Do You Want Off the Hamster Wheel? You Need Systems.

Systems and Structure are Your Friend

Round and round and round and round. Every day is starting to look the same. There’s money coming in, but just enough to keep the train running. Meanwhile, you are doing, doing, doing and there is no end in sight.

Welcome to the Hamster Wheel.

In some ways, it’s a relief to know that your product is in demand, or that your services are attracting clients. It’s better than those start-up days when you weren’t even sure you had something of real value to offer….right?

Not really. You had a job that was a daily grind, remember? You took a big gamble to start your own business because you already decided that the Hamster Wheel wasn’t how you wanted to live your life.

So, what’s the secret to getting off the Hamster Wheel and becoming a true CEO? Systems.

What’s a System?

A system is nothing more than a set of procedures, methods, or processes that take the thinking out of the regular tasks that keep your business running. Systems make you more efficient by reducing redundancy, automating certain work, as well as allowing you to hand off those tasks to someone else.

You can’t get off the Hamster Wheel by just not doing the work that needs doing. Obviously, your biz can’t run on wishes. But you CAN get off that wheel by making some changes to your overall processes. In other words, you need to build systems.  

Here’s how:

First, Identify Repetitive Tasks

It is time to set aside some time to sit back and look at the repetitive work you are doing every day (or once a week) to keep your business running. These are the tasks that are going to be ripe for applying systems to make your work more efficient, or to get them off your plate altogether.

Take a moment to think through your day (week) and make a list. Here are a few examples of what these kinds of tasks might look like:

  • Taking weekly inventory and ordering supplies
  • Answering questions from customers, often the same queries over and over
  • Posting a weekly blog and associated social media advertising
  • Lead generation tasks such as approaching local businesses about your corporate training program
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly bookkeeping
  • Client scheduling

The list goes on (and on and on). What does your list look like?

Eliminate Tasks

Take a look over the list you have made. Are there tasks that you are simply doing out of habit that really are not adding value to your business?

For example, maybe you have been spending a few hours a week messing around on Pinterest without much luck generating leads. On the other hand, you get plenty of conversions from your Instagram marketing. Maybe it’s time to cut your losses on Pinterest and free up your schedule in the process.

Another way to potentially eliminate tasks is to find ways to do an action once and for all, instead of 5 times a day. For example, say your customers keep asking you the same question about your product. Instead of answering it over and over, take 5 minutes to include the answer prominently in your product description.

Automate Tasks

I get it. Technology can be intimidating. You may need to face some anxiety and fear here – but the benefits are worth it.

There are a myriad of apps and programs out there which can save you time with everything from lead generation to inventory management. Many of them are free or come at a very low cost. In addition, they tend to be designed to be easy to use.

A few examples:

Constant Contact.  This is a tool that helps you streamline your marketing efforts by merging your email, social media, and other lead generation platforms. You can do the work once, and it will blast your effort across all of your platforms. Plus, it will track your conversions to help you craft more effective campaigns in the future.

Less work for more impact…now that’s efficiency!

Google Drive: These days, Google is much more than a search engine. In fact, Google offers cloud-based technology that allows you to easily work collaboratively with others and sync your work up across platforms. Oh, and it’s free.

You can store files on Google Drive and invite others to collaborate – great for content creation. You can easily create a calendar and assign tasks to your team – great for working with freelancers. And, that’s just scratching the surface.

Sure, there is a learning curve with anything new. But these days there’s a Youtube video on just about everything. You got this!

Another way to automate tasks? Templates.

Do you find that some of your emails and other correspondence involve typing most of the same content over and over? That’s where templates come in.

Stop reinventing the wheel every time you send a thank you note to a new client. Instead, develop the basic text with some wiggle room to customize each thank you for that personal touch. Then most of your work is done with a simple copy and paste.

Here are some examples where templates really come in handy:

  • Your professional bio in short, medium and long forms
  • Emails for repetitive tasks such as invoicing, thank yous, lead generation, etc.
  • Infographics and other design elements, in your brand’s colors, for use in various types of online content
  • Advertising campaigns – Trust me, your customers won’t remember if you used the same image in a post from 6 months ago

PRO TIP: Keep all of your templates clearly labeled and in the same folder so you can find them in a snap when you need them.

Delegate Tasks

I have said it before, and I will say it again: You can’t scale your business without a team.

What’s left on your list? Let me guess: A bunch of repetitive tasks you are not ready to let go of. Maybe it’s because you think no one else can do it right, or maybe it’s because you think you can’t afford to hire someone.

