Life/Work Balance

Dismantling the distractions in your work day

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates, specializing in working with senior leaders to successfully engage employees, lead teams, manage change and balance work and life.

Has this ever happened to get to the end of your work day and wonder if you've achieved anything? Where did the time go?  Maybe you start to think about the projects you didn’t get accomplished and ask yourself why?

Life hacker photo- labeled for reuseChances are that you are being distracted at work. 

It happens to us all in small ways: the bell on your personal cell phone signaling a text message; the little banner which flashes across your computer screen to announce the arrival of a new email; the co-worker who stops by your office to commiserate at length about his inability to work on the new project because he doesn't have enough time.

Taken separately these are all just tiny incidents. We can handle one item and then get back to the task at hand. Together, however, they become a raging river of distractions which take us careening off course and leave us feeling depleted and exhausted. An overload of continuous distractions can cause us to become low performers, which can potentially impact our job negatively.

Let’s look at the story of Sally (of course, not her real name). Sally was an exceptional supervisor managing an award-winning marketing team. She had an open door policy with her team members and would invite anyone to discuss anything with her at anytime.   Sally’s office was like a revolving door- people coming in and going out all day long. 

During the holidays Sally’s children got their own cell phones. Everyday after school the kids would send oodles of text messages to her seeking her attention as a referee in their disputes. Sally began to avoid marketing calls with clients during that “magical” after school time to be available if the children sent a text. This cut Sally’s productivity down substantially. She started to work later and later, which eroded what little work-life balance she had. 

To make matters worse, Sally’s husband also got a new iPhone 6 and began sending emails and text messages to her throughout the day about meaningless dribble such as, “Let’s remember to pick up cat food on Saturday!” The dings, the dongs, the bells and the whistles were distracting not only to Sally but to her team as well. Sally’s unfinished projects were stacking up and she was at the breaking point. Her distractions were insidious. She did not really know why she was being so unproductive, only that she was not the high-performer she once was. 

Fearing that she was going to receive a terrible performance review, Sally wisely sought some advice for this complicated problem. 

Sally’s mentor suggested that she begin to take control of the situation by completing a daily time log. Sally agreed to document which project she was working on every 30 minutes. If she was interrupted, she would log it by noting who interrupted her and what the interruption was about.

Sally kept track of her time and was shocked after reviewing just the first three days. She clearly saw some patterns that needed to be changed. She knew that she had to take action to dismantle her daily distractions and to get her work life back on track again. 

Sally focused on changing several behaviors that made all of the difference in the world: 

  1. Start the day with uninterrupted time.  Sally arrived at work, went into her office, closed the door and started her day by working on one high-priority project for 30 minutes. She did not check her email. She did not check voice messages. Instead she immediately dug into her most pressing project. After 30 minutes of uninterrupted and focused time, she opened her door and emerged, feeling as though she had already accomplished something important for the day.
  2. Build time into the schedule to check and respond to email, voice and text messages. Sally decided that she would check her devices and respond only during three windows of time each day: After her uninterrupted 30 minutes of morning work time; after lunch; and for an hour before she left the office for the day. She also instructed her family to not send text messages or call her during the work day unless it was an emergency. Sally had to remind herself over and over again that she did not have to quickly react to each message she was receiving. She felt comfortable responding within 24 hours. She gave herself permission to take her time and to be purposeful about her responses to other people’s inquiries.
  3. Scheduling team time and one-on-one time with her employees. Sally subtly changed her open door policy to the proactive model of scheduling time each week to speak with people. Of course, Sally will help with problem solving in emergency situations, but if she thinks that a problem can wait she will ask the employee to put it on their “Meeting with Sally” list.
  4. Use Friday afternoons for unfinished business and planning the week ahead.   Sally deliberately schedules time in the office and at her desk on Fridays to finish those projects which can be wrapped up before the weekend. She also finds it useful to review upcoming projects for the week ahead. When Sally leaves the office on Fridays, she knows that she can enjoy her time with her family during the weekend because she left things in a good place at work.  

We all need to be ever-vigilant in minimizing our own work distractions and interruptions to maximize the balance between our personal and our professional lives.

Pushing past procrastination

Rita Perea is President and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates. delivers cutting-edge content written by local business and thought-leaders.  I am honored to begin sharing my 25-plus years of leadership experience and future-forward thinking to inform and inspire IowaBiz readers in the area of Life-Work Balance. 

Being at the top of your game day after day, and living your life to its fullest, requires the development of successful time mastery habits. “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” carries the classic wisdom from a very accomplished Benjamin Franklin. 

As an executive coach and a certified work-life balance specialist, I have had many clients who express a feeling of being overwhelmed with “too much to do and not enough time to do it.”  This feeling of not knowing where to begin can lead to inertia, being weighed down and unable to move. They find themselves in a full-blown habit of procrastination - putting things off until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. 

At one time or another we have all fallen prey to the self-sabotaging behavior of putting important tasks aside until “some other time”.   Unfortunately for some who are stuck in the avoidance cycle, another time never magically appears.  This is the opposite of the Nike tag line “Just Do It”.  In our culture winners achieve results and losers just do nothing.  To be self-actualized at work and in our personal lives, we need to overcome the behaviors that shoot us in the foot, often making us feel badly about ourselves. 

The first step in breaking the procrastination habit is to take some spacious, mindful time and list all of your projects, committees and activities in both your professional and personal life.  Put everything that you spend your time doing on the professional or personal list. 

 Once you have looked over your list, the second step is to be honest with yourself.  This can be difficult but it is important. Have you said “yes” to projects or activities that you could have said “No” to and find that you have overcommitted your time?  If so, are there any areas on your list that aren’t aligned with your goals which you could gracefully exit from? Maybe its time to give another person the opportunity to lead a committee or be the PTA president.  This honest appraisal will help you release those things that are stressing you out.  It will also help you reclaim more of your 24-hour day to execute the tasks that you have been putting off.   That will feel so good!

After you have done some self-examination, maybe you have discovered the problem you have is that, honestly, you are just making excuses.  A great technique to break this procrastination habit is to ask your personal coach, or a friend whom you trust, to be your very own “accountability buddy.”  It works like this: you identify the one, two or three tasks, activities or projects that you want to accomplish and when you want to get them completed by. Then, on a set day and time, you report out to the other person about your progress towards your goal.

Not wanting to let the other person down, this technique is a motivator to help you begin to create the “Just Do It” habit.  Research from Brown University has shown that the use of a “weight loss buddy” can help a person lose twice as much weight. Having an accountability buddy is fun and it really works. 

I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she has been putting off making a doctor’s appointment for the past six months. She was not afraid or concerned about anything, she was just procrastinating.  Unfortunately, she was beating herself up each week for not making the time to make the call. My response was that all too often we procrastinate about our self care, but that really it is one of the most important things to accomplish in our quest for life-work balance. If we don’t make the time to take care of ourselves, who will?  I told my friend that I was going to help her out by being her “accountability buddy.”  I told her that I would  call her the following Friday to have her share with me that she made the call to schedule the appointment.  Her face lit up as she affirmed that this was a great idea and was just the kick in the pants that she needed to take a small action.  

I am happy to report that my friend received a gold star from me that week.  She went above and beyond expectations and scheduled three appointments that she had been procrastinating about.  A bonus is that taking just one small baby step, one micro-action, toward completing an important task feels insanely good. It releases well-being chemicals in our brain. This helps to break the self-defeating cycle and inspires us to want to accomplish more.  

So come on... what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to take one small step in the right direction and away from the self-sabotage of procrastination. 


The whitewaters of work and life

I recently had the joy of creating live visuals for an event organized by Mike Kleis of Executive Forums Iowa. Mike invited renown author and experienced business advisor Les McKeown to speak about his two books, “Predictable Success,” and, “The Synergist.”
As I sketched away on my iPad to visually synthesize the essence of his talk, I was blown away by what McKeown described.

My Two Takeaways:

  1. There are seven stages of growth and decline in a business life cycle: Early Struggle, Fun, White-Water, Predictable Success, Treadmill, Big Rut, and Death Rattle.
  2. Decisions are made and executed at different rates of speed according to the stage of growth or decline. Click here for my live visual of a decide-implement matrix.

The third stage, also called the “White-Water” stage of business growth, was especially intriguing to me. Here’s how McKeown explains it:

  • The business is running you, instead of you running it.
  • Your schedule is so full, you no longer have time for relationship building.
  • Firefighting isn’t just for the guys with the cool red trucks.

So, what does Mr. McKeown encourage us to do?

The book, Predictable Success, shares relevant advice for business leaders on how to move out of White-Water and into Predictable Success.

Chapters four and nine brought the following points to the surface for me:

  • Cover of "Predictable Success: Getting Yo...Cover via Amazon

    If you want to grow, recognize and implement the right balance of systems and processes.
  • Shift the way you make decisions so that you can better manage the complexity you face. Take a little more time to decide, so that you can execute on the right decisions more quickly (and avoid the wrong ones too).
  • If you don’t want to grow, do less and reduce complexity. There is nothing wrong with that.

This pinged my thinking. The stresses of the White-Water stage and the author’s advice on how to move out of it -- well, these apply to our personal lives, too.

What new systems and processes will you create in life and in work? Will you tweak the method and rate at which decisions are made and implemented, so that you can get out of White-Water, and move into Predictable Success?

- Jocelyn Wallace

Related Links:

Carol Roth Interviews Les McKeown

Gini Dietrich of Interviews Les McKeown

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Three tips to clarify your vision

Business owners. Leaders. Entrepreneurs. Intrapreneurs. Domestic Executives. Gas-guzzling SUVs. We all have something in common. Drain Gain by jocelynwallace

We are a bit drained these days!

I consult for companies who drive in the fast lane of marketplace change. As they adapt and innovate, business leaders want to clearly communicate their vision, both internally to their teams and externally through sales and marketing channels.

But if a business owner assumes everyone sees what she sees, she is driving an “SUV gas guzzler” -- burning a lot of resources and moving the needle from full to empty quickly.

To avoid this, I help management teams clarify and communicate their vision through the use of visual strategies. Interestingly, the same basic principles and processes work for clarifying and communicating a vision for life too.

3 Tips for Clarifying Your Vision for Work and Life

  1. Discover or Redefine Your Core Values. I created a VISUAL HOMEWORK tool to help with this, so click here for the tool and instructional guide.
  2. Get your vision down on paper. Most people have a vision in their heads of who they are, what they want to do and where they want to go. Move it from your head and get it down on paper.
  3. Draw the vision. If you want more people to be on the same page, you’ve got to make it visual. If you are like most, you think you can’t draw. No worries! Use stick people, circles, squares, arrows and clouds. It makes a difference!

When we have a clear vision we get focused (internally). When we make it visual, it becomes the anchor for communicating it clearly (externally). And that, my friend, moves the needle from drain to gain!

Give it a try. And then tell me how you did in the comments. Did it help to clarify your vision?

