Author Archive

It’s So Important to Take Time Off

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entreprenuers take time offEvery weekend, my husband (who is also my business partner) and I take one day off from our busy schedules, either to go somewhere interesting and relaxing, or to visit with family and friends.

We’re just like you: we run our own businesses (which could keep us working 24/7 if we’re not careful) and we have things that need to get done around the house, too. Plus the cars need servicing, the cats need to go to the vet, laundry piles up, and food shopping is a necessary evil. You know the drill.

But being so busy all the time leads to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. We can’t be our best in our business if we are constantly doing, doing, doing.

For instance, one weekend we spent the day Sunday at the Delaware Water Gap. There are lovely sites to see here, including some stunning waterfalls. I happily spent the day snapping photos, hiking to the top of the waterfall (ouch!), and puttering around Peter’s Valley Craft Store. I didn’t think about business once.

When I came into the office this morning, my head was clear, my senses calm, and my creativity soaring. I got more done this morning than I could have gotten done in TWO days if I hadn’t taken Sunday as a rest day.

Many people think they can’t afford to take time off. Trust me: one day away from the computer, the phone, the house, the office will gain you far more than the time you took off.

Play hookey…take a day off and do something fun, inspiring, delightful!

What do you do to take time off?

5 comments for now



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

Has Your Website Designer Disappeared?

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A strange phenomena has been spreading like a virus over the past few years. In the past four months alone, three of my clients have told me that their website designer or virtual assistant has “disappeared.” No return phone calls, unanswered emails. Gone, gone, gone.

Kidnapping? Hardly. When the economy gets tough or the revenue numbers don’t ad up, many website designers and virtual assistants (small business owners themselves) simply go out of business. Some get full-time jobs in corporations, some just shut their doors. And of course, personal and family problems can cause an owner to go out of business. Perhaps they’ve changed their business model and have shifted away from doing the work they used to do for you — they haven’t gone out of business, just changed their focus.

This is a huge problem for small business owners, who rely upon their website designer or virtual assistant to maintain and upgrade their websites for them. There’s not much you can do if your website designer or VA goes out of business. But you can protect yourself and prepare yourself to move to a new website designer. You need to have access to all your files before your website designer disappears.

Use this checklist to get control of your website for the future:

  1. Login information for the hosting company.
  2. FTP login information, if appropriate.
  3. WordPress login information, if appropriate.
  4. A list of WordPress plugins that are in use, and their purpose.
  5. Email address login information for each email account (you may have more than one email address for your domain, such as office@domain.com or mary@domain.com or info@domain.com).
  6. Other login information to auxiliary software embedded or connected to your site, like: membership software, forum software, learning management systems, merchant accounts, eCommerce systems, email marketing system, video hosting or file hosting services, etc.
  7. Logins for Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and/or Facebook Ads, if you use any of these services.
  8. A copy of all your website coding, graphic, audio, video and animation files, including the original, editable source files for all your graphics.
  9. Written confirmation that you own the content of the website and have the right to transfer it, edit it, submit it to United States Copyright Office, sell it, etc.

For security purposes, if your website designer truly disappears and you can’t reach them, change ALL login IDs and passwords on your accounts. In addition, if you have given your website designer your credit card information, you may wish to cancel the card and have a new number re-issued.

Whether you think your website designer or VA has a sound business or you think they’re struggling and might disappear, I recommend you get the above items from them website today so that you have full control of your website — and your internet marketing — for the future.

8 comments for now



Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Running a Strong & Efficient Business, Website Planning
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Go Look In The Mirror

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Who creates your calendar and books every waking moment of your time? Who asks you to work evenings and weekends to grow your business? Who forces you to work with clients who are not really a good match, or pushes you to sell, sell, sell when you are tired or sick?

Being self employed means you are the boss. You set the agenda.

If you’re unhappy with the way your business is going or how hard you are working, go look in the mirror. And ask yourself: Am I working hard because I have to — or because I THINK I have to?

Sure, there are times when we have to put in that extra effort to get a project done before a deadline. But there are too many self-employed people who complain that they are working 60- and 80-hour work weeks, as if working hard (to the point of illness sometimes!) is going to get you “extra credit” points in heaven.

StartUp Nation reports from a survey: “80% of small business owners planned to work during the holiday break. 56% said they would even interrupt holiday dinner for an important customer phone call.”

Did I hear that wrong??? You would interrupt dinner with your family to take a business call on a holiday???

