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One Habit of Highly Effective People I Follow (Almost) Everyday

cat nap

As a busy entrepreneur who is also the mother of an even busier toddler, you might imagine my days are scheduled by the minute and packed tight with meetings, conference calls, walks to the park and library classes – and they are. But I want to confess one habit I keep almost daily that will completely contradict your vision of a fast-paced, work-from-home mom.

I nap.

Yes, picture that! I prioritize about one hour of every afternoon during which I close my laptop, turn off my phone and snooze. I’m highly protective of this time and avoid scheduling meetings, calls or work projects if I can help it in any way. What I’ve found is something quite remarkable, that the days I go off the grid to re-energize, I actually accomplish more in less time than the days I forego my midday slumber.

There have been days when my to-do list was just far too long to justify a nap and I found that my creativity, efficiency and passion for my work substantial declined to the point where had I just stopped to rest, I would have accomplished the same amount of work in that time and likely would have done a better job. Now these are simply my own findings, but it got me thinking if this whole “nap habit” was something anyone else had caught on to or if it was my own justification for shutting down as soon as I got the least bit fatigued. I discovered I am in very good company.

According to this article, some pretty incredible people were habitual nappers. I’m talking Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan to name a few. Now, I’m not saying this was the only thing that led to their world-changing successes, but I do find it intriguing that this is one aspect of their lifestyles that they had in common.

The Benefits of Napping

Simply google the phrase “benefits of napping” and you will have more than enough material to convince you thoroughly. I highly suggest trying it out to experience these benefits first-hand. This article does a great job of highlighting some of the best ones. To summarize:

  • Boosts alertness – Even just 20 minutes has been shown to drastically increase alertness once you fully wake up
  • Improves learning and memory – Brain activity remains higher in nappers all day compared to people who don’t take a rest
  • Increases creativity – A nap is like an intensified way of walking away from a problem to find a solution. It’s amazing how you can come back to that issue that had stumped you before and come up with several new ways to solve it in minutes.
  • Boosts productivity – Studies have shown that a nap is more powerful than a cup of coffee to get you going again.
  • Puts you in a good mood – Here’s a simple example, have you ever been around a toddler pre-nap and post-nap? I “rest” my case.
  • Zaps stress – Even if it’s only for a short period (say 10 minutes), the sheer luxury of escaping for a nap can be a great stress-reliever.

How to Prioritize Your Nap

  1. Make it the same time every day

First, pick a time of day that general works best for you. When do you not have any other standing obligations? When do you normally feel most fatigued or distracted? When can you go “off-line” without anyone really missing you? Once you determine your nap time, respect it as part of your schedule just as you would any other commitment.

  1. Shut down all other distractions

Next, make the most of the precious time you carve out for your nap by turning off your phone and removing your computer from eye-sight. Don’t turn on the TV or read a book, rather lay down, close your eyes and let your mind rest.

  1. Set your alarm

To ensure you don’t get carried away with your nap (which can negatively impact the rest of your day by creeping into the time allotted for other tasks or making it hard to fall asleep at night), set your alarm. I have napping down to an art where I am asleep within a minute or two of closing my eyes and as soon as I hear my alarm, I spring back into action. You may need to experiment to find the perfect nap length that rejuvenates you without making you groggy, but once you find this sweet spot it is totally worth it!

  1. Napping is a priority, but also a privilege

Finally, remember that while napping is a healthy habit, you have to earn your nap each and every day by working hard when you are awake and being efficient with your time. For me, I know if I want that afternoon rest, I need to stay focused all other hours of the day, plan ahead and prioritize.

I’ll close with this final thought. Why do we believe that napping is something we must grow out of at a certain age? Just as it’s a healthy and necessary habit for my toddler to take his daily nap, I believe it’s just as healthy and necessary for us adults. Our daily activities may be different than a 1-year-old’s, but they are just as stimulating and demanding in their own way. Many cultures embrace an afternoon nap as a time to reset, allowing you to return to your duties with a fresh mind.

For as long as I continue to benefit from it, I will embrace the lifestyle of a habitual napper. While there are many more ways in which I could urge you to do the same, I’d rather end this article here so I can settle down for my nap.

Do you believe that daily napping could make you more effective at your job? Share why or why not by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to “Winterize” Your Business for a Slow Season

thermostat

Your slow season may require “turning down the heat” on your business but you can still remain comfortable and cozy with these 6 tips!

If you spent enough time with any business, you would be able to pick up on the regular ebb and flow of its seasons. I’m not talking about spring, summer, fall and winter, rather I’m talking about the natural cycle of busy and non-busy seasons that usually come at regular intervals from year to year.

