10 tips to run your morning routine like a boss

Morning routine tips

How to run your morning routine like a boss

I’m sorry, there’s no such thing as the perfect morning routine  but I have learned a few things while experimenting with my own.  I have read about other morning routines and I have been able to try them for myself along the way. I hope what I have learned through trial and error can help make your mornings just that little bit better.

Wake up naturally

Wake up naturally -I always enjoyed waking up when the sun comes up, however, these days I usually rise a bit earlier. Whatever time you wake up, try to keep a consistent pattern to make it easier on yourself. If you’re a shift worker, I feel you but you’re going to have to skip this and move on to the next step.

Enjoy the morning sun

Sit in the morning sun -some studies show exposure to sunlight helps fight depression by releasing serotonin, a natural anti-depressant, in the brain. I sit in the sun and enjoy my coffee as part of my morning routine whenever I get a chance because it makes me feel good.

Take some time to think

Take some time to think -Give yourself some time to think before you start your work for the day. Creative and original ideas don’t come from overloading yourself with more information. Sometimes the best ideas come to us on a quiet morning walk, while sipping our tea or in our morning shower.

Write a morning journal

Write a journal -I don’t practice this everyday, however, I do write a journal when I find myself feeling lost. Some people swear by keeping a journal every morning though. You might start by writing down three things you’re grateful for or setting some goals.

Never check your notifications first

Don’t check your notifications -I only check my phone first thing if there is a missed call or a text message because usually they are important for me (my friends and family know not to call too late unless it’s an emergency). I never check my email, social media or app notifications on my phone when I wake up. Avoid being side tracked by distracting alerts and sounds, which in my experience are never urgent and rarely important. Wait until later in the day to check you social media, when you have finished your most important work.

Cold showers and your morning routine

Take a cold shower -I need to add a disclaimer here: this was part of my morning routine for about 3 weeks in an Australian Summer. Cold showers really seemed to wake me up and make me alert for the day ahead. Many people have written about the benefits of taking a cold shower and there is some scientific evidence to back the benefits. One thing I did notice is that my best ideas were no longer coming to me in the shower.

Arrive at work early

Arrive early -I get up early most mornings to do work in my home office. I have always found I get more done first thing in the morning at home or at the office. Either way, I seem to get more work done between 6am and 8:30am than I do the rest of the day.

Ignore phone calls first thing

Don’t answer the phone -I know this is probably counter intuitive to what you’ve always been told. I look back on the phone calls I have answered and I think 75% of them would have just been a distraction from what I was working on. Important callers will usually leave a message, send an email or I would have a call scheduled with them anyway. If you’re a secretary, don’t follow this advice because it’s your job to answer the phone. If you work in any other role, limit your use of the phone if it’s likely to be a distraction.

Start with your most important task

Work on your most important task -Leo Babauta first introduced me to the very simple concept (and in hindsight quite obvious) of your most important task or MIT. Leo suggests you should work on your most important task and nothing else at the start of your work day. That’s what I do now and I have been significantly more productive than before. Focus on your MIT until it’s done.

Never email first

No email before 10am -If you check your email first thing in the morning, then other people will be setting your agenda for the day. Never let other people set your priorities. Instead, you should start your day on your most important task or (if you can’t remember what that is) open your calendar or task list. Similarly, you should shut down your email and only check it during 3 or 4 (at most) scheduled times during the day.

One final thought. Don’t try and fit everything into your morning routine. Start by adding one of these elements and find out if that works for you. I didn’t write this article to overwhelm you or make you feel like there’s even more to fit in your day. It will be a great start if you can replace one or two of the things you’re doing that aren’t working for something that will.


Positive thinking kills your goal setting skills

Positive thinking and goal setting

Positive thinking is an important part of goal setting but at the same time, it can kill your goals. I’m not suggesting that negative thinking is helpful either. Let me explain. Unbridled optimism, that is when you believe nothing can go wrong, seems to be when it does. For this reason, I have always believed in being cautiously optimistic.

German Field Marshall and Prussian Army General, Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, summed it up best when he said, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” In this case, the enemy is not necessarily another individual; rather anything that could go wrong.

I suggest you should have a sense of cautious optimism when setting goals. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It would be easy to suggest, as some of my clients do, that planning is pointless. They argue, “What is the point in setting goals when you don’t know what’s going to happen?” In fact, I once had an accountant tell me that I should not set specific goals or make long term plans for my business at all. Needless to say, I quickly changed accountants!

Goal setting and your personal values

I am an advocate of having long term goals, even in turbulent times. After all, if you’re not following your goals and dreams, who’s goals are you following? Some people believe that by letting go of the reigns they’re following their destiny, when in fact they’re actually following someone else’s agenda. There’s nothing wrong with being of service to other people but not everyone is pursuing goals that will align with your values. So, even if your goal is cause related or to be of service to someone else, it should reflect your personal values.

In his book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins published his findings on why some businesses thrive in uncertain environments and others struggle. He discovered that the best leaders are more disciplined, more empirical (make decisions based on evidence) and more paranoid. I find this sense of caution quite a contrast to the high risk taking view I often popularised by the media. Collins’ book was an excellent read and it reminded me that positive thinking alone is not enough. Things can go wrong and they do.

