I’ve been spending a lot of time lately getting ready for 2012 – planning, organizing, strategizing, visioning, and more. There are many transitions and transformations on the horizon for me and my business, and much to do to prepare for them, so I’m making space and opening the flow.
Here are some of the ways I’m doing this in my business that you can do too:
1. Clean Up Your Business Time
Time is your only non-renewable resource. If you’ve ever experienced days when you don’t know where the time has gone, but you do know you haven’t accomplished much, then you need to take a serious look at just what is eating up those precious minutes. My coach’s request of you is to track your time for the next two weeks. Like a food diary makes you intensely aware of what you’re eating, a time log will allow you to quickly and easily identify where you’re frittering time away.
Most likely culprits?… Email and TV (yes, I know some of you are ‘watching’ TV while you’re online, and no, that’s not multi-tasking, that’s just pure distraction).
Once you are aware of where your time is going, make a conscious effort to redirect it to more productive – or even more restful – activities. Turn the TV off (or TIVO/DVR whatever it is you must watch and give it your full attention later). And don’t leave your email open all day long! Allot specific time to read and respond to it instead.
You’ll be amazed at how just doing this simple exercise will free up the time you want for more important (and fun!) things. (Be sure to read Part 2 of this article next week where I’ll share more specific and effective tips for handling email overload.)
2. Clean Up Your Business Space
Now is a great time to go through your files – computer and physical – and delete or organize them for moving forward to 2012. I spent several hours going through my physical files recently, shredding lots of documents (I love to purge!), and setting up new files for my new Platinum clients as well as empty files for the ones yet to come. During this process both online and off, I also found a lot of gems I’d forgotten about – pieces of content, systems and processes, tools, resources, audios, and more.
And now that I have a recent visual in my mind of what’s in my files, it’s literally at my fingertips as I move forward in building my business. As for my computer, I actually went so far as to purchase a brand new laptop, and I’m being very discerning about what gets transferred over from my old PC to the new. Energetically and electronically, I can feel how much more open the flow is by doing this.
3. Clean up Your Business Circle
This one can be a bit difficult, but it’s necessary to prune the people you surround yourself with from time to time. It doesn’t mean you have to completely disconnect from them (unless they’re just weighing you down energetically), but do make a conscious choice to spend more time in the company of those who lift you up.
Let me give you a simple example. If you’re on someone’s ezine list just because everyone else is or you feel like you should be, but you either a) don’t read it or b) don’t feel good when you do read it, just unsubscribe and allow the space for something that resonates with you to take its place.
Or maybe you’re part of a mastermind group that you feel you’ve outgrown. Now is the time to graciously bow out. Once you do, you open the space for a new group to form around you that better supports where you are now.
How are you making space and opening the flow for the new year? Please share below…
Here’s a question I get asked all the time:
“I don’t know you how do it, Alicia…with two little ones to care for and so few hours in the day to actually focus on your work. Somehow you manage to write your weekly ezine, hold a bunch of teleseminars each month, run your group and private coaching programs, AND be creating and promoting new offers and new products all the time. I’m so impressed and inspired by you, but more than that, I want to know how you do it all!?”
To be honest, sometimes I wonder myself! Something I often say to other, especially new, mothers is, “despite what everyone tells you to do, do whatever works for YOU.” In a way, that’s how I started running my business after I had my daughter. I just did whatever worked. I still do.
When she got a bit older, it was easier to manage both being a fulltime mother along with running a successful business. Then enter baby #2 and it was back to square one. It’s not easy but it is possible. And here’s what’s really interesting (mompreneurs, take note): I started making about $3k more each month since having my son – and I’m working LESS.
A client once pointed out to me that it seems the biggest growths in my business have been when I’ve been having babies – and she’s right!
Over time, I’ve figured out how to get the most important things done while still being able to focus the majority of my time on my family (after all, that’s one of the reasons why I went into business for myself in the first place).
Here are just a few of them:
1. Setting my work hours
My typical work day looks like this: I get organized the night before for the next day. This jump-starts my day and makes sure that when I do get those tiny pockets of time to get something done, I know exactly what to do. This makes me feel like I’m accomplishing stuff in-between drop-off and pick-up from school, making crafts, playing trains, exploring the neighborhood or running errands.
When I started my business, I didn’t get any real work done until naptime. I work for about a total of an hour or so while the kids napped, five days a week. Then I put in some more time after they go to bed at night, whether I was leading a teleseminar or catching up on emails. My biggest block of focused time, usually reserved for writing and product creation, was on Saturdays, when I worked approximately 4 hours.
