ever get that feeling........

"Time has nothing to show because time won't give me time"

The words rang out on the radio as I was doing the school run the other day, coincidently no more than half an hour earlier I’d been reading a blog “Money isn’t the most important thing in the world your time is” or is it? The article goes on to argue that it is not so much the hours in the day but how we use them.

That I can relate to, since becoming self-employed, there have been days where I have had time to spare and plenty of things I could be doing, but with no targets, or deadlines to answer to I’d be the first to admit I’ve probably not made the best use of that time. It is not just work time either, one of the reasons for being self-employed was to spend more time with the family which I do but I know I am guilty of not making the most of that time, it is not quality time.

I am not alone here, there is much written these days about work-life balance, but I’d argue that it is not just about having more time with the family and for yourself but what you do with that time.  For example, two hours undertaking an activity with the family that you all enjoy is probably better than half a day or even more where you have the time but don’t actually do anything with it!

The same goes for work unless your time is productive its wasted time, and you’d be hard pushed to argue that you don’t have at least some time during the day that’s not wasted!

So why did it feel like the universe was trying to tell me something and these words really resonated with me, two reasons;

1. I'd fallen off the wagon, knowing what you need to do and doing it, as we all know is not always that straightforward, call it being complacent, or having a little time to spare, and I've become less productive, I need deadlines and targets to focus on!

2. I deal in time every day, although I provide a service;  what I actually provide to Coaches, Entrepreneurs, and Business Owners is time!  So they can invest their time in their business, but for it to a be a true investment you have to understand where you spend your time and where it could be used more productively.  It has to be planned and used wisely, only then should you invest in time.

So what is quality time and how do you make “time give you time?”

Like most if I have a deadline or a target I am more productive, I will just crack on and do it, whereas on the other hand if I don’t set a deadline or target its all too easy to get to the end of the day and have achieved very little, other than turning procrastination into an art form and  wasting time on social media.

Quality time is achieved when you have a purpose and achieve it in that time, whether at work or at home, in reality however the only way you can make time give you time,  is invest your time in doing what you do best and invest in support to take on those other tasks that take a disproportionate amount of your time....

Being more productive;
1.    Understand how you spend your time – keep a log for a week and note where your time is spent, what you wanted to achieve and what you actually achieved.
2.    Set your self one main goal for the day and 2 or 3 mini-tasks you want to achieve
3.    Emails – Action it (if it is going to take a couple of mins), Schedule it (if longer), Bin it.
4.    Schedule time slots for spending on social media and reviewing emails
5.    Schedule time for phone calls – batch them together
6.    Try and book meetings so they are in batches
7.    Review at the end of the day what you have achieved

Once you fully understand where your time goes, then look at how much time you spend on generating revenue, as opposed to time spent on running the business. There is no magic formula, or right and wrong here it’s a judgement call, if you feel like you have no time to spend on your business to generate revenue, and you have had a serious look at where your time goes, then get in touch and we can discuss areas that you might  be able to outsource.

Remember investing in a VA is an investment in your business!

Blog:-most-important-resource-isn't-time

Time (Clock of the Heart) Culture Club
Ooh in time it could have been so much more
The time is precious I know
In time it could have been so much more
The time has nothing to show because
Time won't give me time and
Time makes lovers feel like they've got something real
But you and me we know they've got nothing but time
And time won't give me time, won't give me time (time, time, time)

Mindmapping - It’s a technique I’ve come to embrace over the years but it has not been an easy journey…

I first came across it in 6th form I seem to recall someone mentioning it was a good method for revision, but I never paid it much attention. I was a notes and lists kinda person...

During the next 12 years of my working life I often came across them and people that simply raved about them as a technique for making notes, brainstorming, planning and a whole host of other uses, but I just didn’t get it.

Even though I left education at 18, it was less than a year before I was studying again, from a simple Business Studies exam through my Administration Diploma, Personnel Diploma, Train the Trainer and a whole host of technical courses, despite constant exposure and people trying to tell me about how brilliant they were - I never could see the benefits of the “Mind Map”.