Famous actor and philosopher, Bruce Lee had a point when he said, “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Goal setting for the best but expecting the worst

Tim Ferriss, Author of the 4 Hour Work Week, published a short video about stoicism, which I have included below. As Ferriss explains it, stoicism is about admitting what could go wrong and giving an honest answer to the question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Ferriss uses the term fear setting, instead of goal setting, for the process he often uses to lift his mood and make sound business decisions.

Of course it’s not enough to list all of the things that can go wrong. You then need to list some ways to avoid the worst and some ways to fix things or minimise the damage if the worst happens.

I have often visualised worst case scenarios in my own mind and tried to think of preventative measures or possible solutions. I expect to encounter problems when I’m pursuing my goals. I believe the trick is to pay attention to the things that go wrong and then be as prepared as you possibly can.

Positive thinking and your enemy

Positive thinking is done from your point of view. Your enemy has other plans. I’m not suggesting to treat every other person and organisation like the enemy, however, you need to acknowledge that you are not in a perfect world. Your world is full of moving parts, conflicts and hidden agendas. In my own life, I stay focused on what I can do to put my goals into motion but I’m always conscious that there will be obstacles.

I recently read a book called Red Teaming by Bryce G. Hoffman. The whole concept of the book is summed up neatly in the tag line, “Transform your business by thinking like the enemy.”

Hoffman suggests a systematic approach to making plans stronger. He advocates the use of red teams within an organisation, who can expose the flaws in a particular plan or course of action. I highly recommend this book.

The author goes on to point out the various military and business applications where red teaming has already been implemented. I should point out that testing plans like this is not about being negative. It’s about taking a good plan and making it better.

My goal setting and preparation experience

Contingency planning

When I studied business, developing a contingency plan was best practice. A contingency plan is simply a plan b. I have found that’s served me well to develop a plan b while setting personal goals, business goals and sales forecasts.

Contingency planning is not about abandoning your goals at the first sign of trouble; rather it’s about adjusting your course in pursuit of that goal if something goes wrong. Invariably, things will go wrong. Stock markets crash, consumer confidence declines, employees leave, new competitors come to town, bad things happen and most of this will be out of your control. In my opinion, businesses that fail do so because they’re not adequately prepared for what’s coming.

Hollywood endings are fiction

I have seen hundreds of Hollywood action movies (my guilty pleasure) and most of them have one thing in common. Nothing ever happens quite like it does in the real world. I often see the hero come up with a perfect plan, only to be hindered by something unexpected. There’s usually a corny joke about there not being a plan b and the hero goes into beast mode and wins the day. The problem is, just like in business, things can and will go wrong and hinder almost any plan.

My experience in the police force taught me to plan for a specific situation then to plan for any likely alternatives. Preparation was also important. We invested countless hours performing weapons and other drills, so we could be prepared for almost any scenario. Similar drills are also performed in other military organisations, like army and navy teams. Often, the objective here was to prepare for when things go wrong.

Hoping for the best but expecting the worst

Cautious optimism is essential for goal setting and planning. Positive thinking alone is not a bad thing unless it leads you to assume nothing can go wrong. I often hear people assume that positive thinking is a kind of ignorance that we live in a perfect world.

Planning is more important in a changing world than it would be in a perfect world. You need to set your course towards your goals and adjust your sails when the wind changes. Be ready for the challenges ahead.

Anticipate those challenges as part of the goal setting process and be ready to do what’s necessary to get the job done.

Can you find work life balance as an entrepeneur?

Work life balance as an entrepreneur

Can you have a business and a life?

Can you find work life balance as an entreprenuer? Most entrepreneurs tell me no! I have often heard small business owners comment, “What work life balance?” Or more bluntly, “What life?” Most entrepreneurs won’t admit their struggles. Busyness and overwork seem to be the new badges of honour but they both take their toll in the long run.

Work life balance and boom

I first fell in love with the idea of work life balance while I was studying business at Charles Sturt Univeristy, Bathurst, in 1999. My lecturer, a Californian lady with some fantastic (and perhaps some true) stories, introduced us to a book called Maverick. Maverick was about a brazillian company which was built on the idea of democracy. Ricardo Semler, who took over as CEO, emphasised work life balance for his employees. Interestingly, Semco enjoyed massive success after this transformation.

Semler took over his father’s 27 year old business in 1980. Semco employed 100 workers and was turning over around $4 million at the time. Within 8 years, Semler had changed the culture of Semco from a bureaucracy to a democracy. Durind that same period, Semco grew to employ 800 people and turn over $37 million per year. Semler is still passionate about work life balance.

‘The Seven Day Weekend’, was Semler’s second book, which he began with 3 thought provoking questions:

  1. Why are we able to answer emails on Sundays but unable to go to the movies on Monday afternoons?
  2. If we can take work home, why can’t we take the kids to work?
  3. Why do we think the opposite of work is leisure, when in fact it is idleness?

I believe Semler’s point is that the nature of work has changed and so must we.

