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7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

For a business owner, putting together client proposals or customer quotes (whichever applies to your industry) can feel like the bane of your existence some days. If you invest way too much time and energy into your client proposals, that’s time you’re not spending on doing actual work. Moreover, on the chance that client chooses to work with a different business, your time was a complete wash.

So how can you streamline your proposal process? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my entrepreneurial journey that allow me to put together just about every client proposal in an hour or less.

  1. Use a standard template.

While every proposal will (and should) be unique, you will save a lot of time and headache by developing and following a standard template. More than just consistent branding, a standard template will guide you with what information to include where. As you build an archive of past client proposals, you can pull entire sections from these, especially if you’re proposing a similar package of services.

  1. Scope the client’s desired services in the first meeting.

During my first meeting with a client, I leave with a pretty well defined scope of services. That’s very intentional on my part. With a narrowed focus on what my client wants, I can quickly and efficiently put together a proposal and email it to them same-day. I’ve found that producing a proposal on the same day of our meeting keeps the momentum going and often leads to a signed contract within a day or two.

  1. If the client doesn’t know what they want, charge to tell them!

If you find yourself in a meeting with a client thinking “They have no clue what they need! Where do I start?” this is a good indication that the first thing you give that client is a strategy. And by give, I mean get paid to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Working with a client to map out their strategic plan will help you see if you work well together. You will also prove the value of your work while outlining the scope of your services moving forward.

  1. Don’t put a price on anything until you agree upon scope.

This is the third point to focus on the importance of scope. Do you get the picture why it’s so important? If not, let me give you one more reason to consider. Say you create a large proposal for a client, throwing in stuff you didn’t talk about and you’re not sure they really want. You put a final price on it and send it over for review. Then the client comes back and wants you to take out what they feel is about “half” of the services and then wants you to also cut the price in half. This could put you in a really tough position!

Maybe the half they removed consisted of the less time consuming services, so it’s not really an even split. Maybe you gave them a slight discount considering they were going to purchase a larger block of your hours. Now you’re in a sticky situation. You either take the work for less than you would like to charge or have to explain to your client why the price is higher than they feel it should be.

Avoid all of this mess by providing your client with an “idea proposal” for them to first prioritize the exact services they are interested in having you quote. Then quote away! You may even consider breaking down the total price into line-items so if your client should wish to remove a piece of the proposal, it’s clearly marked how this will impact the total price. Which brings us to the next point…

  1. Break down the proposal into small line-items and let the client pick and choose.

If your client has a limited budget, but you still want to showcase the full scope of services you can provide, consider quoting the services out as smaller line-items. For example, a client asks for your help with a direct mail piece and new marketing materials, but you know they desperately need a new website and social media overhaul. Include these extra pieces in your proposal so they can see what each will cost.

I most often see one of two things happen. The client is pleasantly surprised by the price and decides to add the extra services in right now or they create room for it in their business’s budget and come back a few months later to complete the extra work. Whether it’s now or later, it is extra business you may not have gotten unless you presented it!

  1. If the client’s deliverables will vary each month, simply sell blocks of your time.

For a few of my clients, their strategic communication needs ebb and flow from month to month. One month we might focus all of our hours on a single, large project. The next month there may be several smaller projects that take up our time. For these clients, I simply sell them a block of hours that they can apply however they wish. If an urgent project comes up, we can shift the focus of our monthly hours or they can add hours to their retainer. The best part is that presenting this option is a very simple proposal to put together! I show my standard hourly rate and then the various discounts per hour they will receive based upon the quantity they pre-purchase.

  1. Put a 30-day expiration date on all proposals.

Finally, I highly recommend placing an expiration date on all of your proposals. You can determine how strict you want to be, I personally say 30 days from the date the proposal was delivered. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you add a sense of urgency for the client. They realize that if they wait beyond that 30 days, you may take on a different client in their place and no longer have the bandwidth to accommodate their work. This results in closing the contract sooner. Second, you reserve the right to issue a new proposal once that 30 days has passed. If there is higher demand for your time, your price will likely increase. This is a standard practice many industries use and you should too!