It all came to a head when in the early 2000’s I was studying for my Business Analysis Diploma, I turned up for one particular module and the instructor proceeded to tell us that we would take notes for the course using mind maps, well that was like a red rag and we proceeded to have a rather heated exchange, there was no way I was going to try and draw pictures for my notes, I write, I make notes, I make lists, I do not write concise one word/short sentences in a pretty diagram. I basically said I would not be dictated to as to how I take notes for a course etc etc… So, I didn’t and I still passed…

Fast forward a few years, like most people I was always in search of the ultimate way of tracking the “To Do List” and I was very much a list person but I’d pretty much tried everything. The problem was that my tasks lists usually covered lots of different areas that weren’t really related, and I'd have action points from various meetings dotted around a very large pile of notebooks. I could never come up with just one nice orderly list, it ended up being a list where tasks were intermingled with each other, that once tasks started to be actioned or new points added it just became messy and I couldn't put it in any semblance of order!. At the very same time, I became aware that our company had a global licence for Mindjet Mind Manager.

Now I love a good app (that’s a whole different story) I think one of the reasons I didn’t get on with mind maps, is on paper it was hard to get it down right in one go, and the fact that I was artistically challenged. I’d want to change things, reorder, prioritise etc and it then became messy and unbalanced, but now I could do it on the laptop, I could move, delete, colour and change to my hearts content and so I became a Mind Mapper!!!

My to do list was transformed from endless books of scribbled actions to a carefully structured coloured diagram with tasks relating to core activities climbing gently across the page, with little markers to indicate priorities/deadlines etc…

From there I’ve used as a planning tool, brain dump, ideas and recently full circle taking notes on paper from webinars I’m listening to.

So what is a Mind Map?

“A mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts. It is a visual thinking tool that helps structuring information, helping you to better analyse, comprehend, synthesize, recall and generate new ideas. In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking or a linear text, information is structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. Since it is an activity that is both analytical and artistic, it engages your brain in a much, much richer way, helping in all its cognitive functions. And, best of all, it is fun!”-

[https://litemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping]

How to create a Mind Map

Essentially you start with a central topic in the middle of a piece of paper (landscape is good).

Add a number of related subtopics connected to a central point. Use colours, different text sizes; different line thicknesses to add visual depth.

For each subtopic break down into a further level and so on until you can no further.

Keep labels short, you don't need to be an artist or graphic designer, anything goes!

My Top 10 uses for Mind Mapping

1. Weekly Planner or To Do List

2. Project Planner

3. Brain Dump

4. Content Creation

5. Vision and Goal setting

6. Business Planning

7. Marketing Strategy

8. New Product Development

9. Problem Solving

10. Note Taking and study.

Check out my basic mindmap for generating blogging topics/content at the top of the page and these examples of Templates in xMind an online mapping tool

What is a process?

A process is simply the steps and decisions we undertake to achieve a task, they should also include an element of interdependency, timing and resources.

Documenting processes, however is not high on the agenda for many small businesses, but here’s why they should be!

What are the benefits?

They bring a number of vital elements to your business;

Consistency

Any task that is repeated should be documented so that it can be undertaken by different staff in a consistent manner and to the same level of service.

Performance

While reviewing, and documenting you will be able to identify what is the normal performance achieved. If different processes are followed you can then measure which is the most effective.

Monitor Service Levels

Once you understand what your clients can expect as the norm, you can monitor whether you are meeting those expectations, and take prompt action if not.

Managing your business

Documenting your processes will help you as an entrepreneur to understand your business and assess its performance.

Analysing and documenting your processes also gives you the opportunity to review where time is being spent, based on the 80/20 rule in that 80% of your returns are the result of 20% of your efforts. Analysing where you spend unproductive time or effort will help you eliminate inefficiencies.

What should you document

There are many processes that Entrepreneurs, Sole Traders and Small Businesses should consider, and some are a legal obligation

These are just a few examples but the same applies throughout your business, you will be much more efficient and prepared if you take a little time out to think about the services you provide, your day to day tasks, your premises, and your equipment.

Once you have completed your processes you can go-to the next step and document the procedures, you follow for day to day operations. This would enable you to document details of suppliers, how you update your social media and websites. how you access your email and what applications you use.

These activities need not be time-consuming and can make all the difference to your business.

If you would like any help with this, I have many years’ experience in Business Process Mapping for some of the largest companies in the UK.

Example Simple Process -

Tools

Visio is the industry standard, but expensive for small businesses, Lucid Chart is a cloud based system with a free option. Simple charts can be achieved in powerpoint.

I’ve made this happen by primarily doing three things in my business:

Outsourcing the daily operations by hiring the right people

Creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for routine tasks

Planning the entire year’s content in advance

This has allowed me the freedom to take a business sabbatical (which continues), without affecting the Suitcase Entrepreneur business adversely."

