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Why You Should Prefer Emails to Phone Calls if You Want to Be More Productive

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“Email” and “productivity” rarely go together in a sentence. Emails have been declared as one of our largest time wasters. A McKinsey report stated that people spend around 2.6 hours each day responding to emails. That’s 13 hours a week, 52 hours a month and over 60 days a year! Imagine what you could’ve achieved in 60 days!

Emails also negatively affect our cognitive resources. When we think of responding to them while doing other important tasks, it takes up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds after being disrupted to return to full attention to a current task. Imagine how much our cognition and productivity gets fractured when we get distracted over and over again.

Constant emailing also drains us mentally. And at the end of a day, we realize that we’ve achieved nothing worth mentioning. With a phone call, you can sort issues and solve problems quickly, right? In theory, you’re right. But we live in a practical world where many variables come into play.

Below are three variables that make phone calls adversely affect our productivity, and why emails are a better alternative:

1. Wasting Time

Most “five-minute conversations” can quickly turn into 35-minute calls because people ramble about irrelevant aspects. This derailment, several times a day, severely limits the limited time and energy you have for important tasks.

Emails, on the other hand, force writers to streamline their thoughts and stick to the point. Emails can save you plenty of time and energy because you avoid lengthy phone calls. The constant strife to keep your own emails short and crisp also makes you a clearer thinker, which rewards you in other aspects of your life.

“It’s better to waste money, than it is to waste time. You can always get more money.” – Hal Sparks

2. Inaccurate Responses

An unexpected phone call can catch me caught off guard on a topic. I might respond emotionally or give an answer that doesn’t do justice to what I want to share. In a world dominated by panic buttons and fire-fighting, these don’t just stress me out but the caller as well.

Emails give me flexibility to prepare a coherent response and share it when I’m satisfied. If I feel a surge of emotion, I can sleep over the thought and share a better (more rational) response the next day. Many page-long email responses to emails that upset me have turned into a simple “thank you for your email” the next day.

3. Constant Back-and-Forth

Phone calls often are ineffective to solve business problems. Accounting for multiple people, their views, their timelines… One phone call can quickly turn into three.

Emails are quicker and more effective than even conference calls. They let you communicate with multiple people at the same time. You can share information, assign tasks and give status updates while being as specific as possible.

You must be wondering, “What about back-and-forth emails then? Why do we waste precious time on them?” Yes, email has earned a bad rap. But it’s not because of the medium; it’s because we handle it ineffectively.

A Better Approach to Emailing

For most people, constantly refreshing the inbox is part of the daily to-do list. It keeps them busy and gives them a kick of dopamine – the feel-good chemical.

Ironically, this quest to remain busy makes people compromise on taking action that can move them forward. Using emails prudently, rewards you with plenty of energy and mind space to focus on tasks that truly matter.

Here are three steps that benefited me without succumbing to the side effects of email:

1. Checking Them Less

I check emails just 3 times a day – at 9:30 AM, 12:00 PM, and 4:30 PM. If you don’t have the luxury to do the same, you can start by checking your emails for ten minutes at the end of each hour. Most senders expect a response in a little over an hour. So they won’t mind a slightly delayed response. This gives you 45 undisturbed minutes each hour to work on your core tasks.

2. Responding Quickly

People delay responding to emails at least 37% of the time, which turns finding emails and responding to them into additional tasks that cost time and lead to attention residue. Most emails take under two minutes to respond. When you can respond to an email, do so instead of putting it off. This won’t just put your mind at peace, it’ll also reduce the number of “did-you-see-this” follow-up emails in your inbox.

“I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk

3. The If-Then Technique

The If-Then technique helps you address multiple scenarios at once. For instance, an email that says, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM?” becomes, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM? If not, please advise three other times that work for you.”

This technique is also effective when you want to suggest ideas or provide instructions on alternative steps. For example, “Here’s Plan A. If it doesn’t work, connect with [name] and ask for [specific information]. If you don’t get what you need, inform me.”

I’ll admit. This sounds like more work in the current moment, but it drastically cuts down the number of trail mails, confused correspondences, and fire-fighting instances that occur due to miscommunication.

The If-Then formula is the single most effective technique I’ve learned from The 4-Hour Workweek. All of this doesn’t mean that you abandon phone calls, In fact, it’s better to use the phone for sensitive topics or if an email conversation gets dragged. But remain mindful to not let phone calls waste your time.

If you want to pursue a meaningful life, place a premium on your time. Do things that create time for you to pursue meaningful actions and avoid doing what pulls you away from them. In the knowledge economy, this is the key to success.

