One of my talents that serves me and my clients well is an ability to devise a framework, a structure for ideas to build on. I was once described as a mason, repairing and building the pillars that hold up the roof. Structure creates order, sequence and a foundation for ideas to take off.
I have known and worked with people who only understand framework and structure. They’re adept at outlines, at plans and calendar systems. They are intent on planning and order for the sake of order alone. But what good is a structure if nothing is built with it? It becomes a bare skeleton, never fleshed out.
Neither extreme will get you very far. It’s the partnership between those two that creates worlds! And what a partnership it can be! The idea person explains the creative idea, what it means, who it is intended for, what the results would be. The mason can take that concept and develop the structure that would provide the support and plan to actually make something of it that can have real-world results.
Now one challenge can be the “language barrier.” Have you ever conversed with a left-brain IT programmer? Or have you listened to a highly intuitive writer when they’re on a creative roll? Neither of those will communicate well with the other without a bridge.
The moral of this story is that you creative types will benefit from working with a more left-brain foundation-builder, and you left-brained structure folks will benefit from working with those who can flesh out your structure. Choose your team carefully to ensure that ideas don’t die on the vine – the world needs to hear from you!
Have you ever attempted to come up with fresh ideas on your own, whether for a personal project or your business? Unless you are truly creative, it can be a challenge!
Many of us, myself included, do better when we brainstorm with others. The shared energy and shared ideas all feed off each other to create something new. Let's create an imaginary scenario here of the creation of a business logo.
Most of us have a community of some sort, whether business associates, employees, friends who understand our work, or like-minded network members. Gather everyone together, in person or by phone.
Present the topic of discussion ("I'd like your input on a new company logo. I want it to ________. I do not want it to _______. Let's discuss!") You may want to make it clear that all opinions are welcome without judgment.
You'll get a variety of opinions, some voiced more assertively than others - make note of all the ideas. One person's comment may seem off base, but an idea generated from it by someone else in the room works well for you. That's the value of brainstorming!
When the topic seems to have been sufficiently gone over, I always recommend stepping away from the project for a day or two. With fresh eyes, go back over your notes, and see what ideas jump out at you. Sometimes the right answer seems obvious after this exercise, and sometimes more discussion will help.
Don't go it alone - brainstorm the answers!
At LONG last it's spring here in Northeast Ohio, the time when many of us automatically think of spring cleaning: a thorough "turning out" and cleaning of our homes. But there's more to tidy up than that! Don't panic, it's easy! I'll help you!
When you're an entrepreneur, especially one working from home as I do, we often find that organization or messes slip from our work area into our home, and vice versa. We can take some easy steps to get organized now, in the traditional spring cleaning, to save us time later!
Work area: If you do not have a dedicated office, do you at least have a dedicated work area or do you spread all over the house? It's important not just psychologically, but also for efficiency, to set one spot as your work area. It could be the kitchen table, a small table in the living room or a guest room, or even in the basement - just be sure it contains what you need to do your work. Discipline yourself to work there, and ONLY there!
Storage: Get the storage and filing equipment you need so that your work areas remain orderly - and USE them! It's a very simple matter to take 5 minutes to put away what you are not working on. At the end of each work day, take a moment to put everything away so that you start your work day fresh every morning. Think of your work area as if you were in a restaurant: every evening, their work areas are clean and ready for the next day!
Email: I've spoken and written about this before. It's critical to periodically purge your deleted emails, and those sent long ago. Create an entry into your daily calendar that reminds you to attend to your emails at least once a day for a period of time. If you know that every afternoon at 4:00 you must spend half an hour reading, responding to, and cleaning up email, it won't seem like such a chore.
Schedule: Do you have a daily plan or do you wing it? I used to wing it ... stressed me out until I changed! I know some people who do well with scheduling each activity each day. Some schedule part of their day but allow some time for the usual surprise activities that arise. Either extreme is inefficient.
And related to this .... Calendar: Do you know what appointments you have or are you always running late or forgetting? Not only is this rude, it's a great way to lose business! Use either an online calendar like Google's or a paper one. (I like both - Google's calendar sends me daily email reminders, and paper on the wall means I can see appointments at a glance.)
Take a close look at your daily life (work or home) and see what else needs spring cleaning!
We're all in business to serve our clients as well as ourselves. But we must keep the balance between the two. I was recently approached by someone seeking my service who, upon first contact, did not feel like a right-fit client. Although there may have been a few things I could do for her, it would not serve me to do so, as the energy did not feel right between us.
