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

Giving Your Best to Your Customers

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Give your bestIn the small business world, where practically everyone is time-constrained, it’s sometimes difficult to give your best to every customer, every project, every task. This is what I discovered over the years: that giving your best to everything you do is so important that there’s rarely an excuse for not reaching for your highest potential.

The problem seems to come into play with competing values: you value your customers but you also value time with your children; you value creating a great service or product but you also value getting it done and moving onto something new.

I don’t believe multi-tasking is the answer. Instead, study yourself and ask yourself, “What are the things that are the most important to me in my life and business?”

By the way, there is no perfect answer to this question, and the things you value can be a moving target based on goals and events. If your child is in the hospital, then your business may take a back seat for a while. If you’re really excited about a new service or product you’re creating, you may choose to work weekends in order to bring it to fruition. If money is tight you may choose to do some parts of your project or marketing as inexpensively as possible.

Once you consciously decide what’s of most value to you, then go ahead and give it your very, very best. Don’t skimp and cut corners. Push yourself to be excellent in those areas that are important to you. It’s okay to make mistakes in your pursuit of excellence, as long as you attempt to correct them (or at least learn from them!)

As Nora Roberts says, “Flaws are acceptable, even necessary, to make us human and humble. But to serve a guest or a customer less than the best one is capable of, strikes me as arrogant or sloppy. Often both.”

The only trap you need to avoid is the one where you want to give your best to every single person you encounter, to every single task you do. Give yourself a break from perfectionism and make a choice to give your very best only to those things that are high on your “Things I Value” list. Things that are unimportant should be dealt with quickly so that you can focus your time, attention and passion on the things that need your best work.

Your customers deserve your very best efforts and they’ll greatly appreciate it. And when they’re happy, they’re more likely to tell others about your quality products and services.

I figure it this way: a good reputation is something to value highly and work towards. Doing my best brings me joy and satisfaction. Doing better than my best, continually growing and challenging myself, is one of the main reasons I’m self-employed. Is it one of your values, too?

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Category: 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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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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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

Are You Cut Out To Be Your Own Boss?

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I had an interesting discussion with one of my clients recently. She’s been in business for six months and is ready to quit. (I have permission to share her story.)

She writes,

“I give up. Starting a business is so much harder than I thought it would be, so much more time-consuming. I was hoping to be making a profit by now! There are so many things to do and I’m totally overwhelmed. People don’t seem to want to buy my products and I feel totally rejected. I don’t think I have the personality to be self-employed.”

Hmmmm…interesting. Are there really personality traits that separate born-entrepreneurs from people who can’t hack it?

I’d say yes, some personality traits do matter.

I’ve been self-employed in one way or another since 1981. I’ve known many self-employed people, and have been coaching and mentoring them for years. And over the past years, I see a pattern in successful entrepreneurs versus those who pack up and exit their business.

Here’s my must-have list of personality traits for the successfully self-employed (in no particular order):

  1. Tenacity.
  2. Self-worth.
  3. A sense of humor about yourself.
  4. Willingness to do the dirty work (the tasks that you hate to do).
  5. Willingness to learn new skills.
  6. A deep desire to be independent.
  7. Willingness to take acceptable and calculated risk.
  8. An ability to deal well with people.
  9. A passion for what you do or sell.
  10. Resourceful and creative.
  11. Willingness to ask for help.
  12. Self-disciplined.
  13. Self-motivating.
  14. Willing to do the personality “foundational work” to help yourself and your business.

Notice that I didn’t list any business skills here. You can always learn the business skills you need, or hire someone to do the work for you who does have the business skills you lack.

This list is about who you are and what habits you have. Changing your basic personality style will take effort. That’s why #14 is so important: are you willing to do the groundwork, the personality foundational work, to set the stage for your success?

Naturally, there are some personality traits that are business killers, but that’s another blog entry! 🙂

For you, what’s the most important personality trait you have, that helps when you own your own business?

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