-- Jocelyn Wallace

Related & Helpful Articles:

Is Your Vision Shared by All? ( blog)
If Everything is Important...Nothing Is (Patrick Lencioni’s blog)
Overwhelmed? Fill Your Tank ( blog)

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Five powers of clear purpose

Have you ever noticed how much positive power there is when we are clear on our purpose?
Superhero-by JocelynWallace
This seems to be the secret sauce for any super hero, ninja, jedi -- and successful business person or organization.
There are several patterns I see when clarity is present, and I see them not only in the superheros on TV and in movies, but also in the people around me. Here is a short list...
5 Powers of Clear Purpose in Your Life and Work

1) You say 'yes' to the things that align with your purpose, and 'no' to anything that weakens it, as my friend Mitch Matthews would say.
Jedi-by JocelynWallace
2) When you fail, you dust yourself off and get up quickly. You learn to fail faster and succeed faster, as my friend Adam Carroll would say.
3) You do not blame situations or other people when disappointments pop up. You shut your pie hole and get on the treadmill, as my friend Chad Carden would say.
4) You grow your mind, set out to be of service to others, and lead creatively, as my friend Mike Wagner would say.
Ninja by JocelynWallace 5) Relationships rule. Period. People will want to work with you if they know you, like you and trust you, as my friend Bob Burg would say.
Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well. When we are not clear, it causes profound setbacks financially, mentally, spiritually, relationally, and even physically. Lack of clarity makes us vulnerable, especially when life knocks us down or demands an important decision.
The good news? Getting clear about your purpose is within reach. As a business coach, my favorite gift to help others find clarity is to start with a book called, "Ignite! A Little Book to Spark Your Big Dreams." IGNITE cover graphic_250px
Mitch Matthews and I co-authored this project, and because we had clarity, we experienced these five powers of purpose. Now we have the joy of watching the book help other people get clear on their big dreams, so they can experience the power of purpose too.

What patterns or consistencies do you notice about people who have a clear purpose? What do they seem to have in common, and what can we learn from clear-purposed people in life and work?

--Jocelyn Wallace

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3 Ways to Find Focus

I like to meet busy people and ask them how they do it all. So I spoke with Alexander Grgurich, director of Foundry Coworking.

Interesting fellow and wise beyond his years.

I asked Alexander: When you know you’ve taken on too much, how do you decide what to de-commit?

This challenge comes up often when I’m coaching business owners who want more balance in their work and life. So I was excited to hear Alexander’s perspective.

And you know I love all things visual, so I created this visual infographic that summarizes the conversation along with my thoughts and these three tips.


3 Ways to Find Focus When You Are Overcommitted:

  1. Know your strengths. This one can be tricky, because most strengths are developed over time. They don’t start out as strengths, do they? We are not born with bulging biceps -- they are the product of hard work and taking on new challenges.
  2. Know your passion. There is a fire inside you, a burning desire to persevere and keep going. As we move down the infographic, notice we have fewer blue arrows. This means that if an activity is not both a strength and your passion, it might be something to de-commit.
  3. Focus on what brings the most impact. Perhaps it’s the most impact for your business, clients, family, friends, community... or an impact you could make on the world. If you are doing something that is your strength and your passion, but it has little impact -- the activity probably has a short lifespan.

When your strengths and passion intersect with impact, the decision on where to focus your time becomes clearer. Have you found this to be true? Did the infographic help you think in a way you hadn’t before? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear about it!

~ Jocelyn Wallace

Related Books:

  • On Finding Your Strengths, the Book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton (
  • On Finding Your Passion, the Book “The Element” by Ken Robinson (
  • On Who You Could Impact, the Book “Ignite” by Mitch Matthews with Visual Author Jocelyn Wallace (


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Doctor’s Orders: Invest Your Time, Gain Their Trust

Let’s face it. It can be difficult to build and grow relationships while managing a busy schedule. I want to have a meaningful connection with everyone I meet. But with limited time, how do I accomplish it?

To tackle the “time versus relationship building” challenge, I interviewed the doctors at Ballenger Chiropractic in West Des Moines.

As I listened and later thought more about what they shared, I created the following visual model to reflect our conversation:

  CLIENT Relationship MODEL_590px

  • Initially, the client may be hesitant or reserved (blue). The business spends a greater amount of time connecting (green), to help build trust.
  • Further around the cycle, time invested emphasizes teaching and sharing (brown), with the aim to add long-term value. Trust increases and the relationship grows.
  • The time invested results in a strong, trust relationship (blue is thicker now!). This leads to satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals.

I love it!

From my chat with Dr. Luke and Dr. Alex, I also gleaned five simple tips to help balance the importance of client relationships and limited time.

  1. Learn to read people. Some clients want to talk. Some want a little quiet in their day. Both are fine.
  2. Eliminate the “dead space” in your workflow. It’s not about being a mill or manufacturing plant, but there is something to be said for efficiency and productivity. Every business can find ways to improve, with a little creative thinking and willingness to try new things.
  3. Serve as many people as you can, without letting the quality of their experience falter. Find creative ways to serve more people, and do it really well.
  4. Have a clear purpose when you connect. Avoid asking a question that isn’t meaningful, such as, “How is the weather?" Instead, take an interest in your clients' activities, families or professions.
  5. Maximize the time you have. Sometimes this means learning how to connect with people while you work. Yes, multitask, but do so without impeding quality.

What might you add to the list? Did the visual model resonate with you? If so, why? I look forward to your comments!

-- Jocelyn Wallace
Ballenger Chiropractic & Acupuncture is owned and operated by Dr. Lucas Ballenger and Dr. Alexandria Ballenger. It is located near Jordan Creek Mall at 165 S. Jordan Creek Pkwy, Suite 110 in West Des Moines.

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Connect with humans or be abducted by aliens

Though time management has been a focus for the past few posts on the AlienSpaceShip_300px Life-Work Balance page here at, I’d like to segue into a study and discussion about the importance of relationships and human connections.

We all have a need to connect with people in our personal and professional roles. It is core to the human race -- and what separates mankind from alien.

There are several reasons most of us earthlings fall short in connecting with others:

  1. Lack of time. Connecting takes time! We don’t have “beam me up, Scotty” kinds of technology to get us from A to B... yet.
  2. Selectiveness and Authenticity. With whom should we be connecting, and how do we maintain authenticity? “Take me to your leader!” isn’t the most effective approach for human connections.
  3. Methods to expand networks. The extraterrestrial method is greedy and seeks to steal natural resources. The human method is the go-giver kind.
  4. Online overwhelm. With no social media strategy or discipline in place, one can be captured by the online alien space ship, never to return to planet earth.
  5. Contact management tools and habits. There are so many gadgets to organize our contacts! And plenty of advice to increase the habits necessary for keeping relationships healthy.

This blog series will explore these challenges from three different perspectives:

  • the large corporation
  • the small business and entrepreneur
  • the individual

In what ways do you struggle to grow and maintain relationships, given your limited time? I’m counting on you to share your challenges and contribute online and offline resources for this discussion and continuing blog series. Then, together we can live long and prosper!

-Jocelyn Wallace

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Are You a Robot? 3 Tips to Prioritize Your Work-Life

I have a confession to make.
I love to work hard. I love to make things the best they can be. I love to chase after dreams and goals and help others do it, too. I never have a shortage of ideas and I can’t wait to try ALL of them. And I love to say yes, even when I should say no or wait.

These are not the traits of a Time Management Super Hero. And such habits, if left unchecked, won’t lead to Keeping My Head Above Water. In fact, it leads to robot-like thinking, feeling and doing. Beep!

For the past two weeks, I allowed myself to become a working machine. Driven and laser-focused on my goals, I was willing to sacrifice the important things to get it all done. I neglected my health, my mind and my relationships. And I sat in my office chair so long without breaks that my robot hinges got stuck. It's a good thing I know a great human mechanic.

I need a can of WD-40, and I’m ready to be human again. If you’ve become a robot, too, these three tips will help us set our priorities back to human-mode:

  1. Take care of your body. Eat right, exercise, sleep, take vitamins and drink lots of water.
  2. Take care of your mind and soul. Pray or meditate or journal. Read books that feed your brain good things.
  3. Take care of your relationships. Without family, friends and coworkers - or business allies - there is no feeling or meaning to life.

I know what you’re thinking. All of this takes time. Yep, it sure does. But if we neglect these three, we become robots and then no amount of success matters.

Need some additional inspiration? These movies have a similar message:

For Love of the Game, starring Kevin Costner
The Incredibles, a Disney-Pixar Animation
Up, a Disney-Pixar Animation
Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone
Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon

What other movies or tips do you recommend? Post them in the comments and save the human race! Beep!

-Jocelyn Wallace

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Keep Your Head Above Water With These Time Management Tools

Are you drowning in tasks, calendars, and projects to manage? Need a life preserver?
Me too.

I grew up in Northwest Iowa on the shores of Twin Lakes, near the small towns of Pomeroy, Manson and Rockwell City. Being a lake kid meant that I could race you to the buoy and back doing my wicked-fast back stroke. My doggie paddle was pretty decent too. 

But on weekends, when the ski boats came out in droves, I didn’t try to stay afloat on skill alone.

I had some TOOLS.

That’s right. Inner tubes. Life jackets. Inflatable rafts. Boogie boards. You just gotta love the tools!

We can have time management skills, but if we try to tread water all day among the speed boat-filled waters, we will eventually need to call for a life guard rescue. And all life guards use tools.

Before I bust out the links to tools, a few warnings:

  1. Be on the lookout for tools disguised as sharks that will eat up your time. Tools are cool, but make sure they have purpose that suits your needs.

  2. Don’t throw time saver skills and strategies overboard just because you have a cool tool. It only works if you focus on getting the right things done within the time available. Figure out what floats your boat and then heave those oars!

Here are a few time management tools that could make the difference between a sink or swim day.


Task Management Tools: this link compares features

Document Collaboration Tools: this blog post covers the biggies

Read It/Do It Later:
Read It Later


Track Your Time Tools:
This blog post covers 6 more cool tools to track your time

If you have questions, opinions or other tools to share, please post them in the comments section. Share your life preserver!

- Jocelyn Wallace

Related Links:
Life Hacker Blog:
Guilt Free Productivity
Mashable Blog:
18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business

3 Tips to Become a Time Management Superhero

EVA_superhero_270px Time management these days often means we have to get more done in less time, with fewer people and a $0 budget. Unless you are a superhero, this can seem like a daunting task. Try as we might, our efforts never quite cut it.

Villains enter the scene of our well-planned day: Captain Super Urgent, Shiny Object Man and The Guilt Tripper. They show up with an evil laugh and a dastardly scheme to thwart us from being effective. These villains don't want us to focus on an important fact:

Success is not about getting a lot of things done, IT'S ABOUT GETTING THE RIGHT THINGS DONE.

If you've got too many villains lurking in the shadows, pick up the bat phone and call the superhero within you!

3 Tips to Find Your Superhero-ness:

  1. Know WHAT you want. Define it, or you won't reach it. Figure out the musts, the wants and their importance. When Captain Super Urgent shows up, use your "I know what I want" laser beam vision to determine if it's the right thing for YOU to do.
  2. Know WHY you want it. Let the "why" drive the choices you make in your day. If Shiny Object Man tempts you with a distraction, use your "I know WHY I want what I want" super strength to resist him.
  3. Know HOW you will get it done. Everyone is given the same amount of time -- it's finite, not infinite. If you tend to overestimate what you can get done in a day, and The Guilt Tripper cackles at you, take a step back and adapt. Use your superhero power of elasticity and decide what will get done -- and when -- within the time you have.

Speaking of elasticity, my favorite superhero is Elastigirl. She faces setbacks but she adapts, twists, bends, and stretches… all because she knows what she wants and why. You can do it too!

What superhero powers have you gained to battle the time drain villains? Do you have a favorite time management superhero? Post your comment to the community and share!

