Apr 032013
 

can't do it all, delegate, 80/20 rule, focus, prioritization

My first year at business school, I thought my professors were trying to kill me. Each night, I had more reading and homework than could possibly get done in one evening even if I stayed up all night. I quickly realized that one of the key lessons of survival was prioritization–figuring out what portion of the work was most important and what just was not going to get done.

I remember one night, working on a term paper with a group of students. We had worked hard on the paper and we all thought it was in good shape. We had other work to complete that night and were not anxious to pull an all-nighter so we were ready to move on. One of the team members, however, felt it was not “A” material and wanted to keep working on it. I remember thinking even back then that this guy did not “get it.”

My life building businesses has been the same experience as business school. To survive and flourish, you have to quickly figure out what is “important” and what is “noise.” You can’t do it all… Click here for more tips on getting more done.

At both of my current companies Window Brothers & Vance Properties, we have a saying: follow the 80/20 rule, technically known as the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle tells us that 20 percent of the inputs account for 80 percent of the results. You have to cut through the noise, figure out what tasks represent the 20 percent with the greatest leverage and focus on those tasks. Find those projects that make a big impact and ignore EVERYTHING else.

Is it difficult to step away from fire drills and turn away from the mounting volume in your inbox? Absolutely. But if you don’t, your days–and your team’s days–will slip away without having addressed the projects that will really drive your business.

The sooner you figure out how to apply the 80/20 rule and run with it, the better off you’ll be. There are 100 things you can focus on each day, and it’s up to you to parse the data, decide what projects or features have the greatest leverage, focus, and get it done.

Don’t forget, you can’t do it all….

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 April 3, 2013  Posted by at 5:00 AM Time Tagged with: , , ,  1 Response »
Sep 242012
 

team, key performance indicators, leadership, hiring employees, building a better business, outsource, goals, prioritize

There are three steps managers and staff can take toward a more efficient, more productive organization. .

1. Identify and focus on your biggest priorities.

Too often employees find themselves spending time on work that isn’t core to the success of the business. As the Pareto principle states: 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work. The key here is for your business to identify the few objectives that drive Continue reading »

 September 24, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Growth, Team, Time Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Sep 172012
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Smart Rules to Follow

Here are some tips that will help empower and enable your team to succeed while you’re away, and they may just make your vacation more enjoyable.

1. Set some ground rules.

Set expectations before you leave. If you just can’t not check email, make your plans clear to those around you. Perhaps you want to check email just once at the end of the day, and respond to only notes that have been marked “urgent”–or you may not want to respond at all. Either way, make a plan before you leave so that everyone knows what to expect.

2. Delegate.

Make sure your team feels empowered to carry on and step up without you. Delegate responsibilities for approvals and decisions to team members whom you trust. And make sure your team knows who is responsible for what. This will not only ensure nothing goes unnoticed, but it will empower people to take more initiative–when you’re gone and even after you return.

3. Give yourself a schedule.

If you said you’d check your email once a day, stick to it. If you decided to do one conference call, don’t add more to the calendar just because you feel you should and you’re free. Stay true to the expectations you set.

4. Make an effort not to respond.

The more you respond to non urgent emails and phone calls, the less clarity there is around responsibility. You are on vacation; you should do your best to stay there. Remember that you’re helping your team as well as yourself.

5. Trust.

There is a reason you work with the people you do; you probably hired most of them. They’re smart; you trust them. Remember this, and don’t worry about what happens when you take a vacation.

6. Allow for mistakes.

Everyone drops the ball at some point, but even that is a learning experience. Allow for mistakes to happen when you’re away. It won’t be the end of the world.

7. Enjoy your vacation.

Really take your vacation. You deserve it. I always feel a bit sorry for the people who constantly check in even if they’re on vacation, because they’re obviously not having an excellent time.

The leaders whom I respect the most are the ones I never hear from while they’re away. Set a good example and go away–preferably where cell service is spotty. And have fun.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 September 17, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: , ,  2 Responses »
Sep 102012
 

time management, email settings, to do list, small business communication,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are 7 daily tasks you probably can eliminate from your workday to help you stay focused and be more productive.