Occasionally I am contacted by those who are not fully committed to their work and want to delegate everything, or those who believe they need help but are not willing to let go of control. I've also worked with people who misunderstand my role as an entrepreneur and treat me like an employee.
The ideal match for me is the person who is committed to her own success, knows her own strengths and the areas in which she wants support, and has a plan to achieve her goals.
So, that said, think about your own work. Who do you ideally want to work with? Get a picture of your ideal client and what your ideal work would be. Do you "settle" by contracting with people who don't quite fit? Or do you stand true to your vision and skills, and create boundaries about your work?
The true joy comes in the match, when you attract the right fit client, for whom you are also a perfect fit.
In the process of the editing / proofreading work I do for authors of all sorts, there's one thing about all others that makes a difference in the organization of written words - the outline. Think of it this way - would you move houses or go on a long journey without a plan?
We're taught basic outlining in elementary school and some of us haven't used the concept since. But whether you're writing an article, a blog or a book, it's critical to a smooth flow of ideas to jot down the basic structure before you begin. I've edited several projects that are very disjointed, repetitive, and disorganized - had the piece gone out like that, no reader would have grasped the information the author intended to convey.
Here's a simple way to start. Write down each major category you want to cover. Let's say, for example, you want to write a book for beginning artists. Categories might be materials needed, resources, kinds of pencils, kinds of paint, choosing a pad or canvas, etc. Look at it another way - think of file folders. What "folder" would you need to file your thoughts into?
Once you have the basic list written, add sub-categories of topics you want to cover. Check the order of what you've written - does the flow and structure reflect where you want to take the reader?
Next time you have anything to write, try this out - you'll find it's a lot easier to flesh out an effective, easy-to-read piece!
You know that feeling when your body has changed shape and your clothing doesn't fit quite right? Or when your once-perfect home has features you no longer need? Well, if you're a teacher, trainer, or coach of any sort, after a time your training materials may not fit your needs either.
Let's say you created a wonderful teleseminar a few years ago, with PowerPoint slides and downloads. The topic really speaks to your heart-based business, and it's been well received every time you offered it. You're preparing for another class, and you notice some references to a spiritual practice that no longer fits your belief system. Or perhaps you want to include material from a book you just read. These are indicators that what once worked for you no longer does.
Take advantage of these cues to read through your material. Does the overall "story" you're telling in your teaching represent the story in your current practice? Do the action steps you provide your students still make sense? Take a highlighter to the areas you want to revise, and draw a line through items you want to delete entirely.
While you're at it, examine your business practices in the same way. Do your rates work for both you and your clients? Do your speaking / teaching fees match your value? Do you have items you need to delegate to someone? Make sure that all aspects of your business still "fit," and if they don't, take action to tailor them!
And if you need help in the process, I know a great Spiritual Virtual Assistant who'd be delighted to help - Holly@
I've never liked that label - "dummies." Let's change it to "newbies"! If you have never been exposed to something, you are ignorant, not stupid. Now with that established, I want to explain a few simple things for "newbie" entrepreneurs (and for your home office as well) to simplify your record keeping using Excel.
Nearly every computer has some form of Excel or spreadsheet software, and they operate in nearly the same way. When you open the program you're presented with a screen full of little boxes - called cells. On the left are numbered rows, and at the top are lettered columns. This gives you a convenient "name" for each little cell. The one on the top left is in column A, row 1, so it's called "cell A1." Got it? Its "address" is A1.
Let's say you want to make yourself a simple "database" of contacts so you can have easy access to contact information for everyone you know. You'd want to start typing in cell A1 and go across into B1, C1, etc. Type the column names (headers) you want to use. A1 could be first name, B1 last name, C1 phone number, D1 email address, and so on - type in every category you want to capture.
Then below that, in cell A2, start typing your data. First name: Joe, last name: Smith, and so on. Continue to add the specifics for each person. When you're done, guess what - you've built a simple spreadsheet! GO YOU!
Now for the sexy stuff. Let's say you want to find out who of your contacts live in your state. You don't have to poke through the entire thing to find them. You can sort! Click on any cell in your State column. On the top right of your menu at the top of your screen, you'll see something that looks like this:
When you click on the icon you get choices. So now, you can sort the state cells alphabetically, and easily see your Ohioans. There are other ways, more complex ways, to do the same thing, but this is the easy way, for you Newbies!
You can use this simple recordkeeping method for anything: checkbook balances, calendar entries, deadlines, medications, whatever you can think of. Take some time to poke around in Excel and learn other things you can do with it. Have fun!
