Ditch the to-do list!? I hear the gasps across the Internet now. I have touted the benefits of the to-do list for longer than I can remember. I have notebooks full of my to-do lists from many years ago — why I keep them will be the subject for a different blog post.
In preparation for my speaking engagement at the BlogPaws 2016 Conference in Arizona, I have “to-do” list as one of the items I will be talking about. What I have discovered in recent months, though is that my to-do list is a lie. What?! I know!
How will I know what to do if I don’t write it down, you may be asking. Take a deep breath. Relax. I’m not going to toss you out into the world unarmed for success!
What I am now doing and finding more beneficial to my writing productivity is to follow a time-blocking method of a daily to-do.
What is time-blocking?
At its core, time-blocking is “devoting a particular amount of time to a specific task.” For example, my time-blocking for today looks like:
- My own writing 6 am to 745 am
- Client X social media 8 am to 9 am.
- Client Y blog post writing 9:15 am to 10:30 am
- Client Z newsletter prep 10:45 am to 11:45 am
- Misc tasks and email noon to 1 pm
Rather than writing a to-do list that states:
- One blog post for Robbi
- Client X social media
- Client Y blog posts
- Client Z newsletter
- Misc tasks and email …
I am blocking out that time and getting done what I get done in that block. Sure, if I am in the midst of a blog post or finishing up a newsletter and a timer goes off, it doesn’t mean I will drop what I am doing and get to the next task. One caveat to that is if I am involved in responding to emails, I will sometimes stop in the middle of that task because I will be blocking off time for that in the afternoon.
Why is time-blocking beneficial to productivity?
I doubt I am the only one who has written: Write two blog posts for client X” and that task could take me eight hours! Why? Because it’s not a time sensitive task. It’s “two blog posts.” Sure I can usually write two blog posts in an hour or two, depending on the topic, but with a vague “write two blog posts” on the to-do list I have essentially given myself the freedom to make that task last all day. There are days that has happened, too.
Time-blocking helps hold you accountable to performing tasks for Client X because you know you are under deadline. A self-imposed deadline, but a deadline nonetheless. Of course, you could fritter away that time-blocked area of your calendar, but then again you may realize, “Yipes, I only have an hour to get Client X’s work done. I’d better get to it!”
Holding myself accountable keeps me on track.
Have you tried time-blocking? Did it work? Do you write a to-list? Does it work? I’d love to know in the comments.
NOTE: When it comes to email, in many cases, that task will put you into a reactive mode. When you’re responding to email you are putting out other people’s fires. If you’re worried that a client or friend will wonder, “Why isn’t she answering my emails?” You can set an out-of-office message that reads, “I check email at 10 am, 2 pm and 530 pm. I will get back to you in one of those time frames.” That way the person who is writing to you will know that — depending on when they emailed — they may get an immediate response or they may have to wait a few hours.
Depending on the type of business you operate, you may need to add a line that reads, “If this is an emergency, please text me at 123.456.7890.” Only give your phone number to people who may actually have a business emergency between your time-blocked email hours.
Is your writing world crashing down around you in a pile of loose papers and unfinished projects? Are you a solopreneur spinning his or her wheels in an effort to take care of clients, launch new goods and services and bring in new clients? Are you feeling overwhelmed? If so, take a deep breath. Relax and check out these goal management tips from #TheOrganizedWriter.
Time is ever flowing and we all get 168 hours a week; the way in which we spend those 168 hours determines our level of satisfaction at the end of the day. Ready? Set. Go!
Focus on the important
Don’t stress the minor details when it’s the finished project that is the important aspect. Remember, too that many of us focus on the small details and lose the big picture. You need to keep the big picture in mind, chipping away at it until the big picture project is complete. HINT: Sometimes we focus on non-productive but busy work tasks to avoid the big projects. Procrastination at its best.
Know your vision
Why do you do what you do? If you aren’t certain why you’re a business owner or a writer or a blogger (yes I know bloggers and writers are both in the writing category, but are typically for different audiences) then your writing will be all over the map. Write down your vision. Keep it posted in your workspace. Focus on moving toward it.
Let me say first off, there is no such thing as writer’s block! Yes, I hear you all gasping… well, not all of you, but some of you. Saying you have writer’s block is like your plumber saying, “Sorry, can’t fix your toilet, I have plumber’s block today,” or your hairdresser declaring, “No haircuts today, I’m blocked.” If you’re a writer, if you want to be a writer, then guess what folks, you need to write!
