Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Too Much Accessibility Is Not a Good Thing

Too Much Accessibility Is Not a Good Thing

Contrary to popular belief, too much accessibility is not a good thing.

This advice column is a good reminder of that.

It uses the example of a co-worker overstepping boundaries, but the same principle applies when it comes to clients: You don’t need to be so instantly available.

In fact, it can actually lead to the opposite effect of what you intend: poor customer service and unrealistic client expectations.

When you respond instantly to every beck and call, you are training your clients to think you have nothing better to do than sit there and jump as soon as they command.

That is NOT a good precedent to set in your administrative support business as it leads to all kinds of boundary overstepping, disrespect (of you and your time as a business owner with other clients to care for), and resentment (and resentment is a relationship-killer).

Keeping some buffer area around you is actually healthy for your business and the relationship.

This is why I’m always advising people in our industry to formalize their communication standards and turn-around times, and then inform clients about those policies and protocols so they know ahead of time how things work in your business and what to expect (as well as what they may not expect).

So whose fault is it when this becomes a problem?

Hint: It’s not the client’s.

That’s like getting mad at someone for calling you in the middle of dinner. You’re the one who answered the phone. They didn’t have a gun to your head. 😉

It’s you who has to adjust the behavior and set the standards.

I don’t let clients call or text me for several reasons:

  1. I don’t want to be chased around and sweated like that.
  2. I’d never get anything done.
  3. I’m not trying to be that technologically connected. Remember: healthy boundaries. Technology should be a tool, not an obsession. There’s a time and purpose for it, but outside of that, I don’t want it taking over and interrupting my life. For me, it’s a conscious decision to keep it to a minimum.
  4. I don’t want to have to chase after a million loose ends scattered all over a bunch of different channels. That just creates more work and chaos that is neither efficient nor a productive use of time and energy. Plus, it allows more room for error. Order is the name of the game.

I inform and instruct clients at the beginning of our relationship that all our communication is to be by email (with separate emails for each separate topic, by the way). Client calls are reserved for our regularly scheduled weekly meetings or by appointment otherwise.

This way, I can use my inbox as the central communication hub, have a “paper” trail (so to speak) for everything, and be able to keep everything organized, sorted and tidy in one place.

So, I tell clients: You can email me any time of day or night, but here is how and when your communications and requests are handled…

(I also explain why these standards are of value and benefit to them: because ultimately, they allow me to provide them with better service and support.)

And then I honor those standards I’ve set and don’t overstep my own boundaries.

Have you formalized your communication and turn-around standards and protocols? Have you incorporated that information into your client guide? Are you going over that information with clients in your new client orientations?

If not, make it a priority to do so now. You’ll thank yourself later, and clients will both respect and be impressed by it.

It demonstrates to them that you have good management skills which gives them greater trust and confidence that you will competently manage and deliver the work you do for them.

And, you’ll be modeling smart business practices that they can implement in their own businesses (with your help).

Creating Space for a Great New Year to Happen

Creating Space for a Great New Year to Happen

I’m not much of a spring cleaner. I’m more of a fall cleaner. This time of year feels buzzy with excitement and possibility. There’s a fresh sense of renewal, energy and optimism. I find it the perfect time to start gearing for what’s coming by making physical — and mental — space for all that good juju to come to fruition.

One of the ways I prepare for success is by purging, regrouping and organizing. Below are a few activities you might to consider starting now as well.

  1. Organizing Emails. I’m an Outlook user. Personally, I like using folders to store and organize emails. The search feature fails to find mail I’m looking far too often to be a reliable method. So what I do is create folders under the Personal Folders/Saved Files section rather than in my Inbox area. The only emails I am a packrat about are those to and from clients. I give each client a folder and under each client, I create subfolders for each month. This has proven to be a lifesaver on more occasions than I can count.
  2. Deleting or Archiving Old Emails. Around the end of the year, I go through my list of folders and archive those of clients with whom I am no longer working. I keep six months of current client folders and archive the rest.
  3. Taking Stock of Your Online Documents. Do a quick run-through of your document files and folders and see where you can better organize, consolidate and purge.
  4. Cleaning Out the Supply Closet. I’m sort of an organizing freak so this is something I enjoy doing periodically. Supply areas are places where we tend to put “stuff” and forget about it. Clean out the old, recycle, give away extra or old equipment to someone who can use it, and create new space (physically and energetically) for the new year with a clean slate.
  5. Streamlining Hardcopy Files. Even with an online business where just about everything is on the computer, there is still a lot of paper in my life. I turn most of that into PDF and store online with everything else. I’ve also gone entirely electronic billing and online bill pay. However, paper is still a fact of life. There are just some things that are easier to read when they are printed out. Scanning printed materials to turn them into PDFs does create an extra job that you might not have time for, and sometimes it’s just not a practical or worthwhile effort. So for the paper that I do keep, I have five different hanging folder filing sections:|
    Green
    – Clients