Either way, refusing to delegate will keep you on the Hamster Wheel. Period.

Think about how much time it would take you to train someone to do a specific repetitive task in order to get it off your plate. That small investment of your time upfront will lead to huge time savings in the long run. With the extra time you can actually start getting more of the strategic decision making done…you know…that stuff a true CEO does?

Think you can’t afford it? When it comes to growing your biz, you can’t afford not to!

Is it Time for a Coach?

Since you can’t scale your biz while you’re stuck drowning in the day to day operations of your business, you absolutely must get off the Hamster Wheel.

If you can’t seem to do it on your own, it’s a sure sign that you need another set of eyes on your business.

We all develop blind spots. If you have been solopreneuring for a while, you may have even accidentally created systems that are working to keep you locked into the daily grind. It may be time to get someone to take an objective look at your biz and identify the best ways to streamline it.

Every day you waste in the grind is a day you could have been growing your biz. Consider booking a Mini-Intensive with me today.

Time Is on Your Side: 5 Productivity Tips for Entrepreneurs

5 Productivity Tips for Entrepreneurs

It’s not enough to dream of success. It’s not even enough to set goals. At the end of the day, you need to be able to get things done. And, there is so much to get done!

The only way to truly achieve your dreams and build the business you’re meant to build is to sit down and just do it. But unless you’re strategic about your processes, you’re probably working harder than you have to.

The answer? Embrace these five productivity hacks to get more done in less time:

1. Create productive habits.

Running your own business can feel like chaos at times. Habits are a way of building in some regularity to your work, making sure that the critical tasks are getting done daily, and taking the thinking out of some of the operations.

Trust me, you’re already using habits as productivity boosters without realizing it. For example, you probably have a morning ritual that might look something like: wake up, brush your teeth, get the kids off to school, shower, and so forth. You don’t stop and think about these tasks, you just get them done on autopilot. And, you rarely forget to do them. (You probably notice when you forget to brush your teeth!)

Take a look at the tasks that you need to do more or less daily and block them for the same time every day. Then, look at how you can do them more efficiently. Shave a little time off these daily tasks and you are saving big time over the long haul.

And while we are talking about habits…there are some bad ones too. You know what I am talking about! Distractions like social media, news, or personal calls can create a major time-suck as well as disrupt your flow. Identify your distractors and get rid of them or block a time for regular breaks, and stick to it.

2. Stop overbooking.

Not only can it erode relationships with your clients, vendors, or customers, overbooking is a big time waster. You will end up losing time rescheduling, shuffling your schedule to accommodate the new meeting, and of course, making that apology for missing your meeting in the first place.

You have to learn to say no. You can’t be all things to all people. You’re a super woman, but you’re not Superwoman!

Book some leeway into your schedule to account for things like traffic, an unexpected phone call, or a client meeting that goes long. It may seem like a waste of time, but you can easily fill it with quick, time flexible tasks like checking email or posting a promotion on social media.

3. Work hard, play harder.

You are not a machine. You cannot work all day every day and hope to be at your best all the time. We get it! You’re a go-getter. But everyone has limits.

Take a day off. Get some rest, or relax on a long, slow hike. Take a friend out to lunch. Go shopping with your kids. See a movie or a play. Do something—anything—other than work.

Not only will you return to the office feeling much more refreshed, but you’ll find yourself more creative and productive than before as well.

4. Your time is valuable.

When you envisioned starting your own business, you probably had an idea about the kind of money you want to make or the lifestyle you want to lead. Even if money wasn’t your number one objective, your financial stability is either part of your business model, or you won’t have a business for long.

So pick a number that works for you and calculate an hourly wage as a rough target for what you need to make per hour in order to be on track with your personal earning goals.

Now, take a look at the tasks you are doing that are part of the day to day operations of your biz. Can you outsource or pay an employee to do it for less? Then what are you waiting for? Here’s more on how to hire a great team.

Being efficient isn’t just about doing it faster. Sometimes it’s about not doing it at all!

5. Repurpose content.

If your business includes generating content (webinars, blogs, promotional materials) and you are reinventing the wheel every time you need to get something out there, you are really making things harder on yourself than you have to.

It’s called good branding practice. Identify the elements that are most central to your brand and get comfortable with the fact that sometimes new content is really just old content with a delightful new twist or angle.

Completely original and new ideas are hard to come by. Take a little pressure off yourself and realize that every time you have a new audience it’s is okay to spin some old material in new directions.

Time CAN be on your side.

