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The 11 Most Annoying Email Personalities

annoying_email_habits

Proper email etiquette is an acquired skill and one we must actively work to maintain. Communicating with someone who lacks this etiquette can be one of the most frustrating experiences for any professional. A few of your most frequent offenders might be coming to mind right now. You know who they are. They’re the people who never respond, always hit “reply all” or frequently fill your inbox with spam.  Simply put, they make communication far more complicated than it needs to be.

From my experience, I’ve identified 11 personalities of poor email etiquette. Some stem from ignorance while others stem from defiance. No matter the origin of the personality, they all produce a similar aggravation when it comes time to communicate with them. How many of these sound frustratingly familiar?

The black hole

You may as well be sending your message in to outer space. No matter how many times and ways you follow-up, you never receive a response. Ever. I mean, why even have an email account?

The never BCC

Blind-closed-copying (BCC) is a glorious tool that allows people to send a message to the masses, without disclosing everyone’s email address to each other. That is, until it is misused. Such as when you get included in a long email chain with people you don’t know – and don’t really want to have your email address. Which leads to…

The reply all

Inevitably the “never BCC” offender brings about the “reply all” guy who copies the entire email list on a response that is only relevant to the sender…or no one at all. Most of us know this disastrous scenario. The reply all email responses keep coming days, even weeks later and not one of them ever really relevant to anyone more than the sender (yeah, the “never BCC” guy).

The reply one

In selective instances where you actually want people to reply all, like when you’re trying to introduce two people or have them work together, one person only ever replies to you. This means you have to constantly forward to the rest of the group so that they’re aware of the response.

The forward with no explanation

This is the person who forwards a message to you with no additional details and it’s not overly apparent as to what’s expected of you. Do you need to respond? Is this just FYI? Forwarding an email takes no effort, at least grant us with a small explanation so we don’t have to send the passive aggressive response, “Is any action needed for this?”

The single word response

You’ll send a long email with various topics requiring some thought and explanation in return, yet this person finds it somehow sufficient to respond simply with “okay” or “yes.” After a while, you’ll try tactics like bolding, highlighting and underlining the exact questions you need answered in detail – but I promise you, even with all that effort, they’re only ever going to tell you that it’s “okay.”

The stream of conscious

These email messages tend to read like a terribly written monologue. They include every thought that pops into the person’s head during his time writing, sometimes even including strange and irrelevant details like what he ate for lunch or that he has to walk the dog tonight. You’ll wholeheartedly wish it was acceptable to respond with “Can you just boil this down into an executive summary for me?”

The spammer

This person clutters your inbox with non-work related emails, sharing those forwarded messages that contain corny jokes, awkward gifs and links to download a video you just “have to see to believe.” Not everyone thinks that video of a dancing cat is hilarious – or deserving of 5 minutes of your busy work day. If only the government would also mandate a required unsubscribe option for these people as well.

The hit and run

This is the person who, for a while, will answer your messages quickly and with enthusiasm. Then, he goes completely AWOL. What changed? What did I do? I get it. Everyone can get swamped with work for a few days or be out traveling. Still, such a drastic 180 in email communication is as hard to rationalize as it is annoying.

The last word

This person always has to have the last word, even when a response is completely unnecessary. Say, for example, you send an email to coordinate a time to meet. Once you decide on a place and time, it’s perfectly acceptable to close the conversation there. Instead “the last word” guy will always shoot back a final email to whatever you say even if it’s merely repeating your exact message. If you have the time and patience, you could really have some fun just to see how many of the same responses you can get from “the last word” guy.

The selective responder

This email personality is most frustrating when you have several important questions for which you need answers. You clearly outline each one (maybe even with numbers or bullet points), yet “the selective responder” will reply with only a fraction of the requested information, offering no acknowledgement of or explanation for the outstanding questions that remain. Inevitably, you reply again (and again) with a narrowed down list of questions until you get all your answers. You may as well be a dentist pulling teeth.

The better late than never

Finally, there’s this wild card. The “better late than never” guy will finally respond to an email you sent months ago without acknowledging the fact half a year has gone by or offering an explanation as to why it took so long. Even odder, this email personality doesn’t seem to realize that his response has little to no value now as you’ve had to move on and find your information elsewhere.

