Want to take back control of you day? Here’s 3 little tips that will change everything. (This will only take 5 minutes, I promise you!)

 

[photo woman looks at clock in panic]

Just a quick one today, but how often do you feel that you’re not getting your day under control? No matter how well you try and plan your day out, and you know what things you need to do so you can look back on your day and feel satisfied, there always seem to be things that get in the way? Or how about, other people seem to get in the way of you? Sound familiar?

Isn’t it always the way you need something done by a certain time, or that you might be planning to meet someone at a certain time, but they run late and it throws off your whole schedule? Which means you run late for the next part of your schedule, or worse, you can’t do the next thing you had planned? Doesn’t it seem that other people never really value your time as much as you do?

Of course in reality, by blaming others for an outcome or lack thereof, we give up our personal responsibility and control of the situation. I cover this in another blog in more detail, but suffice to say, good results will never come when we persistently blame outside influences for bad results. Therefore the first thing we should always be thinking when things run late, is how have I contributed to this lateness and what could I do to prevent it happening? That’s not a mindset that most people have, but it’s what leaders think.

 

[photo man running in a hurry]

You see, I used to have a bad habit of turning up to things just a little bit late, maybe just by a minute or a few minutes, but it was never on time. And over time, I developed something of a reputation of this. Obviously this was bad. I wasn’t late because of any big emergency, I simply didn’t organise myself well enough. So of course people knew they couldn’t trust me to be on time, and this is obviously not a good thing. I wasn’t respecting other people’s schedules, so I had no reason to expect them to take my time seriously either.

So after reading around time management I found a very useful tip that changed everything. You see, if you tell somebody you would meet them at 10 o’clock, you may well fully intend to meet them at 10 o’clock, and they may have good intentions too. But for whatever reason, for the majority of people, 10 o’clock means “somewhere around 10 o’clock”, or more accurately, “sometime a bit after 10 o’clock”. Imagine if you have three meetings in a day and each one started a few minutes late, by the middle of the day you will see that time has been lost bit by bit.

This is what I started doing. I asked people to meet me at 9.55am.

You might wonder, what difference is that going to make? But you would be amazed at the effect. 9.55am is a far more precise time than 10 o’ clock in people’s minds, it just gives off the impression, “he’s precise about his timing, I’d better be precise too”. Four times out of five, people are absolutely on time or early for their appointment with me, because they now understand I value my time, even those 5 minutes before 10 am.

Of course this only works if I’m on time too! The good thing is, the same mental triggers of precision kick in for me also. While I used to be frequently late for a 10am meet, I’m seldom late for 9.55am. If you don’t believe me, just try it for a few days and see the difference it makes. You end up wasting so much less time, and your value from other people goes sky-high. I just wish I’d heard of this before.

[photo spiral clock]

 

The second staggeringly simple trick to taking enormous amounts of stress off my mind when trying to make my day run smoothly is simply, “add 5 minutes” and everything just flows. I have a somewhat stressed friend who starts work at 9am, and is always feeling harassed at her work place, especially in the mornings. I asked her how long it takes to drive in. She says immediately – 25 minutes. I next asked her, what time do you usually leave the house. Guess the answer? 8.35am.

It should be brutally obvious what the problem is but I spell it out to her anyway.

‘If you are arriving in your car park at 9am, which mathematically is exactly what will happen, how can you possibly be ready to start your work day at 9am? By the time you’ve found a parking space, got through the front door, waited for the lift, got to your desk, turned on your PC, opened your briefcase, plugged in your phone charger, grabbed your coffee etc etc., what time are you actually physically ready to start doing some work?’

Embarrassed answer -“About 9.10am.”

No wonder she’s stressed out for the whole day, she’s starting 10 minutes behind, she’s rushing to catch up and gets into meetings unprepared (and late), and it’s all totally unnecessary.

Most of what we do day-to-day, we’ve done before, we can do on auto pilot, and we know how long it will take. If I know it will take 75mins to get from bed to front door, I get up 80mins beforehand. When there’s traffic in the road, and there always will be, both metaphorically and literally, it doesn’t matter, I have time in hand because I took ownership of it. Like I said, everything just flows. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. It takes practice, but just see how much the stress dissipates as a result. It’s amazing.

