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mindset traps, 5 mindset traps, how to escape a mindset trap

5 Mindset Traps You Don’t Know You’re Stuck In

mindset traps, 5 mindset traps, how to escape a mindset trap

5 Mindset Traps

(You Don't Know You're Stuck In)

task virtual assistant

Today is the Lunar New Year, and it's the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes recovery and growth so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about mindsets, or rather mindset traps.

What are Mindset Traps?
The term "mindset trap" is used to describe the ways in which we limit ourselves by thinking about how things are done in the past, or how they should be done. Mindset traps are not always obvious, and definitely not easy to escape. If you find yourself saying things like "I'm not good enough", "It's too late", or "I don't know what I want", you could be stuck in a fear trap, or living in the past. How about, "I can't do anything about it anyway", or "I'm not creative enough"? These are common thoughts of a self-saboteur.

1. The Trap of Living in the Past
Living in the past can be a trap that keeps you from moving forward. Sometimes we get so caught up in what has already happened, that we forget how much potential there is for what can happen next. It is important to let go of the past and not allow it to control your life. I used to have a small wall plaque growing up, "We can't change the past, but we can ruin the future by worrying about the present". In order to live a fulfilling life, you have to let go of the past and focus on what lies ahead of you.

2. The Trap of Letting Fear Stop You 
The fear of success is a common emotion that many people experience when they are on the verge of achieving something great. We may doubt our own worthiness, be afraid we'll suck at it and we'll fail in epic proportions in full view of the whole world.
The first step in overcoming this fear is to understand that it's natural for anyone to feel some level of anxiety about success, especially if they’ve never experienced it before or if they have experienced failure in the past. Understanding that fear is natural will help you realize that there is nothing wrong with feeling some level of anxiety before accomplishing something new or difficult.

3. The Trap of Self-Sabotage
Are you giving yourself the wrong pep-talk? Instead of using some positive self-talk to get things done, are you by any chance using negative self-talk to keep you from trying? After all, it's very easy to convince ourselves that we're failures. Why do we do it? Because if we know it's not going to work out, we never have to try in the first place. The self-sabotage trap is a common problem, yet it's hard to identify and even harder to solve. The first step is awareness. You need to be actively aware of your thoughts all day, every day. When negative thinking tries to sneak in, stop it and remind yourself of all your strengths. Become your best friend!

4. The Trap of Doing What is Expected
In today's world, most of us have fallen into the trap of doing what is expected at least once or twice. Staying in this trap, and continuing to live your life doing what you think you should be doing and not what you want to be doing, can lead to emotional burnout. But this doesn't have to be the case. If you are not happy with what you are doing, then it's time to break free from the norm and do something different. Listen to your inner self, your gut. You'll find the answer.

5. The Trap of Being Overwhelmed
When we are constantly bombarded with information, we start to feel overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, it is hard to focus on what matters. We need to learn how to manage our time and our energy so that we can stay grounded and balanced. Use a time management process such as the Eisenhower Matrix, the Pomodoro Technique, or the Pareto Principle - or develop your own from a combination of the processes. This will be your roadmap to follow each day as you focus on your tasks. Also, limit your time spent on social media, stop watching 24-hour news programs, and limit your podcast time to only programs that provide you valuable insight into your success. Declutter your mind and you will be more productive, less stressed, and more motivated.

You will stumble upon mindset traps often on your road to success. You can avoid stepping on them by developing a daily routine that includes meditation, and mindfulness activities such as journaling, deep breathing, and single-tasking. Stop being a perfectionist. We all make mistakes, learn from them. You will fail, and you will do it many times in your life. Embrace this as a gift rather than a burden. Don’t tell yourself you are a failure, tell yourself that you just learned what doesn’t work.

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Bookkeeping Tax Prep

Popular Bookkeeping Software: My User Experience

Bookkeeping Tax Prep

Popular Bookkeeping Software: My User Experience

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As we enter tax season, I wanted to talk to you about a few bookkeeping software programs that will help make your tax prep go smooth and stress-free. First let me say, there are many, many applications out there that are really good. A quick google search on "bookkeeping software" returns an onslaught of programs and reports on the best programs, comparisons, etc. It can be quite overwhelming! So what makes my comparison any different? Honestly? Probably not much, but I am going to talk about four programs based upon my user experience with them.

Over the past two years, I have been on the search for the perfect SaaS business solution, from bookkeeping to email marketing to social media management, and everything in between. And yes, there will be reports on all! Today I want to share my real experiences and thoughts on four programs: Quickbooks, Xero, Wave, and ZohoBooks. Complete transparency, some of my links may be affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission should you decide to buy their product, but this report is by no means recommending one or the other. This is just a story of my search for my perfect solution.

I used Quickbooks Desktop in the past, so it made sense for me to choose this software as my business tool. There are at least fourteen different Quickbooks solutions, probably more but I lost count, and it's not an easy task to sort through all of them and choose the one best for you. I chose Quickbooks for Self Employed and immediately realized my mistake, but gave it the old college try. Quickbooks for Self Employed (let's just call it QSE for simplicity's sake!), is an excellent tool for Schedule C filers. You can easily categorize between business and personal expenses, set routine recurring expenses, create tags, and more. The reporting is also fantastic, again for Schedule C filers. If however, you file a Form 1065, as I do, this is not the way to go as it combines all your personal and business data on the P&L and throws everything off. I could never get the two, QSE and my Excel spreadsheet, to match up. It was more frustrating than anything! My experience with Quickbooks customer service was not pleasant, but I'll spare the war story. Suffice to say, that after a few attempts, I finally reached someone who could help me switch my current account to QBO or Pro, and she even offered to do the transition so I wouldn't have to worry about messing anything up. Oops. I should have done it on my own. The transition went smooth, but she pulled EVERYTHING from my QSE, including my personal accounts! Contacted customer service again only to be told that they couldn't fix it, but I could purchase their accounting service and have one of their bookkeepers' help. Wait, WHAT?!?!?!?!? But it was your mistake Quickbooks!

Overall: Quickbooks is a love/hate kinda thing for me. It has exceptional functionality and an array of accounting reports that will help you see your position at any given time. I love the tag feature and the ability to filter within accounts. It's rather simple to use, but a little rigid if you need to fix a mistake. This is going to be the best solution for someone, just not me. Would I go back? I've thought it about, but then there's the hate factor - customer service.
Customer Service: Severely lacking, and this my friends, is a deal-breaker for me. If they up their customer care game, I could be persuaded.
Cost: Reasonable. Different tiers based on your needs. Online Plus has an annual subscription. The desktop version comes with updates for three years.

I liked what I saw of it. But, could not correct an account status from Bank to CC, even though I selected CC when I loaded it. When I reached out to customer service their response was to create a new account (complete new Xero account!) with a different organization name, and then link the credit card account to "Credit Card". Hmmm, but I did that the first time. After a little more digging and researching, I came to the conclusion that if your banking account and credit card account are from the same financial institution, then it will revert to "Bank" no matter what you do. And then, once you link an account, there is no way to change its orientation - even though there is an option to do that just that!
They do have a very easy invoicing system, that walks you through the process very easily, a zero on the frustration scale - haha, no pun intended there! However, I didn't like their choice for ACH - the company wanted way too much information for my liking, and then they wouldn't even cancel my application without first giving them said information. They continue to spam me for this information.

Overall: I never really had a chance to dig in. I went in on a free trial and I spent so much time trying to figure out a workaround for the credit card account that my trial expired. Quick note: once your trial expires, you can not get in to retrieve your data. I recommend downloading your data a couple of days before it expires if you decide not to move forward.
Customer Service: Slow in responses
Cost: Free trial, then monthly subscription packages based on your needs. No annual plan.

