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Posts Tagged ‘Long Term Vision’

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

Attack of the Time Vampires, Part I

Part I: Where DOES your time go?

A Time Vampire is simply a mindset that keeps you from using your time wisely. They may seem harmless enough, and often mask themselves in terms that make you believe you are really doing yourself a favor, like “hyper-productive”, “super-busy”, and “unstoppable”. And while I love the confidence that these self descriptions may inspire, (because don’t we all need to be productive?), the reality is that we 1) can’t be everywhere at once, and 2) we can’t do everything at once. Taking on too many projects, for example, can lead to burnout and fatigue. Time, like our energy and health, is finite.

 And that’s why we’re so frustrated. It often feels like “everyone else” is getting so much more done, while we’re spinning our wheels. Intellectually, we know that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but yet we also know that each of us has the same number of hours each day as anyone else.

TimeFlies

Repeat after me: I am NOT a hamster, and my life is not a whirl-o-wheel!

 

Time Vampires, then, cause us to be ineffective and unproductive. It’s not that we don’t have enough time, it’s that we’re not using the time we do have, we ALL have, in a way that is most productive for each of us.

 Which brings me to the next point: we all work differently. Have you ever thought about how you really spend your day? Not the timestamps of when you wake up, eat breakfast, and arrive at work, but how you really get work done? Do you work best alone, or with a group? Are you a morning, afternoon, or night person? The answers to these questions are key because you’re trying to define what works best for you.

 

 

For example, I know that I work best before 3 PM every day, but I also have a creative brain burst in the evening. What that means for me: I have to get up and get moving in the morning, jump into my projects (especially the ones that are time sensitive), and slow down midday. However, the best time to write, for me, is in the evenings. Not only do I feel like I think clearer, but my family obligations have slowed to a stand-still: my family is fed, dishes are done, and my kids are at their sports’ practices or doing homework. This may not work for everyone, but it’s what works best for me, and that’s OK.

 So before we move on, I encourage you to look at your day, know your rhythms, and really think about works best, and how you want to be. Only then can we move on to finding and destroying those time vampires!

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

K.I.S.S. Your Business: Why Bigger is Not Better When it Comes to Business Systems

The idea of business systems often connotes large corporations, complicated flowcharts, and lots of money spent. For small business owners, though, simple systems can mean the difference between paperwork in the office or reading a book on the porch before dinner. Personally, I prefer time on the porch.

The other day I was chatting with a business owner about how her customers pay her, and I asked her why she had chosen to not accept credit cards. Her response was that her husband was encouraging her to grow the business bigger, but she was happy with it as it is. Funny – I hadn’t said a thing about growing the business, only about making her payment process easier.  When I said, “Systems don’t necessarily mean bigger, they can just mean easier” it was like the proverbial light bulb went off for her.  We chatted about implementing credit card processing to her business, and what it could change for her – namely, no more customer payment reminders (never fun) and more timely and reliable payments.

In the spirit of finding more time – whether it’s for summer fun, relaxing, or time spent on business tasks to grow your business – here are the top simple systems you can implement to add minutes, or even hours, to your day:

  1. Online or outsourced payroll processing;
  2. Credit card processing or Point of Sale (POS) applications;
    1. As an aside: If your employees rely on tips as part of their compensation, adding Square (www.Squareup.com) as a payment option will also boost their tips.
    2. Social media scheduling apps, such as Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com);
    3. Scheduling applications for everything from home repair to landscapers and dog walkers;
    4. Financial dashboard data collection, most likely in your industry specific software.

There are millions of apps out there, and chances are if you have a task that consumes more time and frustration than you want, someone else has experienced the same and has built an app for it. Adding an app or a business process does not necessarily mean that you have to grow your business; it can just mean that you will have time better spent on a more meaningful task or some extra personal time. And, it does not necessarily have to be tech related – it could be a better system for opening mail, sending out correspondence, or contacting your clients. Before that can happen, your first step is to stop and recognize your business process pain points and then to define the priority (because you will have several points you want cleaned up!).

Yep, there’s a system for that.

Break Free, Part 2 – Taking the Next Step

Even when we feel we're stuck between a rock and a hard place, we still have to move forward!

Even when we feel we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, we still have to move forward!

 

 

All too often, we set goals at the beginning of a new year and then about mid-March, we realize that we are nowhere close to reaching those goals. We’ve thought a lot about those goals, debated them, thought about what the next step should be, and wondered if we really have what it takes to succeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about simply moving forward (see last week’s post). I’m here to tell you that yes, you do have what it takes, and it’s simpler than you think: all you have to do is take the next logical step.

I’ve been meeting with some prospective clients recently who were so excited about their new 2014 goals and the plans to reach them; I could hear the possibility in their voices. When I ask them about the progress they’ve made, I’ve seen surprise as two things happen:

  1. It sinks in that they haven’t been keeping track of their progress, and;
  2. They realize that they have made very little, if any, progress and it’s almost 25% through the year.

Blah.

Before I give you my tried and true strategy of getting out of this position, let me just state some assumptions:

  • The goal is their own goal, not their spouse’s, a parent, or a goal declared by an “expert”;
  • The goal is big enough. We hear about “big bodacious” goals; that’s a nice catchy phrase, but if it’s so big that it paralyzes you, it’s not much of a goal;
  • The goal is small enough. I love big goals, but if we can’t see any path from where we are to our stated goal, it might need to be downsized. As Goldilocks famously said, “This one is just right.” Personally, goals ought to teeter right on the line of scary and exciting. Reaching those goals is a rush for motivated small business owners.

If those assumptions are true, the strategy is simple:

Just take the next logical step.

Repeat.

When I’m feeling stuck, or just not sure what to do with the next hour, I ask myself that simple question, “What’s the next logical step?” It’s usually asking a question, sending an inquiry, writing a first draft of something – all simple, doable actions. If the next logical step requires some research, give yourself a time limit or it’s easy to get lost in the infamous “Internet research”. 20 minutes is plenty. If you find yourself fast-forwarding to possible outcomes of that one single action, bring yourself back to present and remind yourself that you are only focused on that one action.

Find a goal that’s right and true for you and focus on just that one next logical step. We’ve heard the message many times, but it’s true: every journey does begin with a step. All you have to do is keep going. 

 

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.