Managing your time and turning up your productivity is not something that comes naturally to most people but when you learn to master this skill, you’ll find your business grows right along with you.

Build a Business, Not a Job

You’re Not an Employee Anymore

Many people dream of working for themselves, being their own boss, and having the freedom to only take on clients they want to work with on projects they love. What they don’t realize, however, is that there is a huge difference between building a business and being self-employed.

If you want to build a business, you need to start acting like a true CEO, and that may mean abandoning some of the tactics that made you a great employee. There is a big difference between being a true CEO, and merely being “self-employed:”

  • CEOs scale their income. Self-employed people trade hours for dollars.
  • CEOs leverage the skills and talents of others. Self-employed people rely only on their own skills.
  • CEOs have the vision and make the plan. Self-employed people do, then do some more, then do some more, then do some more…

Discouraged yet? Don’t be. Every business owner started out self-employed. Just don’t stay there. These tips will help you build a sustainable and successful company instead of just another job:

Don’t try to do it all yourself.

Building a sustainable business that you can scale requires that you leverage the talents and time of others. While it might seem cost-effective to simply do everything yourself—especially in the start-up phase when you likely have more time than money—it’s a path to burnout and stress.

Solorpreneuring might work when your biz is brand new, but it won’t work to grow your business.

Instead, separate your tasks into those that you love and are especially suited for and those you dislike or aren’t good at. Then make a solid plan to get those that you aren’t good at off your list of things to do. If you feel like you can’t afford to outsource it all right now, start with what you tend to procrastinate the most on, even if it’s just a few hours each month.

(Want to learn more? Check out How to Outsource on a Shoestring Budget.)

It’s fine to work from home, but don’t live at work.

If you work from home there’s no clear line in the sand between your work day and your home life. For some entrepreneurs, this creates a situation where they never really leave work. Since there’s always work to do, it’s easy to end up working every available moment—often to the detriment of your family relationships.

This only goes one place – burnout. Nip this disaster in the bud with these tips:

  • Build your business around your life, not the other way around.
  • Add time for self-care to your weekly schedule.
  • Have a specific space where you work on your business, and keep it separate from your personal life.
  • Adjust your expectations. You don’t have to be Superwoman every day. In fact, you can’t be – do what you can, let go of the rest, and outsource the busy work!

(If you are struggling with self-care, read Note to Self: You Matter!)

Vacations and downtime are important.

Don’t create a business that requires you to be “in the office” every day. At the start, you may need to be available more, but you should definitely be planning for the day when you can be “off the grid” for extended periods of time.

  • Have trusted contractors who can handle things when you’re not available.
  • Leverage automation tools such as autoresponders and auto-webinar systems.
  • Create repeatable systems so you’re not always reinventing the wheel.
  • Apply the KISS principle, Keep it Simple, Sweetie!

While you might not be able to hit the road with no internet access for weeks at a time, at the very least you should be able to reduce your workload to a daily check-in.

Sound impossible? It’s not. With some forethought and planning, you can create a team—and the systems they need—to successfully run your business without becoming overwhelmed and overworked. Now that’s acting like a true CEO!

Make time for the Big Picture.

One of the biggest differences between being a CEO and merely being self-employed has to do with being the keeper of the vision that made you quit your job in the first place. In order to hold on to that vision, and make sure it guides the development of your company, you must make time to grow and nurture it.

Block time in your weekly schedule for strategic planning. Otherwise, you will end up perpetually working in your business, instead of on it. It’s a trap! And it is one of the most common mistakes I see female entrepreneurs make as they try to transition from a start-up to a successful company.

Being self-employed isn’t the same thing as being a true CEO.

If any of these tips resonated with you, the sooner you get your head around the mindset shifts and strategies to make the change, the better!

Need a little help? Consider booking a mini-intensive with me and we will spend an hour talking about your business and identify where you can make a few changes today that will get you turned in the right direction and poised for growth.

Business Slow? Think Like a Farmer

Use Your Downtime to Plan for the Future

Last week I talked about a client of mine – a real estate agent going through her slow period. Our work during that time focused on thinking like a farmer – but what does that mean in practice?

Do you think all a farmer has to do is wait until fall to harvest truckloads of delicious tomatoes, corn or squash? Think again! That farmer has worked hard all year long to prepare for that week or two of big rewards.

She prepared the ground last fall, following last year’s harvest.

She planted seeds in the spring.

She watered, fertilized and protected her fragile crops from pests, drought and poor weather throughout the growing season.

And finally, after months of work, she enjoyed the results of her efforts near the end of the summer.

