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FREE Time Management Tool: Download the Daily Focus Pad

Destroy Distraction Daily Focus Pad by ChangeForgeOf all the workplace productivity and time management tools I’ve tried over the years, I never could find one that had everything I needed in one spot. So I created my own called the Daily Focus Pad.

In their book, Rework (affiliate), Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson speak about creating their products to scratch their own itch. After such strong feedback from many of those who’ve been using the Daily Focus Pad, I decided to make it available for download with no strings attached.

It’s a super-easy way to prioritize your day, stay focused and stay motivated!

Many had signed up for my eBook, 7 Secrets to Destroy Your Daily Distractions: A Field Guide to Focusing Today!, and received the Daily Focus Pad. This is still available, but I’ve added a form-fillable PDF because so many of you had asked for it.

Keep the feedback coming, because I’m happy to keep helping everyone be effective and destroy the BIG ‘D’ — Distraction!

Download is freely available using this link. While you’re at, pay it forward and share it with a friend, too!

PS – I’ve been tinkering with the idea of creating an iPhone and Android app. Answer 2 simple questions to let me know if  you like the idea!

Be in the Business of ‘Life Margin’

At its core, the focus of a business is to retain and attract customers to achieve revenue. To stay alive, a business must be able to achieve a level of operating profit to sustain itself and promote future growth. So each component of a business is geared to this overall end of getting margin and managing its cash flow. In the end, we are inherently looking for margin – for return on our investment. In other words, what’s in it for me, if I … ?

Without margin, many times there isn’t much reason to invest time, effort, capital or interest. And as the percentage of margin increases relative to the investment, we begin reclassify a risk as an opportunity, right? Think about it… if I told you I could take your $10,000 and turn it into $30,000 with no risk to your original investment – wouldn’t you jump at that?

Now, hold that thought, but take a side trip with me…

We are all busy. In fact, at least in the developed world, we have more responsibilities and roles to play than ever before. Interestingly, technology has accelerated our busy lives. The trap has been sprung on us, though – hasn’t it? In fact, now we now systemically feel a need to do more, more, more (great read by Seth Godin: Do more vs. do better).

What we have in this context is a decreasing amount of cushion between the sheer number of activities, roles and responsibilities of our live. The fun part is that often, we justify, rationalize or institutionalize this behavior. The result?

I can tell you from my own life, it results in missing deadlines, missing commitments and missing the important part of life – that is the savory connection and humble service to those who matter most to you.

This is a lack of ‘life margin‘.

What happens with a business that doesn’t maintain adequate margin? At best they can no longer maintain their quality. K-Mart and Circuit City struggled with this (and lost); at worst, they can no longer make the needed investments in recruiting top minds, building needed infrastructure or dreaming tomorrow’s dream!

If you aren’t careful, you run the risk of allowing the ‘stuff’ in life to fill your margin – and you need that margin. Take it back and give the world your gift of your dream for tomorrow.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. As a senior consultant with the Photizo Group, he comes from and works directly with channel providers in the managed services space, developing educational tools and resources to promote lasting business transformation.

Get the latest industry news, and follow ChangeForge on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook. You might also be interested in reading more from Ken in his weekly column on MPS Insights every Tuesday.


The 5 Core Truths in Leadership and Team-Building Success

Do you believe in the company you work for? More importantly, do you believe the work you do makes a difference in this world – is actually with purpose and worthwhile?

In their book, Gung Ho!, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles outline a key belief that everyone from the top to the bottom of an organizational chart ultimately wants their work to be worthwhile – to make a difference in this world. Think about it: Would you rather work on an assembly line in a factory putting the left peddle on tricycle 241, or would you rather know that you helped give another small child an ear-to-ear grin as they hopped up on a shiny, classic red, dual deck Radio Flyer tricycle?

Offering purpose is not the fundamental role of leaders; rather leadership – at its very core – it is to recognize, activate, and foster that innate purpose within others. Leading another person, a team or an organization is perhaps one of the most rewarding duties a person can have, in my humble opinion – and the most daunting as well. However, most seem to choose leadership because of some other petty or selfish motivation: money, pride or power. True leadership is less about self and more about what I term a “steward’s mindset“.

I have been witness to a harsh reality – teams are hard-won and easily lost. I have learned that leadership and team-building are more art than science – more stubbed toes than pats on the back. In this series, I will identify five core truths I hold as foundational to leadership and team-building success:

  1. Team: Success by Selection.
  2. Trust: Reward not Right.
  3. Tools: Technology, Training and Team.
  4. Communication: Feedback, Frequency and Forecast.
  5. Commitment: The Steward’s Mindset.

Join me Monday’s for this seven part series as I share what I have come to realize are pivotal points in leadership and team-building success – by which teams stand or fall. Next week – Team: Success by Selection.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


4 Keys to Success You Need to Survive

In uncertain times people often seek stability safe harbor from the storm of change swirling around them. While some thrive most cringe, hunkering down, tense and  nervous in expectation of the blows to come. What differentiates those few who succeed and thrive from those who curl up in anticipation of a long, cold winter?

The common components I see in all successful people, whether at the top of their game or looking up the mountain of their greatest slump, are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Vision
  3. Will
  4. Communication

Honesty:

keys2successAs the saying goes, “Know your strengths, and outsource your weaknesses.”

In order to understand where you are, you must understand who you are. In knowing your make-up, your strengths and weaknesses, you can make informed decisions about just where you step when the footing becomes slippery.

Being honest with yourself also helps you understand how much you can reasonably accomplish, helps you know when you just need to put the blinders on to get it done, and when to hand the ball to someone else for the touchdown. Sometimes, honesty may show you it is better to be led than to lead. However, without self-truth you will become your own worst enemy, constantly sabotaging yourself in whatever your endeavors.