To bring it all back together, the key to writing faster client proposals is to be efficient and strategic in your first meeting with the client to leave with a prioritized list of what they want. You also want to develop a standard template, use pieces from past proposals where applicable, and be careful about how you structure your pricing so that you don’t back yourself into a corner. Finally, protect your time and add a sense of urgency to your proposal by setting an expiration date.

What tip for writing faster client proposals did you find most helpful? Or do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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How to Manage Work Flow While on Vacation

How to Manage Work Flow While on Vacation

I was fortunate to enjoy a very relaxing week earlier this month in the Outer Banks (North Carolina) with my extended family. There was more sun, surf and sand than what we could soak up in seven days! It’s not easy to coordinate many different schedules and all come together for a family vacation, so I wanted to make the most of the week and not at all feel tied to work.

In a traditional job, you get these wonderful things called “vacation days,” which you can use at your discretion and step away from all electronics without too many repercussions or guilt. As a business owner, and in my case a sole-proprietor, truly going off-line for a week can result in added stress and an increased workload leading up to vacation and immediately upon return.

Though entrepreneurs don’t really get vacation days, we also have no limit to how many we can take. Use this to your advantage! I’ve learned to let go of the idea that I need to completely step away from work to enjoy vacation. Rather, I practice these simple strategies for managing my workflow no matter where I am, so I can enjoy vacations and mini getaways all throughout the year – and you can too!

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Work ahead

When I know I’ll be dedicating less time to work during a vacation, I work ahead on tasks. For my most recent vacation, I had 60% of my September client work completed by the last week of August. Clients were happy to receive their social media plans, blogs, newsletters and other public relations strategies well ahead of schedule. In my experience, a happy client is a quiet client. I set myself up for a “free” week by working just one extra hour or so each day in the days leading up to vacation.

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Communicate early and often

The next key to success is mention and remind clients (again and again) that you will be on vacation. I think I started planting this seed a month or more out. When I would work ahead on a task or ask for quick feedback on something, I used this communication as an opportunity to remind them that I would out of the office. It conveniently worked out that my last day in the office before vacation was the first of the month, and also the day I send out invoices. With every email invoice, I included a note at the bottom reminding clients (one last time) that I would be away.

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Manage expectations

Along with communicating my vacation schedule, I was sure to manage expectations. I let clients know that I would be checking in on email about once per day and would address any urgent matters at that time. I personally feel it’s a little dramatic to say “I will have no access to the internet for the next seven days” if you actually will. Rather, I set an honest expectation that urgent matters would be addressed in 24 hours and non-urgent matters would be acknowledged and addressed when I got home. Giving my clients assurance that I wasn’t completely unreachable gave us both peace of mind knowing there would be no uncontrolled fires blazing while I tried to relax.

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Automate your daily tasks

During the seven days I spent chasing my kids around the beach and indulging in one-too-many treats, I published and promoted 3 blogs, sent out 4 e-blasts and posted to 17 different social media accounts combined 25 times. As I was working ahead, I created and scheduled these tasks to take place without my needing to click a button. WordPress, Mail Chimp and Hootsuite served as the employees I don’t have. Clients were impressed that their services went virtually uninterrupted for the week and I got to take the credit for “Working so hard, even while on vacation!” when it was simply work I put in ahead of time.

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Pick your poison

Finally and most importantly I stress that you have to pick your poison when it comes to managing work flor while on vacation. You can choose one of two strategies. You can choose to completely unplug, leave the laptop at home and turn off the wifi on your phone. Upon your return, however, you’ll have a tidal wave of emails that will flood your inbox all at once. Alternately, you can stay somewhat connected, check in on email about once per day and clean up your inbox a little at a time. Your first day back in the office won’t be nearly as overwhelming, but you’ll be giving up a few hours of vacation throughout the week.

While the second strategy requires staying somewhat connected to work, I’ve found that checking in now and again gives me the peace of mind to fully enjoy the rest of the day. The thought of not knowing what bombs could be hiding in my inbox when I get home leads to more stress and work-related thoughts than if I stayed in the know.