This is perfect for businesses just starting out, or if you have a small budget. The program is free for accounting and invoicing purposes. You will get charged transaction fees, just like any other merchant pay program, and you can add Payroll for a low monthly fee. It doesn't have a lot of integrations, and recently discontinued its integration with PayPal. Their suggestion was to use Zapier and create a zap if you need PayPal. This is quite inconvenient not only because you need another program (Zapier), but depending on how many PayPal transactions you do each month, those zaps can get a little bit expensive.

Overall: The lack of integration was a deal-breaker for me and I canceled my account.
Customer Service: I was unable to reach anyone and had to find out about PayPal through a Google search.
Cost: Free for basic service. Payroll plans start at $20 a month.

I've been using Zoho Books for a few months now and really enjoy it. It was easy to get set up and easy to use, once you get past the steep learning curve. They do have several webinars on YouTube to guide you along. The only issue I've had so far is the double, and sometimes triple entry it brings in with the PayPal connection. UGH! I have since disabled PayPal and it's running very smoothly. Zoho Books connects with PayPal, Stripe, Square, and WePay. They also have an ACH program which I have yet to configure. They even have a project and time tracking feature!  It may replace what I use in ClickUp!

Overall: Extensive reporting system, invoicing, and accounting, with the ability to add Payroll. Connects to all your Zoho services with a key.
Cost: Free version until your business grows, then tiered pricing plans based on your needs. So far, I'm loving it! And it doesn't hurt that Zoho has a kazillion other products I can rabbit hole down!!
Customer Service: I have not had to contact them, yet.
Cost: Free for basic service. Payroll plans start at $20 a month.

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personalized marketing

Personalize It!

personalized marketing

Personalize It!

task virtual assistant
When your clients are happy, they stick around. Studies show that having long-term clients helps you build a trusting relationship which makes it easier to ask your clients for referrals and testimonials. A key ingredient to keeping your clients happy is personalized marketing. 

Some of the benefits of personalized marketing are:

Create a more familiar connection between you and your customers by providing them with content that is relevant to their needs.

Provide a better experience for your customers because they get what they want when they want it.

Boost customer retention because customers feel like their interactions with the company seem more personal, more important.

Keeps your customers interested in your product by providing them with exclusive offers, discounts, and deals just for them.

And, in order for personalized marketing to be successful, you must first know your customer:
1. Research your client
What are their pain points? What are their happy spots? You can use the information you find out about them, and the tools of your trade, to help solve their problem so that they can move through your funnel to the next solution.

 

2. Follow them on social media
Set up alerts on your social media accounts and on Google, to get their updates first. This is going to enable you to check out the messages your top customers are sharing and stating to their friends, family, and if they’re also business owners, their audience.
You can also use their social media to help them by sending messages based on their behavior such as, “I noticed you shared that article about social media marketing. You’ll probably like this article too; I especially liked this part...” or, if you observe them trying one tactic, but you know another one is better, just give them the idea through a personalized message.

 

3. Visit their website
What are their offers? How does the website look? Does it load quickly? What about their keywords and phrases? Do a search and see where they fall. Use this information to send them a personalized web service.
Your goal here is to keep informed about what your clients' current needs are and use that information to offer customized advice based on their actions.

Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.

-Bryan Eisenberg

So now you have all this wonderful information, what do you do with it? You may not have thought about it before but there are plenty of ways that personalized marketing can help you connect with your clients:
Record a Personalized Video Message 

One way to really wow your top clients is with a private, recorded, personalized video message. You can do this to promote something, to say thank you, or just to say hello or happy birthday. Videos are a hot trend in marketing today, and a personalized video takes you over the top!

Customer Anniversary 
The day your customer first became your customer is a very important date that you should remember. You can use your shopping cart software to examine this information and get the right dates, or the day they signed your service contract. Sending your customer an anniversary message and "thank you for being my customer” message is a great way to create deeper, more trusting, and long-term relationships with your customers.

Customer Birthdays 
Knowing customers’ birthdays is beneficial because it shows customers that they matter enough to remember their special day and it allows you to better tailor communications to your client. Send a specialized birthday message, bonus points if you send a personalized video, to thank them and give them a little coupon or even a real gift, like an Amazon or Starbucks gift card. Get creative and send a QR code to take your customers to the video. Put it on a creative and fun e-card, or add it to a birthday card you plan on sending through the mail. Add something sweet and chocolatey, and you’re a winner.

After Purchase
Whenever your big clients make big purchases, they deserve a little extra high-touch. Send them a personalized thank you mentioning what they purchased, and offering to give them the extra help they may need to make their purchase a success.

Before a Big Event 
If you’re having a big event that your top customer is part of or coming to, send them a personalized message that thanks them, assists them, and makes them even more excited for the event.

New Launch 
If you are getting ready to have a launch, and your product is ready but hasn't hit the market yet, open it to your top customers first. Let them in on the sale early by sending a personalized recorded video message with a link to a personalized “secret” sales page.

Goal Success
Did your client or customer reach an important milestone or goal? Send a special personalized recording as soon as possible after they have achieved success to help them celebrate.

To Say You’re Sorry
Have you ever made a mistake or had something that didn’t go as planned? Heartfelt apologies can go a long way, and a recorded video apology will really wow them.
It has been proven that doing just a little extra will make you really stand out to your top customers and result in an amazing payoff! And bonus? It's actually going to be enjoyable to do, and you’re going to get a lot of valuable information from these customers. They will be helping you perfect your marketing messages to all your customers today and in the future. Plus, due to the added personal service you're providing to your customers, they’ll end up acting as brand advocates, and they’ll likely brag about it again and again to everyone they know.

Good marketing makes the company look smart.

Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.

-Joe Chernov

I would love to hear your ideas on different personalized marketing techniques. Feel free to add more ideas to the comments.

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purpose success passion

Are You Living With Purpose?

purpose success passion

Are You Living With Purpose?

task virtual assistant

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Throughout history this quote or some version of it, has been used by many. Could this truly be the real secret to success? I certainly do not have the answer to that, but I know that I never feel like I’m working, and I love what I do! I sometimes feel guilty, wondering, am I working hard enough? I feel too good, too happy. I no longer have that toxic stress that plagued me so much in the Corporate world. And for that, I am truly thankful!

Ask yourself “Do I love what I’m doing?” Don’t worry, no one will know the answer but you. However, if you didn’t answer “Hell Yes!” without a moment’s hesitation, it’s possible you have misplaced your sense of purpose. Read on and see if you can find that excitement you once had.

Know Your Purpose

I suspect you want to be your best possible you. How will you know who that person is and what they’re capable of unless you know your purpose?  

Discovering and aligning with your calling means you identify and build on your talents. What is your passion? What do you love doing? Chances are you’re already good at it. Why not focus on your natural gifts and turn them into your greatest strengths?  

Know Your Priorities

Your priorities are shaped by your purpose. Once you know your purpose, it becomes easier to achieve your goals. This clarity means that saying no to some things and a hearty yes to others becomes more natural, and you’ll get ahead much faster.  

Balance It Out

Once you’re comfortable with your purpose, you will find some of the stress and anxiety ease up.  Those little things that added up to big things, no longer seem as important. You don’t have to work 24/7. You know how important it is to stay healthy, emotionally, and physically. People living with purpose make sure to connect with the people they love, and they don’t forget about self-care.  

Follow Your Passion 

Knowing your passion will help you find and nurture your purpose. Passion means energy and motivation; it means being really engaged with life and focusing on getting the most out of it.  A new day is full of opportunities and promise, and you’re ready to go for it! 

Be Happy

This might sound a little surprising, but knowing your purpose and living it,  gives you time to smell the roses. Knowing your purpose takes the anxious edge off things and allows you to feel grateful for where you are now, and to be excited for the future.  

