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During the past two posts I might have convinced you to think about looking for some help. You might call people, get some quotes for some assistance, and then have sticker shock (especially if you have not had contractors working for you).
A few things to keep in mind. (more…)
Copyrights probably forbid me from adding the lyrics, but I’m sure if I use the phrase “Let it Go” and suggest you think about recent Disney movies — well the song will be stuck in your head (see below).
I’ve written about outsourcing in the past (see Related Articles), but I think this is a good time for areview.
Today we’ll talk about why to outsource, next time we’ll talk about finding good people to work with, and after that, we’ll talk about costs.
Most of my readers are busy solopreneurs or small business owners, and most of then can define their life using one word — BUSY!!!
I know the feeling. Somewhat overwhelmed, somewhat confused (what do I do NEXT).
An email in box seems innocent enough. It’s just bits and bytes in a digital format that you look at a few times a day to see if anything important has popped up.
- BUT — did you ever open your inbox and realize that you haven’t really cleaned it in a while (like years)?
- Did you ever open your inbox and realize you have no clue how to prioritize, not the 50 new messages you’ve received today, but the 50 new messages you’ve received today plus the 50 new you’ve received each day for the last 50 days?
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to muddle through way too many messages.
One idea (developed by Merlin Mann) that has taken hold over the past few years is Inbox Zero:
Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times. Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann.
- Limit the time you spend reading email. Check email a few times a day (for longer periods of time) instead of many times a day. Perhaps pick 3 or 4 times a day you’ll just muddle through your mail instead of checking every 5 minutes. (Though I’ll admit to doing that at times – perhaps if a friend has run off to the hospital because a new grand-baby is about to appear).
- Turn off notifications. Even if you don’t instantly jump to check what’s happening when you hear a “ding” or a “buzz,” you are still slightly distracted by it.
- Your Inbox is NOT your To-Do list. You can make a separate folder for ToDo – or “Items Needing Action,” but don’t keep these “front and center”
- Touch it once. Many organizational gurus suggest “touching it once” for paper that comes into your home (file it or toss it or act on it). The same works for electronic communication. Look at it and decide where it needs to go. If it’s something that needs to go on your schedule, put it on your calendar and delete the email.
- User folders. Using filters you can create folders, and send mail from certain parties directly to a folder. In Gmail (and I assume in other email applications), if you have a folder with something “new” in it, you can look at it when you have the time.
- Don’t use folders. One suggestion I’ve run across is to only use “inbox,” “trash,” “draft,” “sent,” and “archive.” With current search engines, you’re often able to find a message if you can use the proper search parameters.
(Yes – I know that’s the exact opposite of what I said above – but your mileage may vary on any of these points, so take what works and leave the rest).
- Make subject lines clear. This helps if you’re looking for something later, because it makes things easier to identify.
- PICK UP THE PHONE. Sometimes you can be more productive by spending a few minutes talking to someone than going back and forth by email.
- Print – or print to PDF. For myself, for information I need to retain from clients, I will “print” an email to PDF, and save the email in my client folder. Sometimes that’s the best place for me to find it.
- Kill ’em while you’re killing time. Two years ago Gmail rolled out the tabs. (I wrote this at the time about the Gmail changes). I love the “new” (is it “new” if it’s two years old?) Gmail tabs, but sometimes I ignore things in my tabs. Sometimes you really need to go through and remove things, but this is great use for down time, for instance while you’re in the cell phone lot at the airport or while you’re waiting in line at the DMV.
- Inbox Zero action based email (The original 43 Folders Series). Merlin Mann (43folders.com)
(NO — I have not read all 17 (or so) articles attached to this.)
- Taming email communications – part 1. Michael Keithley (gtdforcios.com)
- Taming email communications – part 2. Michael Keithley (gtdforcios.com)
- Taming email communications – part 3. Michael Keithley (gtdforcios.com)
- 5 Tricks to Finally Achieve Inbox Zero. Zoe Fox (mashable.com)
- Q&A The Gmail changes. Mary Wu (marywuva.com)In the interest of equal time …
- 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Aim for Inbox Zero. Natasha Burton, Levo League (fastcompany.com)
It’s been a few months, but a while back there was quite a bit of news about Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe (see related article). From the Business Insider article: “He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.”