    Blue – Tax, Licensing and Financial/Banking

    Red – Accounts Payable

    Yellow – Employees/Contractors/Subcontractors

    Clear – Subject files (miscellaneous). For those folders that deal with date ranges, this is a good time to add a new folder for the coming year. For example, say you have a file for bank statements and you keep these in a folder marked with the current year. Now is the time to create new folders for the coming year and stick them in the file. Then at the end of the year, when you are pulling out old files (such as old clients you no longer work with), you can also pull out all your 2016 folders for storage and you’ll already have the new 2017 folders ready to go.

  6. Add some to-dos and automated reminders for December & January to your calendar to revisit your start of the new year tasks.

Multitasking is Out, Unitasking Is In

Multi-tasking is Out; Uni-tasking Is In

I’m a die-hard proponent of unitasking (perfect term!) and have been since day one.

You simply can’t focus on anything well and be fully present when you’re trying to focus on a million other things all at the same time.

(By the way, this goes for target markets, too. You can’t be super relevant, compelling, interesting and irresistible — and offer truly meaningful solutions and results — trying to be all things to all people.)

One of the things I love so much about being a business owner is that I get to set the quality standards, conditions and pace of my work and say “no!” to anything that compromises that.

No more bosses telling us “I need that 100-page proposal perfectly proofed and edited in 5 minutes, and, oh, answer the phones while you’re at it.”

Check out this study confirming what us uni-taskers have known all along:

Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows

Still buying into the employer-driven myth and impossible standards of multitasking? Take this free multitasking test, and see how you do:

The Myth of Multitasking Revisited

(This article originally posted August 10, 2010 and updated for 2016.)

Rushing the Process Is a Recipe for Failure

Rushing the Process Is a Recipe for Failure

I have no clue why this article on Target Canada’s last days piqued my interest, but it is an interesting read.

Who knew that a company as big, established and successful as Target could do anything but succeed. And yet, fail it did — big time — for the dumbest and most avoidable of reasons: rushing the process.

One thing that is underscored for me, as any of my clients would tell you, I’m a stickler for detail, for doing things the right way, for dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Because it matters, even if the correlations and implications aren’t readily apparent.

My motto is “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” It’s a discipline that serves well in every situation.

Sloppiness, laziness and inattention cost you, somewhere, somehow, at some point down the line. It’s what leads to cutting corners, shoddy work and service, and taking shortcuts with standards, values, integrity and ethics.

It’s fascinating to me that someone has to pointedly tell this generation that accuracy is important:

Excerpt: There was never any talk about accuracy.

Of course it’s important! Why would you enter any old thing; someone is paying you to NOT do a job right?

If it weren’t important, you wouldn’t need to be doing the work in the first place. Someone needs to tell you that?

By the same token, the leaders did not provide the time or environment that would allow those they hired to be accurate.

Rush work is always sloppy work. And part of doing things well, of creating the environment that allows you to do your best work for clients, is building in proper lead time so you have the breathing room to be thorough and accurate, to think critically and creatively, and not be rushed, stressed and sweated.

It’s what facilitates strong foundations and proper infrastructure. You set it as a standard in your practice, institute policies and protocols for work and communication accordingly, and then educate and inform your clients about how things work in your practice (thereby setting and managing expectations for a successful relationship).

It’s a standard I have for my life and the work I do, and a model I hope to help clients achieve in their life and business as well.

I have a very relaxed pace in my business. It can definitely get fast-moving at moments, but not in a stressed or rushed kind of way. Clients don’t sweat me, they don’t rush me, they don’t try to tell me how things work in my business. And that’s because I don’t allow it.

Power Productivity & Biz Management for HOW I do that, what standards, policies, protocols and expectations I set up that allow me to do great work is what I share in my Power Productivity & Biz Management guide for those in the administrative support business.

