Business Basics for Entrepreneurs: Productivity Management

Business Basics: Productivity Management for EntreprenuersThe same productivity management tools and strategies used by Fortune 500 companies can be used by entrepreneurs like you!  No matter the product type or services of your small business, offered online or from a brick-and-mortar location, productivity management is an essential part of your business administration.

Are we there yet?

Look at the business goals you set for this year. Defining your productivity measures will help you figure out where you are now, how much and what kind of work you need to do to get where you want to be, and  identify areas of your process that need improvement.

Productivity is formally defined as a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs.

Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period. Productivity is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.

Does that sound way over the top for your little business? Even if you are just starting out as a virtual service provider, you need productivity management – and are probably already doing it on some level!

How To Measure Productivity

Measuring productivity can be done for any business, but the way you figure it out depends on what your business is producing. What is it that your customers buy from you? That is your “output”.

Tangible Goods

Do you create and sell tangible products – items that can be touched like jewelry or clothes or decorative items?  What counts as a “unit” on your sales page? It might be one item like a necklace, or one unit may be a collection of pens, paper and stickers for a three month planner box subscription.

How much have you spent for the materials to produce each unit? You probably already have the information to calculate this part, if you have kept track of your business expenses.

Don’t include the cost of shipping, especially if you bill your customer for shipping and handling, but if you use special packaging or always tuck extra little goodies in the package, include those costs.

Next, you need to know how much time it takes you to produce each unit. Don’t guess and don’t assume! This is where the management rubber meets the road … you will need to track your time, or your employee’s time (even if your helper is your family member) to create that unit.

Track your time spent every time you create or assemble your product. Include time spent packaging the item. Keep a log of the dates, items and time spent. After a few rounds of making your product, you will be able to calculate and average of time spent for each unit.

Selling Services

Do you provide services like tax preparation, coaching, writing or virtual assistant services?  Your productivity measurements will be a bit different because you won’t have the cost of raw materials.

It is very important to track your time actually spent, just as you would if you were creating a tangible product like clothing or jewelry.

Your unit may be sold by the hour, or by a flat rate.

If you charge by the hour for your services, you can start from that, but add on any time you spend for preparation or research that is not billed directly to your client as part of their “hour”.

The same goes for flat rates.  Track all the time you actually spent writing that article or designing that customer’s website. Eventually, you will be able to use that information for future planning.

Virtual Evergreen Products

Virtual evergreen products are things like online courses, workbooks, planner inserts, knitting patterns … anything you create once that any number of customers can purchase and download on their own.

You will want to track the time spent actually creating the product, and if virtual products are the main focus of your business it makes sense to also capture the time you spend creating promotions for your product including podcasts, webinars, and YouTube videos.

Value Added

How much is your time worth?   How much do you want it to be worth? By including the worth of your time in addition to the cost of materials to create your product or service, and comparing that to your unit sales price to the customer, you end up with a measurement often used in business called Value Added.

In other words, Value Added is a measurement of everything you put in to your product to create wealth for your company.  Value added is more accurate than if you simply deducted the cost of your materials from the sale price of your product. This is the measurement that helps you quantify if your goals are realistic and if your business is sustainable.

Using Value Added for Business Planning

For example, let’s say you are a brand new freelance writer, and your goal is to earn $500 per week. If you get an assignment to write five 1,000 word blog posts in a week at $100 per post, you’re good to go, right? That’s $.10 per word… not bad for a newbie freelancer!

But wait… each article is on a subject you have no experience with and takes a lot of research. By tracking your time all week, you discover that by the time you sit down to write, do the research, draft the article, make the final edits and hit send to your client, you are averaging eight hours per article, or roughly 125 words per hour. That makes your time worth $12.50 an hour, and it will take you 40 hours a week to reach your $500 goal if you keep doing the same type of work at the same rate of pay.

If your goal is to make $500 per week working part time while your kids are little, or to eventually get to $2,000 a week, something has to change. Don’t be discouraged!  Your Value Added calculations will help you figure out what you need to do to make your business objectives a reality.

Tracking your actual time is critical.  Tracking showed you that you average 125 words an hour for technical topics outside your niche. If you continue tracking your time every time you write an article, it may show that when you are working on articles the same 1,000 word length, but in your area of expertise, you can bang those out in three hours!

Now you have the information to make informed decisions for your business. You know what areas to pitch, how to set your rates, and what your workload will be for the assignments you accept.

The same general method of number crunching can be used to arrive at the Added Value for tangible and virtual products to help you evaluate pricing and which products make sense for you to produce.

Are you already measuring productivity for your business?  How do you determine the value of your time as an entrepreneur?  Please leave your questions and comments below!
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Consider The Dark Side of Being A New Business Owner

Image of fountaijn pen and to do list illustating the dark side of being a new business ownerIs the Force With You in Your New Venture?

