work life balance

3 Ways to Set Goals You'll Actually Achieve


Much of 2013 has already passed. Are you happy with what you have accomplished over the last several months? What goals still have to be completed? Can you identify a new goal you have now because your business shifted since the beginning of the year? Taking time to reflect is important to move your business forward.

So, how do you set goals you will actually meet? Here are three powerful steps:

1. Identify what works for you.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. In school we are expected to get high grades in everything we do. But the fact is everyone excels at some things and is less effective at others. Take a personal inventory. Discover your strengths and structure your goals to play to those strengths. For example, perhaps you want to be healthier but hate most exercise and are too busy to find time. However, you love biking. Setting a goal to bike to the office twice a week allows you to move forward in getting healthier, is achievable and integrates an existing strength. (If biking isn't your thing, leave a comment below and I'll drop in with another idea for you!)

2. Figure out what isn't working.
Everyone has weaknesses. By acknowledging our weaknesses we can minimize them. For example, perhaps you struggle with staying on top of business trends. In the past, I spent significant time reviewing the Wall Street Journal and other papers to look for news that affected my clients. When I determined how much time I was spending reading these papers I realized there had to be a better way.

I have programmed Google Alerts to send me notices when articles about topics I care about appear online, in magazines or in the paper, or when authors I follow have published something new. I still get the news I need, but in significantly less time. By identifying what was NOT working as well as I'd like, I was able to identify other systems to get the results I wanted more effectively.

3. Begin where you are.
Have you ever ended a day and thought "Where did all my time go?" There always seems to be more to do than time to do it. Figuring out how you currently use your time is an important step to making your time use more effective.

Right now, figure out where your time goes. Get a piece of paper and write down everything you do from when you wake up until 10 in the morning. Everything. Keep this list with you over the next week and add to it.

Why is this important? When we know what is competing for our time, energy and focus, we can make informed decisions. Once you know what you are currently doing you have the opportunity to "create time." Change what you do and you change what you get.

As you look back on to the start of the year and ahead to its end, remember that by identifying your strengths and reworking your areas of weakness, you can create goals that will not only motivate you, but that you will achieve.

By Jason W. Womack, founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012).


Activity Does Not Always Equal Productivity


By Tony Schwartz

In all likelihood, you get more done today than you ever have before. That’s mostly because you can do so much more, so much faster, wherever you are, through e-mail, texting, instant-messaging, tweeting and posting.

The real issue is whether you’re getting the right things done. That was the most frequent complaint I heard during the three days I spent this week with 200 chief executives at the Conscious Capitalism C.E.O. Summit — more on that in a coming column — and in the conversations I’ve had with leaders over the last year.

So what stands in the way of your being truly productive? By that, I mean finding the right balance between attending to what’s truly urgent and focusing on what’s less pressing but will most likely add the most enduring value.

You need more sleep than you think, and maybe much more

We live by a persistent myth: that one hour less of sleep will give you one more hour of productivity. Instead, what it gives you is one more hour awake, and you are less rested. The near guarantee is that you’ll be progressively less productive over the course of the day.

Even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a powerful toll on our cognitive capacity. A vast trove of research suggests that 95 percent of us need at least seven to eight hours of sleep to feel fully rested. Two and a half percent need more than eight hours, and the final 2.5 percent — or about one out of 40 people — require less than seven hours.

In other words, you’re not likely one of them, even though you may well think you are. According to a sleep researcher, Tom Roth, for example, the percentage of people who require five or fewer hours of sleep to feel fully rested, rounded to a whole number, is zero.

If you get sufficient sleep, the strong likelihood is that you will accomplish more, in less time, at a higher level of quality. It’s the last thing you ought to be sacrificing, not the first.

Do the most important thing first

The pull to e-mail is powerful and Pavlovian. That’s especially so after a night’s worth of new messages have filled your in-box (assuming you weren’t sleeping with your smartphone, and sneaking a peek in the middle of the night).