Your business works the same way with periodic ups and downs. Many businesses experience seasonal fluctuations tied to other rhythms — the school year, the tax year, the calendar year. In other cases, downturns are less predictable but are nonetheless a part of the ride for a successful entrepreneur.

If you take a page from the farmer’s playbook, you’ll soon be reaping the rewards, too!

Preparing the Ground

This is your brand, your voice, your very presence in your market. If you’re just starting out—like that farmer after her harvest—you’ll spend your time simply becoming known. In other words, you should put your energy into preparing the ground.

Hang out with other coaches in your niche. Join forums where your ideal clients spend their time. Build a website and start your mailing list. This is the prep work that will form the foundation of a solid business in the future.

Planting the Seeds

Your seeds are your content and products. With each blog post you write, every product you create, you’re planting a seed you can harvest later. But unlike the farmer, your seeds will produce over and over again, endlessly.

Look for ways to create visibility for you and your brand with public speaking, being interviewed on podcasts or participating on panels that are aligned with your area of expertise. Get yourself out there!

In fact, you’ll likely find that blog posts you wrote years ago will continue to bring in new clients year after year, with no further help from you. Products can be sold over and over again, or reworked into new offers. Podcasts, videos, ebooks and more all continue to work for you, month after month, year after year.

When you think about it that way, it’s easy to see that planting seeds is a critical part of every business.

Nurturing Your Crop

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just “Set it and forget it!”? Unfortunately, that style of business rarely works.

Consistency is the name of the game here – and it’s what will ultimately lead to success. Be sure that you are sending out your email newsletter every week, or month (or whatever cadence you have decided on). Be sure to do a blog post, or Facebook live, or record a video consistently.

You will start to get a following and people will be looking for you, even if you don’t think they are out there! Remember, gurus tell us that only 10% of your readers or followers ever comment (and I think that number is high!), so you have an audience out there, even if it doesn’t appear so.

Instead, you must spend time nurturing:

  • Stay in touch with your email list
  • Update old blog posts with new ideas
  • Study your stats to improve your traffic and conversions
  • Refine your products as you learn more about your customers

It doesn’t take much effort to update your blog posts or tweak your products, and the rewards can be fantastic.

Of course, being a farmer is a long-term investment. The work you do today may not pay off for weeks or months to come. But with a strong history of consistent “farming,” you’ll soon see that those long-term rewards are paying off consistently as well.

How NOT to Panic.

Fear-Based Decision Making is Bad for Biz.

At some point, every business owner will find herself in a troubling situation. Revenue is down. New clients are scarce. Profits are falling. Just one peek at the financials is enough to bring on a full-fledged anxiety attack.

Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, chances are you’ve experienced that sinking feeling of a business that’s trending downward. How you handle it can mean the difference between continued success and business-killing burnout.

Here’s where a lot of entrepreneurs get it wrong. They start to worry about money, and that worry leads to poor decisions that ultimately have a negative impact not just on finances, but—maybe more importantly—on their own morale, too. I’ve been there many times!

In my experience fear shuts my brain down and keeps me from being productive in ANY area of my life. Here are a few of the fear-based decisions you might find yourself making:

You Take On The Wrong Client

When business is down, it can be tough to keep your ideal client avatar in mind. Instead, you jump at the chance to work with anyone who comes along with a wallet. The trouble with this scenario is you can find yourself with a roster full of clients who:

  • Aren’t willing or able to do the work required
  • Spend all their time telling you why your ideas and advice won’t work
  • Make life miserable for you, as they are not a good fit
  • Drain your energy and make you dread work each day

You Withdraw

You stop going to networking events, stop connecting with your network, stop socializing with your Biz Besties. This is exactly the opposite of what will help you turn your fear into a more positive direction. Getting outside of your own head is the best thing you can do at this point.

You Stop Creating

And who can blame you? With profits down, you have to pull back. You can’t afford to spend time and money creating new programs, or new blog posts, or webinars, so you recycle the ones you’ve already produced – and these may be a bit tired.

Now, this would be ideal if you were repurposing with a positive intent. Turning your eBook into a group-coaching course? Perfect! But that’s not what your fearful brain is telling you.

Your fearful self is saying, “Just re-release this same product again, so I don’t have to have new sales copy written or record new videos.” And, while this might help bring in a bit of cash short-term, it won’t do anything for your reputation or your self-esteem.

Ditch the Fear Mindset

Fear can be a healthy motivator, but it is a terrible mindset for sound decision making in business. Acts of desperation, withdrawal or avoidance can turn a minor dip into a major disaster.