As much as you can script your email auto-response to say you’re going off the grid, as a business owner you know that’s not exactly realistic or responsible. Rather, consider setting aside a few minutes each morning to check in and reassure yourself that the world is just fine without you working today – then mix up a pina colada and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

What strategies do you use to manage your work flow when you take a vacation? Share your tips by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How To Make Your Startup Business More Efficient Now (Guest Blog by Kiley Martin)

The following post comes to us from Kiley Martin, a Philadelphia-based freelance writer, editor and blogger.


TimeIncreasing the efficiency of operations should be a primary goal of all business owners . However, enhancing business productivity often falls by the wayside when workload increases. People push things off and get stuck in the same old routines.

You might be worried about the need to spend money in order to make your business more streamlined. Especially in the startup world, it’s unavoidable. You’re introducing things for the first time and it will cost time and even perhaps a new position. You’re building something that wasn’t there before.

But spending money doesn’t mean inefficiency. In fact it often means the opposite, especially if you’re investing in the future of the business. If you spend $5,000 to save $5 every time you do a repetitive process, you’ll make your money back in no time.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can make your startup business more efficient.

Invest strategically to reduce costs

When a startup is founded, business owners choose not to invest in a lot of technology or equipment because it may initially increase costs. For instance, you may choose to use a manual fax machine instead of buying an electronic one with Bluetooth access.

However, if sending and receiving faxes are a critical part of your daily operations, using an electronic fax machine would save you time, paper costs, and the hassle of manning the machine when waiting on an important document. So, even though you may have to spend some money and invest in a good machine initially, it will make things easier later on by increasing your time and cost efficiency.

Cost benefit analyses like this are very useful for when you’re setting up your business as they can help you in the long run. Focus on strategic investments that impact your most important operations.

Automate your tasks. Focus on your specialties

As an entrepreneur, you will quickly become aware that just because you own a business, this doesn’t mean you are equally good at managing all aspects of it. You could be well versed in the nuances of how to sell an app, but you might not be familiar with the specifics of app development or coding. This paves the way for task delegation.

Foremost, you need to learn to identify which tasks you can do best and which need to be delegated to other employees so they can do it best.

This concept also applies to menial tasks. Even though you are a business owner looking to cut down costs, taking a full burden of responsibilities will not help your situation. If you spend three hours manually sending invoices to clients, you are spending way less time overlooking the state of affairs for your business.

It would be prudent to get software that takes care of your invoicing so you can pay attention to other tasks that demand your attention.

In the same way, menial jobs like sending receipts or overseeing the delivery of documents could take up mental space, time and energy. Hiring an employee to take care of these tasks or using a computer program can not only make things easier for you, but also streamline your business processes in the long run.

It will also free up most of your work hours so you can focus on other tasks that require your attention.

Furthermore, if you have a website, which you should, don’t spend too much time running it if you’re a website amateur. Allow a hosting service to take the reigns. You’re running a business, not a website or an AP department. You need to invest in these processes so they don’t eat away all your time.

Give feedback and encourage employees

Your responsibility does not end at hiring personnel. The reason why most startups fail is because they are unsuccessful at retaining talent. The employees may feel useless in terms of contribution to the overall venture if they are not encouraged regularly.

Sometimes business owners will stick to brief comments and words of appreciation that mean nothing to the employee. Without proper feedback, they can stagnate their progress.

Therefore, it is important that as a business owner, you develop a keen eye for the work of your subordinates, providing ample constructive feedback where necessary. This will develop your rapport with the staff and provide work fulfillment so they can keep working with you.

Plan your schedule and focus on one thing at a time

Most startup owners work long hours and sacrifice sleep for work. Yet, they always have tasks on their to-do list that still need to be considered. For them, the work never ends.

This does not mean that other startup owners have it considerably easier than you do. It just means that other business owners have learned to manage their time and their tasks.

But how do you end up going about that ridiculous pile of work on your desk? Well, the first thing is to list everything you need to do. Then, list the time you have in a day that you will dedicate to the tasks, and plan accordingly. Do not attempt to take on more work than you know you can do.

The same goes for your employees. Encourage them to direct their focus on single tasks, rather than multitasking. Intense concentration will produce better results and take less of a mental toll, resulting in quality and efficiency.