When I was teaching classes at Writer’s and Books in Rochester there were many of the adult students who would announce that they’d finish that novel, that piece of flash fiction, their memoir or poem… wait for it… when they got over writer’s block. Well, because I was being paid I didn’t scream, “Get over yourself, it’s not writer’s block.” People who claim writer’s block as the reason they aren’t putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard are either typically suffering from:
- Having too many ideas — yes, that happens
- Being stuck at a plot point — they’ve written themselves into a corner
- Fear of the blank screen
- Procrastination, plain and simple
- Wanting to talk about being a writer rather than just being a writer. It’s easier to say, “I’m in the middle of, or beginning a novel, but am so blocked right now…” To that I say… get writing!
This is post 8 in a 12 post blogging challenge I’m doing through The Blogging Badass.
Whew! Puppies are tiring. I’d forgotten that having a puppy in the house is like having a human baby in the house. They are demanding. They need constant supervision. They poo and pee on the carpet — puppies, not babies (hopefully).
Because I work from home and because we have a new puppy, Murray, in the house with me I have had to be creative when it comes to caring for him, making certain he doesn’t chew through electrical cords and getting my client work done.
Here are my five tips for getting stuff done with a puppy in the house:
(Post 3 of 12 in the 12 Blog Post Blogging Badass Challenge)
As you may recall, we lost our Spenser in January. It’s taken us some time, but we feel we are ready to add a new puppy to our family. We did our research and determined that a Goldendoodle had the personality, was the size and is potentially non-shedding and will be a great fit for the family. We found a fantastic breeder in Copper Ridge Doodles and loved Gina’s, the breeder, philosophies and the way she took care of the mom and her puppies. We also fell in love with the look of the puppies on her site and were hooked. We decided this was the breed for us.
Our puppy, Murray (name subject to change!) was born on March 13. Since that time we have received updates with photos several times a week. Gina and I have exchanged, probably tens of thousands of words in our email exchanges about the puppy in specific and the breed in general. I have learned so much and I also love the fact that Gina made us feel a part of Murray’s life even before we got to meet him.
We had our meet and greet a week ago and our love was cemented. His fur is as soft as feathers. He ran to the puppy pad to pee when the need arose. He romped. He chewed our fingers, our shoes, his sister and he snuggled into our arms when we picked him up. I’d forgotten how amazing puppy breath is!
I sat on the floor and had Murray and his sister crawling all over me. It was glorious! Part of the reason I did this was because I wanted Henrietta, the Diva Poodle, to get a smell of him and a sense of him before he comes home. She was wholly unimpressed when we came home. Hen was only concerned with whether we’d had anything to eat because she sniffed our breathe then sat down staring at us. The cats, however, were all over me and my clothes. They know something is up!
Yesterday we went out and invested in a crate, toys a new collar and other puppy-centric items. His first vet appointment is scheduled and we are now counting down the hours until we bring him home — May 8!
Because Spenser was a very large dog (100+ pounds) and wasn’t very well trained — he did drag me and broke bones in my foot and did drag Tim and break his collarbone — we knew this new addition needed to be trained to be a good canine citizen. Thankfully, my involvement in the pet industry means I have access to experts and because I work with Larry Kay from Positively Woof I have a copy of Larry’s book and have been reading through it so we know the best way to train our new family addition. We know we want to have the best dog ever and understand that means training him to be the best dog ever! I also had the privilege of hosting Larry for dinner with the family when we were on vacation in San Diego so I had a one-on-one lesson with him about clicker training, target training and other items that will go a long way in helping Murray be the best pup he can be!
Although, when you look at his face in these photos you just know he will be able to get away with just about anything! Wish us luck with the Diva and her meeting of him for the first time on Sunday — her little nose will be all bent out of shape!
As part of a 12-blog post challenge issued by my colleague and friend, Blogging Badass Anne McAuley Lopez here is my first installment.
Blogging may not come easily for most business owners. Why? Because it isn’t your area of expertise. Your area of expertise is accounting, swimming pool service or making and selling widgets. My area of expertise is writing and blogging and overall content creation so I know it’s easy for me to say, “just sit and write.” but it may cause you to break out in a sweat and procrastinate until you’ve wasted an entire day.
