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7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

Conference calls sound like a great idea. For a lot of reasons, in-person meetings just don’t work. People’s schedules and locations can make it virtually impossible to get together face-to-face. However, conference calls are far from a perfect solution.

Having participated in countless conference calls, I can confirm that just about everything that happens in this following video has been my experience. Even if you’ve already seen this video, you know how good it is. Watch it (again).

So what is the solution to overcoming the many hurdles surrounding unproductive, awkward conference calls? Mostly it’s organization. When I’m tasked with leading a conference call, I follow these seven simple rules to make the most of everyone’s time – and accomplish the goal of the call.

  1. Create a calendar invitation.

Simple, yet so often forgotten. When a group of people agree on a conference call date and time, someone needs to take the lead to send a calendar invitation to everyone. Why? Because people can’t be trusted to take this step on their own. Inevitably, it will slip their mind and they’ll either forget the call entirely or be scrambling to find the phone number and passcode. Reduce the number of “Hey I can’t find the conference call information, can you resend it to me?” emails you’ll have to answer by letting your online calendar serve as a reminder.

  1. Send reminder emails.

Speaking of reminders, yes you’ll need to do this at least twice leading up to the call. I’ve found that I can greatly increase conference call attendance (especially for large groups of people) by combining the calendar invitation with reminder emails. Key times to remind people are a few days before the call. For example, if it’s a Monday morning conference call, send a reminder email on Friday before everyone mentally clocks out for the weekend. For an afternoon conference call, I’ll remind people that morning so they include this obligation on their list of to-do’s for the day. If you really have a busy/forgetful group, send a final reminder within the hour of the call taking place. That way the call information is right in front of them and they have time to wrap up that other work project that may have gotten in the way.

  1. Have an agenda.

I’ll say it again, organization is the key to running a productive conference call. This starts with a focused agenda. Make sure someone is tasked with creating an agenda for the call and circulate this agenda with each of your reminder emails. When participants can follow along with the discussion items, this keeps them engaged and prevents the conversation from drifting all over the place (mostly). Most importantly, you won’t forget to cover an important item, reducing the number of follow-up calls or emails you’ll need to have.

  1. Designate a note-taker.

With an agenda, note taking is easy. However, the biggest mistake people make is not designating who will take the notes and send these notes to the group after the conference call. The designated note-taker should not be the same person leading the agenda. You want to pick someone who doesn’t need to speak a lot during the call. Also, the note-taker should be someone who pays attention and is detail oriented. It’s easy to miss things on a conference call if you’re not paying close attention and asking for clarification, when needed.

  1. Be mindful of time.

Just because you have an agenda to follow doesn’t mean you can let discussions go on and on and on. Set an expectation for the duration of the conference call. Most commonly this is one hour. Schedule it as such on your calendar invitation so everyone blocks off the appropriate amount of time. Next, stick to that time. If you’re a half hour into the call but only on your first agenda item, you need to wrap up discussion or make the decision to quickly move through your other agenda items. Long, drawn-out conference calls are likely to have attendees drop off or find reasons to avoid future calls. Keep things short and focused.

  1. Set a date for your next call.

Before you adjourn the meeting, be sure to set the date and time of your next call (if needed). Not doing so while everyone is on the call is a huge missed opportunity. This way you can quickly get everyone’s input on availability and avoid the dreaded “reply all” emails of everyone hashing out their schedules. Additionally, you can prompt everyone to add the next conference call to their calendars and you can include the reminder in your meeting recap email.

  1. Email a meeting recap with action items.

Finally there is the meeting recap email. This is possibly the most critical piece of a productive conference call. It’s convenient for the note-taker to be the one responsible for sending out the meeting recap email. This should include a really boiled down summary of the call notes. I strongly recommend assigning names to action items and making this font bold and red. People will clearly see what’s assigned to them. Give these action items a deadline. Finally, remind people of the date and time of the next call.

By doing each of these seven things, you are far more likely to run a productive conference call in which people will willingly participate. Best of all, you’ll actually get things done, rather than spinning your wheels and wasting hours of your work day!

