Rinse & Repeat

Do the first right thing. The easiest one on your list to accomplish. There! Well done! Now, pick the next right thing to do. Spend a day like this. Then the next. You’ll be shocked at how much gets done.

Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed, I set a timer for 15 minutes. Ok, I do that a lot. It turns the chore into a game and makes it easier to do the task at hand. Try it. You may just have discovered the hidden key to your success.
Forward!
~e

Give Yourself 15 Minutes to Plan Your Day

Frazzled? When you are running a small business or a new business venture, it can feel like you are running from one crisis to the next. As in, “What is the absolute most important thing that I must get done today?” (or “RIGHT NOW!”)

Ironically, this approach can leave us worn out, weary, and disconnected from feeling like we are actually making any real progress. This is how I spent my summer and it had some rather negative results, some of which I am still working through. With the just past Labor Day weekend, I took some serious time to evaluate what *I* needed to do to change and improve my business. As a result, I’ve put some steps in place to ensure this last quarter of the year has my very best efforts applied to it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share those steps with you, in case you care to add a few into your routine as well.

STEP ONE: 15 minutes
For me, one of the best habits I can easily put back in place is a timed 15 minutes of planning my day and my businesses needs.
If I can do that daily, not only is there a feeling of accomplishment in just that small action, but I am able to track goals and see results. For me, one of the primary purposes of this is to better my communication skills with my clients by not neglecting or dropping any of their projects or deadlines. It also gives me the opportunity to circle back and remind them about short-term goals that may have slipped off their plates as well. I take a very literal approach to 15 minutes and actually set a timer, shut my door, and do not answer the phone, or email or address any interruptions. I have a physical planner. Yes, a digital calendar as well, but my physical planner allows me to write notes and doodle things in a way my tech does not. Plus, the action of writing helps me organize and retain what “the plan” is.

So, here’s your challenge: give yourself 15 minutes, every day. It sounds easy, but it is actually a lot harder than you think it is to be consistent on a daily basis.

Race the clock, if you need to, but get started… ready, set, GO!

 

 

Lesson #2: Communication

Learn the lesson or you will repeat it.

Today, I got thoroughly schooled in the mistake of not communicating regularly with a client.

Friends, it was an expensive class.

What hurts most is that my client decided not only to not pay for my work, but to literally trash my work. As an artist that hurts like a sucker punch. As a hard worker that just is appalling. That someone would treat my work with such disrespect must mean they are suffering from a level of anger that is manifesting itself in a deep, self-destructive way.

A lot of what I do involves ghostwriting for small businesses social media pages. There is a lot of thought and effort and actual out-of-my-pocket cash that goes into making a social media page vibrant and successful.

This I had done for this client like all the others, but I had failed to communicate. More importantly, I had failed to communicate regularly. So all the rest of the good I did, or the good I intended, doesn’t really matter.

Their solution to the problem (paying their invoice) was to simply delete the work without a conversation. So, again, we face the problem of more lack of communication. Perhaps, they think that solves their need to pay. Possibly they think that I did not record screenshots of my work. Based on their actions, we might be able to assume that they do not realize that I have dated invoices from my vendors, along with stats, to prove that I did indeed not only perform the services we agreed upon, but got proof-positive results as well.

This situation could devolve into the Real Ugly PDQ.  What purpose would that gain? Would this person still wish to work with me? We both know that answer. For the first time in my knowledge, I’ve lost a client through my own negligence and that is a very painful, could-have-been-avoided lesson. So instead of “get even” or “get what’s due me,” and create more stink on an already soured situation, I’ll let the Universe teach him his lesson, and I’ll learn mine. My hope is by sharing this with you there will be “bonus points” added and you’ll learn from my mistake as well without having to actually go through this patch of Hell yourself. That way, the bottom line cost for my mistake goes down significantly. It’s like you paying for a $35/mo car wash service only use it once over a six-month stretch. Well, Sweetheart, that is one expensive car wash! However, if you get your car washed four times in one month and 24 times over the course of six months: Hey! Bonus Points! So, please learn from me, Friends. Like I said, this was an expensive class. By reading this abridged notes version, you can skip the class entirely. Win-win!

So what is the lesson?
Communicate!
Over communicate.
Get it in writing.
Or you will get schooled.
It won’t be pretty.

In the meantime, I’ll use my former “it didn’t happen, ’cause it doesn’t exist” client’s business card as a bookmark, to remind me of the costly mistake I made. My other clients, both current and future, will gain the benefits of my hard-earned knowledge. Ultimately, so will I.

Hopefully, you will as well.

 

(note: this article took more than six seconds to read… if you got to here, you officially are not a goldfish!)

 

How do you protect your work?

Once again, I seem to have not learned the lesson of strong communication… and now that I’ve sent an invoice, the client does not want to pay, wants to keep my work, and now somehow wants to get more work from me.

