Time Blocking: An Amazing Tool to Control Your Schedule

Free Time Blocking Webinar December 14 The first webinar was such a success with my audience that I am repeating it on Wednesday, December 14 at noon Pacific Time.

Here’s a quote from one attendee:

For boosting productivity Maura Raffensperger facilitates outstanding webinars. I attended and loved her recent workshop on Time Blocking. Bet you don’t know what the Pomodoro Technique will do for your overflowing task list!

Want a more productive, relaxed, and profitable 2017? Time blocking will set you up for all three outcomes. Now is the perfect time to find out how and be ready to jump into 2017 with a realistic schedule you have customized to meet your goals.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Update: You may have missed the webinar, but I created a 5 module mini-course that is even better. Follow the link and you can listen to module 1 for FREE.

Guest Blogging Guide

guest blogging - internet concept - text in vintage letterpress wood type stained by color inks with a cup of coffee

A powerful way to build relationships and increase traffic to your blog is to invite people to be a guest blogger on your site.  People are generally flattered to be asked, and, if done correctly, both of you benefit. Conversely, even if you don’t have a blog, have you considered writing a post as a guest blogger on someone else’s blog?

Inviting Guest Bloggers to Write Posts on Your Blog
  • The first step is to decide on your guidelines. That way you know who to invite. Write them out. At a minimum, this makes it easy to email your guidelines to prospective guest bloggers. Or post your guidelines on your site. Hubspot does a good job with this; you can read their guidelines here.
  • Extend invitations. I have a CTA (call to action) list I use when I call other business owners. It reminds me of all the ways we can potentially help each other. Extending a guest blogging invitation is on the list. If appropriate (i.e. they meet my guidelines), the list reminds me to extend them a guest blogging invitation.
  • Once the post is submitted, edit as necessary, then post. Because you sent your guidelines, the editing should be minimal. I generally add an image to the post. I prefer to do it myself (or delegate to my assistant) just to be sure it is a royalty-free image without copyright issues. It’s a nice practice to send a link to your guest blogger of your edited version for any final feedback before posting.
What Does a Guest Blogger Add to Your Site?
  • A new perspective for your readers
  • Expertise of use to your audience
  • More readers and traffic for you
  • SEO benefits

WordPress has a great article “Widen Your Circle with Guest Blogging” expanding on each of these benefits and more.

Want to See Guest Blogging in Practice?

Here’s an example of a recent guest blog post on my site. Fellow NAWBO member Suzana Roclord shares her expertise on how small businesses can improve their SEO.

Of All Time Blocking Tips, This is #1

Light bulbs symbolizing time blocking tips
Want to try time blocking? The payoff can be dramatic. It’s been credited with creating a  50% increase in personal productivity, making ‘impossible’ goals effortless, and allowing a laser-beam focus on what is most important, all while reducing time spent at work.

In my case, time blocking has done all that (well, maybe not making an impossible goal exactly ‘effortless’, but I am finally accomplishing a business goal that has been sitting on my to-do list for several years). The calendar control has allowed me to vacation more and consistently enjoy ‘date days’ with my husband — and still maintain a healthy business.

How you use your freed-up time will vary. Maybe you will choose to use your extra capacity to make more money. Maybe you will value the time to spend with family, friends, or hobbies.

The steps to time blocking are deceptively simple. However, as management guru Peter Drucker said:

Efficiency is doing things right; Effectiveness is getting the right things done.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

It is very possible to efficiently time block and still not be effective. How? By implementing time blocking tips and paying only lip service to the most important step: determining your goals. If you time block your schedule without having prioritized your goals, you will have effectively time blocked a lot of busy-work.

I see this happen over and over with my coaching clients. They nod their heads enthusiastically when asked if they have goals, but very few have actually taken the time to write them down and prioritize them. Your goals are the basis of all your business decisions, and definitely the crucial first step of all time blocking tips.

