Listen Your Way to Being a Better LeaderAn interesting headline in the Harvard Business Review blog network caught my attention: What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life.

Chaos is the term that might come to mind, in this day and age, when it's hard to keep attention focused on any single task or project; when we have notifications pinging on devices and numerous windows open on our computer desktops at any given time.

Stop and take a look now. How many do you have open?

In the article, author Kare Anderson shared a study Disney World had hired her to conduct a few years ago - to see what captured the attention of children in their amusement park.

She and her team went in to observe how kids reacted to the cast members, rides, concessions, and multiple stimuli throughout the park.

What do you think most captured the children's attention? Their parent's cell phones. When their parents were using them.

We don't think about it - we think we can give everyone the attention they deserve and desire,  but our kids, and our teams are the real judges. They can tell us if we're doing a good job of it or not.

How to Become a Better Leader

The best thing you can do? Give undivided attention. Be the best listener ever.

Who are some of your closest friends? The ones you enjoy most spending time with? I'd be willing to bet they are the friends who listen to you and care about you.

Listening, explained Anderson, is the "social cement" and the foundation for the best relationships. It makes the other person feel valued, and opens you up to a new world of ideas.

What would you add?

How to Achieve a Better Work-Life BalanceJuggling the demands of a career and a personal life often seems impossible. As business leaders, there are many times we stay late, get to the office early to try and get ahead, or work on weekends. You may even feel guilty if you don’t work 24/7.

In this Entrepreneur article, contributor Victor Cheng asked a great question. “Short of simply working fewer hours and running the risk of tanking your business, how do entrepreneurs achieve a better work-life balance while increasing their bottom-line?”

His answer: Focus.

He refers to the late Steve Jobs, who said focus isn’t deciding what to do, it’s deciding what not to do.

But people tend to have a hard time narrowing their focus. “That's because it's often unclear how to focus at a practical level,” Cheng says.

He shares some steps to help you focus on what is most critical in your business, so you earn more but work less.

Tips to Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance

Monetize Your To-Do List

Look at everything on your list and determine what the financial value is of each task. Then, write the dollar amount next to the items. For example, if you need to finish a new business proposal and the contract is worth $200,000 then write “Finish Proposal ($200,000).”

Sort in Descending Order

Once you have monetized all of your tasks, sort them with the highest dollar amount at the top and the lowest at the bottom.

Work through Your List

Cheng suggests you spend four days a week on the top 50 percent of your list. Work on the number one item on the list until it is finished completely, then move on to the next. “If you find that you can't finish this item until someone else does something first, move on to the next item on your list,” says Cheng.

He also suggests spending one day a week on the bottom 50 percent. “By forcing yourself to work on the less important (but seemingly urgent) tasks only one day a week, you won't be able to complete them all,” he says. You might see some tasks on your list for weeks, and that’s alright. “It’s a deliberate byproduct of this approach,” he adds.

Reevaluate Your List Weekly

Are any of the tasks obsolete? If so, remove them. This is tough for some people, but if they stay on your list week after week, you’ll realize they aren’t as important as you thought. “The key to focus is to ignore trivial tasks while doubling the time spent on the things that make a big difference,” says Cheng.

Overworking yourself can, and will, start to take its toll. It’s important to focus on getting the most important things done first, but it’s only possible once we remove the clutter and distraction. If you are having a hard time deciding what to do, take Jobs’ advice: Decide what doesn’t need to be done.

What practical suggestions do you have for finding a better balance between work and the rest of your life?

Big projects can be a pain. Sometimes they're so difficult, so stressful, they keep us up at night.

Or, worse yet, we delay starting these big projects, or find other tasks that need to be done first.


Maybe we’re intimidated by the amount of time required to finish the project, or we don’t know where to start. Sometimes, we're simply struggling to get a clear picture of what needs to be done.

“Few things are as daunting as a blank page, a report you need to write, or a pitch you need to create. It’s all too easy to find yourself staring at the large white window on your computer screen. Pausing to check your email. And staring some more,” says Minda Zetlin, contributor to Inc.

We all need go-to techniques to push through this inertia if we're to be successful. And the upside is, it’s a great feeling to finish a large project and look back at what you’ve accomplished.

As a writer, Zetlin finds herself facing a blank page on a regular basis. As a result, she’s developed some effective ways to get past the panic and finish those big projects. (more…)

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