Fear not. Here are blog tips for the busy entrepreneur that just might make it easier for you to tackle this beast! If, however, these don’t brighten the path ahead, email me. Let’s have a content strategy session and get your blogging, e-newsletters and social media up and running!
Are you a business owner who thinks, “I need to be blogging.” Are you a blogger who thinks, “I have to find ways to write more compelling content.” Are you a solopreneur who knows you need to create more content but just can’t imagine where to begin or how to find the time to do so?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I am here to offer you five ways to improve your writing.
There are no quick fixes to great, or better, content creation.
If you’re a writer, the words may flow easier for you than they do for the non-writer. If you’re a non-writer or if you struggle with content creation, you may want to work with a professional writer. This person can create content for your business on your behalf and help you build your brand and get your business ranking higher in Google searches. A content creator will work with you to put together a content strategy as well as an editorial plan that will cover your blog as well as your social media updates.
If, however, you’re ready to work on your own content, let’s get started:
Cats are weird. I say that with full conviction having been around them my entire life. The day after I got my first apartment, I got the first cat I had ever made the complete decision to adopt. She was a Siamese, named Skye. She was a talker, as many Siamese are. Skye was my first, but throughout my adult life, we have had anywhere from one to five cats living in the house with us.
Currently we have Parker, Jessie and Lucy.
Lucy is the weirdest cat I have ever lived with. My daughter sent me a picture of Lucy when she saw her on Instagram in a photo the shelter posted. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued and down to the shelter I went. She was odd from the beginning. I picked her up and snuggled her at the shelter and she went all limp and slinky-like lolling around in my arms. She looked into my face and started chattering – she was more of a talker than even Skye had been. She bumped her head against my face, nibbled my fingers and basically demanded that I bring her home – who was I to deny her?
There are several times a week when we play the “what doesn’t belong” game and it’s always Lucy in a space she doesn’t belong. We wonder how she even got in the space we’ve found her, but we have long ago given up trying to figure it out.
Currently Lucy reigns supreme. She chases Jessie away from the food. Parker will be driven off the couch if Lucy decides she wants the cushion he is lounging on. Henrietta doesn’t give in to her bullying and sometimes it ends up in an all out barking, meowing pet war.
Her weirdest behavior, to date, is her obsession with a blanket I bought. The first day I brought it home, she launched herself onto my lap and began kneading the blanket, sucking on one corner and drooling. Gross, but kind of cute. The next day I grabbed the blanket, carried it through the house with Lucy following along, like a puppy. I stopped to catch a snippet of something on the television and she howled and started clawing at me and the blanket. I sat down and she, again, went all kooky with the kneading.
Lucy always sits on my lap. It is almost impossible to read a book because she needs to be in my lap with her belly pressed to mine and her head under my chin. She spins in circles, flicking her tail, until she finally settles in. When the blanket comes out, though, she rolls around, makes odd, throaty noises, kneads and drools. The blanket has been washed. It’s nothing all that spectacular and we have softer, warmer blankets in the house, but for some reason Lucy has claimed this blanket as her own, has imprinted on it and brought her weirdness to it.
It’s become a joke to try and get the blanket out without her noticing it. Never works. She sees it and sprints through the house to claim her lap space. I’d like to think it’s my sparkling personality, wit and inherent ability to pet her for hours, but I believe it’s probably a “blanket thing.” Do your pets have any weird behaviors? I’d love to hear about it.
Your business story and knowing how to tell it and share it with colleagues is the talk of the Internet. Why? Who doesn’t like a story? Would you rather hear a story or a well-rehearsed elevator pitch? Give me a “Once upon a time…” any day of the week. Don’t take that too literally.
Your business story is what makes you unique. It shows a potential client what you bring to the table that the competition might not. Your business story is the real reason behind why you jumped into entrepreneurship. The business story is the impetus for everything you do. For example, prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, I worked 16-hour days, sometimes seven days a week and I still never seemed to get caught up. There was always some pressing task that I didn’t get to that day that I HAD to get to the next day. I didn’t sleep because I worried about how much I thought I’d left undone. I was in front of that computer all the time. To the exclusion of friends, family and my health.