Do you prefer email or talking on the phone? Share your thoughts below!

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Richard Larson

    May 20, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Great advice, Vishal. Email seems to get the job done quicker. Great tips on how to be the most productive with email vs. phone.

    • Vishal Kataria

      Jun 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks, Richard. Would love to know how this works for you.

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Success Advice

3 Steps to Overcome Your Brain Biases and Become a Better Leader

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If I asked you what time it was, you would likely look at your watch or a clock and read the time out to me. And if I were to ask you where you were, you would likely tell me the exact place, city, or state. If I were to then ask you who you were, you would likely identify yourself by your name, demographics, and perhaps a work description. On the surface, answering these questions correctly would indicate that you were not delirious. But are these answers technically correct?

Biological research indicates that superficial orientation to time, place, or person is actually far from accurate. Rather, leaders might benefit from tending toward a non-dual awareness of the world, or at least offer themselves the opportunity to see the world this way. For time, place, and person, the biological realities differ from what we might initially think.

1. Don’t let the past dictate the future

We are not ever-present in the moment, nor should we be. In the human brain, the past, present, and future are all represented at the same time. Although we consciously organize our experiences using this segmentation of time, each of these networks can intrude upon the other. In fact, what you remember can influence what you can imagine for yourself in the future as well.

As a leader, ensure that you frequently examine your memory for positive reminders and biases, take advantage of your presence circuits by incorporating mindfulness practices into your day, and use your “possibility” circuits to imagine or simulate future scenarios. In fact, in the brain, imagination is a lot like reality.

Using all three components at all times will help you to become aware of biases and could also help you escape traps or an impasse. For instance, when a possible solution for product development is vague, thinking in terms of what you want and then reverse-engineering this process to make what you imagine could be helpful.

Walt Disney saw great success after building Disneyland in Anaheim, California, but outside interests began crowding his theme park. When he decided to build another park in Florida, Disney didn’t let the experience of California dissuade him. He expanded his vision to something greater — a city of tomorrow. He created fake companies to secretly purchase acres upon acres of land near where Interstate 4 intersected with the Florida turnpike so his company could develop the area around the theme park.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

2. Think beyond your reach

We are not where we think we are. The notion of “place” has become increasingly irrelevant in a globalized world. With the increasing interconnectedness of societies, cultures, and economies, leaders need to be careful not to think of themselves too locally. When leaders are global in their thinking, they are likely to elicit more widespread cooperation from international markets.

Ask yourself, “What communities beyond my local community do I want to impact?” and “What communities am I impacting?” When you take this approach, it can help your advertising strategies, for example, become more congruous with specific or global markets. Also, leaders who think globally will be more aware of competition from afar and opportunities for collaboration, too.

Jack Ma can be credited with being a global thinker for founding Alibaba, allowing Chinese consumers to access domestic and international markets that they could not previously access. By moving into e-commerce, online banking, and cloud computing, Alibaba has expanded into India and Southeast Asia. Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform has even enabled farmers in Rwanda to sell coffee in China. This is a perfect example of thinking beyond your reach.

3. Connect the body and mind

We are not what we think we are. We are made up of 50% human and 50% bacterial cells. And water comprises 60% of our body weight. So we are basically bags of water and bacteria — with a dash of human cells thrown in for good measure.

Also, though we might think of ourselves as being separate from other people and things, many people or things you encounter in your life are stored in your brain’s memory centers. Our brain tissue contains images, voices, and other attributes of people and things, too. We are not actually as separate as we think.

Take care of your bacteria, and they will take care of you. Having the right balance of bacteria is of paramount importance to effective functioning because the wrong balance can make you depressed or anxious. Taking a probiotic can help restore this balance. Understanding that you are part human, part bacteria can change the way you take care of your moods by essentially reminding you to take care of your gut.

Mindy Grossman, the CEO of WW International — formerly Weight Watchers — is a good example of someone who understands the mind-body connection. Grossman has led the company’s focus from strictly weight loss to wellness through healthy habits. Part of the transformation includes a partnership with meditation app Headspace to help members maintain a positive mindset.

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi

When you engage in non-dual awareness by recognizing that your brain fuses and connects time, places, and people, your leadership capacities might also be enhanced. As Warren Bennis, founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, suggests, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.” And your “self” is more intriguing and mysterious than you might first imagine.