Our cultural, family or personal work ethic tells us we have to work hard to be a good person, a good provider, a good citizen. I’m not against working hard, but if you are working hard all the time, perhaps now is the time to ask yourself, Have I taken my work ethic too far? What’s the point of being self-employed if my boss is a tyrant?

And the next time you are feeling overworked and overwhelmed, cancel an appointment and go for a walk or take a nap. You can’t work at peak performance 24-hours a day.

(P.S. I give you permission to take next Friday off from work. I’m going to!)

4 comments for now



Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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44 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm

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Dealing with overwhelm is like juggling balls.The Ultimate Guide for Entrepreneurs Who Do Too Much.

As a small business owner, there are often too many ideas, too many tasks and projects, and not enough time or resources. Entrepreneurs are a creative bunch of people and we’re always thinking of new ideas!

I don’t know anyone who isn’t time-constrained. We all have busy lives, and if you run your own business, you are doubly busy.

Below are 44 tips for dealing with overwhelm and increasing productivity. Feel free to share this with your friends, colleagues and mastermind group partners.

The Rules

Just pick ONE of these tips and do it. Do not overload yourself more, by trying to do all these tips. This article will be online forever and you can come back to it to pick up your next tip.

Understand Why You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Many of my clients and students tell me they are feeling overwhelmed by running their own small business. It doesn’t matter whether your business is brand new or 20 years old, there are many things to juggle as a business owner. You are not alone in feeling this way, and there are some very common reasons why we feel overwhelmed:

  • Trying to be everything to everyone
  • Trying to focus on too many things at once
  • Being too optimistic about how much time it takes to do a task
  • Adding too many appointments and projects to your weekly calendar
  • Not saying “no” to people and projects

Notice how all these things are a CHOICE you made? Every time you make a choice to do too much, you make a choice to feel overwhelmed.

You are in control. You are in control of your calendar. You are in control of which projects are top priority. You are in control of your thoughts about your business. You’re even in control about whether you answer a ringing phone or not.

The power is in your hands.

Admitting That You Can’t Do It All

I have a To Do list that is six typewritten pages long. Every time I have a brilliant idea for a new project, I add it to the To Do list.

As surely as the sun rises each morning, the more I add to the list, the more overwhelmed I feel.

Then I had a startling insight: I will never be finished with my To Do list. I will always have wonderful new projects that I want to add. I will always have maintenance tasks that need to be performed. There will always be emails to answer and phone calls to make.

Once I understood that I would never get it all done, then it was only a baby step to the knowledge that I can’t do it all myself. Either I have to delegate projects and tasks, or I have to delete them from my list. If you are serious about not feeling burned out and overwhelmed, then the first place to start making cuts is in your To Do list.

Take Your Time

New habits take some getting used to, don’t they?

The outcome will be a feeling of mastery over your workload, your time and your energy. You will be in control of your calendar and To Do list instead of feeling as if they are in control of you.

Start With These Simple Tips

1. Calm down. You cannot do any of these tips if you are feeling stressed. Do 5 minutes of something relaxing before trying any of these tips.

2. Set priorities and goals. Where do you want your business to be in 12 months? What is most important, right now, to get you to your 12-month goals? Pick just three goals for 12 months. If you complete them, you can always add another one later.

3. Centralize your To Do list. Because I’m at my desk most of workday, I have a To Do file right on my computer that I can easily access and update. Whether you keep your To Do list on your smart phone or in a notebook, make sure you can get your hands on it quickly. When a new idea comes up, you have a place to put it immediately, instead of trying to keep track of it in your head. This is so liberating!

4. Focus. Choose one task and focus solely on that until it is complete. Stop multitasking; it will only lead you to feeling more overwhelmed.

5. Set a timer. Work on one task for 20 minutes, and then take a break. Every week, work for 5 minutes extra (25 minutes instead of 20, and so on) to help rebuild your focus, sustained attention span and ability to concentrate. Pay attention to when you start to become distracted and work with your natural biorhythm to take mini-breaks when you need them. Most adults can pay sustained attention for 20 minutes before becoming distracted. (Most adults can renew their attention to a task after being distracted, too.) I use a timer from TimeTimer to keep track of my 20-minute work segments.

6. Know how long it takes. I am notorious for assuming that tasks take much less time than they actually take. I block out 15 minutes for a task then discover it actually takes 30 minutes. I have learned this simple rule: whatever you think a task will take, double it. That way you won’t add too many tasks to your daily calendar and you will feel less stress because you know you’ve given adequate time to every task. Plus there’s a nice added cushion of time for a tea break!

