Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

Making Business Easier

My dadMy dad was a master at making things easier. He always noticed how kitchens were laid out, pointed out good mechanical designs, and wondered why we didn’t park more closely to a store to make the walk shorter (thus, easier). One of my favorite memories of him is sitting on a lawn chair in the lake, with his fishing waders on (pronounced “fishin’ wadas”), washing the tennis court tapes. Now that was making a chore easier!


Earlier this week, I realized that scheduling my platinum level clients’ intensives was hard and cumbersome. I stopped and said, “there has got to be an easier way to do this!” Each client is at a different point in their program and each program is unique to that particular client. Remembering which clients had an all-day retreat, an intensive, 60, 45, 30, or 20 minute calls, or training materials took too much brain power and too much time.

With a focused mind, I got clear about what my needs were and what challenges I faced. Then, I created an easy-to-read, follow and modify table to track each client’s program elements and timeframe.  Color makes it fun and easy to follow. On one page, I now see what each client needs.

The trick to making your business easier is noticing what is “hard”. Once you identify the problem you have an opportunity to solve it and prevent it from remaining a challenge. Here are three simple steps:

  1. Recognize something as “hard” or a challenge.
  2. Define needs.
  3. Find the most logical solution. For my dad, he knew the tennis court tapes needed to get washed. The easiest place to do that was in the lake. The easiest way to wash something in the lake was to sit in the lake!

You may not be able to solve your challenges by sitting in the lake, but I guarantee that if you sit with a clear mind and apply logic you can make life easier.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Managing a Time & Resource Crunch

I must confess: it’s Saturday and I am at my desk writing a blog post because I got too far behind this week.

It’s a result of my time away the previous week, a lot of one on one client time this coming week, probably some ineffective time usage, and just a lot on my plate. I hear this same story and the same excuses (and some even more creative reasons!) from my clients; so what’s a business owner to do? I’ll be brief, because we all ought to get outside, have some fun with the family or friends, or just go “chill-ax”, but I do want to share a quick tip for when you find yourself in a similar predicament.

1.      Define your key roles, such as homeowner, parent, business owner.

2.      Clarify the different projects that each role is currently involved in or is responsible for.

3.      List the to-dos by each project.

It looks like this:




Business owner


Send Sharron contact list

Set meeting with John H.

Call Susan re: article


Client Meetings

Prep for Mark



Prepare for meeting

Re-send invitiations



Leadership team mtg agenda


Gym Fundraising

Distribute flyer

Order plants



Zach’s appointment


Buttoning up for winter

Rake lawn

This format is especially helpful because it reminds business owners of our roles and, rather than ‘mushing up’ all our tasks into one big pile, it lets us focus on each area of our lives when the time is right. I’m reminded of the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds and it does something like this:

A time to work, a time to play

A time for writing, a time for listening….

I’d better stop there before these lyrics get the better of me. Besides, I have a lawn to rake.

-Helen Dutton, Business Coach

The Extra 60 Minutes

The other day, my son asked when we would be changing the clocks. When we told him, he said “Yahoo! We get an extra hour!” I remember being confused by that phrase as a child, and I can’t help but wonder what it means to my son to generate that level of excitement..

Imagine that we did gain an hour, increasing our day to 25 hours per day. What would you do with an additional 60 minutes?

Would you work on a proposal that you keep putting off? Or perhaps you would start reading that book you keep meaning to get to? When I asked family and friends who are business owners, the majority said “sleep”. Sleep deprivation is linked to all kinds of health issues, and it is no friend to business productivity, so that was understandable. Small business owners typically have a never-ending to-do list; there is always another call to make, documents to review, or a marketing activity to complete. As I contemplate this question for myself, I come face to face with this question: If these tasks are important, why would they be done only in the 25th hour?

The other side of the question is: “If you lost an hour, what tasks would you give up?” What would drop off your plate without having a negative effect on your business? If you can come up with a list of things, consider why it is that you’re doing them in the first place!

My clients, and most small business owners I talk with, often feel overwhelmed by all that there is to do. When a client is in overwhelm mode, one of my fondest assignments is for them to ask themselves daily: What one task will most move me forward today?

Perhaps the best use of an “extra” hour is studying what tasks we can eliminate. Of course, a good snooze could work, too.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Our Animal Instincts: Learning When To Ask For Help


The days are getting cooler, the leaves are turning, and I’ve started to see and hear Canada Geese as they begin their migration.

When I see the geese form their “V”, I’m mesmerized. How do they decide who’s in front? When the geese change position within the “V”, letting the lead goose move back in the formation and experience less air resistance, I marvel again at their instinct. Nature tells them to rely on another and they just do it.

Do we have similar instincts? If so, why does it feel like we beat our heads against the wall at times?

Since I saw the first “V” this Fall, I decided to pay attention to my own gut feel and determine if I was granted similar instincts to ask for help; to let someone else take the lead. My gut responded with a resounding “Yes!” for the natural reaction and a “sometimes” for the communication and follow through.

It seems that humans and geese are quite different when it comes to the various emotions tied up with asking for help; we’re afraid the other person might say no or they might think less of us. Instead of asking, we struggle along by ourselves, insistent that we can do it. Usually we can, but there is a price to pay, in the form of mental exhaustion or feeling overwhelmed.

I’m trying to be more “goose-like” these days, letting others know that I need help and then letting them. Give it a try yourself; you’ll be surprised by how good it can feel when we ask for help.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

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.