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3 Ways to Optimize Your Life for Success

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Welcome to the 21st Century! The era of the Internet and computers, lack of focus and superficiality. I know it sounds scary, maybe a little more exaggerated, but it’s true. We live in a world of short posts and 3-minute videos. We barely engage in deep learning, deep thinking, and deep focus to produce iPhone-level products or services. So, the majority of us are actually a failure, thousands of miles away from achieving our life goals and business visions. How do we turn things around? We need to optimize our lives.

Here are 3 tried and tested tips that will help optimize your life for success:

1. Upgrade your sleep

When I started my freelance writing career—about seven years ago—I was passionate and excited at the beginning. I’d fill my To-Do list with 6-10 items, worked until 12 am, set my alarm to go off at 3 am, and had my running shoes close to my bed before I went to sleep. However, I barely accomplished anything. I usually became weak and bored before noon.

I noticed that I was putting a huge strain on myself. I was sleep deprived, which is the primary reason why I didn’t have the energy and the drive to accomplish my tasks. Many studies have shown that sleep-deprivation affects productivity.

As soon as I began increasing my sleeping time from 4 hours to 7 hours, my whole life changed. I started producing a lot and earning a lot more than before while also improving my health. With more sleep, I get the emotional energy and willpower I need to read, learn, and optimize my career.

“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” – Arianna Huffington

2. Read every day

I get it. You’re in the middle-class struggling to survive. You simply have enough to deal with. Reading? That’s not included on your to-do list. Well, if that’s you, then you’re not alone. The global literacy rates are at an all-time high at 84 percent, which means people don’t read as much anymore.

We already have enough on our plates. In fact, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the reading culture among American adults has drastically declined. That’s a big issue in our world.

Nothing can prevent you from reading, not even your plate that’s chock-full of other life’s priorities. If you want to produce more and impact the world around you, you’ve got to read more and learn more.

Take a look at the visionaries and business titans in our world. All of them are avid readers and avid learners. Bill Gates is a bibliophile and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, reveres books. In fact, Knight customized his library to the extent that, before you enter into his library, you have to take off your shoes and bow.

So, what would you do next? Take Roald Dahl’s advice, captured in this beautiful line of the poem: “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.”

3. Use Pomodoro to time yourself

You can’t go far in life if you can’t stay totally focused on a task. If you want to achieve your goals, you have got to stay laser-focused on a single task before jumping on to another. Why? Because goals are not achieved in one session, they’re achieved in a series of tasks, one after the other.

To install the focus habit in your system; therefore, you need to use a time-management kind of “system” that will keep you firm and attentive on a specific project. Pomodoro is that time-management tool that will help you stay focused.

It’s an excellent app that lets you set a timer for a particular task. You can set it for 30, 60, or 90 minutes and stop working when it goes off. I use it all the time, and I can’t imagine my work life without it.

“I know when I stay focused, good things will undoubtedly happen.” – Marc Trestman

Optimizing your life for more power, passion, and productivity is not about working hard late at night or running multiple projects at a time. It’s about maintaining your health and recharging your energy (having a deep, quality sleep), updating your knowledge (by reading every day), and staying focused on a project—until you accomplished it (by using Pomodoro technique to boost your concentration).

Of course, developing these sets of habits is not easy. You’ll fail and get frustrated, but as the productivity guru Robin Sharma beautifully puts it, “all changes are hard at first, messy at the middle, and beautiful at the end.”

Which one of these three ways to optimize your life resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts below!

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If You Want Your Business to Grow, You Need to Increase Your Capacity in the Following 4 Areas

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Every entrepreneur must come face to face with the reality that there is only a limited amount of time, money, and people that you can use within your current position. The question is how do we increase or maximize the things that we find limiting?

As we walk through our hectic and often over packed ten, twelve, or fourteen hour work days, one of the questions that we should be asking is “What can I do to get more, to do more?” Instead, we just put our heads down and plow through the ever growing mountain of work. We are limited by capacity.

Webster’s dictionary defines capacity as “the maximum amount that something can contain.” As an entrepreneur, we have to be a little more creative than the average person and find ways to increase our capacity.

Below, we’ll identify the four areas where we need more capacity and ways to get more with less:

1. Time

Every human on this planet is granted twenty-four hours a day. That is it. Your capacity is a total of twenty-four hours. Within that amount of time you must manage several different demands. Our goal is to buy back our time, when we can, and operate at peak performance when we are accomplishing our daily task list.