1. Stop overloading your to-do list.

You might feel the need to write down everything you need to accomplish each day, but resist making an impossible list of daily tasks. Compiling a lengthy list of things you need to accomplish might seem productive, but you could be doing more harm than good. It results in too many items at the end of the day that are not completed. This will make you feel stressed out, inadequate and unfocused. Instead, create a manageable list of essential tasks that should be finished on a given day–and save the rest for later.

2. Stop having open-ended meetings.

Figure out your priorities before you call a meeting and make them clear to all the attendees. Too many small-business owners waste half the meeting just getting to what they really want to talk about.  You will find putting three priority topics at the top of your agenda will help you avoid getting sidetracked by other issues.

3. Stop answering repetitive questions.

If you find yourself answering the same question from clients or employees frequently, you’re wasting time. Instead, put together a FAQ on your website or create instructional videos that people can access via links at the bottom of your emails. Figure out better ways to answer [questions] without your having to be involved.

4. Stop taking the same follow-up approach if people ignore you.

If you’ve sent someone an email and the recipient hasn’t responded, don’t keep firing off more emails. Try communicating in another way–calling, sending a text or visiting in person if it’s appropriate.  Too many business owners get bogged down communicating with people inefficiently.

5. Stop making regular visits to the post office.

Instead of going to the post office, schedule mail pickups from your business or home office. You also can buy envelopes with pre-paid postage or invest in an inexpensive scale and postage printer.

6. Stop making piles.

Eliminating clutter can boost efficiency. Rather than organize papers in piles whose logic is known only to you, stick to a systematic filing system and eliminate any pieces of paper you no longer need.

7. Stop signing every check.

I am a firm believer that the task of accounts payable should be the business owners responsibility. This way we remain in control of all money and funds going out of our businesses. However, just because this task remains on our plate it doesn’t mean that we can’t look for ways to make it more efficient.

Designate a specific day and time for certain tasks, such as signing checks, rather than allow them to randomly interrupt your workflow. Better yet, you can have your signature printed on checks to avoid signing each one. Programs like QuickBooks let you use preprinted checks and keep track of transactions.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 September 10, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Sep 052012
 

time management, email settings, small business communication,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The average U.S. professional spends half their working day on email. They are constantly tethered to their smart phone, responding to short bursts of communication, and creating email overload.

I have whittled down a list of email best practices that can help you and your team start a revolution, reduce dependence on email, and stop wasting time–today.

1. Make sure email is the right communication option.

Not all communication is appropriate for email. Segment your personal communications by interactions that are right for email versus phone versus in-person meetings. Adopt a company-wide policy, and don’t allow email to become the default communication mode. A great first policy: Don’t start discussions via email. It takes significantly more time to compose a point and then debate it on email than to have an in-person conversation.

2. Think about the person reading your note.

Many email responses are clarifications of what the sender wrote or additional questions that perpetuate email churn (rather than end a thread succinctly). You can greatly reduce the amount of back-and-forth by thinking more about the email recipient–the user, in this case–and by crafting your message to meet her needs. Before hitting Send, slow down to consider: Did I give all the information needed? Will the reader understand my message? Is my point clear? Are the next steps obvious?

3. Anticipate questions.

The easiest way to reduce needless email is to anticipate what your recipient’s impressions and questions will be after reading your message. If you send a brief email stating, “budget meeting is canceled today,” the reader will probably wonder why, and when the meeting will be rescheduled. Anticipate the recipient’s reaction and communicate more thoroughly, answering questions you think she’ll have.

4. Call out important information with headlines, bullets, and numbers.

Example:

2 Recommended Videos

  • What a Serial Entrepreneur Can’t Resist
  • Meet the Husband-Wife Team Behind Babysitter Site Sittercity

Most people don’t read. In our fast-paced digital culture, we scan and skim content, looking for the highlights. You’ve probably noticed that major Web publishers use headlines, bullets, boldface type, and other design best practices to ensure readers stay engaged. The same applies to your emails. Don’t send paragraphs of text in which the salient points and calls to action are buried.

5. Save time by creating email templates.

Many emails to employees, clients, or colleagues are similar in nature. Rather than constructing each one from scratch, save templates that remind you of important details to include and contain prebuilt design best practices. For example, at my company, we have templates for client service updates, for scheduling confirmations, and for scheduling reminders.