During a perfect week, that gave me about 12 hours of time dedicated to business. However, there’s never a perfect week (one or the other doesn’t nap, I have some pressing non-business-related task that I can only take care of when they’re sleeping, one of them is sick, etc.), so my best guess is that this gives me about 8-10 productive hours to work on my business each week.
Now that the kids are both in school, my dedicated work time is a couple of hours in the morning until I pick my son up at noon, a little at naptime, and sometimes in the evening (again if I’m hosting a teleseminar) or on a Saturday, if I have a launch going on.
So, although my hours have shifted, the amount of hours is still relatively the same – about 15 hours a week.
So how do I decide what to focus on that will move my business forward the fastest in that limited amount of time each week? I use what I call a Priority Card…
2. Using a Priority Card
A Priority Card will help you organize all your tasks in a way that will SHOW you every day what you should focus on. There are a lot of details that will threaten to take your mind off your priorities (this is where a virtual assistant can be of immense value), but those details are not necessarily what will move you forward in your business. To do that, you need to consistently focus on completing the projects that will move your business ahead big-time.
You can create a system for helping you focus on your priorities in a number of ways, but I’m going to give you mine. Like I said, I only work about 15 hours a week on my business, so adjust your own plan accordingly.
At the beginning of each week, I choose 3 to 5 projects with looming deadlines (self-imposed as they may be) from my master task list (which really is so massive that I write it on a 8.5 x 14 legal pad). For example, at the moment, I am working on my Online Business Breakthrough Workshop and my L.E.A.P.™ Gold program.
On a colored index card, I write down those projects and prop the card in a standing clip holder, right in front of my computer screen. When I start to feel that sense of overwhelm, or when I find myself getting distracted by new ideas or other tasks (all of which seem important), I remind myself to look at my Priority Card and focus only on what’s written there.
Once I started using my Priority Card, my own business growth leaped forward ten times faster than when I was doing a little of this and a little of that, working on a dozen things, but taking much too long to actually complete just one project.
3. Ignoring the phone
I’m serious when I say that I ignore the phone. Some of my clients get heart palpitations when I tell them that I NEVER jump when the phone rings and suggest they do the same. I don’t even have the ringer turned on on the business line. Does this mean I miss some important calls? Probably. But my virtual assistant checks my messages in a timely manner, takes care of what she can, and forwards the rest to me. I then call people back at a more convenient time for me.
4. Quick consults
When a prospective client wanted to speak with me about ‘just a few questions’, I used to gladly schedule a time to talk. But instead of a few questions, I’d be on the phone for at least a half hour, basically giving a free coaching/consulting session, and being frustrated with myself for not valuing my time more.
And until recently, when a potential client or customer requested to talk with me further about working with me or about one of my products, they could schedule a time to talk for a much smaller fee than my usual hourly rate, and if they decided to go forward with working with me, they could apply the fee they paid towards the program or product they were interested in. This was fair and valued both our time and investment in the process.
Now, however, prospects can talk with my virtual assistant should they need more information about any of my programs or products. If someone is interested in working with me one-on-one, they need to apply for a private coaching spot and if I feel it’s a good fit, we set up an interview to discuss moving forward.
BONUS: Make and use lists
I’d be lost without my lists! I’d never remember to do anything if I didn’t write it down. I keep a bunch of reporter’s notebooks around the house and anytime I think of something I need to do, I write it down in whatever room I’m in – whether it’s business or personal. Then I periodically gather the lists and separate them into three main lists; personal, business, and other (which includes the “someday I’d like to…” stuff; things that aren’t a priority but that I want to remember to do at some point), and check things off in priority order from there.
If you start applying some of these steps now, I guarantee the number of productive hours you spend on your business will increase. And you’ll also feel less overwhelmed and lessed stressed about trying to get it all done!
Leverage Your Time to Make More Money Online
One of the most critical lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is that in order to double my income (or more) I have to do HALF of what I’m doing now. I’ll teach you which HALF of your to-do list are the right things to get done, and how to get them done faster.
I want you to learn how to work LESS while creating more wealth, time and freedom for you and your family. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you quiet the multi-tasker in you!
Reserve one of the *very* limited seats TODAY
I’d love to hear which of these tips you’re willing to embrace today. Feel free to share with me below.
Do you do everything yourself when it comes to running your business? Or do you find it difficult to delegate to others, at least sometimes? Do you think you don’t have the money to hire help? Well, I’m going to show you how hiring help can help increase your bottom line dramatically.
Not delegating is one of the major hurdles my private clients seem to struggle with. They are doing everything themselves and are so busy with the little administrative things that they have little time to devote to their “genius” work – developing products and services for their niche and working directly with their clients.