Here are some links to my favorite Time Management Super Heroes:
Book: "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Druckers (recommended to me by Iowa Business Owner Mike Wagner of the White Rabbit Group)
Book: "The Truth About Getting More Done" by Mark Fritz
Blog: "Getting Things Done (GTD)" by David Allen
Blog & Author: Julie Morgenstern on "Time Management Mistakes"
Photo: The Secret to Getting Things Done by Problogger, Darren Rowse

- Jocelyn Wallace

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Something I learned about work-life balance from Monsters vs. Aliens!

I took our boys to Monsters vs. Aliens this weekend.

Loved it.

It was a lot of fun... but it also offered an important lesson for me.

I will get to lesson in a second... but first... let me offer some M.v.A. background (without a plot spoiler) that might help...

There's a secret government agency that has collected and held "monsters" over the past 50 or so years.

When an alien invasion threatens earth... they enlist the help of these monsters to beat the four-eyed, multiple-legged intergalactic scourge!

The problem is that the monsters haven't really spent the last 50 or so years preparing for this.

They just get thrown into the middle of the situation and have to sink or swim.

It makes for a hilarious storyline, but it also helps to paint a picture of what happens when we try to come up with a plan in the middle of a crisis! 

Even though we know we can't plan for everything, we also know that the best time to come up with an evacuation strategy isn't in the middle of a fire. Right?

This is true when you are fighting evil aliens and it's true when it comes to work-life balance... isn't it?

For example, I had a recent coaching client who knew his life situation would be changing soon. 

He knew his next season with his business was going to call for him to travel more.  He also knew that his son was getting ready to head to college.  Yup... things were shifting. 

While he was looking forward to much of the changes, he also knew they might also cause some stress... at least initially.

So, we started to plan for them. 

Yup... even though the shifts were a year away, we started to put a strategy together... now. 

We started to look at his business and talk about his weekly schedule. 

  • How could he get his staff ready for him to be out of the office more often? 
  • How could we increase his ability to work remotely, without it taking over his life outside of work? 
  • How could we start scheduling his week, in order to better prioritize the types of meetings he was going to engage in, here... and on the road?

We also looked for ways for him to make time for his family and protect time for his family.  We experimented with ways that this could help now... and for ways this could work when he was traveling more and when his son was away at college.

Yes... even though these life changes are a ways out, he's putting his plan together... now.  And he's already seeing the benefits.

Now, some of you may read this and be encouraged to put together a plan for future "shifts" in your own life... and that's great.  I encourage you to do that!

But, some of you may read this and say, "Well... GREAT!  I'm already in the middle of a crisis!  How can I plan now?  I don't have time to think, let alone... plan!"

Hey... I totally understand.  But you can take a lesson from Monsters vs. Aliens on this front too!

Because, even when the monsters found themselves in middle of the crisis, they didn't give up!  They simply started to "experiment" with solutions. 

Some worked... and some didn't (cue our 8-year old's belly laughter!)!

We can "experiment" too!

Look for shifts that you can make that are small but significant.  Don't try for 180 degree changes... look for 1 and 2 degree changes.  These will be easier to try and implement.  Plus, they will be easier to maintain!

Maybe it's as simple as looking for one way to change your planning this week. 

  • Maybe instead of putting your daily to-do list on the back of an envelope, you try writing it in a binder that you carry with you all the time.
  • Maybe instead of writing your to-do list, as you go.  You take 5 minutes later this afternoon to plan your day for tomorrow.
  • Maybe, you say "no" to one meeting this week that you don't really need to attend.
  • Maybe, you get up 15 minutes earlier one morning to take a walk.

Need some more ideas on making some small but significant steps? 

Check out for some things you can do to simplify things at home

Then, for work, check out these 10 steps towards better work-life balance that Fortune magazine recently featured. 

Okay... so those are a few lessons I learned from Monsters vs. Aliens. 

  • Plan before the crisis. 
  • AND... when you are in the middle of a crisis... don't give up!  Instead... "experiment" with some small but significant changes!

How about you? 

What did you learn?

More importantly, what have you been learning about your own work-life balance? 

Jump in the conversation.  Click on comments below and let us know!

Lastly, I wanted to just say thank you to all the IOWABIZ readers!  Due to some fun "shifts" with my own business, this is my last post here.  You can continue to follow some of our developments at and keep me in the loop on what's happening with you! 

Again, thanks!  It's been a honor!

Keep dreamin' BIG!


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How about a little "cleaning out" of the schedule?

My wife helped me clean out and organize my office this past weekend.

We went way past that "illusion of clean" that I some times shoot for, and got down to some deep-cleaning and organizing

So, that meant we spent some time cleaning out "that closet." 

You know the one...

    • That get-done-with-a-meeting-and-bring-home-a-three-ring-binder-full-of-information-that-you-paid-for-but-won't-probably-use-throw-it-in-the-closet-closet
    • That all-sorts-of-different-specialty-paper-from-different-projects-long-forgotten-keep-them-in-the-closet-closet
    • The-fun-trinket-like-items-that-you-get-that-are-fun-but-quickly-loose-their-usefulness-throw-them-in-the-closet-closet

Yeah... you know the one.

Well, my wife went through "that closet" more as an "accountability partner" than an organizer.  She kindly but directly asked questions like:

    • What do you use this for?
    • Do you still need this?  How would you use it?
    • How often do you need this?
    • Could we put this in a better place?
    • Could someone else use this more than you?Calendar_1

At first, it was a bit tough, but once I settled in, it was a huge relief.  Plus, I started the week with an organized and well thought out office... including "that closet!"  That made me feel more on top of things... and helped me to focus.

So, then I started to think about what else needed "cleaning out." 

I started to wonder what else I could "clean out."  Then I started to look towards my schedule.

It's amazing how our schedules can get filled up like "that closet."  Isn't it? 

The calender starts to get things put in it.  Some things are really needed.  But, let's face it, some things are there because they got put there once.  Then they got left there.

For example, I recently talked to a leader in an organization.  She explained that during a time when she was short staffed, she started to do a number of extra things.  Later, she added staff but didn't wind up giving up some of the added workload because she had become accustomed to doing the work.  It had gotten shoved into "that closet" within her schedule and she had forgotten to get rid of them. 

She needed some of my wife's questions to "clean out" her schedule...

    • Do you still need to do this?
    • Could someone else do it better?  Could someone else be more efficient at it?
    • How often do you really need to this?
    • Could someone else do this?  Would that free you up to do more of what you need to do?

Another example, was a friend of mine who was a sport fanatic.  He spent a lot of his time digging into the sports page.  A night didn't go by without Sports Center.  He knew the stats behind the stats.  But, he recently told me that he'd done some mental house cleaning too.

Don't get me wrong, he's still a sports fan.  But he started to ask himself questions like:

    • How much do I really need to know?
    • How much of my interest is more out of habit than true interest?
    • How could I use some of my time for new priorities?

Did he eliminate all sports?  Nope, but he did decide to cut back.  To his surprise, it wound up freeing up time for new things in his life.  AND he found he could still keep up with most trash-talking sports conversations.

So... what needs cleaned out for you?

Your closet? 

Your schedule? 

Ask some questions... clean it out... and let us know how it goes!

Photo credit: pinkcoffee photoart

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"E" is for Pruning!

Wine grapes on a vineImage via Wikipedia

So, we're wrapping up our series on the D.D.A.E. Equation

That's asking what you need to Do, Delegate, Automate or Eliminate... so your schedule has a better balance between work and life.

So... yes... "E" is for the "Eliminate" step! 

This is a HUGE step... and for some... it's the most difficult of the 4 steps.

This is the step in which we look at our schedules and to-do lists and decide on a few things that could/should be eliminated, in order to have more time and energy to do more of what we want/need to do.

And, the hardest part, is sometimes this actually involves cutting out some "good" and even "really good" things in order to move into the "Great" things we are called to walk out.


I know... that can feel scary!  Can't it?

Plus, eliminating "good" and "really good" things can almost seem irresponsible! 

But... I offer the grape vine as the ultimate illustration of the need to "eliminate" some things.

That's right, the grape vine.

Many of you know that pruning a grape vine is one of the most important elements of producing a robust crop of luscious grapes.


That means pruning old wood from the plant.  But it also means pruning some perfectly good buds too.


Well, grape experts tell us that removing a percentage of good buds from each vine allows the remaining buds to thrive. 

It allows the plant to shift more nutrients to the those buds enabling them to grow into rich bunches of juicy grapes. 

In fact, one expert from stated, "If you don’t prune your plant, you can be assured it will produce less fruit and in a couple years, stop bearing fruit all together."

Can you identify?

Have you ever felt some dead wood in your schedule?

Or maybe you've been overwhelmed by the number of "budding" activities in your planner?

Well, it's time to prune. 

It's time to eliminate some things. 

And yes, this might even involve cutting away some "good" or "really good" things.

Here are a couple of questions to guide you in this pruning process:

  • If I quit ______________, what would I do with that time?  (Does your answer outweigh the value of the item you would quit?)
  • Am I wanting to quit ______________ because I am not moving forward or because I'm not moving forward as fast as I'd like to?  (If it's the later, you may want to stick it out a little longer.  Sorry to mix metaphors, but if it's the former, you may want to cut bait and fish in another hole!)

Give it some thought.  Your answers may surprise you.

Then, take a good grape grower's advice and snip a few buds and some old wood.

Oh, and let us know how it goes by clicking on comments and telling us your story!

Lastly, I wanted to give you an example of this from my life...

After blogging for for over year, I've decided to step down as an author.  (This will be official at the end of April.) 

This has been an incredible experience and I have been honored to blog alongside such great authors and biz leaders!  Plus, it's been fantastic to get to work with the great people at the Des Moines Business Record!

But, after pondering these questions (and some others) I realized that I needed to "prune" this opportunity, so that I could devote more of my resources to some of the other "buds" on my vine. 

So, I'll be with you here one more month, but after that I'll be simplifying and dreaming BIG!

Thanks for being in this adventure with me and thanks for all the support along the way!

Need some additional motivation on your pruning? 

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What can an assembly line teach us about work/life balance?

Okay... so we are getting close to wrapping up our series on creating your "D.D.A.E. Equation."

That's figuring out what to Do, Delegate, Automate and/or Eliminate to improve your work/life balance.  

Today... we're talking about "Automation."

It's funny, because whenever I hear that word, I am immediately taken back to my childhood.  

That's right.  I grew up In Newton.  And if you grew up in Newton in the 70s and 80s, then you wound up going on numerous tours of Maytag's manufacturing plants.  

I remember my first tour.  I was blown away by the systems.  
There was a quite hum of activity.  Everyone seemed to know their place.  Everything was in order.  If there was a bolt, then there was someone to put a nut on it and send it on it's way. There was no chaos.  There were no distractions.  Everything was automated... controlled... predictable.

I have to admit that when it comes to work/life balance, it's tempting to want this kind of order.  Everything in its place. Every need met.  No surprises.   

But we know that life happens... right?  And life can be messy and unpredictable.

So, when it comes to applying the concept of "Automation" to work/life balance, we can't always shoot for assembly-line precision...  BUT we can use automation to help us create time and to simplify our lives.

Here are some sample areas...


An example of "Automation" that a number of you have already taken advantage of is automating your bill paying.  If you haven't, check out zen habit's post on making your finances automagical!  