For many businesses, this depends upon their industry. Some are seasonal for obvious reasons because they cater to a particular holiday or type of weather. But even businesses that offer the same services year-round will still experience periods of slower sales.

A slow season can be just as beneficial to your business as a busy season depending upon how you use your time and how proactive you are about preparing yourself to handle the difference in workload. Here are 6 ways to “winterize” your business for its slow season so that this drop in income won’t leave you out in the cold!

  1. Minimize overhead expenses

When you know your business is about to slow down for a few weeks or months, the first thing you should do is take a close look at where you’re spending money. There’s a good chance that during this slow season, you can also slow down some of your business expenses. For example, if you have freelance or contract employees, let them know that there may not be work for them in the coming months. Using contractors is a great way to remain flexible to the seasons of your business because you’re not responsible for consistent payroll like you are with employees.

Additionally, you should also cancel any subscriptions or accounts that you may not be using on the regular and are not locked into an annual contract. This could include email marketing or social media monitoring services you use for your clients among other things. One note of caution: if you also use these services for your own business development, you may want to hang on to the subscription and use it to build your business during this slow period. Dropping your account down to a lower level may also be an option.

  1. Be flexible with pricing

As a business owner, don’t ever forget the simple but essential law of supply and demand. To remain resilient during slow seasons, you need to remain flexible with the pricing of your services. For example, during your peak season you may be able to charge $125 per hour, but during your slow season when your time is not in as high of a demand, it makes sense to take on projects for a lesser hourly rate.

These discounted projects will still add up and help keep you in the black. Be sure and negotiate these rates for a limited period of time so that clients are aware that the prices will raise when you enter back into your busy season. Or try and scope these discounted projects so they wrap up prior to the end of your slow season.

  1. Focus on building your pipeline

Your business’s slow season is a valuable time to focus your attention back on building your pipeline of prospective clients. This may not earn you income immediately, but it will help set you up for future success. Make phone calls, send emails and put together proposals. Now is the time to invest in business development!

  1. Create a referral program

Since we’re talking about business development, your slow season is a great time to also launch a referral program to incentivize current clients and contacts to bring you warm leads. Your referral program can include a discount on your services to the person who referred you or a cut of the contract you sign into with their referral – maybe even a blend of both. Think about what makes the most sense for your business structure and then be sure to promote it to your networks!

  1. Tackle those business projects you put on the back burner

“Winterizing” your business is also a great opportunity to really dig into those corners and tackle business projects you’ve been putting off because you simply haven’t had the time. Now you do! This could include revamping your website and promotional materials, developing a better social media strategy or starting a blog. If business has really died down, make yourself your own client and focus on sprucing up all those odds and ends that have gone by the wayside when you’re swamped with work.

  1. Take advantage of the extra time to relax and rejuvenate!

If nothing else, your slow season is the ideal time to take a deep breath and focus on your own mental health. Maybe you take a vacation or simply enjoy more downtime at home. However you choose to spend your hours outside the office is up to you, but this could be a valuable opportunity to rebalance your personal and professional responsibilities. Most importantly, use this time to get fully recharged so that when your busy season hits again (and it will) you are ready and raring to go!

When does your business tend to hit a slow season? Share some of the ways in which you “winterize” your business to minimize overhead and focus on client building during these times.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Why It’s Cheaper to Hire a Professional

hiring a professional

It’s our nature to bargain shop. Why pay full price when we can score a discount, right? I don’t disagree with this mentality when it comes to shoes, handbags or grocery bills. However, there are certain instances when choosing the rock bottom price can really cost you.

There will be various times in your life when you will have to choose whether you want to pay a little more to work with a professional or save a few bucks and hire an amateur. This applies to countless services such as wedding planning, web design, copy writing, marketing and social media management – to name a few. In my experience, I have found that so many of my clients have been burned by first working with an amateur before coming to me. The small amount of money they saved with this decision didn’t come close to offsetting the quality of work the amateur produced or the headache it took to manage them.

Rather than judging a job solely based on its price tag, carefully consider everything else this “bargain shopping” stands to cost you. Here are five reasons why, when looking at the big picture, it is actually a better deal to work with a professional from the start.

  1. Get it right the first time

When you work with a professional, you are much more likely to be given a final product that you are happy with the first time around. Working with an amateur may be cheaper, but it will most certainly cost you time as you muddle through draft after draft of mediocre work.

Ultimately you must consider the value of your time. If you are spending business hours vetoing work that doesn’t make the grade, this is time you are not spending running your own business. Using a professional will substantially decrease the time it takes to finalize a product you are thrilled with.