When you participate in a conference call, how highly would you rate productivity on average? Share your favorite tips for making business conference calls more efficient and productive by leaving a comment below!

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Are You Busy? Chances Are You’re Nowhere Near Your Full Potential

Chances Are You_re Nowhere Near Your Full Potential

If you’re like most people, your plate looks pretty full right now. You can’t imagine stacking one more client or work project on your calendar for fear it will cause your phone to catch fire. But then a new opportunity presents itself. For us consultants, this opportunity means more money, more exposure, potentially more work down the road, and more fun (because if you don’t love what you do, you’re doing it wrong). Or if you’re in a more traditional, salaried position, a new work project means the opportunity to showcase your skills, impress your boss and prove you’re worth a raise.

So, we can establish that new work opportunities should be viewed as a positive thing. However, there are moments when they still cause the sinking feeling of overwhelm. We’re already juggling a lot, will one more ball in the air cause everything to come down crashing around us? Possibly. But only if that’s the mindset you have going into it. I want to tell you that on more occasions than I can count, I’ve had a plate so full it could keep me “full” for months. Yet, I dared to take on additional work projects, and guess what?  I met all deadlines and proved to myself that I’m capable of far more than I believe.

Take a look at my best advice for adding more projects to an already full plate:

Prep your current clients for a change in your workload.

As soon as you know you’ll be adding some additional work to your schedule, communicate expectations with your current clients. Touch base with all, or even just your key clients who you know will be most impacted by a change in workflow. Give them your attention upfront and offer assurance their project deadlines will be me, possibly earlier than expected in order to accommodate some new work. An added bonus to doing this is your existing clients will see that you’re in demand and that your business is growing. Never a bad thing to communicate to reinforce you value!

Work ahead and automate tasks.

When preparing to take on a new project, you should use this time to frontload as much of your existing client work as possible. It’s likely you have projects that recur month after month. These should come easy to you. Work to get these off your to-do list so you have more room for your new project. Your existing clients will feel well taken care of getting their projects ahead of deadline. And you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you have a (nearly) clean slate to take on more work.

Put nonessential tasks on the backburner.

Up until this point of taking on new work, it’s likely you’ve filled your schedule with some nonessential tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Simply put, these tasks should go on the backburner where they surely will not “boil over” until you’re able to get back to them. It’s natural to fill our time so we feel productive, when really we’re just being busy. When you take a critical look at your existing schedule, you will surely find areas you can eliminate temporarily or even permanently to give you more time to pursue new work.

Schedule similar commitments on similar days.

As someone who works mostly from a home office, if I schedule just one meeting in my day, it’s a huge imposition and greatly reduces my efficiency. Thought it’s just one meeting that’s likely one hour of my time, I spend additional time putting on professional attire (i.e. not pajamas) and driving to and from the meeting. All-in, I lose 2+ hours of work time. Now if I schedule this same meeting on days I have other meetings, I can maximize my efficiency by meeting clients back-to-back in the same or nearby locations. I only have to put on professional attire once that week (ideally). So my advice here is, determine what days will be meeting days and what days will be work days. Avoid mixing the two and you will gain hours by block scheduling similar tasks.

Eliminate distractions.

This will likely be the hardest pieces of advice to follow for most of you and that is eliminating distractions. You know what these are. Cell phones, social media, websites unrelated to the task at hand, etc. You will lose minutes here and there that add up to an hour (or more!) over the course of your day. If you can eliminate these distractions and gain back this work time, you will surely have the bandwidth to take on a new project or two.

Be confident in your abilities.

Finally, be confident in your ability to juggle a full schedule. People do it all the time, at a much more extreme level, and they adjust to the point where they couldn’t imagine life any other way. They’re called “high performers” and you can be one too, if only you have the confidence to step outside your comfort zone, even temporarily. From my own experience ramping up my workload to a level I never imagined was possible, it’s a short squeeze of discomfort until you develop new organizational and time management skills that benefit you not only personally, but also professionally.