Vision:

Perhaps the single most important component of success I witness in down times is that of vision – having a goal towards which you strive – as well as that innate ability to recognize opportunity in the darkest of times. Some might term this as hope,  but vision is much more deliberate.

Leaders are made and broken during difficult times, and can often be the most unlikely candidates. I have learned that the best of leaders offer their teams not only hope, but an achievable vision to fight towards. They do this by painting a picture their followers can not only see, but also envision how to achieve.

You see, while hope is a component of vision, truly having a vision is both intellectual as well as emotional. Vision is having a goal to which you aspire, as well as the ability of constructing the various achievement gates that comprise your goal; in other words, a hallmark of vision is the ability to break down the dream into digestible milestones, whereas hope is contentedly dreaming the dream.

A great leader will inspire you to not only dream, but live their vision. So in bad times, you must decide whether you will be led or whether you will lead.

Will:

Will power is deciding a course of action, and executing. It is not bullheaded, but is resolute when right. It is not a wall to stand against the odds, it is a tree that stands tall and proud, but knows when to flex and bend as the winds of change blow hard against it.

Having the will to survive and thrive is one only you can make. Surely supporters and mentors can help lift down-spirits, but ultimately it is up to you to pick yourself up off the ground and keep walking; when you can no longer walk, it is up to you to crawl, because only those that want it truly want it have a chance.

While will power doesn’t ensure success, it keeps your heart beating when the vision seems so far away; it helps you rationalize the pain as being part of the process to achieve your vision.

Communication:

Finally, communication is a key component of success. This takes two forms: being able to communicate your ideas as well as continually networking.

First, you must be able to effectively communicate what it is you are attempting to accomplish. Otherwise, you are just another voice in the crowd, screaming at the top of your lungs. Being able to reach others on their level is extremely important to your survival. A key skill here is to practice listening to what might be important to others.

Second, building a network of supporters is highly important. These are people you can turn to when things are at their worst, who can help you find work, turn you on to a lead, or simply give you advice on a pending project.

But, don’t forget, building a network is not one-sided. You must have first put in the time and energy of helping others succeed. Then, and only then, do you have the right to ask for favors in return. A key skill here is to live with a heart of service; help others succeed without need of reciprocation, and you will find you have supporters to lean on in times of need.

In Closing…

Honesty, vision, will, and communication are common keys successful people use to unlock their success potential. These are not always given, but can be developed.

Success comes in many different shapes and sizes. Only you can determine what success looks like for you. While society and our loved ones often superimpose their image of success upon us, it is ours, and ours alone, to determine success.

What stories do you have that you could share with us? Do you have a different outlook, or do you have anything that could be added?

I encourage each of you to take inventory of your life and determine if you are doing what it is you are called to do. If not, what steps can you reasonably take to step in that direction?


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


How Do You Deal With Change In Uncertain Times?

It’s an election year, the government is bailing out mortgage and insurance markets alike, and acquisitions proceed at a break neck pace within the document industries. With jobs in jeopardy, a shaky economy, and foreign affairs tumultuous it stands to reason the average Joe might  be experiencing just a little anxiousness. I know when I look at my 401k, it makes me a bit nervous…

Change, as a dynamic to life, is something we all count on happening, but we often allow ourselves to become complacent. “The change will be gradual enough that I will have time to adjust,” is the line we sell ourselves. “I’ll always have tomorrow to get that certification, talk to that client, or spend time with my daughter,” is what we console ourselves with.

There are 4 distinct ways in which we might choose to deal with a major upheaval in our lives:

1. Deny It.

We weren’t ready for it, don’t want to believe it could happen to us, or can’t admit it was coming. Regardless of how we get hit with the news, shock and denial are often the first reactions (maybe besides physical nausea) that we experience when confronted with a major disruption to our comfortable routine.

If you allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in it, this is the equivalent to finding yourself a nice dark corner, sticking your thumb in your mouth, and crying about it.

2. Fear It.

Generally speaking, fear is one of the next steps we go through. Think about this: You’ve just been handed your pink slip and told to pack up your things. How do you not get a little weak in the knees?

A good idea is to simply distill your fear and find out exactly what it is you are afraid of. Are you worried about where your next meal will come from, who will pay for those doctor’s bills, or how long it might take to find another job? Those are all very legitimate fears, so your next course of action is to construct a game plan on how you are going to achieve your goals.

Just like you would turn on the lights in a dark room, it is important to apply knowledge in situations where fear runs rampant. By doing so, you will quickly ascertain the truth of the matter.

3. Fight It.

As we learn in school, the fight or flight instincts in us come out when confronted with matters of survival. A common aspect of dealing with change is to attempt to fight back the coming tide. This can often be viewed as noble, and there are most certainly times where continuing the fight is exactly what needs to occur.

If you are rational about where you make your stands, and keep focused upon your long term goals, fighting can be exactly what you need. However, do not mistake ego with chivalry as it will not only damage you, but those you hold dear as well.

4. Embrace It.

Generally speaking, this is the final aspect of change management – acceptance of the facts as they stand. By embracing change, you agree to view the world as it stands, and not how you choose to see it. This allows you to make decisions clearly and concisely.

The Wrap-Up.

The majority of how you deal with far-reaching change is your perception of the change itself, as well as whether you feel prepared to weather the proverbial storm. No sage wisdom here folks. Remember, be honest with yourself – allow your mind to find its way to the truth of the matter; the quicker your mind embraces the truth, the better you will be able to adapt to this bold new world and ensure you are still a viable part of it.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.