Imagine you are on a roll, engrossed in a project, in the “flow.” All of a sudden, the phone rings, an e-mail alarm goes off, a colleague is standing in your doorway, a text message is coming through on your smart phone, etc. Ah, interruptions. If you didn’t define all of those as an interruption, think again.

Experts estimate that the average American is interrupted every 3-4 minutes. Some people find this number to be too frequent, others find it extremely low. It depends on what your definition of an interruption is. My definition is anything that you didn’t want to, or expect to, happen at that time. I equate an interruption to a weed in my garden –- if it doesn’t belong there, or if I don’t want it there, it is a weed. Same with an interruption.

So how do you avoid getting sidetracked? It is not always easy, and it depends on what your job is, and who is interrupting you, but try some of the following tactics.

Think of an interruption as an offer. Start to think of an interruption as an offer, and your decision as to whether you will take the interruption as a counter-offer. It is okay to say “Thanks for your call/visit. I do want to speak with you, but now is not a good time. Can we talk/meet at 2:00 p.m. instead?” There. You just counter-offered. See if it works. It is certainly worth a try.

do_not_disturbCreate do-not-disturb time. Screen calls, or set up times of the day when you answer and return calls and let that be known to friends, family, and work colleagues. Utilize a “do not disturb” sign at the office when working on a tight deadline, close your office door, set “office hours” for visitors and colleagues, or go work in a conference room, library or coffee shop where you can hide. When I was practicing law, I often escaped to another location when writing an important court brief, or closed my door and left a sign-up sheet for people that stopped by that explained that I was on deadline and when I would surface for air.

All interruptions are not equal. Let’s face it –- some interruptions are more important than others. You probably need to take interruptions from certain people, like your boss, a sick child, etc. But not everyone. So be selective and if an interruption comes in that does not make the grade, don’t take it!

X marks the spot. Before you take an interruption, write down the very next action you were planning to take, how long you thought it would take, and whether you can delegate it to someone else. Often, the interruption itself is not as bad as playing catch-up after it. Taking the time to write down where you are and what you need to get back to can help you save precious time.

interruptionsPlan for interruptions in advance. If you work in an interruption-rich culture, you can only plan out 50% of your time to allow for 50% interruptions. For example, if your job is to put out “fires” all day, you can’t avoid interruptions as they are exactly what you should be handling. An example of this would be a sales manager in a car dealership whose job is to support the sales team on the floor, and to control and manage issues as they arise. This individual will be less able to avoid interruptions and should plan for them in his or her schedule, by blocking out time before or after “floor” time to get his or her project-related work done.

Preempt the interrupter. It is worth noting that supposedly 80% of our interruptions come from 20% of the people we come into contact with. Try to identify the frequent interrupters and start coming up with ways to cut them off before they occur. If you know someone always calls you to confirm a meeting, send a quick text/e-mail to let him or her know you are still on as scheduled. Or better yet, explain that it is your policy not to miss meetings and you do not need a reminder (you have your smart phone for that!), and that you will call in the rare event you need to cancel. Start taking control of the interruptions before they occur and stopping them at their source. Then, you won’t need to deal with as many interruptions in the first place.

Now, go forth and effectively deal with those interruptions so you can get some work done and stay in the “flow”!

If you’d really like to ramp up your business and kick it into high gear — join me in Denver, Colorado for my Kick Butt Business Bootcamp!

Are you ready to:businessbootcamp

  • …create the business model you’ve been striving for?
  • …stop working so hard and, instead, work smarter?
  • …charge what you’re worth, and reach the levels of income you’ve dreamed of?

In order to have a thriving and successful business, you need to be strategic. You don’t have to do everything. You have to do the right things for your business!

Learn more at my Kick Butt Business Bootcamps! Here are the details:

The event is hosted by the NAPO-CO Chapter
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
9:00 am – 4 pm
Inn at Cherry Creek
233 Clayton Street, Denver, CO

Early Bird Rate = $149 (until March 1, 2016)
Regular Event Price = $169 (until March 22, 2016)
“It’s Not Too Late” Rate = $189 (after March 22, 2016)

Space is limited, so register early.

Go to www.KickButtBusinessBootcamp.com for more details and to register.

