Posts

Should You Stop Making a Daily To-Do List?

stop making to-do lists for BIGG SuccessLinkedIn recently released the results of a survey about to-do lists. Of the 6,500 professionals queried:

  • Almost two out of three (63%) stated that they regularly create a daily to-do list.
  • Yet just a little over one out of ten (11%) said they regularly complete all the tasks in a given day.
  • Agricultural workers had the highest success rate. They work fast so they can get back home and make sure some stranger isn’t hitting on their daughter.
  • Legal professionals were the least productive. They spend too much time messing with their briefs.

The most frequent reason cited for not completing their to-do list was “unplanned tasks”. These include “unscheduled phone calls, e-mails and meetings”.

We’ll share three suggestions to make sure you are more like a farmer and less like a lawyer.

Make a “to-don’t” list

Let’s not take the professionals in the survey at face value just yet. Let’s assume for just a minute that there’s another reason for the shortcoming.

What if the truth is that they are just unproductive too much of time? Let’s face it – it’s easy to fritter away a day these days.

The temptations are ever present – texts from friends, social networking, etc. It’s especially difficult for entrepreneurs who aren’t accountable to anyone for their time.

To make matters, it may be easy to justify the time. The line between productive and unproductive can be a very fine one.

We know from personal experience. Like us, you may have to ask yourself some hard questions. For example:

  • When networking online, are you making valuable connections or just playing with friends? 
  • When surfing the web, are you conducting valuable research or just feeding a fancy? 
  • Even worse, are you moving forward or pushing off something you know you need to do but don’t really want to right now?

You may be better served by doing something unusual. Stop making a daily to-do list, at least for awhile.

You may find it helpful to make a “to-don’t” list instead. These are things you want to stop yourself from doing when it’s time to be productive.

Make a list. Display it prominently. When you find yourself starting to stray from what you know you need to do, take a look at the list.

If the activity you’re about to partake in is on the list, stop. Then go back to work!

Of course, you need to plan for some “down” time in your day. Complete a task. Then reward yourself with a goody from your to-don’t list.

A sticky daily to-do list

If day after day, you can’t complete all of the tasks on your to-do list, the answer may be a simple one – plan to do less.

Before we dive deeper, though, we should make one cautionary note: Be honest with yourself.

It may be worthwhile to conduct a time audit for a day:

  • When you start working, set an alarm to go off in fifteen minutes. 
  • When it sounds, write down what you’re doing. 
  • Set the alarm for another fifteen minutes. Write down what you’re doing. 
  • Repeat until you stop working.

Now look at your notes. If you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to, you have too much of something:

  • too much play
  • too much work

If it’s the former, make the to-don’t list we discussed above. If it’s the latter, you’re simply trying to do too much.

It’s a common symptom among BIGG goal-getters. We tend to think we can accomplish way more than is humanly possible.

So to keep yourself out of that trap, get out a 3″ x 3″ sticky note. Draw an X through it.

You now have 4 triangles. Write down the four most important things for you to accomplish today.

If the task can’t be described in the triangle, it’s too much to take on. Carve it up into smaller tasks.

By the way, it’s okay to write down less than four tasks. But by using a small sticky note, you won’t be tempted to write down more.

You’ll feel so much better if you regularly complete your daily to-do list. You’ll be energized. You’ll feel more confidence. And besides that, you’ll reach BIGG success!

How do you make sure you complete your daily to-do list?

Image in this post from stock.xchng

Can Happiness Buy Money

golden_eggWe’ve heard it again and again … money can’t buy happiness. According to the Beatles, it can’t buy love either!

But what if the order is reversed? Can happiness buy money?

___

___

The latest research supports the notion that happiness can buy money[PDF]. It comes from a team effort with researchers from the University of Virginia, Michigan State University, and last but certainly the most, the University of Illinois. Okay, we’re biased but at least we admit it.

Happiness buys an extra $8,263 a year!

The researchers surveyed incoming freshmen at 25 elite colleges. We’re not sure how they defined “elite”, but we’re pretty sure it’s the schools we attended!

The participants reported their cheerfulness. 19 years later, when the participants were about 37 years old, the researchers asked them to report their annual income.

