Right after Christmas, here in Ohio we had two days of snowfall. I was lucky and "only" got 15 inches! I was grateful I didn't need to leave the house for a couple of days!
The snowstorm gave me time to play with a new toy! I've been seeking out tools to increase my service to clients, but also for clients to use in their own practices. One such tool is Lumen5, a video production tool that uses existing copy as the storyboard, and after you add images and music, the result is a professional, effective, and fun video!
Click here for an example!
Here are some suggestions for other tools to help grow your business.
For time management, RescueTime is an app which automatically tracks time you’ve spent on applications and websites and sends you detailed reports and data based on your activity, giving you an accurate picture of how you spent your day. If you think you're not easily distracted, this app will give you truth!
For online payment, PayPal still leads the pack, with Square running a close second. Both apps offer a card reader as well as easy online money management.
Do you want an easy way to recognize your network's accomplishments and special days? Look no further than Punchbowl, with its beautiful digital greeting cards and invitations in dozens of professional designs for personal and business use. The software saves your address book and sends reminders as well.
Dropbox is still the most popular (and easiest to use) of the file sharing programs. With free and paid versions, you can securely share files in any format via the web...so much easier and safer than emailing documents back and forth! I could not do my job without it.
For video conferencing, both Zoom and Skype do a great job...easy to set up and use, high quality recording, and available on any device.
I hope these suggestions will help you improve your productivity this year. Whether you're delegating to a person or to an app, the key is to increase your efficiency and to create new processes.
I don't know what happened to 2017 but I can't believe it's nearly gone already! My parents were right...the older you get. the more quickly time appears to go!
For those of us who are self-employed, it's the time to get organized to close out 2017 and begin 2018 with a fresh start. Here are some ways to do that!
Take a careful look at your day-to-day tasks. Are you wasting time on tasks that don't really add to your business? Are you doing work that you don't like or that you don't do well? Are you working on tasks that truly serve you and your clients? If not, wouldn't NOW be the time to do something about that?
Make a list of tasks in each of those categories about, and create solutions to delegate some, omit others, and add still others.
How organized are you? Do you constantly search for notes and paper on your disorganized desk? Why continue that? Use ONE notebook as a journal, and write all your messages, notes, and reminders there. No more searching!
Also consider how you track tasks and appointments. I like to use both a digital calendar (emailed reminders and task lists) and a paper one (quick at-a-glance) so I know what I need to do and when.
What projects have you "always" wanted to do? Write a book? Start a business? Take some training? DO it! Ask for help, make a plan of each step you need to take, and DO it. "You don't need to see the whole staircase; just take one step."
How do you track expenses? A simple spreadsheet, Quickbooks, or another resource? Does it work for you? If not, either get help or try another method.
What is your working environment? A table or tiny nook in the kitchen corner? A fully stocked office? The couch? Remember that the energy in your work surroundings greatly affects your productivity. A neat, clear, organized, and attractive workspace helps keep your energy upbeat and focused.
What other areas of your work life need attention? Do it now! And make 2018 a year to remember!
If you follow me on social media or here on my blog, you know that I preach organization in all forms. Now that spring is FINALLY here, it's a great reminder to spring clean my business practices, to be sure I'm doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, for the right people. It can be an interesting exercise to step back from the "DOING" and take a look at HOW you're doing.
How are you marketing your business? Is it effective? Is it time-consuming? Is it cost-effective? Can you delegate marketing? Be sure that there's a good balance between cost (of time, energy and money) and return on investment.
How are you serving your clients? Are you offering the services they need, services they don't respond to, or perhaps need to add some features? Is their investment fair to both you and your clients?
What's your process? Could your business practices be streamlined or condensed? What tasks are you doing that should be either delegated or eliminated, so you're doing ONLY those which serve your business and which only you can do?
Where are you doing business? Is your office, studio or other workplace conducive to efficiency, productivity, and success? Do clients enjoy it? Do you?
And what about expenses? Are they reasonable or do you need to cut back? Do expenditures directly serve your business goals?0
Many years ago I was involved with Total Quality Improvement processes and disaster recovery for an employer. As analytical as I can be, it was one of the most enjoyable tasks I had there. It taught me a great deal about efficiencies and repeated evaluation of systems. I strongly recommend you schedule time in your calendar to do a total business examination like this at least annually. You deserve a tune-up!
I write often about how our energy is affected by our surroundings. Did you ever consider that email is part of your environment? It is - unless you don't use a computer at all - and then how would you be reading this post?
Imagine this... your email inbox is an actual mail slot in your front door. As soon as you get up, you see paper coming in through that slot. Mid-day, there's a pile. In the evening, there's a mountain. And that continues day after day - YIKES!