During the Kick Butt Business Bootcamp, you will learn how to:grow_business

  • Go through an in-depth business building assessment to get really clear on what’s going on in your business and where YOU need to be putting your attention.
  • Make some powerful mindset shifts that will have you think and act like a 6-figure business owner.
  • Leave knowing exactly what to do, with a clear plan to take YOUR business to the next level. Topics include: Define Success/Your Role in Your Business, Passion/Unique Areas of Brilliance, Marketing/Unique Selling Proposition, Ideal Client/Target Market, Multiple Streams of Income/Leverage, Outsourcing/Delegating, Accountability Checks/Tools, Business Systems/Operations Manual.
  • Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, join us for some invaluable expertise for your business!

If you are not a business owner or entrepreneur, but know someone that may be interested in improving his or her business, please share this!

Can’t make it to the bootcamp? Contact me to discuss doing some private coaching together for your business!

Overwhelmed just thinking about the upcoming holiday season? Relax. If you take a little time to plan your holiday season, it will be more enjoyable for you and your family! Focus on practicing good organizational techniques and time management principles.  Here are some tips to make the holidays enjoyable and the new year start off in a positive manner.

Setting Your Goals for the Holiday Season

  • Christmas_treeWe are pulled in so many different directions during the holidays: travel, family gatherings, parties and social events, shopping, baking, decorating, etc. As yourself: What do I want? This question is an invaluable guide for the holiday season. Think about what you want to do, as opposed to what you think others expect of you. Decide on your goals for the holiday season. Do you want to spend quality time with family? Do you want to try your hand at hosting or baking? Or, do you want to relax and enjoy quiet time? Achieving your goals and creating a meaningful holiday season requires that you have smart plans in place, especially if you want to enjoy the season without overindulging or stressing out.
  • It is difficult to keep all of the mental clutter associated with the holidays in our head! Keep a ‘holiday central’ notebook or create a memo in your handheld device. List items you want to do (notice I didn’t say need to do!), gifts to be purchased, people to send cards to, etc. Create a holiday budget so you know what you want to spend and stick to it.

Dealing with Holiday Schedule Overload

  • holiday_stressorsAll the things you want to do over the holiday season can bring pressure if you don’t bring your wants and needs into alignment and into a manageable schedule. Holiday joy comes from balance and choosing the activities that are fulfilling for you. Avoid taking on too much at this time of year. If you’re feeling too pressured, look for activities that you can reschedule until after the holidays, delegate, or say no to. Recognize that you can’t do everything, especially if you want to enjoy your holiday season!  Ask yourself: What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this?
  • Identify and avoid triggers. If going to certain events or seeing certain family or friends stresses you out and always ruins your holiday experience, avoid that activity. If you must attend, shorten your visit. If you are watching what you eat, plan ahead by eating a small healthy meal at home, so you won’t be as hungry at the event. Or plan out what you will eat at the event, allowing yourself a few treats that you only get to have once per year and stick to your plan.
  • If you regularly exercise, don’t stop over the holidays! Carve out time for exercise, even if it is not as much time as you usually do. The holidays are stressful enough – don’t miss out on a great form of natural stress relief!

The payoff to all of this planning? You won’t have post-holiday regret syndrome! You’ll be calmer and more available to enjoy the company of your family and friends, and you’ll start the new year feeling empowered.

thank_youThe words “thank you” are among the most powerful in almost any language in the world. Think about how amazing they feel to say and to be the recipient of. People say thank you when they want to express gratitude, bring someone joy, acknowledge someone’s hard-working effort, or reward them in some way. The words are simple, but create an impact on the recipient. And… on the person saying them!

Yes, research shows that the greatest benefits of gratitude may actually be experienced by the person who expresses the gratitude, not by the recipient. Indeed, an article in Psychology Today cites several research studies measure the power of gratitude. People that regularly expressed gratitude slept better, were more positive and focused, had more energy and increased attention. Pretty cool, huh?

kitchen_tableThis week, people in United States of America are celebrating Thanksgiving. A holiday with gratitude at the center. I happen to love this holiday. It is fairly low stress compared to many other holidays, and allows people to basically come together to enjoy a nice meal, good conversation, and express their gratitude for all the things in their life, and about each other, that they cherish. But sometimes saying “thanks” at dinner feels forced. Here are four exercises from the Greater Good Science Center to help get the genuine gratitude flowing.