Since many of you blog, this is another potential "target zone" for automation.  You know... ways to streamline the process of finding content and potential links.  For example, Drew McLellan pointed me to zemanta.  It's been a huge help because it works with most blog platforms and automatically finds pictures and links to support your content.  Plus, it does it while you type!  It's cut the time it takes for me to post dramatically.  

Mike Sansone has also helped me on the front with his teaching about RSS feeds, but he also pointed me to an online tool to help me find videos for my posts.  It's called  It's a simple but powerful tool!


With technology surpassing the speed of life, we obviously have some options our parents didn't have.

Here are some fun examples to check out.

I have a entrepreneur friend who's entire family uses google calendars to help to organize and automate their family's life.  They have their own individual calendars, but then they also have a shared calendar.  All family events go on that shared calendar (i.e. school programs, soccer games, family reunions, church activities), and everyone must check that calendar before making commitments.  They admit that they aren't at 100 percent, but they have eliminated a majority of the scheduling surprises that used to bury them.

Need a personal concierge?  Check out Tech Scoop's post on HeyCosmo, which is a new on-line and mobile tool that can help you with everything from finding dinner reservations to calling friends to organize where everyone wants to meet for dinner after work.

How about shopping for groceries from your home?  If you have an iPhone,  there's an app for that.  But if you don't, that's okay too.  You can just use services like the one being offered by Hy-Vee.  Tell them what you want on-line, and they'll do the shopping for you.  You can either pick it up or have it delivered. Of course, there's a fee for the extra service, but what would it be worth to you to not have to hit the grocery store after a long day? 

Okay, and I did it subtly, but the perceptive mac lovers already picked up on the mention of the beloved iPhone.  You knew it had to be coming.  Yes, that's right.  Mac has made great leaps forward in automating many of life's basic (and not so basic tasks) with the iPhone.  Just check out iPhone your life to see the unlimited options on this front.

Okay, these are just a few areas where you can automate your life.

What have you tried?

What's worked?

What's simplified your life?  What's seemed to complicate it?

Click on comments and join in the conversation!

Who could you delegate to? (D.D.A.E. part III)

Charlotte gray seatsImage by umbexvia Flickr

Okay... as a review... over the past few weeks, we've been talking about schedules and digging into our D.D.A.E. equation

That's deciding what we need to Do, Delegate, Automate and/or Eliminate.

Today... we're looking at creative ways to delegate.

Yes, that's right.  Delegate.

Now, some of you may already be saying... "Hey, I'm a solo-entrepreneur!  The only time I get to delegate is my copies at Kinkos and my coffee order at Starbucks!"

Or maybe, you have a small staff and EVERYONE seems to be stretched right now!

Well... hang in there because we're going to explore the concept of hiring a Virtual Assistant.

Have you been toying with the idea?  I know I have. 

If so, here are some tips from the experts...

Start with something small.  Something that is pretty easy to define... such as a research project. 

For example, I know a local entrepreneur who is working on a web/book idea.  He's tapped into a virtual assistant that he found via to do some of his background research.  He was able to clearly define what he was looking for, how he wanted the information cataloged and the types of sources he wanted to be used. 

By the way, his VA did the work for him in the fraction of the time that it would have taken him and for a fraction of the cost that he expected to pay. Plus, it gave him an opportunity to check out this VA's quality of work and decide whether he wanted to work with them again.

Look for tasks that need to be repeated... daily... weekly... monthly. 

An example of this is a local real estate broker who used a virtual assistant to help with some weekly and monthly marketing activities.  These were tasks that he was only able to do sporadically due to a busy and unpredictable schedule.  When he decided to go with a VA, he was able to hand off his e-newsletter and weekly e-mail updates.  He gave some specific guidance and pointed the VA to his on-line newsletter service.  Then, his VA plugged in updates and sent out the newsletter on a consistent basis.  She just checked in with him for updates on content and took care of the rest!   

This move to hiring a Virtual Assistant has helped this broker to be more consistent and it's enabled him to have more time to work on the the day to day tasks that tend to bring more immediate ROI.  

According to experts... its best to start on specific projects like this, but after working with a VA for a while, you can start to delegate more tasks. 

For example, Josh Kaufman at virtualMBA even uses a VA to sort through his e-mail and respond on his behalf. 

Stay realistic! 

You may have dreams of handing off all of the work you don't like and moving into a Tim Ferris inspired 4-hour work week, but experts say that using a VA effectively can take some time. 

You need to get accustomed to delegating and you need to be ready to put in some work to get your VA up to speed. has some specific recommendations to help on this front.

How about you?

Are you willing to jump in and give it a try?  

Josh Kaufman recommends services like Ask Sunday and Longer Days which both offer free trials. 

It might be easier than you think to get started!

Why not check them out and experiment with the "Delegation" part of your D.D.A.E. equation? 

So... How about you? 

  • Are you going to give it a try?
  • Or... Have you already tried a VA? 
  • How did it go? 
  • Who do you recommend? 
  • What are some of the pitfalls or successes that you experienced?

Click comments and join in the conversation!

Keep kickin' and keep dreaming BIG!

Mitch Matthews

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Figuring out your D.D.A.E. equation! (part II)

Day 092/366 - To Do ListImage by Great Beyondvia Flickr

Okay... so... we are continuing our conversation about budgeting our time.

We're wanting to figure out your unique "D.D.A.E. equation." 

(That's deciding what you need to DO, DELEGATE, AUTOMATE or ELIMINATE.)

In my last post, I suggested starting this process with taking a "snap shot" of how you are currently spending your time.  I even included a tracking grid to help in the process.

Today, we are going to start by looking at the first "D" in the equation. 

Yup, that's right.  We're going to talk about what you actually need to be "DOING."

This sounds simple enough... doesn't it?  But whether you are a stay-at-home-parent, an entrepreneur or a high-level executive, we all seem to have a lot of stuff to do!

Some of this "stuff" represents things that we need to be doing... but some of it is stuff that we don't need to be doing anymore... right? 

How about you? 

After tracking your time for a week, did you figure out you were doing some things that you didn't need to be doing? 

Maybe, if you're like me, you found things slipping into the daily schedule due of bad habits, old habits or maybe because nobody else will do it!

Now, there are a lot of places to turn to get help on deciding what to do and not do. 

You can look to Covey's Four Quadrants.  (Click here to check out the quadrants represented in fun cartoon format!)  You can look to gurus like David Allen and read Getting Things Done.

Yup, these are great tools!

But I'm going to challenge you to think BIG PICTURE for a minute. 


Well, a lot of times we wind up doing things that we don't need to be doing because we don't REALLY know where we want to go. 

So, it's as Epictetus said, "First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do." 

This is what Tim Ferris did in his pursuit of the 4-Hour Work Week.  He got clear on what he wanted life to look like... and what he'd need to do to get there.  Then he started to align his daily tasks with that vision.

So... here are some questions to ponder:

  • What are some of things I want to achieve in the next five years? (Or how about 10 to 25 years?)
  • Who do I want to be?  Who do I feel called to be?  What do I want life to look like?

Then... as you are looking through your daily task lists... ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Can I link this task to these goals?
  • Will this help me to achieve these goals?
  • How could this task help me in the pursuit of these goals and dreams?

Now, I'll admit that 100 percent of your to-dos won't pass this test.  They won't all clearly link to these big goals and dreams.

But what if you held yourself to a higher standard? 

What if you simply agreed to take a look at this? 

What if you were willing to at least consider these questions and hold yourself to a greater number of your daily tasks lining up with your bigger vision and goals? 

How might that help you move towards these goals and dreams?

Then... as you find tasks that align with your goals... you can start to think about ways to do more of those things.

And for the things that don't pass the test, you can agree to at least consider putting some of them in one of the upcoming categories in the D.D.A.E. equation!  (Delegate, Automate or Eliminate)

Stay tuned... because we'll be getting you specific strategies for these categories in the coming weeks!

Go ahead... take the challenge... think BIG picture... set up some targets to shoot for... and start aligning your day to these goals and dreams.

Give your schedule a kick in the pants!

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What do you and Warren Buffett have in common?

TEFFEN, ISRAEL - SEPTEMBER 18: American billio...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Your calendar and your clock.

That's right. 

Warren's calendar and clock are exactly the same as yours.

Even with billions... Warren can't buy more months in a year or more hours in a day.

Yup... Time is the world's even playing field.

And although we all get the same amount, everyone seems to want more.

But since we can't get more... the key is to spend it more effectively.

Now, in today's world, there are some options to help with this.

As some of us think about becoming more effective with our time... we dream of hiring help... maybe a real or virtual assistant (ala Tim Ferris's 4-hour Work Week).  Some of us want to automate.  You know... go high tech with a new electronic gadget or new freaky cool scheduling software.

All of that is fine, but I suggest starting this process with a taking a "snap shot."

That's right. 

Start by figuring out where your time is currently going.  That will enable you to figure out how to improve.

Get started by downloading this simple time tracking grid that I use with some of my coaching clientsDownload Kick Coaching - Time Tracking Sheet

Now... I can imagine that some of you are saying... "Hold on.  I have my planner.  I know where I am spending my time."

Yes, you do.  However, if you are like most people, your daily calendar shows you where you were supposed to spend your time, or where you wanted to spend your time, but it won't give you the full picture. 

This grid allows you to go deeper.

It allows you to figure out EXACTLY where you are spending your time... minute by minute.

It will help you to track the scheduled meetings as well as the impromptu chats interruptions and Internet surfs.

Yup, this grid will give you a more accurate snap shot of how you spend each day.

I know... I know... this is a scary thought for some... but this is the only way for you to come up with a more effective plan to move towards the D.D.A.E. of more effective time management!  (That's figuring out what you can DO, DELEGATE, AUTOMATE or ELIMINATE!)

Give it a try. 

And as you do, don't filter.  Don't try to pretty it up.  If you lose track of time and spend 15 minutes talking to a friend... write it down.  If you wind up doing something off task... track it. 

(NOTE: You'll need to come up with abbreviations for things.  There's not a lot of space to write and that's intentional.  Just develop a key that will allow you to jot things down and record them, without feeling like you need to write a novel each time!)

Then, in my next post, I'll offer some solutions that will help you spend that time more effectively by figuring out your "D.D.A.E. Equation!"

Okay... start tracking that time... and then... next time... we'll figure out how to do more of what you want and need to do... and less of the rest!

By the way, it probably took you about three minutes to read this... and I'm hoping you thought it was time well spent!

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What LEGO taught me about time management!

LEGO GroupImage via Wikipedia

Our boys received a number of gifts this Christmas that had that familiar red "LEGO" on the box.

So, over the past few weeks, I've been helping them to build those different feats of engineering and design.

And... during that time... I've been noticing that LEGO has been teaching me some things about time management.

Lesson One: Start with a plan.

Have you put any LEGOs together lately?  WOW! Some of the kits that our boys received this year came with... not one... but TWO instruction manuals.  That's right!  In fact, the one my youngest son and I were working on last night had over 150 steps needed to complete the model.

At first, I thought this might be overwhelming.  Honestly, when I first saw the two volumes of instructions fall out of the box... my heart raced.  But I found that as long as we just took it one step at a time, it was completely doable. 

As long as we took it step by step, we did just fine. 

Plus, we had a lot of fun and put it together much faster than I expected.

How does this play out with our time?  Well, I bet you already know where I'm headed. 

Start each day with a plan.  Know what you need to accomplish in the day and put those "to-dos" in order, so you can go from one to another... just like our LEGO model.  That way... even the most overwhelming tasks can be tackled... one step at a time.