When your Inbox is full of unopened emails, that’s exactly the energy you’re creating. Every time you open your email program and see Inbox (135) you’re going to feel stress, consciously or unconsciously. That number 135 reminds you that there are 135 demands for your attention that have not be dealt with while you take care of other matters. 135 pieces of paper blocking your front door!
Why have that hanging over your head? Let’s do something about it now.
First off, let’s examine why these emails are unopened. Are they spam? Then DELETE them and change your spam filter so they stop coming! Are they in the “I might want to read this later” category? That’s like having a mountain of magazines on the floor. DELETE them! I promise you, if they were important enough to open you would already have done so!
After you’ve cleaned those categories out of there, look at what’s left. What really, truly, honestly needs an answer? Then ANSWER it! Be sure your inbox is sorted by received date, and then start at the oldest message. If it is now outdated, delete it. If it's important and you missed it, reply with an honest apology for taking so long – no excuses, just an apology.
What’s left after these steps? Things you need to do? Either flag each remaining email (if your email provider has a way to mark them) or print out and make notes. Prioritize what you can do quickly, preferably for the oldest outstanding issues. Address these tasks as you would any others on your to-do list.
Now, take another look at your Inbox. Hopefully it now looks like this: INBOX (no numbers after it!).
What can you do to prevent the buildup recurring? Improve your spam filters. Tell friends and family to stop sending you junk mail. Get off the mailing lists that no longer matter to you. Set aside a specific time of day (when your mind is not needed for more important tasks) and a specific amount of time to focus ONLY on email.
Address new messages as soon as they arrive and your virtual “living room” will stay clear of unwanted invaders!
I have written in this forum often about organization and neatness in the work environment. Whether you work from home or not, when you work in a messy area, your thoughts and energy will also be messy. When you are organized and your work setting is enjoyable, then your thoughts are more creative and organized as well.
There's more to it, though. You may be neat and organized but your work space is a basement corner, with cement block and no windows. Energetically, what does that do to you? Without natural light, your body and mind tire easily. Hard, dull concrete stifles your senses. You may feel enclosed, restricted. So, what can you do to change this energy?
If the basement corner is your best option in your home, you can still make your workspace pleasant. Use natural lightbulbs placed overhead, mimicking sun coming through a window. Keep fresh plants or flowers in the area. Place pleasing pictures around with lovely landscapes, to offer a "window" view. Get up and move around often to avoid feeling restricted.
The best option, or course, is to work in a more pleasant surrounding. If you can, move your workspace near a window for natural lighting, avoiding direct sunlight creating glare in your eyes or on your computer. Frequently look away from your computer out the window to give your eyes a break. Stand and stretch, and admire the view, even if it's just the street outside.
When you keep in mind that your environment affects your mood and your thoughts, you can ensure that you feel your best every time you're working.
Sometimes this is what my brain feels like. Sometimes each one of these people is clamoring for my attention. "Me!" "Me!" "No, me!" I feel the anxiety building in my body, my breathing gets shallow and my body tenses. All I want to do is shut down and go somewhere quiet.
But I don't need to do that, because I have tools!
When my task list is 2 pages long, and dozens of emails need to be dealt with (which, of course, bring me more tasks) then rather than explode, I get organized!
I have learned a lot of great organizational tricks in my long (long!) working history. I know how to prioritize for my Lightseeds clients.
Because I think and process best in the mornings, I tackle those tasks that take the most brainpower and attention, prioritizing by my clients' deadlines. Those which I can do quickly and/or easily come in the early afternoon.
Recently, I found I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with work. So much was coming at me at once I knew I needed to get a handle on things before I allowed the pressure to build. And so I did a "dump!" Taking a tip from my client and friend Lisa Crilley Mallis of Impactive Strategies, I wrote down every task I had to do for my business or for clients, in no order. Everything on my existing to-do list, everything in email, everything in my calendar reminders. Once it was all on paper, I felt an immediate relief - I didn't need to remember or retain any of it!
Next step was to examine the list for things that could wait and note the estimated completion date. Now, with a smaller list, I looked for tasks that needed to be done the soonest, and decided what date and time of day (based on my needs above) I could tackle them. Now, with an even smaller list, I had identified tasks that would fill in around the urgencies.
Now this may sound a bit TOO organized for some, but I tell you the truth, the relief of doing a brain dump like this is indescribable. As Lisa often says, it's best to use your brain to THINK rather than REMEMBER.
Do you have anti-stress tips like this? Do share - you may help someone else!
I wrote earlier about the "joy of lists." Here's another tip for really simple organization and time management.
