Cheers to 2021 Being a Better Year—More or Less

And just like that, the year we all couldn’t wait to end has passed.

2020 was indeed tough—for many people, it was far more so than for others. My family has felt the same effects of the restrictions on socializing and traveling that everyone has faced. Rather than spend time in person with our relatives and friends (aside from a few small, social-distanced outdoor outings and some meals at restaurants abiding by state and CDC guidelines this summer), we’ve kept to ourselves. We grappled with our daughter’s high school graduation being something much different and less momentous than what we envisioned. And her first year of college—which she welcomed with anticipation of more independence and new social connections—brought a much less satisfying reality (after two weeks, COVID-19 cases on campus were rising and she opted to move home and finish the semester online).  

Still, we’ve been extremely fortunate.

We’ve stayed healthy, and our friends who have fallen ill from the virus have recovered. Our daughter finished her first semester at college with a 3.8 GPA. My husband’s place of employment is in an industry well-insulated from the pandemic downturn, and my freelance content writing business has continued to thrive.

I don’t take these blessings for granted.

An Opportunity for Reflection

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. After all, does the calendar page flipping over to expose January of the year ahead make us any more committed to achieving the goals that we’ve pushed to the wayside before? I think not. However, 2020 and the pandemic have allowed more time to pause and consider life, work, and everything that goes with them. That has prompted me to create a list of my intentions for improvements in the new year. Ultimately, I’ve realized that while some things are not in my control, many are. A lot has been going right, and to remain on a positive trajectory, I need to continue to do more of some things and do less of others.

My 30-Point “More and Less” Plan for a Bright, Shiny New Year

Rather than “resolutions,” the below list represents the promises I’ve made to myself for 2021.

  1. Be more present in the moment with my family and friends. (Whether that be via phone and video calls or (let’s hope!) in person.)
  2. Spend less time on Facebook. (Politics, disagreements over wearing  masks…need I say more.)
  3. Spend more time on Babbel. (Before my trip to Italy in late 2019, I used the platform to get some basic knowledge of the Italian language. I’ve recently signed up for an annual subscription to learn Spanish.)
  4. Do less scrolling on social media. (It’s far too easy to spiral out of control down that rabbit hole.)
  5. Do more muting and unfollowing consistently negative and combative people on social media. (Adios, amigos!)
  6. Continue to focus on eating whole foods and invest in quality vitamins and supplements to maximize health. ( I am a loyal fan of the Shaklee brand. I suggest contacting Jennie Weinhold if you want to learn more about them.)
  7. Limit alcoholic beverages to a maximum of two drinks on two days a week. (Or the equivalent of one glass of wine four days a week.)
  8. Drink lots of water. (I always feel and mentally and physically perform better when I drink at least 64 ounces per day.)
  9. Spend less time in the vicinity of my smartphone. (I’m more focused, productive, and content when it’s out of reach.)
  10. Consume more kombucha. (It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Ha, ha! See what I did there? But I enjoy this probiotic, fermented tea drink. Notably, Health-Ade Kombucha Pink Lady Apple, KeVita Master Brew Kombucha Blackberry Hops and Blueberry Basil, and Brew Dr. Kombucha Island Mango.)
  11. Don’t take things personally.
  12. Have more patience. (No easy task, right? But I’ve found that taking a deep breath and giving a moment to process the situation before responding helps diffuse an immediate emotional reaction and allow for a measured, intentional response.)
  13. Show and express more gratitude for and appreciation of the people in my life.
  14. Refrain from jumping to conclusions about people’s intentions. (Less judging, more accepting.)
  15. Make more sleep a priority. (There’s no glory in trying to thrive on minimal amounts. My ideal shut-eye range is between 8.5 and 9 hours. What’s yours?)
  16. Create less self-induced stress by worrying about things out of my control.
  17. Initiate more phone and video calls to check in with family and friends to fill the void of face-to-face interaction.
  18. Find more opportunities to show kindness and give hope to people who are feeling down or struggling.
  19. Watch news broadcasts less. (I’ve learned there’s a fine line between being informed and being indoctrinated.)
  20. Do more Schroth Method. (This specialized form of physical therapy for scoliosis has been a godsend for me since I began practicing it faithfully in May of 2018 with the guidance expertise of Andrea Yaktus at Empower Physical Therapy.)
  21. Suppress negative self-talk.
  22. Stay the course with my cardio and light weights regimen. (As a former amateur competitive bodybuilder, the mandate to stop certain weight-training exercises due to my scoliosis progression was a tough pill to swallow for me. But I’ve learned ways to adapt.)
  23. Avoid interrupting people while they’re talking. (I am guilty of this!)
  24. Continue to practice intermittent fasting and keto-friendly eating. (While many people have complained of putting on the dreaded “COVID 15,” I’ve lost 15 pounds by doing these things and staying true to my exercise regimen.) 
  25. Get annoyed less. (i.e., Don’t let little things derail my attitude. Most people are doing the best they can.)
  26. Don’t obsess about my weight. (Eating restrictions and exercise enthusiasm are a double-edged sword for me. I’m an anorexia survivor, so it’s a struggle to keep healthy intentions from transforming into a self-damaging obsession with exerting control.)
  27. Complain less. (Again, most people are doing the best they can.)
  28. Keep my mind more open to opportunities that may be outside of my comfort zone but ultimately worth taking a chance on.
  29. Explore more ways to provide value to my clients and expand my business’s revenue streams–without overextending myself.
  30. Stop neglecting my blog. (As my work for clients was at an all-time high in 2020, I ignored my own blogging efforts. One might argue that if business has been so good without it, why bother? Well, it’s a matter of committing myself to what I want my blogging clients to commit to. In 2021, I need to get over not always having the “perfect” idea for a captivating long-form article. Small observations and short nuggets of wisdom can be of value, too. With that epiphany, expect to see much more coming your way from dawnmentzer.com this year.)