7. Simplify. Is your business too complicated? Should some of your manual tasks be automated? Take a deep look at every task you do and ask yourself if there is a better, easier way to do it, or if a piece of software could do that task for you.

8. Know your Productivity Peak. When is your best, most productive time? Most creative time? For me, it’s 8AM to 2PM. That is the time when my intellect and my creativity is flying high. So I use that time to work with clients, teach classes, write books, and create training programs. Knowing and using your personal productivity peak times will help you be more productive and produce better quality work. Use your non-peak time for maintenance items that don’t require much brainpower (or willpower).

9. Give yourself the gift of distraction. Sometimes we push ourselves too hard. Owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Every few hours, take a break from your work. Step out your front door and get a breath of fresh air. Play some music. Go for a walk. Read a fun book. Have coffee with a friend. Do anything that takes your heart and mind away from business. You will be rewarded with a clear mind and a fresh perspective when you get back to work.

10. Get rid of clutter. For many people, when there are too many things in your visual field of focus, it is hard for your brain to concentrate on the task at hand. If out of sight really does mean out of mind, keep a file drawer for paperwork and put a note to yourself in your To Do list about where to find the necessary paperwork or email when you’re ready to work on that task.

11. Know your RQ (resistance quotient). Discover what you’re resisting when you use distraction and procrastination instead of doing your work. Stop self-sabotaging your success.

Specific Things You Can Do to Deal with Overwhelm

12. Just say no without guilt. Too often we try to please everyone and end up with too much on our plates. When you are feeling overwhelmed, look at the people and projects you’ve say Yes to that perhaps you should have said No to. Here’s a practical article I wrote on how to say no to people when they ask for your time.  Look at your To Do list and ask yourself if you can simply say No to any of the tasks. Remember, you are in control of your task list and your calendar. Only you can overbook yourself, so only you can say No to requests for your time.

13. Clear your desk. There is no better feeling than starting fresh and getting a complete handle on everything that needs to be done. By going through every paper, every pile, every note, you consolidate and prioritize. Remember to use your centralized To Do list and throw away all those individual To Do notes!

14. What’s most important? Each morning, enter your office and ask, “What are the MOST important tasks to get done today?” Make a careful balance about short-term emergencies and long-term tasks so that you can meet your goals without getting swept-up in daily disasters.

15. Do it. Sometimes, a bare-knuckle commitment to getting things done is necessary. That pesky colonoscopy you’ve been putting off? Do it. That phone call to a disgruntled employee? Do it. That 3,000 word article? Do it.

16. Ditch it. Some projects were never meant to be. Some catalogs and magazines can be thrown away.

17. Delegate it. Ask for help. Look at all the tasks you do, and for each one ask, “Am I the only person who can do this task in the entire world?” Some tasks are your sole providence; others can be delegated to a website designer, graphic artist, administrative assistant, etc.

18. Work for results. Which things you currently do are giving you the results you want? Stop wasting time on things that don’t give you the outcomes you want, even if other people tell you that you “have to” do them. Stop listening to gurus and start listening to your own intelligence and experience. The only thing that matters is whether you are creating the outcomes you want.

19. Get into task habits. For instance, the first thing I do each morning is handle emails from clients and students. Then I do social media because it allows me to use a different part of my brain. Next, I look at financials. Then I prep for that day’s client calls and classes. These four tasks take me about 60 minutes, warm up my brain, and allow me to serve my clients and students first, before getting into the main part of my day. Each afternoon before I leave, I plan my projects/tasks for the next day, answer any last-minute emails, and straighten up my desk. Having task habits each day allows you to get the important daily tasks done in an orderly fashion.

20. Chunk your schedule. Do you have scheduled time each week for marketing? For administrative work? For speaking with clients? If you block out scheduled time each week for your work, you will know that you have a plan for how to tackle the work. For instance, I use all day Friday to write articles, books and new classes. I use Monday morning for administrative work. I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1PM. What does your ideal workweek look like?

21. OMD: Off My Desk. Make a concerted effort to handle each item that comes across your desk ONCE. Do not stack it in a pile and think, “I’ll get back to it later.” Each morning, make a clean sweep of your desk while reciting the mantra: OMD, OMD, OMD!

22. Bit-sized chunks. Divide big projects into mini-tasks. Grab a piece of paper and write down all the tasks you can think go into the project. Divide any task that takes more than 60 minutes into smaller, doable chunks.

