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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 

Review of the Chronos Time Tracking App

Categories used by the Chronos time tracking app include social, exercise, and workThe big issue with most time tracking software is that you have to remember to click it on and off with each task. Frankly, most people forget to do this consistently. That’s why I love Chronos.

A little background: One of my clients was spending 2 and 1/2 hours a month creating her client invoices. She had a bookkeeper, but could not delegate this task because she (my client) did not have a consistent way of keeping track of time spent on projects for each client. I suggested Chronos to keep track of actual time spent onsite with her clients.

Chronos is an free app (available for iPhone and Android) that runs automatically in the background of your phone to track everywhere you spend more that 15 minutes. It even tracks your ‘in-transit’ time. Just carry your phone with you and Chronos will automatically capture where you are and what you are doing – as long as you are not in airplane mode.

When I turned on airplane mode because I was in a movie, the app showed me ‘in-transit’ for the travel to the theater, in the theater, and from the theater. You can go back into the app on your computer and add the time you were in the theater, but it’s a bit of a pain. Still, as long as you are not in airplane mode, the app is remarkably accurate.

It’s also not a full-featured time tracking app, as it only allows you a limited number of categories, which you cannot edit:

  • Home
  • Work
  • Social
  • Exercise
  • Errand
  • Transit
  • Educational
  • Spiritual
  • Sleep

This would make it troublesome to track time spent on individual clients while you were in your office, but perfect for tracking time spent at a client’s workplace and/or time spent traveling to/from a client.

A benefit I was not expecting was the sleep tracking. Like most people, I should be getting more sleep. The sleep tracking is ingenious; simply flip your phone face down when you go to bed, then turn it over when you wake up. Seeing my actual sleep time in the personal infographic Chronos creates from the data it is capturing from my phone is (excuse the pun) a real eye-opener.

Chronos also allows you to set goals, such as:

  • Go to sleep before midnight
  • Go to gym for 30 minutes
  • Spend time with friends
What I love about the Chronos App:
  • It runs automatically, without me having to remember to turn it on/off.
  • It’s free
  • It tracks my sleep
  • It allows me to set goals, and lets me know how I have done in personal infographic
What would make the Chronos App even better:
  • Allow me to add goals not in the list
  • Allow me to add new categories (such as volunteering)
Best uses for the Chronos App:
  • Keep track/verify time spent with clients
  • Set a sleep goal
  • Keep track of actual travel time

Available for  iPhone and Android. Download from your app store, or go to GetChronos.com on your computer.

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.

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.