If you are someone who is struggling with being rushed all the time, has clients frequently telling you how things work in your business, who feels the pinch and stress of responding to everyone’s requests, demands and inquiries instantly and finds yourself making regrettable, avoidable mistakes because you’re allowing external forces set the pace in your business, be sure and check it out.

My guide will help you avoid burnout and overwhelm by instilling policies and practices that give you plenty of breathing room so you can do your best work for clients while working at a humane and humanly sustainable pace with lots of time leftover for your life. Instituting these steps and measures will ensure you love your business, clients and work for years to come!

What Do You Think of Yahoo’s Ban on Telecommuting?

So someone asked me the other day about Yahoo recently putting the kabosh on telecommuting (employees who work from home) and what I thought of it.

As an armchair quarterback, my personal opinion is that generally-speaking, I think it’s a dumb move. Study after study show that productivity and morale are boosted in all kind of ways by allowing employees to work from home.

Yahoo is only putting a Bandaid on their telecommuting problems by elminating it. And that’s because the problems they are having are not a failure of telecommuting itself, but with the deeper underlying issues in corporate culture, values and management.

If employees don’t care about the company or their work at home, sitting them in an office isn’t going to change that.

I can see all kinds of opportunities for Yahoo to make make telecommuting work for them and not throw the baby out with the bath water:

  • Hiring better.
  • Having in-person get-togethers and meetings throughout the year.
  • Making better use of technology and incorporating video conferencing so there is more group interaction and collaboration.
  • Oh, and here’s a big one… how about giving a shit about the people and placing importance on the work they do and helping them understand the import and value of that work. I’m willing to bet that there is at least some faction of their telecommuting workforce they view as “lower-level” and were simply relegating them to telecommuting status to cheap out and save a buck. And when that is the underlying motivation, the employees absolutely know at some level they are not valued. So why should they give flying f**k? Loyalty goes both ways. And loyalty, interest and caring aren’t things that can be bought with a paycheck.
  • How about ASKING employees what they value most about a job, what motivates them, and what would help them find more passion, purpose and meaning in their work and being with the company?
  • Give employees the forum to address the issue and come up with solutions. I can just about guarantee they come up with far more creative solutions and ideas!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is all kinds of possibility for innovation if they could just shuck their antiquated, old-school employer mentality.

To be clear, I don’t really care about the topic all that much because it’s one of employers and employees. As a business owner (and not a telecommuting employee), it doesn’t have anything to do with me or my clients so I really don’t waste precious time and mental energy worrying about it.

However, I did come across an article on the topic that said something that was interesting to me:

The value in human interaction is greater collective wisdom as a result of improved communication and collaboration.

So, here is my question to you:

With all the technology and resources available to us in this day and age (forums, listservs, group chats, video conferencing, etc.) do you think we as independent professionals who run our businesses remotely lack in any ability to engage in human interaction and nurture greater collective wisdom, communication and collaboration?

 

Let us know what you think in the comments. 🙂

Standards Are Determined by You, Not Anyone Else

Standards are determined by you, not anyone else.

It’s pretty presumptuous and egocentric of someone else looking in to question why you’re working when they think you shouldn’t be.

As long as you are working on YOUR terms, by YOUR choice, it’s none of anyone else’s business when, where, how or why you are working.

Take the single mom. I can’t even imagine anymore (since my own daughter is grown now) the difficulties those with little ones still to raise have in growing and operating their business. Mad respect to her because she has responsibilities and timing that can’t be moved around at whim or done according to when someone else says she should or shouldn’t be working.

So, someone in that position might find, in the course of making it all work in her family, that she just does better working predominately at night or on the weekends. Hey, it’s not forever and no one ever said building a business would be easy or that you wouldn’t have to make some sacrifices along the way.

And that’s okay if that’s what she is doing by choice and what works for her.

Now, on the other hand, if you do find yourself feeling compelled to work beyond what you would choose to (long hours, nights, weekends, all your free time) due to extrinsic forces, and your business is running you instead of you running your business, that’s when an examination of your standards, boundaries, policies and operations will help you reclaim control of your life and become more at choice.

For example, you may be taking on the wrong clients and kinds of work.

You might be trying to be too much like an in-house assistant and working with clients like an employee instead of providing strategic—not daily—support as an independent consultant.