23. Find it in 60 seconds or less. Create a rule for yourself that you will be able to get your hands on anything in your office in 60 seconds or less. When you put something away, put it away in the most intuitive place you can think of, so that it will be at your fingertips when you need it. Find a home for every item in your office and return it to its home after each use. Fall in love with your filing cabinet.

24. Just three tasks a day. Stop overscheduling your time. Choose just three tasks a day to complete. If you are done early, you can always take on another task (or escape from the office for a little hard-earned play time).

25. Admit that you will never get caught up. Your To Do list will never be empty. Humans are the only animal who, once they complete a task, create new projects and tasks to occupy their minds, their time, their creativity, their energy. We’re hard wired this way.

26. Stop multitasking. While there are conflicting scientific research findings about whether multitasking causes productivity loss or not, my clients tell me that trying to do too many things at once causes them to do a poorer job, both in productivity and quality of work.

27. Out of sight, out of mind. When you need to focus deeply on a task, especially for a long amount of time, try clearing off your desk first. We get overstimulated, visually, by having many items within our view. By putting them out of sight, you can then focus more fully on the task in front of you. I use this technique when doing in-depth strategy work for myself or with clients. It forces my visual focus, and therefore my mental focus, on just one thing.

28. When you need to focus, get away from your desk. When I’m working on a big project, like writing a book, I find it best if I take my laptop and leave my office. If the weather is cooperative, I will go site by the lake and write; if not, I will find some quiet corner of a coffee house or hotel and write there. Even moving from your office to your living room will help. Because there is nothing else to grab your attention, you are able to focus for longer periods of time.

29. Check it off. Make a list (a To Do, a Task list for a big project). Put a big checkmark next to each task when you get it done. It’s very satisfying!

30. Make an appointment with yourself. Having a To Do list is great, but the real payoff comes when you move tasks from your To Do list and put them in your actual calendar as an appointment with yourself. In this way, you can estimate how much time something will take, and know that you have blocked out enough time to get it done.

31. Celebrate. When you get done with a big project, don’t automatically move to the next one. Find some wonderful way to celebrate your achievement!

32. Put on your CEO Hat. What are priority tasks for the ultimate success of my business? Sometimes what seems like the right thing to do in the moment is exactly the wrong thing to do for the future.

33. Get it out of your head and on to paper. Are you trying to carry your entire project plan in your head? Are you carrying your shopping list and your weekend appointments in your head, too? Stop it! Find a place to write down all these things, and use it consistently, so that you have a clear mind.

34. Unsubscribe. Do you belong to too many email newsletters that you never read? I have a litmus test: Every quarter, I go through all the email newsletters I have received from a specific person. If I don’t find at least one brilliant idea, one great tip, or one deep insight, I unsubscribe. By knowing why you subscribe to email newsletters, and using those values to judge whether a newsletter is delivering value to you (or not), you’ll easily be able to unsubscribe from those that don’t meet your needs. Life is too short to wade through emails that don’t sing to you.

35. Close down your email and social media sites during peak work periods. It’s too distracting, too tempting. (It’s like not keeping ice cream in the house when you are on a diet.)

36. Set up a good filing system. Keep big projects in their own 3-ring binder or an electronic folder on your hard drive, so that all your material is in one place. Archive old financial papers, client files, etc. into storage drawers or boxes.

37. Embrace the PDF. Get the paper off your desk by using electronic PDFs of anything that’s important. You can scan anything that comes in to your office on paper to a PDF. You can also print any online or electronic file to PDF using your operating system’s PDF creation software. If your computer’s operating system doesn’t include a PDF creation software package, try the free PrimoPDF.

38. Create an at-a-glance project planner. I juggle many projects each month. So once a month I grab a piece of art paper and create multiple squares, one square for each project. In each square, I write down the five most important tasks that need to be done for that project in that month. When I glance at it, I can see how all the puzzle pieces fit together and where the demands on my time will be felt the most.

39. Big rocks first. Do you know how to plan your priorities? This wonderful video with Stephen Covey will help you see the big picture.

40. Perfectionism kills. I know, because I tried to do every task perfectly and it nearly killed my business. Some tasks are critical for your success and need to be as good as they possibly can be. Other tasks are not so important and just need to be done without a lot of glory or perfection.

41. Backlink tasks to a project deadline. If you have a project with a deadline (like a class that starts on a certain date), put that deadline in your calendar. Then, working backwards, fill in the tasks on your calendar that lead up to the project conclusion. Then you will know when you have to start the project in order to complete the tasks in time.