What type of annoying email personalities do you most often encounter? Do you have some more that should be added to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
 

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The Virtual Work Environment: When it simply doesn’t work

virtual work environmentAs a consultant, I strive to run a lean business. I work from home and meet clients on location to eliminate the overhead of an outside office. I delegate work to additional contractors rather than taking on full time employees. And because I require merely an internet connection and laptop, I can and have worked from almost every location I’ve ever been in. The virtual work environment has suited me very well. My clients have also experienced the benefits through my pricing and availability. But as fun and flexible as working from home can be, I acknowledge that it simply doesn’t fit every situation.

Different personality types are better suited for the “home working” experience and depending upon the job description, a business may need an in-office employee to meet various needs. I’m a full subscriber to the virtual work environment, as it lends itself to my particular services very well. But before you start setting up your own home office, take into consideration these following work situations that shouldn’t go virtual.

When you need immediate responses.

I make the commitment to my clients that they will receive a response or acknowledgement of their message within one business day – often much sooner. In comparison to most email communications, this is quite a quick response time; however, it’s still not as quick as if I were sitting at a desk next to you. In-office employees allow for almost instant communication because you have the benefit of popping your head over a cubicle or hunting them down in the break room. If the job description requires immediate responses, a virtual position could substantially decrease efficiency.

When you thrive on social interaction.

This is when working from home may have nothing to do with the job, but everything to do with the person. I thrive on a quiet, uninterrupted work environment. I used to HATE having people drop-in just to chat or getting pulled into an impromptu meeting. I worked much less efficiently because of these distractions. But I’m an introvert. For others, these are not “distractions” but are part of the company culture that makes them feel like a team. They thrive on social interaction and pull their energy and inspiration from those around them. If you took this away, work would suffer.

When you don’t trust your teammates.

Trust influences how well tasks are accomplished when employees aren’t working face-to-face. When working virtually, you don’t have the benefit of building relationships as quickly as you do in a traditional office. It takes a lot longer to build up the feelings of trust and accountability toward someone you don’t see day to day. Distrust can also come from not knowing if someone is doing the work they need to be doing. It’s easy to assume your co-worker is snoozing on the couch at home while you’re slaving away on a project if you don’t trust them or have the ability to check-in on them as you do in a traditional office.

When you’re needed to serve various, undefined roles.

The final work situation that does not lend itself well to a virtual position is one in which you are the Jack of all trades. Think of an office assistant. Their job description might outline the role of answering phones, entering data and scheduling appointments. But in reality, they are likely asked to take on many additional projects to help around the office since they are there and available. In an office where it’s all hands on deck, virtual employees benefit from being “out of sight, out of mind” and are not utilized to their fullest. This leaves the in-office employees to pick up the slack.

Even though we just covered four situations that are not best suited for the virtual work environment, don’t get me wrong. There are still many, well-documented benefits. Studies show that home workers are more productive, happier in their jobs and less likely to leave than their office-bound peers.  Virtual working also saves money, is better for the environment and gives staff the flexibility that many people crave. But it’s equally important to note that “home working” simply doesn’t fit every situation. Technology can connect us from sea to sea, but it can’t completely replace the need for in-office employees.

 

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7 Tips for Gaining Media Recognition for Your Business (Guest Blog by Queen Chioma Nworgu)

The following guest post comes to us all the way from the UK! Queen Chioma Nworgu is an international motivational speaker, success coach and a TV Presenter that resides in London. Enjoy her following insights and be sure to visit her bio below to connect with her on social media!

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Interview time7 Tips for Gaining Media Recognition for Your Business

To be fully recognized and honored in the media for what you do in your business is nearly every entrepreneurs dream. Foremost, this will help attract new clients – but we can’t overlook the added bonus of impressing your friends and family at the same time!

Some businesses and entrepreneurs make gaining media exposure look easy, but really it’s quite strategic and takes time. If you’re seeking the limelight and are ready to start featuring your business or personal accomplishments in magazines, newspapers and on TV, here are seven key tips that will help you get started!

1. Make appearances at exclusive events

One of the best ways to break into the media world and gain media recognition for your business is to attend exclusive events. The types of events that you should attend to gain publicity are seminars, exhibitions, meetings, conferences, award shows and networking events.