Instead, bring your focus to the opportunity right in front of you: Have a little more time on your hands? Great! What can you do with it? Sales lower than expected? Okay…What can you learn about your customers?

If running a business was just like getting on an escalator, nothing but up from here, then everyone would do it. The fact is that the downturns are a part of learning about your customers, streamlining your processes, and honing in on your ideal client and the services you are really passionate about providing.

If you are letting fear run your show, you are missing the opportunity to refine, and ultimately grow your biz.

Here is what it looks like in practice…

One of my clients is a real estate agent who is in a bit of a lull and starting to exhibit signs of panic. Instead, we are working with the concept of farming. She is planting seeds for harvest later on.

In our coaching sessions, we have mapped out a plan for the best way to productively and strategically use this time to her best advantage. AND (more mindset work here) she’s realized she is lucky to have this time to focus on her business, instead of being caught up in it.

Coming from fear is no way to operate a business, but that’s just what a fear-based mindset can do to you. Better (much better) to hold out for that perfect client, dig into your supportive relationships, and take what you’ve learned from your drop in sales to create that killer program your audience is clamoring for!

Overwhelmed and Paralyzed?

How to get UNSTUCK.

We all fall victim to overwhelm. The trick is to find a way to reset quickly, so you can recover and get back to what you need to do.

Whether it’s often or infrequent, the paralyzing results are the same. Here is what happens to me when I’m in overwhelm (Not pretty, but I’m just keeping it real here, people!):

When I’m in overwhelm, I’m like a deer in the headlights – I am stuck and can’t move. I’m truly paralyzed. I typically spend a lot of time “Spinning “– I can spend LOTS of time in front of my computer doing who knows what. I straighten my desk and organize files. And I convince myself that I’m busy, but I know better. Busy work is busy work.

Or, I become an expert at procrastination. I work from my home office so I find myself folding laundry, doing dishes, cleaning. Anything but working. The busier I stay, the less I have to think about how overwhelmed I am, because I’m….well, busy!

Here’s what to do to nip overwhelm in the bud:

Recognize the symptoms.

I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms, or better yet, anticipate when I’m going to fall prey to overwhelm. Typically it happens in times of transition. I may have signed up too many clients at once. I may have a new hire that I need to train on top of all my other duties. I feel stress creeping into my shoulders and neck, for whatever reason.

I start to look for times when I will likely be in transition and anticipate what is likely to hit the fire, or what is going to need extra attention. But you can’t always do that. Once you notice you are in overwhelm, take action right away with any of the following strategies.

Cut down on your outside influences.

There are gurus aplenty in the online world, all with a different voice and recommendations. I have learned (the hard way) that more input does not equal more clarity. Make some choices.

Whose voices, newsletters, and recommendations do you find valuable and want to continue to follow? Choose at most 2 or 3 and unsubscribe from the rest of those newsletters. Don’t sign up for any more webinars aside from theirs. Or, just give yourself a complete break from outside influences. Do not sign up for any more courses. Keep it simple, sweetie.

Detox your to-do list.

Overwhelm can come from a to-do list that is several pages long. It shouldn’t be. There should be a max of 3 main things you should accomplish in a day. Take a critical look at that list and use the 4 D’s: Do, Delegate, Delay, or Delete, to whip it into manageable shape.

Download The 4 D’s of Productivity for more tips on how to use this powerful tool

Take some action.

If even that feels like too much effort, then just take some action – ANY action and start very small. I find that the smaller the step, the easier it is to get started. Once momentum starts, it’s easier to keep going.

Take an emotional time out.

Read an engrossing book that has nothing to do with work. I’m partial to mysteries that completely take over my brain. Go to a movie if you can swing it. Can you say binge-watch?

The point is to take an hour or two away from your problems — physically somewhere else, if possible. You’ll remember that there’s a vast world out there, and maybe put yourself back in perspective.

Exercise.

Same idea here, but with a personal physical component. Hit the gym. Go for a run or a swim. Take a spin class. Whatever it is that you do for exercise, work it into the middle of the day, so you can separate the difficult morning from the rest of the afternoon.

Not only does exercise count as an accomplishment, but it also fills your system with endorphins that lead to a more positive attitude and go-getter state of mind. Talk about a reset!

Reach out to Biz Besties.

Brainstorm why you are spinning, or just vent a bit. That can also clear your head! Sometimes you just need the chance to talk with someone you’re close with who is completely unrelated to whatever drama is going on in your life.

Just say no.