Like most people you probably have recurring tasks that you do weekly or monthly - invoice a client, create a report, publish a newsletter. I hope you have these already noted on your calendar. (You do, don't you?) Do you have them in your online calendar as well?
Every online calendar (Google, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) provides a reminder service and a task list. When you enter a task such as "Invoice Mary Smith" into your calendar service as a task, you can specify that the calendar send you an email reminder at a specific interval before the task is due. You may want notice a week prior, or a day, or sometimes an hour.
Especially when I am very busy, I rely on these emails to stay organized and on top of my priorities. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle. At a glance I can see upcoming tasks, but I don't need to rely on my memory or clutter up my to-do list, as I know I'll have a reminder pop up just when I need it to.
My name is Holly and I am a list-oholic. I love lists. Here's why.
When you create a list (whether of tasks, shopping needs, or anything else), you are releasing your mind from the need to remember details. Better to use your brainpower for thinking than remembering!
For example, make a list related to a project you want to tackle. Write down the individual steps it will take, what you will need to accomplish those steps, helpers, timing, and all the other details. Then you can really think about these items, evaluating the "how" and "when" rather than the "what."
One of my favorite list types is my work task list. I have a master list of things I need to remember to check on or do on a regular basis (write blog posts, update a client's records, check on responses to an invitation). I also have my actual task list.
I write out a new task list weekly. It contains all the individual items I need to do for my clients and my business. I evaluate the urgency, deadline, and approximate length of time to complete each, creating a sequence of how I want to tackle each. My method is to simply number each item - the one I need to do first is #1, then next #2. If my work week is lighter than normal, I might simply assign a day to complete the task - decide which I will do Monday, Tuesday, etc. Again, I take into consideration how long the task will take and the urgency.
If something pops up that changes my priorities, I'll re-number my tasks so I don't forget about anything. And of course, when a task is complete, it gets crossed off with a feeling of satisfaction!
To borrow a tip from my friend and client Lisa Crilley Mallis, if a task on your list has multiple steps to it, then it's really a project (I know, semantics) and should be outlined separately (read a post about this here). Remember the old adage "How do you eat an elephant" (with apologies to elephants)? Outlining the individual steps of a project means that you won't lose sight of something important.
Whether you're a "wing it" kind of person or already love lists, give my method a try and see if it helps you organize your day.
As we all do, I get many notifications through social media and email that I want to follow up on ... helpful business tips, a new article on copy writing, someone I want to connect with, etc. But in my scheduled times to check both email and social media, I cannot (should not, don't want to) take the time and interrupt the flow of my to-do list to read the item.
Here's what I do - I use a parking lot! (My thanks to my colleague Lisa Crilley Mallis of SystemSavvy Consulting for the parking lot concept!)
I will open the link I receive in social media or an email, and leave the tab open (parked) on my internet window while I work on the task at hand. And when I am completely done with my work for the day, THEN I can go back and review what I have open. I'm fairly disciplined so having the open tabs does not draw me into sneaking a peak, but if you are not so disciplined, here's another step to try. Open a Notepad or Word document, and paste the links into that page for later reference. Then CLOSE the internet window you find so tempting! If you have dedicated time in your schedule that day to review the links, go right ahead, but you can also save the document and get to it when you do have time scheduled, or on an off day.
Give it a try - it works for me!
I often write and speak about delegating and outsourcing whatever does not serve you and your business. But how do you know for SURE what those tasks should be?
Let me give you an example. I had a client (who for the sake of simplicity I will call Carol) who was a speaker and author and also individually coached clients. She did all those things while simultaneously scouting and scheduling her own speaking engagements, researching publishers and websites for her writing, preparing for and scheduling clients. AND attempting to create a website, a social media presence, and copy writing.
Tired? That’s not the word for it! Ineffective? Yeah, that too. Carol’s every moment was filled with work, yet little got accomplished. She was amazing with words - a superb writer and an engaging speaker. She enjoyed using her words one-on-one with clients. Because of this she was also a great copy writer and knew what she wanted to convey.
But Carol frequently missed client appointments, lost her notes on speaking engagements, and missed publication deadlines. Her online presence was not professional because she had few technical skills, and it showed.
When she finally decided she could do better, she scheduled a call with me, and together created a list of the tasks she is just awful at doing but that were important. Staying with the “important” classification, then we then tackled the tasks she did a fair job or was awesome at doing. Carol could see that she spent a great deal of time on tasks that not only she did not do well, but that she could easily outsource to those who DO do them well. After learning to delegate, she found a wealth of time she could spend on those tasks that not only served her business but that she very much enjoyed.
You can follow Carol’s example – download your own complimentary Delegation Audit here, and learn what tasks you could be delegating to an expert assistant.
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.