Once they’ve hired help, either a virtual assistant or an in-office assistant, and move through the growing pains of delegating and trusting that the work will get done (and usually get done faster and better than they could do it themselves), I can always sense a feeling of freedom and excitement as the space opens up for them to work on the things that are really creative and inspiring to them, instead of dealing with invoices or fixing a glitch with their web page. And very soon after, their business really starts to move forward because they have the time and focus to dedicate to increasing their product and services line, which, of course, translates into more profits.
There are many ways that you can work with an assistant. You can hire someone on an hourly basis, or hire someone on a monthly retainer, which is often less expensive. You can hire someone for a single project only or you could hire someone part- or full-time to work in your office with you. Think about which of these scenarios might work best for you.
A tip: If you hire someone as an employee, remember to check with your accountant about filing the appropriate paperwork. The beauty of working with a freelancer, independent contractor or virtual assistant is that they cover their own overhead, including any insurance needs.
Here are 10 ways you can use an assistant:
1. submitting your articles to article directories and submission sites
2. handling registrations for your teleclasses/workshops
3. proofing and formatting your written material
4. creating graphics for your products
5. maintaining your website
6. inputting any necessary updates to your products/services
7. as a sounding board for new ideas
8. responding to your customer/client inquiries
10. packaging and shipping your products
If you can’t quite see how an assistant could help you deal with all the time-suckers in your business, keep a log of your business activities for a week, including how long each task takes you to complete. Then at then end of the week, review it and circle all the tasks that an assistant can help you with (there should be quite a few!). Consider the number of hours those things have taken you to accomplish, and decide if the $25-$50 an hour for an assistant would be worth the investment. Statistics tell us that your bottom line could increase as much as 40% once you hire help – now that’s a pretty good return on investment, isn’t it?
And if you still think you can’t afford to hire someone, then start asking around in your network for someone who would be interested in an exchange of services or for an intern or apprentice. Or ask your colleagues who are happy with their own VAs to see if any of their assistants are looking for additional clients.
So before you burn out and lose the passion for owning your own business that you started off with, hire someone to help you. You’ll reach more people with your message and make more money at the same time. Start small and add hours as you feel comfortable and for what you find necessary. You’ll never regret it and you’ll never go back to being a lone ranger!
I’d love to know your thoughts on hiring help in your business – please leave your comments below.
While the message and the market of your business may be different, there are some stumbling blocks that seem to pop up for even the seasoned entrepreneur.
Here are four of the ones that I’ve been coaching clients on during their private planning and strategy retreats lately:
1. Not moving ahead even when they know what to do.
Almost always, this is a fear-based immobility. Whether it’s fear of failure or fear of success (the later seems more prevalent for entrepreneurs, including myself). We come up with all kinds of excuses as to why something isn’t getting done, but most often it has nothing to do with anything other than fear of the possible result of moving forward.
If you’re afraid of failing, remember that in our online world, we get to test things out with very little risk. My favorite strategy is to ‘fail fast’. Put it out there, see what happens, tweak until you get the result you want.
If you’re afraid of success, then you need to take a look at your Big Money Why (BMW – see #5) to see how you can make it more powerful and motivating (tip: money is never enough of a motivator, believe it or not). And you need to put in place a process for how you will handle the abundance that’s too come.
2. Being self-disciplined enough to make and stick to self-imposed deadlines.
The wonderful thing about being an entrepreneur is that you’re your own boss. The tricky thing about that is most, if not all, of our deadlines are self-imposed. Which makes them very easy to move, doesn’t it? I know because I’ve struggled with this one more than once.
If we go back to knowing what your emotionally driven motivator is for the success you desire, you’ll be more likely to stick to those self-imposed deadlines – but only if that BMW is strong enough.
Here’s a simple but very powerful tip for you in sticking to your own deadlines: Make them public. When I launched my first info-product, I told my ezine list that they would be able to buy it on a certain date, which gave me about 3 weeks to get it done. And done it was.
3. Claiming leadership status and fulling stepping into the role of the CEO of your business.
Once an entrepreneur gets the foundational pieces in place for their business, it’s actually easy to stay in the start-up phase, because it’s comfortable. And because often they don’t know what the next step is, what the next layer of the business should look like, to take them to the next level.
The sooner they can take on the leadership role, by becoming the CEO of their business (even if they don’t call themselves that), the faster the growth of both the entrepreneur and the business.