Live in the Now

Perhaps the best part of knowing your purpose is that you relish every moment. There’s no room in your life for regret because everything you do is part of the big adventure. Challenges and setbacks become easier to ride out because you’re not letting failure define you. Being plugged into the present allows you to feel the abundance that’s already in your life.  

Finding your purpose, the reason why you are doing what you do, can turn everything around. It can make your life and work immediately more meaningful, giving you a reason to bound out of bed in the morning instead of grouching your way to the coffee pot.  

And living with that purpose helps to make the tough times easier to deal with, and the good times even better.  

 

Are You Living With Purpose? Read More »

Time Management, Time Vampires

12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Time Management, Time Vampires

12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part II of the Time Management Series

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Now that you’ve identified the time-vampires in your life, you can now work on finding more time in your day. Once you let go of time wasters and focus on being productive without over scheduling, you’re going to meet your life goals faster than you think.

1. Check Your Attitude

If you don’t believe you have control over your own time and that you can eliminate time wasters, gain more time, and get more done, quite simply – you won’t. When it comes to time, it can be challenging to develop an abundance mindset. Not only can you eliminate time wasters, but with smart delegation, you can buy more time.

2. Go to Bed and Get Up and the Same Time Each Day

It might seem counterproductive when you want more time, but by going to bed on time and sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night, avoiding over or under sleeping, you will create a situation where your mind and body get used to functioning at the time you need it.

Going to bed and rising at the same time every day is going to give you more energy. You’ll be more productive after a good night’s sleep. When your mind is clear and not sleepy, you can do more, better, and faster.

And finally, it gives you the same amount of time each day to be super productive.

3. Breathe

Take the time to take a few deep breaths. In through your nose on a count of four, slowly – now hold it in, count to four, and then slowly let the air out of your mouth on a count of four.

Practicing this breathing technique for 5 minutes is a great way to center yourself before starting your day.

Take one or two deep breaths before each task to calm you and set your focus.

4. Organize Tasks by Priorities

The 34th president of the United States came up with a method to figure out what’s important to do and what can wait. It’s called the Time Management Matrix and, over time, has become the Time Quadrant and made more famous by Stephen R. Covey, who wrote the book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Essentially, you need to organize tasks in one of four quadrants to determine how you should schedule it.

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent – This includes crises, projects with deadlines, and pressing problems.

Quadrant 2: Important and Non-Urgent – This includes building good relationships, new opportunities, and recreation.

Quadrant 3: Not Important and Urgent – These include issues like emails, phone calls, meetings, interruptions, and especially things happening now when you’re trying to do something else.

Quadrant 4: Not Important and Non-Urgent – These types of tasks are often called busy work and can include calls, emails, fun games, water cooler chats, and are usually time wasters.

5. Schedule Everything Realistically

Once you have an exact list of things you need to do, learn to schedule everything realistically with deadlines. Batch all tasks or errands, and use your time wisely.

Are you running errands? Combine efforts to ensure you don’t spend too much time in the car. If your dry cleaner is near the market, drop off your dry cleaning before picking up groceries. You’re going to pass it anyway, so don’t make a second, time wasteful trip.

Don’t schedule time wasters and always add high-value tasks over low-value tasks. High-value tasks move you closer to your goals. Low-value tasks do nothing to advance your goals and can even take you backward.

6. Delegate More

Delegate jobs when you can. In some cases, you can delegate household tasks to family members according to their age.

For many of your business tasks, you’ll want to hire someone. A virtual assistant can easily assume the low-value but necessary tasks that take up so much of your time.

Spending money is often a roadblock when it comes to delegating. However, it can be seen as a money-saver, particularly if it’s eliminating your time vampires and helping you stay on track. For example, ordering groceries for delivery might have an additional charge. Still, the fact that it eliminates a couple of hours of work, plus the possibility of picking up junk that interferes with your goal of eating healthy, is a win-win.

7. Plan Your Day the Night Before

8. Cross Things Off Your Schedule

Each night at a specified time, set aside 10 minutes to plan tomorrow’s tasks. Look at your master schedule to quickly see what you need to do at a glance, and then organize it in order of importance. Do the most important tasks first.

This is also an excellent time to review your day. What did you get accomplished, what needs a follow-up, and what tasks didn’t you have time to do.

As you accomplish your tasks on any given day, make sure you take the time to cross them off your list. This will provide you with another look at your schedule and calendar, so you don’t forget anything, plus it feels good to check something off the list.

I have a whiteboard calendar, and I use small post-it notes to keep my month on track. My daughter saw this and immediately adopted her own version. She says it is very satisfying to take that sticky note off, crush it in her hand and toss in the garbage when she completes a task.

My point here is, the more you focus on feelings of accomplishment, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going.

9. Use Gap Time

No matter what you do, you’re going to find that you have some gap times in your day. You’ll be waiting in lines, waiting for your doctor, commuting, waiting to pick up your kids, waiting while they’re at practice, and so forth. Sometimes you know when you’re likely going to have to wait on something, but sometimes it’s going to be a surprise.

Keep something with you that enables you to be productive during gap times. If you knit, bring your knitting; if you read, bring a book. If you are a writer, you can bring your laptop. It’s up to you what you do during gap times, but it’s an excellent time to be productive, and it’s also a perfect time to read for pleasure. It depends on your goals what you choose to do during your gap times.

10. Let Go of Guilt

One problem people often experience when they try to get rid of time-vampires is guilt. No one wants to explain to their mother why they cannot talk for an hour every day at 3 pm. However, know that guilt is a wasted emotion. Choose to do things or not do something and just let go of the blame.

11. Arrive Early

One other way to get more time in your day is to arrive at every appointment you have 15 minutes early. That might add gap time to wait, but you have a plan for that. More than likely, it’s going to ensure that you are on time, not rushed, and due to that keep, your mind functioning at a high level.

12. Be Done When You're Done

One thing about being productive and managing your time better is that it is crucial to accept that perfectionism and procrastination are roadblocks that waste time. It’s okay if the towels are not folded the way you want them as long as the folding gets done.

It’s okay if someone formatted the report slightly different from how you’d have done it if it’s what the client wants. It’s okay that dinner was delivered tonight instead of made from scratch. It’s okay to stop tweaking something when it no longer changes the substance. Let go and accept being done, and you’ll discover so much more time in your day.

For most people, the first step toward eliminating time vampires is identifying and acknowledging them and then working toward replacing them with planning, goal setting, and decisive action. TV, internet, games, email, social media, and so forth can be substantial time-vampires, but that doesn’t mean you should never participate in those fun things. Of course, you should. However, when you are doing it, do it with purpose. Know how long you’re going to spend and make it a fun event and not something you do out of habit.

If you find that you are procrastinating on doing anything, you have to dig deep into the why of it. Organize things better, set a deadline, cut out all distractions, and get the thing done as quickly as possible. The ball is in your court.

Next week I'll show you how to improve your focus and productivity so you can manage your time better.

If you have any comments or questions, please post them below or on our Facebook page. Have a wonderfully productive week!

 

12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires Read More »

focus and productivity

Improve Focus and Productivity For Better Time Management

focus and productivity

Improve Focus and Productivty for Better Time Management

Part III of the Time Management Series

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Improving your focus and productivity so that you can manage your time better is within your grasp. It's all about knowing how to set goals, create well thought out to-do lists, and then implement the actionable schedule you create. With planning, mindfulness, and mindful dedication, you can become a very productive and focused person in all areas of your life.

Create and Set Smart Goals

If you want to be productive, and focus on your goals, learn how to set SMART goals. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. When you ensure that your goals meet the criteria, it's easier to create a to-do list that leads to your desired results.

For example, if you want to keep your home organized, the first thing you need to do is write a SMART goal for it. Depending on your goal, it may look similar to this one below.