Perhaps your policies and procedures are not well-developed and you are letting clients determine those things instead of you.

Perhaps improving the communication about your standards, protocols, boundaries, the way things work and what procedures they should be following, etc., (such as with a client guide and/or new client orientation) and being more deliberate in communicating those things would help your client relationships and work go more smoothly.

Perhaps you are not charging enough which is forcing you to take on too much work in order to make ends meet, which in turn is taking away time for your life.

Perhaps you need to simplify and uncomplicate your administration and operations so that those things don’t overburden your time and attention.

Maybe you like working nights and weekends because it’s when you choose to on occasion, but sending communications at all hours is giving clients the wrong impression that they can impose on you beyond regular business hours. If that’s the case, making adjustments such as when you reply, scheduling your replies for certain hours, or even delaying replies a certain amount of time so as to manage their understandings and expectations will help keep clients from crowding you and overstepping boundaries.

It doesn’t matter when you work. Productivity and inspiration can’t be imposed or “managed.” They can only be facilitated.

What matters is that you are at choice and have the infrastructure and flexibility that allows you to follow your own energies and inspiration and harness them most effectively for you.

3 Simple Things You Can Do in a Day to Get Your 2013 Off to an Organized Start

Three easy things you can do in a day to get your 2013 off to an organized start:

1. Get your calendar (and/or that of your clients) in order. Add holidays, vacations and other planned or desired days off. Mark off your Admin Day, Meeting Day and/or any other regularly scheduled meetings for the whole year. Add any known events (e.g., conferences, trade shows, seminars, trainings, etc.) that you’d like or are planning to attend. Mark off anything else that you know off that you need to reserve or create time and space for and that you don’t want anything else conflicting or interfering with.

2. Clean out your emails and folders. Archive old messages and folders. Create new folders for 2013. (Tip: When in doubt about whether to delete something, think of it like this: If you haven’t dealt with it for nearly a year, you’re never going to look at it again so just purge. You’ll never miss it and you will feel LOADS lighter.)

3. Clean out and organize your paper file drawers and computer files. Create new folders for 2013. Get rid of as much paper as you can, only keeping what really needs to be printed and/or what is most convenient to be read in printed form.

Bonus Tip #4:  Add this to-do to your calendar in November or December so you’ll be sure to have this done again before 2014 comes around.

Today Is a Great Day to Prep Your 2013 Calendar for Freedom and Success

One of the ways to facilitate your freedom and success is to be prepared for it. That means taking charge of your time by being conscious about all that you have on your plate and creating space for important actions, events and goals. Your calendar is the starting point for this and now is the perfect time to get yours ready for 2013!

1. Block out all your “off” days. For example, Mondays are my “business days” where I am officially closed. I don’t do any client work; instead, I focus on taking care of my own business and use that time for administration and planning. I shade out that time because it makes me conscious about not making any appointments on that day.

2. Block out holidays. Go through the year and block out any holidays you plan to be closed.

3. Block out vacations. If you know in advance of any vacations you plan to take off, block those out as well to ensure you don’t schedule anything on those days.

4. Block out your breaks and lunches. This might seem silly and unnecessary, especially since we business owners can eat or take a break any time we like. But if you are someone who has difficulty maintaining boundaries, these can serve as daily reminders to be conscious about taking care of yourself. It’s important—you can’t take excellent care of others unless you first take excellent care of yourself.

5. Carry over regular meetings. Review this year’s calendar. If you have regular weekly or monthly meetings, be sure and carry-over and repeat them through 2013. Perhaps you have a weekly call with your business coach on Tuesdays at 3pm and a monthly board meeting at 1pm on the third Wednesday of every month. Get all of these regularly scheduled appointments on your calendar for the entire year.

6. Add known events
. Are there trade shows, conferences, training or other events you plan to attend? Be sure and add them to your calendar and it will help support your intention.

7. Mark important dates. Are there client birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates you want to remember on a regular basis? Add them to your calendar!

This article was originally published in our weekly ezine on December 21, 2009.

How to Get Yourself UN-Stuck Creatively

This is an article originally published Oct. 12, 2009, in our old ezine, The Portable Business. Hope it helps you get your mojo back if you’re feeling stuck creatively or productively!

Ever run into a roadblock where you just can’t move forward?

