Online success is not all it’s cracked up to be. With it comes the biggest burden of all: requests for your time.
“You can have my freaking money; you know what, you can have my art; you can have my advice for free (I don’t care) but what I realized is you can’t have my time”
When I had this epiphany, I made the decision to start saying no to meetings. Meetings come disguised like the Big Bad Wolf out of Red Riding Hood as the following:
· Podcast interviews
· Coffee Catch ups
· Phone calls
· Product demonstrations
· Joining Slack/Messenger/WhatsApp groups
· I’m in town and don’t know you, but we should catch up”
All of these demands of my time started to add up. Five minutes here. Ten minutes there. Before I knew it, my dream to inspire the world through entrepreneurship and personal development looked dead as a dodo.
The 4-hour meeting request.
Okay, this is not the name of Tim Ferriss’s upcoming book — it’s a coincidence. The other day, this dude at work sent me a 4-hour meeting request with 24-hour’s notice.
When I saw the invitation, I instantly declined. Meetings that don’t respect my time or my colleagues’ time are declined — always.
This meeting request was the trigger for the title of this article. It made me take a forced “Meeting Vacation” for one month.
I said no to meetings for an entire month.
It wasn’t easy and I thought it was going to be almost impossible to deliver on this promise I made to myself. Meetings have become a part of everyday life. Many meetings happen without us realizing through realtime message apps.
None the less, I tried this meeting detox experiment.
Before I tell you the result, here’s some thoughts to begin with:
Thought 1: Just because everyone else is doing meetings, doesn’t mean you need to.
Meetings are hip and cool. People say yes to meetings all day long without thinking why.
When you challenge people to explain why they need a meeting, you figure out that often they don’t know.
This means they scratch their own itch and talk themselves out of their own meeting. The meeting gets cancelled, I celebrate and fist punch the air, and everyone wins.
Asking why messes up every unconscious thought.
It’s the one question that can kill any preconceived idea or habit. ‘Why’ requires the meeting requester to go deep down inside their own skull and answer the question “What’s the meeting for and is it important?”
Thought 2: When faced with the need to make a decision, many of us want to have a meeting instead.
This problem occurs because we’re not trained to make decisions. We spend all of our decision-making energy on dumb stuff like “What am I going to have for lunch?” or “What should I wear today?”
Meetings are a way to defer a decision to some point in the future when maybe we’ll all think differently, drive a Ferrari and have enough money that this problem won’t freaking matter anymore.
I challenge everyone to make more decisions instead of having more meetings that don’t lead to decisions (okay calm down Tim, breathe).
Thought 3: Meetings always take longer.
· You’ve got the commute to the meeting.
· The setup to the meeting.
· The niceties like “How was your weekend?” at the start of the meeting.
· Preparation for the meeting.
I could go on for ages, but you get my point. Meetings are like a giant build-up that often leads to disappointment. If you think about the real time it takes to have a meeting, you realize why they are a productivity killer.
The work that needs to be done to achieve a goal or set of goals requires time.
“The time you need is in the meetings you say no to”
Count the real cost of time that a meeting entails, and you too may decide to do a meeting detox for a month.
Here’s what happened when I said no to meetings for a month:
I expected people to be pissed.
I thought that the biggest challenge of no meetings for a month would be how pissed off I’d make people. I realized this was a nightmare that wasn’t true in reality.
When you explain in detail why you’re saying no to a meeting, and you do it with respect, people understand.
I even started saying things like:
“Hey thanks for the invite, I’m trialing a month of no meetings to achieve some pretty audacious goals. Appreciate the invite but I’ll have to respectfully decline at this stage. Hope the meeting goes well.”
So many meetings get declined for various reasons that the meeting organizer almost never takes it to heart. It’s standard practice that if you invite 30 people to a meeting, not all of them will show up.
I decided to become a no-show statistic for a month where I was permanently on the didn’t attend list which was one person longer because I wasn’t attending — no biggie.
The big moment for me was when I realized people don’t really care that much if you show up to a meeting. I thought they did care. I was wrong and so are you. Sorry.
Blank space feels so good.
Ever had a nice warm latte first thing in the morning? That’s what it feels like to start the day with no meetings in your calendar. All I saw for a month was my Outlook Calendar full of white space.
