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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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focus

Less haste, less waste

There are  a number of sayings/clichés around with the same basic message of doing things too fast can lead to errors and actually take more time.

Slow and steady wins the race

A stitch in time saves nine

Haste makes waste (or more haste, less speed)

For fast acting relief, slow down (Lily Tomlin)

And like all clichés, there is a lot of truth there – we’ve all faced the hassle of going back and redoing something we rushed the first time (or paid another price for rushing).

Uninterrupted focus

Did you know that the maximum time an average worker gets to focus uninterrupted on tasks is 11 minutes? That’s according to a University of California study, anyway.

11 minutes is nothing! It says a lot about the fast paced world we’re living in. And says a lot for behaviours like only checking emails at certain times of the day to avoid constant distractions (add in the same rule for checking social media, answering phone calls, listening to office conversations and so forth).

Stressed man with laptop and looking at his watch

Even on the go, checking messages means we get no break from disruptions

The study also stated that after 20 minutes of interrupted work, people are more stressed, frustrated and feel they have a heavier workload.

Interestingly, in a follow on study run Carnegie Mellon, tests showed that after the first interruption, people do adapt a little and can cope better with subsequent interruptions. But interruptions and the threat of interruptions does reduce the effectiveness of the brain.

Are you working in a highly distracting environment? Are you aware of it stressing you?

Working from my own office, rather than in a corporate office with many people around me, probably means I tilt such averages well past 11 minutes. I do enjoy the fact that I don’t hear colleagues chatting around me, nor their phones ringing and am not distracted by people walking past my office all day.

Of course, I do have young children who are quite capable of interrupting me, too! However, between other people keeping them entertained and choosing my working hours, I minimise that issue.

I set myself work sessions where I only check emails if I need to reference something and let the answering machine manage my phone calls (and enjoy it when marketing calls are filtered!) So I do get periods of focus – and I usually get a lot achieved in those sessions, too.

I think it’s worth slowing down, not just to be more productive and feel less stressed (both worthwhile aims), but also to give your mind more time and freedom to be creative and develop ideas.

Speed up productivity

Doug Keene, Vice-Director of an air-logistics complex trying to reduce employee distractions, said multi-tasking isn’t necessarily a good thing. “When you are focused on just a few things, you tend to solve problems faster. You can’t disguise the problem by looking like you’re really busy.”

At a recent conference, Andrew May ( a performance coach), discussed these results and how stressful they are on people. He gave the following ideas and suggestions {paraphrased and added to by me!}:

  1. slow down – focus instead of trying to do so many things at once
  2. take some time out as ‘enforced isolation’ so your brain can just focus on one thing for a while – it makes you productive and can be quite peaceful. May recommends a few hours a week, at least, and to plan it for high energy times
  3. find  a balance with recovery time to counter the stress. A five minute lunch break at your desk is not going to make up for five hours of interruptions – you need to find ways to recharge regularly.
  4. have some electronic free time in the evening before heading to bed so your brain can quieten before you try to sleep. You’ll end up with higher quality sleep. May suggests 45 minutes before bed you have no electronic interruptions and no caffeine; and taking a lunch break of 15 minutes without a mobile.

What can you do (or do you do) to help recover from stressful working conditions?

Do you find your productivity is clearly matched to times you do and don’t take recovery time?

How much mud do you have to throw?

If you throw enough mud, some of it will stick

I have no idea who first said that, but like all clichés and sayings it contains a lot of truth – and can also distract from the truth.

Mud sticking to a wall

Even when you hit the wall, some mud just slides off…

Businesses throwing mud

I am reading a book on freelancing at the moment. The author, Kris Emery, writes about her early days as a translation and transcription freelancer by saying her approach was to throw a lot of mud.

However, she ‘threw a lot of mud, but just not in any particular direction… [she] didn’t have the big picture really figured out’.

I don’t think Kris is alone in not setting plans or specific goals for her business – I know I haven’t always had clear goals, either, and that it can be easy to get caught in all the everyday details and forget to keep a direction and goal in mind.

A direction and goal also helps keep the motivation and passion up so it’s important.

Do you have clear goals and ideals for your business?

How often do you review them?

Aiming your mud throwing

Kris went on to write ‘If I’d had just one focus, one goal to focus on, it would have been a heck of a lot easier. Cutting my losses was empowering and helped me gain that focus.’

Everyone is busy these days, and often being busy can get in the way of creating and following a strategy.

But how much of that is just busy-work and unimportant? How much is perhaps important but not targetted at heading towards the right goals?

By setting a focus in one direction, it is easier to aim that mud so some of it really will stick and easier to walk away from those tasks (and clients) that are busy work or distracting us.

I know that I got some focus back from attending PB Event and have dedicated more time to backend tasks that had been added to a list of things to do ‘as soon as I get time’. It is possible to make time when you have priorities set – simply stop wasting time on the non essentials (ie cut your losses) and accept small pockets of time add up to mean a lot.

What sorts of things help you regain some focus and motivation?

Do you think you are aiming your business’ mud or just hoping for the best as you throw?

 

*Image courtesy of BigStockPhotos

Getting marketing emails read

While there are a number of factors involved in a successful email campaign, I think there are two important points to remember in every marketing email you send out.

1. keep it short – no one is going to read an email that is full of text for pages. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and as few of them as possible, then use white space and images to make it look appealing and quick to read.

2. focus on getting them to do something – usually the call to action is to phone you or visit your website as that is where you can then provide a lot more information

Stick to your topic

When writing, especially if it is an article or blog post, it isn’t hard to get distracted by related topics and ideas. But if someone has chosen to read about a certain topic, that is what they expect to read about.

Changing topics within a piece of business writing can confuse your readers and reduce your ‘expert’ status. This is especially the case if you are presenting a number of points about a topic (such as ’10 ways to save money’ or ‘tips for reducing water waste in your office’.)

As an example, I recently read an article listing various ways to sell a product. It started with market stalls, direct sales and wholesaling, but then went onto networking and advertising which are not sales methods although they can increase the number of sales made.

If you do want to include points that are not part of your original topic, change the topic to indicate the scope of the writing. Alternatively, write two or more pieces, each about a separate although related topic, instead of one piece on different topics.

 Learn more writing tips from the Writing Well eBook



Two Wolves

As a cub leader, the blog entry titled “Two wolves” at The Tall Poppy instantly caught my eye (cubs are named for wolf cubs pack as the young of scouting.)

Anne’s post relates the Chrokee story of us all have two inner wolves fighting for control, with one wolf repeseanting greed, fear, guilt and eog and the other represnting joy, peace, genrosity and compassion.

And which wolf wins? “The one you feed.”

I think that is very true – the more you focus on, the more you see in your life.

Both personally and in my writing, I try to avoid negatives to focus on helping people and seeing the good in life. I’m not perfect at it, lol, but I certainly keep my professional writing  positive and informative, and my whole business is modelled on helping other businesses succeed.

And I hope that by reading my blog, you are feeding your positive wolf.