Now... I'll be the first one to admit that life isn't as simple as LEGO, but I have noticed that if you start your day with a plan, you'll get a lot more accomplished than if you don't have one.

Lesson Two: Group the Pieces.

When we first dumped out the box on the table, it was chaos.  It was a jumbled mess of blocks, tubes, planks and LEGO people. 

We found that as all the various pieces of LEGO sat on the table, it made sense to group some things before we got started.  So wheels would go into one pile.  Square pieces would go into another.  Long narrow rectangles would get their own pile, too.  That helped us to find the pieces we needed quickly.

How does this play out with time management? 

Well... recently, I was meeting with an entrepreneur.  He was trying to bring some order to his week and give each of his business entities the time it needed.  As he looked at his schedule, it felt like a big pile of LEGO pieces piled up on a table.  There wasn't a lot of order and there was sense of chaos. 

So, we spent some time "grouping" things.  Instead of trying to squeeze everything in... every day, we started to say one day could be for entity A, and the rest of the week could be for entity B. 

That "grouping" allowed him the ability to focus on the things he needed to do and not get overwhelmed.  It also allowed him to be more in the moment and know that everything had more order.

What could you "group" your pieces? 

Are there certain tasks that you need to do each day or each week that you could "group?"  You know... do them all together... and do it with some specific and protected time?

What could that do to your ability to focus?  How might that save some time? 

Lesson Three: Play when you are done!

That's the beauty of LEGO.  When you are done with all the steps, you have a TOY to play with. 

I know this may seem simple but since it takes some work to put it together, it's easy... even for the kids... to sometimes forget to play when it's done.

Can you identify?

Have you ever told yourself that once a big project is done... you'll finally relax or go do something fun?  But then, when that project is complete, you find yourself jumping into the next big task or duty!

Well... take a lesson from LEGO. 

Plan for some times to PLAY.  That's right!  Schedule some times in your day or week to play a bit.  Whether that's taking a 15 minute walk or calling a friend or... you fill in the blank. 

Schedule some time to play when you are done with a task... even five or 10 minutes.  And just see what it does for your overall productivity!

That's it for now. 

Those are some of the lessons I learned from those blocks... wheels... and planks.

So... I say... thanks LEGO for the reminders! 

I should have expected no less from such a great company and from such amazing toys!

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I'll admit it. I'm going back to paper.

two pencils grade hbImage via Wikipedia

Okay... confession time.

I have a Mac.  I love it. 

I dig technology even though it doesn't always dig me.

I will also admit that the latter part of this year has been an "experiment" with technology. 

It's been an experiment to automate and to use technology to improve my work-life balance and my productivity.  I wanted to try new strategies to help juggle, prioritize and clarify.

So... I shifted from my paper-based Franklin Covey system.  That's right.  I closed that seven-ring binder.  Put it on a book shelf and walked away.

I went smart phone.

I started running most of my life through my Mac.  Schedule.  To-dos.  Projects.  Et cetera.

At first, it felt clunky... just like any new habit feels. Then I started to get the hang of it. 

Entering things.  Syncing.  Entering to-do's with their due dates, et cetera.  Color coding.  Categories.

Yup.  It almost started to feel right.

But... as I progressed in my little experiment...  I had to admit that I missed that feeling of paper.  That pencil.  That moving things from day-to-day with an eraser instead of a mouse.  And... the biggest thing... was that feeling of checking off a "to-do" with pen to paper instead of a cursor to electronic box. 

Yeah... sorry... the e-version of that feeling didn't compare.

So... call me an old-school dork... but I'm going back to paper in 2009.

That's right.  I may still carry around a cool phone and have a Mac in my bag... but I'll have my little ol' seven-ring day planner with me too.

Now, as I wrap this up, I'm not going to advocate for going paper or high-tech in your pursuit of better work-life balance.  Nope.  Neither.

What I'm going to ask you to do... is... as you are wrapping up your year... run a little experiment for yourself.

Try some new things for organizing your life.  See what works for you and what doesn't.

And... once you've tried some new things... make a decision.  Commit to improving at two to three things for your work-life balance systems for the new year... whether it involves pencil and paper or something you have to plug in!

Oh... and join in the conversation. 

Leave a comment on whether your organizational toolbox is high-tech or low-tech... AND what's something new you are going to try in 2009 to better balance your life!

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Holiday Stress Avoidance 101

I just spent some time with some entrepreneurs and the discussion boiled down to schedules.

That's right.  Schedules.

Everyone was busy. 

Everyone seemed to have different ways to manage that busyness. 

And everyone was also feeling the increased pressure coming from the hyper-scheduling of the holidays.

So... I thought a quick refresher course on holiday time management might be in order!Holiday stress 

You could check out Jim's post at  He offers a robust list of time saving strategies... including a way to increase your brain's productivity speed by 5 to 20%!  This can apply to your next teleconference or for when you are catching up with Aunt Gladys!

Or you can check out Laura Stack's approach to scoring a year-end tax deduction while also decluttering your office.  So, you increase your efficiency and lower your taxes.  This way you can clean out your office... increase your productivity... decrease your stress levels... and score a break on your taxes... Yeah, that sounds like a win-win. 

I also like Hueina Su's strategy for thinking through your holiday to-do list.  She suggests a 3-D approach.  Make the the list of things that you need to do... and then think through whether you need to DO them, DELEGATE them or DUMP them.  Yup.  I like that! 

Or you can learn from Susan Ward's post.  She offers five solid tips, but the best reminder for me was that we can't do EVERYTHING.  Check it out and see if it sets you free from some expectations as you look at your packed holiday schedule!

Okay... lastly... I'll admit that at the end of my discussion with my fellow entrepreneurs... we realized that we hadn't come up with anything we didn't already know about time management. 

BUT we also had to admit that it was important to think about all of these things again... and start to apply a few of them... especially over the next few weeks.

It's the same with these posts.  These are basic... simple... and common sense.

But they could make the difference between a restful and fun holiday season where you are able to focus on the right things... and a stress-filled disaster where you are pulled in multiple directions and wiped out at the end.  Right?

How about you? 

What do you do to stay sane over the holiday season? 

How do you keep focused on what's important?

Click comments and join in the conversation! 

Let us know...


Photo credit and kudos to: eye capture

Keep it short.

Hemingway's shortest story was only six words.  You may have read it...

"For sale: baby shoes, never used."

Short.  But unbelievably powerful.Blah_blah_blah

This week, Seth Godin begs us to keep it short and cut out the blah blah blah.

He says...

"No audience member, in the history of presentations (written or live) has ever said, "it was exciting, useful and insightful, but far too short."

So where could you save time by cutting out the blah blah blah today?

Shorten up a letter... a memo... an e-mail... a meeting... a presentation?

Think about it.

Do it.

Let us know.

Photo credit: theskywatcher

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Can your BRAND help you with work-life balance?

I recently went through a process with Branding Guru and fellow IowaBiz blogger Drew McLellan. 

He was helping me to figure out what my "BRAND" really is.Brand

It was an amazing experience that produced a surprising byproduct... it actually helped me with my work-life balance.

Yup, that's right.  The process of clarifying my brand for my various business endeavors helped me to clarify what I do... and just as importantly... what I DON'T do.

Drew hit me with questions like...

  • What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
  • What do you want to do more of?
  • What don't you do?
  • What do you want/need to do less of?
  • How do people describe you?
  • How would you want people to describe you?

We went deep and Drew continued to ask clarifying questions that pushed me. 

We boiled things down to a sentence... a phrase... that described what I do. 

What was interesting was that this process started to help me to be 100 percent clear on what to say "yes" to, and what to say "no" to.

Isn't that a key to effective work-life balance too?

I'll give you an example.  Just this past week, I was approached about an opportunity to participate in a project.  It looked like fun and there were some great people involved.  BUT... when I lined the opportunity up against what I'd discovered as my core "brand," (what I do) it didn't connect.  It didn't line up. 

In the past, I probably would have said yes, but then been overloaded by the additional commitment AND wilted because it didn't fully line up with who I am and what I do. 

Plus, there's a high chance that the weight of that "bad-fit" obligation would have carried over into my life outside of work.  It would have taken away from my time with my family and other important aspects of my life. 

So, in this case, I was able to respectfully decline, encourage them and suggest some additional people to consider.  Plus, I was able to do it with clarity and no guilt! 

Yeah... that felt good.

This concept is even more important right now as things are a little tougher financially for some.  If a business starts to experience a tightening of the belt... there is a temptation to try to become everything to everybody.  But, as I found through this BRANDING process, it's more important to focus on what you do... and do that with excellence... than try to be everything to everyone! 

That will help you to know what to say "yes" to and what to say "no" to.

So... how about you?

How about asking yourself some of Drew's questions?

They may help you with your brand... and they may... help you with your work-life balance too!

Give it a try... and let us know what you come up with!

Photo credit and kudos to: mleak

Stressed out? Take the "O.T.W. Challenge."


You are at your desk.  You hear someone yell "FIRE!"  You begin to smell smoke.  The fire alarm sounds.

All of a sudden your heart starts to pump.  Your adrenaline does too.  You are able to run like Lolo Jones... hurdling waste baskets... rounding corners.  You make it out of the building in record time!

That's the fear that allows your body to respond in that way.  Fear is good.  It's your body's natural defense system.  Fear is what allows people to survive in scary and dangerous places.  Yup.  Fear is good.

Now... imagine a new situation.Worry

You are sitting at your desk and your boss walks by with an angry look on their face.  You start to wonder what would cause that "look."  You wonder if you might be part of the problem.  Your mind starts to race... filling in possible scenarios of possible mistakes you've made... or things that you've said in the past few days that could be misconstrued.  Within minutes your heart is pumping, imagining possible punishment.  You feel a bead of sweat as you ponder loosing your job.  That's worry. 

Worry isn't good.  It's what zaps your energy.  Worry is when your imagination races and paints pictures of negative outcomes.  Worry is when your creative mind works against you by creating nasty predictions.  Worry is a killer.  It's bad.

It shifts your creativity to produce negative results instead of positive solutions.

And, let's face it, with today's headlines there are A LOT of people worrying.  Aren't there?

Worry zaps your energy.  It zaps your joy.  It also causes you to over-analyze, so you get stuck.  And this can happen at work and at home.

What if you were able to break away from worry... at the office... at home?

Here's a challenge for you. 

I call it the "O.T.W. Challenge."

List out 10 times that you worried about something.  Then think about how many times the things you worried about really played out. 

Then, with each situation, ask yourself...

  • What if you hadn't worried in the situation? 
  • What would that have done for your creativity? 
  • What would that have done for your energy? 
  • What would that have done for your ability to enjoy what you were doing?

Then... in one situation over the next week... when you have the opportunity to worry... make a commitment to your self to identify it as, simply, an "O.T.W. (an Opportunity to Worry).

And then choose to not worry. 

Yup.  That's right. 

Identify it for what it is:  An "O.T.W." 

And then just say, "I'm not going to take that opportunity right now." 

See what happens.

Invite a friend to take the challenge with you.

Check with each other.  Share your results.  Encourage each other.  See if what it does for your creativity... your enjoyment... your peace of mind.

Then, click "comments" and let us know how it goes!

Photo credit and kudos to: tishay

Is it time to give telecommuting another look?

As I brainstorm with individuals and organizations on ways to improve work-life balance, one of the options that comes up is telecommuting.

