October, 2010 Archive

Block Your Time

October 30th, 2010 by Ric in Lifestyle

There are 24 hours in a day. For most people, 6 to 8 hours are for sleep, another 2 go to meals, and just under an hour goes to showering, brushing teeth, and bathroom breaks. This leaves between 15 and 13 hours for work, playing with the kids, doing chores, and other things. Some might look at this and say they don’t have enough time. I say otherwise. This is a lot of time as long as you use it wisely. 

Denise Landers has an article up on Healthy Wealthy n Wise about Time Management Training. She talks about a couple of young children playing with bricks that came in small, medium, and large sizes. She explains that at first, “there was no understanding of larger pieces providing a stronger foundation for the smaller pieces and so things would come tumbling down without using all of the bricks.” Soon, they learned that “if they started with the biggest size, they were more likely to be able to use all of the bricks.” 

Like the structures they built, our daily schedules are also made of different sizes of blocks – and choosing the right blocks first determines how well our schedules are constructed. 

Large Blocks – Your Day’s Foundation 

Denise recommends starting with “an uninterrupted block of time when you can focus on difficult, involved projects.” When she says uninterrupted, she means it – unless you’re really expecting a specific call or email, put your phone on silent and switch of your email alerts. 

Do this for around an hour and a half each day, and you’ll be surprised how much you accomplish. If you can’t find that much time, you can get a significant amount of work done in an hour, or even 45 minutes of uninterrupted time. 

Medium Blocks (Grouping Blocks) – Multi-Tasking Isn’t Always The Best Option 

Returning non-urgent calls, going through email, reviewing notes, and other tasks can be assigned their own blocks. These blocks can vary in size (or length), but the key is to stick to them. If you still have unread messages after your half-hour email block, don’t worry – you’ve got another email session later in the day. 

The second part of this header is about multi-tasking, which according to Denise, as well as other experts, slows you down. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “spreading yourself too thinly,” you’ll know that trying to do too many things leaves you with less time, energy, and  

brain power to deal with each of your tasks. Don’t agree? Try this online game called Multitask (yes, I sometimes play games too), and see how well you do. 

Small Blocks – The New Items and Lower Priority Tasks To Be Handled

The small blocks are there, as the header suggests, for new items and lower priority tasks. You can probably find some gaps between larger blocks, and these small blocks will probably fit right in. Denise includes “requests for help from a colleague, quick answers to questions, filling out forms, and other project components” among these small blocks. 

I think it’s also important to think of the even smaller blocks that she doesn’t mention. These are very important, and they can also fill out your day quite nicely. I’m talking about little breaks you take during the day to stretch, take a deep breath, call home to speak with your kids, and simply remind yourself that the day isn’t all about work. Since they’re pretty small, you can sprinkle them throughout the day without being forced to move other blocks. 

Another one of our contributors, Danielle Kubus, has 10 Time Management Tips For Small Businesses up on Small Business CEO Magazine. Let’s start with number one: 

1. Recognize you can’t do it all

It doesn’t matter if how many hours there are in your day – the fact is that you can only do so much in any given amount of time. Some things will just have to wait, or be left to others. 

2. Figure out your time-wasters

If we lose track of them, some of our tasks somehow eat up most of our time. For me, it’s handling all my emails. Whatever it is, you might be surprised how much time you spend on it once you start keeping track. This then leads us to the next point… 

3. Set time limits for all tasks

This is quite similar to Denise’s tips on blocks of time. It’s important to block off time for your important tasks, and put a leash on your time-wasters 

4. Develop routines and stick to them

Setting routines simplifies things and gets our minds and bodies used to certain tasks. This leads to better productivity. 

5. Learn to Delegate

This goes back to the first point – you can’t do it all. Figure out which tasks you absolutely have to do and work on those. Other people can take care of the rest. 

6. Take advantage of “down-time”

You need to stay sane, right? Take a break every so often and look over your schedule. Do you need to move things around? Your down-time is the perfect time to re-plan your day if you have to. It’s also the best time to stretch, breath, call your kids. Wait, I said that already earlier, right? 

