Category Archives: Productivity Tips

Organizing an Effective Home Office: Insights of Trial and Error

For starters, my ideal – which is to “keep it simple,” may apply here more than anywhere else. Your choice to operate out of a “home office” is somewhat a major life decision. Your work space (whether it’s a private office or a corner in your living room) must be an area conducive to mental and physical comfort, or you’ll find that “work stress” can easily become “life stress”. This is counter-productive and totally the opposite of why you chose a home-based business in the first place, right?

That said, your home office space may not be “spa retreat-ish” but you should have a comfortable and supportive chair, a flat workspace for your needs, good lighting, and system to keep it and the rest of your space organized.

Here is what works for me:

DESK:

I have a simple desk. On it I have my computer, my phone, small set of family (motivational) photos, and a modest-sized “catch all” that has a few compartments for pens, highlights, emery boards, chapstick (…yes, just the essentials) and a calculator. Right next to my desk I have an all-in-one printer that sits on top of a double drawer rolling filing cabinet. In the cabinet I keep the files and supplies that I use on a semi-regular basis, such as, printer ink, my stationery/folders, current client resources, a file for my receipts, all personal correspondence, paper, folders, etc.

RECEIPTS:

Now for the receipts’ file. I keep it monthly. At the beginning of the month, I simply replace the file with the new month’s file. That way, at tax time, I don’t have to go through a whole year’s receipts and divide it up. It’s already separated.

MAIL:

My method probably won’t work for all, but this is what I do: I leave it where it is. My local postal carrier is likely not a big fan of this method, but again…it’s what I do. My home office has the luxury of an outdoor, locked mailbox. Mail goes in and stays there until I am ready to retrieve it…. and “process” it. The same is true for my business mailing address. I have a PO Box that holds my mail until I am ready for it. Because most of my personal and professional business is handled electronically, I don’t worry much about missing something that is time-sensitive. Even paper invitations tend to be preceded by a text or evite. The point is to “control” what you can and the rate and time at which (junk) mail enters your organized space – is totally up to you. When you do check your mail, sit with it, sort it based on recipient and /or required follow-up action, shred it, and move on.  (Similar advice applies to your Email inbox, but we’ll cover that later.)

“DAYTIMER”:

Yes, a handheld NOTEBOOK (not an e-device). Your “Daytimer” can have a space for all your business cards, appointment cards, and go a long way to help you stay organized – if you use it. Here is one that is part of a complete organizing/goal-management system. I found it somewhat randomly online, but I’ve used mine since the start of the new year and bought one for my teen daughter – who is aiming to better organize her time so that she can squeeze in a part time job. We both find it useful.

3-RING BINDERS:

(or a Desktop Filing System) Yes, again with the “old school methods” – but this is one of my favorites. I do a lot of research for clients and also have a lot of e-mails that I need to print and save. I use paper that already has the wholes punched for insertion into a 3 ring binder. I will print out important research, client e-mails I need to save, work that I’ve done so I can review it later, etc., on this paper and then put it into the proper binders. I have a binder for all active clients, including HireAlexis. You would be amazed how clearer things are in a binder than tossed in a file cabinet. For my business it works tremendously.

(You knew that with all these “dos” – a “don’t” was coming, right?)

Okay , here it goes:

No Piling of Anything Allowed. This is one of those habits that can be so easy to get into – I speak from experience! But I stop myself now because I know it will just be brushed off to the side and forgotten. Too often I miss something important and regret the piling blunder again. You will be amazed how much more organized you will feel if you just don’t do this one thing. And time yourself. You think you are too busy, but it takes seconds and how long does it take to look for that missing document.