This is where you will often find the media. Journalists, reporters, videographers and photographers are always attending exclusive events and looking for amazing CEO’s, entrepreneurs and successful people to interview and feature in their publications, blogs or TV shows. They are hunting for the next big story.  It is your job to introduce yourself to them and intrigue them your entrepreneurial journey. Ask them if they would be interested in interviewing you. It seems common sense, but so many people fail to take advantage of this opportunity!

2. Dress to Impress

Make sure the image you’re portraying reflects someone that the media would want to talk to. This means dressing like a professional whether you’re at an event or working from home. If you look like an executive who’s in charge, your actions will reflect this.

Dressing for success will dramatically increase your confidence and charisma. You will speak with more authority when you make those media calls or introduce yourself. You will also stand out at events and leave a lasting, positive impression.

The media is attracted to people with high levels of charisma. They are always looking for people that will enhance their publications. Bright colors and glamorous outfits demand attention. By no means do you have to be the most attractive person in the room; your professional attire will be what helps to give you an edge.

3. Send Press Releases

Create a quality press release and send it out to key contacts within the media who would be interested in covering your specific topic. Do your research to develop a targeted media list and foster meaningful relationships with these contacts. Reach out to local newspapers, blogs, websites and shows that you would like to be featured on. In your press release, be sure to include articles, tear sheets and publications/shows that have featured you previously. You should also provide the media with a succinct list highlighting your professional achievements.

4. Win a Business Award

The media is always looking for award winners to be featured in their publications. If you have not yet won an award, why not make this your new ambition? It’s a great boost for your business and your personal brand as well.

I encourage you to apply for several business awards in 2014. Be sure to highlight the most important qualities that will increase your chances of winning which include professionalism, excellent customer service, hard work and dedication. Every award is different, so be sure to tailor your submissions appropriately!

5. Start your own web TV show

One of the best ways to attract media publicity to your business is to host your own Internet TV show. There are many simply ways to do this, so don’t be intimidated! You can create daily v-logs, a weekly show or upload videos once a week or twice a month – whatever suits you! This is a great way to build an organic audience and create a buzz about your business that will gain media attention. Once you get going, it won’t be long before you receive requests from the media asking you to be a part of their show, magazine, blog or website.

6. Be inspired

Another strategic way to break into the media is to study entrepreneurs and celebrities that receive a lot of coverage. Read their biographies and success stories. Learn from what they’ve done and write out key points on what these people did throughout their journey toward success.

Ask yourself, how can I improve my services, products and character to start gaining this same media recognition? What are they doing to get publicity? Who do I know that can connect me to interviews or features in the media? Be prepared to do what successful people do (while maintaining integrity of course) even if this means long hours and hard work. Success takes effort!

7. Become an expert in your field

Finally, one of the best ways to gain media exposure is to become an expert in your field. The media is always looking for experts to come on to their shows or to discuss important issues on the news, in blogs, newspapers and at events. Learn all you can about your industry, read books, keep tabs on the daily news and join educational or networking groups that discuss related topics. Once you position yourself as an expert, reach out to the media and offer your insight and expert advice on topics they’re currently covering.

Gaining media exposure for your business is no easy task. If it was, we’d all have the press coverage we want for our accomplishments! Rather, it takes time, talent, strategy and above all else – patience to really build meaningful relationships with the media. Take the advice listed in these seven tips and you will be well on your way to increasing your media exposure.

Snipper Photography (C) 2013

Snipper Photography (C) 2013

About the Author: Queen Chioma Nworgu MA, BA (hons) is a TV appearing international motivational speaker, success coach and a TV Presenter that resides in London, UK. She speaks regularly at conferences, seminars, schools, colleges and universities giving strategies for success and motivation. She has had over 150 TV appearances on TV channels which include ITV, MTV, BBC 1 and Nollywood TV. She believes that you can achieve all of your dreams if you manage your time effectively and never give up.  Connect with Queen Chioma Nworgu by visiting her website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 
 

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Meeting Fate Halfway

blindfolded womanEvery so often life presents us with moments where things really feel like they’re coming together. We can choose to believe this is by chance or that this is by fate.  Switching careers, buying a new home and falling in love are all life changing experiences where so often we hear people say “It was fate.” I do believe in fate. I believe that doors close so others may open and I believe that our passions can lead us toward where we are meant to be. But I also believe that we must meet fate halfway.

