What Are Your Traditions?

Journaling_at_DeskDo you have any traditions in your personal life?

I’m sure you do. Whether it’s how you spend Christmas, birthdays or what dish Aunt Sally brings to family get-togethers, we all have traditions.

Do you make time for those traditions? Probably. You reserve a day or afternoon to see your family and celebrate that milestone or holiday. You spend time preparing whatever dish you’re going to bring or cleaning the house.

You think about it in advance. You plan for it.

What are the traditions you have in your business? You probably have them, whether you realize it or not.

Some traditions are imposed on us, think taxes.

Some we do accidentally, perhaps taking a mental break during December.

Some we do purposefully, maybe you set goals for the new year.

And some might just be by association, the networking group you go to every month does a grab bag every December.

Some are helpful, the goals.

Some might be renewing, taking a mental break.

And some might be frustrating because they’re imposed and we aren’t prepared when they arrive, filing taxes.

What traditions do you have in your business? What traditions would you like to have or would you like to (and can) break?

Share in the comments below!

Where Will You Be Next Year?

message stonesIt’s the beginning of December, where do you want to be next year at this time? In your business and in your life?

What do you want your days and nights to look like?

What successes will you have over the next year to get you there?

Which of the “lies” from last month will you need to confront and break through?

Spend some time to think about where you want to be and who you want to be at this time next year.

Now, go get a piece of paper or open a blank document and start writing.

Write about where you are, in business and life, and who you are on Thursday December 4, 2014.

Write about what you’ve accomplished in the past year that lead you there.

What did you do?

What frustrations or fears did you overcome?

Did you get help or extra support from someone?

Why is where you are so exciting for you?

Give yourself time to complete this exercise and don’t worry about editing it – trust that it will develop exactly as it should.

When you’re finished put it somewhere that is easy for you to pull out and read when you need a pick me up or motivation or are setting goals.

What do you want to do right now that will start to make that vision of 2014 a reality? Who are the people or businesses that you want to be connected with? Whether it’s to work with them, partner with them or hire them.

Now, there’s a couple of things you can do:

  1. Share who the people or businesses are that you want to connect with and I’ll share with you who I know that might be a good fit. Leave it in the comments below (someone else might read the comment and have a great connection for you) or email me.
  2. Would you like to receive a copy of your 2014 vision next December? I’d love to make that happen. If this is something you’re interested in you can either:
    1. Email me a copy and include your address (so I can mail it to you next year).
    2. Mail me a copy (email me for my address)

Successful Projects and The Project Management Triangle

Project Management Triangle1Have you ever heard of the Project Management Triangle?

You can see it in the image on the right.

But what does it mean?

It means that every project (or goal) is a combination of time, cost and scope.

Broken down further:

  • Time – How long will this project take and when do you expect to complete it?
  • Cost – How much money do you have to complete the project? Or to invest in it?
  • Scope – What is everything that needs to be completed to mark this as a successful project?

For a successful project, you need to have each side of the triangle well defined. And if one edge of the triangle needs to be lengthened or shortened, at least one other side will be affected.

For example, if you need something competed faster you’ll need to decrease the scope or increase the cost. And if you need something done with less cost you’ll need to decrease the scope or increase the time. And if you want more done (increase the scope) you need to increase the time or the cost.

You might be wondering what the heck this has to do with you! You’re a business owner and entrepreneur, not a project manager!

Well, I’d argue you are a project manager. Every goal you have, every strategy you’re using to reach that goal and every to-do list you have is a project or part of a project that you’re managing.

While you don’t need to think about everything in terms of the triangle above, it does help to consider it.

Why? Because it gives your projects (goals, strategies and to-do list) a grounded frame of reference. And generally, one side of the triangle is fixed.

For example, let’s say you want to update your website. You need to start with the fixed side of the triangle. What do you already know about the project? The finish date? The amount you have to invest? The work you want done?

If you know that you want your website completely redone (the “fixed” side is scope), that’s going to be a larger investment in time and money. However, if you have a specific budget to work with (the “fixed” side is cost), that will help determine what will get done now (scope) and the amount of time it will take.

The other great thing about this is the triangle will point out when you don’t have a well-defined project.