Do you have a tip for helping a business to run more efficiently? Share your advice by leaving a comment!

Kiley MartinKiley Martin is a freelance writer, editor and blogger from Philadelphia, PA. She has worked with several popular blogs and magazines. She recently graduated from Drexel University. She also enjoys mentoring and connecting with others on new technologies in web development and programming. Feel free to contact her at KileyAMartin@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

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What I Learned From My Accident

Bandaging armAbout a week ago I was out for a morning run. This is pretty routine for me as I love starting my day with some form of physical activity. However, this particular run would be anything but a routine experience.

About half way into my 10k, I tripped and fell just about face first onto the cement. After I regained my bearings, I assessed my injuries – two skinned knees that were already starting to bruise, a banged up elbow and a bruised and scraped chin that was beginning to swell. My right wrist was tingly and sore, but I figured I got off pretty easy considering the intensity of the fall. I made the decision to finish my run, battle scars and all.

It wasn’t until I was in the shower did I realize something about my wrist was definitely not right. It couldn’t bear weight and just hung there. I had to compensate with my left hand for just about everything. Okay, I thought, let’s see how the morning goes and I’ll decide if I want to put myself through the additional suffering of an urgent care experience.

I managed to get myself dressed, make breakfast, shoot off a few emails and head to a client meeting. By the end of this meeting, my elbow and wrist were swollen with fluid and things were getting worse, fast. I knew urgent care was inevitable, so after spending two and half hours of my time (and who knows what the bill will be), I was told I fortunately didn’t break any bones, but badly sprained my right wrist and elbow. With my arm in a sling, I got myself home and called it a day. By this point my fingers were ice cold and it hurt to move my arm the slightest. This was the worst it could get, right?

Friday night was horrific. Little to no sleep due to the dull pain and inability to get comfortable in any position. By the morning, my arm was at its worst and so were my emotions. How will I cook breakfast for the kids? How will I make the bed? How will I dress myself? How will I change a diaper? How will I do anything?

I am fortunate to have a loving and patient husband who calmed my panic and quickly stepped into action. Over the next days of healing, there were life lessons to be learned. As much as I was inconvenienced by this injury, something tells me God was giving me a crash course in some wisdom I needed to gain. Here is what I learned…

Things may get worse before they get better.

I was foolish to think the extent of my injuries were what I felt immediately after my fall. My body was in shock and still responding to the trauma. Rather, about 24 hours later the real effects set in. Bruises had developed, swelling took place and the pain was at its height. I was so discouraged to wake up the next day to find I wasn’t yet on the road to recovery. Healing takes time and so does the hurt. Things have to settle in before you can respond, and this applies to emotional hurt too. Too often, we are quick to respond to a traumatic situation when really we need to be still and process all that’s going on before taking the next step.

When you need someone to help, let them do it their way.

My husband made my healing process possible. Had I been left to care for my young sons (and myself) with a sprained right arm, I don’t know how it would happen. I couldn’t do much for myself, let alone anyone else. He assumed all chores and became my caregiver too. He washed my face and attempted his best to put my hair in a pony tail (a picture of that will NOT be shared).

There were several times I got overwhelmed by my inability to help around the house. While my husband was taking care of all the chores, he wasn’t doing things the way I would do them. In a moment of wisdom he told me “I’m going to take care of things, but they might not get done the way you would do them.” He was right and it was unfair for me to demand my methods over his. I learned to let go and in doing so, he was empowered to do things he doesn’t normally do. From this experience, I think I’ll do a better job of letting him help with more of the tasks that I needlessly stack on my plate.

You can’t do it all, but you can still do something.

In cleaning up breakfast on Saturday, I could see a laundry list of tasks that needed our attention. There were dishes in the sink, the countertops needed wiped down and there were crumbs on the floor that needed swept up. Usually I would tackle these while my husband was changing the kids and making their beds. But in this moment I felt helpless and frustrated. I started to see what I could accomplish with one hand. Amazingly, I was pretty good at cleaning the countertops and sweeping the floors left-handed. Being able to accomplish even these small tasks lifted my spirits, made me feel empowered and gave me hope that very soon things will start to feel “normal” again.

Look on the bright side, because there is always a bright side.