This extract is from an email I received from the "Suitcase Entrepreneur".

This resonated with me, people often ask why did you start your business, and this is one of the reasons. I want to be able to help sole traders, entrepreneurs and small businesses achieve their goals and a fundamental part of this is ensuring that these three things are in place, though number 3 would be just planning!

Whether you want the freedom to concentrate on the aspects of your business you are passionate about, the areas that generate income, or the freedom to have time away from the business, these are absolutely the key areas you need to address.

Outsourcing daily operations

Outsourcing might seem like a daunting proposition; it doesn’t have to be, and is a key part of allowing your business to grow whilst still maintaining a work/life balance. You might find it hard to let go, so be clear about how you like to work, and the tasks you want to outsource. By working together, we can put together a plan that you are comfortable with and that leads to a successful working partnership.

Standard Processes

This would-be number 1 for me as processes are key to any business regardless of size, and are an essential part of understanding how you work and where your strengths and weaknesses are. A clear set of processes also ensures that your business operates in a consistent and efficient manor, and is ready to deal with all eventualities. It can also be a legislative requirement, whether it be health and safety or Data Protection.

Planning

To reach your goals all businesses regardless of size should have a business plan as a minimum, and each key area should have a more detailed plan. Marketing for example should be mapped out for the year, with campaigns planned around key sales periods, as part of this social media should be planned and content researched and collated in advance, though it should always remain flexible to react to events/changes in your market place.

Having plans in place allow you to build contingency into your business, help you to identify tasks that can be outsourced and allow you to focus on taking your business to the next level.

If you want help with planning, processes or any aspect of outsourcing please get in touch.

Images Images it's all about images!

This time I'm looking at three great tools for creating images to use in your marketing whether its social media, newsletters or your blogs.

Canva

I should confess I love Canva, it’s easy to use has loads of templates that can be used for social media, flyers, certificates, leaflets and just about anything else.

Canva is a web based application with a free version and a paid for option. The free version is more than adequate for most users and has the following features;

Pre-sized templates for a variety of uses

Free Backgrounds

Free Images

Predefined Text layouts

Ability to import your own images

There is not a lot you can’t design with the straight forward to use Canva, use the grids and it will even size your images for you. Changing colours, fonts and transparency to suit, is also easy to do.

The handy templates for social media make it super easy to create your title banners and posts, along with newsletter headers, even gift vouchers and certificates.

The only draw back for me is that the ability to create a brand ie upload your own fonts and store your brand colours is only available in the paid version, you can change colours on each deisgn to your brand but they are not stored so you have to enter the codes each time. The paid version is approx £10 per user a month but it just doesn’t cost in for me. Check out my earlier blog for tips on using canva

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is a paid for webservice and mobile app, starting at £4.50 a month (if paid annually). It has much more functionality than Canva, with photo editing, graphic design, collages and templates, and as you would expect you can upload your own fonts and pictures.

If you are in the Marketing or Design industry then I can see the appeal and I know plenty of people use it for that very reason, personally though I don’t find it as easy to use as Canva so for the vast majority of users who just want to create simple graphics and add text to images, then I’d say stick with Canva.

Get Stencil

In some ways Get Stencil is similar to Canva but with some great additional features, such as a collection of built in quotes and access to google web fonts (paid version). You can also upload your own fonts (paid for version) and logos .

There is a free version but it has some limitations as it will only allow you to create up to 10 images a month and covers basic functions, the pro version is approx £6.95 per month when paid annually, and has much of the functionality that the Canva has on its paid for version, though there is a limit of 50 images a month, there is then the unlimited version at approx £13.90 per month (anually). The free version in my opinion struggles to match the functionality that Canva provides in its free version, and for that reason I'd stick with Canva. There is of course nothing to stop you using both Canva and Stencil to have access to more images and backgrounds.

I was lucky enough to get the unlimited plan from AppSumo which sadly is no longer available, if you'd like to purchase click on the logo below.

GetStencil

Why do we need these tools?

The functionality in these apps allow you to create fab looking social media images, great CTA’s (call to action), information graphics, meme’s, newsletter headers and much much more. For social media its all about engagement and images work, for other marketing avtivities, its about attracting your audience, and getting you message across and as they say a picture speaks a thousand words!

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We are constantly bombarded with news of the latest app that will solve all our problems and you probably ignore the vast majority – well perhaps you shouldn’t!