One of the ways you can step more fully into that role is by delegating. So if you’ve been in business for a couple of years and you’re still doing too much of the managing of it, and especially if you’re doing all the admin work, and you haven’t hired an assistant yet, it’s time. Start with one small project and add from there,
For every task in your business, ask yourself, “Is this something I should be doing?”
Because remember, even if you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
If the answer is no, then pass it off to a capable assistant.
4. Having an emotionally driven motivator for your Big Money Why (BMW).
This is probably the most important one. Money is NOT enough of a motivator, no matter how much you want it, or are attached to the ‘6-Figure’ or “million-dollar’ mark. There has to be a reason behind wanting it, something that is so strong that it drives you and the business forward, no matter what.
If you find things aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like, or it feels too hard much of the time, or you just aren’t using your time and talent effectively, take a look at your Big Money Why. And if you haven’t done this before, then that’s your coaching homework.
In as much detail as possible, write out why you want the financial success you do. Is it to give to your family, is it to give to others, is it to create a charitable foundation, is it to take care of elderly parents, is it to enable your children to get the best education you can give them, is it to travel and expand your world view, is it to buy a nicer home for your family, is it to give experiences to those you love – they are a thousand reasons why, but you need to be very clear of what they are for YOU before you can make them happen.
I’d love to know your thoughts and which one of these four resonates with you the most. Please leave your comments below.
Are you working too hard in your business? If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably are, especially if you’re in the early stages of your business building. And you’re not alone.
Here’s an example from my own client files:
I was recently working with a client who was a real go-getter, very serious about being in business for herself, and marketing only to a more affluent clientele. She wanted to increase her reach into that market online. And she was considering adding article marketing to her mix.
At this stage in her business, she was already doing quite well. She was close to making 6 figures and charging 5 times as much as her counterparts – and getting it easily. But she wasn’t satisfied. She really wanted to break the $100k mark before the third anniversary of her business, which was coming up in just a few months.
When she asked me, “What is the quickest, most cost-effective way to regularly market articles?” and then told me she planned to do this work herself, I stopped her.
“You know, just because you can do this task, doesn’t mean you should…”
She was quiet for a moment before asking me to elaborate.
“I know your writing is high quality and of high value to your market, and I definitely think you should be getting that content out there, to the appropriate places that will bring you the highest return-on-investment for your efforts. But I don’t think you should be doing this yourself. It’s not a good use of your time or your energy. What do you think?”
After a bit more discussion, she agreed to hire someone to do this for her.
As you read this, did you think of perhaps one task that you routinely do (or that falls by the wayside because you can never just get to it) that you know is ‘below your pay grade’ and yet you continue to waste time and energy on it (even if that time and energy is just thinking about how you’re NOT getting it done?)?
This concept was (still is, from time to time) difficult for me to grasp when my own coach shone a light on it for me. But since I’ve tried to be aware of how much effort I really need to put into a task to get the result I want, it’s opened up space for things to flow more effortlessly and more quickly than ever.
Do you spend more time than necessary responding to emails? Do you write two paragraphs when a two-sentence response would suffice? Do you respond to emails that actually don’t require a response? Do you check email every 5 minutes (come on, fess up!)? What if you didn’t do any of these things and still had a handle on your inbox? You can – just follow Tina’s system to Escape from Email Hell (see Alicia Recommends).
Are you writing blog posts that are long? Maybe it even feels cumbersome to try to write a post the length of an article. Don’t – keep them short and pithy. Make sure your keywords are in the content and it doesn’t matter how long your posts are to the search engines – and your readers will probably appreciate shorter posts as well. Better yet, turn your weekly ezine articles into blog posts to save even more time and energy.
Are you constantly updating your website? Does it really need to be revamped so often? More to the point, is this something you have to do yourself? No. Most virtual assistants can make website updates for you at a much lower cost to your time and energy than you doing it yourself.
4. Customer/Client Relations
Who responds to questions and comments from your clients and customers? Are you processing refunds, working out payment glitches, resending download links, answering the same questions about your programs over and over, or any other task that could easily be passed off to a capable assistant? You can quickly and easily train someone to respond to these inquiries in your voice by having them shadow you via blind-copying them on each email you send out. Then reverse the process and voila – another time and energy drain has been removed from your shoulders.
If you’ve been a client of mine, it’s very likely you’ve heard one of my mantras, “Done is better than perfect.” I usually follow that with, “And it’s never going to be all done.” So choose to cause yourself less stress and DO LESS. Experiment with this and see how much more productive you’ll actually be. Think of just one thing that you could do the easy way instead of the hard way, or delegate to an assistant, or better yet, take off your ‘must-do’ list altogether.