Do this 5-step exercise today and enjoy your long weekend

Today I’m proposing that we all take about 30 minutes and set ourselves up for a refreshing, guilt-free long 4th of July weekend. (For our friends outside the United States, please join us, this 5-step exercise is good for everyone).

Let’s clear the decks.

Physical objects laying around the workspace, catching dust, inhibit your productivity.

Mental objects can be clutter too. Those un-captured ideas, multiple to-do lists, and procrastinated tasks all weigh you down.

1. Physical Space

Set a timer for 10 minutes. File and put away everything that’s on your physical workspace or desk. Then dust it. Here’s a great office organizing video that might help:

2. To Do Lists

Choose a single, centralized spot for all tasks, and consolidate to that list (I see your sticky note on the side of the laptop screen…get rid of that right now). Throw away the random scraps of paper, delete the multiple Notes in your iPhone, and put all of your outstanding tasks in a single place. It could be a legal pad, an Evernote notebook, or an application like TeuxDeux, but you can only choose one.

3. Email In-box

Go to the oldest 3 emails in your in-box and deal with them. If dealing with them means deleting them, then so be it. Go hard core. And if you’re inspired to really get control over your technological life, check out WorkHacks, the super-useful new resource from the “digital girl” herself, Julia Roy.

4. Phone

Now pick up your phone. Do you have any nagging voicemails messages? If you have any phone calls you need to return, return them right now. If it’s an unsolicited call you’ve been hanging on to for no reason, delete it.

5. Planning for Success

Are you coming back to work on July 6? Take 10 minutes and plan your productive day. Assign a few tasks so that you don’t have to spin your wheels when you return.

Now commit to yourself that you will use the long weekend to unplug, decompress, and breathe some fresh air.

Play, laugh, grill, and give your family the gift of your undivided attention.

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Is Your Office as Productive as It Should Be?

There are a number of ways to improve your office productivity this year and beyond.

Take an objective look at your office operations to see if you or your team are guilty of any of these time wasters.

Dissecting a Problem to Death

In any group of people, there are the talkers and there are the doers.

If you’re not careful, the talkers will suck the life out of the doers until the problem has been discussed, dissected, considered, disseminated and dried up. At some point, you need to have a course of action, and the first step is to stop talking about it.

Sometimes any action is better than no action at all.

If your team is unsure what to do to solve a problem, pick one proposed solution and implement it. Eventually, you’ll land on a solution that works, and in the meantime, you’ll all learn what doesn’t work.

Over-referencing

Some office managers love to create cross-referencing systems.

They’ll have employees keep a binder or Excel sheet of data, check off work that’s done on the project in five places, and create summary project binders for “dashboard” views.

If you have an office manager like that, he or she will have created a team of paper-pushers just for you. People will be so busy making check marks and flipping through binder tabs that no real work will actually get done.

Of course a checks-and-balance system makes sense. But invest in a software system designed to do all the backend heavy lifting for you.

Online dashboards can be customized for your business where your staff has only to enter data once and it can be viewed in a variety of different ways by team members both local and on the road.

Meeting Madness

Meeting madness is when you and your staff attend so many meetings there’s nary a minute left in the work day to actually get to any of the work that was delegated during the meeting. If your 8-hour days are spent more in the meeting room than at your desk, you may be a victim of meeting madness.

It doesn’t take a 45-minute meeting to announce that you have a new client and discuss their needs.

Instead, use email, memos and company newsletters to get any information across that doesn’t actually require feedback from employees. If you’re just announcing something, or giving out general instructions to a team, skip the meeting.

As the following article looks at, here are 6 ways to take your office productivity into the next generation:

File Disorganization

Remember the old days when your office used filing cabinets and if an employee removed a file they had to leave a sign-out sheet in its place? Of course, everyone forgot to leave the sigh-out sheet at least once, leaving the next person wondering where in the office the file was.

File disorganization still happens today.

Even if your company is on a network, misnamed and misplaced electronic files on the “system” make it difficult for staff members to get work done.

Move on up to the cloud.

With a third-party cloud-based system, multiple employees can work on the same file at the same time.

Everyone can have their own log in and username authentication, and employees won’t be stepping on each other’s virtual toes.