In a recent conversation with a friend about my own endeavors as an entrepreneur, he said that I am fortunate to have had fate lead me down this path. My response was that although fate presented me with opportunities, it was still my responsibility to be prepared to seize them. This is important for every business owner to remember. Even if you believe in fate, this is not an excuse to walk around blind folded just waiting for it to lead you where you’re supposed to go. You must be an active participant in the process. Just a little more than two years ago, when I turned my part time passion into my full time career, fate presented me with the opportunity, but I still had to contribute the vision and the hard work to make it a sustainable success.

During this entrepreneurial journey, I’m learning that you can’t leave everything to chance. When I meet a potential client, I still have to prove my skills and professionalism to increase my chances of working with them. Fate may have placed me in the right place at the right time to be considered for this opportunity, but I most certainly won’t get the job if I sit back and do nothing.

I’ve also learned not to be foolishly optimistic. Fate is a presence in my life, but it’s not a safety net. Relying too heavily on fate to always give you your happy ending will result in many unhappy outcomes. Fate won’t pay my taxes, guarantee new clients or further develop my skills. It isn’t fate’s responsibility to do so. It’s mine. Fate has and continues to present me with the opportunities to accomplish these things successfully, but I must always meet fate halfway.

I think we must redefine our perception of fate. It’s fun and romantic to throw our cautions to the wind and say “whatever will be, will be,” but this is taking advantage of – and missing out on – the opportunities with which we’ve been presented. Instead, even with fate on our side, we must continue to keep our nose to grindstone and prepare ourselves to seize life’s fateful opportunities.

 
 

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The Best Work Comes From Complete Creative Freedom

tied handsEntrepreneurs, freelancers and contractors need to maintain some sense of creative freedom to do their job well. In fact, I feel confident enough to expand this statement to apply to every career field out there. Creativity is the lifeblood for employees at all levels. It’s what allows us to enjoy our job, maintain a feeling of control and build a vested interest in our work – but it’s not always granted freely. Whether it’s a controlling boss, a particular client or a company culture that demands you color inside the lines, sometimes our hands are unfortunately tied and creative freedom is stifled.

As a client or customer, coming to a business with your own non-negotiable plan in mind is the same as taking the pen out of an artist’s hand. Take for example an architect versus a drafter. An architect is more often hired for his artistic eye and ability to bring new and innovative ideas to the table. This is who you want to work with when you want someone else to direct the vision for a project. A drafter on the other hand is most often hired to outline the logistics of a pre-existing plan. This is who you want to work with when you already have a firm idea in mind and simply want someone else to bring it to fruition. Reasonably, less creative work is needed or expected from the drafter. You pay more for the architect, and understandably so.

The important point I want to communicate is that if you’re paying the extra money for the “architect,” don’t treat them like a drafter. Allow them the creative freedom they need to provide you with their full scope of expertise. And to fully do so you’ll want to closely consider following these next three steps:

 First, agree on your most important objective.

A client and a contractor foremost need to communicate the objectives of a project clearly. If they don’t first start on the same page, they have no chance of ending on the same page and a lot of time and talent will be wasted as a result. I advocate for using something like a “creative template” that can be a simple one-page sheet designed to capture a client’s most important thoughts on a project. Whether it’s creating a company training video, billboard ad or blueprint for a house, both the client and contractor should be able to clearly tell you what it is they’re trying to achieve. They must have a firm grasp on the objective.

Second, provide no more than three “must-haves.”

We will all be clients at one point or another, so it’s important that we learn how to be good ones! Such skills will also help us to get exactly what we want, while allowing the contractors and freelancers we hire to do their job with complete creative freedom. I’ve found that having no more than three “must-haves” as part of your expectations allows you to still feel in control without overhauling the project. Along with an identified objective, your short list of “must-haves” allows you to specify colors, content or style that’s important to you. Contractors have expertise and vision, but they don’t have the ability to read minds. Knowing what’s most important to you provides just enough direction. Think of your “must-haves” as the non-negotiables you want out of a significant other. So long as these criteria are met, everything else should be at least open for discussion.

Third, relinquish control!

