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When listening, use your eyes as well as your ears.

We communicate with our whole body and our actions and behaviours must be consistent with what we are saying. Although the oft-used figures that came from Albert Mehrabian’s experiments have been convincingly debunked long ago, it is normally agreed that our body language has a huge impact on our credibility when we deliver a message.

Body language is mostly unconscious communication using facial expressions, gestures, body movements, postures and so on – that either reinforce or contradict what we are saying. When it contradicts, it is usually wise to believe the nonverbal clues since they are not as easily disguised as the words. The words are what others want us to believe; but the real meaning is in the way those words are delivered.

When communicating, be aware of whether your arms are crossed or you are avoiding eye contact or frequently glancing somewhere else or speaking in a monotone. If you are telling people you are really enthusiastic about an idea, but there is no enthusiasm in your voice, they are unlikely to believe you.

Talk slowly and distinctly. Don’t rush when you’re asking questions. There is nothing more frustrating than being asked a question and not having enough time to respond. As trainers we are told to follow the 7-Second Rule. Allow at least 7 seconds for the response to a question before continuing with the message.

According to David Niven, in his book, 100 simple secrets of successful people, people rate speakers who speak more slowly as being 38% more knowledgeable than speakers who speak more quickly.

The recently discovered mirror neuron system is now believed to play a major role in our ability to interpret body language. Mirror neurons are those brain cells that fire both when we perform an activity ourselves and when we observe someone else performing the same activity.

Some researchers believe that mirror neurons help us relate, and interpret facial expressions, mannerisms and even the moods and emotions of others. We should be aware of other people’s body language when we are listening to them talk. It could either reinforce our confidence in what they are actually saying or put doubt in our minds as to the truth in what they say.

Effective listeners do not only focus on what a person says; but on the way the person says it. Use your eyes as well as your ears.

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7 habits of proactive people

Proactive means acting beforehand. Taking action in the present will influence things in the future, perhaps even the future itself. So always think ahead. Practice those habits exhibited by proactive people. Set goals. Schedule time for important activities. Plan daily. Use checklists. Review results, continually make adjustments to improve future outcomes. Plan long range. And maintain the right attitude. There is power in being proactive.

Proactive people are always looking ahead at future activities, projects and events and anticipating needs, problems and possible outcomes. Here are seven habits they have acquired that enable them to tackle almost any situation.

  1. Set goals. Proactive people hold planning sessions with themselves as well as with others, and set specific goals for the future. They not only put them in writing, along with deadline dates, they schedule time in their planners to actually work on them. By doing this, they are helping to create their own future as opposed to reacting to unplanned events.
  • Schedule time for important activities. Proactive people use planners as they are supposed to use them – to record future events and to schedule time for priority tasks and activities. By being able to view the future, they are able to anticipate possible problems and act before they can occur. Just looking at an event such as a scheduled meeting in writing, sets your mind thinking about things you will need for that meeting.
  • Plan daily. Ideally you will have scheduled your priority activities a week ahead, leaving unscheduled time each day for those important and urgent tasks and activities that inevitably pop up throughout the week. But you may have to do some juggling in order to fit them all in. Don’t let a priority activity be replaced without first rescheduling it to another time slot. And never replace a scheduled activity with a less important one. Remember that the good is the enemy of the best.
  • Use checklists. Proactive people make up checklists for all repetitive events or activities, such as meetings, travel, conferences, sales calls, workshops and interviews. These checklists are updated if necessary after every event. If anything was missed, it is added to the list so that it won’t be forgotten the next time. Checklists save time and money and prevent errors.
  • Review results. Proactive people don’t just follow through with planned tasks and events, they follow up as well, and make sure the value received was worth the time and effort expended. This ensures that they are indeed completing the 20% of the tasks that yield 80% of the results. Always question whether you are making the best possible use of your time.
  •  Plan long range. Proactive people recognize that it’s never too early to plan, and that planning too late causes crises and time problems. If the Titanic had started turning sooner, it never would have hit the iceberg. Small adjustments made earlier avoid large adjustments having to be made at the last minute.
  • Maintain the right attitude. The most important weapon that proactive people have at their disposal is their attitude or state of mind. In fact, it could be called a way of life. Proactive people wouldn’t think of making a telephone call without first jotting down the items for discussion or going to the supermarket without first making a list of the items they need. They don’t resent looking at a map before taking a trip or reading the instructions before assembling a swing set.