Smart Goal Example and Elements

"By December 20, 2020, every room in the house will be organized and decluttered for maximum productivity. All items unused the last year will be donated or thrown out; items kept will be organized for maximum usability. I will accomplish this by tackling one room per week in my home, including the garage and the car."

Identify which elements below have been included in the sample goal above to help you format goals for your personal needs.

  • Specific: Every room, including the car and the garage, will be organized and decluttered. Write down everything you're going to do as precisely as possible.
  • Measurable: It'll be done, one room a week, by December 20, 2020. Write down what constitutes done for each area. Go ahead and list out each room and what you will do in every room.
  • Achievable: There are 12 "rooms" when you add the garage and the car. I will list in the calendar one room and spell out what is to be done in each room for that month, each day, including putting the task list on each day of the month that I should be doing it.
  • Realistic: I know that I have 1 hour a day to devote to the organization and decluttering of my home.
  • Timely: One room will be done each week, at one hour of work per day, from 7 am until 8 am five days a week, and I will complete all rooms by December 20, 2020.

Go through your objectives and create SMART goals based on the result you want to achieve. Whether it's home, work, personal, or family issues, you can accomplish a lot by taking the time to truly get your goals into writing and then break them down. Be as precise as possible; this will allow you to create a useful task list.

Create Effective Task Lists

Once you have developed SMART goals, use those objectives to build your to-do list. The list will become your schedule that you put in your calendar. You'll use those entries to make daily task lists that help you get done with the things you've set an intention for doing.

Creating useful to-do lists will increase your productivity because it'll be clear what you need to do to complete any item on the list. You will know if it's a small step toward a bigger goal or just a step in your day that you want to hold yourself accountable for doing.

Choose the Right Tools & Technology – You know yourself best. What tools will you use? Don't waste your time trying to use something just because everyone else is using it. However, do give technology a chance because you never know when you'll find a tool that resonates with your way of doing things.

Write Actionable Tasks – When you write down your tasks, you want to write them down very specifically in actionable terms. Use words that truly describe the action you need to do to get to the result you want to reach. Instead of "clean the drawers," try "Clean out the top drawer in the master bath for 15 minutes by tossing anything not used for a year and organizing the rest in containers that make it easy to see what's in there."

Prioritize Your Lists – It's essential to know how to set priorities. It's easy to put things in order of due date. Therefore, assign due dates to anything you want to get done promptly.

Daily Scheduling – Your to-do list should only consist of the things you will do in that one day. For best results, you don't want to fill each day from wake up to sleep time because you'll run out of time. Put only the actions you're going to do that day on the list.

Set a Time Limit – Give yourself a time limit regarding when you should be done with the task and how long you think the task will last. Make the time limit realistic, and give yourself a slight buffer before and after each task.

Understand What You Need to Focus On

One thing that can be confusing is that busy is not the same thing as productive. You can be busy and be productive, just as you can be busy without ever being productive. Outside forces can also decrease your focus. For example, if you don't feel well, it will be hard to focus on anything.

Know the Goals and Results You Expect - If you have a business, you may want to focus on tracking the results from your Facebook Advertisement. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to monitor your calories, micronutrients, and exercise. If you're going to learn a new language, you will want to track your lessons and practice sessions to find out if you're improving over time. Whatever you need to focus on will be due to the result you're hoping to achieve.

Focusing on the right thing often requires you to make an educated guess about the situation and track the results. You can always adjust as you move forward.

Prepare Your Brain for Each Task - One issue that many people have with getting things done is a lack of direction. They jump from one thing to the next without knowing why they're doing it or what the results should be from doing whatever it is that they're doing. If you want to be successful and productive, take the time to prepare your brain for each task that you need to do.  Read my blog on Mastering Brain Power for Success

Stop Between Tasks - Give your mind enough time to transition between tasks. Setting up your day so that you don't overwork yourself in any area while getting things accomplished on time will help you focus more. When you plan for breaks in your day, you'll end up enjoying your day more, and you'll get more done too.

Review Your Actions - First, you need to ensure you have created SMART goals so that you have something to measure. Then use technology to measure the results of what you are doing. For example, if you are trying to get more traffic to your blogging site, you'll want to look at the traffic generating actions to compare what works and what doesn't. If you're trying to think more positively, it might take more work to track your negative thoughts and your positive ones, but you can do that too.

Discover Your Peak Time - Everyone has a time when they can do specific tasks better than others. There are day people and night people. Some thrive on a high-pressured deadline-driven day, and others do not. Find the way that works for you. The way that you enjoy working and get the most accomplished for each task. If you assign yourself the task during your peak time, you'll do that one thing best; you'll see more results.

Test and Adjust - Once you note what works and what doesn't work, do more of what is bringing the results that you want. Then track the results. Most things need a minimum of 21 days to find out if they're working in the way you want them to, but some ideas might take more time, even up to a year, to know if it's the most productive that delivers your desired result. Once you try the new plan, analyze it, and then adjust it if you need to so that you can make it even better.

For example, what if you could exercise only 30 minutes a day and get the same results as a 40-minute workout? What if you can eliminate a task because it doesn't produce results compared to another action you can take? How much time will you be saving then?

Know What Makes You Tick

One thing to keep in mind about improving your focus and productivity is that you'll need to take a deep dive into what makes you get excited about working to your full potential.

SWOT Analysis - What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Do this in each area of your life, personal, professional, spiritual, and social, each as needed.

Why Do You Get Up in The Morning? -  As Simon Sinek suggests, "Start With Why."  What inspires you to do what you do? What do you hope to achieve in your life overall? Try writing your obituary as if you die at 120 years old after living the life you really want to live. Remember to write it from the perspective of every critical aspect of your life.

 What works best for you? -  Do you learn better by doing, by touching, by watching, by example, or what?

Do you feel energized or drained after spending time with others? How do you communicate with others best? Are you a morning or night person? Knowing this about yourself is vital. All of these are things that you can improve or accept them and work around them.

For example, suppose during your discovery phase, you learn that you're spending 4 hours a day watching TV or surfing on the internet. It will be up to you to accept that this interferes with your productivity if you truly want to do better. No one can do that for you.

Likewise, if you discover that you're a night person, but you have to get up at 5 am every day for work, you may have to accept that this is not ideal until you can find another way to generate income. But you can still work around it by moving detailed tasks to later in the day when you're able to focus better.

When you apply the knowledge you have gathered about yourself to improve your focus and productivity, you will find it easier to manage your time. Whether you need to do the hard things in the morning or at night, it does not matter. The best solution is the one that works best for you and enables you to tap into your most productive times while reaching the most productive results.

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procrastination

The Truth About Procrastinating

procrastination

The Truth About Procrastinating

Part IV of our Time Management Series

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Do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to finish that project? Have you ever pushed a task to the back burner and found other things to do instead, knowing that you need to get that one task done? I know I have and do. As a matter of fact, here I am, late on Sunday night, writing this to make sure it gets to your inbox by 8:00 am. Poor time management? No, it’s just procrastination, plain and simple.

Procrastination is an issue that many people use to put off doing something that they don’t want to do, or maybe they just don’t know how to start. And it is a destroyer of any time management system you may have in place.

People who procrastinate know that they must do something before a deadline but wait until the last moment to do it if they do it at all.

Types of Procrastinators

The six most common types of procrastinators all have various reasons for putting things off, but they are very different. You may find that you identify with more than one type because, for some people, it depends on the task they must do to determine the type of procrastination they practice.

One step in recognizing, halting, and turning around your procrastination habits is to identify the type of procrastination you’re experiencing for each task that you’re putting off. Once you do that, you can often find a way to halt that pattern and even change it to increase productivity.