Forging Ahead into 2021 with Intent

Nothing that I’ve mentioned above is unattainable or too much of a stretch. Still, it will require self-determination and the recognition that no desired results come without effort.

What have you set your sights on accomplishing in 2021? What will you do more or less of?

None of us are strangers to working through adversity after experiencing 2020. If we all apply our newfound resilience to following through on our self-development goals, the year ahead will undoubtedly bring a much-improved experience for all.

Happy New Year to you!

54 Years of Successes, Failures, and Recollections

54 years ago on January 26, my 5-pound 12-ounce self entered this world. My life hasn’t been one of those remarkable ones that you read about in magazines or that warrants an interview with Oprah. I’ve not achieved celebrity status or invented something innovative or embarked on any grand mission to change the world. But during my years here, while I haven’t done any one thing that’s extraordinary, I have done a lot of things (after all, 54 years is quite a long time).

I thought it would be fun to take a look back. So, I decided to put some concentrated brain power toward remembering some of the successes, failures, and random memories of my experience on this earth thus far. Working through this exercise, I found the flood of recollections therapeutic. My life has been a pretty damn good one. Maybe not the stuff of a compelling biography, but it’s mine and it’s special to me. I expect that anyone else who has also led an “ordinary” life and takes time to reflect on their journey will discover their experiences collectively paint a colorful and unique painting.  