Sometimes you have to say no. Sometimes you even have to say, “I know I said yes before, but I have to say no now.” Of course, you don’t want to make a practice of this and develop a reputation for unreliability. Still, maybe it’s better than getting overwhelmed and getting nothing done.

Thinking about overwhelm won’t help. You have to take action.

Putting these techniques into practice can help you move out of overwhelm quickly. My favorite is to just take a small bit of action and to let the rest unfold. The longer you stay in this state, the worse it will become. In this case, size does matter, and even tiny steps count!

Hire to Your Weakness, Lead With Your Strength.

Know When it’s Time to Outsource

I have never been a detail person – much to my dismay. My handwriting is almost illegible, I make mistakes in calculations (thank goodness for formulas in Excel so I don’t have to do the math myself!), and I leave a trail of minutia wherever I go. I just don’t SEE the details and good enough is good enough in my mind – I move too fast, I have bigger fish to fry, I am a big picture person — You know the drill!

Those might sound like excuses, but they are all true. However, the reality is that sometimes my lack of attention to detail was getting in the way of my biz goals. It was time to take action.

Aha!

One of the biggest AHA moments of my recent career was hiring a copy editor. I was tired of getting emails back from friends saying “There was a typo in that last newsletter.” Or, having a potential client question something I had written in my proposal to them. (That was embarrassing!)

So I finally got real with myself and admitted that this was a shortcoming that I had to find a solution for, not just ignore. If I was going to be my best professional self, I had to appear that way with my words.

I hired a copy editor. She is a genius who not only corrected punctuation and spelling but also polished my words, clarified my intentions, and challenged me when she doesn’t agree with my direction. GOLD I tell you! (If you want her name, email me and I’ll give you her contact info.)

The heavens opened up at that very moment. Freed from the burden of the details I began writing up a storm creating weekly blog posts, a newsletter and writing copy for landing pages and sales materials. She even edits my most important emails and proposals so I don’t embarrass myself again.

Time for a Team

The lesson here for any growing entrepreneur is to carefully think about how you want to start to grow your team. The common path is to start with an assistant or VA (virtual assistant) first. This person can take care of enumerable back-end and administrative tasks from the simplest (keeping your email inbox clean) to far more sophisticated (like vetting and setting up speaking opportunities for you).

But I chose to start by addressing a weakness that I had and filling the gap. You may find bookkeeping, maintaining your schedule, or lead follow-up the most daunting aspects of your biz. Any of these things may be your Achilles’ Heel that can hold you back from productive activities that will actually grow your revenue – which is the whole point, after all!

Outsource: Sometimes it’s the Only Right Move

Start by taking a look at what you hate to do and are probably not doing, not doing well, or not doing consistently. That’s a great place to outsource.

Another thought is to calculate how much time it takes you to do a task, multiply by your hourly rate, and see if still doing that activity yourself makes sense. The answer will probably be “No!” You can probably find very effective support for a fraction of your hourly rate.

Outsourcing work does not need to be a huge cash commitment. “I don’t have the money” is typically the first complaint I hear from clients when I suggest they get some help for a particular area.

Think of hiring on a project basis, or ask for a commitment for as little as 5 hours a week to make progress for your business. You don’t even need to commit to hiring a part-time employee since there is an abundance of freelancers ready, willing and able to take work off your plate on a task-by-task basis.

The key here is not to get caught in the “I can do this myself, why should I hire it out?” rationale. Perhaps you could…. but should you? This kind of thinking will keep your business from growing and you with your nose to the grindstone. Not a pretty picture!

Work Life Balance – When Your Personal Life Throws Up Roadblocks

Stay Calm and Reframe

Most women entrepreneurs are workaholics, type A personalities, or passion driven to an extreme. I think that is built into our DNA and part of why we become business owners in the first place. But every now and again life throws us curve balls and we need to be able to adjust to our new reality to be able to continue in our biz – and life.

If you are a new mom, a mom again, have an aging or ailing relative that needs your attention or the kids are out on summer vacation, your old schedule may be a thing of the past. Give yourself some grace. You don’t have to be superwoman all the time. Life will go on. Your business will go on (if you want it to) but perhaps at a different pace.

This might be too much information, but since some of you may be in a similar situation, I thought it was OK to share on such a personal level.

I’m the full-time caregiver for my very sick husband. He has had two strokes and suffers from advanced diabetes. As a result, he can no longer walk, has had some cognitive decline, and needs help in almost every aspect of his life.

I love my husband dearly and am happy and grateful to be able to care for him. But this was never what I thought this chapter of my life would look like.