Lastly, opinions vary on when to review your checklist for optimal efficiency, so here’s my advice:

  1. Start your morning early. Finding quiet early morning time for divine communion, or mediation, works wonders. As you conclude this time, make a list of what you desire to accomplish today.This process will likely include a reflection on yesterday’s list. Move and prioritize tasks and errands, as necessary.
  2. Keep your list handy all day. This will help you evaluate your ability to answer those “quick requests” that come up all day and motivate you to “finish up” when you are tempted to treat yourself to an extra break.
  3. Clean your station, and check your list again, at the end of the day. This may seem a final step in a monumental project until you get caught up, but – when it’s done, reward yourself daily by spending a few minutes to regain that great feeling of accomplish and day’s work well done.
  4. Rinse (yourself) and repeat daily.
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10 WAYS TO GET CLIENTS IN 10 MINUTES

The following is one of many great resources from GetClientsNow!(TM):

“Does it seem like you can never find the time to market for more clients? It’s hard to find open hours in the middle of a busy week. But not every marketing task requires big chunks of time. Here are ten productive things you can do to get more clients when you have just ten minutes.

1. Place a call. Which of your past clients have been totally happy with your work over the past couple of years? Think of one you haven’t been in touch with recently. Call to see how he or she is doing. When your fans are reminded of your good work, new projects and referrals often ensue.

2. Send an email. Who has referred you the best client over the last year? Send an email to express your continuing thanks. Showing your appreciation to referral sources frequently results in more referrals.

3. Make a date. Think of a prospect or referral source you have always wanted to know better. Contact that person and make a date to have coffee or chat by phone. Informal conversations deepen relationships and build trust.

4. Expand your network. Log on to your social media channel of choice, and choose a colleague you think of as well-connected. View that friend’s connections. Send connection requests, or follow, every one of those people you recognize. More people in your network means more potential prospects.

5. Review your image. Browse through your website or social media profile with a critical eye. View each section as if you were someone visiting for the first time. Note any areas you think could improve and schedule time to make some changes. First impressions make a difference to surfing prospects.

6. Examine your contacts. Scan your contact database seeking anyone who might be a prospect that you haven’t made contact with in the last 30 days. Reach out to that person with a personal call or note. People who already know you are more likely to become clients than new, cold contacts.

7. Send an article. What’s the last article you read that might be helpful to some of your prospects? Email them with a link to it or mail them a copy. When prospects perceive you as a helpful resource, you gain their confidence.

8. Follow up a meeting. What was the last meeting you attended where you collected business cards? Did you follow up with those people? Find the stack of cards and send one or two a nice-to-meet-you note. Repeated contact helps people to remember you.

9. Touch your network. Visit your favorite social network and peruse recent posts by the prospects and referral sources you’re connected to. Post some likes and replies about what they’re saying. Relationships build when communication is two-way.

10. Find a referral partner. Think of occupations who naturally come in contact with your ideal clients. Then consider who you already know in any of those occupations. Send a quick note to suggest you talk about becoming referral sources for each other.

Marketing projects don’t have to consume your whole day. You can chip away at them a bit at a time, whenever you have a few moments. Keep this list handy on your smartphone or by your computer. The next time you’ve got ten minutes to kill, use it to find clients instead.”

Copyright © 2012, C.J. Hayden

 

Your “Secret” to New Year Resolution Success

The “secret” to success with your New Year resolutions is …… START NOW.
(You are probably already considering the things you want to do and change in 2013…am I right?)

startWell, by deciding now and waiting until later to get started, you are building on a foundation of procrastination…and setting yourself up for further delays in the achievement of your goals.

The key is to start now! “Striking while the iron is hot” – so to speak – by constructing a plan that will start immediately to (at least gradually) build to direct daily and weekly ACTIONS that will promote your goal achievement.

Here are some quick tips to help you on your way…

1) Start now – Plan your reward. Few things motivate like the promise of a reward. What’s even better?!? You can offer yourself a reward for even the “smallest” of accomplishments. Start now and consider how you will reward yourself TODAY for getting started.

2) Start now – Write it down, draw a picture, “pin” an interest…something. Take the proactive step of making your goal real by creating a visual impression of your “finish line” and anything you want and need to make it a reality.