As I kept replaying my fall in my mind, and as I had to explain the story to my concerned friends and neighbors who saw my injuries, I realized time and time again just how much worse it could have been! Foremost, thank God for no broken bones. At first glance, urgent care thought I would surely need a cast over my elbow. Imagine the inconvenience of that! Next, I feel fortunate, given the major bruise to my chin, that I didn’t break a single tooth or completely crack my chin open. Finally, I’m grateful that of all the many, many runs I have been on, to date this is the only one that “tripped” me up. There are so many people every day who are in horrific, permanently life-changing accidents. Who am I to feel sorry? I feel lucky!

It’s won’t be like this forever.                            

As I quickly regained strength in my arm, the most significant being in the first 48 hours, I realized I’m going to be back to good health in about one week. While those days of pain and healing were significant, they are the smallest blip in the overall timeline of my life. Yes I’ll surely have other injuries in the future, but I hope I will remember this important life lesson – that whatever you’re going through right now feels like the biggest and most challenging thing in your life (maybe it is), but when it’s over, the years to come will fade and soften this memory with things far brighter.

Has life ever thrown you a major curve ball? How did you respond and what were some of the lessons you learned? Please share your wisdom!

 

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Freshly Pressed, Life

 

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Online Bullying Even When Working From Home (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Online Bullying Even When Working From Home

African man sleeping at his workplace in officeFor me, this is a personal topic. Bullying was endemic in the company where I worked prior to becoming a mother. Human Resources is a challenging and fast moving area of any business. At first it excited me – the ability to find ideal, new employees, evaluating them, helping them flourish and rewarding the good ones. However, it soon became like many other areas of business and life in general – a case of who you know, what you say to the right person, and more, how you destroy those you do not like. Those in power bullied the new, the weak, and the ostracized. This had nothing to do with ability or work ethic, but everything to do with cliques.

No Boundaries for 21st Century Bullying

The level of bullying increased whenever someone was ill, made a mistake, or worst of all, got pregnant. So you can imagine my own feelings on becoming pregnant for the first time. Sure enough, the bullying stepped up a notch. Luckily, senior management was flexible and accommodating, so they let me become a remote worker. My jobs could be done from home just as well as in the office and for a while this was fantastic; largely because I had a new daughter who brought joy to my life, a supportive and engaged husband, and maternity leave – sweet maternity leave.

Once back, even though I worked from home, I would receive bullying emails, text, Skype messages, and phone calls. Eventually I was released from my work for “under-performance,” despite being one of highest producing employees. Working from home is not a protection from bullying in the 21st century. Whether as a remote employee or a freelance worker, those who seek to bully will do so regardless of the working environment. It can be brazen and open or covert. In fact, the proliferation of smart devices, chat apps, online work platforms, and so on make it easier for bullies to get a hold of their targets and harass them 24/7.

What Employees can do to Reduce Online Bullying

If you need to leave your current employer or client, then you are presented with several options. There may be legal angles you can take due to the nature of the bullying. This is, however, a long term compensation rather than a solution. Finding new clients is obviously the first thing for a freelancer to do. Being self-employed, there are benefits and problems when work is slow, so it can feel difficult to give up a source of income and trade it in for insecurity. If you have been earning for long enough, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. While there are federal regulations, most of this is handled on a state by state basis. Any unemployment insurance and benefits can be vital in giving you the chance to turn around your situation and find new employment, new clients, or a totally new direction.

However, it may be possible to save the situation. Being bullied has untold effects on our bodies and our minds, but it is not something to suffer or put up with. First, you should gather evidence of how you are being bullied by this person or people. Then you need to find the support of someone in authority – this can include a Union Rep if you have one. Check your legal rights under both federal and state law. Then you need to stay tough, hold your ground, and sadly, as noted above, have an exit strategy just in case. Now, the important part is not to confront the bully directly because they can and will twist this to suit them. First confide in management or a colleague, and work with them to address the situation.

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Bullying can come in all shapes and forms – and even from someone you consider a friend. If a colleague or client’s actions are causing you mental and emotional distress and impacting your work, it’s time to take action. No amount of money is worth putting up with negative and harassing comments. Often it’s the subtle harassment that builds up over time that is the hardest to identify. Working together doesn’t mean you have to be friends, but it absolutely means you must treat each other with respect!