Work-work and busyness culture

In 2007, I experienced the same culture of busyness while I worked at Microsoft. Overwork seemed to be a badge of honour for entrepreneurs, managers and executives alike. I assisted dozens of people, including external business owners and managers, set up so they could work from home. I worked from home one day per week and I began encouraging my colleagues to do the same.

Technology made it possible for us to take our work everywhere, so some of my colleagues did. Most extreme, were my colleagues (yes, there was more than one) who used to take their laptops to bed. Imagine the impact this behaviour could have on their sleep, relationships and sanity. I often tried to pursuade my colleagues to leave work at work (or at the home office door). Working from home myself, I could see how easily the lines could be blurred between work and personal life.

Work life of entrepreneurs

In 2009, I started my technology consulting business, Hile Consulting. Most of the entrepreneurs I worked with had quit the corporate life (or lack of!) in favour of being their own boss. Even though they were now the boss, many were struggling to find time for family, relationships, exercise and leisure. Ironically, they spent most of their time working on their job and not their business.

Paul McCarthy, Founder of The Marketing Club, pointed this irony out to myself and a handful of other small business owners the same year. I remember Paul talking to the audience about the long hours most business owners worked. A room full of tired business owners were nodding their heads in agreement. Then he said, “Think back to when you first started your business? Is this why you started?”

Paul’s question hit a nerve with most people in that room. Most of them, including myself, agreed they had no idea how much work was involved in running a business when they first started. I sat there answering Paul’s question in my own mind. I wondered if it was possible to be more in control of my own time again.

Setting up successful systems

I thought back to when I was working at McDonald’s. Every task had a procedure or checklist. When they found something that worked, they would write a procedure. McDonald’s had systems that allowed the same success story to be copied anywhere in the world. Standardisation is why McDonald’s works. If you find a successful store, chances are they are sticking close to the winning formula.

As I was running my own business, I joined Business Networking International (BNI) and was later chosen as Chapter President. BNI meetings literally ran like clockwork. We had scripts, rules, handbooks, role descriptions and more. If we were in doubt about what to do next, we just needed to open our books. BNI was a great system to be part of. We were successful in growing our chapter because we followed a system.

Inspired by two great organisations, I set up a few systems in in my own business. My email management was mostly automated. I set up workflows, so I could easily manage routine processes. Most of my data protection and backup was either automated or outsourced. I set up systems for any repeatable function in my business. I wanted to invest my time running my business, rather than running around in my business.

Losing control of my time

My career took a turn in late 2011, when I decided to pursue a life long dream and join the NSW Police Force as a Constable. After 2 years, I was burning out. Shift work, 12 hour shifts, unpaid overtime, working on days off, constant conflict and hyper-criticism of my work all took a heavy toll. I wasn’t alone but at times it felt like I was. Exercise was an afterthought. My relationships were under strain. As a police officer (at the time) it was hard to admit I wasn’t in control… but it was true.

My partner and I took a relaxing holiday, where I was fortunate to do some reading and some soul searching. I realised I was no longer heading towards my goals. Nor was I in control of my time. How was I supposed to have a career and a life if I felt like I didn’t control my own time? That was the nature of police work.

Some people told me it was the same in every job. Obviously they were overlooking the fact I worked a variety of jobs for 15 years before I joined the police force. The nature of police work is stressful. For those outside the job who say it is not, to put it bluntly, they have no idea.

In 2014, I resigned from the NSW Police Force and returned to business.

Famous entrepreneurs who found work life balance

Popular opinion among executives and small business owners, at least in my circles, was that work life balance could not exist. Then along came Tim Ferriss, an Entrepreneur and Angel Investor, who wrote the 4 Hour Work Week and changed some perceptions. Then Richard Koch, a well respected Management Consultant, who wrote The 80/20 Manager. Arianna Huffington, Entrepreneur and Founder of The Huffington Post, who wrote The Sleep Revolution following her own collapse. The list goes on.

Robert Kiyosaki wrote a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad. Kiyosaki famously came up with something he calls the cash flow quadrant. He explained there are four roles you can play to make money:

  1. Employee
  2. Self employed
  3. Business owner
  4. Investor

Kiyosaki makes the point that if you ware self employed, you don’t have a business. You have a job. It’s important to make that distinction here. If you can’t take a step back from your job to run your business, then you will always have a job.

Finding balance again

It’s not just famous authors who have helped me. Fortunately I have met some inspiring small business owners, who love their work but still manage to find time for relationships, family, exercise and all the good things in life. A few have told me their stories of burnout in the corporate world. Some made the move to regional cities, so they could enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle.

Returning to a 9-5 job, I read every book I could find about time management, productivity and work life balance. I didn’t just read, I experimented. Adopting what worked and discarding whatever did not. I started writing blog articles about what I had learned through my own challenges. Then I wrote and published my book, in my own time before work, in 8 months.

I am living a balanced life despite wearing many hats. I manage to balance my full time job, my part time business, my role on the board of Dubbo Chamber of Commerce and still find time for date night (and a bit of rest on the weekends). At times, when I find my life getting out of balance, I realise it’s my fault.

