Archive for the 'Managing Projects, Tasks & Time' Category

A Little At a Time

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Many small business owners feel overwhelmed with what they have to do and the time constraints they have for accomplishing both big goals and everyday tasks.

I heard an interview with Zack Hample (who wrote a book about baseball). Zack has a 203 pound rubber band ball in his home. The interviewer asked Zack if he was obsessive. Zack replies,

“I started working on that thing when I was four. So we’re talking about decades here, and it’s not like I work on it every day. Sometimes I’ll add a pound a day for a week, then I won’t touch it for a year. So, you know, you work on something for a few decades, it’s going to be BIG and CRAZY if you stick with it.”

Building a business, building your dream, will take time and tenacity. But if you really want it, work on it a little every day with the knowledge that it will become what you want in time.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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Managing Your Website Redesign Project – 22 Point Checklist

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I know many of you are thinking it’s time to redesign your website, but you don’t know where to start or how to manage the project. Let me share my experience with you in hopes that it will make your website redesign process smooth and efficient.

After 11 months of hard planning and implementation, multiple website graphics and layout choices, and lots of coding (1,200 pages!), we launched the new-and-improved version of the Passion For Business website several years ago.

Then we did it again last year for The Success Alliance website, moving to a simpler, cleaner design that’s mobile-friendly. And we’ll have to do it again next year for a newer version of the Passion For Business website (even though we just redesigned it three years ago). Technology and people’s tastes in websites change, and you have to move with the times or be left behind.

We learned a lot along the way about managing website redesign projects and making sure they matched our business and marketing goals.

Let me share that wisdom with you, in the hopes it will help make your own website redesign project run smoothly.

The checklist below is written for you; you may be delegating pieces of this work to graphic designers, website designers, copywriters, SEO experts, or your administrative assistant. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them during each step in this checklist:

  1. First, know that this is going to be a long process, so find that extra bit of patience. It will pay off big time, trust me. There will be any number of times that you want to cut corners or give up an important feature that’s a pain to implement on your site. Stop. Breathe. Start again.
  2. Make sure you DO need and want to redesign your website. Not sure? Take this self-quiz: Is It Time To Redesign My Site?
  3. Write everything down – don’t trust your memory on something this important. Keep your ideas and your To Do list in a Project Plan file so everything is at your fingertips in one central location. Keep all correspondence with subcontractors who are working on your site.
  4. Start the redesign process by asking the big questions: What are the goals of my business? What role(s) will my website have in reaching those goals? Who will visit my website and what do they need/want to find there? What is my business brand and image? Is it time to give my brand a facelift?
  5. Decide what content you need on the site, then organize that content into logical “buckets” so that it’s easy to design the menu/navigation structure, and easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Make a list of each individual page and file that needs to be on the site. Not sure what’s important to your audience? Look at your Google Analytics and find the popular pages…and put the access to them in an easy-to-find spot on your new site.
  6. Decide which extra features you need on your site: will you have a newsletter sign-up box, a free offer, sidebar advertisements, a blog, video files, audio files, social media, etc.?
  7. Design the graphical page layout to include your logo and business colors, making sure there is enough room on the page for sidebar advertisements, sign-up boxes, etc. This is the time when a good website designer can make this process easy.
  8. Remember, the reputation of your business relies on professionalism and a professional look — this isn’t the time to cut corners with do-it-yourself graphic work, logos, navigation, or website page layout. A good website designer can target your website graphics and layout to your audience, and can make it user-friendly. A poor website design will have people walking away from your site instead of sticking around. Read this blog post on How to Choose a Website Designer if you need more tips. If you can’t find a website designer who is also a graphic artist, figure out a way for these two people to talk together about the design and the project plan.
  9. While your website designer is working on some preliminary designs, it’s time for you to edit and/or write your website text. Take a look at all your existing pages: Does the text talk to the audience and helping them solve a problem or reach a goal? Is your marketing message clear? Has your business focus changed and now your website needs new copy? If you’re not good at copy writing, consider hiring a copywriter to help you with the text updates.
  10. While you’re busy writing, don’t forget SEO work to increase your rankings on search engines. Choose your keywords and make sure those keywords are in your text. Note: there’s more to SEO than putting your keywords in your text, but choosing and adding your keywords is the first step.
  11. Once you choose the website design that works best for your audience, your brand and your business goals, now it’s time to start coding. You have several options when coding your website: your website designer can code it for you, or you can use a platform like WordPress. Even if you use WordPress, there’s still a HUGE amount of coding to do, so if you are not deeply familiar with CSS or PHP, hire someone to do the coding for you. Typically you can find a website designer who does both the graphic design and the coding, or who works as a team with other professionals to get your site done. If you want to do it yourself, consider one of the DIY website creation sites like Wix, Weebly or SquareSpace.
  12. DO NOT code directly to your existing domain, overwriting your existing files. Create a “testing” folder to put new files in. Even whiz-kids can make mistakes, so create a duplicate site for testing before you make your new site live to the public. It lets you build and test new pages as needed and will save you oodles of grief later.
  13. Make sure you code the SEO in the behind-the-scenes coding (tags) to help with your search engine rankings. Choose a website designer who has a lot of experience with SEO so that you can be assured this work is done correctly. Remember, there is more to SEO than the text and code on your website, but you must do these two things correctly FIRST before other SEO work can be done.
  14. Once the site is done with the initial coding, TEST the website in all the standard browsers to make sure it’s compatible: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. Test it in several versions of these browsers as well; not everyone is using the current version of browser software. If you’re not sure which browsers your current website visitors are using, you can find this information in your Google Analytics statistics. (It’s under the Audience/Technology area of Google Analytics.)
  15. Test to see how your site looks on both PCs and Macs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. (This is a good time to get your friends involved so you can see your new site on their browsers and machines.) Test on smart phones, tablets and laptops, including all mobile browsers. Make sure your new site works on ALL hardware platforms and screen sizes.
  16. After you do the testing, you’ll probably find that your site looks great in some browsers/hardware and awful in others. This requires additional coding to test the browser version or screen size/resolution the visitor is using and write code to make the site look the same in all browsers. Now you know why you pay a website designer to do this work! 🙂
  17. Test all links. Okay, now you’ve got your final website design. It looks great in all browsers and hardware, and the text and graphics are extraordinary. Now is the time to test all links (both the links in the menu/navigation and the links in the text). Make sure all links open to the appropriate page, file and/or external websites. Patience, my friend, do this slowly and properly. If you have bad links on your site, you’ll lose visitors and Google doesn’t like a site with a lot of bad links.
  18. Now test all forms. Sign up for your own newsletter, your own free offer, contact form, or any other form you have on your site, and make sure each form does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Sick of testing yet???  🙂
  19. Use 301 Redirects. If you have renamed any of your website pages, add 301 Redirects to your site so that those old links now forward to the new page URL.
  20. Now you’re ready to go live. But wait! I’m only going to say this once (loudly): BACK UP YOUR EXISTING WEBSITE and BLOG. Trust me. If you overwrite files and something blows up, you’ll be happy that you can easily put yourself back to the old site while you fix the problem.
  21. Take a deep breath, and upload your new website design to your hosting.
  22. Once it’s live, test again. All of it. Seriously.