54 Random Reflections From My 54 Years (in no particular order)

  1. At around age 5, I took ballet, tap, and gymnastics lessons at a local dance studio. The day of the recital, I was so nervous I pretended to be sick so that I didn’t have to perform.
  2. In 4th grade, I was the fastest kid in our class (girls and boys, included).
  3. When I was about 12, I visited a farm and the owner gave me a fresh egg from the chicken coop. I set up a box with a night light over it in my bedroom and rotated the egg under the light several times a day for 20 or so days in hopes that it would hatch. It did and my pet “Ricky Chick” was born.
  4. My family took a two-week vacation cross country to Wyoming when I was in middle school. We borrowed my aunt and uncle’s custom van. The places we visited during the road trip included the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, and a former neighbor’s ranch in Lander, Wyoming.
  5. I took baton twirling lessons for approximately 7 years and was a feature twirler in the Oley Valley High School Marching Band in my junior and senior years.
  6. I auditioned for the Millersville University Marching Band my sophomore year and didn’t make the cut.
  7. I performed in plays and musicals throughout high school, college, and in community theater. Shows and roles include: No, No Nanette (dancer); South Pacific (nurse); Oliver (Widow Corney); Night of January 16th (Nancy Lee Faulkner); Chamber Music (Amelia Earhart); TV (various roles); Spoon River Anthology (various roles); Angel Street (Bella); How the Other Half Loves (Fiona); The Insect Comedy (Chrysalis, and I directed one of the acts); Lil Abner (Dogpatch wife); Busybody (Marian); A Murder is Announced (Phillipa); Nuts (Attorney MacMillan); Steel Magnolias (M’Lynn)
  8. I studied Kung Fu for 4 years.
  9. In college, I was anorexic. What unexpectedly helped me overcome it was joining a weight training class during my senior year in which the coach encouraged me to consider bodybuilding. Thanks to him, my struggle for control shifted from starving myself to becoming more powerful. I regret never reaching out to him years later to tell him that he saved my life. About 10 years ago, I learned that he had passed away.
  10. From 1993 to 1997, I competed in a total of seven amateur bodybuilding competitions. In 2001 and 2002, I coached a team of first-time bodybuilders. Several continued to compete up until just a few years ago.
  11. I married one of the funniest people I have ever met.
  12. I gave birth to my daughter on September 11, 2001. While in labor, I was watching the Today Show and saw the plane hit the second tower, live.
  13. I graduated cum laude from Millersville University with a B.S. degree in Communications and a concentration in Journalism.
  14. I worked for a non-profit regional theatre as a marketing and public relations assistant for two years. One of my biggest regrets was quitting that job. It didn’t pay squat, but I believe many possible paths would have opened to me had I stuck it out.
  15. I bartended for four years.
  16. I worked for a regional, family-owned telecommunications company for 17 years. I thought I would retire there. When a national company bought that company, my entire department was eliminated.  
  17. I started a freelance writing business in 2010 with virtually no current portfolio or business startup knowledge.
  18. My first freelance customer stiffed me. He owed me a whopping $60.
  19. Only one other customer stiffed me in the past 9 years.
  20. I landed a paid (barely) acting gig portraying a gypsy/ fire eater’s sidekick at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire during the summer of ‘85.
  21. I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 21. It has progressed since. About 20 years ago, a surgeon told me I will likely need spinal fusion surgery at about age 55 to prevent the condition from compromising my heart and lungs. I think I can tough it out longer.
  22. I don’t do competitive bodybuilding anymore (my scoliosis has ruined all chances for that), but I still lift religiously.
  23. I can comfortably push 370 pounds (weight of the plates) for 5 reps on the leg press machine. Almost where I was at over 20 years ago. My bench press sucks, though.
  24. I ran the Merrill Down ‘N Dirty Mud Run in 2011 and placed 9th out of the 104 participants in my age group.
  25. I was inducted into the National Honor Society in high school.
  26. I failed my DMV road test. Twice.
  27. I was a Camp Fire Girl. Our troop met weekly at the Oley Valley Youth Building.
  28. I was a Brownie Girl Scout leader for 3 years.
  29. I was runner up to homecoming queen at the first homecoming our high school ever had.
  30. I was one of the candidates in the running to represent our school at the county Junior Miss pageant, but I wasn’t selected.
  31. I led an eating disorders support group for a year.
  32. In 2016, I wanted to add a second dog to our pack. We took in a sweet rescue pit bull (Sydney, who we renamed “Loki). Unfortunately, we soon realized we had a lot more work to do with our incumbent pitty mix, Lulu. I was heartbroken. Rather than send him back to rescue, we kept him as a foster dog and assisted in finding him a new home. Fortunately, some family friends met him, fell in love with him, and made him a part of their family. I visit him from time to time.
  33. One year, when chaperoning a church youth beach trip, I temporarily lost my wedding ring in the sand. A nice lady with a metal detector found it for me.
  34. I played fast-pitch softball (third base and pitcher) in a summer youth league back in the day.
  35. I volunteered as a SCORE mentor with the Lancaster-Lebanon chapter for three years. I served on their Executive Board as their V.P. of Marketing for one of those years.
  36. I was the jello wrestling champion at an “Almost Anything Goes” competition during high school. I represented the National Honor Society team. In the final match, I faced off with a very statuesque, muscular woman from Kutztown University. I pinned her in 3 seconds flat.
  37. I had a pet snake (a rainbow boa constrictor) named Flakey from when I was in third grade until two years out of college.
  38. I’ve kept a potentially life-ruining secret for a friend for over 25 years.
  39. I’ve visited and partially hiked the Grand Canyon.
  40. I traveled to Hawaii (Oahu and the Big Island) in 2017.
  41. I got dumped by my date at prom my junior year of high school.
  42. I was asked to write the foreword to my friend’s book about her brother, “I Am Not My Body. A Tribute to Jim MacLaren.”
  43. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 30 years old—but after about 10 years, it disappeared.
  44. I had a leopard gecko named Lilo. At the age of 7, she died. On my birthday. 🙁
  45. Upon graduating from Millersville University, I was presented the Edward J. Laucks Memorial Sertoma Award for Excellence in Communications.
  46. I scored miserably on my SATs.
  47. I wrote a health and fitness column called “Body Business” in the Millersville University student newspaper.
  48. I was voted “Best Legs” and “Best Personality” in my class in high school.
  49. I once tried out for the high school basketball team but quit before cuts were made. I have no doubt that I would have been among them.
  50. During the summer after I graduated from college in 1987, I held three jobs at once.
  51. One year, when attending the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with my family, I was randomly chosen to be an audience participant in a knife juggling/throwing act.  Another year, I was pulled on stage to be a part of a wench auction.
  52. I grew up with a regulation-size pool table in our family basement. I’m out of practice, but I’m a decent shot.
  53. I originally planned to major in social work.
  54. Twice, I tried to get through Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” I failed both times.