The vast majority of the messages that accumulate don’t truly demand your immediate attention. Instead, they take up your time and consume your attention at precisely the time of day that most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

By checking your e-mail first, you effectively turn over your agenda to others. It is far better to decide what your agenda ought to be the night before and make that the first thing you focus on at work, without interruption, for up to 90 minutes.

If you must check e-mail when you get up because there are urgent messages, scan quickly for anything that truly cannot wait an hour. Answer those, ignore the rest, and then do what’s truly most important.

Stop pushing through

Human beings are designed to operate in 90-minute cycles. At night, we move through the five stages of sleep in that time — the Basic Rest Activity Cycle. During the day, we’re guided by our ultradian rhythms, and we move from high physiological alertness toward physiological fatigue in 90-minute intervals.

The consequence is that we operate best when we take intermittent breaks to renew and refuel. Here’s a simple way to think about it: Imagine you’re challenged to do the maximum number of situps you can over 30 minutes. You’re given the choice of doing them continuously until you’re exhausted, or doing them in sets of 5 or 10 with a short period of rest between each one. Do the latter and you’ll generate more situps done, keep better form along the way and feel less tired at the end.

Work in the same way and you’ll be able to focus more intensely for the same reason a sprinter can go all out: you have a finish line in sight. By focusing more intensely for shorter periods, you’ll get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably.

Get it off your mind

With so much coming at us all the time, it’s hardly surprising that our instinctive default is to do whatever feels most urgent and easiest to address. The consequence, of course, is that we often keep putting off what’s most challenging and then lack the energy to do it by the time we finally get to it.

I believe in lists, first and foremost as a means of downloading everything that’s on your mind to get it off your mind. We each have relatively small working memories and they’re easily overloaded. The less you try to keep straight in your head, the more space there is for you to think clearly and deeply about any given subject that demands your attention.

With that in mind, I keep all my lists in one place. They include what I want to do that day, over the next week, and in the longer term. I also keep a list of e-mails I need to send; calls I intend to make; ideas I want to explore further; issues I want to discuss with specific colleagues; and even things that are making me feel anxious. Once I’ve written something down, I know it will be there when I need it, and so it usually stops preoccupying me. Many times it ends up taking care of itself.

The other value I derive from detailed lists is that they help clarify what I ought not to be focused on. By having everything in one place, I can much more easily decide what’s truly important and what’s not. Half the value of having a list is to make it more obvious what not to do. I might have 50 to 100 items on my lists, but I typically give explicit priority to three or fewer in any given day.

Make it matter

Finally, and simply, ask yourself a simple question before you begin any activity: “Is this the best way I could be spending my time?” If the answer is no, don’t do it.

Reprinted from The New York Times DealBook

Be Happier: 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now

Sometimes the route to happiness depends more on what you don't do.

Happiness--in your business life and your personal life--is often a matter of subtraction, not addition.

Consider, for example, what happens when you stop doing the following 10 things:

1. Blaming.

People make mistakes. Employees don't meet your expectations. Vendors don't deliver on time.

So you blame them for your problems.

But you're also to blame. Maybe you didn't provide enough training. Maybe you didn't build in enough of a buffer. Maybe you asked too much, too soon.

Taking responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others isn't masochistic, it's empowering--because then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time.

And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.

2. Impressing.

No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all "things." People may like your things--but that doesn't mean they like you.

Sure, superficially they might seem to, but superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship that is not based on substance is not a real relationship.

Genuine relationships make you happier, and you'll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.

3. Clinging.

When you're afraid or insecure, you hold on tightly to what you know, even if what you know isn't particularly good for you.

An absence of fear or insecurity isn't happiness: It's just an absence of fear or insecurity.

Holding on to what you think you need won't make you happier; letting go so you can reach for and try to earn what you want will.

Even if you don't succeed in earning what you want, the act of trying alone will make you feel better about yourself.

4. Interrupting.

Interrupting isn't just rude. When you interrupt someone, what you're really saying is, "I'm not listening to you so I can understand what you're saying; I'm listening to you so I can decide what I want to say."

Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say.

They'll love you for it--and you'll love how that makes you feel.

5. Whining.

Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better.

If something is wrong, don't waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you'll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now.

Don't talk about what's wrong. Talk about how you'll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.

And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don't just be the shoulder they cry on.

Friends don't let friends whine--friends help friends make their lives better.

6. Controlling.

Yeah, you're the boss. Yeah, you're the titan of industry. Yeah, you're the small tail that wags a huge dog.

Still, the only thing you really control is you. If you find yourself trying hard to control other people, you've decided that you, your goals, your dreams, or even just your opinions are more important than theirs.

Plus, control is short term at best, because it often requires force, or fear, or authority, or some form of pressure--none of those let you feel good about yourself.

Find people who want to go where you're going. They'll work harder, have more fun, and create better business and personal relationships.

And all of you will be happier.

7. Criticizing.

Yeah, you're more educated. Yeah, you're more experienced. Yeah, you've been around more blocks and climbed more mountains and slayed more dragons.

That doesn't make you smarter, or better, or more insightful.

That just makes you you: unique, matchless, one of a kind, but in the end, just you.

Just like everyone else--including your employees.

Everyone is different: not better, not worse, just different. Appreciate the differences instead of the shortcomings and you'll see people--and yourself--in a better light.

8. Preaching.

Criticizing has a brother. His name is Preaching. They share the same father: Judging.

The higher you rise and the more you accomplish, the more likely you are to think you know everything--and to tell people everything you think you know.

When you speak with more finality than foundation, people may hear you but they don't listen. Few things are sadder and leave you feeling less happy.

9. Dwelling.

The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.

Then let it go.

Easier said than done? It depends on your focus. When something bad happens to you, see that as a chance to learn something you didn't know. When another person makes a mistake, see that as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding.

The past is just training; it doesn't define you. Think about what went wrong, but only in terms of how you will make sure that, next time, you and the people around you will know how to make sure it goes right.

10. Fearing.

We're all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can't change, or what we won't be able to do, or how other people might perceive us.

So it's easier to hesitate, to wait for the right moment, to decide we need to think a little longer or do some more research or explore a few more alternatives.

Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by.

And so do our dreams.

Don't let your fears hold you back. Whatever you've been planning, whatever you've imagined, whatever you've dreamed of, get started on it today.

If you want to start a business, take the first step. If you want to change careers, take the first step. If you want to expand or enter a new market or offer new products or services, take the first step.

Put your fears aside and get started. Do something. Do anything.

Otherwise, today is gone. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever.

Today is the most precious asset you own--and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up fromghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

10 Things You Must Give Up to Move Forward



If you want to fly and move on to better things, you have to give up the things that weigh you down – which is not always as obvious and easy as it sounds.

