, stressed, and exhausted as we just try to make it through the day.

No shame, moms. There’s nothing wrong with being busy (it’s kinda hard to avoid it with all the multi-tasking we do!). But if we shift our mentality from “busy” to “productive,” we can get a lot more done and be happier while doing it!

Busy People are More Productive

According to recent studies conducted by researchers from Columbia University and three other institutions, keeping busy helps keep people motivated, despite time limitations.

Think back to the last time you missed a deadline—not because you were too busy, but because you simply were too tired or lazy to do it. You probably felt pretty bad about it, but you didn’t necessarily make an effort to follow up on the task. According to research, the busier you are, the more likely you are to feel like you’re using your time effectively, even if you miss deadlines. And if you do miss deadlines, you’re more likely to return to those tasks sooner and actually get them done.

So, if you really want to tap into those mom superpowers (you know you have them!) and get more stuff done, you need to stay busy and productive. This doesn’t have to involve stress, though. All you have to do is change your mindset and get organized.

How to Be More Productive

1. Write a Daily To-Do List

This list is strictly for things that absolutely have to get done today. Do your best to write out the list the night before. And don’t make the mistake of adding more items. Forget about what you want or wish to do. Focus only on what must be done, but what will bring you closer to your goal.

Let’s say your goal is to leave your job and start a business from home. Something you could put on your list is, “research how to become a work-at-home-mom.” This is something that’s steering you towards your goals. You don’t need to write down “pick up the kids” since that’s something you were going to do anyway.

2. Work Smarter

Working harder is good, but if you want to be productive you have to work smarter. But how?

Up Your Time Management Game: Apart from writing a list, get rid of distractions. Switch off (or silence) your phone (okay, you still want to be available in case of an emergency, so settle on a reasonable amount of time to go without checking your phone and set an alarm reminder to check for urgent messages at each time interval). Disable your social media apps. And minimize multi-tasking! While multi-tasking can be unavoidable at times, focusing on one thing at a time will help you accomplish tasks more efficiently, which in turn will reduce stress.

Take Frequent Breaks: Working hard can be draining. Take time to refuel and refocus. Do fun stuff with the kids. Go for a walk around the block. Giving yourself a break will leave you feeling energized and motivated. Why keep plodding along for three hours when you could take a 5-minute break, return to the task at hand, and be done in one hour?

Be Flexible. Keeping a list and planning things out meticulously is great. But life happens, especially when you’re a mom. You’ll soon find that being rigid with your plans will not result in productivity. Be willing to modify your day if something unexpected arises, and don’t beat yourself up about it. Similarly, if you’re making great progress on a task and you can afford to invest another hour into it, don’t stop because you’ve hit your original time limit. Use that momentum to your advantage!

Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

Productivity is something we all aspire to, but it can sometimes feel daunting. When we set our minds to do something but fail to accomplish it, we often become demoralized and abandon the goal altogether. Don’t give up so easily!

As working moms and corporate women, we have a lot on our plate. Remember, you’re already doing a great job—don’t discredit yourself. Spend a little time getting focused, and soon the days of “I don’t have time” and “I’m too busy” will be behind you!