And there you have it—some highs, lows, and in-betweens of my life experience. Perhaps some of it explains a lot. And some of it surely explains nothing.

Your turn! I challenge you to think back on your achievements and let-downs throughout your life journey. What 54 (or 32 or 75 or 43 or 21) memories made your list? I’m looking forward to reading about them.

The First Step To Emotional Intelligence

I’ve been mulling over two blog posts I had read last week.silhouette of head with brain diagram within it

 

It’s OK to Be on Your Way by Rachel Strella

 

13 Signs of High Emotional Intelligence by author Justin Bariso

 

Both articles crossed my radar thanks to tweets by two of my favorite Twitter friends, Rachel Strella and Dennis Shiao. Although the posts’ topics are different at face value, they possess a strong synergy.

 

Rachel’s post, It’s OK to Be on Your Way, touches on how many of us are in constant pursuit of doing more and being more. We become frustrated at our inability to achieve perfection. But we need to stop beating up on ourselves. We’re works in progress—and that’s OK.

 

13 Signs of High Emotional Intelligence, which Dennis had shared, discusses characteristics of people who possess a high level of emotional intelligence. (Of course, I immediately started contemplating how I measure up.) Several of the traits involve the capacity to cut others some slack when they do wrong or fall short, and the article specifically calls out “empathy.”

 

Putting It All Together

 

To have empathy (a critical component of emotional intelligence), we must see some of ourselves in others. So to accept and forgive the fallibility of others, don’t we first have to accept our own faults and stop being so tough on ourselves (as Rachel suggests)?