The thought makes some employers bristle, for sure... the possibility of lost hours of production due to the distractions of home...  the laundry calling... the dog barking in the hopes of a walk...  phone calls from friends.

But many leaders and companies are giving it a second look, for a number of reasons beyond work-life balance.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that creating flexibility through strategies like telecommuting can have a positive impact on loyalty AND productivity. 

I'll post more on these in the future, but for today I wanted to look as some other timely reasons companies are making the switch.

Going green is one reason. As many companies are trying to become more environmentally friendly, they look to telecommuting to help. In fact, one study found that telecommuting cut gas consumption in the U.S. by 840 million gallons last year.Telecommute

Another reason is higher gas prices.  In fact, the recent increases at the pump has pushed telecommuting out of its "Just for the Young Employees" category, and made it a perk that appeals to all ages and all levels of management. One recent study of IT executives showed that 33% of the execs studied had increased the days they telecommuted last year.

Improvements in technology are opening up these possibilities as well. 

For example, I was recently conducting some generational training with a client and the issue of telecommuting came up. 

One executive quickly dismissed it by saying "That's something we tried last year, but it didn't work."

But another exec in the room quickly responded by bringing up the fact that some of their recent software upgrades would allow for a lot more flexibility and remote access.

So, they are going to give it another look.

How about you? Is it time to give it a try?

If so, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Start slow
    • Find certain groups or projects to test it with
    • Set specific parameters and measure impact on performance and productivity (Many companies have seen an increase in production!)
    • Pick projects or jobs that allow for clear benchmarks for productivity
  • Another tip is to offer it as a reward
    • Offer telecommuting as an option for employees that have proven themselves
    • Let it be a carrot for consistently providing excellent work and for working well independently

What do you think?

Where have you tried it?

How could it work for you? How has it worked for you? What tips would you offer?

Click "comments" below and jump in the conversation!

For some additional ideas, check out Telework Coalition.

photo credit: sean dreilinger

Rest 101

The last time I had to post on a Sunday, I asked you the question: When's your "Sabbath?"

Rest_and_be_thankful If you remember, I challenged you... not on whether you agreed with the guidance of the Biblical command to rest on the seventh day or not... but on the concept of rest, itself.

We as a society... aren't resting much. Are we?

Our world has moved from a 9-to-5 economy, to a world-is-flat... 24/7... 365... global economy.  Haven't we?

Plus, when the markets have a roller coaster week like this past week... it's a little more difficult for some to rest.

And that's just work... right? 

Now, our kids schedules seem to be as packed as our own.  There's homework in 1st grade, piano lessons, travel teams and Tae Kwon Do.  When... in the heck... did that all happen?

Okay... so I posed this question... this challenge... back in January: "What's something you could do today... to intentionally rest?"

In all my boldness... I even took it a step further and asked... how could you do it... rest... without feeling guilty?

Well... I heard from many of you... that you started to take that challenge.  And it sounds like you... like me... have had weeks where you've gotten better at it.  And then some weeks... where you've gotten hit by the FREAKISHLY-BUSY freight train!

So, I thought that it might be good to offer a bit of a "Rest 101" course for you...

Maybe, we can take a tip from the Director of Work Leisure International, Peter Nicholls, and change our terminology of "work-life balance" to "work life harmony."  Ol' Pete says this mindset could help us achieve better balance and possibly lead to more rest.

I like the simplification concepts offered by CC Holland.  One was her suggestions to achieve better work-life balance... and be able to rest more is:

"Focus on frugality.  Hermes Aleman shares the advice to keep your needs and wants manageable, so you have some financial freedom and aren't a slave to work.  As you earn more, fight the temptation to spend more."

The glass hammer offered some great suggestions to those who are single and "Walking the Wire" of work-life balance.  One of their suggestions was to build strong relationships outside of work... and when they interviewed business women who were single... they overwhelming responded with the suggestion:

"That no matter how little time they were left with outside of the office, they had to have something else outside of work, to be passionate about.  Many of the women who responded to the survey said that a key thing for them was to make friends or get involved in an activity that had nothing to do with their job.  By doing so, they end up with a clear line separating the two, making it easier to stick with outside commitments."

Or maybe, we take a tip from a story out of Hollywood this week.  It's how the "$50-million-dollar man," Toby Maguire, took a stand for making time for family.  It was an unprecedented move in the movie industry.  He said he wouldn't step back into the Spidey costume if he didn't have time for his two leading ladies... his wife and his new baby daughter.  (Although some might balk at the fact that Ol' Toby made this move to score a bigger paycheck... I like the fact that he was ready to walk away from Spider-man 4 and 5 (and that BIG paycheck), if he didn't have time for his family.)  What could we learn from this one?

Okay... so... these writers and examples offer a few ideas on how to rest... and balance things a little better in today's busy world.

What do you have to say? 

What do you do to rest? 

More importantly, what do you do to rest without guilt?

Join in the conversation and let us know.

Photo credit and kudos to: Krasny Fotoapparat

Who are YOU running with?

Are you glad the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are behind us?Obama

Did you get your fill of banner waving... speeches... and confetti cannons?

I'll admit that although I enjoy certain aspects of these fanfare-fests, I'm glad they are done.  However, this year, something struck me. 

Although most of us are not running for the oval office, we are running!

We're running at work.  We're running at home.  We're running to sports.  We're running to volunteer. 

Yup.  We are running.  Right?Mccain_2

So, I started to think about how we might take some tips from the presidential candidates... on "running."

Tip 1: Think about WHO you are running with.

A presidential candidate needs to think long and hard about who they want to run with. 

They know that they will be scrutinized for this decision.  They know that they need to pick someone (or a group of 'someones' for their cabinet positions) who will make up for their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths.

What if we were more intentional about picking our "running" partners?

Take a challenge and ask yourself some questions that could help you to "shape" your team over time. Maybe... help you to find the best people to "run" with.  

Ask questions like:

  • What type of people would I love to work with?
  • What types of people would help me to stay in my 'sweet spot' more?
  • What types of people could help me by doing the things I don't do well?
  • What kinds of people inspire, encourage and push me?

It may seem silly, because you may not feel like you have a lot of control over the people you work with.  But getting a vision of your "ideal" team members can help you to navigate towards the right types of people and opportunities... over time.

Tip 2: Praise the people you are "running" with!

Now, I can't always say that the praise offered by political candidates is genuine, but they do tend to say wonderful things about each other. 

They point out the things their running mates do well.  They highlight their achievements.  They brag about 'em.  And they do it in front of big crowds.

What could happen if we did that for the people we work with?  What if we sang their praises?  What if we shouted it from the roof tops?  And...what if we really meant it?

What would it do for one of your team members if you just figured out a way to brag about them to the rest of the group? 

How would it make them feel to receive a BIG compliment in front of the group?  Do you think it would make their day?  Would it make their year?

Or what about at home? 

What if you just called your spouse or a friend and praised them for something they've done... or for being the person they are? 

How would that make them feel?  (Why not do it right now?)

Okay, as I wrap this up, I'll be the first to admit that we shouldn't take all of our understanding on how to live our lives from our political candidates. 

BUT... these are two tips that I'm going to try to be more intentional about. 

And that's a promise... at least for the next 4 years!

Photo credit and kudos: cq.swat and Yan Zhang

Are you exhausted from going for the gold?

So... are you exhausted?Sj_balance

Admit it.  Have you been staying up late to get a dose of Michael, LoLo or Shawn?

I've seen some droopy eyes lately. 

Many folks that I talk to can't tell me the last time they got eight hours of sleep, but they can tell me the color of Bob Costas' tie from last night!

I've also been hearing from people who work from home.  It sounds like these past few weeks have been especially hard to stay focused... as they've wanted to dash to their TV's for a quick hit from Beijing. 

How about you?

Can you relate?

I sure can.

So, I thought it might be helpful to do a quick refresher course on balancing work, life and major events like the Olympics.

Miss Bliss at Blissfully Domestic has some recommendations for staying focused while working from home.  She suggests making sure you are making time for personal tasks (like catching up on the Olympics or exercising), instead of trying to squeeze them in through out the day.

Karin Stewart recommends cutting out all distractions (yes... even your cell phone, e-mail and texts) for one hour a day.  She says it's amazing to experience what an uncluttered mind can achieve in a short period of time!  Yup.  That's right.  That also means not checking in on the USA's gold medal count during that time too!

Time Management Guru, Dave Crenshaw, takes a different angle and suggests promoting things like watching the Olympics.  He says, "Companies are not only wise to allow the inevitable when it comes to their employees sneaking on line peaks at the Games, but if managed the right way, it can actually improve productivity." 

So whether your sport is gymnastics, swimming or water polo... take some time.  Watch in moderation.  Root for the home team.  And still get your work done on time!

By the way... join in the conversation.  How do you balance things during big events like the Olympics?  Click on comments and share your secrets!

And lastly... go Team USA!

- Mitch

Picture credit and kudos to: jodfevic

Need a little help with your bounce?

I recently volunteered during a summer festival my church was hosting.  It included all things BBQ and inflatable!

On that hot July evening, I found myself at the base of one of those Velcro walls. 

Yup.  The kind of amusements where kids and adults zip into a jumpsuit made of VelcroVelcro_wall, climb up on to a big pillow of air, jump a few times and then try to STICK themselves as high as they can to a equally Velcroed wall. 

It's a lot of fun.  But I have to admit that for most folks... the pillow of air and the jump didn't always work well together.  So most participants looked more like Chevy Chase than Shawn Johnson as they tried to touch the sky!

The problem was that I was the volunteer up next to the wall.  So, I stood on that same pillow of air... trying to remain upright... helping the kids go in the right direction and attach themselves to the wall.

It took me a little while to figure out my "system," but as the evening progressed I developed a way to help the kids get as high as they could.  (I'll admit that I passed on helping the heavy-set middle-aged man that stepped up and looked at me with expectant eyes!) 

As they'd step up to the wall, I'd have the kids practice jumping a couple of times.  That would let them get a feel for their own "bounce."  Then, I'd tell them on their third bounce that'd I'd give 'em a boost if they wanted it.

99.9995% of the kids accepted my offer.

So, first, I'd ask, "How high do you want to go?"

Some kids would look at me with eyes of caution and some with the eyes of Evil Knievel!

Then, once we got clear on "middle-high," "high-high" or "over-the-top," then I'd explain the next step in the process.

I'd say, "We're going to bounce three times and on the third bounce I'm going to give you a boost.  But I still need you to jump as high and as hard as you can.  I'll just help you up the wall."

Once we made our adventurous pact, I'd grab the back of their Velcro suit.  We'd bounce three times.  Then they'd jump with all their might and I'd toss with all mine. 

And they would wind up either "middle-high" or "high-high" depending on their request.  (NO, we didn't have any make it over the top, although my own 8-year-old came dangerously close!)

It was fun. 

The kids would "stick." They'd laugh or look around in wide-eyed-amazement.  Some of the parents even offered me bribes to "keep their kids on the wall" for extra five minutes! 

Yup.  It was fun. 

After the night was over, I thought about the experience some more.  I realized that the Velcro wall is a picture for life.  Isn't it?

I mean.  We all can practice our "jump."  You know... walk out our daily lives.  Try new things, learn new things, work, et cetera.

Some days looking like Chevy and some days looking like Shawn.

But when it comes down to it, in order to get to any kind of "middle-high" or "high-high" goals, we need help.  Don't we?

