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.

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.

The 3 Things I Finally Did to Have My Best Year Ever

 

Redhead woman having a bad hair day and looking for help to have her best year ever. Are you falling out of love with your business because you spend more than 50% of your time on things you hate to do? Would you like to be making more money? Walk away from your business for significant chunks of time and still have it run? The answer can be surprisingly easy – but sometimes it takes having a very bad year to make this clear. If you’d rather skip that very bad year, come learn three simple steps you can take now (even if you are not a business owner) to have your best year ever when I speak to the Ventura County Professional Women’s Network on February 11. Non-members are welcome to attend. Register here.

And yes, I will be sharing anecdotes and lessons learned from my own very bad year – and the best year ever that followed.

Vision Board Pros and Cons

vision-board-motivation

As Your Chief Simplicity Officer, my goal is to help you determine what will work well for you, and what to pare away. The objective of this post is to help you decide if crafting a vision board would be a worthwhile use of your time.

What Exactly Is a Vision Board?

The most basic definition of a vision board is this: It’s a collection of images, quotes and symbols that have meaning to you and which bring out feelings of joy, peace, love and happiness. They represent your dream business and life. The concept was popularized in the bestseller The Secret, along with the term ‘The Law of Attraction’.

Why Create a Vision Board?

Whether or not you are a fan of  The Secret, a vision board may help you.

Why?

Because most goal-setting programs focus on the intended outcome. What is the result you want? And while that’s perfect for a business plan, for some it’s not the best way to keep you inspired and motivated day in and day out.

For that you need to know how achieving your goals will make you feel. And that’s the real power of a vision board.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take a look at your vision board for an instant reminder of why you’re working hard now, and what you stand to gain from it.

Also, if you have trouble sitting down and generating goals, creating a vision board is a surprisingly easy way to clarify your goals. I’m fairly analytical, and even I was surprised at how the process unlocked subconscious wishes and desires in a quick and easy way.

Limitations of a Vision Board

Wikipedia has this to say:

There is some evidence that vision boards may be counterproductive, since continually fantasizing about success can lead to taking fewer actions to realizing it. Thus, an “action board” is sometimes viewed as a better alternative.

Or, as my friend Chellie Campbell says so well, “How many affirmations do you have to make in front of a piano before you can play it? The Law of Attraction also requires a Law of Action.”

The vision board is only a tool to keep you motivated to take the necessary actions to achieve your goals.

Who Might/Might Not Want to Create a Vision Board?

Create a Vision Board if:

  • You have problems defining your goals
  • You need motivation to move forward on your goals
  • Scrapbooking appeals to you

A Vision Board May Not Be Necessary if:

  • You are already very clear on your goals
  • You easily attain your goals
  • You love checklists
How Hard Is It To Create a Vision Board?

Not hard at all. You can spend several hours searching the web for instructions, or download my workbook guide and checklist for $7.97 to get started right away.





Banish Overwhelm, Not Enough Customers, Not Enough Money From Your Business

Being a business owner is hard.

It can also be immensely rewarding, both personally and financially.

There are a lot of numbers bandied about, but the SBA reports that only 50% of start-ups last five years or more.

The trick is to be in the 50% who thrive … without becoming a slave to your business.

The top three problems you face as a business owner are how to banish Overwhelm, Not Enough Customers, Not Enough Money from your business.

That’s what this book will help you with.

maura-book




A Compilation of the Biggest Takeaways, Strategies, Tips and Action Steps Shared by 21 leading small biz experts, trainers, coaches, and authors.

Your editors, Maura Raffensperger and Rachel French, interviewed small biz experts in the areas you care about most and asked the tough questions that YOU want asked. The calls were recorded, then Maura and Rachel wrote a one-page action sheet of the top points made in each one-hour interview – including links to added resources. These folks have helped thousands of entrepreneurs build more profitable businesses with techniques and strategies that work. Now they’re going to teach you.

You’ll have access to the top tips of experts and authors, coaches and consultants, speakers and strategists…all sharing their very best secrets, proven strategies and practical approaches to help make sure THIS IS THE YEAR YOU GO BIG IN YOUR BIZ!

Topics Covered Include:
  • Marketing
  • Getting Paid What You are Worth
  • Time Management
  • Search Marketing Secrets Revealed
  • Effective Networking
  • Secrets of Getting Free Publicity 12 Month a Year
  • Make Money in Your Sleep/Creating Information Products
  • 5 Tips to Crank Up Your Impact and Results on LinkedIn
  • How to Be Successful Without Burning Out
  • Magnetize Your Marketing: How to do Less Marketing and Make More Money

You don’t have to lose your sanity to build a profitable business! You already invest your money and time, but are you sure you’re investing them in the right things? Let the experts teach you how to work smarter in your business – all for only $14.97.





How to Banish Overwhelm, Not Enough Customers, Not Enough Money from your Business book cover

 

How To Be a Winner When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Be a Winner When Hiring a Virtual AssistantI started working with a new Virtual Assistant (VA) this month, and three steps in the process may help you get ready to hand off some of your work, too – whether you hire a virtual assistant or employee.

I won’t lie – there is time involved in prepping to work with a VA. But a little prep time helps  forestall two common reasons why hiring a virtual assistant fails for the business owner.

The two most common reasons hiring a virtual assistant fails for the business owner are:
  1. A lack of preparation by the business owner.
  2. Being unclear on what you want the VA to accomplish.

The time you put into preparation will pay off in a smooth working relationship.

Here are the three things I did as soon as we agreed to work together:
  1. Created an email address for her using my domain (i.e. Cindy@ YourCSO.com)
  2. Made her an admin on my Facebook page
  3. Gave her limited access (yes, you can limit this!) to my Paypal account
Here is why each is important:
  1. When Cindy sends out an email for me, she’s not using her personal email, which would not be recognized by my clients; it is clear to the recipient that she is with my company.
  2. Now I can have Cindy go in and do some routine updates and make changes to my Facebook page.
  3. Cindy can go in and create ‘buy’ buttons to add to my webpage, and process returns for me – without having access to the rest of my Paypal account. What a relief! I didn’t know you could do this until Cindy told me it was possible.
Not sure how to set up 1,2, and 3? Here are the quick directions:
  1. Log into your domain host, click on ’email’, and add a new account. Pretty simple, and takes 5 minutes. If you have a host like Bluehost*, you can call their 24/7 phone support and they can walk you through it. P.S. This also gives you the ability to cancel the account if you change VA’s.
  2. You should already be an admin on your own Facebook page, and will see ‘Settings’ as a tab on the top left of the page. Once in “Settings’, click “Page Roles’, then ‘Add Another Person’. You can choose how much control to give the new user by which ‘Role’ you assign them. Also a 5 minute task.
  3. You must have a Paypal Business account to do this – but you probably do if you are selling using Paypal. This one is not as intuitive, and I ended up calling Paypal for help – so it took 15 minutes, instead of 5. They do have live person support, which I appreciate. Basically, what you need to authorize for a third party to create ‘buy’ buttons for you is ‘API Access’, which is under ‘Tools’ in their menu. Or just call Paypal and let them walk you through it.

By the way, even if you are not ready to hire, you may want to set up some email accounts you can hand off later when you do hire, like support@yourdomainname or accounting@yourdomainname. That way you can train your customers & vendors now to use specific email addresses & not have to re-train them later not to send all email to your inbox.

My next post will cover some other important steps to take when hiring a virtual assistant or employee for your small business.

*Full disclosure: Bluehost is my domain host, and I do make an affiliate commission if you become a Bluehost customer after using my link.