The Perfectionist

If you have an article or speech due, do you find yourself writing, and rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting? When you’re getting ready to go somewhere, do you find yourself messing with your hair so much, it ends up a disaster and you have to pull it back in a ponytail? It might feel good to say, “I’m a perfectionist,” but the truth is a lot less flattering. Whenever I was asked “what are your strengths” in an interview, I would tell them my strength is my weakness. I am a perfectionist.  In my mind, this is a good thing as I want to make sure the work I am putting out there is my very best. But being a perfectionist is not only a time-waster, it’s procrastinating.

You may often feel as if you’re not good enough, you may even have imposter syndrome adding to the problem you’re experiencing. Perfectionists tend to put things off until the last minute, or may not even try because they cannot live up to the expectations that they’ve set for themselves.

To stop this type of procrastination, it’s crucial to learn to make realistic goals so that you can meet your own expectations.

The Idealist

This procrastinator will spend their time planning and organizing without getting results. Their plan is not realistic because they don’t think of the roadblocks and obstacles that might get in their way. The moment something goes awry, they give up.

This idealist also likes to think they need a muse, or the right emotion, or the perfect space, to do the work they need to do. They will put off getting started until everything is set just right.

To stop this type of procrastination, make solid, concrete goals, that are both challenging and realistic, but broken down into achievable easy to do steps.

The Worrywart

This type of procrastinator is very negative, all doom and gloom. They may suffer from general anxiety disorder. The worrywart turns everything into a tragic catastrophe and often have tons of drama going on. They are often resistant to change and tend to fear anything new or different or unfamiliar.

To stop this type of procrastination, first, determine if medical treatment is necessary for a general anxiety disorder.  Then look strategically at a task or project, and plan for all possibilities. It is essential to accept that getting caught up in so many “what if” scenarios isn’t the real problem. When the circular thoughts get out of control, take it a step farther, and plan for those possibilities.

The Adrenaline Drama

Many people claim that they work better during a crisis and with deadlines. This type of procrastination means that the person may enjoy the adrenaline rush that accompanies the drama of putting things off until the last moment.

Often this person will say that they always do their best work under pressure. I’m one of those. I think I do my best work under pressure. Sadly, this is seen as a good thing by society. Tragically, it’s a lie. Even if you’ve done your best, and the work is good, at the last minute, you can always do better when you give yourself enough time.

To stop this type of procrastination, realize that choosing to do things at the last moment is a choice you’re making, not something you have to do. Reward yourself for setting up the project in advance and working on it a little at a time.

The Rebel

Many people who suffer from this type of procrastination simply hate deadlines, authority, and all expectations from others. They think of themselves as a free spirit.

The hallmark of this type of procrastination is that the person is overt about doing things their own way, including reinventing the wheel if they deem it necessary.

To stop this type of procrastination, understand that you do have choices, even when under someone else’s authority, such as with work, school, or even as an independent contractor with clients. Avoiding deadlines isn’t going to lead to success.

The People Pleaser

Many people are procrastinators only due to being overworked. They’ve overscheduled themselves to the point of overwhelm and then tend to miss deadlines or just not do anything because it’s so much, they don’t know where to start.

This type of person often does not know how to say no. They think they can do everything, yet they cannot. They don’t know how to set the right type of boundaries.

To stop this type of procrastination, you must learn to do is say no. Start saying no or at least, “let me check my calendar” before saying yes. It’s okay to have free time for yourself and to do the things you do well in the time necessary and set by you.

Regardless if you are experiencing one type or a combination of the types of procrastination, it’s important to identify when it’s happening. Once you name the type and your reasons, then you’ll be able to reverse it.

Are You Procrastinating?

We’ve all done it. You know you need to get out of bed, but you keep pushing the snooze button. You need to study for a test but suddenly want to clean the fridge. You need to write 5000 words for your book, but you surf the internet instead. You need to catch up on your bookkeeping, but you clean your email instead.

The list goes on and on. You may not know it, but you’re procrastinating. Let’s look at some signs that may help you figure out when you’re procrastinating. Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings is an excellent start to stopping procrastination habits.

  • You Have Negative Thoughts About the Task – Break down the work into smaller chunks and give yourself a tighter deadline to ward off the downward spiral of negative thinking.
  • You Find Things to Do Other Than What Needs to Be Done – Force yourself to start the task and stick to it. Add the other things like the dishes, cleaning the baseboards, or other busy tasks that don’t have deadlines looming, to your to-do list in order of importance so you can see for yourself that it can wait.
  • You Do Mindless Things Instead of What You Need to Do – This is classic procrastination. You find yourself spending four hours playing Words with Friends or other games, or mindlessly watching videos of cute puppies when you have something else to do. To limit this, set break timers. For example, take 15 minutes to check your Facebook. If you need more time, then schedule it for the end of the day, when you’ve completed your tasks.
  • You Avoid Seeing or Thinking About What You Need to Do – Keeping your “head in the sand” is not a positive or effective tactic for dealing with things. If you find yourself avoiding a task, especially if it’s important, like paying quarterly taxes, understand that by avoiding it you’re making a choice and it may have consequences.
  • You Keep Waiting for The Right Time That Never Comes – The right time will never come. Set up concrete steps that can help you realize your dreams, and implement them.
  • You Downgrade the Importance of The Thing – You have already determined the importance and priority of your tasks when you added them to your list. If you start making excuses or decide it isn’t important to do when you decided, you need to look at your overall objectives and re-do your task list accordingly.
  • You Keep Learning Instead of Implementing What You’ve Learned – The “professional student”. You like learning about things, but not so great at implementing. Learning is never a bad thing, but you need to set a goal to put what you’ve learned into practice. If you learn about marketing funnels but never do them, you’re never going to experience the benefits.
  • You Keep Making Yourself Busy – You know the person who is always busy but never seems to accomplish much. If that’s you, you’re always cleaning, but your house is always a mess. You’re always working, but you never finish anything you start because you’re always starting new projects, at the same time. To stop this, pick one thing to complete before saying yes again.

Tips to Stop Procrastination

Now that you know how to recognize the different types of procrastination that may be affecting your productivity and causing you to waste time, let’s talk about ways to stop putting things off and start managing your time.

Set SMART Goals

Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-dependent.

An example of a smart goal:

“I will finish writing my 80,000-word (specific) romance novel by December 20th, 2020 (timely) by writing 2000 words (realistic) a day five days a week, (measurable) Monday – Friday writing from 2 pm until 4 pm each day.” (attainable)

Plan Your Task List

Start with a planner and enter long-term and short-term planning that covers yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planning. As you create your long- and short-term planning, you will start to identify potential roadblocks and will be able to plan actions to take in advance.

You can also take this time to determine which are urgent and important and must be completed by you, and which you might want to delegate or outsource.

Break Big Tasks Down

When you are being specific about your goals, remember that any big goals need to be broken down into smaller tasks. For example, if you are working on household organization and minimizing the things you have, don’t plan to do it all in one day. Instead, break it down to small daily tasks that will, over the course of the year, add up to an organized and decluttered home.

Develop Positive Habits

The best way to ensure that you end procrastination entirely is to replace your bad habits with good habits. For example, if you tend to press the snooze button each morning, move the alarm to a point where you cannot touch it or turn it off with your voice without fully getting up. If you tend to put off getting in your 10K steps, do that first thing instead of later. If you are always looking at the negative side of things, then come up with three positive thoughts each time you have a negative thought.

Visualize What Being Done Looks Like

One thing that can really help if you are a procrastinator is to practice visualizing what is being done and what it feels like to do that in the timeline given to the best of your ability. Don’t let that push you into perfectionism. Remember, perfection doesn’t exist and never will.