Have you been a victim of workplace bullying? Please help us shine a light on the common occurrence of this very important topic!

 

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11 Habits of Highly Efficient People

11-habits-of-highly-efficient-peopleThere are a ton of cheesy memes and inspirational quotes out there that allude to this one truth – we all have the same 24 hours in a day. So why then does it feel like some people can accomplish so much more with their time while others are spinning their wheels? If you believe yourself to be a highly efficient person and find you get annoyed with a friend or co-worker who would take a week to get done what you accomplish in a day, remember this. Everyone has a different threshold for stress and some people are simply wired to be inefficient.

On the flip side, if you find yourself struggling to keep up with a normal workload while that one friend seems to do it all and make it look effortless, keep this in mind. They have likely learned, and continue to practice the habits of highly efficient people.

Some people thrive off of the feeling of getting things done and are actually stressed out by idling while work piles up. Whether you can or can’t relate, take a look at these 11 habits to gain insight into the world of a highly efficient person!

11 Habits of Highly Efficient People

They accurately estimate the time required to complete a task. Highly efficient people are realistic about how long it will take to accomplish something, whether that’s washing the dishes or taking a client phone call. Inefficient people often underestimate the time required for a task and find themselves overextended and with a time deficit day after day.

They block-schedule their activities. These people don’t multi-task. It’s not efficient. Rather they block schedule their time for a single activity, get it done and then move onto the next task.

They keep a running mental to-do list. Highly efficient people always know what they must accomplish on any given day to stay ahead of their task list. Should some unexpected free time arise, they can identify the right task to fit into that time slot to knock it off ahead of schedule. They don’t waste 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there, because at the end of the day that really adds up!

They minimize distraction. Highly efficient people work in a bubble, in a good way. They “wire in” to their work and mute other distractions like cell phones, TV’s and multiple browser windows. They also avoid that co-worker small talk at all costs!

They keep to a schedule. These people have their routine down pat. While each day might be slightly different, it follows the same format. They may even wear similar clothes or eat similar foods throughout the work week to streamline things and minimize unimportant decisions.

They don’t aim for perfection. Highly efficient people don’t care about making things “perfect” because it’s not efficient, nor it is attainable. Rather, they aim for the point of diminishing return where any more time spent on a task won’t make a noticeable difference. They don’t deliver sub-par work, but they also don’t stress about everything they produce being a masterpiece. Often “good enough” is quite alright.

They only invest time in people or activities that they find fulfilling. These people refuse to waste time with people they don’t enjoy, doing things they don’t enjoy. They limit their social circles to people they truly care about and rarely do something out of guilt or obligation. If a highly efficient person wants to hang out, take that as a high compliment!

They go to bed early. Highly efficient people don’t gain more hours in their day by sleeping less. On the contrary, they likely sleep more than an inefficient person. Let’s be honest, no one is their most efficient late at night. This only produces low-quality work that likely needs revamping the next day, compounded by a groggy person who doesn’t have the energy to put forth their best effort. Go to bed early and wake up ready to take on the world!

They stay physically active. These people prioritize exercise and choose a type of exercise that doesn’t feel like work. By staying physically active, they boost their energy levels, mental clarity and endurance. Now that’s what high efficiency is made of!

They develop mental “toughness.” Highly efficient people aren’t easily rattled. You can throw a last minute project on their full plate and they will still find a way to get it all done with time to spare. How? They keep a positive “I got this” attitude that helps them pull through even the most stressful scenario.

They know when to say no. This is a big one, which is why we saved it for last. Highly efficient people aren’t afraid to decline an invitation. Someone wants to have a meeting when a phone call would suffice? Decline. Someone asks you to lunch to solicit your business and you’re not interested? Decline. Someone wants you to help them, pro bono, for like the fifth time this month. DECLINE. By saying no to things they have no interest in doing, highly efficient people make more time to say yes to things they truly enjoy!

Would you consider yourself to be efficient with your time or not? Do you incorporate any of these habits into your daily routine? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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