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Snowed In? Here’s an Idea…

Use this winter weather to plan ahead for your small business!

Much of the East Coast is STILL snowed in. (!) Schools and businesses are closed, highway speeds have been lowered. Days like this are asking for reflection and strategic planning, so consider this your nudge. To help you along, use the template I’ve provided here; not only will it help you update your 2015 goals but it well keep you on track during the year. Download it today! 2015 business planning worksheet

How to be the most productive person in your office

I love this article! #2 is my absolute favorite for daily/weekly productivity, and #4 is the best advice for long-term goals. Comment below and let me know what you think!

gettin-things-done

Some days the to-do list seems bottomless. Just looking at it is exhausting.

We all want to know how to stop being lazy and get more done. I certainly want the answer.

So I decided to call a friend who manages to do this — and more.

Cal Newport impresses the heck out of me. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. He’s insanely productive:

  1. He has a full-time job as a professor at Georgetown University, teaching classes and meeting with students.
  2. He writes six (or more) peer-reviewed academic journal papers per year.
  3. He’s the author of four books including the wonderful So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And he’s at work on a fifth.
  4. He’s married with a young child and handles all the responsibilities that come with being a husband and dad.
  5. He blogs regularly about productivity and expert performance.

And yet he finishes work at 5:30 p.m. every day and rarely works weekends.

No, he does not have superpowers or a staff of 15. Okay, let’s you and I both stop being jealous of his productivity for a second and learn something.

Below you’ll get Cal’s secrets on how you can better manage your time, stop being lazy, get more done — and be finished by 5:30. Let’s get to work.

1) To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.

To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule. Why?

It makes you be realistic about what you can get done. It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient, not just because it’s #4.

Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking.

Here’s Cal:

Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.

Experts agree that if you don’t consider how long things take, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I can hear what some of you are thinking: But I get interrupted. Things get thrown at me last minute.

Great — build that into your schedule. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Things will change. But you need to have a plan, otherwise you’ll waste time.

Want to stop procrastinating? Schedule. Here’s Cal:

Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.

Does this sound too mechanical? Overly structured and not much fun? Wrong.

Research shows that it’s even a good idea to schedule what you do with your free time. It increases quality of life:

This study was designed to identify the relationship between free time management and quality of life, exploring whether the amount of free time or the way people using their free time relates to their quality of life… The result has found a positive relationship between free time management and quality of life.

(For more on the schedule the most productive people use, click here.)

Okay, the to-do list is in the trash and things are going on the calendar. How do you prioritize so you’re not at work forever?

Read entire piece here.

Originally published September 18, 2014

5 Steps (Back) to Get Ahead with Your Goals

When you're trying to reach your goals, start with "the end in mind"!

When you’re trying to reach your goals, start with “the end in mind”!

Now that you’ve set a goal for 2014, declared a New Year’s Resolution, have you taken your first step? You see, there are results goals (the outcome that we want), and then there are action goals (the action we will take to reach our desired outcome). And that’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to declare “I want to double my sales”, or “I am going to be more productive”, but when we define what action steps we will take to reach those outcomes we begin to see results (for more about results and action goals see here).

But knowing what those steps are can befuddle even the best in business. When a client is struggling to define the steps to reach their goal, I walk them through the process I’m about to share here.

Entrepreneurs are big thinkers – great at knowing where they want to end up. Defining the steps to reach that destination can feel mundane, cumbersome, and well…boring. Small business owners are fond of the expression “make it happen!” but without a large staff to “make it happen” those details often fall on your shoulders, the small business owner.

To easily define those action steps, and to take the most efficient path, here’s my remedy for detail-offended entrepreneurs:

  1.  Begin with the end result – feel it, believe it, know it.
  2. Once you can envision reaching that goal, ask what step you would have taken right before you reached the goal?
  3. What action would you have taken immediately before that?
  4. And before that?
  5. Continue backing up until you reach an action step that you can, and will, take today.

By starting at your goal, you include only those actions that produce results and that are the most effective and efficient. The best part is that once you’ve walked backwards to where you are today, you’ve defined a comprehensive action plan designed by you, in full detail, to your desired goal.

Long-Term Goals: What’s Your End Game?

Long term planning can feel daunting; we know it’s critical, yet it seems so ambiguous and a long ways away, even when it’s only a few years. If you’re like many business owners, you push it off to tomorrow, and worry about later, well…later. The problem is that “later” arrives when the time for careful and thoughtful planning is past.

Years ago, I joined a young, growing, software company. Profits were strong, and growth seemed easy. I asked the CEO “what’s the most likely end game? How do you want to get out of this? What do you want to get out of this?” I was shocked that he had no idea. Over the next few days we’d circle back to the question again and again, and he eventually realized that the most likely outcome was to be acquired by one particular company. My next question was “what decisions do we make that will make that outcome most likely to happen?” That most likely, and desired, outcome guided the company’s strategy over the coming years and yes, we were acquired by that most likely company at a very lucrative price.

A client and I were talking about his 2014 plans this week when I threw in the question “how long do you want to do this?” My client has owned a very successful business for 14 years and, honestly, he’s tired. I wanted him to start thinking about his ultimate goal, and we then started talking about his most likely exit strategy and the path most likely to get him there.

This week, another client and I talked about possible outcomes and what each might look like for his life. After all, business ownership, and it’s winding up, should support our personal goals and dreams. Once he sorted out the most likely outcome, we created possible paths to reach that outcome. When you take a trip, you look at different ways to reach your destination and select the path that best meets your wants and needs. At every intersection, you make a decision to follow the road that will get you to your destination when you want to, in the manner you want. You select one course, but you know there are alternatives in case you encounter obstacles.

Defining long term business goals and strategies is the same as creating your travel plans; define a goal, set a course, but always have alternatives in the back of your mind in case you need to take a detour. Long term planning, whether it’s an exit strategy or a few years away, becomes simple when you think in terms of “most likely and desirable outcomes”. Give it a try and let me know where you want to end up. 

Free Vision Planning Notebook – yes, FREE!

Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!

Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!

Hi everyone! Now is a great time to write out your goals and plans for the New Year! You know my motto – “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have extra vision planning notebooks  that I’m giving away FREE starting Wednesday, December 18, until the New Year. The only thing you have to do is sign up for the newsletter on www.avisionofyourown.com!  Once you do, shoot me an email at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it out. Any questions? Shoot me an email!

Vision boards are a great way to really focus on what you want to accomplish next year. Writing down your ideas makes you accountable to yourself, and moves your ideas from your head to reality!

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.