If you are in the midst of one of these roadblocks, or adjustment periods, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Take care of yourself.

I did a post earlier on The importance of Self-Care. People kept telling me this and I’d say, “OK, I will.” But you know what? It’s crucial.

The first 3 months or so after his last stroke, I could not leave his side, let alone the house. But as he began to get stronger I could lift my head and look around. I was starting to feel trapped and exhausted, which did neither of us any good.

I started to plan lunches out with friends, a daily walk (Egad – did I need exercise!), and other excursions to keep my sense-of-self intact. I’m still struggling with this, but getting better at it as time goes on.

Adjust your personal expectations.

This may be specific to me, but I’m used to being a multi-tasking, hard-charging gal, with a lengthy to-do list and lofty goals. This has been the hardest adjustment for me, by far.

I’ve had to re-frame what I can and want to get done in a day since our reality is always changing. I may have several things planned, but if my husband is having a not-so-great day, all plans go out the window. I’m running my business from home and there are days when even my most important business tasks have to be put aside. Learning to “go with the flow” has been my most difficult challenge.

Adjust to your new reality.

If your new reality has some predictability (like kids on vacation from school, as an example), create a new schedule for this time that includes playtime with the kids and enjoying summer with them and scale back your business tasks. Take a fresh look at your calendar.

A good friend who was in the early stages of her 2nd pregnancy and her business admitted that the way she dealt with her reality was total denial. She hadn’t given a thought to how her business activities needed to change once the baby arrived – it was too overwhelming to think about.

We were in a Mastermind together and she was able to get support and ideas on how to move forward in a very positive way from the group. We created a plan for months 1-3 after the baby’s arrival and then 4-6 to help her ease into her new life and still maintain her business, with only a small blip in her business momentum.

Reframing: A key to work-life balance.

Work-Life balance isn’t a “thing”, it’s in a constant state of reframing. As our lives change, so will that balance. The key is to allow ourselves the flexibility to embrace the lows (not very productive, if at all) and the highs (when we are conquering worlds on all cylinders) with equanimity.

Get Out of Your Own Way – Obstacles to Biz Growth

8 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

Part 1 of 2

Every business goes through stages, from the seed of an idea to startup, to increasing levels of maturity and growth. Each stage has its challenges, and none are easier than the last.

In those transition periods, things can feel out of control. Many of your carefully crafted processes are no longer working, and you and your business just feel like you are bursting at the seams.

These are growing pains, as my mom used to call it. Businesses, at all stages, have them.

After working with hundreds of small business owners in the past 7 years, here are the most common obstacles I’ve heard about time and time again, and what you can do about them. Do you hear yourself in any or all of these complaints?

1.“Everyone is starting a podcast (or virtual summit, or YouTube channel). I should too!”

Bright Shiny Object Syndrome can strike at any time, and at any and all stages of your business. When you look around you at your competitors or others that you feel are in your league, they seem to be doing more, accomplishing more, are more famous, earning more, doing more than you are.

Just stop. If you are still in business after a year or two, you are doing just fine. And you are enough!

Create a thoughtful, just-right-for-you strategic plan for your business and stick to it. Earmark new projects, platforms or courses for the next time you are in planning mode. This is your business. Design it for yourself, not everyone else.

2. “The only one who can do it is ME ME ME!”

You built this business by yourself and know every inch of it. You know what needs to be done and can do it faster and more accurately than anyone else. But if most of the tactical work is being done, or closely supervised by you, you are severely hampering your own growth. At some point, you will need to let go and train others to fill in for the majority of your functions, so that you can act as a true CEO.

What does that look like? It means building CEO time into your schedule. Block off a half-day each week, a full day each month, and perhaps a weekend each quarter for planning your future next steps. These are strategic planning blocks, not doing blocks. In fact a CEO doesn’t do much day-to-day doing. A CEO is creating content, finding and nurturing high level partnerships, planning and strategizing the future.

3. “I am EXHAUSTED”

Owning and running a business is not easy. We all know that. Especially in times of transition, it’s easy to run on all cylinders, work more than a normal workweek, and not pay attention to anything but your rapidly growing business. You will burn out, and your family and your business will suffer.

Before you get to that stage, build self-care into your schedule.   Decide what replenishes you. Is it time with your family, incorporating exercise into your life, a walk, reading a book, going to a movie? Schedule repeating blocks of time on your calendar and make this non-negotiable.

4. “My to-do list just grows and grows”

The common thread I see with female entrepreneurs at all levels of business is that they have forgotten the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Sweetie). In the rush to find new revenue streams, build new packages and courses, new formats for their content, streamlining what’s already in place goes right out the window.