Ask Yourself: What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

One way to stop procrastination is to ask yourself what is the very worst that can happen. Go ahead and think about it. The trick here is to be realistic in your analysis of what the worst is that can happen. Say your biggest fear out loud, adjust your goal to account for possibilities, and move forward anyway.

Reward Yourself for a Job Done

Reward yourself when you succeed. Most people who set up and follow a plan overcome procrastination and become more productive. why not give yourself a reward for doing it?

Stopping procrastination requires that you first recognize it, and then accept that you’re doing it, and then make plans to stop doing it. Once you realize you’re procrastinating, you can figure out how to work around it and get the task done.

I hope you have enjoyed this four-part mini-series on Time Management as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I gave you a lot of thought-provoking information as well as tips to help you manage your time. To further help you, I have created a workbook you can use to help identify your time vampires, sets goals, and make a plan. The download link is below.

Use the workbook along with the other guides in this series to take control and manage your time.

Part I – What Is Your Time Vampire

Part II – 12 Steps to Vanquish Your Time Vampires

Part III – Improve Focus and Productivity for Better Time Management

Part IV – The Truth About Procrastinating

 

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business plan

A Simple Guide to Creating a Realistic Business Plan

business plan
A Simple Guide to Creating a Realistic Business Plan
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“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso
I can start and end this post with Picasso's quote; it says it all. The truth is most businesses that fail, or owners that burn out do so due to a lack of planning.

 

Many small business owners think their home or small business does not need a real business plan because they are not trying to get a business loan. So why do you need to do all that planning? For starters, if you want to succeed, and you want it to be repeatable, and you want to avoid the potential for burnout, you must develop a business plan. A business plan will help you structure, run, and grow your business realistically and sustainably. And guess what? Creating a business plan isn’t even hard to do. So let’s learn how to make a one-page business plan for your home or small business right now.

 

Think of your business plan like an owner's manual; it should be specific to your business and include as much information as you need to help guide you with your business. Let's look at the below seven key elements that should be included in your one-page business plan.

 

Describe the Problem
You’ll want to write a detailed description of the problem you can solve for your customers, along with any relevant data describing how you can do that.

 

Your Product or Service
This is the solution to the problem above, so you’ll want to go through each product or service you offer and describe how it solves the customer's problem. Keep in mind that your plan does not have to be contained to only one page. If you have more than one solution, this area might take more than one page; however, going through this can help you with marketing later.

 

How You Make Money
This is considered your business model. Therefore, it is important to answer these five questions:
  1. How will you make money?
  2. How much will it cost you to make money?
  3. What is the price the customer will pay for the solution?
  4. How will the customer pay - online service such as PayPal or Stripe, check, cash?
  5. What are the terms - payable on receipt, net 30 days? Will they need to pay before services are rendered, and if not, will you require a deposit?
Describe Your Customer
Understanding your target market is an essential component of your business plan and your business planning needs. Include a customer avatar through the buying journey. Talk about how many customers there are and how much you can earn from each customer throughout their life cycle.

 

Describe How You’re Different
What sets you apart from your competition? This is called your “competitive advantage” in business. It’s how you use your differences to stand out from the competition and create customer loyalty.

 

Describe Your Team
Even if it’s just you, it helps to write down all the tasks and roles to accomplish to make this business work. Then, include the technology you can use, such as email marketing software, funnel software, and other automation.

 

If you plan to outsource anything, write that down too. Maybe the first year you’re doing it yourself, but include financial metrics that trigger outsourcing or major software purchases.

 

Include Key Financial Metrics
You need to know what your budget is for marketing, software, outsourcing, and so forth. This is often called a Financial Summary in a business plan. You’ll want to include figures for now and your future as you forecast potential sales. Finally, you’ll want to add what funding you need right now to get started or to move forward with your business.

 

For now, focus on writing a summary of each section to see what needs to be done. Then, as you move forward, you can add more information to the plan, which may make it grow past the one page, but it will be a helpful exercise to help you keep on moving toward your goals.

 

And, as you move toward your goals, remember one of my favorite Yogi-isms, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." - Yogi Berra.  Writing down a realistic business plan that balances with your entire life will help you see your goals and objectives more clearly and plainly, thus allowing you to really accomplish what you set out to do rather than keeping it as a dream.

A Simple Guide to Creating a Realistic Business Plan Read More »

avoid burnout

3 Tips to Avoid Small Team Burnout

avoid burnout

3 Tips to Avoid Small Team Burnout

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A recent study found that staff members in small firms, with fewer than 10 employees, are less likely to take vacation days. One reason for this is that these employees are not sure if there is anyone who can cover for them during their absence. However, these small teams actually lose productivity and the quality of their work diminishes when they do not take time off.

If you own or manage a small team, create a workflow to accommodate for time off. Here are a few tips for filling in when a key player is on vacation or is suddenly away:

1. Set up a clear process for decision-making and hand over responsibilities while they are away

Create a workflow that includes assigning roles as well as delegating decisions to individuals who feel most comfortable with them. Then, set up a time with the delegates to review the goals for each position and any other pertinent information.

 2. Keep Everyone Updated and in the Loop

When a planned vacation is on the horizon, it's easy enough to schedule some time with the delegate and get them up to speed. But what if someone has to leave for an emergency, such as medical or a death in the family? Obviously, there isn't time to brief whoever will be filling in. Add some extra time in your weekly staff meetings to highlight updates and keep everyone in the loop.

3. Create an easy way for team members to track what's getting done in their absence

Sometimes it's critical we stay in touch or be aware of what's happening in the office while out. Email is certainly one way, but not the most efficient. Using project management software like ClickUp or Asana will allow staff members to check in and track what's getting done, or decide if they need to put out any fire that suddenly pops up. Most project management programs today have chat functionality as well as a desktop version and mobile apps to help team members stay connected. You can find project management links and other helpful software tools on our Resource page.
Everyone needs downtime to maintain a work-life balance, but their time off should not bring your business to a halt. Developing your workflow to allow for planned, and unplanned, time off for your staff will help keep the team motivated and more engaged with their tasks at hand.

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workaholic

Could You Be A Workaholic?

workaholic

Could You Be A Workaholic?

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I always knew I was a workaholic. Both my parents are Type-A personalities and I suspect, workaholics, so I come by it honestly. Today is National Workaholics day, so I thought I would dig into the phenomenon a little more, and was surprised to see it is a treatable condition!
Work addiction, often called workaholism, is a real mental health condition. Like any other addiction, work addiction is the inability to stop the behavior.
Some signs of a workaholic may include:
  • Working late and/or taking work home often and unnecessarily.
  • Checking messages at home, or at inappropriate times such as during family dinners, holidays.
  • Consistently canceling plans.
  • Your relationships are suffering because you are always working.
  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep.
  • You're defined by your work
Do not confuse workaholism with long hours, however, as there may be times you will need to work longer hours or cancel some plans, that doesn't necessarily mean you're a workaholic. The same goes if you just love your work so much you work more than an average "40-hour week", which means you're probably engaged, not a workaholic.
So then what is a workaholic? The dictionary defines a workaholic as a person who compulsively works hard and long hours. They might as well put my picture in the definition! It is not uncommon for me to put 18-hour days in, or to get up in the middle of the night and check email, or jot down notes for my blog. I've even been known to forget to eat! But this isn't something new for me. I've worked like this for as long as I can remember. I was always finding extra work to do, taking work home, and working long hours. I thought I was just a hard worker, trying to show my worth. Turns out I'm a bonafide workaholic (ok, tell me something I didn't know!)
Workaholism can become a serious condition, and if left untreated can lead to impaired cognitive functions stemming from sleep deprivation, affect mental and physical health, and even create conflict and discontent in your personal relationships. Ladders.com published indicators of workaholism to look out for. Take a look at these 5 signs of workaholism and see where you land:
1. Workaholics have anxiety

Do you gain a sense of comfort when working? Do you feel guilty or restless if you are not busy doing something? I personally can not, not, be doing something. I always have 10-15 or more computer windows and Chrome tabs open so I can easily and quickly switch between tasks rather than take any downtime.