Something is wrong if you’re an entrepreneur and you don’t feel like you’re in control of your own time. If not you, then who? Starting and growing a business is hard work. Good planning and organisation can help you make sure you are working on the right things. If you hear someone say, “What work life balance?”, don’t worry. It exists. They just haven’t found their own work life balance yet.



Company mission statements start in your organisation’s heart

Company mission statementsCompany mission statements are essential for great organisations. I believe such organisations also require great cultures, however, this article focuses on the importance of mission.

I wrote a chapter about mission statements in a book I released recently. My focus in that book was individual, rather than corporate. I believe mission statements can be very powerful for individuals and businesses and I have one for both.

I was discussing mission statements with my book’s editor who said, “I’m not a big fan of mission statements”. He explained to me that most organisations he worked in had mission statements. Few of the employees actually knew what their organisation’s mission was. Most of the statements were buried in a drawer and only re-printed to impress the shareholders in the annual report.

I hate to admit it but my editor made a great point. I too had worked at similar places.

However, I have also had the benefit of working with organisations where they took their mission very seriously. Well written company mission statements, backed by supportive cultures, can inspire people, unite teams and advance your shared vision.

Mission statements are effective in a range of situations. In the context of leadership, we can easily see similarities between military organisations and business. Mission statements are often used by military organisations, project teams, large corporations and disruptive startups.

Military and paramilitary mission statements

Mission statements unite teams

In a former life I was a Police Constable. One of my colleagues once wrote on our team whiteboard, “United we stand, Divided we fall”. I later learned this was a quote from US Founding Father John Dickinson. Dickinson’s quote has been repeated often since in 1768. Team work was essential for survival, among other things, during my time as a police officer.

Mission statements provide a sense of purpose

On the day I marched and attested from the NSW Police Academy, I swore an oath to the Queen. Every officer must swear an ‘oath of office’, which is a solemn vow that the police officer will execute their duties faithfully and according to law. I considered this ‘oath of office’ as my mission and it continued to be a benchmark for me and my colleagues, during our service as police officers.

I recall one of our instructors often reminded us to walk with a sense of purpose. Most students, including myself, thought it was funny. On the day I marched out of the academy it all made sense. Everything we were trained to do at the academy, from ‘walking right’ to the way we dressed was a symbol of our professionalism and the manner in which we would carry out our mission.

Mission statements communicate values

Military organisations have their own mission statements. The Australian Army, for example, publishes what they call a ‘contract with Australia’. The United States Navy states their mission, “To maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”

Mission statements motivate people

Robert Kiyosaki discussed the importance of having a sense of mission in his book, ‘Rich Dad’s Before You Quit Your Job’. He applies this to the context of his involvement as a soldier in the Vietnam war and later in business.

“In Vietnam, I witnessed firsthand a third-world nation beat the most powerful nation in the world, simply because its fighting forces had a stronger sense of mission” Kiyosaki wrote (p154).

Company mission statements in corporations

Comapny mission statements communicate a higher calling

In the context of business, Kiyosaki refers to mission as being about more than money. He refers to it as a higher calling (p156). He goes on to say, “The Marine Corps did teach me that the mission of the organisation starts at the core, in the soul of the organisation. Without integrity to a mission, an organisation does not have soul” (p157).

In his book, ‘The Art of the Start’, Guy Kawasaki says shared meaning is a strong predictor of a startup’s success. Kawasaki views most company mission statements to be long and boring but he does support the idea of ‘shared meaning’ . He suggests the use of a three or four word mantra to communicate that ‘shared meaning’ (pp12-14).

Company mission statements bring your big game

Daniel Priestley, who is a successful entrepreneur, author and coach agrees that an entrepreneur’s mission should be at the heart of their pitch. Priestley refers to your mission as your ‘Big Game’ and says it should communicate your vision for three or more years in the future.

Startup company mission statements

Imagine you own one of the new wave of companies commonly being referred to as ‘the disruptors’. Disruptors operate in highly competitive environments and navigate through rapidly changing world. Some of the biggest disruptors have written mission statements despite sometimes operating in unpredictable environments.

Facebook’s mission statement

“Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them”.

Did you notice their big game? Facebook’s mission is about more than keeping a few lonely geeks connected. They talk about bringing the whole world together and empowering people to build communities and express themselves. Apply this statement in today’s world and you quickly realise the wide reaching ramifications. Imagine the positive impact of enabling previously oppressed minorities to express themselves.

Google’s mission statement

Google’s mission is to, “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

Did you notice Google’s big game is about more than providing a search engine? They’re talking about organising the world’s information. They’re talking about making that information universally accessible, which is an incredible challenge on its own. Bringing ‘the world’s’ information to everyone would be an enormous challenge. Consider third world countries, people without computers, people with disabilities, citizens of dictatorships and so on.

Tesla’s mission statement

Tesla’s mission is, “To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible”.

Tesla obviously has enormous challenges ahead. Sustainable transport will need to go beyond the use of renewable fuel. Imagine the challenge of sourcing renewable, recyclable or biodegradable materials suitable for making cars. Car owners will need access charging stations when they’re away from home, which is a challenge in itself.