These are easy changes to implement in any office to enhance productivity.

About the Author: Kate Supino writes extensively about best business practices.

8 Apps That Help You Run Your Business Like a Boss

We live in an amazing time for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Tools and software that were once only accessible to huge corporations are now free (or very inexpensive) via the web. No IT department needed.

Here is my latest list of applications that can help a consultant or small team act like ‘the big boys.’

  • Time tracking for teams – Toggl

    (https://www.toggl.com/features)

    One-click time tracking for projects, with ability to mark billable hours, save data when offline, and share time reports. Free with Pro option for extra features.

  • Personal booking page – Meetme

    (http://www.scheduleonce.com/meetme.aspx)

    Simple online appointment setting. Offers multiple meeting times, locations, and time slots, with ability to delegate appointment management to an assistant.

  • Group chat, file sharing – Hipchat

    (https://www.hipchat.com)

    Collaborate with your team no matter where they are. Create separate rooms for separate groups of colleagues, share images or files, and create on-the-fly video chats.

  • Sales & CRM – Pipedrive

    (http://app.pipedrive.com)

    Visually track your contacts from initial inquiry through paying customer. Graphic pipeline visualization, reporting, reminders, and email integration makes it easy to keep the deals flowing and keep track of next steps.

  • Documentation – Genius Scan

    (http://thegrizzlylabs.com/)

    The easiest way to scan documents, receipts, etc., into your phone and then share them. Pull together a stack of pages into a PDF for emailing in a matter of seconds.

  • Tutorials, Instructions – ShowHows

    (http://www.showho.ws/)

    Still in private beta, but worth checking out. It’s an easy way to make step-by-step instructions that are beautifully designed and shareable. Include images, screenshots, and text, and then grab the embed code to share it on your website.

  • Demos and Screensharing – Zoom & Join.me

    (http://www.zoom.us and http://join.me)

    Instantly set up remote meetings, share your screen, and give a presentation, with audio and/or video. Add notations, record the meeting, and chat with other participants.

And here’s a fun bonus app, in case you find yourself in an environment that’s too quiet:

Coffee shop noises – https://coffitivity.com/

What are your favorite new apps for small business productivity?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the Hoop.la community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

 

SMART Goals – Or Better Yet Smart-ER Goals!

By Deb Bixler

When experienced business professionals tell you that you need to make SMART goals, they are referring to more than just using your intelligence to guide your planning.

The SMART goal concept for developing and achieving goals has been around for a while and it has been used by business professionals to grow their businesses and find success.

smarter goals
  • S (Specific)

The ““S” stands for creating specific goals that you can reach for.

Too many people say that their business goal is to ““make a lot of money”,” or “‘hold more direct selling parties”‘ or something equally as generic. A specific goal would be to grow sales in a particular product line by 10 percent or to date 12 shows per month and actually hold 10 after cancellations.

With that kind of specific goal, you can then create a plan of attack.

  • M (Measurable)

If you cannot measure your goals, then you have no way of knowing whether or not you are on the way to achieving them. You may have to get creative to be able to measure some of your goals, but specific goals can always be measured in some way.

  • A (Attainable)

Business goals need to be attainable to be practical. If you set goals that you know you cannot achieve just to try and motivate yourself, then you miss the point of business planning. You can make your goals aggressive, just be sure that you can attain your goals with hard work.

  • R (Relevant)

Entrepreneurs can sometimes allow personal feelings to get in the way of setting business goals. If you set a goal to “crush your biggest competitor”,then that is not really relevant to your business. Keep your goals focused on growing your business and the things you need to do to make achieving those goals a reality.

  • T (Timely)

In business, timing is everything. Your business planning needs to keep up with current trends and keep your company ahead of the competition. If you are basing your business goals on trends that have already passed, then you are putting yourself in a hole.

Smart-ER Goals Work Best

Now take it a step further and make them SMART-ER goals!

  • E (Evaluate)

Part of the reason that your business goals need to be measurable is because you have to be able to set milestones that you can use to evaluate your progress. The process of evaluating your plan and making necessary changes is critical to its success.

  • R (Re-evaluate)

When the plan has been completed, you need to re-evaluate what happened and pull as many lessons as possible from the results. There is no such thing as over-evaluating the results of a business plan.