3) Start now – Handle your business. This might mean waking up little earlier, taking shorter breaks during the day, or getting to bed a little later. (I advise against planning for all three at once…can you say “burn out”?!?). Identifying time is key component in your success. You can’t “make” time (we all have the same 24 hours a day), but you can prioritize your time. This may mean letting something go for a season, but you can strike a balance. Aligning your goals and action plans with the support of a good Coach can really help with this. (I’m accepting new coaching clients, by the way. Feel free to contact me, if you’re interested.)

4) Start now – Consider ways to track and measure your progress. Some measurements will be basic math. Others may be more subjective – but NO LESS VALUABLE or measurable. Say, you have a personal resolution to get healthier. You can track weight loss and muscle gain with scales that give you direct quantifiable results of your work. However, your success with your goal to get more rest and take time to indulge in mental health activities will only be measured by how you feel—which is unique and subjective – but measurable, nonetheless. Likewise, a professional goal to become a “better speaker” can very well be facilitated by specific action steps, with the results being numerically measured (increased # of booked speaking engagements, evaluation scores, or  number of closed sales after presentations) and/or subjectively assessed (“I feel more comfortable speaking about my products or services than I did a month ago.”)

5) Start now – Encourage yourself. Starting the journey toward a new venture, a changed habit, or simply a renewed focus, can be daunting, but is almost always worth the effort. No matter the final outcome, you grow stronger, smarter, and more confident from the effort you apply.

6) START NOW!

Best Wishes for a strong finish of 2012 and A productive launch into 2013,

Alexis

Why You Need a Small Business Management Consultant

Article shared in it’s entirety from “The Raymond Aaron Group”: http://aaron.com/2012/04/25/why-you-need-a-small-business-management-consultant/

Why You Need a Small Business Management Consultant

For most people, owning your own business sounds like a dream come true. You get to be your own boss, choose your hours, and make all the important decisions about how you’ll allocate your resources. That’s how it sounds…

Any real business owner knows the truth. That running a small business is much more complicated, time-consuming, and challenging that most people make it out to be. Even worse, running a small business is often less profitable than those on the outside believe.

That vast majority of small business owners earn a salary of exactly how much is left in their bank account after paying all of the expenses. At the end of some months, that may amount to a nice living. On others, well, it’s not a pretty picture.

With out proper planning and management, those margins can easily go negative. Quite honesty, that’s exactly how most small businesses go under.

Opportunity Favors the Prepared Mind

Now it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no reason why your business has to live month-to-month with no real guiding philosophy or mission. Here’s the secret: Running a successful business is not rocket science. Nearly anyone can do it.

Surly you’ve met some at least one successful business owner that you were certain that you were smarter than. You probably wondered, “How can this mental midget run a successful company, while I can barely stay employed?”

Frankly, I don’t know how your acquaintance does it — maybe he or she inherited the business.

What I do know is how I manage to do it. And trust me, I’m no brain surgeon. So what’s my secret? It’s simple: I rely on management consultants. Most business owners do. That’s why they’re still in business.

The way I see it, who needs a prepared mind, when I can rent one at a very reasonable cost? It’s the opportunity that I’m seeking, after all, I’m not trying to earn an MBA. Right?

Building a relationship with a good management is often the difference between a flourishing business and a dream that went splat.

Making you into a Manager

Most entrepreneurs jump into a business with big ideas and lots of optimism. Typically, it’s not enthusiasm that we lack, it’s discipline… and probably foresight too. I mean, why else would we have been so enthusiastic about starting a business? Just kidding.

That’s why it’s so important to seek wise council. A good small business management consultant can help you craft a plan that set realistic goals and benchmarks. A management consultant will plan for setbacks, refunds, and unexpected costs that an inexperienced business owner wouldn’t foresee or know to plan for.

More often than not, it’s not the product that drops a business dead in its tracks. It’s unexpected costs and unexpected revenue hiccups during the growth process. These are exactly the reasons most small business owners need a management consultant.

You can’t do it all yourself, so stop pretending that you can be all things to all people all the time. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but you don’t score 100% in every aspect of management.