Proactive people maintain their cool, avoid stress, and never let other people’s lack of planning become their crises. They don’t accept assignments without realistic deadlines, and never accept ASAP in place of an actual date. They are organized, efficient, and respect other people’s time as well as their own.


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Are you feeling overwhelmed?

When we are confronted with multiple priorities, all of which seem to be urgent, we sometimes freeze – like a deer caught in the headlights. It’s a case of paralysis by analysis as we try to decide where to start.

If this happens to you, stop and take a deep breath, and write down all the priorities that currently confront you. As you read the resulting list out loud you will realize that you can’t overestimate the unimportance of everything. If it’s not life threatening, it’s not really that important.

This step is essential because you can’t be effective while in a panic mode.

Once you have convinced yourself that it’s not the end of the world, recognize that you can’t do everything at the same time. Nor can you do all things for all people. So begin the task of prioritizing.

With the purpose of your organization in mind, number the tasks in order of their importance. Don’t be concerned with their urgency unless it’s a tie. It doesn’t matter how urgent the task is if it’s really not that important. It’s important only if it furthers the goals of your organization. Hopefully you already have a written mission statement, policies and procedures, and specific goals for the year. If not, look after that little matter immediately.

If someone drops a jar of pickles on the floor as your store is about to open, you wouldn’t clean up the mess before you open the doors if your purpose included serving customers by selling groceries. Which option do you think would be of greater benefit to your customers, a spotless floor or access to the items they need?

If there are some items on your list that are urgent, but not important, ignore them and they will soon disappear. You can refer to that as “management by neglect” or “planned neglect.” You may find a few that are both urgent and important. By “urgent” I mean if you don’t take action right away, you will lose the goal-related benefit that task would have provided. You must schedule time in the immediate future to see that these tasks are completed. Hopefully there is someone other than yourself to whom you can delegate a few of these tasks.

You will probably find that the majority of the important tasks are not that urgent. You can schedule time to do these in the weeks ahead and still reap the rewards. If you don’t already schedule “appointments with yourself” to get important things done, do so. Otherwise your planning calendar will soon be filled with other people’s priorities rather than your own. It’s a lot easier to say “no” to others when you already have an appointment blocked off in your planner.

No doubt you will want to do them all, even if it’s physically impossible to do so. That’s only natural. After all, they might all be good things to do. But the good things can become the enemy of the best things if they distract you from your purpose for being in business. If you have competent employees, do what you do best and delegate the rest. If your employees aren’t competent enough to do them, add one more item on your list of important items – training. A small company’s success frequently rises to the level of its weakest employee.

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How time is lost.

Microsoft Corporation’s study of people working found that on average, they were interrupted 4 times per hour, and a distracted worker takes nearly a half hour to get back to and continue a task. 28% of a typical worker’s day is taken up by interruptions and recovery time, according to Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. And Peter Bregman, in his book 18 Minutes: Find your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, adds that 40% of the time they did not resume the same task once they had been interrupted.

A major cause of the interruptions seems to be a combination of smart phones and email. According to Mike Byster, in his book The Power of Forgetting, the average working professional spends roughly 23% of the workday on email, and glances at the inbox about 36 times an hour. According to research by Nielson, and reported in the book, The end of absence: reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection, by Michael Harris, the average teenager now manages upward of 4000 text messages every month.