Setting goals is the way that successful entrepreneurs find success.

When you use the SMARTER method for planning, you will be able to take your business where you want it to be.

Deb Bixler specializes teaching party plan consultants systems for business success. Visit her website, www.CreateACashFlowShow.com to learn how to create systems for your business.

Do Your Employees Successfully Communicate?

As an employer, what do you look at as some of your greatest challenges?

Many will point to keeping their revenue in the black or at least break-even all the time. Meantime, others will note the difficulties of retaining some of their top employees, employees who may decide the pasture is greener in another job. Still others will single out the task of keeping customers happy.

No matter what you find to be your greatest challenge running a company, having employees who can properly communicate amongst themselves and with customers is oftentimes more difficult than it should be.

For one reason or another, communications break down.

When that happens, customers can be left holding, meaning some of them will choose not to remain with you and go elsewhere.

Review Communication Procedures Regularly

So that you can avoid issues concerning employee communication, put aside these reminders:

  1. Technology – First and foremost, do you have the right technology in place for your employees to succeed with? Simply having a few phones, computers, a fax machine or two and a printer here and there in the office are not enough. You should do a technology review of your office at least a couple of times a year, checking to see that you have all your needs being met. If you have a busy call center, make sure your employees are staffed with the right technology so they can deal with customers quickly and efficiently, not leaving them on hold for extended periods of time or dropping calls routinely;
  2. Usage – Even if you have the latest in technology, is it being put to proper use? Start by looking at your office phone system. Whether you work on the West Coast, East Coast, Midwest or in the Sunshine State and have Florida home phone or another such setup in your office or home office (for those who telecommute or run companies out of their residences), make sure you and your employees are getting your money’s worth. The same holds true if you have office cell phones, especially for employees who are on the road conducting sales, meeting with clients, attending trade shows etc. The phones should have necessities such as texting, the ability to take photos, folders for holding important dates such as meetings and more;
  3. Pricing – If you are a savvy business owner, you undoubtedly are good at budgeting and saving money for a rainy day. Check the pricing plans for your phone and Internet connections, making sure you are clearly getting the best deal possible. In many cases, you can get a bundled deal, meaning your phone and Internet needs are all tied up in one, coming at a discounted rate. Also track the amount of time you and your employees spend on the phone with customer service matters versus email. Many companies have gotten away from the one-on-one phone conversation as the primary source to interact with customers, instead opting for emails and SMS text messaging.

No matter what technology devices your company uses, it is a good idea to make sure you have the best devices around, not to mention the best employees to use them.

Sound communication with your customers is not an option; it is a necessity that should never be overlooked.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About the Author: Dave Thomas writes for a variety of websites on topics such as social media and marketing.

What barriers are you using to block success?

Sometimes, we don’t even know we’re stuck.

We go about our days, leveraging and win-winning, shuttling kids back and forth to school and soccer, lulled into a hamster wheel we can’t see. Only the vaguest notion of being in the wrong place filters to the surface of our consciousness on occasion. Are we blocking our own success?

In a previous blogposts, I’ve talked about what inspires my writing ~ who (or what) serves as The Muse. Sometimes, it’s a quote; sometimes it’s my children; other times, it’s people who populate my social networks and in the case of this post, my inspiration came in the form of the tweet below:

“Freedom is an inner (as well as a physical) state of being.” ~ @RabbiShaiSpecht

So many people focus on freedom as being an external factor: the ability to earn a lot of money; the latitude to travel or the ability to pursue a particular career. While there are those who appear to have achieved a level of success any or all of those categories, true freedom actually starts within before it is fully manifested externally.

It is from within that we release our fears, our prejudices and our internal beliefs that form our barriers to success and independence. Once we are able to identify our specific barriers, then we have the opportunity to transcend and overcome them.

“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery. We have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” ~ Dalai Lama

For most, the fear of failure is the biggest barrier to reaching independence. We may be afraid that we won’t succeed in achieving our goals and so we never try. Closely related, paradoxically, is fear of success. For many, it’s almost worse to succeed. For it’s when we succeed that people count on us. Expectations are created. We fear that we cannot sustain a certain level of success and so we prefer not to risk the effort to succeed.