If you choose to follow my advice, the most valuable thing you’ll gain from the experience is the realization that you’re capable of far more than you currently imagine. This is not to encourage people to become slaves to work or take on projects to the point of exhaustion, it means moving outside your comfort zone, one step at a time. Chances are, you’re nowhere near close to working to your full potential. As you ramp up your work projects, you’ll be forced to become more organized, efficient and disciplined. Because after all, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

How do you manage the addition to new work projects? What piece of advice did you find most helpful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Fear or Inspiration: The Two Motivators That Makes Us Move

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


fearWe see it in the news, read it in a magazine or hear it within our networks almost every day. There’s some new start-up that’s growing exponentially and breaking all kinds of projections. They’re on the fast track to becoming the “next big thing.” It’s enough to make any small business owner or entrepreneur want to throw the old adage of “slow and steady wins the race” out the window.  Who wouldn’t want their business to skyrocket to Facebook-like fame? From my own experiences and observations, I’ve found that for any business that’s progressing and expanding at warp speed, there is most commonly one of two causes for this type of growth. The differences between these causes are paramount to the ultimate success – or implosion – of the business.

Most simply defined, the two motivators for momentum are fear and inspiration. For most businesses, it’s easy to pick out which they’re experiencing. The difference can be seen in whether their actions to accommodate this growth are proactive or reactive. Not all speeds of growth are beneficial if it comes at the risk of ruining your business or losing your sanity.  The ultimate goal for any business experiencing a period of growth should be to run like you’re crossing the finish line, not like you’re being chased.

Running Scared

Especially seen in start-ups, where one good viral marketing campaign can create an insatiable consumer demand almost overnight, the momentum of business growth can make you run like you’re being chased. You’re reactionary. There’s no time to create a sensible growth plan when you’re barely able to keep up with the current demands of the business. You’re not running the business, the business is running you – or after you, rather. Sure it’s momentum and to the outside world it appears that you’re making significant progress, but in reality you’re shooting from the hip with every decision. My political experience has provided me with far too many examples of organizations who function out of fear. Jokingly we called it organized chaos, but this reactionary behavior to everything thrown at us resulted in frequent mistakes and missed opportunities. In retrospect, these situations would have greatly benefited from even just an hour or two of critical planning. This small investment of time in the short term would have given us a more proactive plan to turn to in the long term. For any business or organization that appears to be “running scared,” it’s never too late to pump the breaks and replace this fear with strategy.

Running Toward A Goal

In contrast to the first type of motivator – fear, the motivator of inspiration produces quite a different result within a business. To the outside world movement all appears the same, but inside you can clearly tell a business that functions off of a well thought out growth strategy. Unlike running scared, running toward a goal helps you to make even big decisions with less effort. Your strategy – or finish line – helps you to see the obvious answers. You’re calm, confident and collected because your focus is on anticipating the next step not reacting to the last hurdle. The inspired movers are the business owners who are able to appreciate the growth of their business, not come to curse it. Most importantly, when you have inspiration as your motivator, not fear, you are in complete control of the direction of growth. You’re able to pick and choose the opportunities that best align with your goals. When motivated by fear, you’re more likely to take on every opportunity that comes your way regardless of whether it’s the right fit. I once had someone give me the advice, “Pile as much on your plate as you can. You can always take it off later, but you can’t put it back on.” I was hesitant when I first heard this and have since learned that it’s very bad advice. Be strategic with your opportunities and don’t give into the fear that tells you another one may never come your way – with enough talent and inspiration, they always do!

In thinking about your own business – or even your personal life – which type of growth do you most familiarize yourself with? Are you running scared or are you running toward a goal? There’s no questioning the accuracy of the term “growing pains.” Growth means change and change is often uncomfortable. What’s important to remember is that between the two motivators that make us move – fear and inspiration – one drains us while the other fulfills us.  It’s important to seek out the latter to ensure that even during the most uncomfortable periods of growth that require us to stretch our limits, we have a finish line in sight and a strategy to get there feeling like a champion.

