The 7 Tips to Becoming Super Productive

November 17, 2007

How good are your time-management skills?

Do you find yourself spending too much time on single tasks and never finishing early?!
I would like to share with you an article from an expert in the field, no one else than the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael S. Hyatt:

Almost everyone I know is working more time than they would like. That’s why a book like The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss has been such a big bestseller. This is a great book, but the promise is a little over the top. I don’t know of anyone, including Tim Ferriss, who really only works four hours.

Weekly Calendar

But what if you could shave ten hours off your work week? In my opinion, that is much more do-able. Virtually anyone, with a little thought and effort can do it. Here’s how:

  1. Limit the time you spend online. In my experience, the Web is most people’s #1 time suck. Yes, I know it is a wonderful tool for research, blah, blah, blah. But I often catch myself and my family members mindlessly surfing from one page to another with no clear objective in mind. Before you know it, you can eat up several hours a day. The key is to put a fence around this activity and limit your time online. Set a timer for yourself if you have to.This is true for Web surfing and it is also true for email. Unless you are in a customer service position where you have to be “always-on,” you should check email no more than two or three times a day.
  2. Touch email messages once and only once. Okay, let’s be honest. How many times do you read the same email message over and over again? Guess what? The information hasn’t changed. That’s right. You are procrastinating.I have a personal rule: I will only read each message once then take the appropriate action: do, delegate, defer, file or delete it. I describe these in more detail in a post I made last week.
  3. Follow the two-minute rule. My to-do list is very short. It never gets longer than about thirty items. This is because I do everything I can immediately. If I need to make a phone call, rather than entering it on my to-do list, I just make the call.If I can complete the action in less than two minutes, I just go ahead and do it. Why wait? You will be amazed at how much this “bias toward action” will reduce your workload.Conversely, when you don’t do it promptly, you end up generating even more work for yourself and others. The longer a project sits, the longer it takes to overcome inertia and get it moving again. The key is to define the very next action and do it. You don’t have to complete the whole project, just the next action.
  4. Stop attending low-impact meetings. If there’s one thing we can probably all agree on, it’s that we go to too many meetings. Either the meeting organizer isn’t prepared, the meeting objective isn’t defined, or you can’t really affect the outcome one way or the other.Every meeting should have a written objective and a written agenda. If you don’t have these two minimal items, how do you know when the meeting is over? Could this also explain why meetings seem to drag on and on until everyone is worn out?If the content of the meeting is irrelevant to you and your job or if you don’t feel that you really add that much to the discussion, ask to be excused.
  5. Schedule time to get your work done. This is crucial. As the saying goes, “nature abhors a vacuum.” If you don’t take control of your calendar, someone else will. You can’t spend all your time in meetings and still get your work done.Instead, you need to make appointments with yourself. Yes, go ahead and actually put them on your calendar. Then, when someone asks for a meeting, you can legitimately say, “No, I’m sorry, that won’t work. I already have a commitment.” And you do—to yourself!
  6. Cultivate the habit of non-finishing. Not every project you start is worth finishing. Sometimes we get into it and realize, “This is a waste of time.” Fine, then give yourself permission to quit.I do this all the time with reading. It’s why I am able to read so many articles and books. Here’s publishing’s dirty little secret: most books are not worth finishing. Most books could be cut in half and you wouldn’t miss a thing. The key is to read as long as you are interested and then stop. There are too many great books to read without getting bogged down in the merely good ones.
  7. Engage in a weekly review and preview. Part of the reason our lives get out of control is because we don’t plan. Once a week, you have to come up for air. Or—to change the metaphor—you have to take the plane up to 30,000 feet, so you can see the big picture.I generally do this on Sunday evening. I review my notes from the previous week and look ahead to my calendar. I have written elsewhere on this topic, so I won’t repeat myself here.

You may not be able to reduce your workweek to four hours—and honestly, who would want to?—but you can certainly scale it down to a manageable level by cutting out the wasted motion and developing a few good habits.

I hope you enjoyed the article!

Share your experiences with us!
Do you spent your time efficiently?!

Cheers!

Questor

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Everything you Need to Know about Presentations

November 17, 2007

     No matter if you are a student, an artist, or a business man,  your presentation skills will be one the most valuable ones.

Your ability to make people ‘buy’ your ideas and to be able to convince them that either that the work you’ve done is excellent, or that your artwork, or business plan is an excellent opportunity for investment, is crucial.

In the good sense, “selling oneself” is one of the paths to success in many facets of life, not just business.

And for example, did you know that many important entrepreneurs take theater classes just to improve their presentation skills? Yes, I am saying that business men, that have MBA’s, also take theater classes just to improve their speaking and presentation skills. And it’s true.

Remember: A good idea is nothing… if you can’t sell it.

Here I share with you an excellent article I read from our friend Darren:

30A#_Q28I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, and was inspired to get it done by Merlin Mann’s recent piece about improving his use of PowerPoint.

(This seems like the sort of thing you might want to Digg, if you’re thus inclined).

I do a lot of presentations. Each time I give a talk, I try to improve on something. I have a good base on which to build thanks to an unlikely education. Despite my career in technology, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Theatre.