Final thoughts on company mission statements

Every company, big or small, should have a mission statement. I created a personal mission statement and one for each business I am involved in. My mission is always close at hand. My mission statement is my guide for significant decisions. I check it when I need motivation. I show it to my stakeholders including my partners, prospects, clients.

Write your own company mission statement and use it as a guide for everything you do. Your mission should inspire you and your team, unite your efforts and drive you forward. Remember the words of Robert Kiyosaki; “Without integrity to a mission, an organisation does not have soul”.


How to make a vision board in just 5 minutes

Are you curious how to make a vision board?

How to make a vision board
How to make a vision board

In this article, you will learn how to make a vision board. A vision board is simply a collection of photos, plans, pictures and other stimuli, which help you visualise your goals.

A vision board is not just an absract concept or a nice idea in theory. In fact, it can help you visualise the details in your plan. Individuals and organisations already use vision boards (or something similar) for many practical applications.

Vision boards help you picture the outcomes you want

Visualisation is very powerful. I have used examples in my own book, Time to Start, of high achievers who use visualisation to help them achieve their goals. I also wrote about computer simulation training programs, which are used in emergency services and military training.

Vision boards are simply visual aides, which help you envision your future success in your ‘mind’s eye’. I have used visualisation in my own life to help me achieve my goals.

Vision boards help you be clear about the results you want

I want you to think for a moment about the most ambitious project you can. Try and think about a famous building, house or bridge if you can. An architect or builder likely drew up a plan for each of these projects long before they started.

Long before a bridge is built, for example, similar bridges are photographed, an architect draws a design, an engineer will help with the calculations and someone (I assume the architect again?) will draw a few concepts of what the finished project might look like. All of this happens long before anyone picks up a hammer (or whatever they build bridges with these days!).

Your vision board should be the same. Instead of thinking about your vision board as some abstract concept, think of it as filling in the details of your plan.

Famous people who use a vision board

Before we dive into how to make a vision board, I want to mention a few famous successful people, who already use one. You can watch Steve Harvey talk to Oprah Winfrey about the importance of using a vision board.

Pop star Katy Perry reportedly made her first vision board when she was 9 years old, which depicted a singer she admired winning a Grammy Award. 15 years later, Katy won her first Grammy Award.

TV host Ellen DeGeneres showed her vision board to the audience on her show, which showed images of Oprah and ‘O’ Magazine, which she wanted to appear on the cover of. Some time later, Oprah called Ellen and invited her to appear on the cover. Watch the video of Oprah calling into Ellen.

I’m not suggesting a vision board has been solely reponsible for anyone’s success but I do believe very strongly in the power of visualisation. If a vision board helps you paint a chrystal clear picture of what you want, then in my mind, you will be significantly more likely to succeed.

How to make a vision board

You don’t need to know how to create the perfect vision board, you just need to get started. You can improve your vision board over time, as your goals and definition of success becomes clearer.

Your vision board does not need to be complicated. In fact, start off as simply as you can. Find a pin board, magnetic white board, a blank wall or just a piece of cardboard if that’s all you can muster up. If you have enought money, you can purchase something a bit nicer. The photo of the vision board in this article was taken at Kaisercraft.

Vision board apps exist and you can use those too, however, they are my least favourite option because you risk being distracted by app and message notifications every time you want to focus on your goals. So, for that reason, I prefer a low tech pin board or something similar.

What to include on your vision board

Use your personal mission statement (if you have one) or your personal goals, as a guide for what to include on your vision board. You might choose to include some of the following on your own board:

  • Anything you are grateful for and want to keep in your life
  • Words, phrases or quotes that motivate you
  • Photos of your mentors or others who inspire you
  • Pictures and records of milestones you have achieved
  • Records and photos of any big goals you have achieved
  • Drawings, plans or photos to help you envision your goals
  • Drawings and photos that remind you of future rewards

I recommend you include things on your vision board, which remind you of how much you have achieved. Envisioning your future will help you reach your goals, however, reminding yourself of your achievements in the past (no matter how small) can reaffirm your confidence.

Where to keep your vision board

In short, keep your vision board everywhere! I recommend you have a physical pin board or something similar, which you keep in a place you’re likely to see it every day. Keep a photo of it on your phone, update your computer desktop with that picture. My point is, you should be able to refer to your vision board as often as you need to remind yourself of your goals.

When should you start your vision board?

Today! Now you know how to make a vision board, your next step is to actually make one. Start searching magazines, finding quotes or taking photos that represent your dreams and goals. Remember to keep your vision board simple and uncluttered. Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”


How to focus in an always on, always connected world

How to focus in a noisy world

How to focus in a noisy worldIf you want to master any skill or achieve your goals in today’s world, you need to learn how to focus. Tune out from the noise and distractions and concentrate on what matters most. I know that’s easier said than done, which is why I wrote this article and created an infographic to help you.

People so accustomed to short videos, infographics and bite sized pieces of information online that we forget true mastery involves so much more focus, commitment and immersion.

Fortunately for you, I have caved and created an infographic, which gives you a few quick tips on how to focus. If you want more detailed tips, check out a few of my other articles about how to focus.