Now that you’ve established an overarching objective and a short list of “must-haves” for a project, the only other limitations should be the sky. From a freelancer/contractor’s perspective, having to meet just 4 specifications is a huge difference from having a laundry list of needs and wants spelled out for you. As the final step, the most important thing a client can do is to relinquish control. And the most important thing a contractor can do is to satisfy the objective and must-haves and then strategically choose all other projects details with that particular client in mind. Knock their socks off by giving them everything they never knew they wanted!

 One final thought…

At the end of the day, all business owners must sign their names to whatever finished product they produce. If you take away creative freedom, this no longer remains an accurate representation of a business’s quality of work. If you’re a business owner, you’ll likely agree that protecting your reputation and the type of work you put out there is just as important as giving a client the finished product they want. It’s a touchy balance to maintain – but a critical one nonetheless.

How do you seek creative freedom in your job or career field? Or maybe you can recall a specific time in which your creativity was stifled and a project suffered as a result. Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below!

 

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Social Selling: Myth or Magic? (Guest Blog by Sam Bessant)

I’m thrilled to welcome back guest blogger Sam Bessant. Her first contribution to the Bennis Inc Blog, “Success Versus the Work-Life Balance” continues to receive top hits! Learn more about Sam in her bio following this post and be sure and visit her personal blog here.

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social media tool boxSocial selling is a relatively new concept to the world as its dawn has only come through the dramatic shift we’ve all made to living our lives through social media in the last few years. The whole networking game has changed and we now have easier access to more people and more information than we’ve ever had before. But what are we doing with all this information and what impact does it have on our working lives?

The term “social selling” is being banded around left, right and centre by people who consider themselves forward thinkers in the field but few seem to understand what it really means and whether it really involves any actual selling. A new pothole for salespeople to stumble into is the idea that stalking prospects on LinkedIn and sending them a half-arsed message constitutes selling. Similarly, there is the idea that following an event on Twitter is just as good as being at the event; reading a blog about how to sell is the same as mastering the technique yourself…the list goes on. The problem is that actions taken by your “virtual” presence in the online world are just that – virtual and intangible. And the results will be too. At some point, that world of Web 2.0 needs to meet with more old fashioned actions because we aren’t living in a fully virtual society yet. People still rate people and personal relationships built up through phone calls and meetings; some people aren’t even part of this huge social network, preferring to remain aloof and test your persistence in reaching them.

So we circle back to the question of “what is social selling?” and is it something that has been created by the very people whose advertising revenue relies on us using their social networks? I would suggest not. Social selling is actually very powerful but it needs to be thought of as a tool; one singular tool in a whole toolbox of potential sales techniques. What social media allows us is the opportunity to understand more about the people we want to engage, more about the companies they work for and more about what other salespeople are doing to win themselves success. It gives us an “in” and helps to reduce the awkwardness of the initial contact because we have enough information to make contact with purpose. We don’t have to spend ages battling with switchboards to get hold of a name and we can send messages directly to C-level contacts we’d have spent months trying to target previously, but this is only the beginning.

As with more traditional sales methods, social selling takes time. You still need to qualify your prospects and build a relationship. The social media piece simply allows you to do some of the legwork before you make contact so that you can wow them with a compelling story tailored just for them. A mistake commonly made is thinking that all of the information a salesperson needs can be found online. This is not the case. What you can find is a great foundation to hop over the initial hurdles so you can spend your valuable time working on real sales opportunities rather than arguing with gatekeepers. So social selling isn’t a myth; it’s a real thing and there are real opportunities being found through social media. However, it isn’t magic either. Nobody will do the hard work for you and you’ll still need to be creative in the way you approach people and ensure you deliver the service you’d expect yourself. Social selling is a valuable tool which you can’t afford to overlook but remember…it is only a single tool and cannot replace your entire tool set.

Sam BessantSam Bessant lives in Reading, UK. She currently works the standard office 9-6 while trying to finalize the direction she will take to start her own business. Sam’s blog, 20somethingfreak was created to help Sam and others understand what it is to be in your 20s and for Sam to share some of the millions of daydreams she has every day! Be sure and visit Sam’s personal blog: www.20somethingfreak.wordpress.com.