I learned a lot of good public speaking practices from theatre school. They come in two flavours–content and technique:

Content – What You Say

  1. Respect the Narrative Arc. Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning promises the audience something, the middle threatens to take that promise away, and the end pays off on the promise (or, in the so-called ‘third act twist’, it doesn’t).
  2. Tell Stories. If you take one piece of advice from this article, it’s this. We make meaning by telling stories–to ourselves and each other. If you can construct your entire talk by embedding your points in a series of anecdotes and tall tales, do it. You’ll entertain your audience a lot more, and your message will be much stickier in your audience’s heads. Watch Seth Godin speak–he’s all about the clever anecdotes.
  3. Embrace Metaphors. Metaphors are another important means of how we make sense of the world. Use similes (”this site is eBay for seniors”).
  4. Dialogue Starts on the Page. I find my talks are much more cogent and compelling when I’ve written them as informal essays first. Then I try to commit as much of it as I can to memory, and write out the key points on index cards. Too many speakers seem to think they’ve prepared a talk by creating some slides. The slides should come last.
  5. Slides are Your Costumes, Lighting and Set, Not Your Speech. Your slides exist to reinforce the things you’re saying, not the other way around. Like your clothes, they provide context and framing for your message. As such, I almost always eschew bullet points for a single word or phrase per slide, accompanied by lots of photos. An overly complicated set will distract an audience, and so will overly busy slides.
  6. Your Set Design Needs Soul. Use lots of photos in your slides, but pick photos with soul. You’ll know them when you see them. Here’s a tip–there’s more soul on Flickr than iStockPhoto. And avoid obvious illustrations. You don’t need to show two generic hands shaking to imply a relationship. I recently gave a talk that included a brief summary of the history of communications–from few-to-few to few-to-many to many-to-many. These are the three photos I used:

    Outside the CBC 2
  7. The Play’s As Long As It Needs To Be (or Not To Be). People like to say “you shouldn’t have more than five (or 15 or 23) slides”. This implies that there’s a standard duration for each slide, and that you’re a simpleton. When you don’t use bullet points, this rule no longer applies. In one of my talks I run 60 slides–all photos–in about 3 minutes, and other slides sit up on screen for five minutes while I’m making a point.
  8. Surprise Your Audience. We’re delighted when the unexpected happens. Change gears midstream, take your theme in a new direction, or show a little video in the middle of your talk. It piques the interest of the audience and refreshes their attention. Everybody perks up when the ghost of Hamlet’s dad returns in Act 3.
  9. Begin In Media Res. It’s Latin for ‘in the middle of things’, and a lesson from Playwriting 101. Start in the middle of the action. Start with an anecdote out of left field, and let the audience catch up later. Don’t be afraid to use a flashback to fill in the background in the middle of your talk.
  10. Find the Funny. This is dangerous, because there’s nothing worse than a joke (or a joker) that bombs on-stage. If you’re not a naturally-gifted comic, find other ways. Embed humour in your slides, bring a prop or gently abuse the audience. I recently used a volunteer and a prop in a talk:
    It’s hardly a stroke of comic genius, but it can change the tone for a few minutes, which never hurts.

Technique – How You Say It

  1. Go to a speech coach. Why do British actors always sound smart? Because, usually, they’ve got superb vocal training and are exceptionally articulate. Discover all the muscles in your mouth, throat and chest dedicated to speaking, and learn how to exercise them.
  2. Warm up your voice. You stretch before playing pickup hockey–why don’t you warm up your voice before putting it through the paces? Your speech coach can help with this. As part of my pre-speaking ritual, I spend about ten minutes conducting an embarrassing vocal warm-up before speaking. I try to do it backstage, in an empty bathroom or in some other out of the way corner.
  3. Quit moving around. It’s a common bad habit of the young (and, in my case, really awful) actor. When you’re not rooted firmly in one place, you water down your message and distract the audience. Stand in one spot, and move only to emphasize a point.
  4. Talk slower. You’re almost certainly talking too fast. Even if you have a complete handle on your nerves, there’s a lot going on during a talk–slides, distracting audience members, and so forth–and people take longer to absorb information. Practice slowing down until people tell you that you’re talking too slowly.
  5. Consider Your Pacing. That said, you don’t always have to talk slowly. The speed at which you speak is just another tool–be sure to use it. Speak quickly for comic effect, or to emphasize the complexity of a process.
  6. Wield the Pause. Playwrights often write (Pause). I’ve used it as a lazy transition, and a way to notify the actor that a speech’s tone or subtext changes. You can use a pause in the same way–implying a shift from one section to the next. More importantly, the skillfully-wielded pause sharpens the audience’s attention, and builds anticipation of your next point.
  7. Costumes Matter. I keep saying this, but here it is again: clothes are costumes, and costumes are powerful symbols. Whether you’re speaking to six of your colleagues or 600 strangers, your clothes matter. They offer both context and subtext for what you’re speaking about. People are looking at you for a while–even if they don’t process your clothes consciously, they’ll do so in the background cycles of their brain. Guy Kawasaki spoke after me at Gnomedex, and he wore this cool, casual shirt and jeans. Maybe that’s a carefully crafted image, or maybe it’s just what he threw on that morning, but it says a lot about who he is as a speaker.

In short, make your presentations a little more like a play or a film. A little creativity and humour goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who described entertainment as “the jam that coats the pill of morality”. Your pill is probably more education or marketing than morality, but the lesson applies. Entertain your audience, and they’ll buy more of whatever it is you’re selling.

I hope you have enjoyed the article!

Do you have any more tips to share!?

Cheers!

Questor