The Top 10 Reasons You Won’t Be Productive Today

time is money

Time is money. This is doubly true for small business owners.

There are only so many hours in the day, and most of us would prefer not to spend all 24 of them working. Finding a good balance between work and life starts by working efficiently. We all wake up in the morning with the best intentions, but then it’s 2 pm and we’ve only crossed one thing off the never-ending To-Do list.

What happened? I’ll tell you in one word: distractions.

We work on laptops. Those laptops are connected to the Internet. And that Internet is a bottomless pit of distraction. Not into social media? Don’t worry, there are plenty of distractions to be found in your house, at the coffee shop, and even at the library. Sometimes we’re even duped by distractions masquerading as work!

The best way to fight back against time-wasting distractions is to a) admit that you’re being distracted and then b) find a way to keep yourself working when distractions come a’knocking.

Learn more in the infographic below. Then check out our past posts on making the most of your time:

5 Easy Ways to be More Productive Before Lunch

Relax: Doing Less Can Help You Get More Done

Why Coworking Is The Ideal Environment for Productivity

Infographic: Top 10 Time Killers

Infographic by the team at OfficeTime Time Tracking
Lead Image via Tax Credits

Relax: Doing Less Can Help You Get More Done

Monday, productivity, relax

It’s Monday. Manic Monday, as The Bangles would say. I’m inclined to agree. For many, the first day of the work week brings deadlines, overflowing in-boxes, and usually a few fires that need putting out.

To make the transition as smooth as possible, we often allow work to creep into the weekend. Time we should be spending with family, out in nature, or just on the couch being downright lazy.

You might think that by minimizing time off, you’re getting ahead, increasing the time that you’ll be able to relax “another day”. But you’d be wrong. Somehow, another day never seems to arrive, and by shortchanging yourself on much needed R&R, you could be shooting your productivity in the foot.

As the New York Times recently reported, “a new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

This means less actual screen time, a change of scenery, and a little fun and games should be a regular part of your work week. Failing to goof off now and again can actually mean you accomplish less, and what you do complete could be of diminished quality.

manic monday

What happens to your hair when you have too many Manic Mondays.

How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Proud of the fact that you can “survive” on five hours of shut eye…or even less? While it may make you feel like the next Steve Jobs (that’s really just the caffeine talking) shortchanging yourself on sleep is the fastest way to reduced productivity.

“In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.

“The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when she got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent.”

In addition to more vacations and more sleep, actually working less during the day can help keep you on your game. Sound crazy? It’s not.

“In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives.

The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.”

Working in 90 minute spurts acknowledges our body’s natural cycle, and makes us less reliant on chemical stimulants. Every hour and a half. Find a reason to get up from your desk for 5 – 10 minutes, no matter what you’re doing (ok if you’re on a call, you might want to stay put). Do a few yoga poses or pushups. Walk around the block. Ride your bike to a nearby errand. Listen to some 80’s music.

When it’s time to get back to work, you’re likely to feel like you’ve got a new set of eyes. Refreshed and ready to grind away for another 90 minutes.

Image via Robert Couse-Baker

Want To Be More Productive? Ignore Your Email

checking email, workday, productivity

How did you start off your workday today? What’s the first task you set for yourself? If you’re like millions of professionals around the world, you probably poured yourself a cup of coffee, and then cracked open your inbox. Unbeknownst to many, this is the WORST way to start your day.

If you’ve been struggling with productivity, constantly disappointed to find how little you have done by 3 in the afternoon (or in the morning, depending on when you work), the answer isn’t to get up earlier or use time tracking software. The solution is to IGNORE YOUR EMAIL.

I know, I know, this probably makes you feel nervous. Email is my main line of communication with clients, vendors, and subcontractors. It’s how I track progress on projects or pitch new work. It’s the central command hub of this entire operation. Without email, everything comes crashing down, RIGHT? Wrong.

Like me, you’re probably thinking: “But I can’t ignore my email, WHAT IF THERE’S SOMETHING URGENT IN THERE? Here’s a mind-blowing truth about your email:

There’s nothing in there that can’t wait one hour. Maybe two.