On average, the participants in the highest 10% on the cheerfulness scale earned over 15% more than those in the lowest 10%. In 1995 dollars, this was a difference of $8,263 a year, on average ($62,681 vs. $54,318).

Attitude to altitude

That’s a bigg difference. So not only can happiness buy you money, it can buy quite a bit of it! Apparently attitude does determine altitude!

That’s one of the bigg takeaways here. If we approach the days of our lives with the right attitude, we’ll be more productive. We’ll show more initiative. We’ll get more opportunities.

More money, less risk

We also found it interesting that the most cheerful participants were one-third less likely to ever be unemployed than the least cheerful. It appears that being of good cheer not only helps you be more prosperous, it reduces your risk as well. That’s a slam dunk!

And it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. We learn in business school that you have to take more risk to make more money. But as this study shows, you can make more money and actually have less risk with the right attitude!

That’s the bigg idea behind bigg success – to get all areas of our lives working harmoniously by finding synergy like what we see here.

Being too happy is costly

Here’s a surprising twist from this study: People who were moderately cheerful (above average on the researchers scale but not in the top 10%) earned the most on average.

They made almost 6% more than those in the top 10% and about 22% more than the bottom 10%. In 1995 dollars, that means they earned $3,563 and $11,826 more than the highest and lowest deciles respectively.

So being really happy leads to much better income than being really unhappy. But being happy instead of really happy is even better yet!

It turns out that Droopy had it right. He never said, “I’m really happy.” Just “I’m happy.”

Bigg Success is the community of bigg goal-getters. People who are usually happy, but never content. This research supports the notion that this “happy, not content” attitude leads to bigg success.

Thanks so much for checking in on us today. You can get more tips and tools to be a bigg success by subscribing to our free weekly newsletter.

Please join us next time when we’ll discuss what entrepreneurs have that MBAs don’t. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00446-072709.mp3

Related posts

Stop Being So Happy

4 Secrets to Having All You Really Want

How to Feel Rich Today

(Image in today's post by Mattox)

A Costly Cost Cutting Measure

cutting_costs.jpgBigg Success is life on your own terms. Today, we’ll focus on one of the five elements of bigg success – money.

We’re all looking for more ways to save money. That’s understandable. However, we need to think about not just survival, but “surthrival.”

___

___

Many business owners and managers, small and large, are cutting back on their advertising. This cost-cutting practice can be very costly in the long run.

Could not advertising cost you $1.5 million?

A McGraw-Hill study, about the recession in the early 1980s, found that companies that maintained or increased their advertising had sales 256% higher three years after the recession ended.

Think about that … two companies, each with a million dollars in sales go into a recession. The company that holds tight on its advertising, or perhaps even increases it, will do over $2.5 million within a few years after the recession ends if the second company, the one that cut its advertising, treads water.

Signaling the end of your business

A recent study by Ad-ology found that 56% of the people surveyed thought that retail stores that cut back on advertising must be struggling.

In other words, your advertising sends a “signal” to both your existing and potential customers. Just like a company cutting back on its dividend, you’re telling the public you don’t expect your future to be bright when you cut back on advertising.

The signal is so strong that 15% of the people surveyed thought it meant that the firm who cut back on its advertising wouldn’t be in business much longer.

The time – money trade-off

One of the other elements of bigg success is time. If you’re a regular here you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating:

If you don’t have money, you have to spend time. It’s part of the price of bigg success.

So if you really feel the need to cut back on how much money you spend on advertising, it will pay to spend more time promoting your business.

That means networking

Depending on your business, you may primarily build relationships offline or online. However, you will probably be well-served to do both. Integration is one of the keys to success in business today.

If you have employees with down time, make good use of it. Tell them that you want to keep spreading the word so you all surthrive.

What you ask them to do will also depend upon your business. You may have them put out door knob hangers or give away free samples of your product. Perhaps they can make some phone calls or send e-mails to your list of customers.

Where to place your focus

We stated it subtly in that last sentence. We should emphasize it – focus on your existing customers to get the best return on your investment (of money and time).