There are some great apps out there these days that actually can make your life easier, whether they be an app for your phone or in that fluffy white www. space we call the Cloud.

This time we look at those apps that can help you get organised

Task Management.

For personal or small team task management, then I'd go with Todoist or Remember the Milk, both have adequate free versions. If you want to get a little more control on the way tasks are displayed and get some fairly useful features then there are paid for plans as well, but they are not going to break the bank at £21.99 per yr. and £32 per yr.*

I’m currently using Remember the Milk (free version) and find it more than meets my needs. You can:-

Create Tasks with start date | due date | priority | add to a list | repeat | location | give to

With built in views for Due Today | Tomorrow | This Week | Given to Others | All as well as many other options for viewing your tasks it’s a great little tool.

It can also send out reminders for due tasks to a variety of platforms, and is available as an App or Via browser, plus other options.

I should add that ToDoist does pretty much the same thing it’s all a question of what suits you.

My advice – definitely worth checking them both out.

Project Management or Working with Teams.

Whilst both of the above apps have the ability to assign a task to ANOther, where you are working with a team on a regular basis then an app designed for projects and teams is your best bet.

Teamwork – Free or £40* per month

Asana – Free or £8* per user per month

Trello – Free or £8*per user per month (when paid annually)

Asana uses Tasks and Projects as does Teamwork to organise, whilst Trello uses Boards and Cards.

As you might expect there are limits to the free versions. In terms of managing tasks within projects and being able to assign them to members of your team they all do a good job. It’s a question of working out which fits with the way you like to work and whether you can work within the free version or you have invest in the paid subscription plans.

For me however I like the layout, the views available and the features of Teamwork, though the free version is limited to two projects.

All are available via Apps or Browser.

*please note prices quoted are approximate based on conversion rate at the time and subject to change.

We looked at the essentials previously but there are a few other things which you should be aware of:

1. Register - Details of all domain names are held on central registers. Nominet is the UK official registry and deals with all .uk; .co.uk; .org.uk; .me.uk; .cymru; .wales.

For other domains, such as .com; .net; .email try www.whois.com

These registries hold the name of the Registrant, address, email, phone together with technical information such as which company registered the domain

2. eMail - It is essential that you know the email address that is held on the register, and by your hosting company. I prefer to use my Hotmail address, so if any problems with the hosting company I can still get verification emails, if I need to make changes. In most cases, you can change the information held on the register and by your hosting company by logging in to your account. Companies such as 1&1; GoDaddy; TSOHost; Fasthosts etc.

3. Website Technology - It helps to be aware what tool was used, for example some providers such as GoDaddy have their own web builder, but you cannot transfer a site that is built in this to another provider. If you are getting your site built find out whether it can be transferred to another hosting company if required.Technologies such as WordPress / Wix can be hosted by different hosting companies.

4. Support for Website Builder - If your site was built for you and there is a problem, what can you expect in terms of response. If you have built the site yourself in Wix or WordPress, then you need to know what support you can expect.

5. Changes - If your site was built for you, are you able to log in and make minor changes, or does everything have to be done by provider.If that is the case, what are they likely to charge for minor changes and how long might they take.

Even if you are “not technical” you need to at least understand how you can get access, and where to go for support. If the worst does happen and you have an issue - its too late!

Top 5 things you need to know about your website and why!
February 10, 2017

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Sue Mitchell

You may very well not want to know anything about your website other than “AB Company” takes care of it, I just ask them, and there is nothing wrong with that however it can leave you exposed, so you should be aware of some basic details, and here’s why;

Its Your Business; Your Brand; Your Reputation, quite simply you cannot afford to stick your head in the sand on this one, you need to know what to do if something goes wrong, if you are not happy with your provider, or they go out of business. You don’t need to be techy, but you do need to understand the essentials.

1. Hosting Company - these are the people you pay to provide you with web space, to publish your website in. You need to be able to access this account to change details or should you wish to transfer at any time.

2. eMail Hosting - this is usually the same as your domain hosting company, and you may access your email on their site by logging in directly, however even if you have a domain email (which is highly recommended) you can still use it with Gmail or Outlook.

3. Google Business Listing - You should have this, in Google go-to the Apps and scroll through till you see My Business. Login or Register and create your business profile, when users search in google this will then appear on the right hand side providing details about your company.

