How do I: deal with low attention spans

When there are a lot of distractions going on, it is hard to retain anyone’s attention. So how do I deal with periods of time like this?

People are busy. So am I. If you want someone’s attention, ping them on a scheduled basis to see when you can schedule a short amount of time with them. Now is not likely the best time and you will quickly realize that when asking for their time.

Scheduling short meetings will help retain more focus and attention than hour (or longer) droning meetings. Imagine if you cut the chatter out completely and limited meetings to 15 total minutes or 30 total minutes. The people who need to make a point will get to it much faster than during a 1 to 2 hour meeting.

Need a 5-minute buffer between calls for a breather, a bathroom break or to get a beverage? Add the 5 minutes to your schedule and cut the meeting to 25 minutes instead. Emphasize that hard stop time in the beginning of the meeting. Give a reminder when all of you have 5 minutes left and hold to the scheduled end time as if it was your religion. Need more time? Schedule another block of time in the future. Make sure to get to points you need to cover and add those to a meeting agenda beforehand as a prequel for everyone to prepare as needed.

Now imagine if only the people who need to be there are invited and everyone starts on time regardless of stragglers or late people (no matter how important they might be). Record the decisions made and email it to people who need to know. If decision-makers are not there, no sense in being in the meeting at all. Just reschedule. If decisions don’t need to be made, email the update, and don’t waste time with a meeting. If you need to verbally tell lots of people something, video record it and send it to them. Fewer distractions. More focus. This is easier when everyone is remote and you don’t have to waste time walking to any meeting room or waiting for it to clear out from the last meeting. I don’t miss the useless office.

This goes for home life too. Schedule time with your loved ones as well as friends and be clear when they get your scheduled attention. They will hold you to it since it should work for all parties or reschedule.

If you notice your metrics (social media traffic, website traffic, emails directed personally to you) drop significantly, it will be noticeable and it often happens seasonally. For example, the last week of the year or just before a major holiday or during the last weeks of an election, don’t expect anyone’s attention nor true focus. Their mind is elsewhere. Schedule a time afterward.

If you do find the time, focus, and ideas to work on, take that less disrupted time to work on self-assigned projects that mean something to you.

Shiny objects will keep appearing. Everyone is out to steal your attention away from you. Guard your time by ruthlessly filtering out distractions that you have no control over. Realize what you do and don’t control among the many things that take your attention and time away from you. What do you want to do with your own time and attention?

What is your evening routine?

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The less I need to think about with a set routine, the easier my day is to focus on what matters, on what needs to get done and ignore the rest.

This is my evening routine. as inspired by Tim Ferriss and his evening routine.

Here is my evening routine:

6PM

Stop working.

Prepare and eat dinner. Most meals for the week are often made once a week to save time in prep. See how do I batch tasks to save time.

Every other day, go to the gym to exercise with a neighbor for 45 minutes.

7PM

Scheduled bike ride every other day for 30 minutes (great for stress relief).

Participate in a mastermind group call once a week.

Set mobile phone on airplane mode.

Plug in and charge with all devices.

8PM

On warm weekday evenings (April through October), go to the pool to cool off and relax.

On Sundays, enjoy firepit with neighbors for 1 hour.

9PM

Find something to watch on-demand that I have not seen while hydrating with cool water.

Between 10PM and 12AM

Have preset multiple alarms set for waking hours set 15 minutes apart with different sounds that I will wake me on my mobile phone and Amazon Alexa.

Sleep

6 to 8 hours

After that, I repeat my morning routine.

What is your evening routine?

What is your morning routine?

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The less I need to think about with a set routine, the easier my day is to focus on what matters.

Inspired by Tim Ferriss and his morning routine, I thought I would share my morning routine.

6AM

Wake-up

Bathroom

Re-hydrate with cool water

Walk for 30 minutes either in my neighborhood, at a nearby national wildlife refuge or on the beach. If weather permits, I alternate between walking and swimming in my neighborhood (access has less cost, hassle, and maintenance than ownership of a pool).

7AM

Eat breakfast

        • Handful of blueberries (washed)
        • Black Bean burger (no bun nor condiments). Alternate with a whole avocado
        • Coffee (1 cup)
        • Cool water

Shower while listening to the custom flash briefing on Amazon Alexa in the bathroom. The custom flash briefing includes local weather for the day and business news from outside the US.

Shave in shower with the humidity on the skin.

Dress based on day’s events

Say goodbye to wife as she leaves for work.

8AM

Start work based on calendar

What is your morning routine?

Donating Time vs. Money

In this season of giving and receiving, I wanted to share some thoughts around donations.