That’s why I planned a webinar that covers creative and effective goal-setting strategies to precede the webinar on time blocking. If you want to get the most out of the Time Blocking: An Amazing Tool to Control Your Schedule mini-course, make sure you also attend:

Webinar One: How to Plan Your Best Business Year Ever  

Remember, each webinar is only 30 minutes. To be able to cover the most important points on each topic, I won’t be repeating info from earlier webinars. To truly get the most out of the time blocking webinar,

Register for the How to Plan Your Best Year Ever webinar.

P.S. You may share this webinar link with friends and colleagues, and on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Vacation Starvation

Vacation starvation. In the United States, it’s a thing. As a nation, nearly a third of employees don’t take all their earned vacation. And it’s worse for the self-employed.

“When you’re a perfectionist with a customer-service business, you’re never off-duty. It’s been years since my husband and I have gone away for more than a long weekend” – quote from a Pilates studio owner in a 2007 Parade article by Dianne Hales.

Yet study after study prove the benefits of taking vacations.

Why you should take a vacation
  • Studies confirm that when you go on vacation, your performance increases when you go back to work.
  • Women who took a vacation only once in 6 years were twice as likely to report high rates of tension, depression, and anxiety as women who took vacations two or more times each year. The women who took vacations had stronger marriages, too.
  • People who are overworked are more likely to make mistakes and feel angry.
  • The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. asked managers where they got their best ideas. It wasn’t at the office. Inspiration came when people were at play.
So why don’t we take vacations?
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • No plan
Solutions to Vacation Starvation
  • Make taking a vacation a business priority and put your vacation dates on your calendar as part of your yearly business planning.
  • Write down all the fears you have about taking a vacation. Now you have the outline of what will become your vacation planning guidelines.
  • Start planning your vacation at least six months in advance.
    • Schedule a few minutes each week to brainstorm ways to mitigate each of your fears.
    • Honestly, lots of small businesses used to put a notice on their door and close for a week. If you are a solopreneur, think of it as an opportunity to reach out and contact your customer base directly to let them know in advance when your business will be closed for vacation. I’ll bet those calls even generate additional income for you.
    • If you have employees, what can you delegate? What can you automate?
  • Test your plan by taking a few long weekends. What worked? What needs to be tweaked or re-thought?

Consider taking a vacation part of your performance improvement plan. If you need more help, give me a call. I can walk you through a process to create a vacation plan for you and your business.

Why a 90 Day Plan is Smart Business

Fireworks of different colors brighten the night sky
I have a plan of what to do over the next 90 days to take my business to the next level. Do you?

Why a 90 day plan works
  • It breaks a big picture into small, manageable steps
  • It forces quick action
  • It keeps your business agile with quarterly reassessments
  • It is relatively easy to create
What makes a 90 day plan different from a business plan?

You do not need a business plan to have a 90 day plan. Conversely, having a business plan is not a substitute for a 90 day plan. Each has a different function.

A business plan is a much more detailed document, typically for a 3-5 year period. Fundraising is the primary purpose for many business plans, as detailed financial projections are included, and a bank or investors will require a business plan.

A 90 day plan is a simple and effective way to focus on short-term business goals. A business plan tends to look at your business from a macro level, while a 90 day plan breaks big picture ideas into small, manageable steps. Because you will re-assess after just 90 days, it’s harder to put off taking immediate action. And, by checking your progress after 90 days, you can make needed changes to stay agile. Just don’t fall victim to Shiny Object Syndrome.

Although many small businesses and soloprenuers start without a business plan, most successful long-term businesses do find that having a business plan helps propel their growth. If you do not have a formal business plan, creating and implementing several 90 day plans will help when and if you do decide to construct your business plan, because you will have created mini-versions of some segments of a business plan, and probably tested a few marketing ideas as part of your 90 day plans.

Key components of your 90 day plan
  • Keep your plan simple: it should contain only 3-5 goals.
  • Those goals must be attainable in 90 days.
  • Be specific on what you need to do. ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’.
  • If you have problems creating a list of goals that are measurable and meaningful to your business, check out my Best Year Ever mini-course .