Let’s be honest, 90% of what comes into your inbox is likely junk. Advertisements, newsletters you don’t read, and Groupons for things you’ll never buy. Even legitimate stuff like client complaints, proposal requests, content revisions can wait 60 minutes.

By checking your email first thing in the morning, you allow the outside world to dictate the course and tone of your entire day. By giving your email precedence over your actual to-do list, you say “I have no direction, inbox, please tell me what I need to be doing!” When you start your day with email, you’re heading down a rabbit hole with no end in sight.

Email will always be there. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that it continues to stream into your inbox all day long. It’s never done, and if you start your day by checking it, you’ll never be done either.

Want an instant, money-back guaranteed way to increase your productivity before lunch? Spend the first hour of your day tackling the first thing on your to-do list. To qualify, this thing must be a billable task, or directly related to the accomplishment of a billable task.

Try it. It’s gonna be hard. It will feel weird. But just DO IT. Instead of looking up after the first hour (or two) of your work day and thinking, “Damn, I really need to get to work” you’ll be able to say, “Damn, I got some work done, and I’ve only been at it for an hour!” You might even be so excited and encouraged by your progress, that you spend another hour working on Task 1. Or maybe you’ll move on to Task 2!

Or maybe you’ll have email withdrawals, but that’s OK. After the first hour of focused, calming work, you’re in a much better state of mind to tackle those client questions and management problems in an efficient manner. And even if you end up down the rabbit hole, you’ll still have one completed task under your belt for the day.

Want to learn more about this fascinating practice of ignoring your email? Check out: 

Never Check Your Email In The Morning: a book by Julie Morgenstern

7 Reasons You Should Never Check Your Email In The Morning

Geek To Live: Control Your Workday

Image via BuzzFarmers/Flickr

Social Media: The Productive Freelancer’s Arch Enemy

It’s Monday, the first day of a new week. Although we freelancers tend to work 24/7, most of us can (and SHOULD!) eke out a little time for fun and family over the weekend. So today’s the first day back to a full-plate of work. We start off the week with the best of intentions, we’ve all got an enemy out there who wants to kill our productivity. No, it’s not a competing firm or terrible client, it’s that oh-so-innocent-looking social media MONSTER. It lurks in our bookmarks, our browser history, and for some, our literal muscle memory: we open, check, and browse social media websites constantly.

Unfortunately, sometimes social media is part of our legitimate work, so the temptation to flush hours down the drain clicking through photo albums and sharing clever memes is almost too much to bear. If you’re trying to make the most of your eight hour day, the key is to work smarter, not get up earlier, and smart work begins with eliminating time sucks like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and all the rest of ’em.

Scroll through the infographic below for shocking stats about how much your social media obsession could be costing your business, and then check out our list of tips for shoving this beast back in its cage.

Social Media Monster [Infographic]

Shocked by how much time (and money) you’re wasting? Here are some tips from Apartment Therapy about how to avoid the siren song of social media:

1. If you use Google Chrome, you can install StayFocusd , a simple browser extension which lets you set time limits on how long you spend on certain sites.

2. Clean house on your Friends/Followers list. Fewer unnecessary connections means less distracting junk showing up in your feeds and streams. Don’t want to delete loose connections? Consider using some of Facebook’s built in feed settings  to control how much you see.

3. Consolidate. Flipboard ( for Android , iOS ) lets you consolidate a digest of social media sources, prioritizing what it sees as big stories (based on your social graph). Bringing together content from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Google+, Flipboard is a great way to get a quick dose of stories from all the social sites you frequent without hopping all over the web.

Got other tips for avoiding the social media time-suck? Share them in a comment!

Infographic Courtesy of Red e App

5 Easy Ways To Be More Productive Before Lunch

productivity-before-lunch

Did you know the hours between waking up and eating lunch represent your best chance for getting stuff done? You might claim to be a night owl, but studies have shown that we’re at our most creative early in the morning. Of course, we all burn the midnight oil every now and then, but it’s really the a.m. hours where we bring our best and brightest ideas to the table.