 

We’re all human. We have all made—and will continue to make—mistakes. We have (and probably will again):

 

  • Let insensitive words leave our mouths in moments of anger or frustration.
  • Talk behind someone’s back.
  • Look for what we can gain from a situation rather than what we can do for someone else.
  • Sometimes not put our best foot forward.
  • Not tell our partner or parents or children or friends how much we love and appreciate them.
  • Tell a little white lie (or possibly even a mind-blowing whopper).
  • Snap at our kids when they ask us a question while we’re working.
  • Forget to send a birthday card.
  • Not do what we said we would.
  • Judge others when we have no clue what it’s like to be in their shoes.

 

Yeah, we slip up sometimes.

 

I do. You do. And everyone else does.

 

If we realize that doesn’t make us failures or bad people, we can all be happier, more self-confident, and more emotionally intelligent.





Freelancers And Small Business Owners: Being Great At Your Craft Isn’t Enough

You’re an experienced and talented [insert professional specialty here]. That’s a fabulous selling point, but it may not be enough Black text Value Is Everything on blue backgroundto attract your ideal clients or keep them happy for the long-term.

 

Sure, when you excel at the work you do, you have a competitive edge. To sharpen that edge, however, you may need to demonstrate other important skills, too.

 

Besides seeing yourself as a freelancer/professional extraordinaire doing your craft, strive to fulfill other roles, as well, to make yourself an invaluable resource to your customers.

 

Three Personas To Improve Your Professionalism

 

Competent Project Manager

Some clients have it all together—others not so much. If you have project management skills, you can fill a critical void for customers who lack the ability to organize efforts and keep projects on track. I was fortunate to have had the experience of working as a telecom product manager in my past career. Tasked with managing time lines and deliverables across various groups, the competence I developed in coordinating projects has become one of my biggest value propositions as a freelance writer.

 

Kick-Ass Communicator

Describing products and services, proposing rates, setting expectations, confirming responsibilities, explaining processes, and so on—things every business owner needs to do almost daily—all require communicating clearly. Concentrate on organizing your thoughts and getting to the point in conversations written and spoken. As an accomplished communicator, you can more effectively avoid misunderstandings and ensure you and your clients will be on the same page.

 

Intuitive Listener

Listening so you absorb what clients are saying, recognizing the motivation behind their words, and going a little above and beyond to understand their challenges can really set you apart. By getting to the heart of your clients’ issues rather than simply treating symptoms with Band-Aid solutions, you will earn trust, respect, and hopefully long-term business relationships. For example, I regularly have prospects come to me thinking their websites’ existing content is why they aren’t generating online leads. But after listening to them, reviewing their content, and looking at the big picture, I often find content alone isn’t their problem, and my services independently wouldn’t significantly improve their outcomes. In those situations, I refer these customers to other professionals who have the ability to fill the voids I cannot (like website design/development, SEO, and social media strategy).

 

The Value Of Being More

By developing these identities within your professional persona, you become more than just a service provider—you become an indispensable asset to your clients.

 

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” ~ Warren Buffett

 

Give them value and you’ll gain trust, respect, and loyalty.

 

What will you do to be more today?





My New Year’s Resolution: Take More.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I figured, “Why not?” Focusing on making ourselves better and doing Write it on your heart quote showing woman looking out to seaour work more effectively doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. I certainly have room for improvement, so I think laying out some strategies to become the person and solopreneur I strive to be makes sense.

 

In thinking through what I’d like to achieve in 2017, I discovered a theme.

 

I realize I need to “take” more.

Take stock.

Why is it we tend to dwell on what’s not right or what’s lacking in our personal and professional lives? I intend to start and end each day on a note of gratitude, taking stock of all I have to be thankful for.

Take 5 more often.

I’ve learned that overextending myself and cramming too much into too little time doesn’t benefit anyone. Not me. Not my family. Not my clients. Not my friends. When I need breaks, I’m going to take them. None of us can sustain a schedule that doesn’t leave room for rest and recovery.