As an example, one of my 90 day goals is to increase my Facebook page ‘likes’ to 300, because it will help me create a larger ‘look-alike’ audience for some Facebook advertising I am planning and also expand the reach of my posts. To do this, I need to add 5 new ‘likes’ a week. Besides asking current Facebook friends who are business contacts to like my page, I’ve also added the request to the ‘CTA’  (Calls to Action) list I use when telephoning business contacts. That way, if appropriate, I will remember to ask them to like my Facebook page. P.S. if you want to help me out, like my page.

Start your 90 day plan today and see if your results warrant celebratory fireworks in 90 days!

Shiny Object Syndrome

jewels as metaphor for bright shiny object syndrome

Ever played hopscotch?

I found a great metaphor for a business problem while I was hiking this morning. Not long after starting up the trail, I heard two young women behind me. They soon passed me, but stopped almost immediately, out of breath. I knew then – even though they were at least 30 years younger than I – that I would beat them to the top. Yes, they could speed up to pass me, but they could not sustain their pace, so they would stop frequently to catch their breath. And I, with a slower but more sustainable pace, would not stop at all, and end up taking less time to get to the top of the trail.

Shiny Object Syndrome

Which is what reminded me of a client who wants to change her marketing strategy almost weekly. It’s not that any of the marketing ideas my client wants to try are bad. It’s more a case of ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’. Every new marketing idea causes her to lose focus on what she started the week before. And just like the game of hopscotch playing out on the trail, it’s not the person who stops and starts who wins the race, but the one who commits to a plan (pace) they will sustain until they reach their goal.

What’s the solution to Shiny Object Syndrome?
  1. Don’t just commit to an idea. Take the extra step of committing to how much time you will give this project before evaluating whether it is a success or failure.
  2. Decide on how you will evaluate success. What will you measure?
  3. Do you need any additional resources in place before you start? Do you have the money to pay for needed resources for the duration of the project?
  4. Reevaluate the duration you set in step one. Is it realistic to to expect to see results in this time frame? Bounce your time frame and goals off a business associate, mentor or coach. Do they agree with you? Are you willing to commit to sticking with the project for this period of time? Formalize your commitment by writing your evaluation date in your calendar.
  5. Do not add any new projects unless/until the original project is running smoothly and can continue to run without interruption if a new project is added.

By taking the small extra step of committing how much time you will give each project before evaluating it’s success, your susceptibility to Shiny Object Syndrome is minimized, and your chances of reaching your goal increase dramatically.

Great at Lists, Not So Great at Follow-Through?

dog with massive list and no follow-through and smiling cat whose has completed her work.Great at Lists. Not so great at follow-through.

Six. That’s the number of times longer workers take procrastinating than doing the work. Not that that helps; you probably already have had that revelation. The following three step process should move you forward when follow-through is a problem.

Step 1: Ask yourself “Is it truly important?”

Will completing this move you closer to one of your goals?

If not, let it go.

If you still feel it needs to get done, move on to step 2.

If you don’t have written goals, that could be part of the problem. If you’ve had problems defining your goals, try using this tool.

Step 2: Try one of these strategies to improve follow-through

Keep this list handy so you can look at it whenever you feel stuck and not doing a good job with follow-through.

Pick a strategy that speaks to you. Not all will, and that’s fine.

  • Work in short spurts of 10 minutes, interrupted by 2 minute breaks where you get up and move. Use a timer.
  • Do something altruistic. No joke: researchers at Yale, Harvard and Wharton found that writing to a sick child, for instance, increases your sense of productivity, which boosts your confidence about finishing everything else you need to do.
  • Start working on something easy on your list. Same idea as above.
  • Make a commitment to an accountability partner.
  • Work at a clear desk. If that means moving to your dining room table, do it. Clutter is distracting.
  • List or mind map all the steps to complete your project. Then do one step. Calendar the next step.
  • Block time on your calendar for the task.
  • Delegate it (or portions of it) to someone else.
  • Pay it done. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein. If you always resist doing something, accept that is not your strength and find someone who will get it done.
  • Go for a walk/exercise.
  • Hire a coach. Yes, I am a coach. Still a valid strategy.
Step 3: Mix it up

This will keep it interesting and your mind engaged. Use different strategies for different projects.

If you struggle with follow-through, print this out or bookmark it so you can find the strategy list the next time you get stuck.