If you’re the type of person who needs 3 cups of coffee just to assemble complete sentences, this could be a problem. Getting up and motivated in the morning isn’t easy, especially if you’re out of practice. Recently time management expert Laura Vanderkam published a short list of tips for making the most of your mornings. If you’d like to turn the pre-noon hours into super productive work time, these tactics could help get you on your way to building morning habits that stick.

1. Track Your Time

Vanderkam says the key to using your time more wisely is knowing how you’re spending it now. Write down what you’re doing as often as you can throughout the entire day. You may notice that you’re pushing certain things to the end of the day that would be better accomplished at the top of the list.

2. Picture the Perfect Morning

“After you know how you’re spending your time, ask yourself what a great morning would look like,” advises Vanderkam. Kicking off the morning with a few activities that enrich both personal and professional growth will set the tone for a positive, energized day. Go for a run, read that article you’ve been meaning to get to. Strategize, dream. Allow yourself to have big ideas while your mind is still fresh.

3. Think Through the Logistics

If you fill the morning hours with important activities you’ll crowd out things that are more time intensive than they need to be, writes Vanderkam. Think about mapping out a morning schedule that will give you time for personal and professional development. As for the mornings themselves, what would make your ritual easier? Do you need to set your easel next to your bed? Can you find a more cheerful alarm clock or one you can’t turn off so easily?

4. Build The Habit

According to Vanderkam, this is the most important step. She advises choosing one new habit at a time to introduce and using external  treats and rewards to keep yourself motivated until the habits stick.

5. Tune Up as Necessary

Mornings are a gift. They come around once every 24 hours offering us a clean slate, a chance to do better than we did the day before. “The hopeful hours before most people eat breakfast are too precious to be blown on semiconscious activities,” writes Vanderkam. “You can do a lot with those hours. Whenever I’m tempted to say I don’t have time for something, I remind myself that if I wanted to get up early, I could. These hours are available to all of us if we choose to use them.”

What tactics help you get the most out of your mornings? Share them in a comment!

Image via orcmid/Flickr

Spring It On! Top 5 Ways To Be More Productive

spring time pinwheels

Happy First Day of Spring! It’s a fresh, new season, and that means it’s time to de-clutter both your space and your mind so you can be more efficient throughout the workday. We took some time to compile our collective business “best practices” to work—and from our desks to yours—here’s our Top 5 Ways to Be More Productive at Work.

1. Clean Up Your Work Space: You can’t be productive when you’re surrounded by chaos. If your desk is  buried in papers, books, power cords, and unread mail, you’re going to feel distracted and boxed in. Bonus: if you don’t feel like cleaning, just come work at Cohere, where the desks are always clutter free!

2. Set Manageable Goals: This probably sounds obvious, but how many of us actually begin the day with a clear strategy for productivity? Make a list of small, easy to accomplish goals that can be tackled as soon as you sit down. Don’t overwhelm yourself with large bulk tasks that you know you can’t do in a single sitting. Crossing things off the list will motivate you to do more.

3. Start A Social Media Diet: How many of you start your day by sleepily opening email and dicking around on social media until you remember something that needed to be done 10 minutes ago? Social media is fun and for many, a necessary part of marketing our businesses. But it can also be a huge time sink and distraction. Find tools that will allow you to schedule business-related social media posts throughout the day, so you can keep the tab closed for most of it. Set boundaries as to when and how much time you will spend monitoring your profiles, so productivity continues uninterrupted.

4. Track Your Time: The level of productivity you achieve is not directly proportionate with the amount of time you spend staring at your screen. The key is to be more mindful of your time and understanding your own internal work flow. Using a time tracking tool can help you understand how and when you work, so that you can make the most of your time. Check out Last5 (created by a San Francisco coworker!) a time tracking tool that improves mindfulness by managing and recording where your attention goes when you’re working on the computer. Tracking your time also makes invoicing way easier.

