A Solopreneur with Downtime? Spend it Productively

Got time? Get Organized.

We all have periods of time “between”. Between gigs, clients, meetings, launches, proposal sent and waiting for the response. You know that time. We also have “dither days”: days when we are sitting in front of the computer and not getting anything done. My Mom called that dithering.

Here are a few sneakily productive ways to use that time.

The best way out of solopreneur craziness is to create systems. What to do? Get your behind-the-scenes act together!

Create a content calendar

If consistency in posting or content creation isn’t your strong suit, create a social content calendar. Choose a daily focus and get ahead by batching your writing into a weekly time block. You can knock out an entire week in less than an hour. Trust me the hard part is thinking about what to post. If you do the thinking in advance, the rest is easy!

I have put together a sample Content Calendar that I have used in my business with much success to give you some inspiration. Download below.

Organize your stuff – electronic and paper

How much time do you waste looking for stuff? Clean out your inbox, scan those receipts, organize your Dropbox folders and files, and break out the label maker. Just start with your DESK if it is messy. Clutter of any kind can add to an inability to focus. Become an organizational ninja.

Create a new lead magnet

What’s one question your ideal audience has that will lead them into the deeper work you do? Write a blog post, create a short video, or develop a checklist. Give yourself a set amount of time to knock it out and get it done. Start using it to attract people to your community and build your email list.

Use this as CEO time.

What’s coming up in the next few weeks? Make a list of what you need to have ready and get it done early.

Update your KPIs. We can get sloppy about this, as we tend to look only at revenue and expenses. But there are so many other measures of success – how is your social media following growing, your email list growing? How many networking events did you attend, or Facebook Lives did you do? Every step of engagement ultimately will lead to an increase in business.

Create templates

What questions do you get frequently? Write a canned response email that you can cut/paste or automate in your email sequence. Always creating custom proposals? Create a template. Got a process, new or old, that can be automated – create a template!

I could go on and on… What are some things you do in downtime? Tell me in the comments.

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.

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.

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

Outsourcing: Cure for the Burnout Blues

Don’t Wait Until Burnout to Get Help

One of the symptoms of being in a growth spurt is that things can feel out of control. Many of your carefully crafted processes are no longer working, and your company just feels like it is bursting at the seams. You probably feel overwhelmed and stretched beyond your limits.

The goal of a true CEO should be to do only the things that are going to have the biggest revenue impact.

This can include long-range planning, developing and nurturing key relationships, and creating visibility for your brand and your company. As the pace of business escalates, it is tempting to get buried in the weeds, tending to the details because there is so much going on.

Learn to let go.

Letting go of the “no one can do it as well as I can” thoughts is one of those stages of personal growth that all entrepreneurs need to pass through. Remember, just because you CAN do something does not mean that you SHOULD be doing it.

I know how to sew, but I’m definitely not making my own clothes. (Tried that in high school – what a disaster!) You probably did everything in the early stages of your biz, but that’s not where you are now as you dive into the second or third levels of maturity as a business.

Get busy getting un-busy!

Think about the functions and duties it takes to run your business and assign an hourly rate to each. (Guessing is fine here; you just want to establish the relative worth of each.) Also, think about the tasks that ONLY you can do, and should do.

Make a list of the tasks that you could easily outsource. And by outsourcing, I don’t mean hiring a whole new person to your team. Think of contracting even for only 5 hours a week, or by project, to get you started with getting the task off of your desk. Here is a tiny sample of thing you might consider outsourcing.

Bookkeeping
Calendar management
Cold calling
Copy editing
Copywritingcustomer support
Invoicing
Prospect screening and vetting
Report creation
Research
Social media posting and management
Video or podcast editing

My biggest “aha” moment in January of this year was when I realized that while content creation was going to be a big part of my business, copywriting and editing were not my strengths. I did some research and discovered a world of copy editors who could take my rough copy and polish it to be far better than the original.

Where are there opportunities like that for you? The added benefit is that I’m far more confident in my copy now and have gotten over the fear of creation. That’s a world of pressure off of my mind, and it has opened me up for more of the things that I can and should be doing.

A VA (virtual assistant) can be hired on an hourly rate for even a small block of time: 5-10 hours a week. You can try them out before making any kind of commitment. You can have multiple VA’s with a variety of skill sets.

