Monthly Archives: August 2009

How to make every day a productive day ~ Part 6

Plan your day in advance

At the end of your work-day make a list of everything you have to do the next day. Clear your workspace completely so that at the start of the next day you can go to work immediately on your priorities.

Prioritise your list to ensure your most challenging or important tasks are at the top of your list. Adopt the ABCDE method. Be ruthless – identify the activities, which only you can do and must do, or else face serious consequences (A tasks). These should be your top priorities. What are the things that you should do, but if you don’t will only have mild consequences (B tasks)? What are the things that are nice to do (C tasks)? What other things that you can delegate to someone else (D tasks) and what are the things that you can eliminate altogether and it won’t make any real difference (E tasks). Starting with A’s schedule how long you plan to spend on each activity.

Discipline yourself to stick to this schedule and not start any activity before the last one is complete,  not to complete any B task until all the A’s are complete, or carry out any activity unless it is on your list.

Try this for three weeks until it becomes a habit!

How to make every day a productive day ~ Part 5

Learn to say no

Recognise that there will never be enough time to do everything you have to do. If your focus needs to be quadrant II activities you will either need to delegate or say no to some things. If you have set your goals and identified the activities needed to achieve these let these be your focus. And how do you discriminate between one priority and another? Continually ask what are your highest value activities? What can you and only you do which will make a real difference? And continually ask yourself what is the most valuable use of your time right now?

How to make every day a productive day ~ Part 4

4. Distinguish between urgent and important

Urgent means it requires immediate attention, they are things which were difficult to ignore, often visible, they insist on action. We tend to react to urgent matters just because they are there. On the other hand, important activities are those that contribute to goals or results and are proactive. Please scroll down ……….














Not Urgent





Crises, Pressing Problems




Forward Planning

Marketing Activities

Reviewing New Opportunities

Personal development

Not important




Interruptions, phone calls,







Trivia, junk mail, socialising, complaining about things you can’t influence



Some activities (quadrant I) are both urgent and important and require our immediate attention; these are the fire-fighting activities, which often lead to stress. Items that are urgent, but not important (quadrant III) are often only completed due to other people’s demands or expectations, for example interruptions. Too much time on this type of activity will lead to lack of progress or achievement of results.  The non-urgent and non-important activities we spend time on are frequently an opportunity to relieve the stress caused by too many urgent activities! 

Our goal should be to spend as much time as possible on the non-urgent important activities (quadrant II). You can’t ignore the urgent and important activities in quadrant I, but your goal should be to complete these tasks before they become urgent.  Doing less of the activities associated with quadrants III and IV will help you achieve this.

How to make every day a productive day ~ Part 3

Apply the Pareto principle

How often do you find your day has been dominated by trivia? The Pareto principle suggests that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results.

Unfortunately it is on this top 20% that we are most likely to procrastinate, instead spending our time on the least important 80%. So before you begin to work on anything ask yourself “Is this task in the top 20%?”  You may be in the habit of starting your day clearing up small things first; it may be difficult to break this habit, but just discipline yourself for one week to always start with something in your top 20% (i.e. towards a major goal) before embarking on any other activity.

How to make every day a productive day ~ Part 2

Plan your activities


Now you’ve established your goals and objectives


Make a list of everything you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal. Ensure you list everything – unless everything is written down it will be difficult for you to prioritise. This becomes your master list, which you may need to add to overtime. Then organise your list into a plan or schedule – what needs to be done month by month, week by week and finally from your weekly list, draw up your daily list. Resolve to do something every single day that moves you towards your major goal, and ensure that these small steps or activities are scheduled every single day so that you’re able to chip away at your major goal.


If you apply this principle to each of your goals and schedule time in for activities that take you nearer to your goals you will be amazed how much more quickly they become a reality.

How to make every day a productive day ~ Part 1

Everyone has the same amount of time available – 24 hours a day, seven days a week equals 168 hours in any one week. So how is it that some people seem to accomplish so much more than others? What is it that these people do differently?

They prioritise. They have a sense of direction and the ability to identify what needs to be done first. They decide which are the things that matter most and must be done (potentially at the expense of other less important and less urgent – though nonetheless more attractive – activities), and then organise and execute their actions around these priorities. Being organised, having checklists, and being efficient is not enough; by prioritising we are focusing on things that really matter so that we can be effective, with the emphasis on accomplishing results.

So just how do you prioritise?

Each day over the next week I’ll be giving you 1 tip to help you make every day a productive day.

1. Be clear about your goals and objectives.

The clearer you are about what you want and what you have to do to achieve it the easier it is for you to prioritise. (If you do not already have clearly defined goals click here to download guidelines on setting achievable goals.) Ensure your goals are written down in a tangible form, with clearly defined deadlines. Go over your list of goals and select the one goal that if you achieved it would have the greatest positive impact on your life. Whatever that goal is write this on a separate sheet of paper and set your deadline.

When did you last review your business plan?



Yesterday I got together for my regular meeting with fellow small business owners.  We all run different types of business, which is what makes it so good, as it really forces each of us to ‘sell’ what we do and justify the time we spend on each of out projects.


Yesterday we reviewed our business goals and plans – not just for the coming year, but for the next 5 years.  It’s not always easy to think about what you want that far ahead, but if we don’t have a sense of direction it’s a safe bet we’ll end up somewhere less perfect than we might like.