6. Target your communications.

Irrelevant messages are not opened and can create a negative impression. Think very carefully about the people you include in your “To” field. Does that recipient really need the information, or are you adding to email inbox burden?

7. Select email preferences.

Establish your email preferences (how often you like it and when), and make those norms known throughout your company. When leading a project, don’t default to being copied on everything. Indicate to your team when you should be CC’ed on communication. Likewise, ask your colleagues and staff for their preferences in your communications with them.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 September 5, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 042012
 

time management, most valuable resource, delegation, stop blaming time, lack of time is not an excuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we sometimes have such trouble concentrating? The ability to focus is a skill – it is not innate. Here are 11 ways to strengthen concentration, even under difficult circumstances:

1. Connect emotionally to the task. Tightrope walkers and lion tamers have no trouble concentrating. That’s because their lives are at stake. But it’s easy for the mind to wander when it lacks passion for what we are doing. Of course, life’s realities often require us to focus on tasks we don’t like. In those cases, ask yourself, “What aspect of this task do I care about most deeply?”

2. Chart your energy level throughout the day. Most of us have certain times of day when we are clearheaded and energetic. Use those times for tasks that require the most concentration.

3. Remove items that regularly break your focus – family photos, magazines, and any material that is not relevant to your task; even the icon on your computer that alerts you to email…

4. Train yourself not to give in to distractions. When someone enters the room, or when a door slams, consciously keep your concentration on what is in front of you. When someone talks to you, don’t let your mind wander. Listen as if you were going to be required to repeat what is said back to the speaker.

5. Decide how long you intent to work, and what you plan to accomplish. Set strict time limits to complete subtasks. Ask your spouse of a co-worker to monitor your progress, and to apply gentle pressure when necessary.

6. Remember the big picture – but focus on the task at hand. If you keep mulling over the large, long-term consequences of your actions, your mind will shut down to keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

7. Use caffeine and sugar sparingly. True, they stimulate concentration, but their effects last only 30 to 60 minutes. The more caffeine or sugar you consume, the more you will eventually need in order to achieve the desired effects. Instead, try five minutes of light exercise, which will perk you up with no side effects.

8. Meditate. It strengthens your ability to control your thoughts. Try focusing solely on your breath going in and out. Start with five minutes per day. Build up to 20 minutes. When your mind wanders, observe the distracting thought rather than trying to force it out of your mind. After a few minutes, refocus your attention.

9. Take breaks. You should be able to concentrate on one task for about 40 minutes. Then take a five to ten minute break. Periodically shift you’re sitting position at your desk. This helps keep you alert by promoting circulation and sending more oxygen to your brain.

10. Ask yourself where the block is. If you are chronically unable to concentrate on a specific task, perhaps something about what you have taken on is not right for you. In that case, consider whether you are being fair to yourself by forcing yourself to continue with it.

11. Reward yourself for completing particularly difficult tasks.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 June 4, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
May 092012
 

For starters this book ranks #64 as an all-time best seller on amazon.com. It also ranks #1 on amazon under the category of time management. Not only is this book a Service Coach best seller,  it’s a best seller period.

Stephen Covey first talks about the difference between character ethics and personality ethics. Prior to WWI most of the literature was based on character ethics as a foundation for success. Things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden rule. These were the basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.

Shortly after WWII the idea of  success shifted from character ethics to personality ethics. Success become more of a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills, and techniques. Success became a symbol without substance. It’s the “get rich quick” scheme promising “wealth without work.” We look for shortcuts, expecting to be able to skip these vital steps in order to save time and effort and still reap the desired result.

Seven habits of highly effective people is about a new line of thinking. It’s principle-centered, and character-based approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness. Steven Discusses how this done with an “inside out” method of change. “Inside out” means to start with self; to start with most “inside” part of self -with your motives, principles, and your character.

The “inside out” process is a continuing process of renewal based on the natural laws that govern human growth and progress. It’s an upward spiral of growth that leads to progressively higher forms of responsible independence and effective interdependence.