7. Stay Organized

Danielle recommends that you “take time at the end of each day to organize your desk, inbox and emails. By doing so when you come in the morning, your desk will be clean. You will know what tasks need to be completed first and what emails to respond to.” I don’t think I could have phrased it better 

8. Use the 80/20 Rule

“80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts,” so goes the rule. If you can figure out what that 20% is, you can focus your time and effort on that, and as Denise suggests, assign some big blocks for that. 

9. Keep your “to-do” list short

Danielle recommends having “no more that eight items on your list.” Again, we go back to #1: there are only so many hours in the day. Making the most of your day doesn’t mean cramming everything you can into it. Figure out what’s important, and when you get that done, you’ll know you made the most out of your day. 

10. Have you hired a Virtual Assistant?

You can’t do it all, and you have to delegate – and this is why Danielle recommends hiring a Virtual Assistant. Liz and I wholeheartedly agree. We outsource everything possible which is why we actually went to the Philippines – directly to the source for amazing outsourcers. . If you want to know more about how to do it yourself, go to http://www.OnlineOutsourcers.com . You should consider hiring one too. 

All of us get 24 hours each day – some just know how to fill that time better. Figure that out, and you’ll see that 24 hours is plenty. 

Until next time,
Ric


Image by: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Working at Home Should be Stress-Free

October 23rd, 2010 by Liz in Lifestyle

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing. It’s when you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.” -Margaret Thatcher

One of the things my husband Ric & I love about what we do is that we get to spend a lot of good, quality time with the family.  We get to work at home, or wherever our traveler’s feet to take us.  Our boys Chandler and Stefan appreciate it too, that mom and dad are just a holler away anytime they need us.   Of course, all these we’re able to do with the aid of technology, and the support of some very reliable people whom we can’t live without. <g>

My favorite days are when I’m working from home.  It gives me that balanced sense of control and freedom.  The sense of control comes from knowing that I’m still very much on top of everything, and I am as productive as much as I want to be.  The sense of freedom, I get from being able to readily kick back and take a break whenever I feel the urge to take one.  The pressure I put on myself is only as much as I allow it.  <g>

There are days, though, that working at home is not as blissful as I would like it to be.  Stress triggers can come from a lot of directions –the constant hustle and bustle of high volume online activity, coupled with frequent interruptions of goings-on in other parts of the house, can be overwhelming!

TJ Philpott, internet entrepreneur and author from North Carolina, gives a list of practical tips on how to reduce stress when working online, in the February 2010 issue of Small Business CEO online magazine.  I found TJ’s seven suggestions to be very useful and applicable for people like me whose work is done 80% online.  In all its simplicity, I very much agree and find good sense in it, to help keep my days stress-free, and maintain that work-life balance I need.

There’s a time for everything and TJ’s advice basically tells me to break down my day into three simple categories:

Time to be productive!

I find that it’s during mid-morning that I am most productive.  Just after a leisurely breakfast with Ric and the boys, and right before I have to get up to make lunch for everyone.  It’s during this time that I tackle the more difficult tasks for the day.  Four hours of uninterrupted time is enough to sink my teeth into the challenges of being a small business entrepreneur.  The hours between lunch and supper is devoted to simpler tasks that are administrative in nature.  All these happen in my very own workspace – customized with both efficiency and comfort in mind.   <g>

Time to de-stress!

Whenever I feel the need to get away from it all, I take a good thirty minutes for a walk around the neighborhood.  Depending where we are, it’s always a joy to explore the outdoors, breathe in the fresh air, and delight in the simple beauty of what God and man has created.

On some days, I make it a point to get alone time with a trip to the spa or the salon.  There’s nothing like a little pampering of yourself that will give you that renewed energy to once again, get down and dirty for work! <g>

Time for real people!

