Archive for the 'Personal Productivity' Category

My Secret to Being More Productive… in 60 Seconds or Less


How to be more productive…

For years I would ask myself, “How am I ever going to get it all done?”

I have so much to do… as an architect, as a leader… as a husband and a dad. And what about all my big plans? How am I ever going to reach for my many dreams? There’s just not enough time to get it all done.

Well, I have one very important suggestion for you. It’s a secret that I’ve discovered after decades of research. It’s what all the really productive “cool kids” are doing to get things done.

Ready? Give me sixty seconds on the timer… Go!

Step 1: Turn off the television.

Step 2: Go do something more productive.

Well, OK… This is sort of a joke… but, not really. The day I decided to stop watching television (which was NOT easy… TV watching is in my blood.) and started reaching for my dreams, was the day my life changed forever.

Give it a try. Turn it off and go make good things happen.


Hey! While I have your attention…

Join us tomorrow (Wednesday) live on Twitter for #EntreArchitectChat. We’ll be talkin’ Personal Productivity: How to get it all done. I’ll be your host and it starts at 9PM EST on Don’t miss it!


photo credit: Janos Balazs via photopin cc


10 Tips to Conquer Procrastination


My name is Mark R. LePage and I am a recovering procrastinator.

There… I said it.

After 40+ years, I don’t have much hope of ever finding a cure, but recently I have found some ways to hang on to the wagon and stay focused on getting things done.

Here are 10 tips I’m using to conquer my procrastination.

1. Write out a plan. In order to get anything done, you need to create a plan. What does the end result look like and how are you going to make progress. Write it out. As a serial dreamer, I have hundreds of plans in my head, at all times. The plans that make progress are the ones written down and developed into a clear step-by-step process.

2. Schedule milestones. Progress looks much less daunting when you break things down into smaller easily attained milestones. Set them to specific dates and get to work.

3. Work toward deadlines. The quickest way to NOT get things done is to never NEED to get things done. Set deadlines on each milestone, and base your deadlines on realistic timelines developed in the plan you developed above.

4. Turn away from distractions. In November, I re-instituted my “full media blackout”. I stopped reading the news, turned off the television and tuned the radio away from the talk station. If the world as we know it does in fact end on December 21st, I am quite certain I will hear about it. I am now focused on the things that are fully within my control. The things not within my control are simply distractions. Turn away from the distractions and focus on the things that truly matter most.

5. Stop blaming others. No one else is going to get it done. There is nothing stopping you from progress except YOU. You are in control of the decisions you make and the attitude you choose to adopt.

6. Birth good habits. In his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessCharles Duhigg deconstructs the habit into three parts; a cue, a routine and a reward. Once you understand that, you may give birth to your own good habits. If you want to do something consistently without the pain and frustration of broken resolutions, make it a habit and watch what happens.

7. Kill bad habits. From what we’ve learned in number 6 above, we can now analyze every bad habit standing in the way of our progress. Identify the cue, the routine and the reward. The key to making sustainable change is keeping the cue and reward, and changing the routine. Do you unnecessarily check your e-mail everyday at the same time, rather than working on those pending construction documents? Identify the cue and reward. The cue may be the time of day. The reward may be a sense of accomplishment. Change the routine to completing a simple task on those drawings and a new habit may be born.

8. Look beyond yourself. Find some inspiration. Find others who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Learn everything you can about them and how they made progress. When you know that others have done what you are trying to do, you’ll find hope that you too will accomplish your goals.

9. Raise the stakes. As many of you know, I am working on the plan for my 12/12/12 Project. Talk about procrastination. I’ve been trying to make progress on this project for more than a decade. By announcing the concept of the 12/12/12 Project to the world and publicly committing to my plan, I raised the stakes. If I don’t do what I said I’ll do, I will lose credibility with you, my family as well as myself.

10. Start. It may be the most difficult step, but believe me, no task has ever been completed without starting. So, start… and see the procrastination melt away.


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photo credit: Mykl Roventine via photopin cc

5 Podcasts Every Entrepreneur Architect Should Be Following

Podcasts (an episodic digital series of audio or video files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device) are a great way to learn the lessons about business that many of us lacked during architecture school.