You’re humming along on a project and then, bam—you’re stuck. Big brick wall.

You can’t figure a problem out, you’re not sure what the next step is, or your well of creativity seems to have suddenly run dry. Yeah, happens all the time to (literally) everyone.

Finding yourself in that place can be completely frustrating and stressful, especially when you’re really excited to release the work into the world (not to mention possibly being on that impractical little thing called a deadline).

But never fear, as I always say! Here are some tricks you can pull out that will have you unstuck in no time.

1. Do something else. Take a break from the task that has you stuck and focus your attention on another project entirely, especially if it’s one you can finish without any stumbling blocks. Sometimes the satisfaction of successfully completing something is enough to get your mojo flowing again.

2. Change your scenery
. Sometimes when I get stuck, it’s because I’ve accumulated too much clutter or disarray. That kind of thing can niggle at you, taking up mental space and zapping energy. What helps is taking time out to straighten things up, bring in some fresh flowers and open the windows. Or heck, just get out of the office all together and go sit at a cafe.

3. Go for a walk. Doesn’t matter what the weather is—a jaunt with umbrella and galoshes can be just as fun and invigorating as one in the sun. The point is to get out in the fresh air and get your blood moving.

4. Get someone else’s input. Two heads are often better than one. Ask a mentor or colleague to help you brainstorm or bounce ideas around. A fresh set of eyes can help you see something in a new light or that which may have been in front of you the whole time.

5. Read something inspirational
. Are there books or magazines that never fail to get you pumped? Go hang out with them for a bit.

6. Sleep on it. Sometimes just putting the project to bed for the night does wonders. It’s amazing how often a brilliant new idea or the solution to a vexing problem will appear to you in the light of a new day. One of my little tricks is to tell myself right before shutting my eyes, “Okay, let’s think on this tonight and have a solution in the morning.” It really works!

7. Trust
. Don’t be fooled. You can’t force or rush creativity. It’s controlled by magical forces that only deign to let us harness them at their whim. So try to relax and comfort yourself with the fact your muse will return precisely when and where it is supposed to. And it will, trust me. You just need a bit of faith and patience sometimes. ;)

RESOURCE: I haven’t read it myself, but I have heard so many great things over the years about the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It offers techniques for overcoming writer’s block that thousands of devotees swear by.

Want to Be a Lean, Mean, Client-Supportin Mo-Chine?

All the money in the world is no good to you if you’re working all the time to earn it and have no time left with which to savor and experience life and LIVE.

Guess what? You don’t have to work from sun-up to sundown just to earn a living.

Let me show you how you can have a financially successful business with breathing room AND time for a rich life working a 3-day week. I’ve just released the self-paced, “home” version of my latest class Power Productivity and Biz Management for Administrative Consultants.

But don’t let the name fool you. This is NOT another “how to stuff more hours and more work into your already over-stuffed, over-crowded, overwhelming day” productivity courses.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Instead, I show you how to do LESS so that you can not only provide BETTER support to your clients and earn better doing it, but also how to have more time for your own life.

One of the reasons I gave the class originally and subsequently now provide it as a self-study system is because over the last year I was hearing from countless people in my Laser Mentoring Sessions about how they were working round the clock, often with tons of clients, yet still barely earning a living.

And life? What’s that? lol. They had absolutely nothing left for themselves much less time to live or experience any of the reasons they went into business in the first place.

The strategies, concepts and step-by-step systems in my new guide are the same ones I use in my own practice and teach others about in my laser mentoring sessions.

Just the other day, I heard from one woman I started working in my Laser Mentoring Sessions several months ago:

“I wanted to connect with you and let you know that because of you, I am a much happier person. You remember how ragged, tired and worn out I was when we had that interview a few months ago? Well, I am now working about 1/3 the time, if that, and making more money (not at 6 figures yet, but have that goal in the forecast). I am more confident (still have a ways to go, of course), but I am seeing some successes and feeling great about the direction that my business is taking! I have goals and plans to do more, but I’m baby-stepping for now. Don’t want to take on too much, too fast, and wind up right back where I was. I hope you can feel how appreciative I am!”

You, too, can get the simple systems which you can implement QUICKLY and EASILY to transform your business into a lean, mean, client-supporting mo-chine that takes better care of clients and creates more value while allowing you to work only 3 days a week, making more money and having more time for life.

Check it out here >>