Let’s pick a New Year’s favorite of eating healthy. For many people, that’s all there is to their goal (and we know how successful most of them are). If they went through and asked themselves about the cost, time and scope, then they’d have a defined plan.

This is also a good example of how the edges of the triangle move.

Let’s say you want to quickly learn how to eat healthy. Maybe you’re not even sure what the scope of that is, but you know someone who’s a health coach and specializes in this. If you invest your money and a little time in working with her you’ll know exactly what the scope is and have help creating a solid plan.

However, if you don’t have money to invest, you will invest a lot more of your time in determining the scope of the project and create a plan for yourself with more trial and error.

Have you used the Project Management Triangle before, maybe without realizing it? How might you use it in the future? Share in the comments below!

How Do I Find The Time To Work On My Long Term Priorities?

ChecklistLast week we went through how to identify the projects/tasks that are your highest priority. So, you hopefully now know what you want to work on in addition to your day-to-day tasks. However, your day-to-day tasks still take all day.

And now you’re wondering, or still wondering how to find the time to work on those tasks, because you still have the day-to-day work to take care of. You can’t exactly let that slide, right? Of course not!

So, let’s get started!

How to find time to work on those priorities you identified:

  1. Break it down into bite-sized pieces.
    And I hear you saying: “but that doesn’t solve my time problem!” And you’re partially right. Last week, one of the example tasks was updating your website and if that a task on my to-do list I would probably avoid it like the plague.Why? Because I’d have no idea where to start, it’s too big. The first step would be to break it down into manageable pieces. And you don’t have to know all the steps right now. As long as you know the first step or two, you can get started and then fill in the next steps and you decide (or discover) what they are.
  2. Estimate the time to complete each task.
    Do this as best as you can. I know that it can be difficult to know how long a new task is going to take. However, I also know that if I give myself an unlimited amount of time to do something I get easily sidetracked by other distractions like Facebook and email. But when I give myself an hour to complete something or research something, I’m much more focused. When I’m working on it I know I only have so much time to complete it and then I want to move on to the next task.
  3. How do you currently spend your time?
    Be brutally honest with yourself. Are you spending too much time checking email, Facebook, Twitter or whatever your distraction of choice is?One tool I have installed on my desktop and laptop is Rescue Time (it’s free!). It monitors the websites you visit and the programs you use on your PC and you can assign how productive or distracting each site or program is. It’s a great way to find out where those little bits of time went.
  4. Schedule time to do those tasks.
    Make an appointment with yourself and keep it!I’ll admit that there was a time that I found this piece of advice really, really, oh my goodness sooo annoying. It took me a bit of time to really realize why. My main calendar, the one I sync with my phone, is my place for appointments and meetings. Putting tasks on it felt like clutter to me – I’d look at my phone to see my meetings/appointments for the day and only see the tasks for the day – my meetings would be lost in the tasks. Usually this meant I’d dress for a day at home and realize later that I had a networking event or coffee meeting with someone.

    So, what I ended up doing was creating another calendar. I use Google Calendars and it allows you to create as many calendars as you want and you can decide which ones are visible at any time.

    This means I can now schedule my tasks, but they aren’t downloaded to my phone. This is fine, because when I’m working on my tasks, I’m generally near a computer anyway. I still keep a paper list of what those tasks are too, so if I’m not at my desk, I know what is on the agenda for the day.

    What’s that I hear? You still think this piece of advice isn’t going to work for you? Okay, I hear you – and let’s go through a scenario (come on, play along!). Let’s say that you’re planning your week (what, you don’t really do that? That might be part of your frustration). Anyway, you’re planning next week and a potential client calls and asks if they can talk to you next week. You don’t tell them: “I’m sorry, I’m too busy with the day-to-day of my business to talk to next week – call me back in a month.” Nope, instead you find a time that works for both of you and block the time out in your calendar.

    Completing the high priority projects and tasks you’ve identified is just as important to your business as that potential client meeting. The biggest difference is these projects and tasks generally aren’t as obviously related to your income.

    At any rate, try scheduling the time, even if it’s just on a piece of paper near your desk and see what happens.