Do you see yourself as a business Jedi, ready to unleash your entrepreneurial force on the world? Are you prepared to encounter the dark side of being a new business owner?

As Yoda counsels, “Do… or do not. There is no try”. In other words, it will all be on you to successfully launch your new business and guide it through the virtual galaxy.

Search your feelings, Jedi. Have you been so excited you haven’t looked at all aspects of running your own business?

That’s no moon. It’s a Space Station!

There are plenty of online business coaches and communities that will exhort you to follow your dream, shoot for the moon, have faith in yourself and to go ahead and jump into your new business. They tell you not to get stuck on trying to make everything perfect and figure it out as you go. Sound familiar?

Usually these sites have testimonials about how they launched a successful business in weeks, and immediately began to multiply their income.

You are particularly vulnerable to the shiny lure of instant gratification business coaching if you are already restless or unhappy with your day job.

You are particularly vulnerable to the shiny lure of instant gratification business coaching if you are already restless or unhappy with your day job.

According to the Small Business Administration, the dark fact is, on average less than half of new business ventures survive to five years.

You ready to captain this ship? Start here! Take charge now and figure out your finances and business obligations before you jettison your day job so you will be one of the long-term winners!

Ready To Run A New Business Are You?

You need provisions for this trip, my Jedi friend. And there is no room for excess baggage.

Get out of debt

It you have consumer debts, car payments or other obligations outside your basic living expenses, try to get them paid off before you quit your 9-5 job. And for star’s sake, don’t add anymore! You will need the flexibility to handle unexpected business expenses or income dips.

Build an Emergency Fund

Have at least six months’ worth of your household living expenses in savings. A year’s worth is better. That’s household – not just your contribution if you have a spouse or partner that works. Stuff happens, and need to be able to cover your bills. Don’t plan to rely on credit cards.

Track Your New Business Income

Start your new business as a side hustle. Yes, you will basically be working two jobs until you get established. “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind!” Keep track of your net income. Set realistic goals and prove to yourself that your business income is sustainable. For example, set the goal that you can quit your day job (or cut back to part-time) after your net income stays above $xxxxx for six months. Make sure your target income will cover all your expenses.

Tell Jabba I’ve Got His Money

Are you disciplined and organized enough to keep up with the administrative side of running your own being a new business owner? Have you educated yourself and have a system in place? Or do you have some vague notion that you’ll hire someone to take care of the numbers stuff but have no idea who, or how much it will cost you?

This information is primarily for new business owners based in the United States, but the administrative categories apply to businesses anywhere.

As an entrepreneur in the United States, you are considered self-employed by the Internal Revenue Service. You will be responsible for paying your income taxes quarterly and will also be responsible for paying a Self-Employment tax that covers Social Security and Medicare. You must keep careful records and report your income accurately.

If your day job provided your health insurance coverage, when you are flying solo you will be responsible for acquiring a replacement policy and paying the monthly premiums without fail. In the U.S. you may be subject to penalties if you fail to arrange for qualified healthcare coverage.

A Tremor in the Force

Do you have a workflow in place for running your new business?

Hopefully you are serious enough about being a new business owner that your idea of being self-employed is not limited to wearing pajama pants and only working when inspiration hits you, but that doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in to a standard 40 hour work week.

You will need a planned workflow and the discipline to execute it consistently.

To be a successful business that survives beyond the first year or two, plan specific blocks of time for marketing, administrative tasks, responding to client inquiries, creating and delivering your goods or services, and future product development.

Be prepared for social isolation. You may be looking forward to being able to work in peace and quiet without distractions. You may also be surprised how much you miss having real people to talk to, to complain to, and to share a laugh with. Don’t burn your bridges. Take steps to maintain your work network. Plan to meet folks for lunch occasionally.

Keep in mind that when you are self-employed if your computer crashes or your supply order doesn’t get delivered on time, you are the one who will have to identify the problem, get it fixed, and manage any repercussions. Are you mentally equipped for crisis management?

Your Shield Is Up

Now that you are aware of the dark side of being an entrepreneur, you won’t be fooled into blasting off before your ship is loaded and fully functional! You will be a successful business owner… and a positive force in the business community!

Are you launching a new business? What have you done to defeat the dark side? Are you a current business owner with suggestions for new entrepreneurs? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

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How To Boost Morning Productivity Before Bed

How to Boost Your Morning Productivity by Getting Ready the Before Bed Are you ready to rock your morning productivity? Are you taking Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning challenge? Or are you just looking to better organize your hectic mornings?

Here are easy tips to boost your morning productivity that you can start today!  Using just one or two of these hacks before bed each night will immediately help boost your morning productively.