So, again, I get to learn a lesson here. The fact that it is coming right on top of an earlier lesson, makes it stand out sharply with all its rough and jagged edges. I’m not used to working with such people. Not used to this caliber of person calling themselves a professional.

But I will learn this lesson. If I don’t, I’m going to be out of business very soon, for who can afford to work and not get paid? Volunteers are wonderful folks and we need them in our society… and I do plenty of volunteer work, but this is my livelihood. Using my work without my permission and without payment is not an acceptable arrangement. Not to me. Not to my family.

Learn from me, Folks. Avoid this costly and painful mistake.

What went wrong…

I worked and worked hard and gave good effort and it was well-received until the invoice came and then, suddenly, they didn’t want to pay.

Now, in a weird twist of irony, they want to keep my work, but don’t want to pay for it. And since I had only word of mouth and am a small business, it seems they have the upper hand in the situation.

Except, I get to learn from this, if I choose. I can make certain this doesn’t happen to me again. And by telling you about it; hopefully, make certain it doesn’t happen to you either.

Facing Dragons

Recently, I had to face some dragons. My belief before the last 48 hours had passed was that the dragons in my line of sight were the fire-breathing sort that were more than likely going to turn me into the proverbial #burntToast.

So, I spent weeks mentally preparing myself. Looking into alternate plans and routes and tactics. The future seemed shrouded in mist.

Literal months moving piles of paper around on my desk: organizing and breaking them down six ways crosswise. My head was full of numbers and rationales… and procrastination:

  • Do I have to face this now?
  • Is there an alternative?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • The long-term effects on all parties involved

Forty-eight hours later, I have faced my dragons. They turned out to be the stone dragons. Intimidating in appearance, but upon close inspection (and action) unable to harm. I wondered how many had turned back from the path when seeing them in the distance? How close was I from running away in fear and terror of the possibility of failure.

Like fire drills and tornado warnings, it is a good, safe practice to have plans in place and to practice walking those plans out “in the event of”. These past few hours have been that for me from a business perspective. But it was, in truth, not a drill.

Be prepared to face fire. Do not be afraid to do what needs to be done. What you need is on the other side of what frightens you.

But I should be doing more, right?

Not necessarily. Today, for example, I’ve done all the required tasks for the day, but am feeling guilty, like I should be doing more. Getting ahead or doing research.

Friends, my brain is tired. My body is tired as well. I have done enough for today. Yes, there is more that I could do, but to be the better me that you need to help your business reflect the best you, I have got to pause, slow down, and incorporate rest and restore into my business model.

Stamina is perhaps the most needed trait in a small business owner. And to have good stamina, you must have balance. Otherwise, you’re not going to make it past Thursday.

Write It Down

Today, for my work in self-improvement and therefore my business improvement, I’ve been listening to a bunch of TEDx talks by folks like David Allen and Jeff Sutherland and somebody whose name I’ve already forgotten.

That’s the point. I’ve already forgotten.

Our brains, as amazing as they are, simply can not hold all the information we need to stuff into them. Because it’s not meant to do that. It’s meant to come up with ideas. But we still try to stuff it full of things that have little to do with primal survival. Still, it tries. It’s very good at holding about four different important things at once, but if your “to do” list is longer than that (especially if you are juggling multiple projects), then you are going to drop things, no matter how well-intentioned.

So, here’s some things I’ve learned today that I will share with you (and save you a couple of hours of your valuable time in the process):

  1. Write it down. Just get it out of your head and onto either paper or a digital format that you can consistently use. You don’t have to do anything about it, but be writing it down, you’ve let your brain know that it has done its job and can move on to more creative thinking. So, put it down.
  2. Decide what to do with it. Sometimes, it may just need to sit there. Sometimes, it can be dealt with in 2 minutes. If it can be dealt with in 2 minutes… do it. Immediately. Now, that is done, you can mark it off your list and move on to the next thing. Other things may take a little time or a long amount of time. Beside each thing, decide whether you want to invest the time needed to do “the thing”.
  3. Ideas. Now you are going to come up with a bunch of ideas on how to solve the problem. Some of these will be good ideas. Some bad ideas. Every idea gets a place down on the page. Take just 2 minutes to write down all the ideas that spring to mind on how to solve the problem/task. From this a loose structure gets formed.
  4. Action steps. Based on what you just spent 2 minutes blasting out of your brain, what is the next, single, immediate thing that you can do to move towards progress. Do it. And then the next. Repeat. Repeat.

And that’s all I can remember at this moment, and proved my point. I’ve spent all morning listening to these things, taking notes, being diligent. You’d think it’d stay in my brain longer. After all, I am not a dummy.

So let’s start with what I do remember:

Write it down. We can get stuff done.

Bonus: this is the planner that I am using and am finding a useful tool. I was called a nerd yesterday when I showed it to a friend. I laughed. Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ll be a successful nerd. No problem.

Note: this is what a note written on my phone looks like with my pudgy fingers: seriously ridiculous, but I guess it’s better than trying to remember it. 😉