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!
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.
In my last post, I talked about how important it is for you to share your heart and knowledge with others. In this post, I wanted to go over some practicalities, issues I see in nearly every manuscript I work on.
First - layout: If you are self-publishing, take a careful look at your publisher's specs for interior layout. (CreateSpace's are here.) Before you even start to type, set up your document according to those specs and you will have much less to change later. If you have already begun, copy your content, paste it into Notepad to strip out all formatting, and then paste from Notepad into your new, correctly formatted document. And SAVE IT!
Naming: Save this first draft with the date. Save each subsequent draft with the date as well, and if you're working with someone else, add the editor's initials. This may seem anal, but believe me, it's important. If there's a question about a change, or something gets corrupted in a file, you always have the previous version to work from. Listen to the voice of experience!
Formatting: Never EVER (not EVER EVER) use Enter to force text onto a new page. I've seen this over and over, and it will create wonkiness in your document as the content changes. Hitting Enter means you're putting actual line breaks in, which forces the content down. But if you add or delete any content, that extra space will still be there where you don't want it! Instead, when you want to start a new page press Alt and Enter to insert an actual page break. That preserves the desired placement.
Proofread: Carefully review your document yourself. You can use your word processor's spell check, but don't rely on it. Most every suggested correction I've seen in Word is incorrect! Then get a professional pair of eyes to do a format edit and proof process. Don't rely on Neighbor Jim or Mom unless that person has mad grammar skills. And no, English majors are not automatically good proofreaders!
I hope this "starter kit" of ideas helps you get started on your own fabulous story. When you need help, just ask me!
I have had several conversations in the last month regarding clients and associates either wanting to write a book or wanting to finalize one. Now, "book" is a loose term meaning everything from a short handout or e-book to a 30,000-word tome. In any case, there is something the person wants to communicate to others, something from the heart or the mind.
Just about everyone has some sort of book in them. You may excel at some sort of creative art and want to teach others. You may have profound realizations that changed your life and you want to share them with others. You may want to inspire people to do their best in the workplace, or the home, or in nature. So...big question...what is stopping you?
Now, two people I've spoken with in the last year had been "working" on a book for literally years. They'd get motivated and write or edit, then run out of steam. Why? Usually fear. In fact one person actually told me she had no desire to be noticed - I have to wonder, then, why publish? What's fascinating about that case is that, close to the end of our process, she became very angry about the fact that low resolution images could not be used in her self-published book, and quit her process entirely. I know that her fear created an "excuse" for her to not step out and be known. I hope she was able to resolve that, as her topic was a really good one.
Two clients have worked with me to assemble wonderful blog posts into a book. The writing is already done! Just a matter of patchwork to get it all to flow. One self-published a paperback, and the other created an e-book for download.
One former client is a career search expert - and I mean expert! She worked hard to assemble her best systems for success into a book, and she has the marketing knowledge to really make a go of it. How exciting!
Bottom line: If you feel inspired to share knowledge with others, do not let fear hold you back. There is a reason you felt inspired: someone needs to know or understand what you have to say. Write! Just WRITE! Get it all out on paper, then organize and see what can come of it. You can do this!
I recently realized that I omitted to do something I know is very important...update my image! I hadn't refreshed a couple of website pages, social media messages, images, etc., and so my public profile was not as current or accurate as it could (and should) be.
And so, I scheduled some block of time to attend to all this! I got new headshots, updated my marketing message, focused on some new branches of Lightseeds (speaking and leading workshops), and generally gave my work an overhaul. Very refreshing indeed!
I've written often about making sure that everything in your business still fits you - environment, message, client base, services, etc. You might find it easiest to break these tasks into "chunks" and schedule them on your calendar. For instance...
Image: check your headshot, logo, message
Online: social media profiles, website, public listings
Clients: your services, who you target, how those match
Expansion: Explore new ventures, look into expanding the business, offering new services
Connections: review your network and connect with those you have not spoken with in a while (or ever)
When you plan for these evaluations, knowing that they are scheduled in your calendar, you will take action regularly to ensure that your business image stays current, authentic and visible.
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!
Here's another business writing lesson for you from The Grammar Queen! Whether formal or informal, be careful with the shortcuts you use in your writing. Overuse can set the wrong tone.
For example, use of shortcut ordinal numbers as bullets for a listing (1st, 2nd, 3rd) is casual but acceptable, if that's your writing style. Personally I prefer just using straight numbers (1, 2, 3). However, except in very casual communication, ordinal numbers used in copy that is NOT list format, just straight text like this, are written out (first, second, etc.).
1st: Open the door.
2nd: Walk through the door.
3rd: Close the door
First, open the door. Second, walk through the door. Third, close the door.
I've written before about another shortcut I see often: the use of "&" in business writing (outside of titles and such). It is no harder to type the three letters "and" than it is to shift-7 to create the &, and it is far more professional.
Greater grammar Nazis than I am are predicting a decline in proper grammar and spelling due to the huge younger population accustomed to tweeting and texting. These shortcuts can be viewed as the destruction of proper English (yes, I tend to this view) or to a new written dialect. I certainly wouldn't want to see a resume that says, "I wud luv 2 work w u bcuz im g8 at it ru hiring?" Key is to understand the use of each in context.
I am so often asked "What the heck is a Virtual Assistant?" It's still an up-and-coming profession, and OH so rewarding! A "VA" is someone who assists a business, usually an entrepreneur/solopreneur, with various administrative tasks. A VA can be a generalist, rather like an administrative assistant in a corporation. But she (I use the feminine because the majority of VAs are female) can also be a specialist, focusing on a certain type of company, or offering a specific set of services. For instance, I am a Spiritual VA, offering business communication and organizational services to heart-based entrepreneurs.
I have explained to dozens of people how the process works...here's a summary.
Download a free copy of the full report here!
When you know that you're doing too much and not focusing on your key skillset, those tasks that are your "sweet spot" that only you can do, it's time to unload! Do some online research and find the right match for you!
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.