And finally, for those of you who couldn’t possibly envision getting up 5 minutes earlier in the morning, here’s the tip that will solve everything.

[photo woman sleeps peacefully]

 

That’s right. Go to bed 5 minutes earlier.

Have a happy, stress-free and glorious weekend everyone

Here comes the rain again

 

[photo woman with umbrella]

As I write, we in the UK are in the midst of the wettest winter for 250yrs or so, and it’s pretty much the only thing in the news right now. So it can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the rain has caused a fair few problems in parts of the country and for the last few weeks we’re reminded of some very sad pictures of destroyed homes and buildings, people sheltering in temporary accommodation, streets turned into rivers. Not to mention lots of very irate people, understandably when you’ve suffered a great loss.

I can’t help notice whenever there’s an interview on TV with a victim the storms, almost invariably the question comes up of ‘Who’s fault do you think this is?’ – to which various answers come up, which I’ve categorised as follows

1)      The Government – ie the authorities are supposed to protect us and are not or haven’t responded quickly enough

2)      The Army or emergency services – those who are bringing supplies or sandbags to the areas affected

3)      The Corporations – faceless organisations that contributed to global climate changes that led to extreme weather conditions

4)      God

Now you may have your own views on who should have done what and when. If I were a homeowner whose house was full of water right now and completely unliveable, I’d be feeling quite hard done by right now. Thankfully although I’ve faced various adversities in my life this is not one of them. I did however, at those periods in my life, also look around and think, ‘who can I blame for this?’ It’s understandable, it’s an easy response, and it takes the burden of responsibility from my shoulders.

One thing I’ve learned from my research that people have a different way of looking at events that occur in their lives. When something bad happens, it’s invariably due to ‘bad luck’ or outside influences. However if something good happens, then in some way, they’ve had a hand in that good fortune even if that couldn’t really have been the case. It’s an interesting psychology that tends to be permeate not only into personal but also business psychology, and it has been shown in many studies. Why should that be? Is it simply that they are wired to explain all random acts in this way, or they’re led to believe this from past life experiences?

Back to news reporting and finding the person to blame in all this adversity. There might be some catharsis in this, and it allows our reporter to turn back to the camera and conclude that if someone had done something (more pertinently, someone else) then the situation would be different. Obviously no-one could have predicted how severe the weather was going to be this month (or if they did, it wasn’t widely reported). Even if they had, there’s no accounting for extreme and uncontrollable events. I don’t think any of our victims told the TV guys that it wasn’t anyone’s fault but one of those things that we simply have to deal with. Or if they did it probably didn’t make the news. Selective journalism? Surely not?

Where I’m going with this is that the successful people in life with a strong mindset, recognise 2 things.

1)      Random events are just that.

2)      They take ‘ownership’ of events, ie their decisions in life have contributed to what occurs in their lives, good and bad.

You might ask, how can anyone take ownership of random events, such as the weather? Obviously you can’t, but the decision of how to deal with those events is entirely within your personal sphere. I’m reminded of a story of a lady whose child was born with a severe learning difficulty which of course was deeply distressing for the family. However, by meeting other families facing the same difficulties, forming and running a support group, travelling all over the country lecturing and supporting  others on parenting skills and meeting experts and celebrities with similar problems, she has spoken about how blessed she is to have brought so many interesting and strong people into her life and raised valuable funds and awareness for disabled children. She knows that her son’s life would have been easier for him if he hadn’t been disabled, but she also knows her life has changed and been enriched in ways she could never have imagined before. She could have sat on her hands and railed at the world at how this terrible thing had happened to her, but she took ownership instead. It’s an amazing story, and this lady had no special teaching or lecturing skills beforehand, nor a big group of people in her life who were expert at dealing with sick children.

The takeaway from this story

1)      We can’t always predict what will happen in our future

2)      By being decisive, we have a better chance of predicting our own future

3)      By owning our decisions, we retain control of how we feel about our future.