2. Work is priority #1

Workaholics will put the job before and above all else. Holidays, family time, it doesn't matter. A workaholic spends little-to-no time connecting with others and will always arrange their schedules so work comes first.

3. No social life

As I mentioned above, a workaholic has very little time for socializing. Some may even stress out from the guilt of doing something for themselves. A workaholic must make themselves completely available and indispensable to their job and have oftentimes been accused of being a martyr.

4. Won't admit the problem

A workaholic cannot admit they have a problem, or they might not even realize it. Working long hours, "to the bone", is acceptable in our society and quite often expected.

5. They're unhappy

Oftentimes a workaholic doesn't even like their job, but they have a need to remain busy rather than have nothing to do.

If you find yourself in any of these signs there are some ways you can address the unhealthy behavior. Plan activities for the end of the workday, and don't cancel them. Other ways you can balance your work and home life are by reading books, listening to music, or doing something that prompts inspiration.

Could You Be A Workaholic? Read More »

Automate Your Business Finances

Organizational Efficiency: Automate Your Business Finances

Automate Your Business Finances

Organizational Efficiency: Automate Your Business Finances

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Every business must figure out how they plan to keep track of income and expenses and set up benchmarks for planning purposes. In Organizational Efficiency: The Anatomy of your Business, I showed you how automating your business helps free up your valuable time to do more money-making activities. The poster child for automation is business finances. Think about it, most of your business finance tasks are recurring and rarely change, making it perfect for automation! The tools that exist today, such as Quickbooks and Xero, are easy to use, inexpensive, and work great. Today, most bookkeeping software, even Go Daddy’s version, will automatically book your purchases and income for you and categorize the expense, saving you hours! It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Below are some finance tasks you can easily automate:

Invoicing and Reminders

Send recurring invoices automatically based on the criteria you set up. You can also set up auto-reminders for invoices that might need a little tweaking before they go out.

What’s more, when your client clicks the invoice to pay, the software automatically records the payment.

Payroll

If you have employees, then you know how timely payroll can be! Investing in payroll software can save you time and money.

Depending on the size of your staff or how many contractors you have, having an automated system will help ensure your people are paid on time, and letting them self-manage their pay helps save you time. Look at your bookkeeping software to determine if there are add-ons to help automate this or try using SurePayRoll.

Bill Paying

Set up automatic payments through your bank or credit card company, so you don’t have to think about them every month. Another plus, automatic payments prevent late fees!

Storing Records and Receipts

Use receipt scanning apps like Wave to take a picture of your records and receipts so that it’s always there when you need it. Your accountant will thank you!!

Expense Management

Managing expenses, especially when you’re away from your office, is easy today with software like Zoho Expense and fylehq.com that help you collect receipts, appropriately book the expense, and so forth. Even your existing bookkeeping software may have an option.

Investing and Saving

The truth is, if you don’t invest and save on a regular basis, you won’t do it. Set up automatic transfers with your bank to send money to your investments and savings accounts, whether personal or business finances.

Automating your finances helps you avoid making the same steps over and over again. There is no reason to repeat tasks today when there is software available to do it for you. You can save hours each day by implementing these financial automation tips and tools.


Download our free Organizational Efficiency Workbook and start taking control of your time!

Organizational Efficiency: Automate Your Business Finances Read More »

Organizational Efficiency

Organizational Efficiency: The Anatomy of Your Business

Organizational Efficiency

Organizational Efficiency

The Anatomy of Your Business

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The first thing to think about when you seek to make your days more manageable and more effective are the parts of your small business, the anatomy. What parts of your business are essential to your success? You'll need to look at your situation for each business to determine it, but this can get you started.

While all businesses share the same fundamental parts, some businesses, especially home solopreneurs, may place importance on different functions depending on their goals. But these potential essential parts of your small business bear consideration so that you can create a solid automation plan.

I will show you how you can create organizational efficiency in all areas of your business, no matter what your business type. This is not about starting a new business but rather how to achieve operational excellence in your business by minimizing waste and maximizing values. Make sure you download the accompanying Workbook and follow along to achieve organizational efficiency.

Organizational Efficiency Workbook

DOWNLOAD WORKBOOK

Send download link to:

What's Your Business Type?

Knowing how you have structured your business is vital to determine before you start your automation plans. For example, the way you run and automate an online store where people purchase products will be somewhat different from someone who offers courses or one-on-one personal services.

When you understand the core business, you will know what you sell, who you are selling it to, where your buyers are, and how to find them. You will also see how you're going to distribute the product or serve the customer. Additionally, you know how you stand out from the competition, and you use that to your advantage by differentiating yourself in the marketplace.

So, what is your business type?

Do you have an online store where you sell any type of product, physical or digital? There are many automation tips you can use for online stores.

Do you offer virtual services? Most businesses moved to virtual during the pandemic and continue to stay virtual due to convenience and cost savings. Services offered could range from administrative, one-on-one coaching, social media management, online business management, and so forth. As a service-based business, you will want to organize your business and market yourself differently from an online store where you don't speak to the customers directly yourself and sell products directly.

You may also offer only virtual support and consulting without providing direct service. For example, you may coach your clients to create a sales page, set up a freebie, or set up a discovery call, but you don't do it yourself; you advise them on what to do, and the client with their team does it. This is an entirely different business structure than a business that does the services directly or delivers the product directly.

Suppose you offer classes and "how-to" information to your customers via courses, classes, and content. If you have a business that provides classes, either self-paced or teacher-led, this is a training business. A training business sometimes needs more personal input and engagement than a storefront that sells the complete self-paced course.

There are numerous opportunities for automation in each of these business structures. Get out your workbook and write it out:

  • What is the composition of your business?
  • What do you do for customers and clients, and how do you do it?
  • Are you hands-off or hands-on, or a combination of both?

The more you can document how your business works, the easier it will be to find ways to automate and outsource.

Workbook Task: write out your business structure

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What's Your Job as The Owner of Your Business?

As a small business owner, you probably think that you have a lot of jobs to do. Some people like to describe the job of a business owner as one that wears many hats. However, your main job description as a business owner is to plan and organize the daily operations of your business.
On any given day, you may be responsible for:

  • Developing your business plans
  • Arrange financing
  • Hiring staff or contractors
  • Reviewing sales
  • Developing marketing strategies
  • Overseeing daily activities
  • Identifying opportunities

All these jobs represent your primary function as a business owner, analyzing the performance, whether it is automation or human, to minimize risk. You do not need to do the tasks yourself physically. Remember, your job as a business owner is that of risk management. Realistically, you may have to wear a lot of hats at first, doing all the tasks; the trick is, figuring out when it's time to let go.

Finding and setting up automation in your business is one of your roles as a business owner. By doing so, you will reduce risks associated with your business because you are going to ensure those tasks get done in a timely fashion by someone (or something) who knows what they're doing.

The more you can automate or outsource, the faster your business will grow because you're going to free up your time so you can discover new opportunities for your business.

 Do You Know What You Do All Day?

As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. But, to figure out how to automate your business, you first need to know, in detail, what you do all day long. This exercise will aid you in determining which tasks can be automated, which can be outsourced, and even whether it's something you should be doing at all.

You will have daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, and even quarterly and yearly tasks in every business. The best thing to do is get out a calendar and enter the items you know you have to do.

For example, you have to pay quarterly taxes, and you have to balance your books at the end of the month. You must buy a business license each October or January depending on your location and the rules and laws in your area. What you know has to be done should be entered into your calendar and block off the approximate time it will take you to do it.