The feeling was so freeing and I didn’t realize how good it felt until I did it.
There’s nothing worse than waking up at 5 am (Australian time) to jump on a podcast at 6 am (USA time) when all you want to do is sit down and write or edit another blog post.
Have a meeting with blank space instead and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
You get to do things that really matter.
Because I had less of other people’s meetings, it gave me time to tick off tasks that I had been putting off. I did the following:
- Sold a bunch of junk on eBay
- Wrote twice the number of blog posts
- Spent more time with my girlfriend
- Spent time sitting on the couch and thinking about the future
These types of activities add meaning to my life and make me happy. Without the giant boulder covering the road that led to my goals, I was able to do things that matter.
Executing on meaningful tasks is so much better than any meeting ever will be.
The blocker to all business became apparent.
When I divorced meetings for a month, I sat back and thought about business. I thought about all the meetings I attended in my career to date.
During this wild west thought exploration I discovered that the cliché of “Meetings cost business so much” started to sink in.
Most of the problems in business that need solving don’t ever seem to get resolved in meetings.
Meetings from this point on started to appear as a blocker to creativity. Creativity, I’ve learned, is one of the best ways to solve a problem and unblock the flow of business.
There was time to nap.
I know what you’re thinking: “Tim, you lazy son of a gun. As if you have time to nap.”
I normally wouldn’t have time to nap, but after taking a meeting detox, I was able to squeeze in a 15-minute nap.
Doesn’t sound like much but it gave me an energy increase in the afternoon, when most people’s energy levels fall off a cliff (rescuing yourself with sugar doesn’t work either, tried that).
The research on napping has been around for a while, so I’m not going to throw that dirt in your face again and expect you to swallow it.
My only advice would be to trial it and then write me a nasty comment saying “Tim you A-HOLE you’re wrong again.” P.S — I probably won’t reply 🙂
There was less gossip and office politics.
Meetings can easily turn into a whinge session or a “Let’s complain about someone because they’re not here and can’t hear us.”
By doing fewer meetings, there was less gossip. I didn’t have to fight the temptation to talk nice (we all face this) because I wasn’t there.
I was politely declining and aiming for goals and outcomes instead. And other times I was doing things that really matter (like I said before).
Meetings are a breeding ground for toxicity if you overdose on them. Somewhere along the way, that meeting you know you should have opted out of but didn’t, comes back to bite you on your well-toned gym ass and fill you with regret.
Meetings often involve tea or coffee also known as caffeine. Many of us overdose on this addiction because it feels good (even me the Mr 4 am Habits Guy that’s supposed to be super disciplined).
By doing no meetings, the decision to ingest caffeine became my choice. It was far easier to be disciplined because I didn’t have to fall into society’s standard of rolling up to a meeting and drinking what everyone else is drinking because “that’s just how we do things in Australia, mate.”
I may be a descendant of Captain Cook and I may have worked next to Kangaroos (lots of them) for two years, but I’ll be damned, this no meeting thing certainly helped with the coffee/tea obsession that we have in this great country.
Stress levels reduced.
I’m very aware of my stress levels and no matter how hard I try, more meetings equal greater stress.
Stress gives me brain fog (according to my doctor) and only makes the already huge problem I have with stress even worse.
See, I have twice the amount of cortisol in my body than you’re supposed to have. I’m doing the best I can to reduce it and it’s working, but I found an overdose of meetings was definitely not helping the situation.
Removing meetings for a month made me feel good.
Published twice the number of blog posts.
I mentioned this one already, but it was such a big win that I want to mention it again in more detail.
By saying no to meetings for a month, I did more of the one thing that makes me endlessly happy: inspiring the world through personal development and entrepreneurship.
In its physical, non-mystical, touchable form (if consumed on a ‘not so smartphone’) this looks like blog posts.
I went on a freaking frenzy and wrote as much inspiration and life/career lessons as I could. Upping the number of blog posts allowed me to help more people and I got more messages of thanks and gratitude for doing it.
This small feat may seem like total BS, but to me, it matters. You too have that one thing that has the same meaning in your life. It may not be blogging, but you have it — trust me.