Wow, Coach Jason. What exactly does this mean? Simply put, it means that this book is for the business owner who understands that for things to change, first THEY must change.  And your first step to changing is buying and reading this awesome book.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 May 9, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Leadership, Time Tagged with: , , ,  1 Response »
May 072012
 

entrepreneur, manager, technician, leadership, what it means to be an entrepreneur, business coaching, build a better business, time management

 

 

Part 1.

So, what does it mean to be an Entrepreneur? If you read my blog regularly you know that I love do discuss the topic of Entrepreneur. Everyone’s idea and definition of what an entrepreneur is different.

Part of me believes that there is a lot of glamour around the word “Entrepreneur.” For example if you are at party and  you engage in the typical small talk with someone you don’t know.  When they ask you the inevitable question “So, what do you do?” You might say that you are a business owner, a leader, or an entrepreneur. Personally my response to that question is ” I run a window cleaning business. ” I say it this way because I like to take the glamour and the ego out of it. Yes, I am very proud that I own a successful business and that I have been in business for 12 plus years, but that is not the first impression that I want to give to someone I just met.

I chose this picture above because I think there is some real truth to it. There is also some real humor to it. For example: the last slide on the bottom right with the fire fighter putting out the fire, is where some of the humor of this picture lies. “What I actually do,” at first glance in funny.

However, after I think about it, I completely disagree.

  • If you find that “What you actually do” is to put out fires all day, then you have a problem.
  • If you are the answer man for your employees than you have a problem.
  • If you are the problem solver for your business than you have a problem.
  • If your customers have to talk with you in order to get anything done, than you have a problem.

 

Choose your role as a business owner wisely. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what we need to stop doing instead of focusing on what we should be doing. Stop doing the stuff that is non-essential to achieving your goals.

 

 

Part 2. How to: stop doing the things that hurt your business. What does it mean to be an Entrepreneur?

 

Redefining Your Role

In the beginning, every business owner must take on many tasks, including even sweeping the floor. But as the operation grows and matures, hiring others to take on responsibilities becomes critical to healthy growth.

Trap: Failing to redefine continuously you’re changing role in the organization. When that happens, you end up with much more than you’re able to accomplish efficiently. If the process continues, physical symptoms such as stress… high blood pressure… and depression can develop.

Solution: Take an honest look at your workload and identify tasks that you don’t do well. You may be digitally gifted but possess little financial savvy.

Or, you may be an excellent “people person” but hopelessly disorganized. The real measure of a successful business owner is in knowing when to complement his/her own skills by hiring others who can take over certain key roles.

Example: A client who had founded a newsletter for bankers saw the newsletter grow to the point where he had 12 full-time employees. As time went on, he found himself increasingly frustrated because the demands of being editor and publisher left him virtually no time to spend on sales and marketing. After rethinking the needs of the business and in order to assure the publication’s future, he decided to turn the editorial duties over to a trusted associate and concentrate his own time on sales and marketing.

That move immediately cleared the logjam of work on his desk… freed his mind from constant worry about getting everything done… and ultimately led to a growth spurt fueled by new, highly successful marketing campaigns.

Does this example sound familiar? When is the last time that you redefined your role and delegated some of your less valuable tasks?  Take action today and perform this exercise to help you to STOP doing the things that hurt your business.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 May 7, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
May 022012
 

time management, most valuable resource, delegation, stop blaming time, lack of time is not an excuse 

You know you have personal discipline when:

The business owner in particular will have the feeling of being in control of his life and destiny. And the feeling of achievement through personal discipline is very powerful.

Here are seven suggestions to apply personal discipline within the context of achieving better management of business operations and the more effective utilization of your personal time:

  • Delegate: Delegate activities to the staff with the appropriate skills. Manage this approach through an organizational structure and individual Positional Agreements appropriate to the size of the organization.
  • Prioritize: Prioritize your daily work by reviewing the next day’s important activities in a ‘to do list’ at the end of each day. You can maximize personal productivity by Continue reading »
 May 2, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Leadership, Time Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Apr 232012
 

time management, most valuable resource, delegation, stop blaming time, lack of time is not an excuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1. 8 steps to controlling your most valuable resource, time.

So how do you take control of your time? Last week we discussed the following 8 steps.

1. Accept that there is no such thing as too much or too little time. There is enough time available for you to be successful-others have been successful and they had no more access to time than you do. Take ownership of your situation. Be accountable for your results and responsible for your actions.

