Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

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 >>

How to Achieve Your Standards, Values and Desires in Your Business

It’s all well and good to be told that to be successful in your business, you should have incredibly high standards, you should refuse to compromise them for anyone, you shouldn’t move too fast, and you should do your best work.

Easier said than done, particularly in the administrative support business!

And what do we mean when we talk about standards? Standards are boundaries, desires and values you have for your life, your business and what you want for your clients.

It can help to look at standards in view of some of the issues we run up against in our businesses that we want to avoid or solve:

  • Clients thinking you’re their beck-and-call substitute employee;
  • Becoming overwhelmed or disorganized with the workload;
  • Being so bogged down and crowded in the work that you aren’t able to do your best work; reacting and scrambling instead of being proactive and having the space to apply critical thinking and creativity (creativity is KILLED by crowding and overwhelm);
  • Working beyond normal business hours into the nights and weekends has become the habit in order to keep up with work and deadlines;
  • Never having time to take proper care of yourself;
  • Having so much work or working so much for one client that you don’t have time or room for anyone or anything else;
  • Living to work; not having enough time for your own life.

Most of us want to do a great job for our clients AND we also want to have plenty of time to enjoy our lives, right? These are two of the most basic standards we all have for being in business.

So how do you avoid these kind of pitfalls I’ve mentioned so you can achieve those standards? How do you ensure you are able to meet those goals and live up to the values you have for yourself, your business and how you want to take care of clients?

With a system!

And what is a system? A system is a method, plan or series of steps involved with the goal of streamlining or reducing work, improving efficiency, instilling consistency and dependability, and creating the circumstances that allow you to do your best work, all the time.

So a system becomes a plan, a roadmap, a tool for being able to achieve certain results, uphold your standards and values, and accomplish your objectives for your life, your business and your clients.

Without a system for being able to uphold your standards and boundaries, for managing the workload and client expectations, for working in a way that allows you to earn well without sacrificing quality of work and service, you will always feel a downward pull and drag that works against you in your business.

This, in turn, directly impacts your earning ability and income potential.

  • You NEED to avoid being crowded in the work so that you can do your best work, all the time, for all your clients.
  • You NEED the right conditions and operating policies and procedures in place so that you can work with your right number of clients and earn well in the process (business success is no success if you are not profitable and earning well in terms of both money AND discretionary time).
  • You NEED to have time for your life or you will become unhappy and resentful of your clients and the work, and won’t be able to serve either well.

This is what my class on August 22 is all about… teaching you my simple, unique, insanely easy-to-implement systems, policies and methods for achieving these kind of results in YOUR business.

This Wednesday, August 15, is the VERY last day to register and I don’t want you to miss out. These systems will change your life.

Check it out here >>

Dear Danielle: How Do I Handle Requests Outside My Expertise?

Dear Danielle:

Hi! I often get asked by clients how to put together a “media kit” to get the word out for their events and what-not. While I am good at some marketing things, this stumps me with the overwhelming, not so helpful examples and opinions on the Internet. If you can, please shed some light on this brain thumper for me. Thanks so much! —Chrissy Ford, Organized Resources, Etc.

Hi Chrissy! Thanks so much for the question. :)

Rather than getting into the ingredients and mechanics of what goes in a media kit, I want to talk about some business concepts and mindsets involved in this kind of situation.

As you mention, marketing is not your field of expertise. And of course it’s not. Because you’re an ADMINISTRATIVE consultant, not a marketing consultant.

So the first concept this brings up is the idea around hiring the right professional for the job.

What I mean by that is, for example, if you’re a plumber, it’s not your job to become a mechanic just because a client needs his car fixed. You’re a plumber. Fixing cars is not the business you’re in and not your field of expertise.

See what I mean?

Now, people aren’t going to be calling a plumber when their car breaks down because they know what a plumber does and what a mechanic does. We all understand the distinctions.

But the problem in our industry, particularly for those who call and market themselves as “assistants,” is that these distinctions are not as clear. And that’s because people see and understand assistants as gophers, not as experts in one particular anything.

For those calling themselves assistants, this is why they not only have a much more difficult time commanding professional fees (because gophers are not highly valued experts and people accordingly don’t expect to pay them well), but it’s why they are frequently asked to do things that have nothing to do with administrative support.

So the second concept has to do with business mindset and understanding that you are not a gopher, you are an administrative expert. That is your field of expertise. You need to lead and focus on a clear-cut definition of what you’re in business to do and what your expertise is so that clients easily see and understand what your professional role is.

This also entails that you stop calling yourself an assistant. If administrative support is the business you are in, call yourself an Administrative Consultant instead and see just what a difference it makes!