First, without staying in performance shape, you will lose the ability to stay at optimal performance levels. Our bodies are truly a machine with an amazing capacity, but when it is abused by lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and lack of exercise, you are reducing the capacity at which you are able to work and function. The closer you are to peak performance, the more you are able to accomplish in a shorter amount of time.

Second is our mental condition. Here is what my experience has taught me. If I am mentally rested, I can think and make decisions faster because I can reason more quickly in addition to understanding the circumstances and information at an extremely fast pace. 

When your brain is healthy, it becomes easier to absorb and process information at a lightning fast rate. Taking the time to allow your brain to rest will give it the ability to function at peak performance.

Third is our ability to train and delegate. So often, entrepreneurs are control freaks. No one can do it as good, as fast, or with the same passion as they can. While that may be true in most cases, you are only one person with twenty-four hours in a day. 

You’ve got to delegate and accept people’s help. If you add one person that’s willing to give you eight hours of work a day, you have now bought back hours in your day to focus on activities that will generate more income and grow your business. Why wouldn’t you want to add more hours to your day by delegating out the appropriate task to qualified individuals?

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

2. Money

Money tends to be a sensitive topic. We all have beliefs that were formed through our childhood on the concept of money. With many different views and beliefs on this topic, let’s just focus on the fact that money is a tool that will either help grow the company or a tool that limits a company’s growth.

It is always amazing that the faster a company grows, the greater the challenge of money becomes, and this could potentially cause the company to implode on its own success. How do we then increase the capacity and have more money available to keep the company healthy?

Here are a couple of things to watch out for: 

  • Keep an eye on your budget and get accurate figures. 
  • Look at your Accounts Receivables. If they get too long, they could cause significant cash flow issues. 
  • Find investment opportunities. There are many private investors that are often willing to invest in companies that have true growth with solid foundations. 
  • Look at additional profit generators, products, or services that fit within your current business model. 

Each of these are ways to increase the capacity that money contributes to the growth of your business.

3. Space and Supply

I will never forget exactly where I was standing when I had a manufacture call and tell me they were unable to supply anymore products. They had sold us everything they had, and they weren’t going to have anything available to sell for at least another six months. At that time, we were selling customer printed t-shirts and had tens of thousands of orders that we needed to fulfill within the next thirty days.

Space and Supply are tied closely together. Space is often associated with the production. Do you have a space large enough to meet the demands of the supply? If production can only create 1,000 products a day and buyers need 5,000 a day, there is a conflict. 

A business needs to understand that challenge, and there are only 3 solutions to this problem: The business figures out how to increase production within the current workable hours, adds more workable hours with the equipment and space, or adds more equipment and space to increase production.

Space and supplies are assets that can be used towards the business advantage. Here are a few questions to ask when making decisions based on space and supply. 

  • Evaluate your supply channel. Are they able to maintain a solid supply of your raw product materials to match your growth as a company? 
  • Are there back up supply manufactures that can create a safety net for your raw products? 
  • Evaluate the amount of space you have available along with the time the space is usable. Can you run a second or third shift with the current space and equipment?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. People

Your employees are likely going to be the most important way to create more capacity. We talked briefly about delegating to qualified individuals to increase capacity around your own personal time. The next phase is to create more capacity by adding additional, trained people. 

You need to create leaders of leaders instead of you being the leader of followers. Don’t miss this because the greatest of all companies focuses on increasing their capacity by training leaders of leaders and not just a loyal following.

Entrepreneurs tend to be a lonely bunch of souls. Too often, we are misunderstood and looked at with slight amount of annoyance. Others just don’t always know how to take someone that is passionately thinking outside the box. 

People skills are a must in order to have more than just yourself work to achieve that dream. As an entrepreneur, develop the social skills to work with individuals that are different than yourself.  

Here is a 3 step plan to have great capacity with people as your allies:

  1. Start by learning how to delegate your own tasks to buy back your time. Identify the tasks that are easiest to delegate and document how you do them. This will give you a specific job description, set achievable goals, and create a daily action plan that is now something that is teachable. 
  2. Use this system and apply it to the other things you are currently doing. I would suggest building out an organization chart and dividing the different tasks you do within the company. Then create a plan that will allow you to hire the right person and move you onto the next area in the organization that you will systematize. 
  3. Finally, create the culture. Culture is like a child, it will grow whether or not you pay attention to it. So be intentional. Learn what it takes to build a culture that attracts the employees that want to be there and grow with the company. 

Each of these four areas has an incredible amount of potential to increase your capacity, and allow your business to grow. Don’t attempt to tackle everything at once. Identify just one area that you will commit to grow within the next three to six months. Take action and implement. 

