Mindset Buster: I Have to be Available for My Clients 24/7

In my last post, I shared a story of a client of mine who felt pressure to check her e-mail all the time and stay tethered to her smart phone in order to be responsive to her clients. It was causing an incredible amount of stress in her life, and when I told her that a 24-hour or 48-hour response time was perfectly acceptable, she responded like a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

It was definitely a mindset buster to be able to accept that. I wanted to take that idea and expand on it. Another related mindset buster is the idea that you have to be available to your clients 24/7 in order to be successful. Simply put, that idea is just not sustainable. I want you to be successful in the long term. If you try to be available all the time, every day, you will burn out.

It’s really an issue of boundaries. All of us, deep down in our hearts, really want to bend over backward for our customers. We want to give them great customer service and believe that if we do, our business will grow. Why? Well, when someone does that for me, I feel good. I want to do something to help that business owner. I might want to give them a referral or write a positive online review for them. We’re all sort of hard-wired that way.

I wanted to share with you one of the things I do to manage my time. Every time I take on a new client, I go through the basics on how we’ll work through our weekly coaching calls and what they need to prepare for our meetings.

I also tell them that they are welcomed to reach out in between our sessions in one of three ways. They can e-mail me, text me or Facebook message me, and they can do any of those things at any time. If they have a question at 2 a.m., they can send it. If they have an idea they want to run by me at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, they can text me.

I explain that I will respond to them by the next business day, and I may respond to them sooner. I tell them that it’s my job to hold my boundaries as to when I will look at those communications from my clients. It’s my job to protect my family time and my free time.

The reason I started this process with new clients was that I realized that many of my current customers were sort of afraid to email or text in between coaching sessions because they didn’t want to overstep the relationship. In some cases, they could have used a little extra support or a sounding board but didn’t contact me because they didn’t want to encroach on my family time.

It finally occurred to me that I had not established my own boundaries and that, as a result, my clients were trying to protect me. That was my mistake as a business owner, as a human, to not set boundaries.

I would challenge you to think about that. Have you set good boundaries? Would you be angry if a client called you at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning? Have you communicated your boundaries clearly to your clients so they know what to expect?

1. Establish your boundaries. For example, I have office hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and reduced hours in the summer. The do-not-disturb function on my phone blocks all but family emergency calls between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. I do not allow Facebook notifications to come through to my phone or desktop; I log into Facebook when I have time to respond to those messages.

2. Communicate your boundaries to your clients. I tell my clients the channels in which they can reach me and that I promise to respond the next business day. I explain that I might respond earlier if it works out in my schedule, but I will definitely respond by my next office hours.

When you do these two things, setting boundaries and communicating them, your stress levels will immediately go down. You won’t have to worry all the time whether a client has a question, if you have a new order waiting, or whether there’s an issue to respond to. Your clients know you will respond by the next business day, and if you respond sooner, that’s just icing on the cake.

Remember that in many cases, you are putting pressure on yourself to respond 24/7. Don’t do it. Play for the long run. Give yourself a break so you can do a good job and be happy. In the end, happy business owners are successful business owners.

Need help setting boundaries? Not sure how to communicate this with your clients? Get in touch, I’d love to help!

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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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WAHMs: Is it time to give up on balance?

I’ve been having some great conversations with mompreneurs and work at home moms on the topic of “balance” lately, and specifically how it relates to the goal of work/life balance.

Seems like we’ve spent the last decade or so trying to achieve this balance thing, but it may be a concept whose time has past. Many think it’s unachievable, or at the very least, that it can be achieved but not sustained. Is balance what we really want? Do we want to spend equal time with work and equal time with family?

I know that certain words are “trigger words” or hot buttons for some people, but I think the idea of balance is basically a good one. I think that the more we’ve been working towards it, though, the more we are learning that there are other ways to define how we want our lives as moms and business owners to look.

When I think of words that capture how I want my life as a mom entrepreneur coach to look, these are some of the words that come to mind:

INTEGRATION

FLEXIBILITY

FULFILLMENT

RHYTHMS

SEASONS

I make my work a fully-integrated part of my life. That doesn’t mean I don’t set boundaries around it, just that I include it as part of who I am and what I love to do. How much and when I work varies from time to time, based on priorities, energy levels, moods, seasons… But my commitment to my work and my family stays the same.

What about you? Is there a phrase or concept you’re striving for that is more descriptive than “work/life balance”? How do you see your roles as mom and business owner? Are they one in the same or separate somehow? Please leave a comment below.

