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

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Your Desk Should Be A “No Food Zone”

Believe me, I’m not getting all self-righteous here. I’ve eaten at my desk on countless occasions. That’s precisely why I feel qualified to write this post.No-food-allowed

 

Call it a New Year’s resolution or whatever, but I’ve recently adopted the rule of no food (coffee and water are still fair game) at my desk. I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and maximize my productivity. The “no food zone” strategy will (hopefully) help me optimize my time in front of my Macbook.

Are you an at-your-desk diner?

Here are five very good reasons not to eat at your desk:

You deserve—and need—a break.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Pomodoro Technique or similar approaches to working. They advocate breaking the time you work into a series of short intervals intermixed with short rest periods. That M.O. has been proven to improve mental acuity and help you stay more fully focused on your tasks.

When you’re eating at your desk, you can call it “working through” all you want, but chances are you’re not focused on your work enough to accomplish much of anything. Instead, schedule work sessions and break periods for yourself. Then work during your work sessions and eat (away from your desk) during break periods.

It can make you sick.

I found several articles (including this one by Huffington Post and this one by the Advisory Board Company) that reference research indicating your desk may harbor 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Gross, right? You wouldn’t eat on your toilet (I sure hope not anyway), so don’t make your desk your dinner table either.

It can expand your waistline.

According to the Daily News, a British survey revealed that one-third of people who ate at their desks consumed more than 1,200 calories during a typical workday. My understanding is that included lunch and snacks; add breakfast and dinner to the equation and the calories really escalate. And eating at your desk can make you less attentive to the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating. You might be more inclined to grab a bag of chips rather than veggies and a good protein source.

It can feed the procrastination monster.

Eating at your desk diverts your attention from what you should be concentrating on when working. It can become an enabler to procrastination, a way to steer clear of the task at hand when you don’t really feel like tackling it. Oh, but that task won’t magically disappear like that bag of microwave popcorn you chowed down on at 2:15 p.m. You’ll be stuck sitting at your desk longer because you didn’t stay focused. Eating at your desk is essentially multitasking. And, according to a Stanford University study, multitasking makes people less—not more—productive.

It’s messy.

Crumbs. Dripping condiments. Sticky fingers. Ick. Need I say more?

 

Final Thoughts

I’m not suggesting that you don’t eat during your workday. Goodness no! But why not eat somewhere else? Your kitchen or dining room (if you’re a work-at-home type like me), your office’s lunchroom, a picnic table, a friend’s house, or a restaurant are viable options. By taking your dining activities away from your desk, you just might find yourself more productive—and you might enjoy your food a good bit more, too.

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Another Insatiable Solopreneur Post

 

Looking for blog writing or editing help? Let’s talk!

Image courtesy of  Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Take Action Against Distraction in Your Small Business in 2014

“Bounce rate.” If you’ve got a website, you know less is best when talking about that particular metric. But the bounce Multi-tasking womanrate of your site isn’t the only bounce-related thing that can spell trouble for your business.

As soloprenrenurs and small biz owners, we take on every aspect of our businesses, so it’s easy to become unfocused and “bounce” from one uncompleted task to another, then back to the first one, and then move on to something else before bouncing back to the original task. That zaps productivity. And problems with productivity can quickly manifest themselves as an inability to fit in enough billable hours. And not enough billable hours means less revenue than you may have been banking on. Ouch! Bouncing can be painful!

But you already know that and saying it out loud doesn’t change the fact that you’re faced with needing to tend to not only the work you do for clients, but also to the day-to-day administrative responsibilities that come with the territory. So we multi-task, trying to get more done in less time. Unfortunately, while trying to take care of as many things as possible in a single bound sounds great in theory, in reality we’re only human and therefore incapable of doing it well.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article by Jonha Revesencio about multi-tasking and how digital stress affects the human brain.  According to the infographic within her post, some neuroscientists believe online multi-tasking (particularly email) can put our brains into overload and trigger a “fight or flight” reaction that causes us to lose focus and always aim for tackling what we perceive as immediate opportunities and threats.

And this post by Rachel Blom about interruptions from social media shares that parallel tasks (tasks done simultaneously) take us 30% more time to complete than if we’d do them independently (one after the other).

Multi-tasking might also do some damage to your gray matter, according to this article and infographic on Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News. A mere two percent of people can multi-task successfully, while the other 98 percent of us could lower our IQs by letting email, phone calls, and social media interrupt our work. Another astounding stat from that article: on average, people who use computers for work are interrupted every 10.5 minutes throughout the day.