By quitting meetings, throwing them out the window, punching the air and charging forward without them, you too can do the work you were born to do.
I’m not saying you should never attend another meeting again; what I’m saying is a meeting detox will help you see what time is being wasted and you’ll get better at saying no to the unimportant ones in the future.
If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net
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5 Soft Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs to Succeed
There are countless components that go into building a successful company, but soft skills act as the fundamental building blocks of a functioning business. Hard skills are considered to be job-specific, whereas soft skills are interpersonal skills, like listening and communication.
Nearly 93% of employers said that soft skills are an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions. With the right blend of hard and soft skills, an entrepreneur is capable of great things.
Here are five soft skills that can help entrepreneurs scale their growth and lead successful ventures:
A successful company starts from individual confidence. In order to motivate and inspire others, an entrepreneur must find reassurance in themselves. Other businesses and consumers will believe in your company if you consistently believe in yourself.
Being confident also means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable— taking risks will expand your business and place you above competitors. As an entrepreneur, and leader, it’s crucial that you not only possess confidence, but exhibit it throughout every step of your business ventures.
It is vital that an entrepreneur have a clear insight into their personality, especially their strengths, weaknesses, thoughts,and emotions.
When an entrepreneur is self-aware, it can lead them to beneficial partnerships and agreements. Without good self-awareness, leaders become easily persuaded and spineless. Self-awareness also includes control. Becoming overly emotional, for example, can lead to detrimental impulsive decision making.
“Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” – Debbie Ford
From the day we begin talking, the ability to work well with others is pivotal to any project. As an entrepreneur, it is important to recognize and understand your own responsibilities. To do this, you must identify your business culture and have tools on hand to manage mutually dependent relationships.
Active listening inspires collaboration within teams and creates learning opportunities. Without open collaboration or sharing and discussing information, the success of your business is limited.
4. Time Management
Time is the greatest equalizer. No matter who you are or what you do, we all have the exact same amount of time in the day. Successful management of that time separates the great entrepreneurs from the bad ones.
Entrepreneurs have many responsibilities; they are often jumping between tasks, hopping on calls, and attending events. They also tend to make every decision within the business.
It is crucial for business owners to find an organization system that works for their company and their goals. Creating a long term road map of company ambitions is an excellent way to distinguish high versus low priority initiatives. Entrepreneurs should create prioritization systems that employees can follow each month, ensuring business targets are met.
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” – Tony Robbins
Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, unexpected hurdles and setbacks are inevitable. The process of starting a business will not be perfect. What matters most is how you progress when the outlook seems bleak. Your ability to stay tough and weather the storm speaks volumes to your leadership— and will lead to a huge payout at the end of the day.
Maintaining entrepreneurial resilience throughout rocky times will empower your employees while simultaneously building your credibility. Resilience will also inform potential clients and customers that you are willing to fight through thick and thin.
Soft skills are the backbone of every successful entrepreneur. While hard skills like financing and marketing are crucial to conducting business, soft skills provide the essential groundwork. Developing these soft skills will come with time, mindfulness, and an eagerness to grow. Take the initiative to prioritize these skills in yourself. Once you’ve done that, you can then cultivate those same qualities in your business.
Do you think soft skills tend to be more important than hard skills in today’s business world? Share your thoughts with us below!
The 7 Successful Habits of Entrepreneurs
A while ago, I wrote an article on the 51 mistakes that can sabotage your business. However, that was one piece of the puzzle. You have to run your business well to be a successful entrepreneur, but, what’s more important is that you run yourself so well that your business follows suit. In order to do that, you need some good habits that can seriously boost your chances of success.
Here are the 7 must have habits that most successful entrepreneurs have:
1. Mindfully Meditate Everyday for At least 10 Minutes
Tim Ferris, who has interviewed thousands of world-class performers and entrepreneurs, says that the most common practice of all world-class performers is mindfulness meditation. There are different types of meditation, and each serves its own function.
However, mindfulness meditation is meant for controlling your mind so as to be able to focus more intensely on the task at hand. Higher focus equals higher productivity and becoming more effective at whatever you do.
Working in a distracted state leads to substandard work and also takes up more time. If you want to be able to get in the zone like most top-notch entrepreneurs, you need to mindfully meditate.