Below are my 5 current favorites:

EntreLeadershipDave Ramsey w/ Host Chris LoCurto

One of the most successful podcasts on the planet, EntreLeadership focuses on personal success, business and leadership. For about 45 minutes every two weeks, host Chris LoCurto guides us through a fundamental business topic such as Sales, Marketing, Delegation or Personal Productivity.

During each episode, LoCurto shares a lesson presented by Dave Ramsey recorded at one of his many live events. The second half of each show features LoCurto interviewing one of the nation’s top leaders or business people, such as Tony Dungy, Steven M. R. Covey, John Maxwell and Tony Hseih. Each interview dives deeply into the topic of the week and listeners learn many secrets to success.

For a little podcast bonus time, be sure to pop over to Chris’ own website for an extended interview with each guest.

The Rise to the Top | David Siteman Garland

A fun, inspirational and sometimes “off the wall” podcast about helping rising mediapreneurs (online media creators, authors, thought leaders, personal brands, coaches and internet marketers) grow their businesses and dominate online.

David’s in-depth interviews attack each subject with focus and dedication to finding the root of each entrepreneur’s success. As David states at the end of each recording, “if you’re looking for fluff, go pet a bunny”.

This is Your Life | Michael Hyatt

The former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt is now a consultant, speaker and author of the bestselling book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

Michael’s blog and accompanying podcast focuses on what he calls, “intentional leadership”. His mission is to help his listeners live with more passion, work with greater focus and lead with extraordinary influence. Sounds like a few things every Entrepreneur Architect is seeking, doesn’t it?

Startup School | Seth Godin

Marketing expert, top blogger, bestselling author, entrepreneur. Now he’s a podcaster too? Seth Godin shares recordings from his recent Startup School live seminar using the podcast format. He takes us from defining your approach to business (freelancer or entrepreneur?) all the way through startup launch in this weekly podcast.

Currently offering his 8th episode, when Godin reaches the end of the recorded event, will this become a permanent offering from Godin? Only time will tell.

This one is well worth the time while its still available.

MixergyAndrew Warner

A successful entrepreneur himself, Andrew Warner spends an hour each week interviewing founders and CEOs of the world’s leading technology companies.

Focusing on the “ambitious upstart”, his questions probe deeply into the hows and whys of each entrepreneur’s story, teaching listeners what do to, as well as what not to do when launching and running a company.

So, what are some of your favorite podcasts? Please share a link in the comments so everyone may check them out.

photo credit: Colleen AF Venable via photopin cc

The Power of Stopping

When my brain is rested and not required to complete a specific task or stay focused on success, amazing things happen.

During scheduled breaks, like vacations and holidays, I often develop my biggest ideas, like new business systems, strategies or concepts for future entrepreneurial endeavors. My right brain (the creative side) is free to roam, shifts into a lower gear and finds some additional horsepower.

Some of my most interesting, most innovative ideas have been discovered during these periods of cognitive overdrive. As I walk through the woods each morning, while driving long distances, taking a shower or as I drift off to sleep, my brain takes me to the most interesting creative places. (At times it takes me, very literally, to very unexpected places. I once drove two hours in the wrong direction while dreaming of my future and developing a new business strategy. My wife will never let me live it down.)

Whenever I am performing a creative task, I’ve learned to stop, take a break and reset my mind. It may take nothing more than lifting my head and focusing on something other than the task at hand. It may be a more deliberate suspension of activity or scheduled time-out. I may stand up and stretch, take a stroll around the studio, stop for a snack or converse with a co-worker.

Rebooted, I return to my task with a rested open mind. I often discover new directions or alternative concepts. The path to success becomes clear. The awkward sentence is quickly resolved. The complicated architectural detail looks simple and the solution so obvious.

It works.

The next time you find yourself stuck, don’t spin your tires. Try stopping.

3 Steps to a Better Life: Stop, Drop and Roll

STOP and take time to evaluate your life. Ask yourself… Are you doing the things that make you happy? Are you making the world a better place? Have you found your purpose? What are your goals? Are you working toward a better life? Make two lists; Things That Matter and Things That Don’t.

DROP the things that make you unhappy. Eliminate the the things that are distracting you from reaching your goals. Do more things that matter and fewer things that don’t.

When times are tough and the next dollar becomes your priority for survival, the things that matter most get lost in the crisis. Focus on the things that matter most and ROLL into a better life.


What would you do with an extra day each week?