In terms of prejudices, some cling to thoughts like “rich people are snobs.” Demonizing people who have what we secretly fear to achieve is a derivation on the Aesop’s fable of the fox and the sour grapes. We deride what we cannot achieve (or perceive that we are unable of achieving), and thereby block it from entering our lives.

Attachments come in the form of relationships (either ones we wish to have or ones we wish we could escape). Attachments also manifest as a preferred outcome to any given situation. What’s helpful to realize through all of this is that fear forms the root of all assaults against independence. Fear manifests as anger, a wish to control, suspicion and all other sorts of emotions that restrict our freedom.

A good way to determine what your particular fear centers are and how they rank in order of severity is to list your goals in the affirmative and see which ones really rankle you. For example, take out a sheet of paper and write out positive statements as if you had already achieved them:

  1. “I enjoy my job.”
  2. “What I do makes a difference.”
  3. “I make enough money to satisfy my desires.”

Take note of your gut reaction to these (and other, similar) statements. When you hear your inner voice say, “Yeah, right!” in response, that’s a hint, indicating barriers to those particular gaps in your journey to independence.

Keep this list handy. Jot down feelings that come up when you say any of these statements. Then ask yourself why you feel them. Ask as many “whys” as it takes to reach the base emotion. Do you already notice a barrier that you’ve seen represented in your life? How did you overcome it?

——-

Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive)

Four steps to your best day ever



“Make 2015 your best year ever!”

All of the confetti has landed on the ground. January is in the rear view mirror, and if you aren’t paying attention, the first week of February is almost done.

confetti on the ground


Did you have big planning sessions the week before New Years? Did you set up your new calendar, your new systems, new routines?

Many of us do that, and by the first week of February, some of it has begun to crumble already.

But let’s not sit around being depressed. Let’s switch our thinking up a bit.

What if we applied the “best year ever” thought process to a single day?

What if we decided to wake up tomorrow and focus on making it a success?

Here are some typical planning steps for an “annual planning” session:

  1. Set aside time to dream and visualize.
  2. Decide what you intend to do and why you intend to do it.
  3. Break the goal down into manageable steps with a timeframe.
  4. Take action immediately.

That looks a lot like a perfect day, doesn’t it? Let’s re-frame:

  1. Use your first 30 minutes to visualize the day and let creative juices flow, without external interruption.
  2. Decide what you intend to accomplish that day, and think about why you intend to do it.
  3. Choose which steps you want to advance on that day, and schedule them in.
  4. Take action immediately.

It’s still necessary to do the annual and quarterly planning. However, those longer-term plans are much more likely to happen if you get in the habit of a daily refocus.

Don’t forget to include all aspects of your day in the plan.

When you set your intentions for the day, you should incorporate your afternoon run, your manicure, your visit with a sick friend alongside the business luncheon, the copywriting, and the pitch meeting.

How do you make sure that your days are moving you toward a successful year?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee



Photo Credit: AndrewButl3r via Compfight cc

How to prioritize when everything is a priority

It’s the nature of the beast: deadlines, exploding printers, clients’ demands (and schedules) all get thrown into one big hopper, scattering our focus. Our jobs as the boss (even if/especially if we are our own boss) each day: sift it, rank it and fix it.

We serve as counselor, creative idea generator, executor and priority-setter. Chief cook and bottle washer. Janitor. Oh, and it was needed yesterday.

With our own identities conspiring against us and technology morphing faster than you can say gigabyte, focus becomes even more of a premium skill in today’s world. The topic of focus has crossed my laptop, handheld and hootsuite about seven times in various guises this week alone, soit’ss my best guess that others out there are wrestling with the same issue: How do you prioritize when everything’s a priority?

Wired‘s Nicolas Carr asks if the internet is literally changing our brains. The New York Times has an online test to see how well you can focus: have you taken it? Pretty wild. For those keeping score at home, I tested out at 92% and 100%, respectively.What’s a bit scary (at least for me) is that the more distractions there were, the higher my concentration level became. Perhaps I was destined to be an air traffic controller?

To make matters worse, folks who gravitate to entrepreneurism tend to be highly enamored of shiny objects and are loathe to miss The Next Best Thing.