Less Hassle Equals Morning Productivity

Think back to the last few mornings. What tripped you up? Mentally walk yourself through everything you did from the time you opened your eyes until you walked out the door.

What felt like an annoyance? What sidetracked you? What tasks or routines do you do every single day no matter what? Are there things you would like to do every morning if you have more time?

Consider your morning routine a project, an ongoing project, and let’s break it down step by step. Let’s start with an areas all folks have in their morning routine.

Personal Hygiene

Do you shower or shave or style your hair every morning? Where are your towels and shaving stuff and hair products?

Towel Short Cuts

Save time before your shower shower by laying out towels the night before. Do you normally take the time to go to the linen closet or paw through the basket of clean laundry? Do you have to walk to the utility room to grab clean towels from the dryer?

From now on, keep your towels folded within reach of the shower or hanging from a hook, within  easy reach when you step out.

You can permanently install decorative hooks or just slap on the easy and inexpensive stick-on hooks. The advantages of the stick-on hooks are ease of removal and not adding another project on your to-do list!

The added bonus of hooks is that you can just hang your clean towels instead folding and putting them away every laundry day. More time saved!

Corral Those Bath Products

The same type of arrangement can be used for your shower products, like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, facial scrubs. Are your bottles and jars already lined up on the bathtub ledge, or do you grab your stuff as you head it? Are you sharing ledge space with other members of the household?

A plastic basket from the dollar store is an easy way to keep your shower stuff handy and separate. You won’t have to move it out of the shower, either. Use an S-type type hook or carabiner to hang your basket from the shower curtain rod or shower caddy.

Shaving and Styling

If you have a drawer or cabinet next to the bathroom sink, arrange your morning shave or hairstyling gear within easy reach, cockpit style.

I have a tall cabinet next to my sink and mounted plastic coated wire baskets – the kind you can get for kitchen spices – on the inside of the door to holds my blow dryer and brushes. There is a place for hairspray and styling products. Use a hand mirror for checking the back of your hair? That can hang from stick-on hook inside the cabinet!

Heading Out With Morning Productivity

Every few seconds you can shave off your morning routine will add up by the time you head out the door.  For my morning commute, an extra ten minutes before I leave extends my drive by twenty minutes because of traffic!

Getting Dressed

One of the most productivity enhancing habits to develop is to lay your clothes the night before. Lay out the entire outfit, including socks, underwear, necktie, purse, jewelry and any other accessories.

Make sure you have inspected those clothes before you lay them out. You do not want to be ironing or trying to find a substitute shirt because of a stain or missing buttons.  That is another good reason to lay out your underclothes as well… you really don’t want to wear purple floral panties under those white pants, do you?

Time and Money

Improved morning productivity can shave some expenses off your budget, too. Would you avoid a stop at the local fast food for a breakfast sandwich or coffee if you had it together in the morning?

Have your travel mug and coffee station ready for the morning. Set out a spoon, napkin, and your coffee or tea of choice. If you use a single serving coffee machine, preset it to wake up and heat the water a few minutes before the time you normally prepare your morning cuppa. For me that is as soon as the alarm goes off and my feet hit the floor!

Get you breakfast and lunch ready in advance as well. It will save money and is one less stop on the way to work!

Boil and peel a bunch of eggs on the weekend and have them ready to go for weekday mornings. Ditto for preparing other cold stuff you will be taking with you like fruits and salads.

Leftovers for lunch are a really money-saver. Put portions of leftovers in a microwave safe container as you clear up from dinner. Ready to go!

Keep It Together

Have a designated spot or a plastic bin in your fridge for in the morning. It makes a huge difference in that last rush to get out the door to be able to simply grab your bin and transfer everything to your lunch bag.

Pack your lunch bag or briefcase with nonperishable items the night before.

Morning Productivity On The Road

Plan ahead for your morning commute. Have you downloaded that audio book you want to listen to? Do you have a travel cup washed and ready for coffee or ice water on the road? Do you need to allocate extra travel time to stop for gas?

Weather Considerations

Do you need to throw an umbrella or ice scraper in the car? In the winter will you need to plan time for scraping or defrosting. Remember to get your boots and gloves set out for the cold trudge out to start the car!

Morning Productivity for Your Kids

Do you have kids that need to be dropped at school or daycare  in the morning?

The same night-before routine will reduce the rush and frantic hunt for that left shoe and  permission slip in the morning, but with a bonus. You will be teaching your children how to think ahead, solve problems, and be productive people!

Now Or Later

There are only so many hours in a day, how are you going to spend them? The tasks described above all have to be done, sooner or later.

You get to choose when to do them. You get to choose to be ahead of the game, or rushed and stressed.

Try some or all of these hacks to increase your morning productivity. After a few mornings of having everything at your fingertips from your hairspray to your car keys, you will discover how pampered it feels to have everything at your disposal!