Research shows that social media users spend, on average, one and a half times more time online than the typical web surfer. S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport in their book, 10-minute digital de-clutter, claim the average social media user consumes 285 pieces of content a day, which equates to about 54,000 words – the length of an average novel.

 One third of wired Canadians use Internet-ready digital devices before getting out of bed in the morning, according to a poll conducted by Angus Reid/Vision Critical and reported in the Toronto Star.

Smart phones allow our jobs to follow us out the door when we leave the office. The portable devices allow us to receive and send email and phone calls around the clock. One survey of 1,908 workers, reference in Sam Geist’s Quick Bites newsletter, revealed that 51% of employees stayed in contact with work when they vacationed in summer. 80% left their cell phones on. And 63% said they kept in daily contact.

The ways an individual can consume time is unlimited. During a lifetime, the average suburban driver spends about two years stuck in traffic. Americans spend an average of six hours a week shopping, according to the book All-consuming Passion: Waking Up from the American Dream. And an article in the Rocky Mountain News stated that people spend about five years of their lives waiting in lines. This includes supermarkets, banks, post offices and motor vehicle offices.

But by far, the most time lost is through interruptions, most of which are caused by our propensity for being tethered to our smart phone and unable to resist the call of email. Our increasing sense of time urgency and tendency to multitask could also be catalysts for the interruptions that consume a huge portion of our day.

Regardless, we are the answer to our problem.

Initially, accept the fact that there will be interruptions and allow more time than you think the task will take when blocking off that time in your planner. A one-hour priority task, for example, might be scheduled from 9 AM to 10:30 AM as an appointment with yourself. If the task is expected to take longer than 90 minutes, break it into two 45-minute work sessions with a break in between. Huge projects such as writing a book or revising a procedures manual can be handled the same way — as a series of short work sessions scheduled on an ongoing basis.

Although you can expect interruptions, don’t initiate them or encourage them. During your scheduled work sessions you should ignore e-mail, and engage voicemail, put your smartphone on airplane mode, and even close the door if you have one. Return e-mail messages, phone messages etc. after your scheduled work session.

We also interrupt ourselves when we are suddenly distracted by an idea or thought or get an urge to do something else and so on. It is important to quickly jot these things down to clear them from your mind so you can continue to work on your priority task. One suggestion is to keep a small pad of sticky notes in your planner so you can quickly jot these things down and stick them on the day you plan to work on them.  Or even a steno pad kept handy. The important thing is to have somewhere you can park the idea so you can keep your mind on the task at hand.

If you can muster the self-discipline needed to keep on task, limit the times you check e-mail to 3 or 4 times a day, ignore incoming calls and email or text messages while working on your scheduled tasks, and have as much respect for your own time as you have for others, interruptions will be reduced drastically. And your personal productivity will increase.



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Time Management Bulletin #4

Manage your email through self-discipline.

Handling email is one activity that you must control if you are going to master technology. It seems to be increasing exponentially for most people.

With the mobility of today’s workforce and work itself being more a state of mind than a place that you go to, self-discipline and self-structure are more important than ever.

The age of speed has people accepting as inevitable cell phones ring during lunch hours, e-mail arrives at night and text messages pop up while watching your son’s baseball game. We are allowing technology to control us, rather than the other way around.

Unfortunately to change this requires willpower or self-discipline. I say unfortunately, because self-discipline is not something that comes naturally to most people.

Many people don’t accept responsibility for the impact speed is having on their lives. They blame it on the email, or cell phones that keep interrupting them. It’s as though it’s impossible to ignore email or turn off the cell phone or to schedule specific times to review messages. They think that life is something that happens to them rather than something that happens because of them.

So the first step in controlling our time and our lives is to accept responsibility for what is happening to us – and to decide to change it. Self-discipline or self-control is simply the power to do something when it is easier not to do it. We all have the power but it’s not exercised. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

Self-discipline has a greater impact on how we manage our time than any other strategy. It is needed in order to form good habits, defeat procrastination, stay organized, and to reap the benefits of delayed gratification.