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Up Next in the WoMEN teleseminar series: Alisa Bowman

This is gonna be so much fun.

As you know by now, I’ve put together a fabulous and FREE teleseminar series for working moms called: “WoMEN: What Mom Entrepreneurs Need.” Our next topic in the series is something every mompreneur I know needs–some advice, tips, and clever ways to get the support we need from our partner or spouse. Running a business and raising a family is not easy, and it’s near impossible if you’ve got a struggle with your partner going on.

I’ve found just the gal to help us figure out how to make this better.

On Tuesday, April 14th at Noon ET, I’m pleased to welcome Alisa Bowman from “Project Happily Ever After” as my guest expert for the teleseminar entitled: “How to Make Your Marriage Work With Your Business.” alisa_bowman

Her approach to marriage, parenthood, career and friendships has been described as “disarmingly honest.” Her fresh take on life includes mentioning what others deem unmentionable.  From bikini waxes to second honeymoons, the silent treatment to power struggles (both with 2 year olds and 42 year olds), she is able to masterfully blend the helpful with the hilarious. Alisa speaks at college events and conferences. She has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Women’s Health and American Baby. She has also been interviewed on large websites such as Glamour.com, various newspapers and a guest on regional radio and television news shows. Alisa has authored and co-authored or ghosted more than 20 books, including 5 New York Times Best sellers. Alisa currently lives happily ever after (most of the time) with her husband, daughter and dog in Emmaus, PA.

I hope you’ll join us for this fun, wise and honest look at how we mom entrepreneurs can get the support we need from our relationships. Here are the details:

What: “Make Your Marriage Work With Your Business” teleseminar, the second teleseminar in the “WoMEN: What Mom Entrepreneurs Need” series, hosted by Lara Galloway, The Mom Biz Coach with Guest Expert Alisa Bowman

When: Tuesday, April 14th, from Noon – 1pm ET

Where: On your computer or your phone via www.blogtalkradio.com/MomBizCoach (click on the link to listen via webcast) or call (347) 838-9199 to listen and ask questions during the live show!

Tell your girlfriends to join you! I promise you’ll find some great nuggets of wisdom, some funny things to laugh about, and a few actions you can take immediately to improve your relationship.

Do you have a question or topic you’d like to hear addressed during the teleseminar by Lara or Alisa? Just leave a comment below.

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Adios, SuperMom!

I just finished reading a great post by a fellow momblogger. The title was “Working from home and feeling guilty?” (see the post here: www.workathomemombootcamp.wordpress.com)

No doubt most moms who work from home have felt some degree of guilt about doing so. I know I have.

I remember trying out the “supermom” gig when I had my first son six years ago. My best friend even bought me a cape (ha!), which eventually fell to the floor of our hall closet and collected dirt and dust from all the boots and shoes thrown on top of it. Sigh…

Six years and three kids later, I’ve finally figured out how to be satisfied with myself as a woman, a wife, a mom and an entrepreneur. It was no small feat. I learned some big lessons about compassion (for myself as well as others) and acceptance. I ate a large helping of humble pie. I gave up trying to do it all, and to do it all perfectly. Now my kids are happy, their hair is really never combed, my house is sometimes tidy and somewhat clean, my business is growing, my marriage is evolving, and I am surrounded by loving family and friends. Those are the biggies.

In fact, when I think about it, my life looks a lot more like “super” now than it did when I was trying so hard to be perfect.

Maybe I should go find that cape?

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Freedom, eh? So that’s why you became an entrepreneur?

You did your time working for someone else who knew less than you did, demanded you do things that didn’t make any sense, told you how to do things you knew how to do better than the boss did, told you when to work and when you were allowed to leave your job to be sick, tired or relaxed…

While you were working for someone else, a tiny little spark was lit somewhere deep inside. It was a spark of possibility, of some potential you hadn’t reckoned with (or recognized) before. The spark told you, “There’s another way to do things, another way to make a living…” and you listened.

What were your reasons to become self-employed? Was it money, or did it have to do with a passion? Was your choice driven by specific circumstances (birth of a baby, special needs of a loved one, health concerns) or by the desire to make a difference? Chances are, your choice to become an entrepreneur had a lot to do with one very common desire: freedom.

Turns out that achieving “freedom” in your business and life is a rather elusive goal. But it doesn’t have to be. Click on this link to read the article by Marla Tabaka, who is a coach like me, entitled “The Top 5 Freedom-Limiting Traps of the Solopreneur.”

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