How to Maximize Your Work Time to be the Most Productive

Have you ever heard the phrase “There must be something in the water”? It is something that is said often when there are a lot of people getting pregnant or having new babies. Well, right now it seems as if that water must be all around me. A lot of my clients are getting ready to have their second or third child and they are wondering how they are going to be more productive with less time. New babies tend to take us into a Bermuda Triangle that makes all of our established schedules and routines mysteriously disappear!

Being Productive vs. Being Busy

It is common that some of my client have confused the idea of being busy with the idea that they are productive. It is possible that you can run at full speed all day and fall into bed exhausted, only to look at your to-do list to realize you didn’t really accomplish much of anything. When you look around and see that being busy is such a norm in our society, you tend to take that as being an acceptable or desirable behavior. Back in my corporate days, I used to work at IBM and productivity strategy was all they ever wanted to discuss. They always wanted to find more ways that we could do more for them in less time.

Finding Fulfillment

When really boiled down, having a goal of being productive is really a goal of feeling fulfilled. It really feels good to check things off on a list that gets you even a little bit closer to goals that you have already established. I used to be one of those people that would write big, long, legal pad to-do lists. However I’ve found that a lot of times, it winds up just being a brain dump that doesn’t usually lend to productivity for me.

Focusing on Your Priorities

If you are going to do a to-do list, let’s start taking a look and noting which tasks on your list are your priorities. Make it a point to write down your top 3 priorities for the day or week. These top 3 should be tasks that will get you closer to accomplishing some goals that you already have in progress. Then, take these tasks and make a point to put them down officially on your calendar. It can also often help to estimate the time it will take you to complete each task, especially if it is a common recurring task.

If to-do lists or brain dumps aren’t really for you, then you should consider utilizing hit lists. Hit lists are a tool you can use to break tasks down by how much time they take you to complete. You will have a 5 minute list, 10 minute list, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc. Then, whenever you find yourself with unexpected time, you have those to refer to and can be productive. Read more about hit lists in my blog Using Hit Lists to Get Stuff Done and as usual if you could use some advice or guidance you are always welcome to contact me.

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Top Three Tips for Summer Success as a Mompreneur

summer success

When it is cold and windy outside, we all find ourselves daydreaming of the warmth and freedom of the summertime, don’t we? Unfortunately, then the summer actually comes around and some of us have mixed feelings about its arrival. Suddenly as wonderful as the warm weather is, we also realize that this means the school year is over and our schedules majorly shift. It’s also not uncommon to go into a programmed “relaxation mode” in the summer. That is wonderful, but with kids home all the time and no routine, how do we do that?!

The summer is a great time to enjoy quality time with family vacations, having the kids home and (sometimes) just some peace and quiet to yourself. A lot of my clients choose to “power down” over the summer time just slow down and not be working as much or as hard as through the rest of the year. This can easily be confused as a lack of motivation and then they start feeling feeling like they’re not accomplishing enough. It is totally normal to struggle with this paradigm shift. So, how can we be strategic with juggling the summertime and being a mompreneur?

This is often my number 1 request for advice from those I am coaching – how to make it through the summer. Summertime is both a blessing and curse – because we get to enjoy our freedom, but we also tend to give up our routine. The lack of structure and routine (especially for bored kids) adds to the stress and chaos of everyday life. When kids get bored they will usually start misbehaving or bugging you because they are in need of stimulation. When the routine changes (or stops altogether) everybody gets on a different body clock or rhythm and it’s easy to fall out of sync. Your little kids are up and ready to play at 5 or 6am while yourself and your teenagers find yourself staying up later than usual.

Trouble easily starts from a lack of clear expectations. Kids are used to a routine during the school year. They are told everyday at school what they will be doing and what to expect during the course of each day. How can you combat all the chaos?

So, I have three tips for you to survive the summer:

  1. Developing a family calendar
  2. Having a family meet daily
  3. Encouraging input and collaboration

Developing a calendar seems like a no-brainer but is also something that a lot of us fail to execute. Moms and dads are always running around knowing who needs to be where, with what, at what time but often the kids are not privy to this information ahead of time. Maybe Mom and Dad have the cell phone calendars linked, but where does this leave the little ones? Kids ages 3 and up can start learning about what to expect and what is coming up on their family calendar. Helping them have clear expectations will help your home run so much smoothly. I love having a big visual calendar and filling in all the events that we know are going to take place. It is important to have your kids contribute to the calendar as well. Let the little ones who are too young to read draw or use stickers to know what is coming. Get your calendar out of your head and get it into a public place for all to see and understand.