Take a deep breath.

It seems as though we’re always jumping. Jumping to conclusions, jumping to judgment, and jumping at chances. But leaping before looking can lead to poor decisions and destroyed relationships. I vow to allow myself the time to take a breath and listen and think before offering opinions and making choices. I don’t know anyone who has ever regretted or suffered as a result of carefully thinking before speaking or acting on something, do you?

Take care.

Rushing never yields quality results. By consciously and methodically taking care, I can better avoid making those stupid little mistakes that gnaw at the core of my being for hours on end. Doing it right the first time saves time and sustains self-confidence.

Take a chill pill.

I’m a worrier. Not so much about myself but about others who I care about and who are going through difficult times. That’s not productive. Worry helps no one. What does help is keeping a cool head, giving a shoulder to lean on, providing guidance, and offering a helping hand.

Take it with a grain of salt.

Constructive criticism from trusted advisors and other people who care about you can serve as valuable feedback to move you down a more successful path. But naysayers offering unsolicited advice or making disparaging remarks about you or how you do something typically don’t have your best interests at heart. I intend to take their words with a grain of salt and consider their motivation. If someone offers harsh words that aren’t in the spirit of helping you improve, then it’s likely they’re driven by jealousy, rivalry, or by an inherently mean disposition.

The Overarching Plan For The New Year

So, my plan to take control of 2017 is to take more. What have you placed on your list of resolutions? Could you benefit from taking more, too, in the New Year?

 





Where Has The “Friend” In “Facebook Friend” Gone?

Social media has been an ugly place lately.Sad-faced emoji

 

Spewing of vicious insults.

 

Pointing of fingers.

 

Drawing microscopic attention to every flaw and foible.

 

Dragging of friends and family into the fray.

 

What’s that? You thought I was talking about Hillary and Donald?

 

Sadly, no. I’m seeing all of those things happening in my Facebook news feed and on the timelimes of friends, business colleagues, and casual acquaintances.

 

I’m seriously astounded—and sorely disappointed—by the show of intolerance of others’ rights to their own opinions on social media. Disagreement over who should be elected President should neither be a relationship deal breaker nor a free pass to trash others. The POTUS will be in office for four (or maybe eight) years. Disowning relatives and removing friends from your holiday party guest list in the heat of the moment could become lifelong regrets.

 

We all have to do a better job at accepting that people will disagree with us. And we have to do much better at realizing we can’t accurately make assumptions about someone’s personal nature when they see things differently than we do.

 

On social media, it’s not so much whether we support Trump or Clinton that shines a light on our true character; it’s how we treat and react to others—even those who have decided to vote for the candidate not of our choosing.

 

Are you fed up with the less than friendly way your Facebook friends are conducting themselves on social media? Have you had fallings-out with friends and family because of disagreements over the upcoming election? Please feel free to share (or vent) here—respectfully, of course!





Crappy Day? Consider These 18 Ideas To Make It Less Crappy.

These past several weeks have been tough. My freshman daughter took a hit to her self-confidence after making it to call backs for young-african-american-girl-with-thumbs-upthe high school fall play but not getting chosen for the cast. We rescued a sweet Staffordshire terrier/Pitbull mix (Loki) and discovered that the fit won’t be a good one with our resident female pitty mix. And my last remaining grandparent was diagnosed with esophageal cancer; it could be just days or weeks before she departs this earth.

Unable to make it all better for my daughter, grappling with the feeling of failing Loki even as we have found a new loving home for him, and losing my 91-year-old grandma—all at once—has tested my strength and coping abilities. Very little of what has come our way has been in my control. I struggle with that.

Feeling sorry for myself and unempowered isn’t an option. And while I realize I can’t change the present circumstances, I know there’s always a way to make any situation better by doing something that you feel really good about. So after experiencing the mental after effect of giving a homeless man a $5 bill in downtown Lancaster last week, I felt inspired to tweet this the other day…

Tweet by Dawn Mentzer

Staying aware of moments when you can do something nice, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, really can help restore some hope, happiness, and control when you’re at a low point.