 

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Shifting Away From Shift Work: Forgetting the Life of a 9-5er

cat sleeping deskI realized I’ve now spent more of my career as an entrepreneur, building my own business and setting my own schedule, than I have as a 9 to 5 employee to someone else. It’s a milestone I’ve proudly earned by taking many other risks and sacrifices, but I still can’t help but a feel little spoiled for the life this has provided. When my friends or family encounter a restriction because of their work schedule, I’m oddly aloof as to what this feels like. I’m unable to recall what it’s like to have to report to a desk every day at a specific time and stay there regardless of what, if any work needs accomplished during those exact hours. Work doesn’t always come in between 9am and 5pm and it certainly doesn’t stop coming in at all other hours of the day. This raises the question of why, with all of the technology that allows us to work from virtually anywhere, do we still chain ourselves to a desk for a block period of time?

I don’t know who I should credit for its original quotation, but this following thought often weaves itself into my conversations with people who ask me about entrepreneurship. “As an entrepreneur, you get to choose the 80 hours a week you work.” The hours of work per week will change, but the message remains the same. Entrepreneurs may put in long hours, but at least we get to choose these hours. This allows us to weave work around life, travel and important events that we may otherwise have to choose between. I jokingly say that if I worked a 9 to 5 job, I would max out my vacation days before February of each year and with every passing year this joke becomes more of a reality. I’m grateful that the length of my vacations, holiday breaks and time spent with family are at my discretion. With a husband who also runs his own non-profit, I’m quite certain that without our flexible work schedules we would be like two ships passing in the night. Instead, I’ll join him on a business trip and work from hotels and coffee shops. Or we’ll both choose to work from home for a day to spend a little more time together.

When you’re an insomniac they say that you’re never really asleep and never really awake. As an entrepreneur, I feel quite similar with my work schedule. At any given time I never have to be working, but I’m also never not working. Email and cell phones connect me at all times with my clients, so whether I’m sitting in front of my computer or out grocery shopping, I’m just as accessible. This allows me to do anything at any hour of the day and so I try to be strategic with when I do what. For example, entrepreneurship has allowed me to visit the doctor or hair salon at times when most people have to be at the office. I can do my grocery shopping when the store is dead rather than fighting with the weekend traffic. I also schedule my meetings to avoid rush hour so I can easily sail down the highway and spend more time than absolutely necessary in transit. These may seem like small perks, but I couldn’t imagine life without them.

I’m barely able to remember what life was like when I had the same exact routine every morning and a set time to be out the door. Every so often these clouded memories come back when I find myself scheduled for an early morning meeting or poor planning has left me stuck in commuter traffic. My immediate reaction is “How do people do this every day?” After the moment passes and I re-enter my entrepreneurial world of constant change and variable schedules, I realize this is also a reasonable question that anyone else may choose to ask me…

 

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A Penny Saved Is More Than A Penny Earned

coin money a penny savedAs far back as the 17th century, the idiom we now know very well, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” was first quoted. And though the true author of this phrase may be up for debate, the meaning is quite clear. It is just as useful to save the money we have as it is to put our efforts into earning more. For hundreds of years this remained a solid block of financial wisdom and even just a decade ago I would say it still held true. However, given the recent changes in our economy, culture and job market, I’d like to propose a more accurate version on this longstanding proverb that may become the words of wisdom we pass along to future generations.

A penny saved is more than a penny earned.

It’s quite literally what it sounds like. Keeping a hold of the pennies we have is now more cost effective than earning more pennies and in some cases even dimes and dollars. We can do more, live more and enjoy more by cutting back than we can by taking on additional means of income to finance our spending sprees. Spending less is the new way to get rich. But what makes this true? Well, there are several compelling reasons why these little copper and zinc Lincolns are worth more in your piggy bank than they are on an additional paycheck:

We underestimate how quickly pennies can add up. I can never pass up a heads-up penny (and with this economy, I might soon be picking up the “unlucky” tails-up ones too). While this is more to fulfill my childhood good-luck-nostalgia, I laugh at how quickly my coin purse fills up from these pennies from heaven. Sure it’s hardly enough to buy a cup of coffee at the end of the month, but a penny is just the monetary amount we use as an example in this quote. Think bigger – five, ten, twenty or even a hundred dollars put aside in savings can equate to a huge cushion at the end of the year. And if done right, we will have hardly missed this extra cash. Moreover, because we don’t think pennies can ever amount to much, we’re less receptive to small ways to save them. Pack your lunch or morning coffee, commute with a friend or only buy groceries you really need (not just because they’re on sale). A quarter here, a dollar there and you’ll soon find enough spare change to finance that dinner out without taking on more work or putting yourself in debt.