We must make small changes first. Don’t make it difficult for yourself if you initially lack self-discipline. Build it gradually. For example, if you’re checking email consistently throughout the day, decide to check it four or five times a day, at specific times. Say, first thing in the morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and evening. Once you have a routine, cut out the early morning, evening and Sunday sessions – and so on – until you have complete control. You will tend to cheat a little at first, and backslide, and that’s OK. You are building a habit, and if you persist, it will become easier to maintain self-discipline.

Schedule specific times to review your email. Work on that one suggestion, and you will be strengthening your self-discipline at the same time.

Controlling e-mail can be a big time saver.

Assume you check email ten times per day, spending ten minutes each time for a total of one hour, forty minutes. During this time let’s say you can handle 50 emails – either replying, deleting, forwarding etc. Instead, if you check your email four times a day, and spend 20 minutes each time, for a total of 1 hour, 20 minutes, during this total time you would probably be able to handle the same 50 emails. But you have done it in 20 minutes less time.

No matter how small the task, there is a setup time. You have a setup time for both the email (opening the program, clicking in the inbox etc.) and for resuming the task that you interrupted in order to check email.

The fewer times you check email, the more time you save. An added benefit is that you won’t be telling people by your actions that you respond instantly to every email you get. If you do, they will expect it. We train people how to treat us by our actions and habits. Control your email and you will go a long way in controlling your time. You will be eliminating a large source of stress and getting out of a reactive mode.


Most e-mail messages are not urgent.

Timothy Ferris in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, claims he checks his email no more than once per week. He insists that any lost orders or other problems are overshadowed by his gain in efficiency. Personally, I wouldn’t go to this extreme. But two or three times a day does not seem unreasonable.

To Do lists

Don’t let prayer be the last thing on your To Do list.


On the sillier side …..


Storage space for unused and unneeded stuff. $65 a month or one lifetime fee of only $20,000.


iPhone that never rings, telemarketers who never call, and co-workers wo never interrupt.






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Time Management Bulletin #3

Is the Internet making us stupid?

We tend to ridicule those who print articles from the web instead of reading them in electronic format where they may be accompanied by links to supporting information, images and videos. But according to Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to our Brains (Norton, 2010), studies by psychologists, neurologists and educators find that when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.

Links are particularly distracting, and studies show that jumping between digital documents impedes understanding. Comprehension declines whether or not people actually click on them.

According to Carr’s book, the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory (short-term memory) to long-term memory. But a bottleneck is created since working memory can only hold a relatively small amount at a time.

When we are swamped with information, links, images, and advertising, the information spills over, so to speak, and doesn’t make it into our long-term storage. It’s like watering a house plant by continuing to pour on more water without giving it a chance to soak in.

But when we read books for instance, we transfer information a little at a time into long-term memory and form associations essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

Principles of delegation

Don’t always delegate to your best people. Use delegation to strengthen weaker employees.

Never delegate what you can eliminate. Only delegate important, challenging tasks to your staff.

Follow-up; but don’t hover over. Encourage initiative and creativity.

Evaluate results, and allow flexibility in methods.

Delegate; don’t abdicate. Remain a resource and keep them on course.

Praise in public; criticize constructively in private.


Quotes from the eBook, “Time to be Productive,” by Harold L Taylor

“Time management is not doing more things in less time; it’s doing more important things in the time that we have.”

“I feel we are accomplishing little more than we have always accomplished. We’re just doing it at a higher speed. The time saved is being used up by interruptions and trivial activities.”

“All successful business owners need to get out of their day-to-day busyness and make time for long-range planning.”

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Time management Bulletin #2

A balanced life requires planning.