As I sat here in “my chair” flipping through a list of recent DVR recordings, I had a disturbing thought. “How much time do I actually spend in this yellow (yes, “French’s Mustard” yellow) mid-century modern armchair?”

You see, I come from a TV family. It’s in my genes. I think I may have plasma running through my veins (Ha! Get it? Plasma… in my veins…In fact, you do too.). For generations, LePages have retired to the tube for a little after-dinner entertainment each night. It’s a great way for one to clear the mind and unwind from a stressful day at the office.

Well, I’ve done some calculations, and the results are rather disturbing.

After filling the dishwasher and running the kids off to bed, I typically hit the chair around eight PM. The DVR gets a work out and, at around midnight, I head back up to bed. That’s four hours per evening, every evening… seven days a week. Is that a lot?

That’s twenty eight hours per week; a whole day of hours, plus two. A whole day! Every week.

So, if I cut out the TV completely, I would actually gain an extra day. Just imagine what you could accomplish with an eighth day each week.

Wait, it gets worse…

If I take two weeks off for vacations and other days “not watching”, and multiply twenty eight hours by fifty weeks… that’s fourteen hundred hours of TV watching every year. Is THAT a lot? Yes… that is a lot of TV.

That is fifty eight days of TV watching every year. That’s down right embarrassing! I spend TWO MONTHS every year sitting in my chair watching television. (Thank you Dr. Blog… I feel much better now.)

In my defense, I do multi-task. I update my “social media empire” for Fivecat Studio and write interesting (or disturbing) blog posts like this one each night… but still.

Not good.

I’ll be making some changes… Expect big things from me in the next 14 months. (That’s one year in human time.)


Question: What would YOU do with an extra day each week?

The Blessings of Christmas and Being a Residential Architect

Each year from Christmas to New Years Day, Annmarie and I close the studio, send the crew home for the week and enjoy quality time with family and friends. It’s important to take healthy breaks from the intense focus of our work. It allows us to remember what is most important in our lives and return to the studio with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for our projects.

It’s also a great time to look back on the past year and be thankful for loyal, trusting clients. In a time of severe economic crisis throughout the world, we have been blessed with a full roster of projects. We cannot be more appreciative for the opportunities our clients have provided us.

I often think about how our work has literally changed the lives of our clients. The new kitchens, family rooms, fireplaces, master bedrooms… have all created homes where families grow and thrive. There are few professions that allow one to be so intimately involved in how families live, work and have fun. It is truly an honor when clients grant us their trust and permit us to create such spaces.

It is a great feeling to know that on this night, Christmas Eve, there are dozens of families gathered in spaces designed by Fivecat Studio. We are truly blessed to be residential architects.

If you have time this week, please comment below and share your thoughts on the opportunities and honor of being an architect.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday season.


How does one get it all done?

As an Entrepreneur Architect I wear many hats. I’m a designer, a draftsman, a project manager, a construction manager, a book keeper, a marketing director, a salesman, a customer service representative, an IT manager, a boss, a partner, a CEO, a COO, a CFO… the list goes on and on. It can be very stressful. At times, it’s overwhelming. I have the same number of hours each day as everyone else.

How does one get it all done?

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (GTD), says, “our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.”

For each of my responsibilities I have specific things that need to be accomplished. To make it all more manageable, I plan “projects” with a list of tasks required to complete. Breaking down the larger tasks into the smaller bits of an action plan makes it easier to see my progress and keeps stress to a minimum.

Due to the current economy, our business situation changes often, which does not lend itself to keeping “my mind clear and my thoughts organized”. In order to stay focused, I reassess my goals often to confirm they are still relevant. I remind myself what is truly important and review my action plans for each “project”.

In order to be most productive with my email, Allen suggests applying the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule to empty your in-box. Schedule specific times each day to organize your email. Address every message. If it will take less than two minutes to complete, do it. If it can be delegated to someone else, send it down the line. If addressing the item will take more than 2 minutes, defer it and schedule a time to address items requiring more attention. If the item is not important, drop it and move on to the next.

The single most important tip to productivity is to know what NOT to do. Be comfortable with saying no and limit tasks to the “projects” that will make a difference in your business.

Whether you follow the GTD method or another system of personal productivity, you need a system. You can’t just show up each day and hope it all works out. Success is planned and will not happen without focusing on the things that matter most.

How do you get it all done?

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