Starting today, give up…

  1. Letting the opinions of others control your life. – People know your name, not your story.  They’ve heard what you’ve done, but not what you’ve been through.  So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt.  In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts.  Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everyone else.
  2. The shame of past failures. – You will fail sometimes, and that’s okay.  The faster you accept this, the faster you can get on with being brilliant.  Your past does not equal your future.  Just because you failed yesterday; or all day today; or a moment ago; or for the last six months; or for the last sixteen years, doesn’t have any impact on the current moment.  All that matters is what you do right now.  Read Awaken the Giant Within.
  3. Being indecisive about what you want. – You will never leave where you are until you decide where you would rather be.  It’s all about findingand pursuing your passion.  Neglecting passion blocks creative flow.  When you’re passionate, you’re energized.  Likewise, when you lack passion, your energy is low and unproductive.  Energy is everything when it comes to being successful.  Make a decision to figure out what you want, and then pursue it passionately.
  4. Procrastinating on the goals that matter to you. – There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.  Follow your intuition.  Don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  When there is love and inspiration, you can’t go wrong.  And whatever it is you want to do, do it now.  There are only so many tomorrows.  Trust me, in a year from now, you will wish you had started today.
  5. Choosing to do nothing. – You don’t get to choose how you are going to die, or when.  You can only decide how you are going to live, right now.  Every day is a new chance to choose.  Choose to change your perspective.  Choose to flip the switch in your mind from negative to positive.  Choose to turn on the light and stop fretting about with insecurity and doubt.  Choose to do work that you are proud of.  Choose to see the best in others, and to show your best to others.  Choose to truly LIVE, right now.
  6. Your need to be right. – If you keep on saying you’re right, even if you are right now, eventually you will be wrong.  Aim for success, but never give up your right to be wrong.  Because when you do, you will also lose your ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.  ReadThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  7. Running from problems that should be fixed. – We make lifeharder than it has to be.  The difficulties started when… conversations became texting, feelings became subliminal, sex became a game, the word ‘love’ fell out of context, trust faded as honesty waned, insecurities became a way of living, jealously became a habit, being hurt started to feel natural, and running away from it all became our solution.  Stop running!  Face these issues, fix the problems, communicate, appreciate, forgive and LOVE the people in your life who deserve it.
  8. Making excuses rather than decisions. – Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem solving.  A mistake doesn’t become a failure until you refuse to correct it. Thus, most long-term failures are the outcome of people who make excuses instead of decisions.
  9. Overlooking the positive points in your life. – What you see often depends entirely on what you’re looking for.  Do your best and surrender the rest.  When you stay stuck in regret of the life you think you should have had, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have.  You will have a hard time ever being happy if you aren’t thankful for the good things in your life right now.  Read The Happiness Project.
  10. Not appreciating the present moment. – We do not remember days, we remember moments.  Too often we try to accomplish something big without realizing that the greatest part of life is made up of the little things.  Live authentically and cherish each precious moment of your journey.  Because when you finally arrive at your desired destination, I guarantee you, another journey will begin.

7 Tactics For Fostering Work-Life Balance


Moderation in all things, they say, but sometimes all things don’t cooperate. As a result, today’s demands on the average employee can easily strain one of the most important factors contributing to their overall satisfaction—a healthy work-life balance.


Fortunately, many of America’s largest corporations have taken measures to offer accommodating benefits that help employees maintain a lifestyle that adequately balances personal, work and family needs. These companies were recently recognized by, an online career community where employees can offer feedback on their workplaces, in its third annual list of the Top 25 Companies for Work-Life Balance (based on the past year).

Atop this year’s list sits SAS Institute, an analytics software company that received high marks in past years as well. According to Glassdoorspokesperson Samantha Zupan, SAS employees “speak favorably about the flexible work schedules, thirty-five-hour work weeks, and the understanding managers.”

We continued to comb Glasdoor’s results to reveal seven specific tactics employers can take to bolster work-life balance for employees:

1. Supportive management

No one likes bureaucracy or politics in the office. The “underlings” end up feeling stressed and unappreciated, begrudging their workload and taking their frustration home with them. Instead, surprise employees with understanding and collaborative senior leadership that goes out of its way to encourage work-life balance.

2. Strong core values

Whether old school or trendy, firm or free-reign, workplace culture often determines how well employees enjoy their time in the office. Take the time to reinforce foundational ideals such as honesty, respect and dedication. These values will help employees feel rooted on both a personal and professional level.

3. Performance-based rewards

Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work—especially when it comes from management. Encourage opportunities for growth by recognizing individual excellence and rewarding appropriately. Your employees will feel like they’re part of something more than just the work on their desk.

4. Employee-focus

Caring about employees on a professional level through training, mentoring and professional networks should be complimented by caring about them on a personal level as well, through consideration of family time and individual circumstances.

5. Innovation

The best workers—those you hope will stick around—thrive on constant learning, cutting-edge opportunities and a stimulating, but manageable, work environment. Throw these workers a few challenging assignments and watch them flourish.