Over the past few decades, I have done a lot of volunteering. When I was underemployed, I volunteered. When I was over-employed, I volunteered.

Volunteering our time often has a longer-lasting impact and imprint on people, including ourselves.

The first key is finding a channel for impact and value such as a person, an event, or an organization we believe in.

The second key is being able to deliver value over time for this person, event, or organization. You can confirm your belief in providing it by literally asking if it is helpful to them and then ask them to confirm how it is for them (versus a simple “yes” that can often be tokenized as a blanket answer to any volunteer).

The third key is the repeatable act of volunteering for this channel and/or others. Volunteering is not a checkbox, but rather a commitment and effort on your part.

So why volunteer vs. provide a handout of extra funds to said cause?

Both can help. don’t get me wrong. Often, I hear people talking about writing a check when they can not find the time, even though that sounds like poor time management. I believe the willingness to volunteer is lacking with many people and it extends to far more than helping the less fortunate or funding [fill in the blank].org

I recently listened to well-known philanthropist billionaire who analyzed the hundreds of places they funded with sizable donations annually and then measured the impact after a few years. The impact of those donations were so minimal, he stopped writing checks to most of them because it did not make a noticeable difference (or at least not to the level that was expected at the time). Many organizations are getting increasing criticism on the impact they deliver (or don’t). Some are better documented and measured than others.

When I attended the VIP event after this interesting Question and Answer session with the philanthropist, the Dean of the Business School where I volunteer some of my time as a startup advisor thanked me personally. While I fully realize a business school is a business as well, I am there to assist their efforts in providing unbiased advice to dozens of new startups (run by students) a month throughout the university, well beyond just the school of business or the school of computer science.

The Dean also asked why I do this. I simply prefer to donate my time than my money.  My time, advice, and experience shared seem to have a longer-lasting impact than any money I have ever donated to anyone. It is a better investment.

In October 2017, I moved from the Washington DC area to the low country of Bluffton, South Carolina.

When I told the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship that I was moving the DC area where I had to leave the house by 6am to beat traffic from Dulles, VA  to College Park, MD, they immediately offered to keep me engaged through the use of an online mentoring platform so I could continue mentoring from anywhere in the world remotely.

Before moving, I made sure to find new venues to volunteer as a startup advisor in South Carolina. While many opportunities do not pan out for a variety of reasons, a few do.

I made sure those were available before finding a house to live in. Call it selfless maybe. I call it an opportunity to learn and share. Yes, that is right. I get to learn what gaps and challenges there are in the market today. Filling those gaps and challenges becomes a future lecture, my next book if there isn’t one that exists (like Keywording Now) or another business to fill that gap if there is a big enough market need for it. Find a solution to an existing problem.

That is why the first question I ask is “How can I help you?”

How do you donate your time?

What lasting impact do your efforts have where you volunteer?

What impact did your money have if you choose to donate?

Which will be remembered more?

Questions?

How do I: manage time

 

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Some people I have worked with, as well as friends, are amazed at a number of things I accomplish in short periods of time. They ask how I do it. Time management is the key ingredient. Every task takes time.

Most people have ideas, but few execute these ideas into reality. That is what I specialize in. More on idea validation in a future post.  Taking ideas into reality within a reasonable time frame is time management.

Our time is valuable. The money will come and go. Time does not come back into our lifetime. Use it wisely. Don’t waste it.

Everyone has 168 hours in a week. Whether you are homeless or a billionaire, we all share the same time. You chose what you do with every hour. What do you do with your time is a choice. You chose to focus (or not) on something and spend the time to do something (or not).

You choose where you live, where you work, when you eat, when you sleep, even when you go to the bathroom.

Get rid of time wasters

It amazes me how people waste their time…

Stop standing in lines or waiting

Many people know about Amazon Now beyond books, but now you can order things online, including coffee before getting to the cafe, have groceries delivered and (soon) schedule an Uber to pick you up. There is often a better and faster way to spend more time where you need to spend time instead of wasting it.

I used to spend up to 10% my week researching things like this online and in person.

No excessive entertainment

Everyone has their own priorities. Playing video games to reach a specific goal. Catch up on a specific TV series of TV. Watch hit movies. Doing things that will only slow you down even more and achieve nothing.

5/25 Rule

List your top 25 goals/priorities. Organize them in priority order.

Stop doing the bottom 20. Cold hard stop. Focus on the top 5 only.

Months later, revisit that list of 25 to see if those other 20 are still important to you. Likely not so much.  Refocus as goals/priorities change over time

Use your freedom with purpose

You likely have a lot of freedom in your day to day life. We all have 168 hours every week, not 40.  What do you use your freedom for?