Why you find it hard to focus

Some sources estimate, a person living in a major city is likely to be exposed to up to 10,000 advertising messages each day. At the risk of being an alarmist, we are under attack from marketers! Okay, perhaps it’s not that extreme (says the marketing major in me) but still; focus is a dying art.

Technology is also arguably causing a decline in people’s attention spans. You may find it difficult to focus these days because you get interrupted with phone calls, voice mails, sms texts, instant messages, tweets, friend requests and email notifications; just to name a few. Compare that to just 20 years ago, when mobile phones were much bigger and much less common. Social media and text messages were’nt really a thing.

Please feel free to send and share this infographic to teach your colleagues, clients or followers how to focus. It gives a few simple ideas that anyone can follow. If you’re a manager, feel free to print this out and hang it on the pin board at work.

6 tips to find your focus

Here are some simple tips on how to focus:

  1. Turn off social media and email notifications, unless they are relevant to the task at hand
  2. Block or redirect any phone calls not related to what you are working on
  3. Focus on what you are working on right now by saying no to everything else
  4. Concentrate on a single task, rather than rapidly switching or multi-tasking
  5. Lock your office door or turn your chair to face away from colleagues
  6. Wear a pair of big, obvious headphones, so colleagues can see you are working
  7. Remove your visitor’s chair, welcome sign and anything else that invites drop in visitors

Print out this infographic on how to focus, as a handy reminder of how to minimise distractions and focus at work.


How to focus infographic

How to get motivated now

How to get motivated

How to get motivated by taking action. When you improve your behaviour, you can boost your mood and motivation.

I was feeling unmotivated at work for a few days, so I revisited what I know about motivation. I managed to improve my mood in a single day by practicing some of the following techniques.

We all have times when we feel down and we need to recall how to get motivated. Self help books teach you to ‘be positive’ but I believe that’s an over-simplification of an otherwise good philosophy. After all, I do believe the quicker you can bounce back from negative thinking, the faster you get back on track to achieving your goals.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it” -Lou Holtz, retired American football coach, active sports caster, motivational speaker and author.

How to get motivated now

I’m going share some practical ideas with you on how to get motivated. I have used every one of these techniques, multiple times. I have found that just one of these actions can significantly improve my mood and my motivation.

Do the very thing you have been avoiding

Don’t fear doing something because you imagine the ‘worst case scenario’. Force yourself to take action and you may just conquer that fear. I have pushed myself to do things I don’t particularly want to do at times because I knew they had to be done. Cold calls, presentations, fitness tests and shooting tests (for a different job) all began with me taking action, even though I was nervous to start.

  • Gordon Livingston M.D. wrote a book called, The Thing You Think You Cannot Do, in which he describes fear as a corrosive influence and how we can overcome that fear. I recommend you read his book if you need help to overcome your fear.

Write a daily journal

Keep a daily journal of things that motivate you. Try writing about what you are thankful for, what I want to achieve and occasionally unanswered questions or insights you have. The American Psychological Association previously found evidence that expressive writing does in fact boost health and helps people deal with stress.

Behave as if you’re motivated

I’m currently reading a great book called Change Your Thinking by Sarah Edelman, PhD. In her book, Edelman describes the link between emotions and behaviour as bilateral; meaning emotions affect our behaviours and behaviours affect our emotions. Start behaving as if you’re already motivated. Smile, stand up straight, make eye contact and be positive in your tone of voice.

Break your goals into smaller pieces

Break your goals down into smaller milestones, so you can celebrate small victories along the way. Christopher Bergland calls these ‘micro’ goals, as opposed to ‘macro’ (the bigger) goals in his article on Psychology Today. I have tried this approach myself and found it has helped me in several areas of my life.

Take a break and find some solitude

Switch off all of the outside noise and give yourself time to think. Walk somewhere, do some light exercise or sit quietly in a park. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., states solitude helps us concentrate and be more productive. It’s no coincidence that people say, “I need to go for a walk and clear my head”. I do exactly that when I need some clarity.

Soak up some morning sun

Sit in the morning sunlight, while you read your book or enjoy your coffee. My Fiancé Kayla, a psychology student at the time, pointed out that morning sunlight has mood improving benefits. I found a helpful article outlining a few mood lifting benefits of getting more sun. Read more in ‘What are the benefits of sunlight?’ by Rachel Nall. 

Visualise your success and create a vision board if necessary

Visualise what you want. Visualisation is so important, I wrote about it in my own book, Time to Start. I have visualised my own goals in the past, sometimes without even realising it! Construct a successful outcome in your own mind and it will improve your chances of success. AJ Adams, MAPP, has written an article called, ‘Seeing is believing. The power of visualisation’, in which she describes some uses, examples and benefits of visualisation.

“Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind” -William James, American philosopher, psychologist and physician.

I am not flawless, always happy or always upbeat. I have bounced back from feeling unmotivated or flat because I have adopted these techniques myself.

Try a few of the ideas above if you are struggling to get motivated. Act on these ideas. Don’t just read them. Knowing how to get motivated will not help you, unless you put this knowledge into action. Maybe today is the day for you to get your mojo back!



