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

Are You a Jumper or a Planner?

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There appears to be two types of small business owners:Those who jump right into running their business, and marketing their products and services, with little or no planning.

And those who plan a strategy — and a service or product design — before they ever dream of offering it to the public.

Is one better than the other?

Yes and no.

Planning often allows you the time to brainstorm and think through possible scenarios before you commit your time, energy and money into your business idea. Ninety-five percent of the time, I advocate planning, especially if you’re starting a new business or launching a new product or service. The time you spend with research and working through possible alternatives, as well as the time you spend thinking about how you might handle worse-case scenarios, will reap huge rewards later on.

On the other hand, over-planning often leads to inaction. A phrase I love sums it up: Analysis Paralysis — the inability to move forward on a project because you feel you don’t have all the facts, and are unwilling to move forward until you’re 100% sure of success. (Every small business owner will tell you that there’s no such thing as being 100% sure of anything.)

When is jumping okay?

Jumping is okay if you’ve already got a solid business foundation underneath you. This means that your finances are in order, you’ve already got a working business model that brings in reliable income and steady administrative processes that support your next great adventure. Jumping is okay if you’ve done as much research as you can and have a good sense that your project is viable, even if you’re not 100% certain of its success.

There is a place for jumping in the world of small business. Jumping allows you to be flexible, and to ride the wave of enthusiasm and passion. Jumping allows you to be 85% sure and then go for it. Good Jumping is action, combined with knowledge, courage and trust.

When to put planning first?

When you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for things to go wrong, planning is crucial. Planning is a must-have when you’re protecting the reputation of your business and your brand (do you want to be known as the owner who constantly crashes and burns?). And when there are a huge number of moving pieces — and you want to eventually put all those pieces into a repeatable system, then planning is essential.

In the end analysis, a combination of planning and jumping is required of all small business owners. The key is to find a balance point.

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

August Writing Journey: Non-Fiction Book Proposal

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I’ve made the commitment to finish writing my book proposal and two sample chapters by August 31. Want to come along on the journey with me?

Every Friday during the month of August, I’ll be taking the entire day to research and write my book proposal. That’s 40 hours of work — 40 hours of work that I’ve been procrastinating on since earlier this year! 🙂

So I’m committing now to myself (and you!) to get this puppy done. Each week I’ll write about the section of the book proposal I’m working on, what decisions I’m making, where I’m getting stuck, and what resources I’m using. I hope you find this “insiders view” helpful, especially if you’re writing your own book proposal.

And for those of you who have written a non-fiction book proposal, I hope you’ll chime into the conversation with your own pearls of wisdom. 😉

Writing Journey, anyone?

I’ll be posting my progress reports on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, so whichever service you prefer, you’ll find the notes there!

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

Eeek! Shiny Object Syndrome!

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It seems to be a trend that’s growing: small business owners are getting distracted by too many ideas or the latest fad, going off in a million directions and never completing anything. (Employees suffer from this, too!)

This loss of focus is costing people hundreds of hours a year in lost productivity, lost hours, lost dollars.

It even has a name: SOS – Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s not quite ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.

We think of a new idea, we hear of a great new gadget or marketing technique, and ZOOM, we’re off! There’s great energy and excitement in starting something new.

Of course what happens is that that everything always gets started, but nothing ever gets finished. In addition, countless hours and dollars are wasted in pursuit of the new, shiny object without having thought through whether this new item, technique, service or product is “right” for your business. Countless people have started blogs and abandoned them within a year (or less!) because they got tired of writing posts — or worse, no one was reading the posts.

It’s Not Just You

Lest you think that it’s only us small business owners who suffer from it, you’ll be happy to know that it’s rampant in many industries.

Software and tech companies are notorious for following every cool new fad that comes along, without thinking strategically about whether it’s a good fit for their business model.

TV creates shows around SOS, then dumps the show after 6 or 8 episodes.

Big business follows every business development fad that comes out in books or from gurus, only to drop it when the next cool fad arrives.

Tips for Choosing a Focus

I know it’s hard not to get excited about every new idea that comes past you. Some of them are very, very cool. But you are running a business and you must stop and ask yourself:

  • Is this right for my business/career?
  • Do my customers want this, and are they willing to pay for it?
  • Do I have the time, resources, energy, and money to put into this to make it successful?
  • Do I have too many open projects sitting on my desk that need to be finished before I begin something new?
  • Do I have the ability to finish this new project, and implement it, and maintain it?
  • What has to drop off my radar in order for me to start something new?