Would you like to see more productivity hacks? What are your tips and tricks for morning productivity? Please share your comments!

Mid-Year Business Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Rock the March Madness vibe to update your business plan! The weather has changed and we are nearing the halfway point in the year. Before the end of Q2 is a great time to update your business strategies!

Revisit Your Business Plan

By now you have already analyzed your prior results. Did you grow your list, sales or product offerings? Did you meet or exceed your expectations? What flopped?

You will have prepared a business plan for this year with general goals for the year and interim goals by month or quarter. Your plan will have included a calendared To-Do list of product or service launches at certain times throughout the year and cost projections of expenses for your business.

So many entrepreneurs admit to developing a beautiful and inspiring business plan for the year and then never looking at it again. But not you! Now is the time for a thorough review and revision session with your business plan for this year.

Compare expenses already paid to your projections. Are you up to date on your expenses tracking?

Double check your assumptions of cost for the year. After reviewing the expenses you have already paid this year, have you found expenditures that are costing more than you had originally planned? Are you aware of any price hikes coming up for postage, supplies or raw materials needed to make your products? Make the necessary revisions to your cost projections.

Review scheduled launch dates. Did you miss a planned launch that needs to be re-scheduled? Are there secondary launch or event dates to be moved because the starter launch was delayed?

Incorporate new events. Are there business or life events on the horizon that you were not aware of when you drafted your annual business plan? Business conferences, training seminars, new baby on the way? Be realistic about the amount of time these events will take for preparation and execution, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Look hard at planned launches that follow the new event. Do you need to scale back or postpone a product or service launch? Is it still doable if you arrange for additional resources? If you anticipate hiring a person or team to support your launch, whether a virtual assistant or a cleaning service, update your task schedule and budget to allow for finding, hiring and training your staff in advance of your key dates.


Even the most creative entrepreneur has to deal with the reality of business finances.

There are special rules and responsibilities that apply to Small Business Owners and Self-Employed entrepreneurs in the United States.

If you are not comfortable dealing with taxes and bookkeeping, hire someone. Keep in mind that this is the busiest part of tax season for accounting firms and tax professionals. If you plan to delegate your tax preparation to a pro, make the appointment now.

Heads up: If you are self-employed and required to pay estimated taxes, the payments are due quarterly!  Be ready!

Carefully look over the documentation, receipts, invoices, etc., for all your income and expenses year to date. Make sure you have all the paperwork set aside you will need for tax purposes.

Business Strategies Include Action

The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer and this is a time of year when folks traditionally would fling open all the doors and windows and clean house from top to bottom.

Utilize that same energy to freshen and re-energize your business!

Start with actual cleaning. Clear off your desk. Sort through any papers and file or shred. Clean the surface of your work space and surrounding area. Do you have a dusty tangle of cords under your desk? Are there crumbs in your keyboard?

Clean the window in your office. If you don’t have a window, wipe off the light bulb in your desk lamp (when it is off and cooled) and dust the lampshade.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and speed clean your desk drawer. Toss out pens that skip and curled pads of note paper. Anything in your drawer that you have to push aside to get to regularly used items needs to go.

If your business involves creation of physical products, be sure to do the same with your materials inventory and production work space.

Accumulated dust and clutter sends a subliminal message of stagnation. A quickie clean of your work space is refreshing. Getting rid of excess or unhelpful items clears the space for positive energies to flow into your business!

Include Personal Care In Your Business Strategy

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends. Burn, as in high level of burn-out. As a savvy business owner, you need to take care of your most valuable asset – you!

While you are in planning and revamping mode, schedule your maintenance appointments like annual physical, dental cleanings and eye exam.

Plan you work and work your plan, but plan to include adequate time for sleep, exercise and relaxation. It is your focus, drive and creativity that drive the success of your business. Keep your tools sharp!

Is this a crazy time of year for you and your business? How are you managing so far? Please share your comments below!


Back to the Future with Hard Copy Business Planners

hardcopy planners are back Calendars, meetings, notes, event tracking… if you are a successful business person you rely on one or more business planners to keep everything straight. We all have smart phones, laptops and tablets. It’s great to be able to synchronize our data across platforms. So why the phenomenal resurgence of paper business planners?

Paper Makes You Smarter

Digital is more efficient, no doubt about it, but do you feel like you remember things better if you have written them down by hand? That’s because you do learn better by hand-writing your notes and reminders, as supported by the study results published by Princeton University researchers Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer.

In repeated studies, Mueller and Oppenheimer found that “students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.” While digital note takers are faster, it is precisely because longhand writing is slower that understanding and retention is improved. Rather than simply transcribing and typing, longhand writers have to think about the subject, process it, and summarize the content to make effective notes.