5. Delegate and Collaborate: News Flash – You can’t do everything. As your business grows, you’ll find yourself turning down work because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And that blows. But why limit yourself when there’s an entire community of coworkers that can be your wingmen (and wingwomen)?! Instead of turning down that new project, think about delegating some of the tasks to a coworker who’s going through a dry spell. If the project’s scope exceeds your capabilities, think about collaborating with one or more coworkers to provide comprehensive services your client wasn’t expecting. You’ll forge new working relationships, and everyone gets a slice of the spoils. #win.

How productive have you been this week? Do you have more productivity tips to share? Go ahead and share them in the comments below!

Image via Flickr/Pink Sherbet Photography

 

Leap Into Action With Smart Business Planning

Leap Day Business Planning

Unless it happens to be your birthday—in which case, we raise our coffee mugs to you—Leap Day is usually an uneventful happening.  But it is an extra day, and anytime the universe gives us more time in which to be productive, it’s a good policy to take advantage of it.

We say, with an inspiring action word like “LEAP” in the title, why not make it an every-four-year prompt to take action?  As freelancers and entrepreneurs, we’re all challenged to stick to our business growth plans—or even to make them in the first place.  Here are some ideas on how to make Leap Day a day of forward momentum in your business planning initiatives.

1. Be A Business

When you’re first testing the waters of freelancing or running a side business, it’s fine to simply count the profits as an extra blessing. But if you’re interested in taking the next step, to full time freelancing or entrepreneurship, it’s important to indicate to the universe (and yourself) that you mean business. Whether this is creating your LLC or INC., or finally opening a separate business bank account, it’s time to do what’s necessary to make it official.

2. Create A Brand

Once you business is official, it’s time to introduce yourself to the world. They need to get to know your personality, your strengths, your expertise. They need to trust that you can get the job done, on time, for the right price. In order to properly convey these characteristics to your audience, you need a brand. Maybe it’s finally creating a logo, or switching your site URL from “iamanexpert.blogspot.com” to a bonafide web address. Maybe it’s finally making a list of your ideal project, client, and pay rate, and then finding out a way to get there. Yes, maybe it’s finally setting up professional profiles on the most popular social media sites. Growing a business means marketing yourself, and unless you have a brand, your message will be muddled.

3. Have A Contract

This could probably have been lumped under point #1, but it’s so important, it needed to be stated all by itself. The comprehensive contract is the freelancers’ first (and sometimes only) line of defense against crappy clients or slacker sub-contractors. Use one, every time. If you’re not sure how to make one that covers all the bases, ask around to some of the more experienced freelancers at Cohere. You can also take advantage of this handy contract creator tool over at Freelancers Union.

4. Track Your Time (Accurately)

It took you days (maybe weeks) to settle on an hourly rate that would keep you away from Ramen noodles while accurately reflecting your experience and portfolio. But all that agony does you know good if you’re always guesstimating hours when it comes time to draw up the invoice. Talk to member Matt Rose about the time tracking software he created for himself, or check out these six cool tools for tracking your time (some are free!).

5. Delegate/Collaborate

If this isn’t your first time around the calendar as a business owner, you’ve managed to stay in the black most of the time. That means soon (if not already) you’ll find yourself with more work on your plate than you can handle. Don’t fret–just look around you. Cohere is a honey pot of other independent professionals looking to pick up work or collaborate on projects. If a client is demanding work that you just don’t have time for right now, ask around to see if anyone’s interested in subcontracting for you. If this high demand is an every day occurrence, you might talk to some of the other members about how to go about hiring an intern to whom you could delegate some less-than-essential tasks.

These are only a few ideas of how to use Leap Day as a chance to get more organized for the year ahead. Got some more? Share them in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – dnorman

Coworking Increases Profit: A Cohere Case Study

Piggy Bank We have lots of anecdotal proof and some quantitative evidence that coworking helps freelancers and small business owners become more profitable.

Coworking provides an instant referral network, motivation, cost-free feedback, and an overall magical environment in which people tend to come up with money-making ideas (ok maybe it’s not “magical” but it’s definitely more special than a coffee shop).

Lots of freelancers claim that they can’t afford to try coworking, but I would argue that you can’t afford not to. So while chatting with a fairly new Cohere member the other day, I decided to see if this legend of “profitability” holds true in our own community. Here’s how the conversation panned out. (Names have been removed to protect the now slightly more wealthy).