When was the last time you reviewed your long term goals and what you want from you business in 5, or even 10 years from now?  Unless you want to be working in it until the day you die you need an exit strategy and some idea of how you are going to get there.


If you’ve never done this I would urge you to.  And then ensure your business plan points in the right direction.  When I talk about business plan, I mean the one you have for your reference, not the plan prepared for the bank or other third parties – this is the working document, which you refer to (and update if necessary) on a regular basis.


You can find the format I use here – ‘Six Simple Steps to Build your Business Plan’, which starts with your long term vision and brings you back to identify short term actions to get you there.


And if you never get to talk about your plans with others, I would urge you to go this too – it’s amazing what other people can see that is right under your nose!



How To Encourage Repeat Conference Bookings

As someone who regularly uses hotels for meetings and training courses I get to see the good, the bad and occasionally indifferent ways venues cater for such events.

Here are my top 20 tips to keep your hosts happy and encourage repeat bookings:

  1. Confirm the booking  in writing- date, room size, set up, what’s included and what’s not.
    Put this in a format that is easy for the booker to pass on to the host.
  2. Recognise that the host may not always have been involved with the booking, and not everything will always be exactly as they would like it – Be flexible to changes.
  3. If the room has natural light, make use of this. So many venues put the presenter and screen in front of the window then end up having to close the curtains (and waste power by having all the lights on – where is the logic in this?)
  4. Before arrival – check that the room is ready and that all equipment works. Simple things such as sufficient flip chart paper, the flip chart pens supplied all work, that the projector lens is clean (when was the last time yours saw a lens wipe?), the stationery box is stocked with basics such as blue tack, there is a waste paper bin, water, coat hooks, etc
  5. Check positioning of the projector (lined up correctly with the screen), and ensure all running cables are covered with a cable mat – both for safety and a professional appearance.
  6. If it is a presentation or training event, provide the presenter with a table and some space to put all their papers, etc.
  7. If any materials have been couriered or sent on ahead to the venue, ensure these are already in the room.
  8. Brief staff on what meetings and events are taking place, and where.  If using a welcome board, check all the information is accurate (especially company names and spelling).
  9. On arrival allow the host time to get settled after their journey, and as a minimum go to the cloakroom and see the room, before going through the detail of refreshment breaks, etc.
  10. Offer refreshments to the host in advance of the other participants arriving, so they have a chance to enjoy theirs before being ‘on show’.
  11. Ensure someone is on hand to help with any last minute changes to the set up and in particular showing them how any equipment – projectors, air con, etc works, and going through fire and facilities.
  12. Make it easy for the host to contact someone throughout the day without having to chase around the hotel to find you if there is a problem.
  13. Check refreshment and break times and ensure these arrive on time.  It’s also useful to check with the host regarding duration of breaks – some meeting timetables are very tight, and don’t allow for a leisurely one-hour lunch (one hotel I used recently took 1½ hours to serve our lunch – our timetable only allowed for 40 minutes, so we had to cut out 50 minutes from the afternoon timetable!). Be prepared to be flexible with break timings – agendas don’t always run on time.
  14. Provide refreshments or buffet lunch away from the meeting room whenever possible to allow a change of scene.
  15. Check with host if they are happy for staff to enter the room during day to clear cups, etc.
  16. Be imaginative with your buffet menus – no one wants to eat bread and pastry every day.
  17. Use different flasks for coffeee and hot water to avoid coffee tainting water flasks. Label these clearly to avoid confusion (this cuts down on wastage too as you wont have people pouring coffee onto tea bags!).
  18. Provide hosts with a method of securing the room without having to find a member of staff. (And ensure it can be left unlocked if need be for people to get in and out easily). Ensure staff servicing the room during breaks locks it again afterwards.
  19. At the end of the day ask the host for their feedback – they will welcome the opportunity to let you know, especially if they have further events booked with you. And you will learn what needs attention.
  20. And finally aim to do something exceptional, some thing different or special by which you will be remembered and you will increase your chances 10 fold of getting referral or repeat business.

If you would like more helpful tips, tools and inspiration for your business, sign up for the Hospitality Business Toolkit here

Are you an e-mail junkie? Part 3

Set up systems and rules

1. Spam filters
Getting the level of spam filtering just right can be difficult. If you’re worried about missing those important e-mails add their e-mail address to your white list.

2. Set up folders
Set up separate folders (in line with your normal filing system) and file your e-mails straight away to avoid having to spend hours searching for past e-mails. 

3. Set up rules
Consider creating rules for in coming mail from specified senders or with certain words in the subject line, so they go straight to the appropriate folder.  This is a great tool for non-urgent mail that you might want to review just once a week, e.g. newsletters or on line journals.

4. Set up different accounts
Having more than one e-mail account can help prevent your primary inbox becoming swamped, and help you filter what you get when.  For example, I have a separate account I use whenever giving my e-mail address to unknown sources, e.g. buying products on line. This account has the spam filter set at a higher level, so if my details do get passed on I am less likely to get bombarded with spam.  I also use another account for personal use, so I am not distracted during the day dealing with personal issues and equally I can filter out work mail when I want to switch off from the office.

So stop being an e-mail addict, and take some action today and see how much you improve your productivity over the coming weeks.