Yikes!

So how can you get it together, get things done, and resist the urge to do everything at once. Take action to resist distractions!

Here are a few defense maneuvers to help you resist multi-tasking your days away…

  • Schedule time on your calendar daily for all tasks and responsibilities.

    By dedicating specific windows of time for email, social media, client work, accounting, etc., you won’t feel as impelled to bounce aimlessly from one to another.

  • Close your email and social media tabs on your computer when you’re supposed to be working on something else.

    Make them out of sight, out of mind. You’ll find they won’t lure you away nearly as easily from the task at hand if you don’t have them front and center.

  • Put your smart phone out of reach.

    Even a 1-minute phone call can throw you off course when it unexpectedly interrupts your work on a project. Plus, you might be tempted to check your incoming emails, texts, and social media interactions if you hear the notifications ding and your phone is within arm’s length. Better to put it across the room – or in another room – until you’re free to attend to it

  • Schedule some “wiggle room” into your day.

    While you might not always find it possible, try to block out a half hour once or twice each day for the unexpected. That way you won’t get completely behind on your work if you need to field an impromptu call from a prospect or discover a task is taking you a little more time than you anticipated. You can find more on my “wiggle room” suggestion in one of my earlier Insatiable Solopreneur posts this year.

When I stick to the plan above, I find I feel less stressed, feel more in control, and think more clearly. Most importantly, I get more done and have far less apprehension about what’s on my “to do” list, because I know I’ve got a plan in place to accomplish my outstanding projects and tasks. If you’ve found bouncing is sabotaging your productivity and not leaving you the time you need for focusing on billable work, it’s time to break the multi-tasking cycle. Take action against distraction and discover the difference it will make for your business in 2014.

 

Your turn! What tips and tricks do you use to avoid bouncing through your day?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

 

Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Sick” and “Solopreneur” Don’t Mix: Tips for Working Smart During Cold and Flu Season

Despite our best efforts to take care of ourselves and stay healthy, germs sometimes get their way. Tis the season for Woman not feeling wellcolds and the flu, ailments solopreneurs don’t have time for. Getting hit with “a bug” does more than just make you feel lousy, it could also…

  • knock  your productivity down a few notches.
  • keep you from attending meetings and networking events (and if you do attend you won’t be putting your best foot forward).
  • make the quality of your work suffer temporarily.
  • put you behind schedule and hinder you from reaching your short-term revenue goals.

I feel a little ill just thinking about all that!

Nobody likes the thought of getting sick, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some proactive measures to prepare for the worst. While most clients will understand and be sensitive to your predicament, you’ll need to find a way to fulfill your commitments to them in a timely way.

Tips for Staying on Track when You’re Sick:

  • Don’t overload your project schedule.
    Especially during cold and flu season, give yourself some wiggle room. Purposefully schedule windows of open time so if you get behind, you’ll have time slots available to do catch up work. Even one or two half-hour windows each day can help save you from a major backlog.
  • Do your “no brainer” tasks when you’re down for the count.
    Although you might not feel up to creative work or heavy-duty number crunching, try to accomplish some essential, but rather mindless must dos while you’re waiting for your mojo to return. Log your business mileage, organize receipts, update your website portfolio…whatever you can do effectively in your under-the-weather condition.

Of course, the very best way to keep up with your business responsibilities is to take care of yourself so you’re better able to fight off whatever viruses make the rounds this season. You know how it’s done! Get enough sleep each night, eat the right stuff, take your vitamins, drink a lot of water, exercise, wash your hands often…I know, “blah, blah, blah.” But it’s important. As a solopreneur, your business depends on you. So, put some thought into how you’ll manage your work if you get hit by the cold and flu bus, but better still, do what you can to not get run over in the first place!

How do you keep from falling behind on your work when you’re feeling under the weather? 

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Ways to Nip Nagging Tasks in the Bud

When you’re a solopreneur, you’ve pretty much got to do it all – or at least see that everything gets done one way or another. That means prioritizing projects and tasks. Most of us make sure the revenue-generating activities come first followed by “lesser” responsibilities. But sometimes left undone,  the non-revenue producing, tedious but essential tasks can nag at you – making you less productive on the assignments that are bringing home the bacon. That’s when they deserve more attention than you’ve been giving them. While they might not be as mission critical at face value, they become ever so significant when they become a distraction. If you find they’re minimizing your productivity or detract from your creativity, it’s time to approach them differently than you are now.

Nip nagging business tasks in the bud!