  1. Quality work that will stand the test of time

Additionally, hiring a professional will give you a final product that will maintain its quality over the coming months and years. Think about buying clothes or building a house. Investing in quality materials will give you a much longer lifespan for these products – as will working with a professional for your marketing and content writing needs.

A professional knows how to create content and strategies that are “evergreen” and give you the biggest bang for your buck for the longest amount of time. An amateur often lacks the foresight and expertise to create something that not only functions great now, but will stand the test of time.

  1. Less micromanaging on your part

When you choose to work with a professional, you benefit from not having to constantly look over their shoulder, badger them with follow-up emails or micromanage every project they complete for you. Simply put, you can trust them to do the job and do it right.

A professional is an equal partner, not a direct report. While they defer to you for a final decision, they bring to the table their own skills and area of expertise that complement your own and make up for where you may lack. You don’t need to hover over them to make sure they stay on task – they are self-motivated and function as a one-person department within your business, even when outsourced.

  1. Expert ideas you may not have thought of

One of the most valuable aspects of working with a professional is that they offer up expert ideas that you may never have considered. Professionals are by no means a “Yes-Man” to your requests. They have experience executing countless strategies for industries very much like your own and can offer trade secrets that they know to be effective or steer you away from strategies that have proven ineffective.

While you may think you know what you want, experts know what you actually need. Amateurs are willing to provide you with whatever you ask for, but this doesn’t always deliver the most favorable outcome. Sometimes you need someone to help you see the light and guide you toward a new and even better option.

  1. A strategic partner to steer you in the right direction

Most importantly, when you hire a professional, you gain a strategic partner. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you can feel alone and isolated in your work. Sometimes what you really need – more than someone to simply take tasks off your plate – is someone to steer you in the right direction. I have personally found with many of my clients, that once we build a level of trust within our relationship, I become a sounding board for various business ideas that may not even relate to the services I provide.

Business owners (myself included) need a strategic partner, a right-hand-person, or just someone who understands the complexity of the decisions we must make on a regular basis and offer us some stability and reassurance when the ship really gets to rocking. An amateur cannot offer this same level of expertise when it comes to business consulting. They aren’t seasoned or experienced in the same way a professional is. To pay for business consulting services alone is a sizeable investment; when you work with the right professional, this comes as part of the whole package!

Have you found it to be cheaper or more expensive to work with a professional in the long-run? Share your personal experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Why Being Positive Makes You a Target for Criticism

target on person

In the midst of so many horrific, unsettling and unnerving events going on worldwide – from Ebola to Isis and many wars and natural disasters in between – it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook on all the good that still exists.

The media has done an excellent job of using all of these stories to sell papers based on shock value. How scary can they make the headline? How much hype can they create within a single article? Unfortunately, the duty then falls upon our shoulders to seek out the truth and to build up our own sense of hope.

Hope – what a powerful word.

Hope, or the lack thereof, can completely change your outlook on life. Even when surrounded by negativity, feeling hopeful can keep that bounce in your step and that smile on your face. However, in thinking late one night before bed as I had just scrolled through some of the latest headlines and was reflecting on some of the conversations I had that day, I came to the conclusion that one unexpected byproduct of having hope is that it can make you a target for criticism.

Anymore, if you don’t give in to fueling the hype machine with your responses to casual conversations about politics, wars, healthcare or the weather, people tend to criticize your motive for doing so. Want to see this point proven first hand? The next time someone asks you “So what do you think about [insert negative topic]?” Respond with, “Oh, I’m really not concerned. The solution is in good hands. And it’s still a beautiful day, right?”

The criticism you’ll receive, either by verbal rebuttal to continue the conversation or by a strange look and an awkward silence to end the conversation, will fall into one of three categories. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.

You don’t care enough

Myth: If you’re hopeful that things are okay or will all work out on their own, you simply must not care enough. Not true. You care, you care a lot. This is why you’ve taken on the challenge of cultivating a positive outlook at a time when it is the default and the easy way out to be negative. Regurgitating the mass media’s opinion takes little care whatsoever. It’s the positive people that truly do care about the greater good by maintaining hope.

You are naïve

Myth: If you’re not worrying, it’s only because you are too naïve to understand the gravity of what’s really going on. Not true. If anything you have a better understanding of the topic than most people which is exactly why you’re choosing not to worry. Either you know it’s something not worth worrying about or you know that worrying does absolutely nothing to solve a problem, even if it is of concern.

You are not doing everything you can to help

Myth: If you’re holding on to hope that the solution is already in good hands, you aren’t doing everything you can to personally help the situation. Not true. Pertaining to 99 percent of the world’s topics of concern, you personally can’t do much more to help than to remain calm and positive. By not contributing to the hysteria or spreading around exaggerated facts to scare people further, you’re doing one of the most important things you can be doing – spreading peace and hope.