Regardless of whether we are on a flexible hour system, or we’re a telecommuter or a frequent flyer, the line between work and personal time has become blurred. We can work in the evening, in a car or at a ball park. Work is no longer a place but a state of mind. Vince Poscente, in his book The Age of Speed (Bard Press, 2008) agrees that the boundaries that once dictated how we spend our time have become blurred or non-existent. Instead of three distinct segments of time – work, home and leisure – we have ended up with one large space filled with a mixture of work, home and leisure. You should stop thinking about work as a place you go to spend 8 or 9 hours a day, but as something you do. And much of it could be done anywhere.

It is just as important to schedule time for family, solitude and leisure time as it is to schedule business meetings, appointments and other business activities. We should be continually asking ourselves if the total time we are spending with our family and loved ones is in line with how much we value them. Schedule your work around your life; don’t schedule your life around your work. Otherwise work may spread throughout our entire day and crowd out our personal activities, putting our lives out of balance.

Even sleep and physical exercise might have to be scheduled as they continue to get squeezed by both work-related and family-related activities.

Most people don’t need help knowing their priorities; they need help living their priorities. And the greatest help is offered by a planning calendar, where time can be allocated in advance to work, personal and family priorities. A “To Do” list is not a time management tool; it’s a memory tool. You need a schedule of timed activities, not a wish list.

You need commitments, not just intentions.

 Busy or lazy?

Busyness is a form of laziness inasmuch as you don’t even have to think about priorities; you simply keep doing whatever comes along.

Value vs. volume.

The value of the work you do is far more important than the volume of work you do. According to Florida State researchers, top performers tend to work no more than four and a half hours a day.

Individual productivity.

Your personal productivity aids company productivity only if the work you do helps further company goals and aligns with the company’s mission.

Check e-mail less often

According to Adam Alter, in his 2017 book, Irresistible, 70% of emails are read within 6 seconds of arriving, and by one estimate, it takes up to 25 minutes to become re-immersed in an interrupted task.

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Time Management Bulletin

 How to Decide

Mark McCormack, in his book, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School (Bantam, 1984), gives some good advice on decision-making.  He claims that many times we actually make a decision without realizing it, even as we are still trying to come to grips with it.

His advice: instead of laboring over the pros and cons, flip a coin.  Heads you do; tails you don’t.  Now how do you feel about the result?  He claims you may be surprised to discover that your emotional reaction settles the issue for you – confirms what you consciously know.

Life Balance

Life balance involves making wise choices, and remembering that people are more important than things.


  • Stress is added when sleep is subtracted.
  • It’s difficult to cram new information into a sleepy brain.
  • If you bury your mistakes, they will teach you nothing.
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How to keep on top of your work

The more things in your life that you leave undone, the more anxiety and stress you experience. Completed work does not produce stress. People feel great and are energized when they get things done. It’s the uncompleted items that distract them and drain their energy.

If you simply don’t care whether something gets done or not, you’re not under stress either. I’ve never seen a children have anxiety attacks because they hadn’t cleaned their room yet. But in the business world, such an attitude would hardly be conducive to a successful career.

Being a responsible adult does have its disadvantages. We do care about the multitude of things that should be done. And if we have more to do than we have time for, how do we get out of this Catch 22?

The first thing you might do is to write down everything that you think you have to do. When items are reduced to writing we don’t think of them so often. They no longer pop into our minds unexpectedly, causing incessant anxiety.

The next step is to decide which ones can be eliminated without having a significant effect on our business results or our career or personal or family well-being. Most people have a multitude of things that they feel should be done drifting in and out of their minds. Capture them and delete them before they delete you. Once you have decided not to do them, they can no longer be a vehicle for stress.

Of the remaining items, quickly do those that will take less than five minutes to complete. This does not follow the recommended time management principle of doing the most important things first, but it will sure make you feel good to see all those crossed-off items. And with most of the items off the list, you are able to focus on the ones that are important.