Finally, go ahead and tell your audience your site is live, invite feedback, and tell them if they find a problem with the site to please let you know about it. It’s great to have a lot of people checking out your new site to make sure there are no mistakes.

Congratulations, you’ve done it! Have a huge party to celebrate!  🙂

 

(If I’ve missed any steps, please leave a comment and tell me about YOUR website project experience!)

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Website Planning
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Do You Need to Write on a Consistent Basis, but Find it Hard to Do?

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Recently I made a commitment to write a new book. Whether I’m writing a book or a blog post, the hardest part is getting into the habit of writing. After all, writing a 60,000 word book means blocking out huge chunks of time on a consistent basis – and actually writing during those appointed times!

Then I heard about an idea that sprang up from the academic community called Shut Up and Write. People who had to write their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation would agree to get together on a regular basis, spend a few minutes getting settled, and then “shut up and write” for 25 minute sprints. Then they’d take a 5 minute break and do another 25 minute sprint.

This technique of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break is a proven method for working within your brain’s normal rhythms. Add that to the group support and accountability of working quietly together, it’s a real win-win.

Imagine having time set aside each month when you will definitely get some writing done towards your book, blog posts, or other writing projects. This isn’t a replacement for all the time you’ll need to get all your writing project done, but it can be a cornerstone to developing the writing habit.

I decided to create my own Shut Up and Write virtual accountability group, and you can join me for five Shut Up and Write virtual meetings, beginning July 29.

We will meet every 2 weeks:

  • July 29
  • August 12
  • August 26
  • September 9
  • September 23

We’ll meet via video conferencing (I’ll send you the Zoom link once you register for the group), and each meeting will be 90 minutes. That will allow us enough time to do THREE 25-minute sprints of writing, and still have time to share, support and motivate each other.

(If you don’t have a video camera, or you won’t be near your computer, you can dial-in on phone or Skype.)

Our 90-minute video meetings will be from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM eastern.

1:00 PM eastern (New York time zone)
12:00 PM central (Chicago time zone)
11:00 AM mountain (Denver time zone)
10:00 AM pacific (Los Angeles time zone)
6:00 PM London (England)
7:00 PM Berlin (Germany) or Paris (France)

Do you want to join me?

The cost is only $20. (NOT $20 per meeting — $20 for all 5 meetings)

If you’d like to join Shut Up and Write, register here

P.S. Once you register, please email me and tell me what writing project(s) you’ll be working on.

P.P.S I can’t wait to get writing together!

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Passion For Business News, Upcoming Classes

Choose One Project

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I’m just like you — just like every entrepreneur I know. I have a million ideas and I want to do them ALL right away!

Here’s how that’s killing your business.

I learned an important and enlightening lesson last year that I’d like to share with you. By focusing all my attention, energy, time and resources on One Big Project, I increased my income — and more importantly, I was happier and more relaxed.

I was shocked!

Even though experts had been telling me for years to focus on just one thing, I didn’t want to give up my freedom and creativity. I liked having multiple projects to work on. It made me feel vibrant and alive.

