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Designing Your Perfect Week

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I’ve been spending a lot of time this week working on my Perfect Week. Have you ever done this exercise?

perfect week large

You map out what you want to be doing during the week, by category, making sure the high-priority items get on your schedule first. It helps you set priorities and creates more productivity in your days.

Then, in the future, when you need to schedule something, you see how it fits into your “perfect” week instead of letting your schedule get away from you.

Some people balk at the idea of structuring their days so completely. That’s okay — just as long as you’re clear on what you want to accomplish each week and you have a plan in place for getting it all done. And it’s important that you also have a plan for saying “no” to tasks and people who take you off track of your goals.

For me, the structure is necessary; if I leave it up to “I’ll do whichever task I feel like doing in the moment,” I don’t get all my tasks done. 🙂

I created mine in an Excel spreadsheet, but you could use any word processor, or just a paper calendar to map out yours.

Here’s a blank copy of my Excel spreadsheet so you can try this exercise for yourself! (If you don’t have Excel, you can still download the spreadsheet, then open it in a Google Drive spreadsheet.)

Here’s a blank copy in PDF format if you prefer.

I hope you find it helpful…or at least eye-opening.

19 comments for now



Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

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Do you have an area in your business that you want to grow or change? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply statements of results you want: be more profitable, finish a big project, launch a new service, or help more clients. It’s more than a mere wish list; it’s stating exactly what you want, and what you’re willing to work towards.

The trick is to get from goal setting to goal attainment. That’s where you hit potholes and brick walls. Being a planner rather than a jumper will get you quicker results.

Start with Big Picture Goals

Before you jump into details, start with big results you want for your business over the coming year. People often confuse goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself some questions.

  • What results are you trying to achieve and why (goals)?
  • Which vehicles will you use to attain those goals (projects)?

For instance, say your goal is to launch a new class. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right?

Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list. Your goal is to build your list; your project is to create and offer a free class.

Or maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build income. Your goal is revenue generation and visibility; your project is the paid class.

By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.

ACTION STEP: Pause for a moment and write three big goals you have for the next 12 months.

Brainstorm Your Projects

Now that you have your goals in mind, let’s talk about how to achieve them. There are many paths that will lead you to the same goal. Choosing your projects wisely will help you get where you’re going.

Start by brainstorming all the projects that can help you achieve the same goal. For example, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform and to get known. You could boost your blog audience, write a book, teach a class, do more speaking engagements, start a column in a national magazine or website, hire a PR firm, or create a podcast. All of these things will show you’re an authority in your field.

How do you know which projects are the best ones to tackle? Here’s a checklist to help you decide:

  • Which ones inspire and excite you?
  • Which ones align with your personality, knowledge and skill set?
  • Which ones match the way your audience likes to connect with you?
  • Which ones fit your budget?
  • Which ones are likely to get you to your goals the fastest?

ACTION STEP: Pick one or two projects to work over the next year.

You can always add more later, but choosing too many projects will overwhelm you and cause you to lose focus. Start the year right: don’t overburden yourself.

Tap Your Task List

Write a list of the tasks to complete for your project. Next to each task indicate whether it’s a task you will do or whether you’ll need to outsource it to someone else. Also note whether a task will require a specific resource, like hiring someone to update your website, or taking a class to learn a new skill.

Say that your project is to create a new class. Tasks might include writing a lesson plan, creating worksheets or a student guide, selecting a teaching method, picking dates for the class, setting a price for the class, creating a marketing plan for the class, etc.

ACTION STEP: Take one of your projects and begin writing a To Do list of tasks needed to accomplish that project.

Next, organize the tasks into a logical order. Let’s use the class design project as an example. You’ll need to write a lesson plan so you know how long the class is, and what you’ll cover, before you can set the price or write your marketing copy. And you’ll need to write the marketing copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.

Tally up those tasks and the timing for each one, and calculate when the project is likely to be finished. Allow for some “stretch time” in your action planning; you never know when you’ll hit a bump in the road that might delay your project.

ACTION STEP: Organize the tasks, and take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.

Get Moving, It’s Easy

You have an action plan for your project. That’s great!

Now it’s time to start implementing that plan. This is a place where many people freeze. You look at your To Do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest. Don’t look at the totality of every task on your list. It’s not possible to do all those tasks simultaneously, so step back and focus on the very first task.

ACTION STEP: Look for one action you can take right now. Just one action, no more.

If your project is to write your marketing copy, your one action might be to write the headline. If your project is to create a profit model for your class, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.

By breaking projects and tasks into small increments, you achieve everything – on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.

7 comments for now



Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

SEO Checklist for Small Business Owners

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It’s easy to forget the the simplest SEO tasks when you’re busy. Search engines can drive a huge amount of traffic to your site, but only if you’re consistent about doing the SEO work.

Here’s a simple checklist reminder for the next time you post on your blog or add a new page to your site. This list doesn’t include overarching SEO techniques for your entire website, but focuses on the everyday tasks when adding new content to a site which is already optimized for SEO.