A penny earned is really only a fraction of a penny. If you happen to be in the 10% tax bracket, every taxed dollar you earn is worth only $0.90. But don’t forget to tack on FICA, state and a ton of other taxes I’m too depressed to mention and that little penny begins to look a whole lot smaller. What this means is that you put a lot of energy and effort into earning just a fraction of what you’re time is really worth. By placing your focus on spending less rather than earning more, you’ll gain additional time to do something other than work and enjoy the money you do have to its fullest.

If you can fully immerse yourself in the savings lifestyle, you’ll save exponentially. When I first started my own business I went into extreme savings mode. I cut out all the financial fat that I had been wasting money on for far too long (a big cable TV package, a reserved parking spot, too large of a healthcare plan) and I found hundreds of extra dollars in my monthly budget even though I was making considerably less. Though I have slowly worked my way to a more stable income and comfortable lifestyle, I realized I didn’t really want to add back in those luxuries even when I could afford them again. We still live on a meager weekly grocery bill and I’ve all but lost my excitement for retail therapy, but I truly don’t miss it. The money we don’t spend on these little things we instead put toward travel and eating out – two luxuries that are far more memorable to me than yet another pair of shoes I don’t need. Get into the habit of living a savings lifestyle and you’ll be amazed by how you’ll find fun in the challenge of saving money and lose the love for unnecessary spending.

A penny saved gains more than just dust – it gains interest. Although interest rates aren’t great and you can’t exactly invest just pennies in the stock market, there is still great value in saving and investing your money to whatever degree you can. As mentioned above, a penny earned is worth slightly less than one cent while a penny saved  and invested is worth slightly more. While earning extra pennies, you’re giving up time and energy, but saving pennies requires complete inaction. So don’t think spare change needs to sit in a pink piggy bank somewhere, put it in a savings account where it can earn (even a little bit of) money while you do nothing more than live your life.

The penny itself is worth more than one cent. Back in 2006 this New York Times article shared that it actually costs more than one cent to create a penny – 1.4 cents to be exact – because of the cost of metal and production. As the demand for certain metals continue to rise, who knows the worth of the penny now or how high it will reach before the United States Mint takes these little guys out of circulation altogether. And when that happens? Your quirky pennies that will become a relic to future generations might (might) be worth a lot more someday. This is meant more for humor than it is for financial advisement, but keep this in mind the next time you’re walking on the side walk and spot an orphaned penny – that’s at least 1.4 cents you’ve just gained!

The heads-up side of things: Learning to save your money will always be the best financial advice you can ever receive. I’ve personally found so much value in learning and living this truth because it taught me that time spent doing things I love is far more valuable than time spent earning a few extra dollars. I would much prefer to cut back on my spending and manage my wants for the ability to pursue a passionate career and live simply but happily. And while a penny earned is no longer equal to a penny saved, hearing this proverb still makes us stop and reflect on our spending habits – and for that it’s worth all the pennies in the world!

 
 

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The Work-Life Imbalance

Often I come across an article or a quiz asking me to examine my “work-life balance.” It’s a term we should have all encountered by now – whether in a magazine, an HR seminar, even in a casual dinner conversation. To nod your head and affirm, “Of course, I have a great work-life balance,” carries a sense of pride as if you’re really saying “Yeah, I’ve got it all together.” But what defines a work-life balance? Must the parts always be equal to keep the scales from tipping too far in one direction?

We spend the majority of our waking hours working in some capacity. In the best case scenario, only 40 hours of our week is spent in a formal work environment, but what about all of those evening and weekend emails, phone calls and “emergency projects” that cut into the little time we’re already given for “life?” Such tasks sneak extra weight onto the “work” side of the scale and can lead to an imbalance we don’t even know exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken more notice to how I’ve been chipping away at my free time by choosing to do a several minutes of work-related tasks here and there. Even just a few minutes can turn into hours over the course of a week. For example, I try to finish up my last work project of the day no later than 6pm. But while I enjoy dinner and a little bit of television, my mind is still very much on work. If I hear the chirp of an email – I answer it. And so this persists throughout the evenings and into the weekends. My best estimate is that on average, I burden myself with an additional 7-10 hours of work each week beyond what’s expected or demanded. When all added up, that’s a full day! A day in which I could have taken a road trip, enjoyed the beautiful fall weather or simply decompressed. And while these off-hour emails may help progress work, they put a major halt on life.