Are you busy?

Culture of busyness and hustleAre you busy? I recently watched an online video posted by a popular entrepreneur and social media expert, who I will not name.

In his video, the social media guru is walking around in his usual hyper state (think a powered bunny, in a battery ad,  full of cocaine).

One of his fans asked him the secret of success and he replied, “You need to hustle man”. His groupies all paused and began nodding their head, as if that’s the answer they expected. The guru went on to say something like, “If you’re working 12 hour days, you need to be working 20”.

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness” -John C. Maxwell; Leadership Expert, Speaker and Author.

I want you to pause for a minute and think of someone who you consider to be very successful. Perhaps it is a mentor or someone who plays in your particular niche. Perhaps it is someone in another industry and you admire their traits or you want their definition of success.

Do you honestly think, the only difference between you and that person is they worked more hours than you? Look around you. We live in a culture of busyness. Everyone is working hard and everyone thinks they’re hustling harder than the next person. Walk up to one of your colleagues and ask, “are you busy?” 99 percent of the time they will tell you they are.

Do you believe Warren Buffett is successful because he works long hours? Sure, putting is probably critical for his success. If you think that you are probably selling him short for the knowledge, skills and connections he has accumulated over the years. In fact, Buffett mostly keeps his calendar empty and invests 80 percent of most days reading.

Do you honestly think Richard Branson is as successful as he is just because of a solid work ethic? Sure, it may have played a part. Branson is persistent (even after selling his company due to financial struggles in 1992), a visionary, a fun likeable guy and a one man personal brand. He knows how to find a problem in a market, build a team, fix the problem and publicise his solution.

I remember the resurgence of the term ‘rat race’ in the 1990’s, which described the constant struggle and busyness of everyday life in the corporate world. While the term ‘rat race’ may no longer be popular, our unrelenting ambition for more money (at any cost) and the revived term ‘hustle’ mean the same thing. If you are in business, even for yourself, it is likely you are still part of the rat race. Now there are more rats than ever before!

“It requires more toughness to resist the world than to join in the rat-race” -Sir James Darling, former Headmaster of Geelong Grammar School and former Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Here’s the catch. You need to make sure you are doing the right things before you start doing them right. You need to be effective at setting and taking steps towards your goals. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are or how hard you work. If you are not working towards your goals, you will never enjoy your definition of success.

I would suggest the busyness bug or the perceived need to hustle constantly are a symptom of modern society, rather than a requirement of success. People who are wired or connected to technology 24/7 aren’t getting a buzz because they’re being productive. Technology keeps our brains in an over-stimulated state so, when we use technology, we get a buzz from our brain releasing more dopamine.

We have an addiction to busyness, not productivity. Pause every now and then and think, are you busy? Are you being productive and working towards your goals or just filling in time?

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play” -John Cleese, English Actor, Comedian and Writer.

Which would you rather be? Busy or Effective? In order to be effective, we need to take a step back from our lives of constant stimulation and give ourselves time to think. We need original thought, rather than recycled ideas from the internet. We need time to pause, reflect and carefully contemplate our next decision.

Sometimes taking a step back and giving yourself time to think is better than continuing to hustle but ultimately, you still need to act on your decision. Ask yourself today, are you busy? Or are you productive?

How to turn off after a long workday

How to turn off after work

How to turn off after workOne of the challenges of working from home is finding how to turn off after work. Lines between work and personal life have become blurred, thanks to technology, globalisation and a culture of busyness (being busy for the sake of it). Busyness is not essential, it’s fashionable.

I know business owners who obsess constantly, freelancers who never seem to finish work, employees who think they will lose their job if they’re not working well into the night. I’m not opposed to working hard, however, the fallacy that no one ever died from hard work is just that; a myth.

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” -John C. Maxwell, Leadership expert, speaker and author.

In fact, in China, local media estimates 1,600 people are dying every day from working too hard [1]. At least some of these are white collar workers. According to the same article, death from overwork is a badge of honour in China. This problem is not limited to China. Korea and Japan are also on the list of countries where overwork is a serious problem.

Workers in some western countries, like the US, also suffer poor health due to overwork. In some cases this leads to burnout or complete exhaustion.

7 ways to relax after work

I have discovered, through trial and error, how to turn off after work. This is general advice and while these things worked for me, they might not work for you.

I have worked in my own business and worked for others from my home. I choose to wake up early and then keep my evenings for leisure time. It’s up to you when you work, however, you need to allow time to switch off, relax and go to sleep

Set clear rules for when and how to turn off

I used to blur the lines between work and personal life until it seemed like I had no personal life. I think it’s fair to limit how much your personal life impacts your work… but in return it’s also fair to limit the amount work encroaches on your home life.

How to turn off sleep supressants before bed

According to an article from Harvard Health Publications, computers and phones emit a blue light, which supresses sleep and throws off your circadian rhythms. Research cited in this article suggests that exposure to blue light at night has other health implications too. Limit your screen time after hours.]

How to turn off stimulants before bed

Caffeine is a stimulant, which can give you a boost of energy but might also keep you awake at night. I have found, when I limit my caffeine intake to the first half of the day, I get a better night’s sleep. While this may seem obvious to some, there is some research to back it up.