2. Decide what you want to accomplish. What do you want to be “successful” at? To some it may mean making a million dollars, to others it may mean being healthier while others may be looking to have better relationships with their family and friends. This is your goal. You must also understand the benefits to you of achieving the goal -how will it make you feel when you achieve it. Both the goal and your “why” must be written down with a timeframe.

3. Once you have decided the goal and your “why”, you must now determine the activities that will be necessary for you to accomplish that goal. What do I have to do? What time commitment will I make? What will I need to adjust/sacrifice/reduce/delegate in order to have the time to do the activities identified? Remember if it was easy everyone, including you would have already done it. What separates the successful users of time from the unsuccessful ones is the discipline and determination to obtain their goals no matter what. Winners never give up and they never quit on themselves.

4. Understand that life and business are about choices. You choose how you will spend your time- on what activities and how much on each. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Being successful in many different areas takes effort and time. Success comes from laser-like focus on one or two goals. Once they are accomplished you move on to the next set of goals and focus on those.

5. Prepare your calendar each week by creating “appointments” to do the activities that you have identified. These are defaulted into your calendar before anything else. Treat these as if the appointment was with your most important customer. Would you easily change your Monday 2-3pm “meeting” just because someone asked for that time slot? No, you would negotiate- “I am booked at that time. I can see you at either 1pm or after 3pm, which would work for you?”

6. Be militant about your schedule. If you don’t care how your time is being spent, why should anyone else? Learn to say “No”. In Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he breaks activities into 4 categories- Not Important/Not Urgent, Urgent/Not Important, Urgent/Important and Not Urgent/Important. The danger for most people is the Urgent/Not Important category. This is when we are responding to other people’s urgent requests. However the activity does not move us toward OUR goal- by definition it is Not Important. Beware of the time and effort devoted to those tasks. Conduct your own time usage study. Every minute that you can divert from not important categories to the important categories will move you closer to your goal.

7. Review your successes/challenges in meeting your schedule each week and adjust where necessary. Be honest with yourself and continually reinforce your “Why” – what are you trying to accomplish and how important is that to you.

8. Find an accountability partner or mentor to help keep you on track. We can all use help every now and then- it is a strength to admit this, not a weakness.

 

Part 2. Take action. Time management exercise.

The best way to ensure your goals are completed and your ideas become a reality is to have laser-like focus on the end result. Take action and complete the exercise below to help you organize and prioritize your more important tasks. This will help get you to your destination the fastest.

Write down all your tasks on a blank piece of paper that is divided into 4 categories. If you have an organizational chart or job descriptions with these tasks already documented, use these documents to help you recall all of your responsibilities as a business owner.

  • Category #1: High Value, High Enjoyment

Examples of these types of tasks for a small business owner might be: Sales, networking, or budgeting

  • Category #2:  High Value, Low Enjoyment

Examples of these types of tasks for a small business owner might be: Sales, networking, or budgeting. Yes, depending on your personality these task could be the same as the High Value Low Enjoyment.

  • Category #3: Low Value, High Enjoyment

Examples of these types of tasks for a small business owner might be: Administrative tasks, the technical part of your job, or  making the deposits.

  • Category #4: Low Value, Low Enjoyment

Examples of these types of tasks for a small business owner might be: Taking out the garbage, the technical part of your job,    or cleaning the office.

 

Now that you have all your tasks written down on one sheet of paper, you need to delegate the different categories. Starting with category #4: Low Value, Low Enjoyment. This category needs to be the first to go. You need to get this group of tasks off your plate asap. It doesn’t matter if you delegate them to an employee or hire an outside service to get them done for you. Just stop doing these task as soon as possible, they are preventing you from achieving your goals.

After you have eliminated Category #4, then you need to delegate the tasks in Category #3. You need to continue this process until all you have left to do are the tasks that are your MOST valuable and the tasks that you LOVE to do.  A word of caution, this process might take longer than you want it to. It may even take several years.

Having the right expectation is the key to your success. Once you understand the value in this process you will realize that performing it at least every 6 months is a good habit. This habit will help you to reevaluate your tasks and help prevent you from getting pulled in to many directions.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 

 April 23, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: ,  2 Responses »