Now, there are some caveats you need to be aware of before you begin:
- Like medicine, mindfulness meditation has a minimum effective dose and that minimum is 10 continuous days for at least 10 minutes each day.
- Practice guided meditation before you try meditating on your own.
2. Read a Lot
Warren Buffett was once asked what the secret behind his wealth was. He pointed to a stack of books and said the secret was to read 500 pages like that everyday. Mark Cuban is also a voracious reader and spends almost 3 hours everyday reading in spite of being busy with his businesses. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg also read a book every week.
Now, I am not telling you to read so much everyday but at least make an effort to finish 2 books every month. This is a very common habit among the top-notch entrepreneurs and as Warren says, “knowledge builds up like compound interest.”
Also try not to read on any digital medium except that of Kindle. In spite of it being convenient to read on your phone or tab or laptop, these devices tend to distract us with their notifications and push us to other procrastinating habits.
“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” – Roald Dahl
3. Keep the Phone Away, aka take a Digital Detox EVERYDAY
With multi-national companies all vying for our attention, we need to learn to use our phones less everyday. While it can be extremely tempting to open your phone while you are waiting in line or are taking an Uber ride, you should resist and embrace the boredom. This has two effects:
- It teaches you to sit through boring and monotonous tasks for longer periods of time and not get pulled away at the tiniest amount of distraction.
- It builds up your will-power and your discipline.
I see a lot of entrepreneurs try to do this and even successfully do this but they don’t build it into a habit. They do it once a week or once a month and think it will have a beneficial effect on their lives. Sadly, just like eating your vegetables once a week is a very stupid idea if you want to live a healthy life, taking a digital detox occasionally is useless.
4. Dump Coffee for Tea
Most Americans are heavy coffee consumers and can’t live their lives without coffee. But wait …The main ingredient behind coffee is caffeine which is a natural stimulant. If you take a stimulant regularly, your body adapts to the stimulant and you fail to get the benefits of coffee such as greater energy and focus which other non-regular drinkers get.
On the contrary, tea’s natural stimulant relaxes your body and enables you to put in more hours of work without the “crash” effect that coffee drinkers face. If you are up to the suggestion of making tea a part of your daily habits, I suggest you try out green tea which has 15% more caffeine than a cup of coffee. It also possesses l-theanine, which helps the consumer put in a greater state of focused awareness into his/her work.
But if you are a newbie tea drinker and can’t stand the taste of coffee (I don’t know how that’s possible though☹), try out flavored tea.
5. Sleep Around 8 Hours Daily
I think the most damaging piece of advice out there is sleep less and do more work. If you do that, all that’s going to happen is that you are going to wake up the next day feeling drowsy. The net result is that your productivity will suffer.
Also, the notion of early to bed and early to rise is not true as your biological clock may be differently tuned than that of others and your biological prime time may be late at night. However, don’t be too late to sleep as that hinders the DNA repair and as a side-effect your mental fatigue remains.
If you can’t get to sleep early, try to not use your phone or watch the TV or any sort of screen whatsoever, as the blue light can slow down your natural sleep cycle.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” – John Steinbeck
6. Take Cold Showers
You know what troubles most entrepreneurs? They’re good at planning yet it’s the execution part where almost all of them fall flat. It’s because the execution of ideas throws the harsh realities of the business world onto the face of the entrepreneurs, and they are forced to reconsider if they can actually ever succeed.
It is here that the winners get separated from the losers. And guess what separates them? Willpower. I have the best tactic to help you build it and it’s so simple too! Take cold showers early in the morning or late at night, when it is already chilled outside. If you live in a place that is hot, then this tactic may not have the intended effect on you.
However, try taking cold-showers in the winter. You will see that your brain makes all sorts of excuses so as to not go under the chilling water and if you succeed in pushing your brain to do the work, you will have succeeded. You are then, the master of your mind and not the other way around.
7. Plan and Review Daily
If you want to live a truly productive life and get things done instead of having a mounting pile of to-dos, you need to plan ahead. You need to divide your daily schedule into blocks of time and dedicate tasks to each block.