There’s nothing wrong with loving innovation and reinvention. Just make sure you don’t lose focus on what’s most important for you, your business and your customers.

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Rethinking Your Business
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The Imposter Syndrome

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Do you feel like a fake? Are you waiting for the day that someone will discover that all your success was brought about by luck?

You’re not alone.

According to this article in Inc. Magazine, as many as 70% of all people feel like a fake at some time. Back in the 1970’s, psychologists studied this phenomenon, dubbed “The Imposter Syndrome.”

The Imposter Syndrome is divided into three sub-categories:

  • Feeling like a fake
  • Attributing success to luck
  • Discounting and downplaying success

And it isn’t just new entrepreneurs that feel this way. According to this article from CalTech, it’s the high-achievers and the already-successful who suffer the most. The CalTech article goes on to discuss ways you can overcome your Imposter Feelings.

This topic came up recently at one of my mastermind group meetings. A mastermind participant, a highly-successful and sought-after author and entrepreneur, said she was just waiting for someone to discover that she didn’t know anything, really, about her topic because she didn’t have a Ph.D. (although she’s written three books on the topic, has studied it for over 10 years, has major sponsorship endorsements from large corporations, and an education and product line to go along with the books). Her worst fear: that some interviewer will ask, “Who are YOU to write about this topic??”

In the end analysis, a reality-check is in order. Have you accomplished things because of your intellect, your creativity, your tenacity, your heart? For every failure you’ve had, haven’t you also had an equal success?

Each day, when you catch yourself in the bad habit of moaning about everything that went wrong, reach for “balance” and remind yourself of all the things you did right. And when you have a big success, reward yourself and celebrate this wonderful moment!

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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10 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. Practice OMD: Off My Desk. I have a bad habit of collecting thoughts on bits of paper, which form massive piles on my desk. Once a month, I have an OMD hour…every bit of paper gets looked at and acted upon, and then the paper gets filed or tossed, clearing space on my desk and in my brain.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Stop saying, “I’m too distracted to focus.” Choosing to focus on one goal or one task is a decision you make. You are perfectly capable of focusing and getting things done, but you’ve got to train yourself to do it. It takes practice, and reminding yourself that you are choosing to focus on one thing instead of allowing yourself to get sidetracked. Don’t buy into the cultural slide of “I’m too distracted.” You’re better than that. Step up to the plate. If you want to be successful, you have to do what successful people do: focus. Focus is a decision. Focus is a skill you can learn and enhance.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Make a conscious choice to prioritize the information you allow into your brain. Let’s say for a moment you’re on Facebook and you see a link to an interesting article. STOP RIGHT THERE. Ask yourself: Is this article merely interesting or is it really, truly important? Do I have time to read interesting-but-not-important information right now? How will this article help me achieve my overall goals? By making choices about what to pay attention to, you automatically take yourself out of information overload. The beautiful thing about information is that it’s always available: whenever you are ready to read about a certain subject, information about that subject is just a Google search away.
  10. 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 believe in you. I believe you are capable of learning what you need to learn in order to have a successful business. I believe you will find time in your day for all that needs to be done. I believe your dream is so important that you’ll move mountains to get it. I believe you can move mountains, with focus, perseverance and strength.

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?

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

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As I sit here writing my “to do” list for the upcoming months, I can feel that weird little tingle in the pit of my stomach: Overwhelm. There’s so much to do! How will I get it all done?

Then I remember all the tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years of how to manage entrepreneurial overwhelm:

1. Breathe. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take several deep breaths. Close your eyes and take a visual and emotional break from the craziness.

2. Get Organized. Write down your “to do” list all in one place (instead of having all those little Post-It notes all over your desk). Next, write a priority next to each item on your list. Is it urgent (“U”)? Is it Important But Not Urgent (“I”)? Is it something that has to be done this month, or can it wait until next month?

3. Get Help. Look at your list and determine if everything on it must be done by you. Don’t fall into the trap of “Oh, it will take me longer to explain it to someone than to just do it myself.” Instead, think of the “explaining time” as an investment: once you explain it one time, the other person can document the procedure and repeat it over and over again.

4. 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’s easy. Do the things that matter.

5. Just Say No. Look at your “to do” list and ask yourself if you can simply say No to any of these 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.

6. Focus. Avoid the temptation to multi-task and choose instead to focus solely on the task in front of you. If you have to, set a kitchen timer and tell yourself you’ll work on the task for 15 or 30 minutes without taking a break or doing other work.

Want more tips? Read my blog post 44 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm!

 

I think I’ll start by taking a nice long breath…

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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