It’s a tough topic, but one that I think is very important for us to give some thought to. Are we the hopeful ones being criticized into today’s frenzy of negativity and fear or are we the ones fueling it? Don’t let the risk of criticism stop you from cultivating hope in your own life!

In what ways have you experienced criticism for being positive? Share your own stories by commenting below!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Life

 

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The Power of the Written Word: Why Marketers Say Written Content Still Trumps Visuals

words have power

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it when comes to marketing and branding, experts say that written content is still king.

A recent survey from Social Media Examiner shares some interesting (and unexpected) insights into how marketers value social media and content. What really caught my attention was that even in a social landscape that appears to be dominated by visuals and graphics, it’s the written content that still has the greatest impact on sharing a message.

Over half of marketers – 58 percent – claim written content is their most important form of social content. Visual content – the next highest category – came in at just 19 percent. From there the categories become even weaker and more spread out.

But we know visuals grab our attention, so why should we care about these numbers? The results of this survey were from 3,000 marketing professionals that live and breathe social media every single day. They quite literally make it their job to try new trends and monitor the results. Regardless of what we feel is most effective, these people have the data to show us what’s really working. And they’re saying that even the most mesmerizing graphic designs will miss the mark without quality written content to back it up.

Really though, this survey isn’t telling us anything we shouldn’t already know. It’s simply bringing to light the obvious trends that may be so obvious we are completely overlooking them. Social media values (and rewards) original written content. Take for example, LinkedIn. They understand the power of the written word and that’s why they created a publishing platform where members can share their thoughts in an organized and attractive format.

In case you still need more proof to convince you of the importance of written content as part of your marketing strategy, let’s not forget about SEO. Search engines love original written content! Even visuals rely on written content in the file name and captions to help boost their indexing on search engines.

The Takeaway

This is an important reminder to not get lazy with our content and messaging. Your visuals and audio clips will grab your audience’s attention, but your message will be what makes them stay. So often I see a business or brand post beautifully designed graphics to their Facebook page only to combine it with a poorly written caption – or none at all. The difference between these visuals and ones that include a quality caption can be clearly seen in the interactions it receives.

Additionally, original written content is a valuable opportunity to give a voice to your brand or define yourself as a thought leader and authority. Better yet, use it to tell a captivating story!

And finally, there is absolutely still reason to share visuals alongside your written content. When combined, the two will grab the minds and hearts of your readers – and keep them coming back for more.

Do you agree or disagree that written content remains more powerful than visual or audio content? Share your reasoning by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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Failing Forward: Why It’s Important to Fail Often

failing

Failing is a necessary part of life. I’ll refrain from inserting too many cheesy “fail” quotes because I’m sure you’ve seen most of them already, but they do carry truth. Instead, I will say that I fail often and in a variety of ways. Sometimes my failures are so silly they make me roll my eyes and giggle. Sometimes my failures are so frustrating that they bring me to tears. Both types are equally as important. Why? Because failing is a sure indication that some pretty cool things are happening in our lives.

To help you come to this same realization – that failing often is a good thing – I may need to paint a clearer picture. We should not label failing as “failure” so long as we learn to fail forward, to get stronger, smarter and more courageous as a result. Here are six reasons why, after allowing yourself a brief pity party, you should take a deep breath and embrace failing with gratitude.

  1. You are challenging yourself

We don’t often fail at things that are simple, easy or common. No, we fail at things that require taking a leap, stretching our limits and coming out of our comfort zone. These are all good things (regardless of the outcome)! If you’re not failing often, you’re not pushing yourself often. I’d much rather know that I’m pushing my own limits – and every so slowly moving them – than to never fail the rest of my life.

  1. You are learning how to deal (gracefully) with disappointment

Learning how to deal with disappointment is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life. We’re moving toward a society that is so politically correct and focused on being “fair” that we’re creating a world of wimps. I said it. It’s important that we learn early and often the burn of disappointment from failing. It hurts, it sucks and it sticks around for a while. I still feel the discomfort of failing, but it no longer brings me to my knees as it used to. By failing often I have learned, time and time again, how to quickly regain my composure, fight back my tears and look for the bright side of things.

  1. You are growing tougher skin

The more you fail, the more resilient you become at brushing off the feeling of failure. In looking back at my childhood, there were always one or two kids that just seemed to have terrible luck. They couldn’t catch a break in school, sports or social circles. But I remember these kids as being some of the most pleasant people, always smiling and even learning to laugh at themselves. They grew tougher skin early in life and I’m slowly catching up. Things I would once deem as “catastrophic failures” are now merely a bump or two in the road. I’m becoming more resilient as a result of failing often.

