Whether you work at home or outside the home, dealing with distractions and interruptions is a given. But how often do you allow yourself to take a break?
A break in your work can be viewed as an interruption or distraction, but it's the intent that matters. If you catch yourself frequently checking social media or personal email, or if you get antsy and leave your work space often, you are distracted and not paying attention to your personal needs - these are not "break" actions. They are procrastination!
Instead, intend to refresh yourself, body, mind and spirit, so that you have more energy (and lighter energy) to continue having a productive work day.
I have often been guilty of ignoring my body when I'm busy. I'm in my home office, working on my computer, concentrating - while at the same time sitting stiffly, breathing shallowly. On some days I feel terribly hyperactive, restlessly looking out the window, or twitching my feet. I have learned to notice those messages my body is sending me, and I do something about them!
Check in with your body and notice what it needs - water? Deep breathing? Resting your eyes? Movement? Then fill the need. Take a 2-minute walk (outside if you can). Drink eight ounces of water. Have a small, light, healthy snack. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Stretch and move your body - get the blood flowing!
I know that when I take even two minutes to do one (or all) of the above, my mind is fresh, my body is loosened, and my spirit feels lighter. And my productivity goes through the roof!
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.
There is a behavior I have experienced directly and have witnessed with others...what I call "dangling delegation": When a delegatee is left hanging! Let me explain.
Many years ago I worked in a mortgage company's office, after being hired by a previous business acquaintance. She was excited about my employment there as she knew that I followed through on tasks. But the reality was quite different. She could not let go of anything! I had to hunt down work from other departments because I had little to do, and yet my supervisor was overwhelmed with work. She refused to give up control or power to anyone else!.
I've had occasional Lightseeds clients who are so busy they cannot take the time to look at their task lists and delegate work. And yet 30 to 60 minutes set aside monthly, which would take very little time away from needed work, would allow them to delegate several hours of work from their to-do lists, and free that needed time to not only catch up, but to grow.
Both in business offices and my own practice, I have also experienced the employer or client who simply doesn't know where to begin. The thread is so tangled they can't find the end! Set aside a bit of time to confer with your delegatee (whether an employee, associate, virtual assistant, or volunteer) to brainstorm ways to be most effective as a delegator. Together you can establish priorities, timelines and deadlines, and any needed processes.
You can learn to be an effective delegator, taking the overload from your own desk so you can continue to work on what you rock at doing, what you should be doing.
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!
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!
Carol is a really busy entrepreneur. She was always the "go-to" person at her former employer's office and has carried that energy into her own business. She loves knowing everything, having her hands in everything.
As her business grows, Carol more often finds herself working later (and earlier). Checking email as she can, often late at night. She takes client calls, posts blogs, publishes a newsletter, attends networking events, and just realized that she rushes through client appointments. By the time her day is done, so is she! Done in, tired, hungry, and very, very crabby.
What Carol forgot is that no (wo)man is an island! She forgot that there is all sorts of help available to her. And when she was reminded of that, she promptly hired help! Now she has someone to manage her blogs and newsletters, take client calls and handle other administrative matters. Carol focuses on her networking and actually doing her work with clients. Doing her work. The part that she loves ... the part only she can do.
Are you "Carol"? Look around you and explore your options for ways to delegate. When you know the part that only YOU can do, you know what others can take over for you. As your time expands with those tasks off your plate, you will not only be more productive, but more successful - and rested!
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.
Are you a coach, consultant or practitioner who schedules client appointments? How do you accomplish that? Do you usually book through email or the phone? Do you manage the process yourself or have an assistant?
These are important considerations for the heart-based business owner.
If your business and services description is clear on your website, you may opt to use scheduling software to integrate with your website. A client merely clicks the date they want to schedule, and after an autoresponder email, they’re confirmed. The software integrates with your own online Google or Outlook calendar so you know who is scheduled when.
This works well for readers and other practitioners whose consultations have the same specifications – the length of time and other considerations are spelled out, which little need for questions or discussion.
There are dozens of great applications to accomplish this easily, such as TimeTrade, Accuity, or SetMore. Be sure that the software you choose offers payment options as well, so the client can schedule and pay at the same time. The client should receive some sort of confirmation email to remind them of their chosen time as well as any tips or advice you wish to offer.
If your business is more customized, you may wish to hire an appointment scheduler who you can train to answer questions and offer guidance. This assistant should be detailed oriented and focused, understanding not only your business but also the nature of a client’s needs. She or he should be able to keep track of time zones, confirmations and cancellations, and also should manage the payment process for you.
Regardless of how you choose to accomplish client scheduling, it is probably not in your best interest to manage it yourself. Think of how much time you could gain in your day if you only do your work, and not the scheduling of your work!
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!
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.