But what about the daily things you do that generate your income. When it comes to generating revenue, it's essential to specify which actions you are doing that generate income and which activities you're doing that support generating income. Go through the steps you take in your day and write down what you're doing, step by step.

Coaches' example of a typical day:

  • Business: Coaches retired teachers starting a second career as independent course and project designers.
  • Morning: Checks the mail, email, and Trello to determine if there are any fires to put out before diving into the day. Calls her group coaching clients for the weekly group coaching session. Writes product educational and nurturing emails for a new one-on-one coaching product ready to launch.
  • Afternoon: Records part of an online development course. Transcribes the group call and sets up her part as a standalone presentation video.
  • Evening: Answers coaching client questions for those who signed up to receive daily emails and, using automation, schedules delivery in the morning.

Of course, this one day is not representative of all the money-making tasks this coach does, nor is it a complete picture of what happens in the business overall. Still, it does give you a great idea about where to start automating and even outsourcing. Once it's written out and you visually see all that you do, it becomes easier to know where you can improve your process.

Workbook task: Take the time to write out every task you do or need to do each day.

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How to Do More with Less

Many of us believe that being successful means being busy. The truth is, being busy does not mean that you are productive, and many times, quite the opposite. Did you know that multitasking makes you LESS efficient and thereby unproductive? You can also be busy doing the wrong things. The truth is successful people know that getting more done with less implies that the impact you make is more significant than your effort. Now that's a success!

So how do you do more with less? First, you need to Understand your key objectives. What is the point of doing a particular task? Does this task impact any of your critical business objectives or the objective of the one task?

If it's not a front-burner task or something that only you can do, put it on the list for automation and outsourcing.

Once you clean up your list and down to the tasks you need to do, it's time to get organized. Add them to your calendar and create your schedules realistically. For example, you know a task takes two hours and that you need some setup time, so plan three hours. You also want to batch like tasks together. The purpose of this is the fewer steps you can take, the better. For example, if you need to do bookkeeping, save all your booking entries to do one day a week instead of doing it daily.

Next, you want to make sure you are using the right tools. If a tool exists to help streamline your business and eliminate busy work, you need it. There are so many tools out there, developed because of a need, by business owners just like you. I've listed a few in the workbook to help get you started. You can also check out our Resources page to see what we use and recommend.

Now put it into action! Remember when I said turn off all distractions? That goes the same for your tasks. Set up your workspace to eliminate distractions and interruptions. Turn off notifications, your phone, the TV, or anything that can take your mind off what you are doing. Set a timer for each task and track how you are spending it; you will be surprised by the insight you will gain here! Time tracking also helps you gain a better understanding of how long your tasks take.

Remember that being organized in your business is part of what a business owner does. Business owners reduce risk in their business by organizing, planning, and generating new ideas that create new opportunities.

Workbook task: look at each task and prioritize by the impact and effectiveness

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To learn more, check out our 4-part Time Management series starting with https://thetaskva.com/what-is-your-time-vampire/

The Ultimate Boost in Productivity: Automation and Outsourcing

Being productive is an essential element in any business owner's life. Business owners are busy and need to use every moment as efficiently and effectively as possible. Most business owners continually research ideas that will boost their productivity, but the truth is the ultimate boost in productivity will come from a combination of automation and outsourcing.

Now that you have taken the time to write out your business goals, understand your core business, and audited your internal processes, it's time to apply that knowledge to help you with automating your systems or outsourcing.

Remove Bottlenecks

When you start to automate and outsource tasks in your business as you develop each process, you will notice that bottlenecks are a thing of the past. Because the truth is, in most small businesses, especially those run by people starting them from home with no business experience, the bottleneck is the business owner.

When you want to outsource or automate something, you will need to write down the process to visualize every step, including the impact of the actions. Through these business processes, you will create a situation where you improve every single function you have.

Sometimes lack of skill causes a roadblock. Sometimes you may lack desire or energy because everything becomes so overwhelming. But whatever the reason, if you are engaged in organizing and planning and focused on automating and outsourcing, ensuring that others are responsible for their tasks, you are going to get more done.

Even if you do not have a skill, you can find it in software or find it in an individual or company. Simply put, a sole proprietor or a small business can perform like a big business due to increased capabilities.

Reduce Errors and Mistakes

When you work with software, fewer mistakes will happen, provided you set it up correctly. If you don't know how to do something, you're going to make mistakes as you learn. But if you hire an expert, they're going to make fewer mistakes. If you use technology and set it up correctly, there will be no mistakes.

The truth is, hiring experts or using automation software can reduce your errors and mistakes so much that the cost will produce a fantastic ROI (return on investment).

There has never been a better time to be a small business owner!  There is an endless resource of technology to implement in your automation plan and plenty of people to hire in your outsourcing plan. Figure out what you want to do, set your goals for doing it, and then follow through.

The work you produce will be much better when you work with technology and contractors to see your vision come to reality.

Spend Time on Higher Value Projects

Focusing on your primary business, which is the core of your business's existence, is the biggest reason of all to automate and outsource. While you may need to do things in your business as a job, once you reach specific benchmarks, you should automate those tasks that you can and outsource the others to spend time on business planning and idea generation, which is the key to business growth.

When you have more time to judge how your business is performing, and you've developed each process to be the most efficient possible, you're going to have more doors open for you when you need them.

Workbook task: develop your processes

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To Outsource or Automate, that is the Question

There are numerous things you can automate in your business. Some things you may have already thought about or started, such as email marketing. But others you may not have thought of yet, such as auto file generation, event registration, data collecting, file creation, document sharing, and form filling.

From time tracking to expense management, anything that happens repeatedly is ripe for automation, and think of the many saved hours in your workday and work year. Those are hours you can use to create even more fantastic products and solutions for your ideal audience.

Automate

If you can document the steps you do for a task, you can likely automate a lot of it. From using macros within your documentation to implementing new automation tech, there is probably a way to do it.

The best way to determine what you want to automate is to track what you do each day, week, month, and year. Review the daily process you recorded in your workbook.  For tasks that repeat, do a little research about how other people automate that task. You may be shocked to learn how simple automating your business is. Automation is not nearly as expensive or complicated as you may think.

Outsource

As you learn more about business automation, it is essential to understand another way to automate your business, which is by hiring someone else to do the work for you. No automation plan is complete without an outsourcing plan.

Hiring experts to deliver work for you on your behalf is called outsourcing. If you cannot automate it, you can likely get someone else to do it for you. If you outsource to a contractor, they are not employees because you can only make requirements on the deliverables but not on how they use their time creating and producing the deliverables.

A few common areas to outsource are legal work, finance, technology needs, marketing, graphic design, customer care, administrative tasks, and writing. Most of these tasks are cumbersome and overwhelming, and small business owners can save a boatload of time, stress, and money by outsourcing.

As a business owner, you should make it your goal to outsource or automate almost every task in your business.  When you outsource more, you free up your time to focus on what you do best.

Wrap Up and Where to Go from Here

Beginning today, start tracking what you do every single day. Don't make any changes yet; simply follow what you're doing. Pay attention to the things that you do that are repetitive. Also, note the tasks you would rather not be doing or spend a lot of time figuring out how to do.

Make a list of these tasks, and then look at the software and tools you are already using to find out if you can add features or integrations with other solutions to get more out of what you're doing.

Most of all, remember that productivity does not mean that you have to be busy all the time. The opposite is true. Being busy is only an indicator of movement, and all movement isn't impactful. Test your results. Measure your efforts so that you can improve as you go.  Before you know it, you'll have a smooth-running, mostly automated business and finally have control over your most important resource, your time.


Download our free Organizational Efficiency Workbook and start taking control of your time!

Organizational Efficiency Workbook

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