Sometimes, being cooped up for hours in that workspace of mine makes me forget about the real world.  Although the wonders of the internet allow me to still connect with the outside – keep up with whatever is happening miles from home, or catch up with people in my online community, I find myself craving for real interaction with real people.  Of course, Ric and the boys are there, but I make it a point too to sit down and have coffee with my circle friends once in a while.  Meeting up with them to talk about everything and anything under the sun is a wonderful way to relax and unwind.  Nothing compares to good conversation with good friends.  It’s a chance to give and receive advice to people I have a lot of things in common with – on family life and parenting, on work and being an entrepreneur.  Dates with my friends always give me fresh insights, new ideas and renewed vigor to continue doing the things that I love! <g>

Working at home, doing everything online, indeed has both its pros and cons.  This is the kind of life that I chose and I am definitely going to make it work for me, with more of the pros on my side.  Work has its challenges, but it’s how we handle them, that make’s doing it much easier and stress-free.  <g>

TJ’s tips indeed make a lot of sense.  Make your own work-at-home situation a pleasant experience, follow some of TJ’s good advice and aim for that work-life balance that everyone should have!

Time for my break now, till next blog! <g>

Enjoy your day,
Liz


Image by: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Rise, Shine and Get Moving!

October 14th, 2010 by Ric in Lifestyle, Sharing Success

 

Working from home is great. After I get out of bed and into my morning routine – stretch, wash up, eat breakfast, and whatever else I have to do to get my day started – my trip to “the office” involves just a few steps. A few weeks ago, the balcony of our rented seaside villa was my office. Today, a corner of our living room serves that purpose. Liz is also on her laptop just a few feet away, and the boys are pushing each other’s buttons in the next room. 

Of course, working from home has its perils too. The kitchen is right there, inviting me to grab a snack. Worse is my bed, which refuses to let me up in the morning and keeps me wrapped in its sheets. My whole house, it seems, is conspiring to keep me from doing anything productive. 

Fortunately, I’ve found ways to resist its charms and keep myself focused. I have my own ways of motivating myself, but I couldn’t help but smile when I read Denis Waitley’s article How to Stay Motivated on Small Business CEO Magazine. We share a number of similar ideas (it almost feels like he took the ideas right out of my head), and I’d like to share them with you. 

Focus on the positive
Denis suggests that you tell yourself, “I’m on the right road. I’m doing OK. I’m succeeding.” If you focus on your flaws and failures, you psyche yourself out – and you probably won’t want to keep going. 

This is why it’s important to focus on what you like about what you’re doing. The best thing about working from home is being able to spend more time with my family. Liz and I get to spend time together, and we both get to watch our boys Stefan and Chandler grow up. 

Getting to where we are now wasn’t easy either. When Liz and I first started our first business 15 years ago, we didn’t know what we were doing, and we fell on our faces again and again. We could have quit then, but instead, we picked ourselves up, figured out what lessons we could apply the next time around, and kept going. 

Push yourself
Denis explains that “Doing well once or twice is relatively easy. Continuously moving ahead is tough, in part, because we so easily revert to old habits and former lifestyles.” Liz and I have reached a point where we could take a step back and simply enjoy our success, but we’ve chosen not to do that. Instead, we want to share our success and how we got it. This is one of the driving ideas behind Make More, Live More, Give More! 

The main idea is to take pride in what you do. If you need praise, an award, a promotion, or some other external stimulus to keep going, you might not always have enough fuel. If you can find that fuel inside you, then you have everything you need. 

Keep your eyes on the prize
Denis shares the story of how factory workers constructed parachutes during World War II. It was a tedious, repetitive job that “involved crouching over a sewing machine eight to ten hours a day, stitching endless lengths of colorless fabric.” The end product, “a seamless heap of cloth,” didn’t help motivate the workers either. What kept them motivated was the idea that “each stitch was part of a life-saving operation.” 

In our case, the problem isn’t monotony. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There are so many distractions around the house trying to grab our time and attention. What we have to keep in mind, though, is that we’re now trying to make a difference in other people’s lives, and we can’t do that just by laying back and enjoying the fruits of our success. Yes, we do that – we’ve made more, we live more, but we always make sure we give more too. 

Establish order
Denis puts it very succinctly: order is about “getting into a positive routine or groove, instead of a negative rut.” 

