Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #110 / Rethinking the boundaries of your business

Rethinking the boundaries of your business

I was listening to the Being Boss podcast yesterday and one of the topics they covered was setting boundaries—both personal and business boundaries.

It was a really interesting conversation.

And I like analogies and the one that came to mind for boundaries are the very real boundaries you literally have when you own a home with a yard.

Your property has boundaries.

You are aren’t responsible for the things that are outside the boundaries of your yard—that’s your neighbor’s responsibility.

If your neighbor has a garden that’s gotten a bit unruly, well, that’s their responsibility—you might notice it, but you getting upset about it doesn’t do anything for either of you.

However, you might also notice that a neighbor (or just a yard you’re driving by) has some feature or garden or something that you really like. You might make a note of it to do something similar in your yard.

And occasionally, you have a situation where there’s a neighbors tree that’s at or near the boundary that extends over into your yard – if it’s causing you problems (scraping against your house or garage) or is in danger of falling onto your property, THEN you have a reason to be concerned about it and maybe have a conversation with your neighbor about it.

In business it’s similar—don’t worry about the things other people are doing in their business. Yes, notice what you like and don’t like, but if it’s not affecting you, and you don’t like it, don’t worry about it.

Boundaries do more than tell us what’s outside our realm of responsibility though.

They also tell us what IS our responsibility.

So often we talk about our business boundaries in terms of what is on the outside. The things we don’t or won’t do. The times we’re NOT available.

What if instead, you thought about your boundaries in terms of what’s on the inside, the things you ARE responsible for?

The things you do, the things you include, how you show up, when you are available, or the emails you respond to.

If you’re having problems identifying your boundaries and what you exclude or don’t do, maybe it’s time to focus on what’s inside those boundaries and figure out what’s not later.

If this topic feels like it’s impacting you personally, and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.


Why I unsubscribed half the emails from my newsletter last month

Last month I unsubscribed just under half of the emails from my email list.

And it freaked me out.

I don’t have a large list.  And I kinda didn’t want to do anything that would make that list smaller.

But by making that change my open rate went from around 17% to over 30%.

And if I would have shared those numbers with you without any other information would you have immediately assumed that the change was the number of people that I send my newsletter to?

Maybe you would have wondered if I figured out some magic way to write subject lines or if I discovered the absolute perfect time to send emails to guarantee more people will open the email.

This is why it’s so important to ask question when someone starts sharing statistics without any additional information.

Telling you that I unsubscribed emails from my email list doesn’t tell all the story either, but when you add the improved open rate to it the picture becomes a bit clearer.

The full story of why I unsubscribed so many people from my email list is that the emails going to those addresses weren’t being opened anymore.

Some hadn’t opened an email from me in over a year.

So, I decided to start a re-engagement campaign that asks people if they want to continue to stay on my list if they haven’t opened any of the emails in the last 90 days.

If they don’t open the emails or indicate they want to stay subscribed, they are unsubscribed.

I thought about putting this system in place off and on for over a year, but I was always scared to pull the trigger.

If you have an email list, you want it to continue to grow and not get smaller, right?

Well, there’s many reasons for that goal missing the mark.

One of them being that an engaged smaller list is better than a large list with incredibly low engagement.

But man on man, was I tied to that old number!

Even though the same number of people opened my newsletter last week, but because my list was almost half the size, the open rate significantly improved.

I’ll write it again for emphasis the same number of people opened my newsletter this week as they did last week.

The open rate improved because the email went to fewer people.

So, what can you do with this information?

I’m not encouraging you to go and implement your own re-engagement / unsubscribe campaign (of course, do it if it’s something you want to do and it makes sense for you right now).

What system or change in your business are you resisting putting into place?

If you have a system or change in your business that you want to put in place but are having some problems putting it in place or getting the details figured out and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.


How to handle the unexpected

This morning I spoke about Time Blocking to WESOS Aurora (WESOS networking group and I spoke at the Aurora location).

Time blocking is basically creating a budget for your time. You create categories for your business time and assign those categories days and times in your week – much like you create categories for where you spend money and assign your money to those categories.

I shared about how important it is to do this so you are spending your time where you want to.

Someone asked what do you do when something unexpected happens, like a family emergency?

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but when an emergency occurs, you let go of the “ideal week” you created for yourself with time blocking and rely on other planning you’ve done so you know what can wait until later and what things you want to do now.

And, sometimes, it’s a big emergency and if you can find a few minutes or so all you can do is reach out to the people you have appointments with and let them know you have to cancel and you’ll reach out to reschedule later.

She was so relieved.

Sometimes we just need permission or someone else to tell us it’s okay to shift our focus.

Over the years I’ve done a few different value assessments or test (this is different than a strength assessment), and each time family is in my top three.

If I had to guess, I’d bet family is up there for you too.

For some reason, when I acknowledged that family is one of my top values, it made it easier and more “okay” to devote time to family when there was an emergency or even small ways to support them that are impactful (like taking an afternoon off so I can drive my mother-in-law home to Indiana after a doctor visit in Illinois).

And sometimes things happen that we need time to heal from or process.

Don’t forget to take time for yourself to do that too.