And there are plenty of opportunities to make someone else’s day a little brighter or easier; we just have to listen beyond the noise and look beyond the dark veil of our own misfortunes to hear and see them.

Whether with friends, family, clients, colleagues, or complete strangers, you can help turn days around—for them and for you—with…

Simple and immediately uplifting random acts of kindness.

1. Buy them a cup of coffee.
2. If they’re sitting alone, ask them to join you.
3. If they drop something, pick it up for them.
4. Open the door for them.
5. Give them a sincere compliment.
6. Offer to push their grocery cart back to the cart return area.
7. Tell them you appreciate them.
8. Tell them you’re proud of them.
9. Help them with a chore or task.
10. Ask if they need someone to talk to.
11. Tell them they’re good enough.
12. Forgive them.
13. Listen with your full attention.
14. Tell them you understand.
15. Tell them they’re not alone.
16. Send a funny e-card.
17. Call them to just say, “Hi.”
18. Smile at them.

According to an article in Tech Times, research indicates people who perform acts of kindness may help reduce their stress level and improve their outlook.

Put simply, doing a random act of kindness can turn your crappy day around. And that’s a win both personally and professionally—for relationships, productivity, and ability to deal with whatever comes your way.

I’d say that’s a worthy investment of just seconds or minutes each day, how about you?

Your turn! What random acts of kindness have you done lately?

Image of young girl with thumbs up is courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net





It’s A Leap Year! How Will You Get A Jump On The Possibilities?

You have an extra day coming your way soon: February 29. As you know, leap years only happen about every four years, so Happy jumping childdoesn’t it make sense to make the most of them?  Aren’t we always complaining about how we could use more time?

2016 is giving us what we’ve asked for. Now the responsibility is on us to either make the day matter or squander it.

Eight Ways You Can Make Your Extra Day During Leap Year Matter

  • Strengthen business relationships by scheduling time to meet face to face with a few local clients you haven’t seen in awhile.
  • Review your website and start updating content that’s no longer accurate.
  • If you’ve fallen behind in accepting invitations on LinkedIn, log in and catch up.
  • If you have a collection of business cards from networking events on your desk, send LinkedIn invitations to the professionals you want to stay in contact with. Then dispose of the cards so you’ll have more room to work!
  • Brainstorm topics for your blog.
  • Purge your email and computer files of messages and documents you no longer need.
  • File paperwork that has been piling up in your office.
  • Take some time off! You’ll be 60 days into the new year, which is plenty of time to start feeling overwhelmed and underinspired. The best use of your extra day could very well be some time away from your work!

Of course, what I consider a valuable use of my time may be different from what you’d deem time well spent. How will you spend your February 29?

Image courtesy of chrisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 





Ways To Make Every Day A Take Charge Tuesday

It feels great when you know you’ve got control of your day, doesn’t it? As a small business owner, steering the ship versus getting Take Charge Tuesdayconstantly caught up in rogue currents allows you to chart your course and accomplish more. What better day than today to start making a more conscious effort to be the boss of your business instead of letting it be the boss of you?

Here are some ways to take charge of your Tuesday—and every other day for that matter:

 

Plan! Schedule your work for clients, your administrative tasks, and anything else that you know will demand your time.

Sure, the unexpected will sometimes arise and interfere with your best-laid plans. But with a schedule to guide you, you’ll be less likely to veer too far off course. Bonus tip: Schedule some “wiggle room” into your day to accommodate unanticipated client needs, technical issues, etc.

Don’t let email rule you; rule it. 

Suppress the urge to constantly check your email. Consider limiting the frequency at which you open your inbox so it doesn’t disrupt your workflow. Rather than let it interrupt your productivity all day long, plan to check it 2 – 3 times per day, applying the advice in bullet point number one.