Back when I wrote about The Two-Day Truce, I urged everyone to resist the urge to do unnecessary work on the weekends because it only causes the recipients of the emails to feel the pressure to respond. Essentially it takes away from everyone’s weekend. I have gotten better about not being a weekend warrior with work, but I realized an even bigger problem. We’re so trained to work, we do it without even knowing it. Consciously we may feel like we’re living a pretty balanced life, but really our scales are so off kilter they’re nearly falling over altogether.

I couldn’t tell you how many times a day I check my phone for new emails, especially after “work hours.” I’m not sure I would want to know. By proactively checking for emails and refreshing my inbox, I’m looking for work to do instead of enjoying that other component that should fill our time – life. A true Work-Life Balance is so much more than saying you leave your office or close your laptop at 6pm. Chances are we’re very accessible to work during any of the hours in between. But when we’re at work are we this accessible to life? Every week’s schedule is different and there’s no doubt that there will be some weeks that demand an imbalanced share of our time for work. The key is to find the balance not every day or every week, but over the long run.

The Work-Life Balance may not be so much about balance after all. Maybe it’s more about flexibility and our openness to work more when we absolutely have to, but to also seize extra moments of “life” when the opportunity should arise. If you can’t close down by 6pm tonight, don’t sweat it, but plan for some extra relaxing time in your schedule later this weekend to make up for the difference and realign the balance!

What about you. Is your work-life balanced…flexible…or somewhat of both?

 
11 Comments

Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Finding Stability In Constant Change

Stability, work, business, entrepreneurAsk a business owner, entrepreneur or self-employed person to describe the qualities of their chosen career path and I would be shocked to hear them use the word “stable.” Stability is a very desirable perk for any job that simply isn’t in the description of entrepreneurship. This should come as no surprise to those of us who have willingly ventured down this path. We know what we signed up for – and we also know the benefits in which offset the lack of stability. But is it possible for the chaos-embracing entrepreneur to find stability amidst this constant change? Can change be turned into a constant?

I think so.

Each day is wildly different. There is little rhythm to the type of projects I work on day to day and month to month. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because so much of my work is hard to plan for or anticipate, I’ve found stability in creating a schedule for the work I do complete on a weekly or monthly basis. For example, each morning my to-do list always begins with logging on to WordPress and commenting on five other blogs. Every Friday I write my Bennis Inc blog post for the following week. Then of course there is the client work that is regular and reoccurring such as scheduling social media updates or blog writing that gain a place in my work “schedule.” By having a set time carved out in my schedule for this anticipated work, I can then dedicate my remaining time to the unanticipated – and sometimes urgent – projects that always come up. Not only is this good time management, but it gives me a feeling of stability and regularity amidst the ever-changing variety and quantity of my work.

Another way in which I’ve learned to feel stable in a career field that most certainly is not is that I’ve changed the way in which I view contracted work. Each month my work may change, but what won’t change is my ability to seek out new work as I need it. With the skill to hunt you’ll never go hungry. Even as clients come and go, I never run the same risk of having my income go to zero in one day’s time. It would be a slow and gradual process for which I could react and prepare. In other words, I don’t carry the same fear as someone who could be laid off. So while there is stability in a regular income and a bi-weekly paycheck, there is always the risk that it could all come to a halt almost instantly. As a traditional employee, the process of being interviewed, hired and placed on payroll is much longer than signing a new client. And due to contracts, I will always have at least one month’s notice of losing a client rather than only receiving a pink slip and the rest of the day to clear my desk. Realizing this unique benefit of entrepreneurship, I now know stability can be found in the confidence I have to always be able to seek out new clients and more work.

The career path of the self-emplyed is in no way predictable or certain, but if you look in the right places you will find that stability does exist. It may not make for the biggest lifeboat, but it can still help to keep you afloat until you can again find calm waters.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Business & Success, Entrepreneurship

 

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