Having a family meeting can help everyone be on the same page. No, it doesn’t have to be rigid and formal. Just chat about each week and each day in the morning while Mom is pouring her coffee and the kids are eating their cereal. Look at the calendar and talk about what’s coming up, add anything new things and give a brief overview. Once again, helping to set those expectations. I’m telling you, the best summers we have ever had are when we start each day with a family meeting.

Don’t just get your family members to participate, but get their input and encourage them to really collaborate together on your calendar. Don’t try to simply set a schedule and expect everyone to follow it AND be happy about it. Get your kids and family members to contribute and give back their opinions and feelings about how they would like things to go and help build those expectations. You will be so very happy you did (and they will probably cooperate better, too)!

If you put these into place, you can enjoy a smoother, more relaxing summer. Good luck!

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Be More Productive with Hit Lists

This summer has been a busy one for me. I am coaching more people than ever this summer, spending ample time enjoying my kids, and yet I don’t feel stressed. Summertime is lovely, but also brings with it major schedule changes and priority adjustments. This can easily make us feel like we never get quite as much done as we would like or as we feel like we should.

I won’t lie, it was a lot harder to get things done when my kids were younger. I still struggle at times to feel like I am really using my time productively. But I’m going to share with you one of my favorite tips to help you be productive—specifically when you weren’t expecting to have any time.

It’s time to make yourself some hit lists.

What are hit lists?

A hit list is a list of things that you do on a routine basis. Sometimes, it’s the kind of stuff that we forget to do when we have a more chaotic schedule than usual (like summertime). If you will implement and use boundaries, hit lists, structures, expectations, and routines, you can get more stuff done. This will let you enjoy getting things done without feeling fragile and stressed. The purpose of a hit list is to give you a visual list of of things you can do when you have spare time that you didn’t expect to have. The neighbor has called and invited your kids over to swim? Great! Now you have 2 free hours, but what the heck do you do?

What goes on hit lists?

When you are compiling your hit lists, I find it most beneficial to break it into categories as well as time frames. Create a hit list for work and another one for your household responsibilities. Consider breaking your work hit list down into categories such as administration, marketing, managing warm leads or customer loyalty, and breaking your household list into individual rooms or outdoor work. You can list things such as going through and purging old clothes that no longer fit, cleaning windows or pulling weeds.

After you have some categories down – consider breaking it down even further into chunks of time. That way when you find yourself with a spare 15 minutes you can go to a hit lists and say “What can I do that will be productive in just 15 minutes? Oh! I could do this 15 minute task under marketing, like respond to all notifications on social media! That won’t take long at all!” What about something in the sales category? You could reach out to a warm lead that you haven’t spoken to in awhile. These hit lists will help you when you have unexpected extra time and you will know that you are using your time productively.

If you are visual person—print out your hit lists with vivid colors and post them somewhere you will see them regularly. Or consider using your phone. I use a notetaking app on my iPhone for my hit lists because my phone is always with me and I never know when I will want to refer to them!

So take some time in the next day or two to put together a couple of basic hit lists. Then when you find a spare minute (waiting for kids at swim lessons, a post-swim surprise nap), you’ll have a list to go to and not waste time trying to figure out what to do. Happy productivity!

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Things to Think About When Setting Your Prices

If there is one question that can keep you up more than any other as an entrepreneur, it is probably the question about how you value what you do or sell. How do you set effective prices?

Trouble can easily be created when you set your prices too high or too low. It can be very challenging to know exactly where you should be pricing—it’s not an exact science—but there still is some science that can help you. Pricing can be especially difficult if you are just starting out in your business or if you are rolling out something new. How do you know whether it’s the right price and if it is going to work for your audience?

There are three key factors to focus on when setting prices:

  1. Your target customer
  2. How much your competitors are charging
  3. Understanding the relationship between quality and price

It can be a very common mistake, especially in the beginning of your business, to underprice everyone else. It is a common misconception that if you are the least expensive, you will get more volume, purchases, or sign ups. This is simply not always the case. If you have less of a reputation than the competition you are undercutting, you risk being perceived by potential customers simply as cheap. You will see that most people are unwilling to purchase from someone who they believe has less value.

As a dear friend of mine always says, be wary of the bottom feeders or the ones who are just looking for the cheapest price. That person will never be loyal to you, they will always move to the lowest price.

Who is your ideal client?