Research has shown that it costs between five to eight times as much to get a new customer as it takes to keep an existing one. So, at the very least, make sure you’re communicating with your existing customers at least four to six 6 times a year.

Find out what their problems are. Find a solution – even if you can’t solve it directly, help them find the answer to build your relationship.

The most cost-effective way to grow your business

Building relationships with your best customers is the most cost-effective way to grow your business. When you can “wow” your customers, they will …

  • buy more
  • buy more often
  • tell others

Segment & tailor

___

marylynnWhile we’re talking about your existing customers, can you segment them into smaller groups so you can tailor your communications more precisely?

___

___

georgeI used to own a heating and cooling service company. We got our technicians to note the age of the furnace or air conditioner when they were in our customer’s home or business. Then we wrote a letter specifically to this group. We generated over $300 of sales for every letter we mailed!

___

This highlights another point we alluded to earlier – get your staff involved. Help them understand how it not only makes their jobs more secure, it also means you continue to grow as a company so there will be more opportunities for everybody. That’s bigg success!

___

Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

___

Thanks so much for reading our post today. Please join us next time when we discuss what the underlying meaning of “I don’t have enough time.” Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00411-060809.mp3

Related posts

5 Marketing Strategies to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck During a Recession

Increase Your Sales by Knowing the Answer to this Question

(Image in today's post from hisks)

Savers Spenders and Investors

investments When personal finances are discussed, the experts usually divide people into savers and spenders. We ran across a press release from Fidelity, the mutual fund giant, about a survey of workers in the non-profit world. They asked the participants if they were a saver, a spender or an investor.

___

___

We thought it was very astute to add that third category. Which one do you fit in?

The workers in the study split themselves about evenly between saving and spending. 46 percent claimed to be savers while 45 percent admitted to being spenders. So that leaves only 9 percent who classified themselves as investors.

Merging the two categories

We suspect that fewer people today would classify themselves as spenders than say a year ago. A lot of us are getting on the savings bandwagon. That’s definitely a step in the right direction, but saving it isn’t good enough.

This data suggests a bigg idea. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as either savers or spenders. We should always think like an investor. We should merge the two categories – spender and saver – into the third category – investor.

We must know how to invest it or we won’t end up with the resources we need to live the life we want.

From spender to investor

Here’s some good news for spenders: thinking like an investor doesn’t necessarily imply that you don’t spend. It means that you spend differently.

You look at every single dollar you spend as an investment. Is it going to bring you enough return to make it worth giving it up? And that “return” may not come in dollars earned on dollars invested.

It may mean that it adds enough to your level of “happiness” to make spending the money worth doing. If it passes that test, then spend, spend, spend! If not, hold onto it.

For example, you may see a real deal on some non-perishable consumer good. Buy it. Stock up. Say an item is on sale for half off. Let’s pretend that you know that it only goes on sale once a year. If you buy a year’s supply, you’re making 100% on your money. That’s hard to beat!

So get to know the promotional cycle of the brands you use regularly and time your investment appropriately. Know when various businesses need the money more. For example, from car dealers to contractors, there are seasons when people are buying a lot and times when people aren’t. Time your purchase for their slow periods and reap the benefits.

From saver to investor

Now let’s think about savers. It’s great to save, but if you’re only earning two percent on your money, where’s that getting you?

We know … we know … you’d rather earn 2% than lose 40%! We completely understand that thought process.

However, investors don’t operate out of fear. They operate rationally. And we have to resist the temptation to go with the masses because they’re usually wrong in the long run.

Just like with consumer goods, there are some real deals out there on assets right now if you can afford to hold them long-term.

The best time to get out of a particular market is often when everyone else is getting in. And the best time to get in is usually when everyone else is getting out.

Years ago, we were told by a very successful real estate investor that when you see the no-money down real estate infomercials proliferating, it’s time to get out of real estate. How many of those do we see now compared to three years ago? 

Now think about stocks. Many of the same people who are touting doom and gloom now were spouting off about the end of the business cycle and the ever-upward spiral of stocks just a couple of years ago.

So to think like an investor, think for yourself. 