6. Fun Perks

A beautiful campus, full fridge and nice array of benefits never hurt anyone, and employees are more likely to feel like they’ve snagged the lottery. Small as some of them may seem, benefits that go above and beyond simply providing a cubicle make employees feel important on a personal level, as well as a professional one.

7. Flexibility

While work-life balance can be subjective, all employees are drawn to one major factor—flexibility. In addition to a manageable schedule, offer perks such as telecommuting, paid time off, compressed workweeks, and family-friendly environments.

Take it from the Top 25—with all or some of these elements in place, you’ll be one step closer to helping employees stay happy—and stay, period.



4 Signs You’re Overworked—And What To Do About It

By Jeff Haden

If the buck stops with you—and as a CEO, it definitely does—then you need to stay in the best mental and physical shape possible to deal with every buck that comes along.

That means you can’t afford to get burned out.


Sometimes it’s obvious you need a break, but in most cases we all figure it out too late. When you’re working double-digit hours and Sunday is far from a day of rest, feeling overworked becomes the new normal—and you eventually hit a wall.

When that happens it can take days and even weeks to recover the enthusiasm, creativity and motivation you’ve lost.

Fortunately a few of the same techniques endurance athletes use to spot the need for additional recovery can be used to indicate when you need to recharge your work batteries.

Where elite athletes are concerned, chronic overtraining actually defeats the purpose and results in decreased stamina, power and speed; sometimes the harder they work the slower they get. The same thing happens to us when we’re overworked: We put in more hours to compensate—and we get even less done. So how can you tell the difference between feeling overworked and really overworking yourself?

Jeremiah Bishop gave me some simple techniques anyone can use to avoid hitting a wall. He’s a professional mountain bike rider and twelve-time member of the U.S. national team. He is to mountain bike racing what an NBA All-Star is to basketball.

To ensure you stay at your professional best:

Monitor your resting heart rate.

Every day, before you get out of bed, take your pulse. (There are plenty of free apps that make it easy. Some even log results.) Most of the time your heart rate will stay within a few beats per minute. But when you’re overworked and stressed your body sends more oxygen to your body and brain by increasing your heart rate. (The same thing happens when athletes over-train and their bodies struggle to recover.)

If your heart rate is up in the morning, do whatever it takes to get a little extra rest or sleep that night.

Check your emotions.

Having a bad day? Feeling irritable and short-tempered? If you can’t put your finger on a specific reason why, chronic stress and fatigue may have triggered a physiological response that sends more cortisol and less dopamine to your brain.

Willing yourself to be in a better mood won’t overcome the impact of chemistry, and in extreme cases the only cure is a break.

Check your weight.

Lose or gain more than a percent of body weight from one day to the next and something’s wrong. Maybe yesterday was incredibly stressful and you failed to notice you didn’t eat and drink enough… or maybe you failed to notice just how much you actually ate.

Lack of nourishment and hydration can put the hurt on higher-level mental functions (which may be why when we’re overworked and feeling stressed we instinctively want to perform routine, less complex tasks.) And eating too much food—well, we all know the impact of that.

Check your, um, output.

Urine color can indicate a lack of hydration (although sometimes it indicates you created really expensive urine after eating a ton of vitamins your body wasn’t able to absorb.)

Generally speaking, the lighter the color the more hydrated you are – and hydration is a good thing. Proper hydration aids the absorption of nutrients and helps increase energy levels.

If your urine is darker than usual the cure is simple: Drink a lot more water.

The key is to monitor each of these over a period of time so you develop a feel for what is normal for you. Pay special attention on weekends and vacations, and if you notice a dramatic change, especially a positive one, that’s a sure sign you need to change your workday routine.

Don’t say this sounds like something only elite athletes need to worry about. We all want to be the best we can possibly be, no matter what our profession, and whenever we slam into the workload wall we are far from our best. And don’t say you don’t have the time to take a short break or get a little more sleep. You owe it to yourself—and your company—to find a way.

Eventually your mind and your body will make you hit a wall, so why not take care of yourself and improve your performance on your terms?

Author: Jeff Haden