Angel: Do you have an estimate of how many $$ of work Cohere has brought your way since joining?

Member: Give me a sec…its pretty convoluted since connections lead to connections.

Angel: isn’t that how everything works?

Member: okay, this is kind of awesome. When I account for jobs for coherians, and jobs that came about as referrals from them and referrals from those referrals, its over $5000!

Angel: holy sh*t. pardon my french. how long have you been a member?

Member: 4 or 5 months.

Angel: damns. that’s freeaking awesome!

Member: It is…kinda shocking to me to actually figure that out!

Angel: I’m beaming right now. Cohere works. Period.

Member: I was thinking to myself that ALMOST every time I am in there I make a connection that leads to work.

Angel: This is like an early xmas present to me and my fledgling little business!

Member: talk about a strong ROI..

Angel: It also helps that you’re a gifted person  and super awesome to work with!

Member: looks like we need to give each other some testimonials for our respective sites!

Angel: Yes.

Member: you can tell prospective members that within about a week of joining I got a quick and simple job straight from you that effectively covered 3 months of membership. I met Nick thru an event at Cohere and that resulted in numerous jobs…and that is an arrangement that continues to be beneficial…Referrals from him got me additional clients that then referred me to other people (some in CA) who now use me as a referral for THEIR clients. It is an interconnected web of awesome. I now have had clients on both coasts…that can trace back to Cohere. Its like 6 degrees of Cohere Magic.

This conversation has been reproduced in its original entirety. This is really what it’s like to exist in the Cohere coworking community. All the exclamation points and reciprocity are genuine.

Now, I’m not guaranteeing that 4 months of membership will put $5k of pure profit in your pocket, but there’s a darn good chance that you WILL get new clients as a result of working here. All it takes is an open mind, a sharing personality, and the desire to build your business.

Oh yeah, and a free day pass to check it out in person doesn’t hurt either.

Image Credit: Flickr – Nina Matthews Photography

 

What The 2nd Global Coworking Survey Says About You

You are more awesome than Helvetica

In 2010, about 600 people responded to the first global coworking survey by Deskmag.com. Without knowing it, those respondents helped to form the very first baseline study on the international coworking movement. A year later, the folks over at Deskmag were at it again, issuing a second survey to help gauge growth and explore the true motivations behind this new collaborative style of work.

The 2011 survey enjoyed 1,500 respondents from 52 countries around the world. Whether you’re a hardcore coworker or participating for the first time, the results are revealing. Even if you didn’t take the survey, you should be proud to be counted among such a productive, independent, compassionate community.

You Are Not Isolated And Lonely

The survey confirmed the key findings from last year’s study, which showed that individuals increase their productivity and networks by joining a coworking space. In the latest survey, 93% said their social circle had increased a lot, 86% said their business network had grown, and 76% reported an increase in productivity. 88% said their isolation had decreased.

You Value And Trust Your Community

96% of respondents said community is an important value among members in their coworking space. To confirm this, the survey also checked how many people knew the first names of their fellow coworkers and vice versa; after all, a community can’t be too cohesive if people don’t know each others’ names. The responses showed that 74% of people know all or many of their fellow coworkers’ names.

Another indication of community is trust. The survey asked whether respondents would feel comfortable leaving their laptop in their coworking space when they left the room; 54% said “yes, always”, 29% said “yes, for several hours”, and only 2% said “no”. Similar results were received in a second group with the same question about mobile phones.

You Think People Are More Important Than Price

The importance of community was repeated in the answers to the question, “What do you like most about your coworking space?” 81% said they liked the people, 61% said the location was the most likeable factor; only 46% said the price was the most important element.

Now, these are only preliminary results, but I’d say coworking is looking pretty good just based on these early observations. Be proud! What other community can boast these attractive characteristics? Help spread the word to other freelancers and business owners by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter!

Download graphs of the 2nd Coworking Survey results without commentary on Prezi.

Image Credit: Flickr – rafagarces

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