Don’t keep your smartphone in the same room while you’re working on projects or tasks.

If you’re not expecting an important phone call from a client, project partner, or vendor, keep it out of reach. Or at the very least, turn off notifications and the ringer or forward calls into voice mail so you won’t find yourself distracted by the constant rings, dings and buzzes. Of course, if your business is one that by nature needs to regularly deal with emergencies, this tip may not be a realistic option. But for most of us, our contacts will experience no hardship by needing to leave messages we can respond to later when we can give them our full attention.

Don’t accept projects or clients that aren’t a good fit.

Sometimes you’ll quickly realize an opportunity isn’t ideal because of the scope, volume, or type of work. Other times, you may need to go with your gut instinct. As a business owner, you need to respect and make the best use of your time, talent, and energy. Choose projects and clients carefully, selecting those that align with your aspirations and goals rather than those that will suck the life out of you.

Begin the day by deciding to do one thing differently.

No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, think about what you can change in your processes, systems, and habits to give you more control and make your day run more efficiently. The three previous bullet points might be a good place to start.

A few other ideas:

Delegate a task that would be better done by someone else.

Start using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to save time.

Unsubscribe to email newsletters that you never read.

Eat better.

Get enough sleep.

How will you take charge today?





You Owe This To Your Clients

When you’re a solopreneur, it’s all on you—managing all the administrative aspects of your business and serving your clients.Girl-pointing-at-you

 

That means you need to be as close as possible to the top of your game at all times.

 

The one sure-fire way not to get there is by neglecting your own well-being.

 

I know far too many small business professionals who do that. They eat junk, don’t exercise, and rarely get a good night’s sleep.

 

According to 2013 CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) data:

 

  • Nearly 30 percent of adults in the United States are obese.
  • Over 22 percent of adults eat less than one serving of vegetables daily.
  • Over 38 percent eat less than one serving of fruit each day.
  • Only 20 percent of U.S. adults meet aerobic and muscle strengthening guidelines.

 

Yep, a lot of people don’t take such good care of themselves. Are you one of them?

 

If so, realize it’s not only bad for you; it’s bad for your business, too. And it’s doing your clients a disservice.

 

Eat better to work better.

According to the World Health Organization, “Poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.”

 

Reduced productivity. That means if you’re eating crap all the time and billing your clients on an hourly basis, they’re probably getting shortchanged. And you’re likely hurting your business’s bottom line in the process because of not having the stamina to take on and accomplish more billable work.

 

Engage your body to engage your brain.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise improves cognitive function. Physical activity helps you think more effectively. That ability to focus more fully on your tasks can translate into delivering higher quality work more efficiently.

 

Make yourself a complete package.

This infographic by Hubspot shares some interesting statistics that show the strong link between nutrition, exercise, and job performance. A few to pay particular attention to include:

 

  • Workers who eat healthful foods all day are 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance.
  • Workers who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times per week are 20% more likely to be productive.
  • Workers who exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight are absent from work 27 percent less and perform their jobs 11 percent better than non-active, obese peers.

 

And don’t dis the importance of catching your Zs.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep daily. Yet a survey by the CDC found that almost three in ten adults (28 percent) average 6 hours or less of sleep each day.

 

Sleepiness can severely thwart our ability to do our best. It slows down our ability to think things through, it impairs memory, and it makes it more difficult to learn new things. And it tends to make most of us moody—certainly not an attractive or beneficial side effect when collaborating with clients.

 

Do right by yourself and your clients.

What you do or don’t do to take care of yourself is your business—but realize that your habits can have a profound impact on your business as well. You can’t give your clients your best work when you aren’t at your best.

 

Your turn! How do you keep yourself near the top of your game? What could you do differently to be there more often?

 

Like this post? Then you might want to check  out these, too:

Not Drinking Enough Water? Six Ways To Make It Less Wishy-Washy

 

What You And Only You Can Take Responsibility For

 

Why Your Desk Should Be A No Food Zone

 

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