Believing that you somehow aced the management test is a sure sign that you’re in over your head. If you want your organization to grow, you can’t approach ever challenge alone. It’s a trap that you don’t want to find yourself in, trust me. If at no other times at all, every successful business needs management consulting during two phases.

Start-up and No Man’s Land

These are two of the most often written about stages of business development, but for very different reasons.

Most entrepreneurs love to fantasize about the start-up phase, mainly because it seems like the sky’s the limit and there are few if any limitations on where your business might be able to go. It’s an exciting time in the life of a business because it’s’ where you put your concept into action, finally getting real world feedback.

Obviously, start-up is also the time in which planning is absolutely essential. This includes staffing, strategic partnerships, and financial forecasts.

For any right-brained idea-man, or idea-woman, who’s launched a start-up, it becomes immediately apparent that you’re in over your head. If you’re overly meticulous, you may find yourself completely bogged down in routine tasks, never having enough time to develop new strategies and processes.

In either case, the clock is ticking and you’ll soon find out if you can hack it all by yourself…

Or you can do the smart thing and hire someone to teach you to become a better manager. Business management consulting is a great way to elevate your game quickly, by outsourcing the learning curve to someone who’s already been there and done that.

No Man’s Land is an entirely different story. Just as the name implies, this stage in the growth of a business is not so fun or exciting. It’s the point at which you business has grown large enough to no long be considered “small,” but is far from being “big” either.

No Man’s Land is the point at which you have to scale up and go big, or else begin to atrophy. In many ways, it’s a lot like the start-up phase, without all the illusions that made it so thrilling.

Because it involves even more fundraising, organizational efficiency, and staffing, No Man’s Land is where a business management consultant becomes no longer necessary, but mandatory.

Creating the Business You Want to Run

The best part about a good business management consultant is that they become an asset, rather than a cost. The changes they suggest should make you money, or at the very least free up time or money that can be better leveraged elsewhere.

After a basic, surface level analysis, it’s easy for any veteran consultant to spot the weaknesses in your market position. I hate to burst your bubble, but they’re there, even if you can’t see them.

A consultant should be able to analyze the marketplace your business operates in and offer up suggestions that will put your business in a better competitive position.

With better positioning, you company will become more marketable. With redundancies and other bottlenecks eliminated, your business will reduce costs, increase production, and become more profitable.

That’s why I always tell people that a good small business management consultant is a business asset. Rather than costing you money, a good consultant will make you money. Over the long run they’re advice will be worth exponentially more than it cost to acquire it.

With the right management and guidance, your company can become a mission driven machine that runs smoothly and rallies around the cause or purpose you initially envisioned. Businesses that are built to deliver on a clear purpose or goal are actually much easier to grow and maintain than a hastily cobbled together organization.

It’s really not all that surprising, when you think about it. Many of the biggest, most profitable companies in the world, the Apples, the Nordstroms, the Whole Foods, etc. are also the most inspiringly single-minded.

That’s the kind of business you originally wanted to own anyway.

Article shared in it’s entirety from “The Raymond Aaron Group”: http://aaron.com/2012/04/25/why-you-need-a-small-business-management-consultant/

Are You Fit to Freelance? (Tips for Exercising At Your Desk)

We are officially in the midst of summer 2011 and I hope that you are embracing a “wealthy living” mindset by incorporating a variety of activities that create income, promote healthy living, and encourage your community to do the same.

What happens, though, when your aspiration for wealth (meaning “discretionary time”) is greater than your present reality (i.e. you don’t have time to do your work and exercise as often as you’d like to)?  Well, you’re not alone.  Many of us who have achieved the level of independent success that allows us to work from our own space and on our own terms, still “wish” for more time in the day during which (at least, we tell ourselves) we would squeeze in that 30-45 minutes of exercise we need daily.

Well, the excuses stop now.  Here are some of my favorite “in-office” exercises:

“After-Call Cardio” (use your cellphone timer) – After every phone call:

  1. Do a minute’s worth of jumping jacks.
  2. Do high-knee (football-like, running in place), simulated jump rope moves or shadow box drills for a minute or two. (Get those knees up!)
  3. Do walk-lunges.