3 Easy Steps to Find Your Business Breakeven Point

Calculator and stethoscope on financial statement for finance health check including breakeven pointNeed more income from your business? One of the first questions I ask my coaching clients is “What is your breakeven point?” Not what you want to earn, but what you have to earn in order to meet your monthly expenses. A surprising number of business owners cannot answer this question.

If you can, congratulations! If not, let’s look at three easy steps to find your breakeven point. To make it even easier, download my Cash Flow Calculator.

First, a few reminders of what knowing your breakeven point can do for you:

  • Less anxiety: Many of my clients come to me with a underlying feeling of dread about money. Knowing your breakeven point relieves that dread and puts you in control. As one of my clients put it “I’m so sorry I resisted pulling these numbers together for so long! My breakeven point was lower than I thought, and now it gives me a realistic goal to work towards each month and great joy when I exceed it. It feels like a tremendous weight has been lifted off me”.
  • Increase Your Income: This can be as easy as cutting unnecessary expenses or simply a starting point in seeing the difference between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Allow you to pay yourself a salary: If you are not paying yourself a regular salary, you have a hobby, not a business, so stop feeling guilty about paying yourself. A salary should be included in your breakeven calculations.
  • Make business planning easier:  Want to add something new to your business? Add the costs to your breakeven calculations to easily compare how the added expense will affect your breakeven point.
  • Spend your money comfortably: See a conference or marketing class you want to attend? If you have exceeded your breakeven point (or, even better, set aside money for professional education as part of your breakeven analysis), you’re in.
  • Say ‘No’ When Appropriate: Sometimes the smart choice is saying no. This is not the same thing as saying ‘I can’t afford it’. Knowing your breakeven point allows you to choose wisely among all your options.
Step One: Collect Your Numbers.

Use one of the following (easiest listed first)

  • If you have a bookkeeper, this is really easy! Just ask them to give you your breakeven point.
  • If you are using accounting software, like Quicken or Quickbooks, run a profit and loss statement for the last 12 months.
  • Don’t worry if neither of the above applies; you can get still get a good estimate of your expenses by looking at your bank and credit card statements from the last 12 months.
Step Two: Organize Your Numbers

Your goal is to list every expense as a monthly expense.

  • Although you can do a quick and dirty estimate on the back of an envelope, a spreadsheet is really your best bet because once you have it set up, you can easily make changes to your numbers and see how those changes will affect your breakeven point.
  • If using a simple spreadsheet intimidates you, Lynda.com offers a self-paced online Numbers Essentials (Mac users) course in just over 4 hours, or Excel Essentials (PC users) in just under 9 hours. Knowing how to use a simple spreadsheet is a fundimental skill for a business owner, even if you intend to hire a bookkeeper or CPA.
Step Three: Find Your Breakeven Point
  • Add all your monthly expenses.
    • Some expenses may fluctuate from month to month, or occur only once or twice a year. Find the yearly total and divide by 12 to get a monthly figure. For example, if you pay $104 once a year for your business license, $104/12= $8.67.  $8.67 is your monthly expense.
  • If you have a service business, this is your breakeven point – the amount you need to earn to cover your expenses.

Want to make this even easier? Use my Cash Flow Calculator and just input your numbers – the formulas are already added to calculate your breakeven point. It’s a simple version of what I use myself. Click the button below to order a copy you can use in your business right now.

 

Ever Have a Nagging Feeling It’s Time for a New Headshot?

Maura Raffensperger headshotIf you hesitate using your current headshot, even for a minute, it’s time to get a new one!

If people meeting you for the first time look at your headshot and incredulously ask “Is that you?”, it’s definitely time for a new headshot.

If your last headshot was taken when a Republican was president, it is past time for a new headshot!

Even if only 2 out of 3 of the above statements apply, it is time for me to get a new headshot. I made an appointment with the talented Natalie Jean Ruffing of Natalie Jean Photography. She was the official photographer at the recent BRAVO award ceremony where I was an award recipient, and her event photos were outstanding.

Natalie is coming to my home office to do the shoot, and we thought it would be fun to open it up to  all of you who want a new headshot – and get you the group discount. I’ll provide some munchies and we can make it a party.