There are a couple of ways to do that…

Put them on a “to do” list
It works for some people. Simply get them off  your mind by putting them on paper, into a spreadsheet, or into a tool like Evernote until you can get to them.

Schedule them on your calendar
Reserve time for each tedious task (no matter how small it might be) on your calendar where you have open slots between your “meat and potatoes” projects. By putting them into your master plan, they won’t hang over your head.

Take weekend morning, afternoon, or evening to get ’em done
Bam! Take the time you need in one fell swoop to swipe them off your slate. If the tasks are relatively mindless, you might even half-watch a movie or a few TV sitcoms while you’re taking care of business. That way it won’t seem quite so much like work.

So what are some of those no fun, but need to be done tasks that might need inclusion in one of those approaches?

  • Logging vehicle mileage
  • Entering receipts into QuickBooks (or whatever you use for keeping accounting records)
  • Generating invoices or logging payments from clients
  • Cleaning up/organizing your social media contacts (ie. putting Twitter followers into lists, putting Google+ contacts into appropriate circles, unfollowing contacts who don’t provide valuable content and who otherwise it makes no sense for you to keep on the radar, etc.)
  • Accepting Linkedin invitations
  • Deleting Spam from your Twitter Direct Messages
  • Deleting unneeded files from your computer
  • Deleting email messages that you’ll no longer need
  • Deduping contacts in your Smartphone

All of them and more can interfere with your powers of concentration and taunt you if left incomplete. So, take action and put them in their place so you can give the important stuff your full attention.

How do you keep nagging tasks from sabotaging your productivity?

By Dawn Mentzer

 

You’re Not Perfect! Get Over It and Get Things Done!

I expect a lot of myself. I admit it. I’m a perfectionist. Perfect person

The problem is I’m not perfect. Not even close.

Many of the other solopreneurs I know hold very high standards for themselves, too. And while it’s good to always strive to do your best, there’s a downside if you’re too focused on never erring. Fear of stumbling can put you in a state of inertia. Fear of trial and error can halt you from gaining new clients and expanding your business potential.

I think most solopreneurs know that holding back can hold them back, but sometimes a little reinforcement is in order. I’m not the only blogger to address the topic of perfectionism in business. If you’re a perfectionist and find that it’s cramping your entrepreneurial style, check out these interesting reads on the topic…

Why Perfectionism and Business Don’t Mix by Dawn Barclay via Living Moxie – Includes some great tips for saving your sanity!

How Perfectionism Ruins Businesses and Startups by Wayne Harrel – Serves to remind us to not get fixated on any one thing. Move onward and get past what’s less than perfect when building your business.

Does this Business Make Me Look Fat? (Or, How to Silence That Voice in Your Head) by Tea (The Chef) Silvestre via The Word Chef – A humorous approach to helping you figure out if you’re your own worst enemy – and some great practical tips for overcoming your perfectionist ways.

So now, as I – in true perfectionist fashion – stress over things like…Did I miss any spelling or punctuation mistakes? Will anyone be interested in this topic? Is my title engaging enough? Will readers relate to this?…I hope you’ll find some takeaways in this post that help you overcome the perfectionist tendencies that are stopping you from achieving.

How has perfectionism slowed you down in your business? What ways do you counter that inner voice that constantly doubts your abilities? I welcome your comments!

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Top Solopreneur “Time Wasters” That Might Be Putting the Stops on Your Productivity

If there’s anything that can make or break a solopreneur’s ability to accomplish everything that goes along withTime is money running a solo business, it’s self-discipline.

If you’re focused on what you need to do and militant about keeping on top of tasks, following up, and staying organized, you’ll get a lot done.

If you’re easily distracted and let your time and attention meander to things that won’t move you closer to your deliverables and goals, you’re probably spinning your wheels most of the time.

According to Kevin Doel, who reached out to me on behalf of OfficeTime, there’s no shortage of time wasting activities that stand between freelancers (and other solopreneurs) and an otherwise productive workday.

This year, OfficeTime surveyed business owners, freelancers and other working professionals to find out what self-initiated time killers thwart their productivity.

Nearly 400 freelancers/solopreneurs participated. When asked which time-wasting activities they partake in for more than 1 hour each day…

  • 53% said email.
  • 47% said surfing the internet.
  • 42% said watching TV.
  • 33% said procrastination (technically, a “non-activity” activity).
  • 24% said non-business related conversations.

I’m assuming, but not sure, that the respondents were considering non-work-related email and net surfing as the time wasters. I know I – as do many freelancers – need to do a fair share of professionally necessary emailing and internet searching.