Cancer came knocking and my life became consumed with oncologists, surgeries, treatment and bone-crunching and spirit-quashing physical and emotional roller coaster. What I learned during that time was that I had to work on the oncologists schedule, not the other way around. They didn’t care if I had a deadline or a client call. So, guess what?! I learned to work more efficiently. I got more work done in a shorter amount of time. I was more productive. I didn’t work 16 hours a day. I took weekends off. How did that happen? Because previously I wasn’t really working as hard as I thought I was. Oh, I was certainly working long hours, but they weren’t productive hours. There were days I got lost in Pinterest or on Facebook for hours to the exclusion of getting actual work done.
The bottom line.
My experience — my story — is what provides me a unique standpoint from which to talk with you about your time and goal management issues. It is what allows me to help you conquer the overwhelm. I have in-the-trenches experience.
How can you tell your business story?
Here are some items to consider when considering the power of story. Storytelling is the oldest and most long-lived method of communication. Is there any need to reinvent the wheel? I think not.
What will telling your business story do?
It will generate curiosity.
Just as writers leave you hanging at the end of a chapter so that you simply have to turn the page, your business story can do the same. It can leave a cliff hanger so your audience simply has to as, “What happens next?”
Share your differences.
Your story is as unique as you are and no two stories are alike. I have yet to work with a client who has the same business story as another client. Even though I know entrepreneurs who have had breast cancer, I have never met one who’s story is the same as mine. Your differences will set you apart.
Story telling is easy.
Okay, crafting your business story may take time and practice, BUT it’s easier to tell a story, I think, than it is to stand up and give an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch always feels very “selly-sell” to me and a story is more intriguing and less pressure to make me feel I have to buy.
Use your story as your brand.
Do you want to be known as the Storytelling Social Media Guru? Why not? Are you the Pet Groomer To The Stars? Love it! Do you consider yourself, “The Business Coach With The Midas Touch”? Tell us why and make it part of your business story brand.
Crafting Your Business Story
Storytelling is a strong business tool but you need to know how to use it with artful grace. If you’ve ever read fiction you know there are several elements that keep you reading even though you may not be consciously aware of those elements. When crafting your business story, keep these thoughts in mind.
Create a hero.
Your business hero doesn’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he has to be the person at the center of the story who overcame something and that is why he is where he is today. Whad did you do to become the hero of your small business?
What obstacles did the hero face?
Unless you won the lottery on your first time trying to play it, chances are you didn’t wake up to a wheelbarrow of money and, like the rest of us, you have had to struggle to get where you are today. Share that struggle. Let us know the conflict, struggle and strife your hero faced. Did he get fired? Leave a fantatic job to strike out on his own and live off of ramen noodles for a year? Did she have a family who didn’t support her dream but she persevered? Share that conflict. Make us root for the hero.
Make it relevant.
If you have a story that has nothing to do with the business you’re in, you may want to craft a new one. If, for example, you’re a dog groomer and your story is all about your struggle with depression and being homeless or failing out of college or losing all of your money in a stock market downturn, you have to ask yourself, “How does this story relate to where I am and what I am doing today? How does my story show the relevance between what I do for a living and how I can help you?” Spend time with this step in the process.
Tell a story.
Remember, a story is a sequence of events with a beginning, a middle and an end and hopefully it is intriguing and keeps the listener on the edge of his or her seat. You didn’t have to scale the Alps to have a riveting story. The way in which you craft and share your story is what makes it a riveting listen for the audience.
Make it personal.
Many times when I am sharing my business story I will shift it a bit so that I gear it more toward my audience. If, for example, I am speaking to a group of business people about how to blog, then my time management and productivity story probably isn’t as relevant. However, my story on how I pursued the editor of the local newspaper until he gave me a chance to be a staff reporter and how I have been a writer for decades would be relevant. Make certain you have a story to fit the situation.
Do you have a business story?
Have you considered your story? How did you get to be the hero of your business story? What is it in your story that sets you apart from the competition? If you need help crafting a business story, drop me a line and we will find out what makes you the hero of your business and why people should work with you!
Are deadlines your nemesis? Does the week come to an end and you can’t for the life of you put a finger on what you accomplished? Do you get your client work done but your blog remains unloved and unfulfilled?
What is your blogging routine? Do you have one? Do you need one? Do you think that a blogging routine might just help you be more productive on the projects that are for your own business? My short answer is: Yes, you need a routine.
How can you get one?
If you don’t know what your priorities are, you will fail to miss the target, almost every time. Priorities will help you focus on the Important, the Crucial and the It Can Wait A While. Remember, not everything can be Priority One.