Why you need to eat early and eat healthy

I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night with acid reflux, which is quite uncomfortable. After I did some research on some possible causes of acid reflux, I found a few minor changes stopped this problem for me. I eat less junk now, eat earlier in the evening and skip the caffeine several hours before bed. Acid reflux can be quite serious; so if this is an ongoing problem for you, see your doctor.

How to turn off your over-active brain

I often keep a notepad beside my bed, so I can do a bit of a brain dump before I go to bed. I write down my thoughts, my worries and my ideas. Sometimes I draft a quick plan for the following day. I think it’s a kind of therapy. It frees up my brain, so I can just relax. Amazingly, sometimes my brain fills in the blanks or evolves my idea into something better while I sleep.

Drink relaxing caffeine free tea before bed

I experimented by drinking a few different types of tea before bed. In doing so, I stumbled upon Sleep Tight Tea from T2™. Unlike black tea, it really helps me relax. I have tried a few chamomile teas, green teas etc. but Sleep Tight is the only one that puts me out like a light!

How to turn off your phone and turn your partner on!

Bedrooms are for sleep and sex, not social media. If you want more sleep or more sex, ditch the devices. I have already mentioned that smartphones emit a blue light, which keeps you awake longer. Smartphones are also a constant source of distraction because they beep, buzz and vibrate every time one of your ‘friends’ moves on social media.

Your team needs to recharge, so share these tips for how to turn off

If you’re a leader and you want to get the best out of your team at work, maybe you should share this advice with them. Make sure your team switches off early and have enough time to recharge for the next day.

If you are reading this because you feel overwhelmed or can’t relax and fall asleep at night, it’s a good start. Don’t just read ‘How to turn off after work’, try my tips out. If you find something else has helped you relax, please share that with me in the comments. Thanks for reading.



[1] “In China, 1,600 People Die Every Day From Working Too Hard”, Bloomberg, accessed at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-07-03/in-china-white-collar-workers-are-dying-from-overwork on June 30, 2017. 


Best productivity apps for entrepreneurs

Best productivity apps for business

7 best productivity apps for entrepreneurs

Productivity appsThere are 7 best productivity apps I have used to stay organised and be more effective in my blog, working on projects and in my business. When you have a specific opportunity or problem in business, you might find yourself asking, “Hey. Is there an app for that?”

I have found these are the best productivity apps for me because they are instrumental for me to run my business. If you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur or freelancer, you might find they help you too.

My top picks for the best productivity apps

  1. Wunderslist is one of my best productivity apps

I wanted a to-do list, which would synch my smartphone and my computer, so I started testing apps. At the time of writing, I use Wunderlist for everything from personal errands to running my business partnership. Organise your tasks and projects with Wunderlist.

CamCard saves time recording contact details 

In our so called ‘paperless’ society, most people still hand out business cards at networking events. CamCard uses your smartphone’s camera to scan a business card and automatically creates a contact file. It saves time, adds convenience and saves storage space. Easily capture, organise and retrieve your contacts with CamCard.

Create amazing designs with Canva

Okay, I’m cheating. Canva is not a smartphone app yet but it’s a great web based app. I have designed some very professional looking pictures for social media, brochures, ebooks and more. What I love is that it’s so easy to use, in comparison to most graphic design or desktop publishing software. Canva is free to use but you will need to pay a small fee  if you use many of their photos and illustrations. Create great looking social media posts and marketing materials with Canva.

One of the best productivity apps for file sharing is Dropbox

Dropbox is a file storage and sharing folder, which allows you to overcome size restrictions on email. There’s an app for most smartphones and computers. You can start with the free version and can upgrade later if you require extra storage and collaboration features. Get started with Dropbox.

Mailchimp helps you build you mailing list

Mailchimp has everything you need to build your mailing list. Automate your sign ups and start sending professional looking marketing emails today. You can easily start your business with their free version and then upgrade as you need to add subscribers or features. Use Mailchimp to grow your database and automate your email marketing.

Get things done on Fiverr

Fiverr is a website and an app. As an entrepreneur, doing everything yourself might not be possible, so you might want to outsource some of your writing, graphic design or technical work to a freelancer on Fiverr. Hire a freelancer, on Fiverr, to do some work for you.

Hootsuite automates your social media

As an entrepreneur, you may need to engage on social media. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you probably have more important things to do with your time. You need to focus on things that add the most value to your business. If you don’t have time to log on to each social media platform and post every day, you can schedule posts with Hootsuite. Automate your social media marketing with Hootsuite.

The best productivity apps in life are free!

I hope this collection has given you ideas to solve some of your challenges today. I use the free version of the best productivity apps and websites, so you can get started for nothing too.

Henry David Thoreau, a famous philosopher and author, once said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Set up systems, so you can focus on important decisions

I hope this article inspires you to find the best productivity apps, so you can set up systems in your business. Effective systems allow you focus on your most important decisions; the ones you can’t automate. I hope you found something in this article to help you be more effective as an entrepreneur. Please feel free to leave your tips below about productivity apps that work for you.