“Slow Day Strength-building”– During down times, control your movements and repeat these activities 15 times each:

  1. To work your chest and shoulders, place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair. Lower
    yourself back down but stop short of the seat, hold for a few seconds.
  2. To stretch your back and strengthen your biceps, place your hands on the desk and hang on. Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you’re looking at the floor. Then slowly pull yourself back in.
  3. Standing, put your hands on the desk. Walk backward, then do push-ups against the desk.

“Pre-Meeting Meditations”Before your next meeting, simple stretches are great for de-stressing and relaxing especially when combined with calm affirming thoughts:

  1. Sitting tall in your chair, stretch both arms over your head and reach for the sky. After 10 seconds, extend the right hand higher, then the left.
  2. Let your head loll over so that your right ear nearly touches your right shoulder. Using your hand, press your head a little lower (gently, now). Hold for 10 seconds. Relax, and then repeat on the other side.
  3. Sitting up straight, try to touch your shoulder blades together. Hold, and then relax.

“Set-it and Forget It”Simple all-day boosters

  1. Wear 1.5lb wrist weights and 3 – 5lb ankle weights
  2. Drink water out of a visibly measured container.  Set an intake goal and meet it daily.
  3. Get fully dressed with comfortable shoes.  (A commonly perceived perk to working solo is the ability to roll out of bed and into your work chair with no dress code.  If you are “guilty” of working in your PJ’s all the time, challenge yourself to get to dressed and wear comfortable shoes.  You’ll find that your energy and productivity level increase just by the “feeling of preparedness” that comes with getting dressed for the day ahead.)

Check out this video that illustrates similar desk exercises to those mentioned above.

After a week or so of incorporating these simple exercises into your day, you may find that you feel energized enough to commit time in your schedule to a slightly more focused “exercise-time”.  Here is a link to an article from Essence magazine, I keep posted over my desk:  “The 15 Minute Workout”

Here’s to your wealthy healthy living! Best wishes!

Fill Your Pipeline – Today (on a ZERO Budget)

We’ve all heard varying insightful perspectives on the saying “time is money.”  When it comes to business, I side with the simple statement: Time is money.

The good news is, if you have “no money”, you can substitute a commitment of your time and effort to reach many of the same tangible goals in your business, especially as it relates to your marketing efforts.

There are five major hurdles along “Marketing Street” that I can share with you along with specific action steps to overcome each.  Today, let’s start from the beginning:

The first  major “road block” (chronologically speaking) consultants usually face when it comes to their marketing is “filling the pipeline.” Here are a few “FREE” (remember time instead of money) things you can do TODAY to make a difference:

* Write and practice a “cold-calling” script.  (No one I know likes to cold call and you may be able to avoid it, but having this language familiar and speaking it confidently WILL pay off, even in casual conversations. Think preliminary “elevator speech”….)

* Actually call (no email, this time) three “warm” leads.  Remember to send follow-up emails in reference to your conversation and provide any additional information you’ve promised.

*Ask someone you’ve done business with (any good business, not necessarily “this” business) for a referral.

*Find an event/organization and offer yourself as a pro-bono guest speaker on a topic that you are very familiar with. Public speaking increases credibility and visibility.  If you go in prepared, leads/prospects will follow.

* DO something to get your name in print.  Find a positive outlet of your professional skills and act on it. By the way, you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell the story.  You can issue your own news release via a blog, social media channel, or even a traditional press release. (Already have something planned? Promote, promote, promote.)

* Distribute business cards and flyers (or “books”.)  However, leaving stacks of advertisement materials is not enough. Try to engage in appropriate conversation as you hand out your materials. Be sure to point out your clearly marked contact information as you “close”.

I hope you found this quick list useful and inspiring.  What are some “fill the pipeline” strategies you use?  I welcome your comments and feedback.

The Small Business Checklist: How to Legally Establish Your Business [infographic]

(Click the infographic for more information)