Writing by hand actually lights up a part of your brain called the reticular activating system or RAS. The RAS is sort of a gatekeeper for information your brain needs to process. Content that is written by hand is given a priority pass by the gatekeeper!

The Way We Were

In my mortgage banking days back in the 90’s, a hard copy business planner was essential. Corporate management at all levels flocked to Franklin Planner seminars. Everyone had read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, still relevant and popular today, and our leather-bound ring binder Day Timers never left our sight.

We were busy managing in minutes, looking for our cheese, and laughing at Dilbert, all the while entering everything in our daily, weekly and monthly planner pages.

Our planners were utilitarian and functional, protected in conservative colored faux or real leather binders, some (like mine) with the tasteful addition of a small monogrammed plate in the lower corner. In later years there were a few more colorful options for planner page “themes” but the emphasis was all business.

Time Marches On

The 90’s also saw the rapid development of the personal digital assistant or PDA and cellular phones. As connectivity and memory sizes improved, paper planners soon gave way to Palm Pilots and Blackberries and we were off to the digital races.

The race is still on with no end in sight. Technology continues to improve with newer, faster and more comprehensive devices on the market every year.

We all use digital calendaring, trackers and reminders, and we love them. So why the explosion in paper planner sales?

Psychological benefits and learning curve aside, the fact is that writing on paper is satisfying.

Writing on paper is satisfying.

Writing is a tangible creation and highly personal. No one writes like you do, thinks exactly like you do, or expresses ideas like you do.

All Things Old Are New Again

Planners aren’t just for office workers anymore. Online “communities” are active, growing and influencing commerce with members groups that range from students, to stay-at-home moms to highly successful entrepreneurs. There are planner types and systems for every taste and lifestyle.

Planners come in several sizes that are generally standardized according to size, from larger letter-sized, to the very popular A5 size, and the easy to carry small personal sized.

Planner Types

Paper planners today come in a variety of off-the-shelf and customized covers and inserts. There are many styles, a few of the most common mentioned below.

The good old ring-binder with pre-printed daily, weekly and monthly planner page options are still around, with covers and inserts that range from simple and economical to highly coveted designer planner binders.

Ring binders are still boardroom-business meeting appropriate, but today’s users are just as likely to decorate and embellish their planner pages with stickers, washi tape and illustrations!

Franklin Covey still sells ring-binder planners. Other very popular planner covers are produced by Webster, Filofax, Kikki-K and Kate Spade, to name a few. Limited editions and color styles of some of these are highly coveted and collectible – with a price tag to match!

Spiral bound planners are colorful and popular, with very active communities of users. The most popular spiral bound planner I have seen is the Erin Condren planner system, with a choice of vertical or horizontal layout. Economical and attractive spiral-bound planners like Sugar Paper Planners are sold at most retail stores like Target.

Disc bound systems, like the MAMBI (Me and My Big Ideas) Happy Planner can be purchased in kits that come with inspiration cards, stickers and other goodies. The pages can be removed and replaced, but a special paper punch will be needed to add your own pages.

Traveler’s Notebooks have beautiful covers, often leather, that wrap around paper booklets, like Moleskine Cahier notebooks. The paper books are slipped under elastic bands to hold them in the leather cover. The entire notebook is held closed by a leather strap or elastic band. While the Michael’s craft stores have recently come out with an inexpensive line of traveler’s notebooks, the non-retail covers are usually hand crafted and unique, and easily found on artisan sites like Etsy.

I have purchased heirloom-quality traveler’s notebooks from the Leather Quill Shoppe at (This shop also has a special edition travelor’s notebook called Thin Blue Line with a percentage of proceeds going to support mental health services for first responders.)

Bullet Journals are extremely popular for calendaring, tracking, note taking and journaling. Any style notebook can be used from a simple composition book to the favored Moleskin hardcover and Leuchtturm 1917 hardcover notebooks, links below. I have these, too!

Bullet journaling systems can be very plain, simple and strictly functional like the method outlined at or highly decorative and elegant.

Bullet journaling has created a remarkable renaissance in calligraphy, handwriting, special inks, and fountain pens. The Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook is nearing 25,000 members! There are links below for fun and affordable fountain pens I have purchased and still enjoy using for writing in my journal.

Bullet journals are another no-frill business option, and some folks are applying the bullet journaling concept to their traveler’s notebooks.

Have you added a hardcopy planner system to your business tools? Are you interested in any of the planner options mentioned here? Leave your questions and comments!

Are Your Balls to the Walls? How To Avoid New Biz Burnout

Are your balls to the walls? How to overcome overwhelm!

Even girl bosses can have their Balls to the Walls, and usually do! The term came from aviation and is used to describe an extreme or intense situation. In many airplanes, the throttles (or power levers) are sticks with ball shaped ends. When a pilot wants full power, the throttle is pushed towards the front wall of the cockpit. So… “Balls to the Walls” means “full power”.