Your list may still not be down to a manageable size. If not, see which items can be delegated or outsourced. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Then prioritize the remaining items. Schedule time to work on the high priority tasks – those that will have significant impact on your personal and organizational goals. The more urgent ones should be scheduled earlier in the week. If they are huge, time-consuming tasks, break them down into chunks. Blocking off two or three hours each week to write a complicated but essential report, for instance, will see it completed within a month or so.

Finally, put the remaining non-priority items on a weekly To Do list, either in a week-at-a-glance paper planner or your electronic handheld device. Be realistic. Don’t cram them all onto a “Things to do today” list. Spread them over the ensuing week or two. If they don’t all get done, it’s no big deal. You have already blocked out the time to work on the ones that are really important.

Basically, you are getting the brief, easy-to-do items done, delegated or deleted quickly, and you are blocking off time in your planner to work on those items that are important. Blocking off time in the future to work on specific tasks or projects is referred to as “scheduling.” The balance of the items, those of minor importance, can be added to a “To Do” list, where they will likely die a natural death if you never get the time to work on them.  This happens because scheduled tasks are commitments, while listed tasks are just intentions.

If after all this, a few things still don’t get done, rest assured it’s not your fault. Your job is to do what’s possible, not what’s impossible. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Worry or anxiety weakens your immune system as well as your executive skills, and leaves you open to energy loss.

Making choices do consume energy. The frontal lobes of our brain are constantly weighing the pros and cons of every bit of information, trying to determine the best choice. But once the choices have been made, the stress disappears, and it is no longer an energy drain.


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Change your habits and you change your life

How much of your life is habit? Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit, quotes a Duke University researcher who in 2006 found that more than 40% of the actions of people performed each day were not actually decisions, but habits.

More recently, Joe Dispenza, in his book, You are the placebo, maintains that by age thirty-five, 95% of who you are is a set of memorized behaviors, skills, emotional reactions, beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that function like a subconscious automatic computer program.

Change isn’t easy. One study found that only one in nine people who underwent heart surgery were able to change their lifestyle, and even these people were motivated by the threat of possible death. According to John Ratey, author of the book Spark, statistics show that about half of those who start up a new exercise routine dropout within six months to a year.

To change your behavior, you have to start by changing your thoughts, according to Joe Dispenza. It’s your thoughts that determine your choices, which in turn determine your behaviors, and ultimately how you experience life.

It takes effort to change since you have only 5% of the conscious “you” to chip away at. The 95% that is already set in its ways. But you are the master of your brain, and when you repeat a thought or an experience often enough, your brain cells are making stronger connections in the direction you want to go.

You are consciously forming the habits that you really want, and creating a new life in the process. It’s difficult to break firmly entrenched habits or behaviors. To make it easier, you may want to consider the following suggestions:

Make changes gradually.

According to MJ Ryan, author of This year I will …, when we try to make changes that are too aggressive our system tries to maintain the status quo by swinging in the opposite direction. This is the reason that strict diets don’t work. It is the same with the application of time management ideas. Too many changes introduced at once decreases the chance that you will stick to the changes long enough for them to become a habit. So make one change at a time.

Do it together.

Weight Watchers have found that people who use a support group are three times more likely to lose weight than folks on their own. When attempting to break a habit, it helps to have someone to be accountable to. This “buddy system” can be applied to both job and lifestyle changes.

 Replace a bad habit with a good one.

It’s a lot easier to build a new habit than to break an old one. So don’t focus on breaking the old one. Instead, form a new habit to replace it. You will form the behaviors that you reinforce, and the old ones will fade away from disuse.

Piggyback a new habit on a good habit that is already established.

To more easily form a habit, anchor it to an old one that is firmly entrenched. For example, if you are already in the habit of walking first thing every morning, and you want to spend 20 minutes every day learning a new language, you might take your books with you in a backpack when you walk and spend twenty minutes studying in a coffee shop on the way home.

Without doubt it takes determination and effort. But remember, while you are forming the habits, you are also creating a new life in the process.