  1. You are identifying your weaknesses

If failing is good for nothing else, it exposes our weaknesses. This exposure can feel raw or we can choose to see it as an opportunity to work on these weaknesses so that they don’t continue to trip us up in the future. For people who never fail (and I don’t believe they exist), they live their life thinking they’re without flaws and then when something does go wrong it totally catches them off guard. Failing allows us to sharpen our swords each and every time, so we never fail in the same way twice.

  1. You are gaining experience

Whatever steps you took that led to failing were still steps of progress that helped you to gain experience. Maybe you didn’t win that race, but all those training miles that led you to that big moment are yours to keep. You’re stronger and better prepared to take on the challenge again in the future. The same applies for so many other aspects of life. While you didn’t win the “prize,” all the time and effort you put into getting to that point are pretty good consolations.

  1. You are avoiding something that simply wasn’t meant to be

For those who believe in fate (and I do), I appreciate the fact that failing means I’ve successfully avoided something that wasn’t meant to be. If we wished to never fail again, we would likely stumble into situations that prove to be more harm than good. In my career, failing by not winning a client or job has almost always been a blessing in disguise. Either they were a bad fit or another, bigger client came along shortly after that I would have had to turn down had I won that original client. We can apply this theory to relationships, travel, big purchases and more. Be happy that failing is life’s way of protecting you from a far worse fate.

How have you failed recently and how did you choose to make the best of situation? Share your personal experiences by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Reasons Why Having Connections Isn’t Enough for Successful Public Relations

connection fail

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret. Sure, I’ve built up a good book of business and take my networking seriously, but I’m not even close to knowing every reporter on a first name basis – nor do I feel inadequate for this (cue gasps of PR professionals everywhere).

Now I’m not saying that having connections doesn’t mean anything, I’m just saying that it doesn’t mean everything. In fact, a lack of connections is the one thing you can compensate for with a solid strategy, on-point content and polished presence. The other way around? Not so much.

You know that old adage “It’s not about what you know, but who you know”? Well, I’d like to dispel this myth once and for all with five compelling reasons why having connections isn’t enough for successful public relations. Humor me, will you?

  1. Your story still has to be newsworthy

You might rub elbows, share jokes and sip coffee with a good variety of local reporters; however, if you expect them to repeatedly publish non-newsworthy stories as a favor, you will quickly drain that well dry. Everyone answers to someone and even their best attempts to sneak in your promotions will be vetted out by a check and balance somewhere in the hierarchy. Besides, it won’t do anything for preserving their reputation as a respectable reporter.

  1. You need to understand the outlets and what they are looking for

Continuing to pitch a variety of clients’ stories to the same outlet where you have your connection is putting on blinders to all other outlets that may be far better suited for a particular topic. People who rely too heavily on their connections often push clients to use that outlet, yet it’s not always in the best interest of the client. A lack of such connections leaves you with the unbiased freedom to pursue outlets solely on their reach and relevancy.

  1. It takes strategy to select the right angle

As I mentioned above, even the best connections won’t make up for the lack of a story’s newsworthiness. So often what makes a story newsworthy is the angle you take when writing it. This requires a good understanding of what makes the media tick and a strategic mind to align that with how you pitch your story. Simply writing the facts, even if free of any grammatical errors, is not enough to make it to the front page.

As far as having connections, even your own uncle or brother who works for the Wall Street Journal will need to decline an article that is overly promotional or self-serving. The ability to select the angle that will grab a reporter’s (and readers’) attention is worth so much more.

  1. Your content needs to be polished

You may have fostered some pretty solid connections in the local market; however, if you continue to provide them with crap writing, you can expect your emails to start getting “lost” in their inbox. The best connections will not outlast press releases and articles that are strewn together haphazardly and laced with elementary grammatical errors. A knack for creating captivating content and an eye for catching spelling and grammar mistakes is worth far more than the ability to name drop. Before you place any more emphasis on stalking reporters, first dedicate your time to polishing your basic writing skills.

  1. Connections can come and go

Finally, if your entire public relations strategy is built around your media and business connections, you are playing a dangerous game. Connections, as with any relationship, come and go fluidly. Even when you dedicate great amounts of time and energy to fostering them, it takes two to keep a relationship going and a connection or two may decide they need some space. If this should happen and you don’t have quality communication skills to lean on, you will most certainly fall down.

What additional skills or strategies have you found to be more effective than simply relying upon personal connections? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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