Parkinson’s Law states that the work we need to do stretches into the time we give ourselves to finish it. Therefore, if you need to get work done and don’t give yourself any time-limit or deadline, you will find your work stretching for enormous amounts of time and eating into the time reserved for other tasks.
However, when you first start planning, you will find most of your plans are utterly useless as most tasks will stretch far beyond the time you have allotted for them. This is where the second part comes along – which is to review the plans and reschedule them.
However, there is a particular style of reviewing and this is how you can go about it. First, you need to make a plan of what you intend to complete in a week and what you intend to complete in a day. Then, before going to bed every night, open your calendar and make a note regarding what you failed to complete today and how you will accommodate them into your weekly goals. This should be done before going to bed daily.
Now, it’s your turn. Share this post and spread the word. What’s the most important habit according to you? Do you have any such habits that you use? Let me know in the comments!
Build Your Business One Brick at a Time
A good friend and business associate once approached us asking for business advice. “I have $25,000,” he said. “How do I turn that into $50,000? Actually—wait, how do I turn one million into two million in one year?”
We looked at each other, and then we looked back at him and said “You don’t take a million and turn it into two million. It’s not that easy. There are no shortcuts in life, and there are no shortcuts in business.” We recommended he do things the old-fashioned way.
He understood—and we understood—that, of course, some people do double their money in the blink of an eye. It’s not impossible, but it’s incredibly risky. And it’s also not what we are about. We’re not promoting the Bernie Madoff model of Ponzi and phony, get-rich-quick deals; we all know how well that worked out in the end. Businesses have to have a real economic model that is built one brick at a time.
Start, Build, Sell
Growing your business is an incremental process: you start, you build, and you sell. You build more, you sell more. If you have a viable product or service that customers want, they’ll come back to you again and again. They’ll also tell their friends.
Positive word of mouth is as important as the product itself, because it helps you continue to grow. As Albert Einstein once said (and Warren Buffet often quotes), “compounding interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”
Buffet, known as the smartest investor of the past century, invests in management teams and products he believes in through his company Berkshire Hathaway. He is also said to only invest in products that he likes and uses, and that fall in his circle of competence. Therefore, as a big holder of both their stocks, you can assume he loves Coke and McDonald’s. He also eats and drinks both regularly. Keep his investment interests in mind as you build your business.
“The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
The Value of Viability and Balance
What kind of product or service you decide to build is important, too. You have to be insanely fortunate to have success selling an entirely unique product. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, but always remember it is easier to sell a product that is easily understood. When you’re just starting out, and even if you’re not, it’s much easier to sell something people completely understand rather than an avant-garde product.
Whatever you want to try in business, whether you have a brand-new type of shop or a nail salon in a strip mall down the street from another nail salon in another strip mall, the essence is the same: work harder, work smarter, and constantly improve.
One challenge you may find at this stage of your entrepreneurial journey is the difficult task of finding balance between preparing and over preparing. As you build and sell, focus on the details, but don’t let them overshadow your big picture.
Spilling the Oil
In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes of a boy who wants to learn about happiness. The boy’s father sent him to the wisest man in the world: the sage. The boy traveled for forty days to reach the wise man, finally finding him in a bustling palace. When the boy asked for the secret to happiness, the sage responded by suggesting the boy take a walk through his palace and come back in two hours.
The sage had one additional request: he handed the boy a teaspoon with two drops of oil and instructed him not to let the oil spill as he walked the grounds. He toured the palace, his eyes never leaving the spoon. When he returned, the sage asked the boy if he had enjoyed the Persian tapestries and the intricate gardens, but the boy replied he hadn’t seen them; his eyes were focused on the spoon. Although he had spilled no oil, he had also seen none of the glories of the palace.
The sage refilled the spoon with two drops of oil, instructing the boy to savor the details of the palace. When the boy returned, he realized he’s spilled the oil, but he was able to describe in detail the colors, tastes, smells of the palace that were beyond his wildest imagination. The sage responded, “The secret of happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho
The same is true in business; keep an eye on both the details and the big picture—neither of which you can do if you’re cutting corners or letting the fear of making mistakes stop you from moving forward. Fail often and fail quick. Learn from your mistakes. And, if you are smart, learn from other people’s mistakes, too.
What was your favorite tip from this article? Share your thoughts with us below!
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