While you don’t need my permission to do that, if it helps, please know that you absolutely have my permission to forgo “normal” business time to support or take care of family AND yourself.

If this topic feels like it’s impacting you personally, and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.


What happens when you work from a weekly list without a daily list

Last week I came across an article that was a compilation of productivity advice from around 10 different small business owners.

The first person they listed advised something to the effect of pick 3 things to do each day instead of having a long to-do list.

A couple of people later someone’s advice was a daily to-do list is too constraining, instead create a weekly to-do list and do the tasks as you feel like doing them.

Soooo, which is it?

I wish these lists would come with a bit more information about the person and their company.

Do they have a personal assistant? Is there a large team supporting them? Does he spend most of his time in meetings? Is his weekly to-do list already very short? Is he marking his weekly list with the one or two tasks that are the highest priority for the day?

If I had to guess, the person who thinks you should work off of a weekly to-do list and do tasks as you feel like doing them has a really great personal assistant who’s encouraging him/her to do the important things that are buried in that weekly list and they might not feel like doing.

My experience with clients and my own personal experience is that when you’re working from a weekly list without a daily list one of three scenarios will generally play out:

  1. You end up doing all the fun and exciting and maybe even easy things that the beginning of the week. Which means at the end of the week you have all the things you don’t care to do or require more energy. And then something isn’t going to be done because it’s exhausting and you didn’t budget your energy/attention very well.
  2. The beginning of the week feels like you have all the time in the world to get the things on your list complete. So, you dilly-dally or spend more time than you need to on the tasks you do decide to work on and suddenly there’s A LOT left to do on Thursday and Friday.
  3. You’re so overwhelmed by your list of things that you want/need to get done this week that you do very little or nothing. Or you bounce around a lot because there are so many high priority tasks that need to be done NOW.

You might have guessed that between the options of working from a weekly list or a pick 3 things to do for the day – I’d go with picking 3 things.

More to the point, I recommend creating a daily to-do list in whatever format works best for you. If that’s a list of three things, great! If that’s formatted some other way, great!

To the business owner that finds a daily to-do list too constraining, I’d love to know how you’ve created your daily list in the past. There are many different ways to create it that allow you to get things done in an efficient way and do things that work with your energy and attention level for that day.

If this topic feels like it’s impacting you personally, and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.


Productivity for Solopreneurs - Insights to getting things done #106 : The two types of procrastination and strategies to stop them now

The two types of procrastination and strategies to stop them now

We’ve all done it.

We’ve all had days (or more) where the things we know are important to do don’t get done.

It’s annoying.

It’s frustrating.

And sometimes we can’t figure out how to break the cycle.

It’s procrastination.

Let’s talk about the two types of procrastination and what to do about them.

The first type of procrastination is probably how most people define procrastination.

You have short bursts of productivity, but it’s followed by long periods of other stuff. Nothing important gets done, but if something does get done, not a lot of it gets done.

That’s unproductive procrastination.

Some strategies that can help with this are:

  • Know what being distracted or procrastinating looks like for you. For example, if I’m watching a YouTube video in the middle of the day, I might be procrastinating. What does it look like for you?
  • Get enough sleep! If you’re tired, it’s really hard to stay focused, which can lead to procrastination.
  • Only check social media at certain times.
  • Have a game plan for what you’ll do when you check your social media. That might look like knowing how much time you’ll spend checking it, knowing which groups you’re going to check out, and if you’re going to look at your notifications or not.

The other type of procrastination is productive procrastination.

This is where you get a bunch of your low priority tasks done and oops, you just ran out of time today to get that really important thing done that needed to be done.

It can also look like that same really important task being on your list for days or weeks.

Are you a master of productive procrastination?

Some strategies for this are:

  • Be aware of excuses that masquerade as reasons (all those really important things needed to be done NOW – but actually they weren’t that important or didn’t need to be done right now)
  • Ask someone to hold you accountable for getting the thing you’re procrastinating about done
  • Block time in your calendar for when you spend time on your high priority tasks
  • Define the task very well – break it down
    • For example, instead of “Update your picture on your About Me page” it becomes:
      • Post to a specific local Facebook group for headshot photographer recommendations
      • From the recommendations pick 2-3 photographers to research
      • Research those 2-3 photographers
        • Review their work on their website or social media
        • Determine where they’re located (is it reasonable for you to travel there)
        • Find out what their packages are and the prices
      • Pick the photographer you want to work with
      • Find the email address or phone number to contact them with
      • Email or call them to find out their process for scheduling and doing headshots
      • Set up a time to take the pictures
      • Pick the picture you’ll use for your website
      • Upload the picture to your website
      • Delete the old picture from your About Me page
      • Add the new picture to your About Me page
    • Breaking the project into smaller pieces makes it much more manageable. You only need to do ONE thing at a time.

For a quick review:

Unproductive Procrastination:
Watching TV, Netflix, YouTube, etc; Facebook (or your social media method of choice) – those things that don’t move anything forward, but can eat a lot of your time.

Productive Procrastination:
You do everything BUT the thing that you really should be doing. It felt productive (all those things got checked off your todo list as done! But at the end of the day/week, you didn’t make the progress on the important things that you wanted to – actually not productive)

If this topic feels like it’s impacting you personally, and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.