Have a strategic plan and stick with it. You will have built your next 6 months or year during your CEO time. Once that is in place, don’t deviate. Find the top 3 tasks (or one task!) that you, as the true CEO need to accomplish each day. Don’t build out another activity until the ones already in place are smooth as silk, with processes in place and the correct team members making it happen.

If you find your own to-dos are getting out of hand, stop and re-evaluate. Are you doing more than you initially planned for in your strategy? Do you have the right or enough support staff underneath you? Are they getting the job done? Do they know what they should be doing and what your expectations are? Consider outsourcing some of the tasks if you are not ready to expand your team.

Stay tuned for 4 more common mistakes in next week’s blog!

Has Content Creation Become a Chore? You Need a System.

Content Creation Made Easy: 4 Simple Steps

My biz is content heavy. In January of 2018, I made a commitment to doing a weekly blog post.  Talk about a stretch goal!

This seemed absolutely impossible, as the most I had been able to do previously was a post every 3-4 weeks.  But I knew that consistency builds visibility, fans, and engagement.

I was on a mission to make it happen.  But I had to find a process or structure that was going work for me so that I was not tearing my hair out.  Been there? Read on!

This is a game changer, my friends: Weekly content creation doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore!

Want a free sample of the Content Calendar Template? Just click the button below

How many times have you wandered into the kitchen to start dinner for your family and thought, “There’s nothing in the fridge – what am I going to make for dinner?”   Another panic moment I’ve experienced far too often.

The solution?  Create menus before building a grocery list and go on a  grocery run once or twice a week. Doing the pre-planning is the hard part, and the pre-dinner time is just execution (and joy, if you like to cook!).

Using the same principle, I created a content calendar for myself in the very beginning and this has saved my bacon and my sanity many times.  I plan 3-4 months in advance, plenty of time to continuously add detail to content as it comes to me, and have found that the rhythm of weekly content creation is now totally manageable.  

Here is the process in a nutshell:

Nail the broad strokes FIRST.

Create 8-10 categories that will capture all of your content goals. If you are a Google keyword master, you might start there. I did some research on Amazon and checked out other blogs on entrepreneurship to see what topics came up repeatedly and made my choices.  The research took less than an hour.

By taking the time to make sure you have the breadth of coverage on issues that matter to your service or product in advance, you can let go of the fear that you might miss something important.

Choose ENGAGING topics.

Come up with 4-5 ideas for posts within each category, each covering a vital topic in a fun and engaging way. Sitting down once and doing 4 to 6 months worth of ideas will take a big weight off of your shoulders. The hard thinking is behind you. “OMG, what am I going to write about THIS week?!!” The panic part of the process is completely eliminated.

Now that you have your ideas on paper, you have a place to add details to your content as it comes to you, well in advance of your publishing deadlines.

Now your thinking like a true CEO! This is the kind of strategic planning that makes the difference between long-term success and a flash-in-the-pan.

Repurpose in multiple formats.  

Map out how you will re-purpose the same content to get the most visibility. Don’t be afraid to post the same content in multiple formats. Your audience will want to engage with you in the format that they prefer.  Some people are visual learners (hence the video and FB Lives), while others prefer to read.  

Share your blog post in your newsletter.  Create a variety of posts and graphics so you can post on social media over the next week. Do a Facebook Live or record a video of the content of your blog post.  Upload to Facebook and YouTube. If you do a podcast, you can just read the blog post for some quick content.

Remember, your email newsletter probably has about a 20% open rate, so 80% of your audience didn’t read your email. But they may see the post on your blog, or your FB page, or on other social media platforms. The more ways that you can share a single piece of content, the more likely your target audience will find you and engage.

Thoroughly think through your new content once, and publish it in several formats. Now that is Bang-for-the-Buck right there!

While you’re at it…

I also use the same content calendar spreadsheet for even more content using the same helpful categories. I jot down ideas for new presentations, webinars and training sessions.  I create content upgrades (lead magnets) that I can use to get more email sign-ups. I shoot for one per month and a topic that is related to an upcoming blog post. By the end of the year, I’ll have 12 new lead magnets to use throughout the year! That’s golden.

By dedicating some time to the pre-planning, the creation of weekly content doesn’t have to make you crazy!  

Wanting more?

Want to see my system in more detail? I have a sample content calendar that I’d like you to have. It includes a detailed look at just how my system works and some additional tips to make it work for you. Click here to subscribe