The watching TV percentage floored me – again, assuming that the respondents meant TV watching during their workday.

Some other interesting statistics from the OfficeTime survey:

  • 63% of solopreneurs believe they don’t waste more time now than they did when they worked for someone else.
  • 77% say they waste time because of feeling stressed. Nearly the same amount reported “feeling inspired” by wasting time and that “other activities are more fun than real work.”
  • 82% track time because it enables them to invoice more accurately.
  • 43% find Tuesday to be their most productive day.
  • 47% say Friday is their least productive day.

Interesting! So how can all this help you as a solopreneur?

Because we’re solely responsible for the success of our businesses, we need to make our days as productive as possible. That means thinking about how we spend our time and making changes if we find patterns that are sabotaging our efforts to succeed.

We ALL waste time sometimes. Doing it a little bit is OK, but doing it a lot is solopreneurial suicide.

Are time wasters coming between you and your professional potential?

My thanks to Kevin Doel and OfficeTime for allowing me to share their survey results. If you want to get a better understanding of where your time is spent each day, you might consider a time tracking tool like OfficeTime.

 

Image courtesy of CoolDesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

File Naming Smarts: 1 Thing You Can Do To Make Your Life Easier and More Organized

As a solopreneur, I’ve found that being organized is a prerequisite to being productive. If you don’t have your act ID-10014394together, it’s tough to get much accomplished. That’s especially true with regard to handling documents and spreadsheets related to the projects you’re working on.

Saving stuff to aptly-named folders and backing up documents in Dropbox, Evernote, Basecamp, Google Drive, Carbonite, and elsewhere in the cloud or on a separate hard drive is a major step in the right direction. But I’ve discovered that how you name your files can do even more to put your entire work world in order.

Take it or leave it, I thought I’d share what I’ve found an effective approach to naming files so I can easily find them on my computer if perchance (gasp) I fail to put them in the right folder or otherwise lose track of them.

Whenever I create a new Word document, Excel sheet, Powerpoint, etc. related to  projects I’m involved with, I use a standard order for naming them which includes:

Client Name – Project Name – Document Title – Date

And if I’m working for a Marketing firm on a project for one of their clients, I use:

My Client’s Name – Their Client’s Name – Project Name – Document Title – Date

And if I’m working on a file that has been revised, I use:

Client Name – Project Name – Document Title[# of revision] – Date

Of course, you can put your own spin on this to tailor it to your particular situation, but you get the idea.

I didn’t always approach my file names this way, but as my client base and volume of projects has grown I’ve needed to put more thought into optimizing my internal solopreneurial systems and processes to promote better productivity. I realize that naming files seems like a rather insignificant mundane task, but having a “standard” in place has helped a bunch.

Now, if I need to search for my files, I’m not stressing over, “What on earth did I name that file???” I can retrieve without undue brain strain.  And it just plain makes me feel more together overall. Silly perhaps, but it’s true.

How about you? I’d love to hear about any simple, easy to implement organization and productivity tricks that you’ve discovered or developed along the way!

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Taking a Break Without Breaking Business Momentum – Tips for Making the Best Use of Time on a Road Trip

Thrilled about taking a holiday break, but stressed at the thought of projects falling behind and work piling up? If you’ll On the roadbe one of the many small biz pros on the road (literally) to an extended weekend over Easter, relax! There are ways to get away from it all and manage to stay on top of things.

Consider these ideas for taking care of business without officially punching the clock while you’re road-tripping it…

  • Take note – Traveling gives you uninterrupted time to think about things and brainstorm – take full advantage of it! Bring a notebook to capture ideas. If you’ll be behind the wheel; ask someone else to take notes for you.
  • Load up on apps – Before you leave for your journey, make sure your smart phone has got essential apps loaded and ready for action. A few I wouldn’t leave home without: WordPress, LinkedIn, Evernote, Facebook Pages Manager, Google+, Twitter, Hootsuite. If you haven’t use any of them recently, do a quick check to confirm that they’re not asking for updated usernames or passwords…things that you probably won’t have on hand after you leave your local environs.
  • Read up! – I’m guessing you’ve got a list of “do business better” books that have caught your attention, but that you haven’t found time to consume. During a road trip, take advantage of your status of captive audience and read (or listen to in e-book form) one from your hit list.

Remember, the point isn’t to work a lot while you’re taking time away – but keeping up with a few little tasks and taking care of some to dos can help make your return to business as usual a much more smooth  and less-harrowing transition.

Enjoy your weekend! And I welcome your thoughts on ways to make productive use of road trips!

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net