These concepts also directly relate to managing your business and productivity as well. You can’t be in business to do anything and everything. Those who try are spread really thin, really quickly, all the time. If you want to have a productive business that leaves you plenty of time for life, you can’t let yourself be led down rabbit holes by taking on work that you consider outside your field of expertise or is not the type of thing you’re in business to do. Let clients hire the right professionals for those other things.

So when you are asked by clients to take on something that isn’t your role in your business to do, you can handle it one of several ways:

  1. You could decline the request, indicating to the client that it’s your field of expertise, and that they would be best served by a [INSERT TITLE HERE] professional/consultant because that’s the kind of thing they are in business to do and are experts at.
  2. You could accept the request, letting the client know that it’s not your area of expertise, that you know as much as they do about the topic, and if they’er okay with that, while you’ll do your best, it’s not going to be the same level or kind of expertise as they’d get by going to the proper professional.
  3. If you accept the request, you could let the client know that their request is a special project and not something included in their administrative support plan, and that you charge separately for special projects of that nature.

I know that doesn’t answer your direct question, but I hope it brings up some other ideas that are helpful to you in your business. If you have further questions on any of this, please do post in the comments. I’m happy to continue the conversation. :)

How Your Biz Space Contributes to Your Success

As you may know, I’m doing a class this month on my unique systems for managing your business and work in ways that allow you to both take better care of clients AND still have a life (you are invited, too!).

One of my class attendees mentioned that one challenge she faces is a very small office space (roughly 8.5 x 6.5′). She explained that it’s very cramped and cluttered at the moment and that she intends to spend some time over the next month culling out materials, reorganizing and making room for new systems that work.

I think this a fabulous plan, because first and foremost, whenever you clear out the clutter and get rid of that which isn’t working for you, you make room for the new and better and more ideal to come into your life.

Plus, besides facilitating happier, more productive workflows and energies, the care and love you put into your space permeates your business overall and translates into the care and respect and love you give to your work and clients.

I love my business. It’s enriched my life so much. It’s what has allowed me to live the life I want to live, and it’s contributed to my personal growth and happiness in huge and unexpected ways.

And so besides creating a space that I enjoy being in, that nurtures my creativity and productivity (because let’s face it, we spend a large part of our lives engaged in our work), putting love and care into my workspace is a reflection of the love, care, seriousness, respect and gratitude I have for my business, my art (my work) and my clients.

Your space doesn’t need to be huge (mine is not much bigger than my attendee’s; only about 10 x 11′). No matter what space you have available, even if right now it’s just a corner or part of the kitchen table, the important thing… the thing that will contribute to your happiness and success… is to dedicate it to the business. Don’t make it share or compete with anyone or anything else. Carve out your little corner and do it up so that it makes your heart smile being in it. Organize it so that your movements can be fluid and flowing. Put as much care and love and respect into your space as you want your business and clients to give back to you.

Here’s a shot of my biz space. If you have a photo or video of your office, please do share in the comments. We’d love to see!

Do You Never Have Time for Your Life? Want to Stop Being a Substitute Employee?

If you are so deeply involved and entrenched in managing your client’s day-to-day business, you will never have time for your own life, much less your own business and working with other clients.

Even if you’ve been conned into believing that’s the only way to charge higher fees, who gives a crap if you will never have the kind of freedom and flexibility to enjoy it!

The thinking that you aren’t valuable enough being an administrative expert and strategic partner to clients (and not a substitute employee they don’t pay taxes on) arises from a deep-seated lack of professional self-esteem. The sharks in our industry who want you to buy into their certification programs and clients who want to take advantage exploit these self-sabotaging beliefs for their own gain.

But you don’t need to take on a bigger role to be valuable (especially roles that aren’t your place to be taking on anyway as an independent professional).

What you need is to improve your professional self-esteem, learn to better understand and articulate your value, and for God’s sake, stop working with clients who are just trying to turn you into an employee they don’t pay taxes on. (The coaching, Internet marketing and real estate industries are notorious for this.)

You’re probably thinking “that sounds wonderful, but how on earth can I stop working with clients at their daily beck and call and still HAVE clients and make money?”

Oh, my dear, you’ve been fed such a load of BS by this industry. What I could show you will spin your world right around!

It all starts with how you manage your business and workload. Let me show you how you can work with clients as a strategic partner ( NOT a substitute employee), take fantastic care of them AND have more time for your life while doing it.

My class on August 22 will show you exactly how to manage your clients and workload so the right understandings and expectations are set right from the get-go, and you have more space around the work and more time for your life on a daily basis. Check it out here.