This actually makes a lot of sense to me in some aspects. While I wouldn’t want to have the same thing for breakfast every day (I like to “mix up” my smoothie ingredients), I can see the benefits to limiting decisions.
I recently updated a filing system (a real PAPER filing system). Had I wanted to, I could have come up with some kind of color coding system. But I just ran with what I had on hand for 2 reasons.
- It was on hand, so I didn’t need to make any runs to Staples or Office Depot and (more importantly)
- I could easily have spent days with an internal debate (do I have certain color hanging folders for “months” and others for “days” and others for “general” and others for “clients” or do I have certain tabs for the above — should I get multiple color pens for each different tab to make different things stand out.
These files are in a lidded case that nobody but me will ever need to see, and as you can see, there are yellow tabs and blue tabs and clear tabs, and blue and brown and yellow and … files, but there is no method to this. Because what really matters is what the tabs say, and that I have set this up to better organize myself and serve my clients needs.
If I had spent days fretting over which color scheme to go with, it wouldn’t have served anyone’s needs.
Sometimes it’s okay to have things planned out and look a certain way (for instance, a Powerpoint presentation, or a proposal), but when it doesn’t really matter, just remember the KISS principle. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
How do you simplify your decision making?
- Here’s The Real Reason Mark Zuckerberg Wears The Same T-Shirt Every Day Eugene Kim (businessinsider.com)
- Keeping it Simple Doesn’t Mean You’re Stupid. Amy Rees Anderson (forbes.com)
“Tips” Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As I’m writing this it’s Mardi Gras, and in some parts of the world, people from some Christian traditions are discussing what they are “giving up” for Lent.
So, inspired by that and also by a post from Michelle Combs at Huffington Post, I’m going to state what I’m “giving up” for the next 40 (or more) days.
Have you ever started something but couldn’t get it finished because it wasn’t “perfect?” This can happen with blog posts, artwork, graphic design, or insert your own challenge here. I am here to assure you that you can do more “skating by” in life at an 80% or 90% efficiency than you can by sitting quietly in your room WAITING for things to be 100%.
- WORKING BACKWARDS
This is one of my challenges. Sometimes you have plans, goals, or projects that you have an outline for and something happens and you fall behind and you realize that you will NEVER catch up to where you were SUPPOSED to be. I’ll give an example. I have a pedometer and I have challenged myself to do 10,000 steps a day. I’ll be quite honest and say that I don’t always make it. The real problem comes if I decide that I’m going to do 70,000 steps a week. Let’s say Sunday comes and I get busy and I only make it to 7,500 steps. So that means MONDAY I have to do 10,000 steps + the 2,500 steps I’m behind from Sunday. So let’s say there’s an emergency and I have to pick up a child from school and take them to the doctor and I only make 6,000 steps. So that would mean on TUESDAY I’d have to do the 12,500 steps I was supposed to do MONDAY and then the extra 4,000 steps and … I completely throw in the towel because now I’m so far behind I’ll never catch up. I suppose there are some people out there that can work backwards and manage to make up the steps (or the time or the ….), but it’s really okay to look FORWARD and say, “Well, I fell behind and instead of trying to catch up, I’ll just move forward from here and do …”
Additionally, there is one thing I am not giving up (with an exception for emergencies).
In theory, middle-aged adults are supposed to spend 7-9 hours a night resting. I find if I don’t do that, everything else suffers. I have less focus, less energy, less patience, and I’m less healthy. At the beginning of 2015, many people I know were setting intentions with a “word of the year” and I realized I didn’t have a major insight into that. And then one day it came to me.
Because the 1/3 of my life I’m schedule to spend rejuvenating my body and my mind is really the most important part of the day.
Is there anything you can “give up” that will improve your life?
In looking through my posting history, it does seem that some of my short tip posts are in praise of certain apps. I don’t mind being the person that tries things out so my readers can find out what works.