Nothing beats being an entrepreneur! Fueled with enthusiasm and amazing ideas, those first weeks and months when you decide to go for it are spent at full throttle, fueled by some dream of an overnight success story, because our products and services are completely awesome!

In our rush to get our business launched we spent hours late into the night setting up the framework, domain names, web sites, and producing products for prospective clients. We are launching a new business with a single mindedness that makes it practically noble to ignore housework, yardwork, shopping, laundry, and a slew of other daily life-tasks.

Look At This Mess!!

Just as in a new relationship, reality eventually sets in – probably sooner for entrepreneurs still working a full-time day job and bosses with multiple family obligations.

You can ignore the stats after you first go “live” convinced the public just needs to discover you before your offering will be on fire! Then after Tweeting your heart out, adding more blog posts, or whatever you do for marketing ……. crickets.

It is awful to realize that you really did build a better mousetrap, but the world has not beaten a path to your door… or your website!

Worse, you lift your red-rimmed eyes from the cruel statistical reports and look around your home at all the chores that have piled up in the meantime.

A Moment of Reckoning

You are discouraged and disillusioned, with a hefty dose of overwhelm thrown in. I know, I have been there (and go back to visit that place occasionally.)

“To be or not to be, that is the question”. Or, “What would Shrek and Fiona do?” if your frame of reference is a little more contemporary. It is a time of reckoning… with yourself.

Your first inclination may be to chuck the whole entrepreneur thing. It would be easier to hide in your swamp or tower and obsess about everything that went wrong.

It is also easy to blame your circumstances, your family or the universe to justify quitting.

Don’t give up. You are still the main character and there are lots of chapters left in your story!

Your business, like “true love”, is closer than you think. Just like any hero, you have to go through a few adventures before you can learn what your true love actually looks like.

And like any hero, you will need to make some sacrifices.

Changing Focus

What about your dreams, your vision of your business? Your dream are great, that’s what got you started as an entrepreneur. But to keep going, you have to let go of a static image of your successful business. Be prepared to refine and re-define what success looks like to you.

This does not mean flying by the seat of your pants without a business plan that includes measurable goals, and a written calendar of progressive steps to get you there. It means giving up the notion that anyone is really an overnight success.

Make your business goals reasonable and your steps manageable. Track your progress, and celebrate the positive trends. Do you have fifty new followers? Is that twice what you had last month? You want a daydream? There’s one for you! If you double your stats each month, where will you be in a year?

What are you learning as you go? You may find that your first business vision was too small! Plan big for the future but keep your present planning steps small enough to be executed well.

Gathering the Clan

Every hero has helpers along the way and every hero stops along the way to lend a helping hand. By the climax of the story, everyone has played a part in the hero’s big success.

You will need to sacrifice the idea that you can do this all alone.

Joining a community of like-minded people will give you tools, tips, and encouragement. You will have a place to bounce ideas, get feedback and learn how others have dealt with problems you are having.

Tip: Identify your weaknesses and find experts in those areas for coaching.

Did your first launch flop? Do you need help with branding, marketing or video production? There are established experts that offer free webinars, cheat sheets and paid courses in these and other key areas critical to online entrepreneurs. The added bonus is that the best experts have community forums that you can join!

Be the Boss

Back to the annoying reality that there are only so many hours in a day. Even while building a business, we are still faced with cooking, cleaning, laundry and other domestic details.

Remember that sleep and exercise can be skimped on for only so long before your overall performance suffers.

You must allow adequate time for sleep and exercise. It helped me get more sleep when I calendared an audible alert on my phone to remind me to Go To Bed!! I start to get sleepy when I hear it and it marks a shift in my evening activities. Pavlovian, but it works.

Think about your business or domestic tasks that can be delegated or skipped all together. You are the boss, so you get to decide: delegate or don’t do it. Delegate business tasks, domestic tasks or a combination that works just right for you.

You can hire a maid service to clean every other week. You can hire a teenager to mow the lawn and pull weeds.

Do you really need to change your house and yard decorations? Can you say no to making 47 dozen cookies for the school fund raiser?

Alternately, you may find it helpful to hire a Virtual Assistant to help with some business related tasks to free you up for content creation and personal care.

Bottom Line

Have you been going full throttle? Balls to the Walls and feeling overwhelmed?

The bottom line is, every hero gets smacked down at least once before they triumph. They keep going, build community and adjust their strategy until finally, they find what they were looking for. Success!!

You are the hero of your business story! Has your vision changed? Are you building community? How’s that delegating thing going for you?

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Are You A Planner? How to Conduct a Thanksgiving Postmortem

What would you change to make your next Thanksgiving the best ever?
What Would You Change?
Get a Jump on Planning for 2016!