We need to jump as hard as we can, but it helps exponentially to have someone there to give us a "boost" and help us up the "wall."  So we "stick." 

Then, we'll be able to see things we never thought possible.

So, here's my "Velcro wall challenge" to you today... and really give it some thought.

Who could you give a "boost" to today? 

Who could you ask about their goals (either at home or at work)? 

Is it a co-worker?  A friend?  A neighbor?  Your significant other?

Ask 'em about what they want to do.  Where they want to go.  How high they want to jump.

Then ask 'em how you might be able to give 'em a boost. 

Maybe it's through some connections.  Maybe it's through giving some time on a Saturday afternoon.  Maybe it's just calling with some encouragement for that goal once a week.

Try it. 

Not with everyone, but with whomever comes to mind.  And then see what happens.

Maybe you even want to take it a step further and create a Mastermind Group of like-minded people... to take this challenge together.

And just watch... as you give some help... when you offer a little "boost" to someone else... just see what that does for you.

It might take some effort.  It might take some time.  But... as you see your friend... your co-worker... your spouse...  "stick" to heights they didn't think were possible... I'm betting it will feel great!

And don't be surprised to feel someone else grab the back of your own "Velcro suit" in the process and start to count down... 3... 2... 1... JUMP!

Take the challenge.  Keep dreaming BIG.  Let me know how it goes!

Mitch M

Photo credit and kudos: Mandy-Gill

Vince Lombardi was wrong.

According to Seth Godin, and his new book called The Dip, Ol' Vince's adage "Quitters never win and winners never quit" is bad advice.The_dip_2

Seth says, "Winners quit all the time.  They just quit the right stuff at the right time."

The difference is choosing the right time to quit things.  And it's choosing the right things to quit.

What's the "dip?" 

Well, it's the period of time between learning a new skill and the time when you experience success doing it. 

It's that gap between the initial excitement of beginner’s luck and sustainable success. 

You know... it's when the "learning" is tough and there's no obvious ROI for the effort. 

The "dip" is hard.  The "dip" can be lonely.  But the "dip" is where success happens.  Because... when the right people... stick it out... they can emerge the winner.

But Seth makes the point that what separates the superstars from the pack is:

  • Their ability to recognize the right "dip" to push through
  • Their ability to quit the wrong "dips" quickly and without guilt
  • Their willingness to seek out the "dip" because they recognize the reward of pushing through the "dips" that most people wont stick out

I'll give you a simple example from my own life. 

I'm not a huge golf fan.  Many of you know that. 

In fact, I have some classic nightmare stories from the golf course. 

I used to play.  Better said, I dabbled.  Why?  Well, I was in an industry where a lot of my customers were golfers.  So, it seemed like I needed to golf too. 

Once and a while, as I played, I would hit a great shot.  One that would go right where I wanted it.  And that feeling was sweet. 

But on most days, the balls veered left or right.  Sometimes they even seemed to violate the laws of gravity to wind up in weeds or water.

More importantly, I recognized that I didn't enjoy the game.  At all.  Ever.

So, I chose to quit. 

A number of my counterparts doubted my decision.  EVERYONE golfed.  So... they thought this decision would hurt my ability to do business-as-usual.

But I quit anyway.  I chose to try something new.  I lived in Montana at the time, so I chose rock climbing.  Yup.  Rock climbing.

As it turned out, I loved it.  I WANTED to spend time doing it.  I yearned to push through the "dip" between beginner's luck and true aptitude.

I was also surprised to find out that a number of my clients rock climbed, too.  So, although most of my competitors offered to take people out golfing, I started to take people out for an afternoon of rock climbing.

And it was a hit. 

I'd take someone out, and we'd spend time hiking to a rock face.  We'd hold each other's life in the balance.  We'd push each other.  Then we'd get to hike back. 

It was different...  it was fun...  it was memorable...  AND it was a good fit.

So, since the golf was a bad fit, I quit.  Without guilt. 

Yes.  Even though a number of people thought I was crazy, I quit.

I tried something new. 

It was a good fit.  It was something worth pushing through the "dip."  And... it paid off.

How about you? 

Where are you experiencing the "dip?"  At work?  At home?

What do you need to quit (without guilt) to free yourself up to do the RIGHT things?

Whether it's at work... at home... volunteering... serving... what do you need to quit?  So, you can be doing more of the right things... more of the things that are IMPORTANT to you... more of the things that are the RIGHT fit for you?

As a coach, I get to work with people on this question a lot.  It's critical.  It can make the difference between success and defeat.  BUT sometimes it's hard.  Isn't it? 

So, don't tackle it alone. 

Seth makes this point at the end of his book, too.  He even suggests that you pass your copy of the book along to others who need to think about quiting something.  You know... to keep the conversation going.

So... let's do the same.

Join in the conversation... click "comments" and let us know about the things you're thinking you need to quit... AND/or the things you want to stick with. 

Because... whether you choose to drop it or keep it... we're in this together!

How do real people dream BIG?

Okay... so I'll admit that this post is a little self-serving.  Or at the very least... it's biased. 


Well... a few years ago, we started something called the BIG dream gathering... because we knew that EVERYONE has BIG dreams. 

We do, don't we?  Big_dream_will

Even though many of our BIG dreams get buried or dismissed... we all have 'em.

Want proof?

Well, back in 2006, we got the idea for this thing called a "BIG dream gathering" and we hosted it at our house.  We invited a few friends over and asked them to put their BIG dreams on sheets of paper and post them on our walls. 

Then we encouraged everyone to walk around and look at each other's dreams to see if they could help out... either by offering an encouraging word, a connection or some support.

Well... the proof is in the response. 

We expected 20 or so people to arrive.  We had 60+ people come that first night.

We expected the gathering to last a few hours.  It wound up lasting a week!

Most importantly... numerous BIG dreams got launched... by real people.

Yup.  The response was overwhelming. 

And... again... it's proof positive that we all have BIG dreams.

The challenge is that we can't or don't think about them most of the time.

Some seem impossible.  Some seem too big.  Some seem too risky.  Some seem too expensive.

So... how do real people dream BIG?  How do they bust past those feelings and those fears?

Well... as the BIG dream gathering has continued to grow... we've been given a pretty amazing vantage point to see BIG dreams happen to real people.  And I ain't going to lie... it's been pretty cool.

What does it boil down to?

  1. Getting some clarity.  We ask everyone who comes to describe at least one of their BIG dreams.  Plus, we ask them to tell the world about what they already have in place and what they still need.
  2. Getting some help.  We have everyone put their dreams up on the walls in various categories.  (ie. Business, Family/Relationships, Education, Government, Spiritual, etc.)  Then, we encourage everyone to go around and look at each other's dreams to offer some encouragement, connections and/or help.  It's a bold step when you ask for help... but for a bunch of real people... it's been the most important thing they've done.
  3. Giving some help.  It's always a good feeling to help someone else out.  But that feeling is taken to a new level when you help someone with their BIG dream.  We've seen everything from someone jumping in to assist a single mom who needed help with her daughter's car, to a venture capitalist who helped a budding biz person with ideation.  And... again... I'm still not sure who gets blessed more... the giver or the receiver.  The smiles are usually pretty big on both sides.

So... yeah... these simple concepts seem to be at the heart of how real people dream BIG!

How about you?

How do you dream BIG?  What do you do to go after those dreams?  What's worked for  you? 

Come on.  Become a part of what we call the BIG dream movement... no matter where you live.  Get clear.  Get some help.  And... give some help.

I mean heck... if it ain't us... the freaky cool biz people... then who's gonna do it? 

Who's going to get the country and the world to dream BIG again?

And hey... if you're in Des Moines on May 13th... come and dream BIG with us

Photo credit: Trish Toma-Lark

What are your employees saying about their work-life balance?

Microsoft is doing some things to hear what their employees are thinking and saying.  But they are also spreading the word about it.  Check this out.

What would your employees say if they were asked?  Do you cringe at the thought?

Well... obviously... Microsoft has done some things to adapt and strengthen opportunities for balance.  How about you?

How do your employees think you are doing?

So... why not ask? 

See how you are doing.  Then keep going.  Why not ask what could be improved?  You know... go right to the source and ask what they'd like to see.

You may not be able to do everything that's asked of you... but studies have shown... especially with the newest workforce... the Millennials... that an increase in work-life balance leads to an increase in employee loyalty and retention.

By the way... why do you think Microsoft made this video?  Do you think things like this have helped them to entice some of the best of the best to come to the great Northwest? 

How could you apply some of the same concepts to draw the best to your company... and then keep them there?

What's one of your favorite ways to rest?

Since Sundays are typically a day of rest for many people... I want to take a cue from that...Rest2 and rest.  (Because we all need more rest... right?) Plus... I love to ask questions.

So what am I going to do? 

I'm going to rest... and have YOU write this post.

Yup... instead of me telling you how to rest... I want YOU to think about how you... rest best. 

I'm going to ask you a couple of questions and I really want YOU to think about 'em. 

Sound good?



So... what are some of YOUR favorite ways to rest?

Before you move on... really think about it.  (Comment on it if you'd like.)

Seriously.  Write them down.  Grab a piece of paper and write 'em down.

Anything surprise you as it came to mind?

Okay... get ready for another question.  Ready?

What would you need to do to try one of these... today?Rest3

Okay... go for it!

And then... let us know how it went.

Sound good?

Photo credit: Photocapy, gabir, Senor Perro

Do you smell smoke?

Life in these United States recently posted a top ten list to check yourself to see if you are suffering from "Job-related BURN OUT."

Here are a few... Is_your_hair_on_fire

5.  Visions of the upcoming weekend help you make it through Monday.

3.  You leave for a party and instinctively bring your ID badge.

2.  Your DayTimer/Work Planner exploded a week ago.

The list made me laugh and cringe... all at the same time.  Can you relate?

I wouldn't be surprised.  More than half of the workers surveyed in a recent study claim to be working under a great deal of stress…while 77% say they are burned out!!

Can you smell smoke around your office?  Is black soot from burn out a badge of honor in your company's hallways? 

Or... maybe you work from home and you thought burn out would be a thing of the past... only to realize that checking e-mail at 10:30 pm is more the norm now than it was when you had a cubicle or a corner office! 

Geeeesch.  What's a person to do?

Well... one of the most important things you can do is acknowledge that it's an issue.  It sounds so simple but this is key.  Let's just say that it's the first step... and maybe the most important step.

Are you wondering if this is you?  Here's a simple test I give my clients

First step: Rank the following items from 1 to 10 (1 being least important and 10 being most important.)

_____ Spiritual Life

_____ Relationships/Family

_____ Relationships/friends

_____ Health and exercise

_____ Income

_____ Upkeep of home

_____ Continued learning and personal development

_____ Career

_____ Volunteering… church/community involvement

_____ Other: ________________________________

The Second Step:
Now think about how you spent your last 24 hours... your last week... even your last month.  Does your schedule reflect your ranked priorities? (Note: This is tough. For most of us, it doesn’t. This is one of the reasons why we tend to feel a lack of balance in our lives and why we burn out.)

How did you do?   

If your ranked priorities and your schedule didn't align... you might be seeing the orangeish hue of the burn-out flame.  Because... when our lives and our priorities don't match up and/or when we are not in our sweet spot... burn-out tends to be around the corner.