42. Use GanttProject software. I’m a geek. I love software. I love Gantt charts. A Gantt chart is a visual way of seeing and linking tasks within a project, assigning time to each task, and connecting the tasks to figure out how long the entire project will take. I use a free software program called GanttProject for mapping out project/task work for big projects. You can download it for free here: http://www.ganttproject.biz/download (Don’t use the big green “download” button on this page. That doesn’t download GanttProject. Instead, look for the link in the upper left corner that says “GanttProject 2.5.” That’s the correct link.

43. Allow for Murphy’s Law. No week is complete without something going wrong. So plan for it. Allow time in your week for tasks to take longer, phone calls to take longer, emergencies to crop up. You’ll be happier planning for breathing space.

44. Action alleviates anxiety. Pick one high-priority task on your To Do list and do it. Nothing relieves stress better than getting off your butt and taking action. Don’t fall in the trap of picking a low-priority task just because it is easy. Do the things that matter.

Whew! That’s quite some list! As I said earlier, don’t try to do all 44 tips at once. Pick one that feels like it will work well for you and take a month to make it a habit. Then pick another and another until you can feel your overwhelm and anxiety lessen.

I’m wishing you a peaceful and productive business life!

Which one of these tips have you tried?

copyright (c) 2012, Karyn Greenstreet. All rights reserved.

64 comments for now



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

How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts in Your Group or Class

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Whether you run training workshops, facilitate mastermind groups, or offer group coaching programs, understanding what makes introverts and extroverts tick will help you work effectively with clients.

We all know there are two personality styles that are polar opposites of each others, right?

I wish it were that simple.

Introversion and extroversion are on extreme ends of a line, a continuum. Sometimes people will be strongly to one side or the other on that continuum, but often people exhibit mixed tendencies, especially in a group setting where there is rapport and trust.

For example, an introvert like me (yes, I consider myself an introvert! 🙂 ) might be quiet around new people, but very gregarious when with my mastermind groups. I might be quiet when I’m the student and trying to absorb new information, and highly extroverted when I’m the teacher. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum, and often it’s situational.

So let’s define what we mean by these terms:

An introvert gains energy by being alone, and expends energy when in a group setting, like a mastermind group. Being an introvert doesn’t mean a person is shy; it means he needs quiet time alone to process the outcome of the group meetings and recharge his batteries before he wants to get back into the group-mode again.

An extrovert gains energy when she is out in the world, especially brainstorming with a group of people. She’s excited to share ideas and to process her thoughts verbally in the group. Sometimes she gets her best ideas while talking through a problem with other people.

How do you facilitate a group that includes both types?

An introvert needs quiet time, even a minute or two, to collect his thoughts and reactions to a given problem or situation. Giving the entire group a few minutes to write down their ideas on their own, before sharing, can give the introvert the space he needs to process.

On the other hand, the extrovert needs time to talk out loud, to process her thoughts while she’s actively communicating with others. Knowing this, you can allow the extrovert a few minutes to explain her situation: she just might find clarity — or even solve her problem herself — simply by talking openly about it.

Between meetings, give each of these types a way to communicate with the entire group, possibly through an online message forum. The extrovert will appreciate the ongoing connection to the group and the introvert can take his time to process internally, then communicate at his leisure.

How can you tell if a group member is an introvert or an extrovert?

It’s not possible to pigeon-hole someone and label them as “all introvert” or “all extrovert,” but there are tendencies the psychologists have identified that you can (and should) pay attention to:

  • an introvert makes more and sustained eye contact
  • an introvert will appear to think before she speaks
  • an introvert may disappear during breaks, or talk deeply with only one person during breaks
  • an introvert may seem shy around the group in the beginning, until he gets to know everyone better
  • an introvert needs quiet time away from the group to relax and process
  • an extrovert will appear energized by being in the group situation
  • an extrovert jumps right into the conversation and thinks while he speaks
  • an extrovert may prefer to talk with 3 or 4 people during breaks
  • an extrovert will interact with everyone in the group, even in the beginning, because she loves to meet new people
  • an extrovert may enjoy additional social time with the group after the official group meeting ends

As a mastermind group facilitator, teacher, or group coaching mentor, you will foster a tight, powerful group by being aware of these two personality types and giving each what they need.

13 comments for now



Category: Creating, Marketing & Teaching Classes, Start and Run a Mastermind Group

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