With the last turkey leftovers about gone, and the Black Friday shopping out of the way, now is a good time to perform a Thanksgiving postmortem. No, I’m not talking about ways to use a turkey carcass! This is all about another way to use your planner and organization skills to make your life easier in 2016.

How did your Thanksgiving work out this year?

Were you a relaxed and calm hostess as you sat down to a perfectly cooked meal at your lovely table? Did everything get done but you were so exhausted by dinner time that you weren’t interested in food? Or was the entire affair a complete train wreck?

What is a Postmortem?

Postmortem is a Latin word meaning “after death”. In a business context, a postmortem is a look back at a completed project or event to identify what worked and what didn’t work. It is an essential part of basic project management used by successful team leaders to improve their business.

If you are the one who plans and executes holiday events like Thanksgiving Dinner, then you are a project manager and will benefit by a look back at your holiday dinner plan while it is still fresh in your mind – even if there are parts you would rather forget!

Gather Your Data

Breaking a big project – like Thanksgiving Dinner – into steps is the most basic element of project management.

If you are already a planner gal, you probably organized your Thanksgiving plans into steps for shopping, cooking and cleaning and put those tasks into your planner or calendar. (Not yet using a daily planner? Oh, Honey … stick with me anyway. The planner community is a wonderful place to be!)

At the very least, I bet you had a to-do list or a grocery list on paper or in your head.

So grab your planner or a calendar, whatever notes or lists you used to get ready this year, some paper and pencils and sit down in a quiet place with your beverage of choice.

Do a brain dump. If you didn’t make a task list before Thanksgiving, make one now. Jot down everything you did to get ready, including cooking and cleaning.

Write down what worked and what didn’t work for you. You will sort it out as you move into the analysis part, but for now try to quickly get everything down that readily comes to mind. Don’t spend too much time on this part. You will probably add more later.

What made you smile? A new sweet potato recipe that everyone raved about? Your kid’s pine cone turkey as a centerpiece? Hubby vacuuming all the floors the day before?

Anything not so great? Were you too worn out to enjoy your guests? Did the mountain of dirty dishes make you want to cry? Was the turkey overcooked or under cooked? What would you do differently?

Get Real With Yourself

Remembering the highs and lows for your brain dump probably raised a variety of emotions. Pride, embarrassment, amusement, annoyance to name a few.

Holiday family gatherings can bring on all kinds of emotional reactions that can lead to overwhelm if we let it.

We tend to want to make a good impression, and sometimes set impossible standards for ourselves to do it. Worse, we expect our immediate family members to help us achieve those standards and we get upset when they resist!

I married into an Italian family of eight children. To be specific, I married the baby of that family and he has five older sisters! Not only did I truly want to make a good impression on this huge family, the older me can admit I also have a teensy competitive streak.

So, take the desire to make a good impression, add a competitive streak and season with a liberal splash of perfectionism and you have the perfect recipe for an exhausted and overwhelmed woman. Does any of this sound like someone you know?

Was your goal to serve a delicious meal to comfortable and happy guests? Did you wear yourself out trying to dazzle and amaze everyone with your Pinterest-worthy home décor, tablescape and gourmet meal?

Be honest with yourself and your motives as you review the pre-holiday and T-day chores from this year’s celebration.

Look At Each Step

You are going to review every single thing you did to prepare before, during and after Thanksgiving dinner.

Look at your planner or calendar to see when you did the task. Would it have been better to do it two days earlier? A week earlier? How early could the task have been done? If you had thought of it sooner, could you have delegated the task?

Ask yourself: Was this task really necessary? Was this task joyful? Did I do it the hard way? Could someone else have done it? Was it worth the time and trouble?

Start from the very beginning. There is no judgment here but yours. This review is to figure out what worked best for your current situation and what did not work so well for your current situation.

For example, let’s say you spent several hours polishing Grandma’s wedding silver and hand-washing heirloom china.

Was this task really necessary? No. You could have used disposable or dishwasher-safe dishes and utensils for dinner and dessert.

Was this task joyful? Yes, if you have fond memories of helping your mother and grandmother each year. No, if it is a painful reminder of a loved one who has passed or if you just hate polishing silver!

Did I do it the hard way? Did you get this chore done weeks in advance, a little at a time? Or did you frantically polish and wash dishes late into the night because you were running out of time?

Could someone else have done it? Or at least part of it, like hand washing the china and silver after dinner?

Was it worth the time and trouble? It was if you had plenty of time and love hand washing fine old dishes. No, if you are currently working full time outside the home and/or have health issues and/or are caregiving for others, and …… you see what I mean.

Considering these questions, take an honest look at everything you did this year, from cleaning and decorating to your menu selection to the desserts and clean-up.