If this is you, check out some of these on-line resources:

The main thing is... acknowledge it and do something.  Work with a friend suffering from the same thing and get out of it together.  Talk to a friend who has dealt with it... and see how they did it.  Or... dare I say it... work with a coach to address it before the flame engulfs you. 

It's critical and if it's not dealt with, it can have lasting impact on your commitment, your focus and your calling... let alone your health and your relationships.

So... sniff sniff... see if you smell smoke.  If you do... take some action because where there's smoke... there might be burn out!

Join in the convo... if you've had some success with dealing with work-related burn out... click comments below and let the world know!

Photo credit and kudos to: superlocal

Can two accounts make work/life balance easier?

When it comes to work-life balance... I'm all about simplifying things.

You know what I mean?  Igoogle

  • Removing anything that's not necessary. 
  • Organizing piles. 
  • Canceling unneeded meetings. 
  • Clearing off the desk. 

Yeah... simplifying is critical.

So... I'll admit when I read Peter Palme's post about using two separate igoogle accounts to help to simplify his work-life and his life-life... I cringed. 

But as I read on... I liked the concept more and more.

He explains that he uses one igoogle account to help him organize his work-life.  It searches leadership quotes, relevant news and weather forecasts for cities he might be visiting... and has those ready for him whenever he checks in.

Then... he explains that he has a separate igoogle account to help him manage his personal life.  When he visits that account, he'll find the latest recipes, movie times and his personal schedule. 

Again... although I'm all about simplifying things and eliminating duplication whenever possible... I like the idea of being able to pull up work stuff without getting distracted by some of my personal interests.  And I like the idea of being able to have access to the power of igoogle for my personal interests without being reminded of work stuff.   

And for you creative types... you can visit Snipperoo and find out a way to customize your igoogle and make it even MORE you... whether it's the "work you" or the "life you."

So give it a try and let us know what works for you on your work page AND your personal page.

Buy your ticket!


So I know that I border on trite by making the following suggestion... but I'm going to do it any way.

Go buy a lottery ticket.

Yup.  A lottery ticket. 

I know that the big lotto in Iowa is at umpt-teen bazillion dollars... so go buy one.

Just one will do.


Well... hasn't anyone ever asked you a question like "What would you do if you won a million bucks?"  I bet they have.  And I'm also betting you took a stab at answering it.

Maybe the answer came easy or maybe it was hard.  Maybe you stayed at a surface level or maybe you got specific. 

As a coach, I've asked similar questions of my clients to help them to dream big and think beyond their current situation.

But I have to tell you something... no better said... I have to confess... I haven't done this exercise personally for a long time.

That all changed this past Saturday night.  My wife and I had some spare time and the need to take a drive so we grabbed a lotto ticket on the way out of town.  As we drove we just started dreaming as if our ticket had hit BIG!

Sure we thought about what the dream house would look like, where we'd vacation,  who we'd go a see.

But then... we went beyond that... way beyond that.  And we started to get specific!

For example, we started to dream up a non-profit that we could start.  We thought about what it could achieve.  Who it would help.  Where it would be based.

Then, we went further. 

We thought of the people who'd sit on the board, the people we'd need to walk us through the process, the specific people we'd impact. 

I mean, we had lists of specific people and specific names!

We allowed it to get so real that we could see it actually happening. 

We could hear it.  Smell it.  And taste it!

Now, I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of gambling.  And I'm not even a big fan of lotteries... but that dollar on that night was a great investment.  Not because we hit the BIG jackpot.  (Cuz, we didn't.) 

It was a great investment because it allowed my wife and me to take a mini-dream vacation. 

We got to see a bit of our future and explore it.

Plus it left us asking the question... why wait on the dream?  Why not go for it now with or without the lotto's help!?! 

That dollar and that silly little ticket allowed us to dream a little bigger,  laugh a bit more,  and with a little divine inspiration mixed in... we saw a future that excited us in BIG ways!

So maybe you don't need to buy an actual ticket.  But I know for us it just made it a bit more fun... and a bit more real. 

Plus I know that lotto ticket will be taped to my journal, next to our notes as a $1 souvenir for our little vacation to visit the possibilities. 

So... what would be on your list?  What would you do with all of your earnings?  Click comments and join in the conversation!

photo credit: Yoni L

Coach thyself.

As a coach, one of the things that I talk about as a goal with my clients is to get them to begin to coach themselves. 1562212838_dac92d91ed

I've found that if my peeps start coaching themselves throughout the week they can go so much further with their time.

Okay you might be saying, "So how does this work?"  Or "Give me an example."

Glad to.

One of my clients is working on time management.  You know, maximizing his time, productivity and job satisfaction.

A part of that has been to develop a daily schedule that allows him to do the things he needs to do as well as plan for the next day. 

For example he'll shut down everything between 4:00 and 4:30 each day and plan for the next day.  That's just a good system and one that he's continuing to perfect.

Now the self-coaching comes in two to three times a week when he adds a little time to his half-hour planning session.

He simply sets aside an additional 15 minutes to ask himself two questions:

  • What's working well with my planning system this week?
  • What's something that I need to tweak with the system this week?

Yes these are questions a coach would ask.  (Yup.  I ask 'em.)  But he's asking them of himself.  More importantly he's coming up with some good answers and he's implementing them.

He doesn't have to wait for his coach.  He can incorporate a change.  Experiment with something new.  Do more of something that's working.  Throw something out that isn't.

It's pretty simple.

It's also pretty powerful.

What if you tried this out this week?  Just once? 

What if you set aside 15 minutes to ask yourself what's working and what isn't? 

What if you tried one new thing because of it?

Hey, coach thyself and see what happens. 

Then come back and let us know how it went!  Just click "comments" and join in the conversation.

If you want some additional ideas... check out lifehack's ideas on the subject by clicking here.

Photo credit to: Noah Pippen

Canada says... Turn off your BLACKBERRY!

The leadership of the Canadian Department of Citizenship and Immigration recently issued an order for employees to turn off their Blackberries at night and on weekends.

They wanted to help restore more work-life balance in the great white North.Blackberry

How about that?  Could you do it? 

It would be tough.  Wouldn't it?

I'll be the first one to admit that my Treo is at my side at least... 18/7 if not 24/7. 

I love to check e-mail while I'm on the go.  It's great to have a mini-office whether I'm in a parking lot or at my desk.

But... this convenience can become a problem.  Can't it?

Maybe you are like me.  I got my smart phone to help balance things.  It allowed me to take my boys to the park more often... and just check on work... from the swing set.

Then a BIG project came down the pike and I needed to check on things more often.  My smart phone helped me to avert crisis... and even helped me to be a hero with my quick responses.

But I noticed something. 

After a few weeks... I started to get addicted to checking.  AND... I also set the expectation of "accessibility." 

Yup.  A trap was set.  And I walked right into it. 

And I'm not alone.  Now... it's tough to say "no" to checking in... all the time.

But... I think... I'm going with Canada on this one.

Yup.  Call me a conscientious objector to distraction but I'm going to shut down the phone on the weekends (at least the e-mail portion) and I'll do the same most nights.

Who's joining me and the mighty Ca-nooks?

Come on!  Take the Canadian challenge and simplify... at least at night and weekends!

Want some more ideas on taking your life back... check out lifehack's 12 step program.

What are some ways you simplify?  Click comments and join in the conversation. 

And hey... know that the Canadians might be listening!

Photo credit and kudos to: Gorian Anicic

It's 2012... May I interview you about your freakishly cool life?

Recently... DMJuice came to me to ask how I helped people to set goals without being "too cheesy" or "Tony-Robbins-esque." 

They wanted their readers to think about their dreams and goals but they also wanted people to have some fun.

So I said, "How about an interview?"

They said, "Well that's why we're talking.  Right?  An interview with you about helping people set goals?"Interview

I corrected them and said, "No I'm talking about a strategy called 'the interview."'

Before the conversation escalated into a bad Abbott and Costello routine I explained that I often have new coaching clients go through a process that's fun but it also gets people thinking about their dreams and goals.

I call it simply 'the interview.'

What do you say?  Are you game?

So imagine that it's 2012 and a reporter is coming to interview you.  She's sent you the following questions to prepare you.

Now your job is to sit... relax... dream BIG and answer them as if your wildest dreams have some true.

Sound like fun?  Well, dig in.

1. I have heard you have a great workspace.  Describe what I'm going to see and experience when I come to see you.

2. I have heard it's been an amazing ride.  Tell me about where you started and what's happened over the past 5 years.

3. I have talked to some of your (employees/team mates) and they LOVE working (for/with) you.  How many people do you (employ/work with) and why is it such a great place to work?

4.  What products/services/offerings are you most excited about?

5. Looking back over the last 5 years, what would you say has brought you the most joy?

Okay, there are more questions but I'll stop there for now.

Dig in.  Take the challenge.  Get ready for the interview.

Oh and hey... maybe if you write it down and then put a little strategy behind your answers they might just play out by 2012! 

How cool would that be?

Maybe you'll hear an actual reporter say "Excuse me... May I interview you about your freakishly cool life?"

Photo credit and kudos to: newsphotog6801

what's your sweet spot outside of work?

Glee I get to coach a lot of people who want to be in the "SWEET SPOT" more.

You know... that place where everything seems to flow.  That place where it feels natural.  That place where more often than not... things just click.

Yeah... the "SWEET SPOT."

It's interesting though... because most people only think about the "SWEET SPOT" when it comes to being at work. 

But all to often we forget that the "SWEET SPOT" can be a goal outside of our work-life too.  For example, recently I had a conversation with client a who was thinking about his sweet spot. 

Now,he didn't realize that he was thinking about his sweet spot... he just thought he was complaining. 

In fact, that's how our conversation started.  He began by telling me about how his business was growing and that he was facing so many opportunities. 

He said, "Things were so good... they are almost too good."

After listening for a while I started to ask "sweet spot" questions to move him towards taking an inventory of his current situation.  I wanted to explore what aspects of his current situation were "sweet spot" and which weren't. 

(I've suggested things like the love/loath list as an exercise to help with this in the past.)

Interestingly enough... when I started asking about the things he loves to do... he blurted out something to the effect of "I'd love to sit on my couch and read a book!" 

But then he quickly backtracked.  I could tell he felt bad for admitting something so simple. 

I asked him, "How long has it been that you've been able to do that?"

He responded with "Way too long."

Since it's been a goal for him to move more into his sweet spot I asked him "Would it be okay if some of your sweet spot stuff didn't involve "producing" anything?  Or at least anything work-related?"

He said "Yeah.  I guess."

I said "So it would be okay if your sweet spot stuff included being a good dad or being an awesome husband or even being well rested or well read?"

He said "Hmmmmm.  Yeah.  I guess so... yeah... of course."

So then I asked him, "What are some one degree shifts that you could make to make time for those things too?  You know... Not sweeping changes... but some small but significant shifts... to make your sweet spot outside of work a priority too?"

(David B. Bohl has some additional questions to help with this process.)

So we started to generate some small but significant things he could do.

    • Set up protected time with his family. 
    • Dates with his wife. 
    • Even specific time to do nothing... or... to read a book... on his couch.

Simple changes.  Small tweaks.  But intentional time for the sweet spot stuff outside of work.

How about you? 

What if you gave yourself permission to explore your "sweet spot" outside of work too?

What would you do? 

What would you try?

What are some specific things... small but significant things... that you could do to make time for your sweet spot stuff outside of work?

Click on comments and join in the convo. 

Let us know.

Photo credits and kudos to: dreadfuldan

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