When: Thursday, June 30  from 4 – 7 pm.

Where: Oxnard Harbor area

Details in brief: Natalie will bring a backdrop. Your shoot will last 15-20 minutes. You’ll get a choice of which photo you want as a hi-res digital download. See her pdf for more info.

If interested, please email me or comment on this post, so we know how many to expect and can give you an estimated time to arrive. I’ll send you directions once you RSVP.

Remember, your headshot is part of your branding. It’s what you use on your social media profiles. It should be on your website. I use it on my business card. In the past six months, I’ve also been asked to provide it for an award booklet, a press release, promo for a speaking engagement, and 1 magazine article.  Don’t find yourself cringing when you are asked for a headshot. Make an appointment for a new headshot.

3 Easy Steps to Find Your Business Breakeven Point

Calculator and stethoscope on financial statement for finance health check including breakeven pointNeed more income from your business? One of the first questions I ask my coaching clients is “What is your breakeven point?” Not what you want to earn, but what you have to earn in order to meet your monthly expenses. A surprising number of business owners cannot answer this question.

If you can, congratulations! If not, let’s look at three easy steps to find your breakeven point. To make it even easier, download my Cash Flow Calculator.

First, a few reminders of what knowing your breakeven point can do for you:

  • Less anxiety: Many of my clients come to me with a underlying feeling of dread about money. Knowing your breakeven point relieves that dread and puts you in control. As one of my clients put it “I’m so sorry I resisted pulling these numbers together for so long! My breakeven point was lower than I thought, and now it gives me a realistic goal to work towards each month and great joy when I exceed it. It feels like a tremendous weight has been lifted off me”.
  • Increase Your Income: This can be as easy as cutting unnecessary expenses or simply a starting point in seeing the difference between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Allow you to pay yourself a salary: If you are not paying yourself a regular salary, you have a hobby, not a business, so stop feeling guilty about paying yourself. A salary should be included in your breakeven calculations.
  • Make business planning easier:  Want to add something new to your business? Add the costs to your breakeven calculations to easily compare how the added expense will affect your breakeven point.
  • Spend your money comfortably: See a conference or marketing class you want to attend? If you have exceeded your breakeven point (or, even better, set aside money for professional education as part of your breakeven analysis), you’re in.
  • Say ‘No’ When Appropriate: Sometimes the smart choice is saying no. This is not the same thing as saying ‘I can’t afford it’. Knowing your breakeven point allows you to choose wisely among all your options.
Step One: Collect Your Numbers.

Use one of the following (easiest listed first)

  • If you have a bookkeeper, this is really easy! Just ask them to give you your breakeven point.
  • If you are using accounting software, like Quicken or Quickbooks, run a profit and loss statement for the last 12 months.
  • Don’t worry if neither of the above applies; you can get still get a good estimate of your expenses by looking at your bank and credit card statements from the last 12 months.
Step Two: Organize Your Numbers

Your goal is to list every expense as a monthly expense.

  • Although you can do a quick and dirty estimate on the back of an envelope, a spreadsheet is really your best bet because once you have it set up, you can easily make changes to your numbers and see how those changes will affect your breakeven point.
  • If using a simple spreadsheet intimidates you, Lynda.com offers a self-paced online Numbers Essentials (Mac users) course in just over 4 hours, or Excel Essentials (PC users) in just under 9 hours. Knowing how to use a simple spreadsheet is a fundimental skill for a business owner, even if you intend to hire a bookkeeper or CPA.
Step Three: Find Your Breakeven Point
  • Add all your monthly expenses.
    • Some expenses may fluctuate from month to month, or occur only once or twice a year. Find the yearly total and divide by 12 to get a monthly figure. For example, if you pay $104 once a year for your business license, $104/12= $8.67.  $8.67 is your monthly expense.
  • If you have a service business, this is your breakeven point – the amount you need to earn to cover your expenses.

Want to make this even easier? Use my Cash Flow Calculator and just input your numbers – the formulas are already added to calculate your breakeven point. It’s a simple version of what I use myself. Click the button below to order a copy you can use in your business right now.