4. Google Analytics – Is very powerful and is a must for your Business. If your site was built for you, please make sure you have access to the Google Analytics account so you can view how many visitors you get on your website and loads of other useful information, or at the very least get a regular report.

5. Support Web Hosting Company - How to contact them, account details, what hours of day are they available and what can you expect in terms of response times. If your website is down its not much good if they have a 7 day turnaround.

I have tried to keep this non technical, but you really need to be aware of these things for what in most cases is your most valuable asset.

Check out the my next blog for 5 more things you should know about your website!

A beautiful sunny morning can certainly inspire you, so as we are now over a quarter of the way through the year already it’s a good time to revisit those goals.

Why Review

Ideally, you should review at least monthly, so if you don't now is the time to start.

It’s good to review your goals, look at what has happened, the progress you have made, what has changed, are they still relevant. You may need to adjust them based on your review and it also helps motivate and refocus.

»Is it still relevant, goals are not set in stone, things change, so check;

-are you still able to achieve this goal?

-is it still important to you? If not remove it and set a new one.

»Do you have a good balance of goals for example across; business; health; family and do they fit with your values.

»How are you progressing, you should review your progress regularly, so if you have not reviewed so far now’s a good time to start.

-measure your progress are you where you expected to be?

-are you happy with your progress, if not why not - what needs to change?

»Revisit the plan – if you don’t have a detailed plan of how you are going to achieve, then create one now.

-are your timescales still realistic?

is it proving harder than expected – review plan and take smaller steps

Resources; do you have the necessary resources available, if not seek other help.

Reward yourself – set mini goals weekly or even daily and reward yourself

Are they visible – do you have your goals written down, and somewhere you can see them on a daily basis

Once you have reviewed in detail schedule a slot to review regularly – weekly/monthly (minimum)

My email Inbox is empty, ‘does a little dance’ I never thought I would utter those immortal words!

It is possible, it takes a little effort, but it is well worth it. It is not however a one off exercise, you need an approach before you undertake this exercise, so you can maintain all your hard work. It has to be logical and easy for you to follow so it becomes second nature.

Why should I even bother?

Do you ever get that feeling I don’t know where to start, then you end up wading around for a couple of hours and not achieving much at all?

The dread of opening your inbox in the morning to find it full of unread emails again where do they come from, don’t people sleep!

Sound familiar, an out of control inbox is a real productivity zapper, so its time to take control.

Organise

You will need to find an approach that works for you, it will increase your productivity, not only in dealing with your email but you’ll also have more time in the day to deal with other tasks.

Firstly think about the types of emails you get and how you might want to sort them, and create folders or labels as appropriate; for example - Actions / Waiting / Reference / Archive

This might be enough, if however, you feel you need something more detailed you could break it down into Clients, or Projects you are working on. Whatever you choose keep it simple! Remember your inbox is not a filing system, or a to do list.

Now to tackle those emails

Depending on the state of your inbox you might not achieve everything in one go so schedule a couple of sessions no more than an hour at a time.

The quick win, search using ‘unsubscribe’ this should find the Newsletters you receive, select all and move them to a folder called Newsletters; you can deal with these later.

The Two Minute Rule, work your way through starting with the most recent, and adopt the 2 minute approach, to deal with or organise into your folders.

Do it | Schedule (Actions) or Delegate it | Delete or File it|

Depending on the nature of your role anything over 2 weeks old is unlikely to need action, so you could move all these to a folder to sort later,

Don’t forget to use the DELETE Key

Rules - create some basic rules or filters to deal with regular emails that you don’t need to action but you do want to keep for reference, these rules allow these emails to go straight to a folder and don’t clutter your inbox. Newsletters for example should always go to a folder.

Newsletters are great (I would say that), they provide updates on useful subjects and often helpful tips and suggestions, but how often have you signed up just to get an offer, and when was the last time you actually reviewed the content to see if it is still relevant and unsubscribe.

The "Two-Minute Rule" (a concept from David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done) when you read your mail – if the email will take less than two minutes to read and reply to, then take care of it right now, even if it's not a high priority. The idea behind this is that if it takes less than two minutes to action, it takes longer to read and then store the task away "to do later" than it would to just take care of the task now. For emails that will take longer than two minutes to read or respond to, schedule time on your calendar, or add this as an action to do later.

 

New Habits

You have sorted your email now to keep it that way, when you read your email you can waste valuable time so remember; -

Zen Habits

If you find your emails result in a lot of actions or tasks to delegate you might want to consider an application such as

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