What is your next step? Share with us below!

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The Importance of Failure: Why We Should Fail Forward

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What Is failing forward? Will Smith said it best in a viral Instagram video that engaged the world. “You’ve gotta take a shot, you have to live at the edge of your capabilities. You gotta live where you’re almost certain you’re going to fail. Failure actually helps you to recognize the areas where you need to evolve. So fail early, fail often, fail forward.”

Failing forward is about using leverage on your mistakes and making a realistic assessment of the risks involved. It’s your ability to live with the downside, control your emotions and experiment with new approaches. When we fail forward, we need to look at the reason why we fail and understand that it’s all part of the process of achievement.

Here are 4 Reasons Why We Fail:

1. We Are Too Distracted

Distractions are everywhere. They can take us off course and could make it impossible to keep our mind on our goal or purpose. It’s important to be selective, strategic and supportive in our distractions. We all control certain aspects of our day, so be selective and prioritise tasks that are in line with your goals.

We should be strategic by understanding when we work best. Personally, I write more efficiently in the early mornings and late evenings. So that’s what I stick to. Try different things and see when you are least distracted. You’ll then be able to be supportive and generous with your time. Being supportive of others costs us little and drives our own success whilst boosting our health and happiness.

2. Lack of Self Belief

Lack of self belief runs differently from person to person. Our experiences, childhood history, genes, culture and life circumstances play a part in our self confidence. The truth is, we can’t alter the experiences that our past has given us. What we can do though, is change our thoughts to gain more belief in ourselves. Ways to increase our self-belief is to find out more about ourselves. We can do this by taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally. Giving ourselves a healthy support system and understanding our emotions are just a couple of ways to practice self-belief.

3. Fear of Failure

Failure often induces fear. When we fear failure, we allow ourselves to stop doing the things that can help us achieve our goals, help us move forward and open up possibilities we never thought were possible. We should have faith in ourselves and start to shift our inner dialogue from ‘not good enough’ to ‘more than enough’. If our inner critic takes the lead on self talk, then it’s more than likely we aren’t feeling good enough. It’s important to surround ourselves with positive people and positive thoughts.

4. Procrastination

Procrastination is a common reason for failure. It’s delaying or putting off a task or action to attend to at a later time. Procrastination is essentially giving in, to feel good. We prefer avoiding negative emotions and stressful tasks, which are the very things we procrastinate about. The first step to overcoming procrastination is recognising we do it.

We then need to understand why we do it and use appropriate strategies to prevent it from happening. We may not know that we are procrastinating and this can be damaging to reaching our full potential. With a solid understanding, we can get to the core of our reasons and make positive changes to fail forward.

Now that you know why we fail, here are the 3 ways you can fail forward:

1. Take Risks

When risks are taken, we generally overestimate the chances of something going wrong. What we focus on tends to magnify in our imagination and in return, causes us to misjudge an outcome of a situation. The reality is, the likelihood is often a far better return than we imagine it out to be. To take risks, we should not be afraid of failure.

2. Understanding Failure Should Be Your Motivation

It may sound comical but, be happy when you fail. We’ve been taught to believe that when we fail it’s because of bad attempts, bad judgment and bad luck at improving our lives. For example, we link failure with the colour red (to stop) and success with the colour green (to keep going). In reality, we are stronger and more courageous when we fail. It’s a sign of improvement, so we should recognise that failure is growth and if we’re not making mistakes, we are not really trying. Use failure as motivation and keep going.

3. Perseverance

Perseverance is the ability to recover from failure. Your chances of success is also dependent on your persistence and your willingness to persevere. You have two options when you fail: Become self-defeated or become resilient and encouraged. Perseverance requires a goal, a passion and patience. It’s important to set your own pace when persevering and not comparing your failures to others. In doing this, when we fail forward, we are more in tune with ourselves and more controlled with new approaches.

“Recognize that you will spend much of your life making mistakes. If you can take action and keep making mistakes, you gain experience.” – John C. Maxwell

Think of it this way. When we’re at the gym pushing ourselves in the weight room, the trainer would yell “One more rep!”. Our trainer wants us to succeed, but also wants us to fail. They want us to be uncomfortable to the point where our muscles fatigue. Why? Because of muscle adaptation. That’s where our muscle growth comes from. It’s the ability to learn how to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This concept doesn’t just apply physically within our muscles, it applies mentally and in our minds. In understanding this perspective, we can fail forward with more awareness and are in a better position to achieve success.

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