Anyone who knows me or has read my blogs knows that I encourage organization in life and work. And yet I have not always been good at goal setting. From a Law of Attraction standpoint, not to mention practically, I learned the value of setting goals.I've always used lists - and sometimes to excess! - to keep track of tasks, shopping needs, spiritual goals. (Read my post The To Do List.) Yet I did not break down my goals to plan my work week until just over a year ago. I knew what I needed to accomplish for clients or for my own business, but just attacked the list one item at a time based on priority. When I was presented with the idea of planning one week at a time, I felt such relief! I was no longer looking at a long list of obligations, but instead, a short, easily managed list.
One of the several spiritual business coaches I follow suggested that we plan our week on Sunday or Monday, to create a good work/life balance and yet accomplish what is necessary. For the last year, I start my Monday with a brief planning session. I take a look at the long list, at my current clients' wishes, and my time available, and from this information I write down the goals I want to reach for that week. This short-term planning helps me stay flexible, avoid overwhelm, and maintain my balance.
Give it a try yourself. Don't get so caught up in list-making that you feel anxious or controlling. Instead remind yourself that your intent is to make life easier for yourself! Sounds like a plan, Stan!
Does your work involve serving other people? That's the case for most of us. There is some level of customer service in the process, whether you're delivering a product or service. You need to understand the needs of your customer in order to meet them. You can make the best darn word processing machine in the world, but you won't have any customers because nobody uses those any more!
Service involves much more than the "complaint desk" idea of customer service. Truly it encompasses the entire relationship, from beginning to end, if there is an end. You provide service by anticipating your client's needs. You anticipate that there is a need for your product or service. You anticipate how you can improve it, how you can change it as your customers' needs change.
In new-age spiritual thought, we realize that we take our next step based on where we are, and once we're there, we make another move based on that new place. That's the same concept as in excellent customer service. If we can understand where our customers are, anticipate their potential next move, and then anticipate the NEXT move, we are way ahead of the game in service.
For instance, recently I worked on a project with a new client. Because I know project management well, I was able to anticipate some things she might need to know or do. By addressing those before she even knew she would need them, I solved a problem before it could occur, and made the project go ever so much more smoothly than if I had merely reacted to the need after the fact.
The lesson is to not only know your own product or service, but to understand thoroughly your customer's end use of it. By anticipating their next step in the process, you too can be the miracle worker, and be the hero in your customer's eyes! Go for it!
And when you want help defining your processes and procedures, and in understanding your client, I know a GREAT business consultant: Holly@LightseedsOffice.com or (330) 835-3876.
It's easier than you might think to manage short- or long-term projects. Oh, I can hear the maniacal laughter coming through the ethers, but believe me, it's true! All it takes is organizational skills. Well, OK, organizational skills and time management. But anyone can do it if you get organized!
Think about your project - is it a series of tasks taking place over a period of time? Is it a one-time event with several aspects to manage? Who is involved? What is the timeline? (This is probably the most important part - write down the deadlines for each stage of planning.) Once you have the details written down, it's time to enter them into a spreadsheet. Excel has several templates you may want to look at (click on File/New and search on Project), you can use one I created, or create your own. Create columns titled with each category you're tracking. For example, contact information for the people involved, date of initial contact, date of followup, date of their response, what the response is, date final sent to person, etc. The columns for which you are responsible should contain the date ranges for the tasks you have to take care of. For instance, a column might say "initial email 10/1-10/7" and then the dates each email is sent in the column below that title.
As the project goes along, it's vital to keep the spreadsheet updated every single day. If you lose track of whether you talked to Joe Gomez about the catering, or whether Shelly Carroll called you back about your email, you might find yourself floundering. When I'm working on a project, I keep the spreadsheet open the entire time I'm working, and enter data every time something changes. Yes, it seems anal, and that's how I manage projects, but believe me, this kind of careful record-keeping is key to a successful and organized project. And key to sanity as well!
Another aspect to keep in mind is communication. If others are working on a project with you, be sure to categorize them as "need to know only," "decision maker," "partner," etc., and communicate regularly as needed for each of these roles. I've been on many projects in my career where a change was made that affected my work yet I was not told. Don't be that person! And expect communication from your staff in return. I communicate with my client often about the status of our project and where we stand.
I hope that this basic guide will get you started on ideas to simplify the next project you work on. If you find yourself overwhelmed, of course, I know a GREAT project management resource you can call on - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
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.