Longtime readers might have noticed that I tend to have a pretty high rate of use of Google apps (and — HELLO — FREE!!) I use Google calendar and Google Docs and Gmail, and often I’m one of the first people to adopt anything new coming out of Google.
But one frustration I’ve had with Gmail, (not enough of a frustration to CHANGE my email but a frustration nonetheless), is the inability to schedule mail.
Boomerang for Gmail was developed by Baydin and it gives you the ability to:
- Schedule an email
- “Boomerang” a message for later
(for example, “resend” you a message the day before a meeting)
- Track Responses
- Schedule recurring emails.
- Request read receipts and track clicks.
- Manage scheduled messages
This is also available for phones, but after reading the reviews (and that it slowed down mail loading), I’ve decided that I’m going to keep it on my desktop, where I do the majority of my email.
People who know me, especially those who know me well, know that I’m rather a coffeeaholic*. I don’t function in the morning without my java. Usually the coffee is made (in the programmable coffeemaker) the evening before, and I’m greeted in the morning with that lovely smell of the bean. Some days it’s the only thing that gets me moving.
In order to improve both my sleep and energy levels, I need to be caffeine-free in the afternoon. Some afternoons though, I either run into a wall or get frustrated or get overwhelmed and can’t figure out what my next step should be. Often when that happens I find that my best next step is
More specifically, doing nothing while making myself a nice, hot cuppa.
Because sometimes (whether it’s a Thursday or a Monday or a Saturday), you can find yourself about to spin out of control; you need to just stop and get re-centered.
*Really dictionary? Coffeeaholic isn’t a word. I have to talk to the Merriam Webster people about that.
The Best Laid Plans (or Drop Back Ten Yards and Punt)
“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.” Rene Descartes
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” Herm Albright
Many business owners have plans. You can have a business plan, you can have action steps, and you can have detailed descriptions for every aspect of your business. Sometimes, of course, things don’t go as planned. I have two examples from different business owners I know that had “glitches” in the past week and how they overcame these.
I’m in a Mastermind group run by Michelle Smith at Z and B Consulting. We meet once a month for this group, and we were scheduled to meet on February 2, 2015. A few days before our scheduled meeting Michelle looked at the weather forecast and, well, the forecast didn’t look real pretty. As you can see from the attached photo (or from the photos many of my friends took out of their window over the weekend), it does look REAL PRETTY – but not very travel friendly.
Michelle, using the information she had available, decided that our monthly “meeting” would be held “virtually” using Fuze. I look forward to seeing and working with this fabulous group of people every month.
Meanwhile, in a completely different corner of the country (where snow is never an issue), another friend was preparing for a client call. This woman works with many of her clients virtually so often all she needs is a quiet place (like her home office) and a good Internet connection.
Of course, if she decides to upgrade her service (to BETTER help her fabulous clients) and there’s a “glitch” with the upgrade, this leaves no Internet connection for her client call (which she records as part of her best practices).
After discovering that the issue was with the upgrade, she managed to negotiate a free cellular Hotspot connection until the upgrade was completed on Tuesday.
We’re all going to run into glitches; let’s hope we all handle them as well as these two business women.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Wu at Amanda Wu, Photography, Copyright 2015
Yesterday I met a new person at a coaching event, and glanced at her blog. One of her articles:
I guess sometimes we all need a lesson.
I’ve heard this complaint many times (and I’ve made this complaint a few times). Our
phones* devices are constantly chirping at us. I realize that sometimes things happen and we need immediate notification. The school nurse might be calling you about a problem a child is having, or you could get a call from a parent or an in-law with an urgent situation at hand, or you could be waiting for a call from a health care professional with test results. Sometimes we NEED to get found.
But then, sometimes we don’t need and don’t WANT to be found. What if you could turn OFF the notifications for those silly Facebook games.
I ran across this article by Ryan Neal in International Business Times. ‘Candy Crush Saga’: How to Turn Off Facebook Notifications for the Popular Social Media Game, Forever
(*Yes, I still call the device I carry in my pocket a “phone” even though I use it for so much more. Some habits are hard to break.)