Planning For Next Year

Keep in mind that you are not being “lazy” or a poor hosterss if you scale back some of your decorations or substitute prepared foods for traditional homemade versions during busy times of your life.

You are being a savvy CEO who wisely reallocates resources and revises workflows in response to changing conditions! You are an amazing woman!

Following your postmortem of this year’s Thanksgiving, you will now have a better idea of what you can change or rearrange to make your next holiday event less stressful.

Be sure to put reminder notes in your 2016 planner with your ideal holiday To-Do list and timeline!

What was your biggest challenge this Thanksgiving? What do you think you will change next time? Please share your questions and comments on holiday planning in the comments below!

How To Prevent Sneaky Focus Killers From Wrecking Productivity

Prevent focus killers from ruining your productivity.
Distractions – like shiny objects – can ruin your productivity!

Have you ever noticed how many things way down on your to-do list can get done when you really need to be focusing on your top three? Or one top priority? I know better and you know better, but it happens anyway, and our productivity suffers.

It happened to me this morning. I had scheduled a block of time for writing a specific blog post that – as of this afternoon – remains unwritten.

Rather than make myself crazier trying to get back on that specific topic, an analysis of what wrecked my productivity can serve as a cautionary tale for all of us creative entrepreneurs.

Focus Killer Number One: Multi-Tasking

I still have a full-time day job during the week, and have found that my best time for a productive writing session on weekends is very early, first thing after my coffee.

I knew I needed to write a blog post first thing this morning, before hubby was up and active and the day got away from me. It was in my plan, my top three, and my priority.

But hey, I have a lot of tasks on my to-do list for today, so before I even booted up my laptop I decided to get a few “quick” things done to get the ball rolling.

It seemed so much more productive to begin by sorting laundry and getting the first load in. Multi-tasking is efficient, right?

Then I decided to go ahead and get a shower and wash my hair. Since I was going to need to change my polish later anyway, it made perfectly good sense to strip my polish before jumping into the shower. Likewise sensible to get on my make-up and style my hair so I would already be good to go, even though no one was awake to see me but the cats!

Efficient? Heck no! I should have jumped right in to my writing project without any delays!

Focus Killer Number Two: Social Media

I was just about to head to my desk when the washer beeped alerting me that it was time to hang up the “delicate” stuff and start another load.

Then my phone whistled. I had to see who was Periscoping at that hour of the morning! Still multi-tasking, I watched the scope while hanging up wet laundry to drip dry. Connecting with another viewer, I promised to send her some information on a virtual assistance recommendation.

Holy cow! Look at the time! I could have been done writing that article by now! Get a move on, girl!

Finally at my desk, laptop booted up and word processing application running I am almost ready to go.

Before I forgot, I had to locate the link for the virtual assistant and send it to the lady I met on Periscope this morning. Then my phone whistled again.

It was one of my online girl boss besties!! I can’t miss one of her scopes!! She had epic news to share.

She is a hoot, I was laughing so hard I lost track of time. Then we got to talking about planners, planning supplies, the local availability of planner supplies …. Oh the humanity! My plans for the morning were rapidly sinking under the weight of all those very shiny objects.

I should have silenced my phone.

Focus Killer Number Three: Market Research

This is a fancy way of saying I ended up shopping online instead of writing my article.

While it really is a lame excuse for spending money instead of staying on task for my business, in an abstract sort of way, it was an exercise that underscored a lesson in marketing from one of my favorite business coaches. Doesn’t that sound almost respectable?

In a recent webinar, we discussed that one of the reasons a customer may purchase your product is because the customer doesn’t want to be left out.

I am a mature, responsible woman. I rarely make impulse purchases.

This marketing concept is spot-on.

When my favorite online business gals began discussing different planners and which brands are getting hard to find…. something happened. I wanted to have cool stuff, too! I had already been on the lookout for one of the planners that was mentioned, so it didn’t take much of a push.

Planners and planner supplies are shiny objects. My inner child likes shiny things and she ran amok.

I ran down the planner acquisition rabbit hole with fingers flying on my laptop keyboard before the scope on my phone was even over. And I did score. From two different sources. With free shipping, which, as we all know, mitigates any shopping guilt.

But it was a focus killer. My shopping could have waited!

Wrapping It Up

I did enjoy my connections on social media this morning. My online purchases are within my budget and I’m looking forward to delivery. Still, I would rather have had the time for other things today. Lesson learned!

Work days are easy, I have a routine that is well-established. Days off make it too easy to feel like I’ve got plenty of time to get plenty of tasks done.

That’s when the Focus Killers can getcha!

Next week, I will treat my weekend priority as a priority and do that task first, and ONLY that task until it is completed. Anything else on my to-do list will wait.

What are your focus killers? How do you avoid them or recover from them? Please share in the comments below!