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.

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.

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.

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

 

My Favorite Time Tracking Apps and Tools

The first step to improving your productivity is to track your time.

The mere act of tracking is likely to improve your productivity; you’ll think twice about playing that game of solitaire when you have to log it. It’s the same principle Weight Watcher’s uses when they have you keep a food journal to track your points. Whenever you start to gain weight, it’s usually because you have stopped tracking.

Tracking your time is tedious.

The data is priceless, however, so it’s a good idea to track for 1-2 weeks every year. You’ll be amazed at the patterns you’ll see – and it is the quickest way I know to find the time vampires that are sucking your energy – and profits! – away. That’s why it I require it of all my coaching clients – using the data from time tracking lets us get to work right away and make progress much faster.

I used to have my clients keep a paper time log. Easy to use, but it took time to collate the data so you could see total time spent on particular tasks. Then one of my clients created a spreadsheet to collect time tracking data. Easier to sort time spent on tasks, but a little clunkier to use.

Now there are some great time tracking apps and tools.

Here are four of my favorites. Each is simple to use (I named my company Your Chief Simplicity Officer for a reason!), free (or very low cost) and each is useful for a particular purpose.

Rescue Time

Tracks where you spend your time on your computer. Once installed, runs in the background and can be set to send you a weekly report. The beauty is you don’t need to turn it off and on – it automatically tracks your time. Only tracks time actively spent in a program; no worries if you leave a program open on your computer all day, but only use it occasionally. Great for tracking time spent on email and social media.
ATracker time tracking app screenshot

ATracker

My new favorite. This app lets you track your whole life by tapping on your phone to start or stop each activity. It then produces reports on your day, and beautiful piecharts of how you spent your time. Apple only. You will need the paid version (a very reasonable $2.99), as the free version only allows you to track 4 tasks. Worth testing the free version to see if you like it. Con is that you must remember to touch the task to start and stop the tracker. Which is why I also recommend using:

Your SmartPhone Stopwatch

Just set it to ring every 15 minutes (or bark, in my case.) That becomes a backup to remind you to start (or stop) ATracker.

Toggl

My VA uses this app to keep track of the time she spends on my account. I’ve been using it to keep track of the time I have been spending on volunteer work for a professional organization. Works on both Macs and PC’s and there is a SmartPhone App too. Not quite as easy as Atracker, but nice that it works across platforms and syncs with your smartphone. Hint: it is important to track volunteer time so you can set some limits if it starts taking too much of your time.

I challenge you to start using one of these time tracking apps. Then share what you found most surprising as a comment below this post.

Overwhelmed With Your To-Do List? Try Trello

Stressed woman holding a long to-do list

Overwhelmed with To-Do’s?

One of the most powerful tools you have in dealing with an overwhelming to-do list is your goal list. Post your goals where you can see them as you work; when you have too many tasks to accomplish in too little time, look at your goals, and prioritize the tasks that move you closer to attaining a goal.

But, ah, you say, my list of goals is almost as overwhelming as my task list! Read on for some solutions to your dilemma.

Aarg! My Goal List is Overwhelming

Here are some tips to solve that problem:

  1. Don’t confuse a goal with a task. A task is something that moves you towards a goal. Calendar a task, or write it on a separate “to-do” list.
  2. Trello is a wonderful (free!) tool to keep track of tasks and projects. I made a 5 minute video to get you started with Trello. It’s so easy to use, that may be all you need. Watch the video.
  3. Limit your goal list to 3-5 goals. It’s great to brainstorm a long list of goals, but that’s only your starting point. Your next step is to highlight those goals which are most important to you, then try and combine similar ideas into one goal.
  4. Sometimes it makes sense to work on one goal before taking on another; in that case, put the only the first goal on your short list (the one that you see daily). Keep the brainstormed list in a file; when you attain a goal, revisit the long list and add a new goal to your short list.
  5. Make your goals measurable.

Keep Your Contacts Up-To-Date Without Ever Entering or Scanning a Business Card Again!

Stressed business woman at laptop "I'm tired of scanning and entering business cards"If you hate to type new contacts into your contact database, have been disappointed with apps that are supposed to scan business cards, or have business cards piling up on your desk or desk drawers, you are going to love this solution! No scanning, it’s free, takes only minutes to set up & then automatically keeps your contacts up-to-date. And it works for both Macs and Outlook.

All you need is a Linked-In account and Outlook 2010 or a Mac running Mavericks OS. I show you how it works and how to set it up in the video below.

This is a perfect app to demonstrate how the right app can help you automate and eliminate a task from your to-do list – freeing you to be the CEO, not the secretary, of your business.

I was blown away at how simple and seamless it is. Watch the video and see how much time this will save you!

By the way, if we are not already connected on Linked-In, send me a connection request. Include a note letting me know it’s because you read this post.

Do You Have Entrepreneurial Grit?

Dodging a bull as a metaphor for the entrepreneurial mindsetWhat would you do if you needed several new clients right now? That’s the dilemma a business owner I know faced last week. Two of her best long-term clients unexpectedly needed to cut back, and she was suddenly facing a cash-flow crisis. Luckily, she’s resourceful … and her solution is something you can replicate.

It can be tough being an entrepreneur/small business owner/solopreneur. But what sets us apart is our entrepreneurial grit. That’s why the solopreneur mentioned above set a goal of calling everyone she has exchanged business cards with in the last 3 months. She’s not begging them for business, but she is listening when the person she calls tells her what they do, making connections when she can, and explaining what she does. And, very importantly, asking if they know someone she should contact who could use her services.

Picking up the phone and asking for business does not come easily to her. And she sometimes forgets that crucial last step: asking for business or a referral. But I’m betting she finds the new clients she needs. Last night, I stumbled on a Forbes article that reinforces the point:

…salespeople who make more calls will almost always outperform salespeople who make fewer calls. That’s no surprise, but here’s the key point: This doesn’t happen just because the act of making more calls mathematically raises the chances of success. There’s much more to it. By facing up to the task of making a call, frequent callers put themselves on a faster learning curve. They discover more rapidly what works and what doesn’t. They’re quicker to learn techniques that overcome rejection. Thus, their success yield will improve–i.e., double the calls, triple the sales.  [Smarts in Business Is Not About IQ]

The concluding sentence of the article says it all:

In the real world it’s grit that makes us smart.

Let’s end with an entrepreneurial call to action:

Create a plan for the next time you need new clients right now.