What have you achieved with your own freedom? Are these life goals? Checking off bucket list items? Have you improved the world or your world somehow?

Or are you repeating fairly worthless tasks? Being “too busy” is the biggest cop-out robbing yourself of your own time, your own mindset and your own freedom to accomplish, to fulfill and to satisfy what matters to you.

Stop being a sheep

Paraphrasing General Patton, “You can lead, follow or get out of the way”.

You can follow someone else’s dream (like most people) or you can work on your own dream. Pick one.

Lead, don’t follow. Stop worrying about what others think about you or what other people say about what your doing. Other people’s opinions are their own.

Don’t follow the crowds. The other path will be less crowded for a reason.

Follow your goals to your dream, not the paths already taken by others. Your life is not paint by numbers.

18/40/60 rule

If you read Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Revised and Expanded): The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems, I will paraphrase the author Dr. Daniel G. Amen:

“When you’re 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you.

When you’re 40, you don’t give a damn what anybody thinks of you

When you’re 60, you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all.”

Now imagine living your life from age 18 knowing and believing this. What is possible now? Now that you know this start now regardless of your age.

80/20 Principle

 

Realize what you are in control of

You do not control everything. Realize what you have control over and what you don’t control.

Don’t waste time with what you have no control over unless you can influence those that can make a difference directly.

Do not participate in any drama. It improves nor solves nothing.

If you have to face drama, walk through any drama through all scenarios to their end states. As you envision them, you will see how pointless and baseless most of these are.

There is always what you’re in control of. If some dies, there is nothing you can do except bury them. If you get fired or laid off from your job, you can focus your energy on finding another position.

Prioritize your intentions with focused action.

Is that higher risk? Sure. You might fail a few times, and in the process, you will learn a lot more as well.

Is it more lonely? Yes, that can be part of the point. Less noise. Less distraction if you are self-aware of the distractions around you. Limit the distractions. Have you read Indistractable?

We can learn more from our failures and learn even more overcoming our challenges.

We do not learn as much from our successes, regardless of the number.

Segment your time

Themed days works for you some people like having Meeting Mondays.

Some have a morning routine or a daily routine, possibly for your own betterment.

Are you a giver, matcher or taker?

Have you read Give and Take? Most people are matchers. Yes, Quid Pro Quo. Some greedy people are simply takers who ask for a lot and give nothing back.

A few people are givers. I am a giver… of my time. Because most people don’t do this and are often matchers, they want to match what I do for them in return, but don’t understand how they could possibly match the value I provide them. This blows their mind because they encounter it so rarely. Matchers wait for an ask or sales pitch from a giver (that does not come). Takers mistaken being a giver as a weakness they can exploit, so takers attempt to take advantage of the giver. However, takers find out later being a giver is a strength that they do not have, takers fail to see the long term purpose of the givers actions and it usually blows up in the face of the greedy taker. There are rarely any short term gains, except for the giver.

Get someone else to do tasks for you 24/7/365

Most of us sleep. Why not have tasks done that are non-critical, (not business drivers, but support tasks) while we sleep or anytime for that matter. Use time zones to your advantage.

You could mow a lawn if you have a lawn or you can pay someone to do it faster and better. Time gained, even if the time is to rest longer/more.

This is why I send audio podcasts to be edited to Upwork at night before I go to sleep and review them by breakfast time. I pay a small fee for this. Well worth it.

This is why I send approved audio to be transcribed into text to Rev within 24 hours for a small fee. Not worth my time to try and transcribe it myself. Someone can do this far better than me. Be self-aware of tasks you do yourself and ask yourself why do you do it yourself. Why not delegate someone else to accomplish it and maybe even do it better. That’s ok too.

I leverage global crowdsourced work forces to do task that can do it better, faster and cheaper than I could ever want to do it. It makes little difference where the work is being done as long as it is being done well enough to save you the time and effort of doing it yourself.

Humans vs. machines saving you time

Many of us are using more artificial intelligence (AI) to augment or simply do our tasks for us. Eventually, these will be good enough to do the tasks for us. These are tasks we don’t need humans to be doing so we could focus on more important things. The tipping point for AI to be ubiquitous is not there yet due to quality concerns and luddites.  As I interviewed people on Tagging.tech, many of the AI technologies are focusing on user experience and speed. Since we have no patience, speed for the results are important. However, the accuracy of results still matter, even though humans are not getting any more accurate. Some AI experts claim another 10 to 15 years of development before these can be that good.

Then, what are we going to do with our time? Imagine not being burdened with tasks you don’t want to do and imagine what you could accomplish with that freedom.

Questions?