They don’t know when to quit

Nate (my husband) and I spent Saturday at my parent’s house. And my sister was staying there for the weekend with her dog.

My parent’s got their dog right before Christmas. As you can tell from the picture, they both have Boston Terriers (and I love them both to pieces!).

When we arrived Saturday morning we were immediately greeted by the dogs. They were so excited to have more people to pay attention to them!

However, they quickly grew bored with us and started playing with each other.

After a few minutes, they were separated and I said something to the effect of, “Let them play! They were being good.” And my sister said, “they’ve been playing all morning—and they’re Boston’s.”

I immediately understood.

Boston’s don’t know when to quit.

You want to throw the ball 50 more times, they’ll run and get it until they literally make themselves sick.

Another dog wants to play, LET’S GO! And then keep going.

It reminded me of us entrepreneurs and our businesses. There’s work to be done, so I’m going to KEEP ON DOING IT!

Something unexpected has happened in my personal life, but I’m still worrying about ALL THE BUSINESS THINGS!

Sometimes we’re like those little Bostons and we don’t know when to quit, when to take a break.

Which brings me to this week’s Wednesday LIVE with Evie topic: Work/Life Balance.

Let’s talk about what it means and how to “achieve” it (catch the replay to see why that’s in quotes).

​​​​​​​What are your thoughts or frustrations with work/life balance?
Comment below and let me know.

And you can see the Wednesday LIVE with Evie here.

PS. The photo credit goes to my sister, Cindy. It was taken Sunday morning on one of the super rare times they were calm in each other’s company.

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
two girls having coffee

Impromptu Visits – Should You Ignore Your Schedule?

two girls having coffeeYou have your schedule all planned for the week and things are going according to plan. Maybe a couple of hiccups, but all-in-all, you’re on track. Pretty much everything is getting done on your list. Until… a friend (or maybe family member) calls and says “Hey I’m in town today, want to grab lunch?”

Now what? You’d like to see them, but you know if you go then a couple items on your list won’t get done and your schedule will be up in the air for the rest of the day.

So, what to do?

I used to automatically say “nope, sorry, I don’t have time today! But let me know next time you’re in town.” My reasoning was I needed at least 24 hours’ notice to adjust my schedule. And then I realized I hadn’t seen my sister for a couple months or so (she’s usually the one who calls me with these invitations). And I missed seeing her.

Then I realized, one of the reasons working for myself was appealing was so I could occasionally have these impromptu visits. And here I was acting like I was tied to my schedule and to-do list. What happened?

I let my schedule and my to-do list decide everything I would be doing each day. If it wasn’t on the list, and took longer than 10 minutes, I probably didn’t do it (but it might be added to the list for next week).

Here’s what we forget about to-do lists sometimes: they are there to help you, work for you and you do not work for them. Sounds funny to say it like that, but sometimes in our quest to get as much done as we can each day for our business – we forget that there are other things to do. Life doesn’t always fit in nice little compartments and since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you probably really don’t want it to. You want a life with some flexibility.

That’s why Wednesday morning at 9am I was pulling into a local pancake house to have breakfast with Nate (my husband) and some family – instead of sitting in my office starting the day’s work.

However, I’ll admit that when the idea was proposed to me on Tuesday night I wasn’t sure about it. I have things! that must be done! I can’t start my day late, those things! might not get done! (anyone else have those thoughts running through their head sometimes? Or am I the only one? Comment below to share) Then I took a breath and realized I had no appointments scheduled and the things! can be done later.

I have some questions that I tend to ask myself about these unplanned visits:

  • Are there any appointments or meetings that this will overlap or interfere with?
  • Are there any deadlines approaching that will be negatively impacted?
  • Have I already spent time this week with unplanned visits? How will this impact progress on my goals?

The gist of these questions is: will my business or my goals be negatively affected by spending time elsewhere? If so, is spending this time with this person more important than my business and/or goals?

Notice I wrote “is spending this time with” and not “is spending time with.” That one little word changes the meaning of the sentence a bit.

Again, your schedule and to-do lists are meant to help guide you and make your day flow smoothly. They are not a ball and chain that keep you tied to your office or computer. If you’re treating them like that, step back, get curious and ask yourself why.

When was the last time you said yes to an impromptu visit? Leave a comment to let me know!