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.

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.

AWeber or Infusionsoft for Email Marketing?


Start Your Free Trial Today
Start Your Free Trial Today

Why have I been an AWeber customer since 2011? Because they provided the best and most customizable email marketing platform at the best price. In fact, AWeber was voted #1 among 25 leading email marketing service providers (ESP) by PCMag readers.

And they keep getting better! You can now add tags to customers automatically using questions in your sign up form. Really, AWeber is getting closer and closer to what you can do with Infusionsoft, at a price much more comfortable for a small business owner.

I chose AWeber originally for their autoresponder features, which I wrote about in another blog post. They also have tremendous real-person phone customer service, and helpful free resources.

Want to learn more about Growing Your Business With Email Marketing? Download your free AWeber guide and see if AWeber is right for you – or just click the image at the top of this post to start a 30 day free trial.*

By the way, I did try Infusionsoft, and it was a nightmare for me. The learning curve is very high, even with their ‘training’, which took hours of my time. When I had a problem, their customer service gave me incorrect advice, and ended up erasing an entire campaign. Finally, I concluded that in addition to the considerable amount you pay Infusionsoft, you will also need to hire someone familiar with Infusionsoft to manage it for you – adding to the cost. AWeber is a much better choice for me – and for most small business owners unless/until you have a responsive mailing list of at least 3000 that is making you money with each mailing. At that point, a comparison of AWeber or Infusionsoft is merited – although AWeber keeps adding features that make it very competitive.

*Disclosure: I earn an affiliate commission if you purchase through my link. What you pay remains the same – and I am recommending what I use myself.

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.

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.

Small Business Systems Development

Labelling with pictures help with small business system developmentDon’t you love systems where you get other people to do the work for you? Whatever the setting, that makes for effective delegation. I’m always impressed when I see well executed examples. Let me share one with you.

I’m just back from a lovely weekend retreat with 19 other women. At the conclusion of your stay, you are asked to do two things:

  • make your bed with the linen you will find in the bottom drawer of the dresser in your room
  • deposit your used linen in bins under the staircase

You can see the bins in the photo. Very clear labels instruct you where to deposit your pillow case, fitted sheet, flat sheet and towels. Imagine the time saved in housekeeping by having the linen from 17 rooms stripped, in one place, and pre-sorted. No wasting time sorting it again when it leaves the dryer, either, since all the fitted sheets, for example, will be in the same load. And let’s assume 5 minutes to make a bed – having each retreat participant make their own bed saves the housekeeper an easy hour and a half.

This is especially important because only four (religious) brothers run the retreat house. They have a very small staff that includes a cook, a dishwasher, and housekeeper. They need to run a lean operation, both to keep costs reasonable, and also to allow them time to focus on their priority: their religious life. See how this is starting to relate to your small business?

Effective delegation demands you have a clear and easy-to-follow system in place. Let’s analyze what was done right in this example, so you can apply to your own small business systems development:

  • Tell people what you expect in advance: We were given a short orientation talk the first night of our stay, which included a reminder to make the beds before we left, and the location of the dirty linen receptacles.
  • Use pictures: A picture is worth 1000 words – 1000 words you don’t need to write. In your business, don’t forget the power of videos to capture each step you use to do something on the computer. You can use apps like Jing to easily create a screen capture video.
  • Use the power of many to reduce the work of a few: It did not take much time for each individual to strip and make their bed – but may have saved paying for an extra staff member.

Giveaway

Win the Make More, Work Less Power Package – a $300 value!

I’m happy to announce the winners of the giveaway!

Grand Prize Power Package Winner: Maria Vences: Check out Maria’s Business

Second Prize Winner: Joseph Gannaban: Check out Joseph’s Blog

This Power Package includes 3 of the most recommended books on entrepreneurial success ever published. All are best-sellers – I’ve included links to a review of each book below.

And the books are just the tip of the iceberg. The grand prize winner will also receive an in-depth business analysis from yours truly – you’ll walk away with a detailed, custom plan for your business that has identified ways for you to work fewer hours, make more money, and grow with less stress.

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Review of The 4-Hour Workweek

E-Myth Book Review

Think and Grow Rich Review

E Myth, 4-Hour Workweek, Think and Grow Rich book giveaway

Simple Time Management Ideas from Great Teachers

Handing out papers to students can teach lesson in time managementIt’s common for clients to tell me “It doesn’t take long” when we are discussing time management. If you ever wonder how much difference streamlining a few seconds from a process can make, here’s an example from the book Teach Like a Champion:

I often start my workshops with a great video of a teacher named Doug McCurry, teaching his students to pass out papers. And he has them pass them back and forth, and when they pass them out in 10 seconds, he says: Pretty good – back in in eight. And one of the interesting things about this is the kids are so happy. They’re really enjoying this. They love the challenge.

But people often respond to that video negatively at first, and they say, well, shouldn’t he why is he doing that in the classroom? Shouldn’t he be teaching the causes of the Civil War or adding fractions with unlike denominators?

And then you do the math on it. I ask them: How long does it take, in a typical classroom, for a group of kids to pass out, pass in or receive papers passed out from a teacher? And ordinarily, a group of teachers will say a minute, a minute and a half. Sometimes the numbers are higher.

So if Doug can do that in 20 seconds or 30 seconds and save a minute every time, and you pass out and collect papers 10 times a day in a typical student’s life, for 190 school days, 1,900 minutes, you know, divided by, let’s say, a seven-hour school day, it’s something like four-and-a-half days of additional instruction with which Doug can use to address the causes of a Civil War or adding fractions with unlike denominators.

Read the full transcript (or listen to a recording) of the interview with the author, Doug Lemov.