Too many people give away their control too quickly because it absolves responsibility and it’s the easy way to go. But the ‘reactive person’ will always leave their feelings at the whims of other people or outside events. Choose instead to be the ‘proactive person’ who retains their own power. It’s a much healthier way to go, and it’s the way of the leader, not the follower. So go out there and be a leader today. Otherwise, you can always blame it on the rain.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, and have a great day.

You’re no better than a Blackberry!

[photo Obama selfie with Merkel]

Many of you will know that a last year, the high street store Jessops went under. For those not in the UK, Jessops was a specialist camera shop that has been around for 75 years. My dad, a big camera buff, bought many products from them in his time. It went the way of HMV, Woolworths, and many other stores for fairly obvious reasons including the internet, and supermarkets selling similar products for much cheaper. Nowadays, the camera market is split in to broadly 3 categories – high end (expensive) big SLRs, compact pocket sized cameras (cheap), and mobile phone cameras.

Because Jessops never really entered into the mobile market, they had to rely on shifting large volumes of the generally cheap compact cameras to keep a business going, but the demand for these has dropped off dramatically in the last few years, and I’m sure you know why. Pretty much everyone, even kids these days, are walking around with a smartphone in their pocket that packs a 5mega pix or better camera. Why bother with a separate compact? So now, there are really only 2 categories of camera. And Jessops couldn’t sell enough SLRs to stay afloat.

For the most part, the mobile cam does what it needs to do. My Sony phone takes really nice photos for Facebook and even  just about good enough for a computer screen. But I also own an SLR with a big lens, much heavier but with incredibly good results, so this is the one that goes on holiday with me in the main. But SLRs make up only a small part of the market, because most people are content with their mobile for their snaps.

Problem is, phone cams are pretty rubbish in low light, any slightly fast moving object, anything requiring a flash etc etc. My friend has recently invested in an SLR and, while a self-confessed amateur, recently posted some recent pics he took and I think they’re great. The outstanding difference between them and the photos he used to take on his iphone is the clarity, and the ability to focus on the subject while the background generally remains just that – background. That’s because you can, with a little expertise, tweak an SLR to take great pics, and nowadays they’re so clever they can do most of that work for you anyway.

And that’s what I noticed is the primary difference between an mobile cam and an SLR. The electronics in the mobile simply aren’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between the subject you really want to focus on, and what is just background ‘stuff’. So it tries to focus on everything it sees. For many people, this will do, but it’s just not even close to the quality of the SLR. he megapixel may be similar, but despite what the salesman tells you, megapixels alone do not guarantee you a good photo. The superiority of the SLR is down to the lens, its ability to focus on what’s important.

So why am I banging on about the technical qualities of cameras? Because I can now bring us back to my opening statement, that we collectively are no better than a mostly average mobile camera. It should now be clear why this is but just to bring it all together,

1) We have an unnerving tendency to settle for ‘average’ quality in far too many things.

2) We struggle, generally, to focus on what’s important.

If you look at the real success stories around us, those household names who’ve made it big, they are the exact opposite of these 2 tendencies. They have an innate ability to focus on the target, and they never settle for average. I confess that I have been known to lose focus on the goal myself. Maybe you can relate to this. I come up with a grand plan for success, health, wealth, whatever and I set it in motion, but in the middle of the project something else distracts me, or another idea or project comes into my mind and the next thing I know, I’m sidetracked. I’ve lost focus. Try and juggle too many items, and they will come crashing down. Focus on keeping one thing up in the air and your chances of success are much higher. Makes sense, no?

So the takeaways from today’s story are,

1) Focus relentlessly on what you need to do

2) Ignore the background stuff

3) Don’t get distracted. That’s what losers do.

The great joy is that, we as human beings do, in fact, have the capacity to keep several projects going at once. I don’t believe it is necessary to ignore one’s physical health, for example, to achieve a financial or educational goal. And yet again, it comes down to how good you’ve built your team around you to help you achieve all the things you want. Oh, and be prepare to adapt. Don’t continue to offer what no-one needs, or more importantly, what everyone already has and doesn’t need any more of. Think about what you offer as a person. Because if no-one wants it, you’re out of business. RIP Jessops.