For me, part of establishing order is keeping a morning routine. Part of this routine is hitting the laptop to see how everything is going. This helps me map out the rest of my day and ensures I get started right. 

Denis also states that “order is the opposite of complication; it’s simplification.” This means learning to say “no” when your plate is full, and “doing in a day what you set out to do.” 

For me and Liz, this meant, among other things, learning to let go of the tasks that occupied much of our time but contributed little to our long term goals. We had to learn to focus on a few things at a time and delegate the rest to others. When we tried to do everything (and believe me, we did), we only managed to exhaust ourselves. 

There are times when I’m so tempted to just lay in bed, wrap the sheets around me, and hope Liz brings me some breakfast. Sometimes, I just want to play with boys all day. Sometimes living more is all I want to do. I feel like making more and giving more can wait another day, but somehow, I find reasons to do just that. These four tips help me do that, and I hope they help motivate you to make more, live more, and give more too. 

Get Moving!
Ric


Image by: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Keep Your Financial Identity Secure

October 7th, 2010 by Liz in Financial Freedom, Lifestyle

You work hard for your money and it’s only fitting that you protect every single cent filed under your name. More than the money, your safeguard should be for your financial identity. Cases of identity theft world-wide have been increasing. Statistics reported an 11% increase in incidents from 2008 to 2009 alone.

Identity theft used to be as simple as losing your wallet and finding out later on that someone used your credit card and IDs to make a purchase. Usually, this can easily be prevented by immediately calling your credit card company to report the loss and cancelling the card. It used to be that this kind of activity could easily be brought to the owner’s attention, say in about a month’s time.

Not anymore. Identity theft is now much more sophisticated and has included financial and credit fraud, sometimes, only made known to the owner after months, or even years. Identity robbers go “phishing” on the net for financial data that they can use – credit card numbers, billing addresses, birthdates and mother’s maiden names. They then use this new identity to make an online purchase, or even take out loans from various financial institutions.

In the February issue of Healthy Wealthy n Wise, John Sileo, once a victim of identity theft and data breach, and is now America’s leading identity theft speaker & expert, talks about how you can Discover and Recover from Identity Theft in 2010.

John lists 3 easy steps:

1. Create a dossier of all your financial accounts and put in a fire-safe.

2. Order and monitor your credit report at least every 4 months.

3. Set-up account alerts that notifies you for every bank, credit card or investment activity.

John’s suggestions may sound simple and easy, but believe me; it takes a lot of conscientious effort to secure all these. Prevention is the best thwart to theft and just like keeping your homes secured, your doors and windows bolted at night, your financial identity should be kept safe away from people with criminal minds and intentions.

Read the reports

When my mail comes in, I sort them out in 3 categories– To-read, To-reply-to, and To-File. When it comes to bank statements and credit card bills, my usual habit is to take a quick glance at the bottom figure, check how much I have and how much I have to pay. If you’re like me, I seldom go through every single line of debit, credit, or purchase. Which I now know is wrong! <g>

John suggests regular monitoring – request for a quarterly report of all your bank and credit card statements. I think I’ll start with meticulously poring over each item in the monthly statement. <g> Our frequent travels mean that our bank statements and credit card usage crosses continents as well. I need to be detail-oriented with time and places of deposits, withdrawals and credit card activity. With frequent travel too means that Ric’s and my cards are vulnerable to credit card fraud! More reason for us to be disciplined in monitoring all account activities!

Keep confidential information confidential!

Some banks use birthdates and mother’s maiden names for verification. Unless necessary, don’t be too loose with these information. Even calling out credit card numbers over the phone where someone can hear you and jot it down for “future use” should be avoided. Password protect or encrypt sensitive information regarding your finances, and when no longer needed, shred confidential documents before throwing them into the trashcans. Believe it or not, some identity robbers go through our trash bins for information that they can use.

Shop where it’s safe

The World Wide Web is a huge databank of information. Identity robbers and hackers see this is a gold mine of information, data and identity that they can steal and use for fraud and criminal activity. Be careful when sites ask you to type in your credit card number, birthday and other information. This information is required from us when we make online purchases. You don’t know as to whose hands this information falls on. Make purchases only in sites that you can trust with secure shopping carts. Check credibility ratings of vendors to ensure that it’s a legitimate transaction.