The thing is, gratitude is not a one-day event. It should be a daily event. Yes, it takes foresight, and for some people a little effort, to make it routine. But when you commit to gratitude as a daily part of your life, you will experience the positive benefits that research has discovered are a natural result of gratitude.

I am thankful for my husband Sean and living in the beautiful state of California!

I am thankful for my husband Sean and living in the beautiful state of California!

Whether it’s something that you say out loud to the people in your life, or maybe something that you say privately in a journal, expressing your gratitude will have a powerful impact.

So let me start by practicing what I’m advocating. I want to thank you for being part of my life, professionally, and for some of you, personally. I appreciate you being part of my community, and allowing me to share my articles, tips, and advice with you through this ezine. I am truly grateful for you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Watch the video here, or read the full article below.

video-superachieverOne of the greatest challenges for busy, successful and creative people juggling several projects, talents and ideas is to live a well-balanced life. If only we could do all that is on our personal and professional ‘to do’ lists while simultaneously attending to our health, nurturing our important relationships and taking good care of our responsibilities.

Everyone knows someone who works full time, volunteers, runs a successful blog, and somehow still finds time to go grocery shopping, cook organic Instagram-worthy meals, foster a loving relationship, walk his or her adorable Boston terrier, and, oh — train for a half marathon. These kinds of “super-achievers” have the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us, but somehow, they always seem to get more done. How do they do it? Here are 5 tips to help you maximize your precious 24 hours daily.

Tip #1: Stop Trying to Win the Crazy-Busy Badge of Honor
crazy_busyStaying busy, but not productive, is the curse of our times. These days we are so busy that we can’t stop talking about it. And busyness has become a cultural symbol of status. Even though people say they’re complaining, they’re secretly bragging. Here are some typical phrases that I often hear from my private clients and audience members:

“I am so tired, I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep!”
“I’m drowning over here!”
“Oh my God, I’m crazy-busy!”

We have to stop the glorification of busy, and realize that no one is really “busy”… it’s all about priorities. We have to stop using this phrase, and take back control so we feel empowered, not depleted.

Tip #2: Use Time Management Tools that Work for You & Stick to Them
One of the key components to time management is to find time management tools that work well for you and then stick to them. Consistency is key! Use one calendar, one master project list or project management tool, and one task management system. It doesn’t matter if they are paper or digital, old fashioned or a fancy new app. The key is to create a system around your habits, needs, work and lifestyle, learn it well, and use it consistently.

Tip #3: Stop Multi-Tasking & Engage in Uni-Tasking Instead
Multi-tasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time. Studies show it impairs productivity. It is impossible to do 2 tasks at the same time without compromising each. Research shows that it takes your brain 4 times longer to process than if you focused on each task separately. David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has spent the past few decades studying multi-tasking. His research shows that not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but also can cause problems at work, at school, and even, in some cases, be dangerous. Meyer explains, “It takes time to warm up to a new task, especially if both require the same skills.” So focus on one task at a time, give it your full attention, and then move onto the next task.

Tip #4: Use the Power of the Pareto Principle (a/k/a the 80-20 Rule)
The Pareto Principle takes its name from a 19th century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. In the late 1940s, business management guru Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto’s Principle (or the 80/20 Rule as it is often called) means that in any grouping of items or events, a few (20%) are vital and many (80%) are trivial. 80% of our results come from 20% of our activity. That means that of all of the daily activities you do, and choices that you make, only 20% really matter (or at least produce meaningful results).

What is the takeaway that we can learn from the Pareto Principle? Identify and focus on the 20% that matters! When life sets in and you start to become reactive instead of proactive, remind yourself of the 20% you need to focus on. If something in your schedule needs to be deleted or not completed with your fullest attention, try your best to make sure it’s not part of that 20%. Use the Pareto Principle as a litmus test to constantly check in and ask yourself: “Is doing this task or activity right now the highest and best use of my time? Is this truly part of the 20% that matters?” Let the Pareto Principle serve as a powerful daily reminder to focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of your work and life that is really important and delivers positive results.