No matter what you are creating, if you take the time to figure out who your ideal client is, that information will serve you well in the long term. Are they an avid shopper? Coupon collector? Are they more price or value sensitive? Customers need to believe that they are getting the best value for their money. It’s hard to drive value when someone cannot come in and touch something physically, so you have to focus on creating your customer experience.

What are your costs?

Something that absolutely everyone should do, but gets skipped all too often is knowing your costs. What costs do you have do you have to run your business, develop your products or services? Hard costs and soft costs should both be factored into your overall price model. Do you have costs for labor, marketing and selling or operating expenses? Literally, keeping the lights on, using your cell phone for your business, mileage on your car and your personal fixed assets. These are all things that are depreciating in value and being used due to you owning your business.

How much do you need/want to make?

It is also a critical step to define what your revenue target is for the year. From there, you can determine how many of each product or service you need to sell to reach that target, which can in turn shed some light on your pricing structure.

What value do you add?

Always remember your individual value that you bring to the table. Do you add extra services, guarantees or bonuses that your competition do not? What do your customers receive for buying from you instead of someone else? Figure out what your audience will pay for what you are selling, and then consider what you can do to distinguish yourself from the rest. Your pricing will fall into place.

Need help figuring out the answers to these questions? Not sure where to start? Contact me today for one-on-one coaching!

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How to Streamline Your Business Finances & Stress Less

Today’s post was inspired by a conversation I had recently with a fairly new member of my Metro Detroit Mompreneurs group. She had just joined, was still very much in start up phase of her business, and had a lot of great questions about recommendations for bookkeeping, invoicing, and financial organization as a business owner.

I decided that would be a great topic to cover with you! I want to help you set some systems in place for your business financials so you can feel streamlined, supported, and organized for the rest of the year. Established systems will benefit you both now and in the long run with growth or scaling in your business. There is absolutely every reason to invest your time, money, and effort into the organization of your financial wellness as an entrepreneur. This venture could save you incredible messes and headaches in the future.

One of the first and biggest things I always talk to my clients about with their finances seems so basic, and yet is commonly never really planned. You need to know how to properly charge your clients and customers. You need to define how to set value to your services or products and how to best invoice and collect money. For any business, it pays off in spades to nail your pricing early on. This can be hard for service-based businesses or businesses that provide custom, specific products, but is absolutely one of the first steps to streamlining your processes. You should develop a rate card. It’s exactly like what it sounds like it is, just a simple card with your prices for your standard items or services that you have to offer printed on it. This will save you the difficulty and mental energy of having to figure out what to charge every single time. Take the time to really organize your thoughts around what it is that you sell and what you feel is a fair value for that. Do you sell your time, advice, or expertise? Consider arranging packages for a set recurring payment once per month for a retainer for certain number of hours.

Once you have developed your rate card, it is important to decide what types or avenues of payment you would like to accept. I, personally, work entirely from digital transactions. Allowing my clients and customers to use credit cards has saved me time, energy, and quite a bit of stress without having to worry about cash, checks or bank runs.

One of my line items is monthly retainers for coaching and I have a rate card printed that I can show any prospective clients. They can simply look it over, pick level of service and see very clearly the price. My workshop rate card is organized with a rate for each type of workshop (1 hour, 3 hour, all day). I even have a rate card established for my in person speaking engagements depending on whether they are all day requiring travel, a local non profit, or simply a keynote. Save yourself some headache and at least write down some standard pricing or price ranges.

Next, you need to get paid right? I thought so! You’ve got to make payments as easy as possible for yourself and your customers alike. As I said, I personally don’t accept any form of cash or checks, only cards. Even when or if I am somewhere in person and selling my books at that event, I use a card swiper such as Square or Paypal! Low fees for myself and it’s just an easy one click, one swipe, and done process!

Even for live events, I suggest considering a service such as Eventbrite. I used this before when I did Mom Biz Coach Retreats and it was so easy and saved me so much stress. The registration system collects their pertinent contact information for you, allows you to provide information to them about the event, travel recommendations, etc. and then you can simply connect your Paypal and they can pay through a beautiful, integrated gateway.

Invoicing and bookkeeping is the last step and is the main reason I don’t use a pen and paper for anything anymore. That awful, piling, necessary paper trail in business was just too much for me. It was hard for me to keep up with receipts, avoid losing things or making accidental mistakes. So for me and my business, the beauty of accepting all payments online is there is a full online account of each transaction, date, amount, etc. This helps me so very much during tax time!

These are some of my favorite tips and tricks for keeping everything as simple, streamlined, and easy as possible. Did I miss something? What are you using that makes running the finance side of your business easy for you?

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