But it also made me feel unproductive, cranky, overwhelmed, and a nervous wreck. And guilty because I was having a hard time completing just one of those projects to my satisfaction. Hmmmm.

Imagine you are driving down a busy highway at rush hour. Now imagine that there are three other people in the car with you, all trying to have a conversation with you. Now your cell phone rings. In between all this talking, ideas pop into your head so you pull out your mobile device to type in some text notes.

Crazy, right? You’ll have a car accident any minute now.

Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing to your business when you try to focus on multiple projects or multiple goals simultaneously.

Multi-tasking Myth

In the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield said, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once — but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”

Doing more than one thing at once doesn’t get more done and doesn’t make you more efficient. Recent studies by several research teams prove this point.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, when you toggle between multiple tasks or multiple projects, you are using what’s known as the “executive control” process. This mental CEO has to choose priorities and allocate thinking/creativity resources. The more you switch between tasks, the longer it takes to re-focus attention and resources.

David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan said in a recent New York Times article, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes.” When it comes to your business, mistakes will cost you. Can you afford to lose time or money?

On a practical level, working on multiple projects simultaneously made me feel scattered, out-of-control, and diffused my intellectual and creative abilities. When I slowed down and focused on one major project for a full two months, four great things happened:

  • I felt more in control
  • I was much more relaxed
  • My confidence soared
  • I was able to get the project completed a full four weeks ahead of schedule.

It was as if I had been released from a multi-tasking prison of my own making.

Talk about freedom!

Choose One, Master It, Move On

In his book, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen suggests you create a list of “Areas of Focus.” Start by looking at the areas you manage in your business (you can create a separate list for your personal life). In business you may have these areas: marketing, sales, finances, customer contact, product/service development, operations/administration, long-range planning/strategy, etc.

Next, list all your possible projects in each of these areas. Once you have your full projects list, look them over and ask yourself:

  • Which project will most likely lead me towards my large business goals?
  • Which project will lead me in the direction I want to take for my business?
  • Which project am I ready to tackle now?
  • Which project inspires me?
  • Which project scares me?

Then choose one project that will have the biggest impact on the success of your business.

If the project scares you, ask yourself why. Figure out where you’ll need some help, education or resources in order to complete that project.

In speaking with some of my mastermind group members about this subject last week, they reminded me that you don’t have to focus on one thing for an entire year. Try it for three months or six months, and see what results you are getting, both financial and emotional.

Once you complete a project or master a new skill, then you can move on to the next one on your list. In this way, you can have both things in your life: a successful business and getting multiple things done in one year.

First, choose one project. Finish it. Then move on to the next.

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

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Increase Your Productivity: Institute Quiet Time

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Are you getting everything done on your To Do list?

No?

Join the crowd.

More and more self-employed entrepreneurs are complaining that email, phone calls, social media, and their beeping-buzzing smart phones are constantly causing interruptions, increasing stress and reducing productivity.

These constant interruptions are costing you productivity — and ultimately income.

In my blog post Choose One Project, I talk about the myth of multitasking. Talking on the phone and answering emails at the same time decreases your overall productivity. So does popping into social media sites while you’re trying to focus on an important project or task. It causes twice the number of errors when you multitask or allow interruptions to your task.

By allowing all these interruptions, you are losing TWO hours a day of productive time. Ouch!

The Solution

Many large corporations like Intel, IBM, and Deloitte & Touche are instituting something called Quiet Time: a block of time in which you cannot send or read emails, and may not make or receive phone calls (unless they are related to the specific project you’re working on).

Small business owners can do this, too!

I started to do this last year:

  • Core Productivity times are 9AM – 2:30 PM. All private client calls, group mentoring calls, classes, and project work are done during these hours.
  • Every Friday was “class design and book writing day.” No client or prospect appointments, no emails from 9:00 – 2:30, no phone calls at all.
  • Emails are handled twice a day – at 8:00 and 2:30.
  • Each day, return phone calls are handled after 2:30 PM (which is great because of the time zone differences between East and West coast).
  • When I really, really needed to work on a project in a deeply focused way, I’d bring my laptop to the lake, park or library, taking my work to a quiet environment without possible distractions. (I particularly like the lake because there’s no Wi-Fi there! :))

The Results of My Quiet Time Test

In a 12-month period, I designed and launched three new classes (including a 9-week class which was a whopper to design), wrote one new ebook, designed two new websites, and overall had a much happier and more satisfied lifestyle and work environment. Awesome!

Lest you think that you will be less productive in getting through your emails and phone calls if you institute Quiet Time in your business, think again. Having fixed times each day for email and phone calls increases your productivity, actually reducing the amount of time you spend on emails and phone calls. (I found I could get through 30-40 emails in a solid, planned hour, which would have taken me two hours if I had answered them in a scattered fashion throughout the day.)

If you are frustrated because you’re not accomplishing your projects and tasks, you need to schedule Quiet Time into each day. You will be happier and feel more fulfilled by your work if you do.

How About You?

Do you regularly block out time to get projects done? What are you doing to increase your productivity without getting burned out? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas!

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