Tip #5: Honor Appointments with Yourself
facialCalendar in your personal to-do’s, along with your professional appointments. Our work calendars fill up quickly with tasks, projects, and events. When was the last time you scheduled something fun for yourself and/or your family? A date night with your significant other? A yoga class, time to read, take a bubble bath, etc.? Give structure to unstructured activities and tasks. Try to reverse your calendar and begin with the premise that you need (and deserve) time for play and relaxation. You schedule those first, as well as previously committed time — like when you sleep, eat, exercise, commute to work, and other blocks of time you must expend each day.

Start practicing proactive, positive productivity using the 5 tips above. And remember, be consistent!

“Let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are. Be imperfect and have compassion for yourself. Connection is the result of authenticity.”
~ Brene Brown

road_to_successIf you ask most people want they want for their career, business or life, often the word Success comes up at some point. Indeed, many of us want to be successful. So what stops some people from being successful but not others? A whole host of things. It is often said that success leaves footprints. I do believe that there are certain patterns that successful people follow — taking action, being focused, making bold but calculated risks, finding a support system, and staying positive to name a few. But there are also some serious saboteurs that often get in the way of success. They cause (and are often caused by) doubt, fear, lack of confidence, and negativity. They come disguised as 3 blocks that try to stop you from moving forward and being successful.

1. The Perfection Trap

The Perfection Trap is what causes you to second guess yourself at every turn. It is often disguised as a strength (“I have such high standards.”), but in reality can be a manifestation of procrastination, lack of confidence, or fear of failure or success. The Perfection Trap is in some ways the Great Western disease: “I’ll be happy when I …” (fill in the blank!). Many people wait until everything is “perfect” to move forward with their ideas, insights, strategies, interests and passions. Unfortunately, the waiting game goes on and on because the stars are never perfectly aligned. In the meantime, what happens? Life (and often success and happiness!) pass you by.

Win Borden said, “If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” Stop waiting until everything is perfect! Life your life now. Pursue your dreams, follow your passions, launch your business, apply for that promotion, ask that special someone out on date… whate ver it is. You probably have “enough” already under your belt to take a step in that direction. Remember, done is better than perfect. (For more on this topic, check out my article Done is Better Than Perfect at https://www.lisamontanaro.com/2012/03/16/done-is-better-than-perfect/).

2. The Comparison Trap

The Comparison Trap is often right there waiting to attack. It is the voice in your head that says, “I could never do that” as you look at others’ accomplishments, successes and happiness. It forces you to look outward for your definition of success. You look at others, measure yourself against them, and then think you are less than. When I work with a client, I implement a rule that he or she must follow: No negative self talk! You’d be surprised how difficult it is for many people to adhere to it. Words are powerful, and negative self talk always puts you in a losing position.

The world is filled with a sense of competition. Women tend to compare themselves to other women in so many areas: physical appearance, parenting, relationships, and business. Men tend to compare themselves based on material possessions, status, and money. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with everyone else! Use what others’ do as a model, sample or template, but, make it your own. Otherwise, you will just spin your wheels trying a little bit of everything, but mastering and enjoying nothing.

The problem with the Comparison Trap is that it is completely false. No one stands in your shoes. You are the only you. And the trouble with someone thinking they can get ahead of you is that you’re assuming that they can walk in your shoes. And this reminds me of something that the actress Judy Garland once said: “Be a first rate version of yourself, rather than be a second rate version of someone else.” An original is better than a copy every time.

3. The Impostor Syndrome

comparison_trapThe toughest critic will often be you. There’s a theory called the Impostor Syndrome that many successful people suffer from. It’s where you feel like a fake even if you have the education, training and experience to be successful at what you do.

Jodie Foster has talked about it freely in some of her interviews. She said that every time she would go on a movie set, whether as an actress or a director as her career progressed, she felt like an impostor and was worried that she’d be “found out.” And this is coming from an accomplished performer since she was a child, and a celebrity by most people’s standards. But it doesn’t matter. When she looked in the mirror, she didn’t see that celebrity. She didn’t value herself the way others valued her.