 

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

 

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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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Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Tips for Writing Better, Faster Blog Posts

Blogging is more than just a popular pastime, it’s becoming an increasingly important part of brand building and business development. Whether you’ve committed to a daily, weekly or monthly blog, regularly fueling its appetite with quality content can feel like a looming task on your to-do list.

So often we don’t stay consistent with publishing to a blog because we feel it’s too time consuming. Before you throw in the towel – and risk losing all the benefits of your blog – begin with these tips for writing better, faster blog posts. The easier and less time consuming this tasks becomes, the more likely you are to find a good routine and stick to it!

Let’s take a look…

Keep a running list of potential blog topics

It can be challenging when you know you need to write a blog post, but you simply don’t have any ideas come to mind. You may waste valuable minutes trying to come up with a topic that doesn’t motivate you to write and the result is a painful writing process that leaves you frustrated and drained. Overcome this hurdle by keeping a running list of potential blog topics. You never know when an idea will strike you, but it’s not likely to be during an ideal moment to sit down and write. Throw the topic into a word doc and then come back to it when you’re prepared to take on this task.

Save a folder of photos and quotes for inspiration

Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. You don’t even need to have a particular topic in mind, but so long as a photo or quote sparks your creativity, it’s worth keeping in a folder for future use. Then, when you’re ready to write, browse through this folder and see what new ideas come to mind. I love pulling from quotes for inspiration. Most importantly, take a new spin on a quote to make the blog post original.

Start with the title and closing question

Staring at a blank word doc can be enough to signal anyone’s writer’s block. Once I open a new document, I immediately slap a headline up there and also write the closing question (you’ll see these at the end of every blog post I write). This gives me an immediate sense of productivity and also helps to set the tone of my blog.

Outline your sub headlines

Once you have a main headline, continue to outline the core pieces of your blog post with the sub headlines that shape the flow of your article. Many of my posts are lists of some sort, so I use this step to establish how long my list will be and what it will include. This helps me to visualize the full scope of the blog post and ensure I’m not missing any major components.

Leave your intro for last

You read that right. I’m suggesting you write everything else about your blog post then go back and do your introduction. This may seem backwards, but once you do it a few times you’ll see the major time-saving benefit. Once you have written all the other content within your article, you will have a better understanding of how to “preview” your main points in the introduction. Starting here cold will take you much more time to gather your thoughts, plus what you write may not even be relevant by the time you are done shaping the rest of the blog.

Write it all out, then proof read

For this particular technique of “speed writing a blog post,” you don’t want to take any more breaks than is necessary. I know I’m personally guilty of stopping after reach paragraph to proof read my work before moving it. This is a sneaky procrastination trick that we often don’t know we are doing. My rule of thumb for pumping out a quick blog post is to write everything out as it comes to mind and then switch to my editor’s hat and proof read the entire article at once. This is much better for efficiency and should also result in better overall editing.

Write several blog posts at once, when the mood is right

If you find yourself particularly inspired or with a good chunk of time to dive into writing, don’t stop with one blog post! Keep writing as many as you can. Once your writing muscle is warmed up, it’s a great opportunity to stock pile some blog posts for the future. Pay attention to when your creativity and quality of writing may start to wane and call it quits for the day. But push yourself a little further to write more than what you were planning, should you have the motivation.

Short and sweet works for everyone!

Finally and most importantly, avoid the pitfall of making writing a blog post into a far more daunting task than it needs to be. I, too, can get longwinded at times and before I know it I have wasted 2 hours on a blog post that should have only taken me 45 minutes to complete. The end result is a longer, but not necessarily better article. I actively try to get my thoughts out in a paragraph or two per sub headline. If I find I want to dig deeper into that particular topic, I note it as a potential blog post of its own in the future. Trust me, everyone will appreciate a short and sweet blog post that gets straight to the point!

Do you struggle to write quick and quality blog posts that don’t consume too much of your time? Share your challenges by commenting below and I’ll personally offer you an answer!

 
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Posted by on October 2, 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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