  5. Hire it out.
    What can you pay someone else to do for you? Is there a task you do every day or week that you could write directions for and pay someone else to do it? Maybe one of your non-day-to-day projects has a task or two that would take you a couple hours or so (between the research and then actually doing it) and it would take someone else a fraction of that time.Your time is valuable. So, even if you don’t think you’re at a spot where you can hire someone else right now, start a list of things you could hire someone else to do. You never know when an opportunity to pass some of those tasks on might land in your lap!
     
  6. Be patient and kind with yourself.
    One of the big reasons I get frustrated with all the THINGS! that must be done NOW! Is I’m feeling behind where I think I should be. The truth is it doesn’t matter and worrying about it, or beating myself up about it, is just a huge time and energy suck.All that matters is that this is where you are now and that you’re taking steps forward.

    Know that you’re not alone! And it’s okay if you’re not where you feel you should be. Take a deep breath (I’m fond of those) and look at the things you’re doing to move forward. Then pat yourself on the back!

Feeling overwhelmed happens to everyone. There are always things to do! And that can be really frustrating, but it can also be very positive (it means that you’re constantly moving forward!). Along the way, don’t forget to celebrate your victories, big and small. And reward yourself!

What other things do you do to address your entrepreneurial overwhelm? Share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Calendar

How Do I Decide What My Long Term Priorities Are?

ID-100146841At the beginning of last week I was at a conference, Spark & Hustle, with a bunch of other small business owners. And I heard this said many times and in many ways: “How do I get all my day to day things done and still have time for all those other things that should be done?”

Do you ever wonder that?

I know I have. And it’s usually accompanied by a feeling of overwhelm, a physical tightening of my back and feeling like I have a rock in my stomach. Oh, and it’s topped with a small voice telling me “there is NO way you will EVER get all of that done.”

How does it show up for you?

And then the voice might tell me I might as well go check Facebook or watch TV, basically just give up now, don’t waste your time.

I’d love to tell you I never experience this anymore, but that’s not truthful. It still happens on occasion. However, it does happen less than before and the voice that tells me I’m wasting my time isn’t quite as loud as it once was. And sometimes it doesn’t bother showing up at all, it must know I’d ignore it now anyway.

So, what to do?

It’d be easy and decent advice to tell you to just identify your priorities. But it probably wouldn’t be extremely helpful. I know when I’m in that place described above and someone tells me to figure out my priorities my thoughts are along the lines of: “Well, yes, setting priorities is the extremely logical thing to do. However if I could easily do that, I wouldn’t be having this problem! Right now the priority is my day-to-day stuff, and that’s part of the problem!”

I’m going to use the term “long term priorities” to mean those projects or tasks that you want to work on, but seem to get lost in the day-to-day tasks. These projects or tasks might not take long to accomplish, but they don’t seem to move forward either.

What I needed was:

  1. A little help deciding what those long term priorities were.
  2. A way to find time to tackle the long term priorities.

This week’s article tackles the first topic and next week we’ll look at the second topic.

Note: I’m using the term “long term priorities” to mean those projects or tasks that you want to work on, but seem to get lost in the day-to-day tasks. These projects or tasks might not take long to accomplish, but they don’t seem to move forward either.

Help deciding what your long term priorities are

  1. What method currently is bringing you the most clients? And if you don’t have clients yet, what method will most quickly bring you the most clients (hint: if you’re a new business, the fastest way is almost always going out and meeting people).
  2. Is there anything on your “I should do this” list that relates directly to that method?
    For example, perhaps you met most of your current and previous customers networking. And when networking you pass out your business cards, but your business cards have an old email address on it that you cross out and write in your current email address. Then, getting new business cards with your current email address would be a task directly related to networking.

    1. Yes, there are directly related tasks: Those tasks are your highest priority.
    2. No, I don’t have any directly related tasks: What is the second way you are most likely to meet clients? Ask step 2 again.
  3. Optional: Is there anything on your “I should do this” list that indirectly relates to that method?
    For example, using the above example of networking and business cards, let’s say that the website on your business cards is correct, but is no longer an accurate representation of what you do (hey, it happens, our business tend to evolve). Then, updating your website would be a task indirectly related to networking.

What are your priorities? Did any priorities from this exercise surprise you? Share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net