We so often judge ourselves harshly because in our own minds, we aren’t quite there yet. We tend to focus on what we have not accomplished yet, what remains to be done, what goals we have not yet reached. Try to remind yourself of what you have already accomplished, how much you have already grown and changed, and the goals you have met. It is often on the journey to becoming who we are that the true growth takes place. The term authenticity is often used these days (some may say over-used). I think being authentic means taking ownership of your true value, including all that you bring to the table, while humbling yourself enough to admit that you still have some steps to take on your journey. That doesn’t make you an impostor. It makes you human.

Ready to kick your business into high gear – and take it to the next level?

businessbootcampIn order to have a thriving and successful business, you need to be strategic. You don’t have to do everything. You have to do the right things for your business!

Well…. if you are in the Atlanta or Washington DC area, come to one of my Kick Butt Business Bootcamps! Here are the details for each:

  • The Atlanta event is hosted by the NAPO-Georgia Chapter 
    Saturday, May 30th
    9:00 am – 4 pm
    Decatur Recreation Center, Decatur, GA
    Early Bird Rate = $149 (until April 30, 2015)
    Regular Event Price = $169 (until May 15, 2015)
    “It’s Not Too Late” Rate = $189 (after May 15, 2015)
    Go to www.KickButtBusinessBootcamp.com for more details and to register
  • The Washington DC event is hosted by the NAPO-Washington, DC Chapter 
    Friday, June 5, 2015
    9:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Keller Williams Realty Offices, Alexandria, VA
    Early Bird Rate = $149 (until May 5, 2015)
    Regular Event Price = $169 (until May 22, 2015)
    “It’s Not Too Late” Rate = $189 (after May 22, 2015)
    Visit www.KickButtBusinessBootcamp/NAPO-WDC to read more and to register

During the Kick Butt Business Bootcamp, you will learn how to:

  • grow_businessGo through an in-depth business building assessment to get really clear on what’s going on in your business and where YOU need to be putting your attention.
  • Make some powerful mindset shifts that will have you think and act like a 6-figure business owner.
  • Leave knowing exactly what to do, with a clear plan to take YOUR business to the next level. Topics include: Define Success/Your Role in Your Business, Passion/Unique Areas of Brilliance, Marketing/Unique Selling Proposition, Ideal Client/Target Market, Multiple Streams of Income/Leverage, Outsourcing/Delegating, Accountability Checks/Tools, Business Systems/Operations Manual.
  • Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, join us for some invaluable expertise for your business!

Can’t make either bootcamp? Contact me to discuss doing some private coaching together for your business!

Hopefully you saw the announcement that I’m partnering up with my colleague, Monica Ricci, to offer a fabulous online program this summer called Speak Up Summer Camp: Creating and Delivering Killer Presentations. The program begins on May 7th and the early bird rate is in effect until April 30th.

Lisa_and_Monica-NAPO-2014This program will help you learn how to be a dynamic speaker! Whether you’ve hardly presented at all and need to overcome your fear of public speaking, or if you’re a proficient public speaker but really want to up your game and start knocking your presentations out of the park, this program is for you.

testimonial-lisa_luken-SpeakupSpeaking has done wonders for my career even before I started my business, and has become a huge income stream for me in my current business model. Monica also has benefited from adding speaking services to her business, both as a marketing tool and as a standalone income stream.

We want to take everything we know about speaking . . . The art and craft of it, the snafus that occur and how to handle them, how to add in your unique voice via humor, storytelling, and authenticity, how to really connect with your audience, and more! We won’t be holding back at all. We have stellar content that we are ready to share with you.

For details and registration, visit https://www.lisamontanaro.com/speakup

bonusSpecial Bonus for the First 5 People to Register:

If you are one of the first 5 to register, you get a bonus pre-program call with Lisa & Monica on May 4th. In this hour long call, Lisa & Monica will share bonus content about how speaking catapulted their businesses, how it fits into their current business model, and some other juicy nuggets about speaking to whet your appetite. You will also have the opportunity to share your background with reg ard to speaking, share your reasons for registering, and set goals and intentions for the program. This is ONLY available to the first 5 people that register, so hurry up and join us to get in on this bonus call!

And if you are a NAPO member or an LMGU alumni, contact me for a special coupon code for special rate!

Come spend the summer up-leveling your speaking!