Check out Upwork, or Fiverr for ideas on the kinds of tasks that you can outsource and their relative prices. Most of these sites will provide user reviews and ranking of the performance of the contractors. You can also ask for samples. Give them one task to do (pay for it) to make sure they are a good fit.

If you have a team and you are facing burnout, then your team is not big enough, or they are not doing the right things, or you are not delegating enough. If you don’t yet have a team, then start building a small support staff. Every dollar you spend for help will come back triple in revenue based on YOUR activities.

 

Go ahead and take the leap to the next level!

Lack of motivation is the symptom. Accountability is the cure

Accountability – Who Does the Entrepreneur Answer To?

I was recently listening to a podcast when the owner of a pretty happening biz said that she stopped doing her podcast because it took a lot of work. She didn’t feel the urge to continue and no one was pushing her to do so. It got me thinking…

If you are the alpha dog, who do you need to answer to? You don’t have a boss, although you probably have clients or customers. But there is no one truly setting the bar, except for you. Are you letting the bar slip?

Here are a few things that may keep you from being the most productive and profitable business owner you can be:

You’ve lost your sense of urgency or momentum. If your business is in the black, and you have been achieving your goals (yay you!), it’s easy to become complacent. The sense of urgency you once knew is no longer there and may dilute your “get it done” attitude. Not a good thing to lose!

Confusion, or “dithering” as my mother used to say. Spending lots of time doing not much. This is what happens to me when I have too much on my plate. I hop from one project to the other, not getting anywhere but frustrated and tired. This is a complete waste of time and I know it even when I’m in it!

Procrastination. A close cousin to dithering. There are important projects or tasks that have been on your to-do list that keep getting moved to the next day or week, or just (intentionally) forgotten about.

Flagging motivation. There are mornings for all of us when getting out of bed is a debate – Why bother? Are you stuck and unmotivated?

Loneliness at the top. This can be an unexpected problem, especially for entrepreneurs with a big team or those who work from home. Have you started to feel isolated with your work?

Solutions: Build in Accountability and Motivation

Stay accountable to yourself by checking your numbers weekly or at least monthly. I like crunching numbers, so this is fun for me, but it’s not fun for everyone. But getting a reality check, which is what measurement is all about, is a great way to look for ways to improve your business. ( I’ll talk all about this in a later post), but think of it as a chance to improve (hurrah!), rather than a judgemental report card (boo!)

Be accountable to yourself with a tool. I use Asana for my projects, both personal and biz. I use it for my team, of course, so we are all on track. But I use this for personal accountability as well. Whether it’s defining a project like setting up a new membership site (big) or clearing out my garage (small and personal), Asana helps me not only define the tasks under each project but more importantly, set a deadline for each. THAT is what keeps me achieving those goals!

Define each project then break it down into manageable tasks. If you are not making the progress that you hope for, the tasks may be too big and daunting. Break the tasks down into smaller bites and chew them one by one rather than trying to eat the whole meal in one swallow.

Re-examine your daily and weekly planning. It may very well be that you are dithering or stuck and unmotivated because what is on your plate is unexciting. Can you delegate the things that don’t need a CEO’s attention? (Remember the 4 D’s of productivity: Do, Delegate, Delay, or Delete.) Remind yourself of which pieces of your work that excite you the most. Weave those into your job description. Save a little bit of dessert for yourself!

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

 

Mastermind. I would say the biggest game changer in my entrepreneurial career and the best antidote to loneliness has been participating in Masterminds. If you want accountability, challenges, and fresh ideas on how to grow your business, my Mastermind program is for you!

A Mastermind is designed to utilize the perspective and experience of other entrepreneurs to take your business to the next level.

In my experience, working in a Mastermind format will speed up your business growth exponentially. You will have a group of like-minded women who will challenge you and hold you accountable to achieve your goals. No more hiding!

We will work in small groups of 6-8 so that we can truly help each other. I will carefully select entrepreneurs with an eye towards mixing up the industries and business types, as well as looking for entrepreneurs at different levels of growth to provide the ultimate resources for everyone.

Candidates for this program should have at least 2 years of ongoing revenue generation with their business to be eligible. If you are a new startup, this is not the program for you.

Interested? Sign up here for the waiting list.  I’ll send out more information, as we get closer to the launch date.