  • Choose keywords appropriate to the page; don’t simply replicate the website keywords on every page. Ask yourself, “What does my visitor want from this page or blog post?”
  • Title tag
  • Description tag
  • Alt tag for images
  • Image file names
  • Social sharing fields (title, snippet, image)
  • Using your keywords in the headings and sub-headings
  • Keyword in page URL (aka “slug”) (and domain name, if possible)
  • Keywords in text: don’t stuff them in, but having them near each other (“proximity”) helps; put them closer to the top of the page.
  • Links to internal pages
  • Links to external pages (make sure it’s a reputable site)
  • If you’re using WordPress, choose one of the SEO plugins, like Yoast, to make it easier. It gives you easy-to-complete fields for data entry on the tags and snippets, and reminds you if your SEO isn’t strong for that page.
  • If you have a Category or Round Up page that shows popular posts on a specific topic, add the new post/page to that directory for your website.

You can check where you currently rank for your keywords in Google Analytics. It’s the Queries report: Acquisition>Search Console>Queries

Want details? Check out my blog post Getting Your Website Seen on Search Engines.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Website Planning

Phases of Your Business Journey

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I’d love to be able to tell you that there are set of linear and finite phases that every small business owner goes through while you’re rethinking and redesigning your business model…

…but if I told you that, it would be a lie.

But there are some well known phases that you might go through, sometimes circling back to one you thought you already finished, and skipping others completely. Here is a short list of some of the signposts you’ll encounter on the road to redesigning your business model:

  • I know/feel something needs to change – You find yourself pausing in the middle of the day (or worse, in the middle of the night) and asking, “Is this the business I want? Is there untapped potential in me that’s striving to get out? What’s next for me?” People report feeling restless or frustrated, knowing deep in their heart and mind that the business needs a shake-up, a new way of being in the world.
  • Getting lost in the not-knowingness – This is one of the toughest phases in business redesign, because you have to be okay with not having the solution. Some spiritual teachers call this not-knowingness “the grace of mystery.” Puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?
  • Finding clarity on goals – If you spend time tapping into your goals for your business, and for yourself personally, you’ll find that it’s easier in the next phases to explore and choose the right business model for you. Is there a particular problem you need to solve? A particular dream you’d like to achieve? Values you’d like to express into the world?
  • Exploring the possibilities – In this idea-generation phase you explore every aspect of your existing business model, looking for places to add, modify and discard. No idea is sacred and no idea is thrown away. Even the craziest of ideas can be a springboard to a new business model. Creativity and innovative thinking are crucial keys during this phase.
  • Making a road map – This is where you design your new business and marketing model, keeping what still fits from your old model and mixing in the new ideas you’ve generated. This is also where you create your transition plan and map out where and when changes will take place, and what resources you’ll need to make it happen.
  • Taking the journey – Implementing your business model changes can happen in a week or it can be a two-year process, depending on how complex the changes are and how many resources you have at your disposal. This is often a journey through the weeds and can be rough going. Why? Because you have to continue to run your existing business (unless you’re independently wealthy!) while creating your new business at the same time. Managing change can feel like a juggling act, and I’ll talk more about it in future posts.

Where are you on the path to rethinking and redesigning your business? I’d love to hear your story, so join me in the comments below!

8 comments for now



Category: Rethinking Your Business
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7 Tips for Managing Information Overload

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Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?

Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never seem to get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!

Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)

Here are 10 tips for managing information overload so you regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks:

  1. Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list and YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Don’t set yourself up for information overload by trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time without setting up “assimilate and implement” time. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
  2. Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take in a lot of information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. When you try to keep all that thinking in your brain, you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump and writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format, will help clear things out.
  3. Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three things that you can take action on within a month, and put only those three things on your Action Items list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
  4. Make a decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel immediately better.
  5. When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
  6. Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important, which is why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas you’ve accumulated at your fingertips.
  7. Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done and all required research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post. So I put the other things on the back burner, and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose ONE of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.

I’d love to hear from you: how to you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?

15 comments for now



Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
Tags: , ,

2018 Learning Preference Survey Results

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Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts in my 2018 Learning Survey! If you haven’t take the survey yet, you can take it here. (Don’t peek at the results below until you take the survey, so you’re not influenced by what others said.)

This year, I asked three questions of small business owners, asking how they preferred to learn new business/professional information.

Here are the results.

First question: I’m creating a new virtual class (delivered through video conferencing), and would love your opinion.  The class has six hours of educational content in it. Which would you MOST prefer? 44% said they preferred 60 minute classes, with 23% choosing 90 minute classes.

Second questions: When studying a new business or professional topic, which learning methods do you MOST OFTEN choose? Most people (56%) learned through hands-on practice. People preferred video (54%) to audio (33%), and virtual classes (53%) to live in-person classes (34%).

What does this mean to you as a teacher or trainer? First, remember that the audience for this survey was small business owners. If that is not your target audience, you will need to ask these questions of your own customers to see if it mirrors what you’re seeing here.

It’s not surprising that people learn best by practicing what they’re learning. Are you giving them space in class to do homework or discuss how they will apply what you’re teaching to their real lives?

When I conducted the Learning Survey in 2015, some of the results were similar (video vs audio, for example). But the number of people who prefer live, in-person classes has dropped significantly, from 57% in 2015 to 34% in 2018, probably because people are more comfortable now with webinars and video conference based classes. (Click on image to see it larger.)

 

 

The third question: When learning a new topic or skill, how long do you prefer to focus on it?

This surprised me! Everyone says we have short attention spans and videos can’t be more than 5 minutes or people will stop watching. But clearly, when people want to learn a topic, they want to focus for longer: 30 or 60 minutes at a time. (Click on image to see it larger.)

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey, and if you haven’t take the survey yet, you can take it here. I hope you find this information helpful when designing educational content for your audience!

13 comments for now



Category: Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes

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