A good amount of caution and prudent monitoring can help you thwart identity theft. Only you have the right to use your hard earned money, and only you have the right to use your well-kept name. <g>

There’s no need to get crazy about identity theft – but it doesn’t hurt to take a few prudent precautions.

‘Til next time, friends.

Keep safe!
Liz


Image by: vichie81 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Food Just Right

October 2nd, 2010 by Ric in Lifestyle

We’ve been in the Philippines for almost three months now,  and one of my biggest fears is that my pants would shrink during our stay here. I thought some of the local delicacies, which include unborn baby chicks (balut), smelly shrimp paste, and blood stew, just to name a few, would turn me off, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The local cuisine is just so irresistible that restricting your diet simply isn’t an option. It doesn’t help that everybody here insists that you try this dish or that. I’m not complaining—no way! Liz and I love sampling new dishes, and if somebody offers us a new dish to try, you better believe I’ll try it. In fact, I’m enjoying every last bit (well maybe not the balut).

So, have my pants shrunk yet?

This may come as a shock (it actually surprised me a bit too), but they haven’t. In fact (and this is the really surprising part), I’ve actually LOST an inch since being here. . You see, one thing I’ve learned from the many people who contribute to our magazines is that balance is one of the keys to enjoying life. I can’t deprive myself of the fantastic flavors the Philippines has to offer. I can, however, take control of the amount of food I send down my digestive tract.

With food this good though, practicing some self control isn’t easy. Fortunately, Bob Weinstein shares Six Tips to Control Portion Sizes with us up on Healthy Wealthy n Wise, and they are:

1. Purchase snacks in single serving size.
2. Learn how to visualize the proper portion sizes for vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, peanut butter and others.
3. Share a dessert.
4. Put aside half of that restaurant meal and have it packed by the waiter before you begin eating.
5. For those foods you tend to overeat, portion out snack-sized plastic baggies with the standard portion sizes.
6. Never eat out of the package.

Bob also shares a pretty interesting study done at Cornell University where guests at an ice cream social were randomly given either a large bowl or a small one, as well as a large or small spoon. The results? Those with large bowls ate around 30% more than those with small bowls, and those with large spoons got 15% more ice cream than the others. Those are significant results, and you can bet I’m grabbing some smaller tableware the next time we grab a bite to eat.

Another one of our contributors, Paul Jerard, has 16 Quick Tips for Eating at Restaurants or Work that he also shares on Healthy Wealthy n Wise. I won’t list them all here, but I will share some of my favorite ideas.

“When eating at a restaurant, eat half a portion, maximum, and wait five or ten minutes. Restaurant portions are commonly two to four meals on a single or double plate.”

We’re doing some of our own cooking now, but we eat out every now and then so we can taste some of the local dishes that we haven’t checked off our list. To make sure we don’t stuff ourselves silly, we don’t order a dish each. Instead, we order just one or two dishes that everybody shares.

“Do not make comparisons to other people. Eat to live and enjoy your food, but do not use someone else’s over indulgence as an excuse for your own.”

Many of the locals eat an astounding amount of rice. Two to three cups of rice with each meal seems to be the norm around here, and some even go beyond that. There’s no way we can match that – half a cup to a cup of rice is enough for me. Besides, less rice means a little bit more room for other dishes.

“Make your meal a meditation. Pause every few minutes, think about the amount you have eaten, be thankful for your life, and breathe.”

This one is easy. I just look at my wife Liz, and at my boys Chandler and Stefan, and I’m immediately thankful. I see how much fun we’re having now, and that feeling just grows in me.

We have definitely not sacrificed eating out, trying new things and really enjoying the great food here. I’ve tried tons of new stuff, have had a lot of great meals, AND I’ve lost a whole notch on my belt. It’s not sacrificing – it has definitely been the best of both worlds – and with my birthday recently, yes, I got to eat the cake too.

Itadakimasu!
Ric


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