___

Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

___

Thanks so much for spending some time with us today. Join us next time when we ask, “Does haste still make waste?” Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00336-022309.mp3

Related posts

Mania in the Market and Rising Above the Crowd

When It Comes to Investing, Time is on Your Side

Squirrels, Nuts and Business Cycles

(Image in today's post by woodsy)

My Employer is Eliminating 401(k) Matches

retirement Companies are responding aggressively to the bad economic news. Layoffs, hiring freezes, and salary freezes have been some of the most common actions so far.

___

___

Now, more and more employers are looking at eliminating the matching of 401(k) contributions. According to a survey by Watson Wyatt, the global human resources and financial services firm, things are changing quickly. In October, 2% of firms said they had already cut back on these matches and 4% said they planned to. Two months later, in December, 3% had already made the cut and 7% said they intended to.

And these are large companies. Established brands that we all know. Motorola, FedEx, Kodak, and Starbucks just to name a few.

They’re usually using the word “suspend” rather than “eliminate” when they announce these cuts. But it raises a question:

If my employer stops matching my contribution to my
401(k), should I still keep making contributions myself?

It forces us to save

This is perhaps the biggest reason to keep making contributions. Financial planners have said for years that we should pay ourselves first. Investing it before we get it, as we do with our 401(k), is the best way to make sure that happens.

Most people report that they don’t really miss the money. It’s like the taxes that are deducted from our paychecks – the government knows most of us won’t miss the money if we don’t see it.

Of course, there are ways to set up an automatic deduction from our checking or savings account for investments outside of a 401(k). That’s really close to having it deducted from our paycheck, but it’s not quite the same. That little variation can make a bigg difference for some people. You have to judge that for yourself.

Higher limits

The next best option to a 401(k) for most people would be an IRA because contributions may also be deductible. You should check with your financial advisor about the specifics of your situation.

Because you invest before paying taxes, it’s as if the government is making part of the contribution for you. For example, if you made a $1,000 contribution to one of these retirement plans and you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you would pay $250 less in taxes. So, in essence, you’re only out of pocket $750.

With either plan, you don’t pay taxes on the money you earn on your investments until you pull it out. Deductible and deferred – that’s a pretty powerful combination.

Where the 401(k) gains favor is that it has higher maximum limits – your contributions to your 401(k) can total up to $16,500 in 2009 ($22,000 if you’re over 50). You can’t contribute more than $5,000 to an IRA in most cases.

If my employer cuts or eliminates my 401(k) match, are there
reasons to fund my retirement through another vehicle?

A lot of 401(k) plans offer fairly limited investment options and you may pay lower fees in a plan that’s not a 401(k). 

__

Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

___

The bigger issue

It’s not like we don’t already have a sense of it. But recent months have reinforced this paradigm. We can’t count on anyone or anything for any part of our financial future. We must take full control of our own finances. We have to build our own safety nets to make sure we are financially secure.

How much will you have at retirement?

It really boils down to three factors:

  • how much we invest
  • how much we earn on our investment (after all fees and taxes)
  • how long it is invested

From these three factors, we see that we have three options if we don’t want to retire on less money:

1st – We can try to earn more on the money we invest.
That involves taking more risk and we don’t have much appetite for that right now. So this probably isn’t going to fly with most of us.

2nd – We can postpone our retirement.
This buys us more time. People who are really close to retirement right now may not have much of a choice. They may have to do this. But if you still have some time on your side, there may be a better way.

3rd – We can increase our contributions.
Look at your budget and see if there is any way you can make up for the investment your company was making.

If your employer reinstates matching contributions, you can stop contributing at the increased rate and enjoy the extra money in your budget … or …

… you can keep making your higher contributions to give your retirement a kick!

To all our readers in Australia, happy Australia Day! And we hope our friends in India enjoy Republic Day!

And thank you so much for spending time with us today. Join us next time when we discuss extreme multi-tasking. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00316-012609.mp3

Related posts

What’s Hot in 2009: Threats

I Need Money! Should I Borrow from my Retirement Plan?

I Need Money! Should I Cut Back on My Retirement Plan Contributions?

I Need Money! Should I Cash Out My Retirement Plan?

(Image in today's post by woodsy)