I had a point somewhere.

Oh. Yes. Focus. How do you prioritize when everything’s a priority?

Be quiet. Find somewhere where you can shut out all distractions and breathe for a couple minutes. When I was in radio, I used to get in the booth, shut the door, flip the ON AIR switch and zone out for 15 minutes. Ask yourself “what’s important today?”

Apply a triage lens to Your List:What’s bleeding? What can wait? Record it in whichever way works for you: Outlook task list, pen and paper, tickler file. Then follow up accordingly.

Set up the pins and knock ‘em down. One. At. A. Time. Multitasking does not work.

Honor your system. Establish the foundational structure (of your business plan, of your social media presence et al). Then honor it. Make it a habit to honor your system and you’ll discover a paradox: structure provides fluidity.

RELAX. Hold your shorts on, man. Unless you’re MacGyver, the fate of the free world does not rest in your hands. Besides, tense people can’t flex. Bring your breath to center and recalibrate when you feel as though you are going in circles.

Celebrate your victories, no matter how small. Success begets success.

You can do this. What do you think? What works best for you when you need to focus?

———-

Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” them on facebook.

How to survive the gauntlet

What happens when everything is working? How do you respond when the solutions are coming fast and furious? After months or years of “famine,” how do you deal with an abundance of resources and opportunities?

1. Oxygen
2. Silence
3. Insight
4. Action

First of all, catch your breath. Every cell in your body (including the grey ones in your skull) operate more efficiently when fully oxygenated. Literally breath deeply and let it out, focusing on releasing panic as you exhale.

Once your brain has a fresh supply of Thinking Fuel, sit down and be quiet.

If you’ve been practicing some form of meditation during the “famine” part of your entrepreneurial journey, this should be your default training mechanism. Think Mr. Miyagi and “Wax On; Wax Off.” While Danny spent countless afternoons waxing cars and painting fences, he was actually creating muscle memory. When he needed to transfer those skills to “Show me ‘wax on; wax off,’ he could perform flawlessly without thinking.

So be quiet, focus on your goal and which opportunities that are currently flooding your space. Ask yourself which ones align best? Where does your gut gravitate? Are there aspects of the abundance that make sense more than others?

Take a moment and physically write out your thoughts. There’s a different synaptic process when writing in longhand ~ your memory and brain are activated in different ways, so WRITE IT DOWN WITH PEN AND PAPER (or pencil; your choice).

Once you have determined a course of action, get off the dime. Start to implement. Follow through on your hunches. Keep breathing.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor. :)

——————–

Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation).

When to listen to your critics

Earlier blog posts have emphasized the need to learn how to filter out the voices of critics. While it’s true that those who can only criticize are seldom of any practical help when building anything, especially something new, there are times when it pays to listen to those with a different point of view than your own.

It’s also important to make sure that before listening to your critics that you are crystal clear about your goal, in terms of what solution you/your product brings. Having a vision of the ideal resolution is important, because it serves as your ballast and reference point.

What needs to remain flexible is the means through which your goal is achieved. Keep an open mind about what shape the tools and variables will be along the way.

It’s exceedingly important to stay positive and to keep a “possibility mindset.” But if you create an artificial Rah Rah Cone of Cheerfulness around you at all times, you will be blindsided by something. I don’t know what it will be, but limiting your input channels is a dangerous gambit.

So. When it is advisable to listen to criticism?

1. When the person talking with you is speaking from a position of authentic love. Quick benchmark: love is expansive; fear/hate is regressive.

2. When your critic has successfully navigated the situation about which they are talking. That’s why hikers hire sherpas. If a sherpa says to me, “Don’t step there; you’ll fall off a cliff,” I’d be foolish to ignore her counsel.

3. When they bring solutions with their criticism. Complainers and Professional Critics never build; they only tear down others’ efforts. The critic who comes to you with options wants your greatest good. Pay heed.

True leaders never surround themselves with “yes men” and sycophants. They welcome contrast and differing points of view. Healthy criticism is a vital part of “pruning” your idea so that you can be sure that it can withstand the market.

When have you benefitted from the counsel of a “critic?” How did it impact your business?

——————–

Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation).