Bad Business Habits (Part 2) Procrastination

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We went into business to be our own boss, earn more money and have the lifestyle we only dreamed about while working for someone else. However, most business owners I speak to complain about:

  • working longer hours than they ever imagined
  • always having a fire to fight
  • worrying where the next customer and dollar will come from
  • missing out on events and having very little to no free time.
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I find that it’s our bad business habits that get in the way of having a successful business and another bad habit is procrastination – a slow but lethal business and dream-killer.

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PROCRASTINATION 

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When it comes to bad business habits, not doing anything or consistently choosing to do the wrong tasks, are just as bad as chasing too many rabbits which was also covered in the bad business habits series.

When we procrastinate on the important but non-urgent tasks in our business, it’s normally because we’re afraid.

Deep down, we know the task will help us get more clients, make more money, set us free or help us to be seen, but:

  • we’re afraid of the consequences of taking the action – fear of failure and fear of success OR
  • we dislike doing the task or find it boring like accounting OR
  • we don’t know how to do the task, so we put it off.
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Whether we stay busy with the wrong things, do too many things at once or do nothing… the results are always the same. We’re left disappointed in ourselves for not reaching our goals, growing our business or starting to live our dream.
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“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” 

~ CHRISTOPHER PARKER

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Bad Business Habits (Part 2) Procrastination

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TRACK YOUR TRIGGERS

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Procrastination can be triggered by any task that scares you on some level e.g.

You may dread:

  • making follow-up calls to potential clients
  • calling a client when a problem arises
  • developing a new product or service
  • preparing quotes
  • doing marketing
  • making sales calls
  • reaching out for help…

So instead of doing the tasks that will grow your business, you do low-level tasks that keep you busy, but also stuck.

Start tracking what triggers your procrastination habits over the next week or month to look for patterns in your behaviour. Once you know this, you can start working on a solution.blog-image-key-ideas1

You can:

  • outsource the task
  • learn the skills needed to perform the task with confidence and ease e.g. enrolling in sales training or engaging a consultant to help you with a specific business area like marketing
  • get accountability to keep you on track – get a buddy or a business coach
  • face the underlying fears that keep you from doing the task e.g work on your mindset to address a fear of failure or success.
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Popular go-to procrastination habits are checking email, scrolling social media or having a meeting.

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KNOW YOUR EXCUSES

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Business owners justify their compulsive checking of email and social media feeds by saying “my customers need me”.

Yes, your customers do need you to…

  • communicate a problem on a project
  • communicate an extended deadline
  • send them the quote you said you’ll send ASAP
  • improve your customer service, and
  • improve your products or services.

Over the next 30 days, identify when and how you tend to procrastinate when you’re trying to do important work. Notice the excuses you use to justify your behaviour to yourself or to others.blog-image-key-ideas1

Remember, by not doing the important work in your business, you hurt your confidence and your business.

  • Note the tasks you struggle to get done
  • Pinpoint your go-to procrastination habits when you face these tasks
  • Come up with a few simple steps to help you overcome the urge to procrastinate
  • Schedule enough time to get the tasks done each day
  • Remove all temptations when you sit down to do the work e.g. turn off all notifications during this time.
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CLARIFYING QUESTIONS – ASK YOURSELF:

  • Which tasks do I regularly avoid doing on a daily/ weekly basis?
  • What is my go-to procrastination habit when I’m faced with a difficult task?
  • What steps will I put in place to curb this bad habit?

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QUESTION:
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What is your Top Tip for overcoming procrastination? Leave your comment below.
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#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

How Productive Are You At Work?

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We’re notoriously bad at estimating time. We underestimate how long something will take to do and overestimate how much time we have to do it… a deadly mistake.

The livelihood of your business depends on you being able to estimate how much time you and your team spend on work tasks.

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Most humans can’t estimate their time accurately. This is why enjoyable events seem short and the boring ones seem to last forever.

~ TOGGL.COM

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THE FACTS

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A McKinsey&Company study of 1,500 executes (General Managers or above) across the globe have found that only 9% of respondents were ‘very satisfied’ with the way they spent their time.

Close to a third were ‘actively dissatisfied’.

More shockingly, nearly 50% admitted that they weren’t concentrating enough on the strategic direction of the business.

After speaking to hundreds of business owners, I’d say that nearly 8 out of 10 business owners are not paying enough attention to the strategic direction of their business or planning their success each year.

When was the last time you thought about the type of projects you want to spend your time on or how many hours a week you would like to work?

You can’t effectively calculate how many hours you want to work, if you don’t even know how long it takes you and/or your team to complete a task or project.
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“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”

~ PETER DRUCKER

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Businesses have feast and famine cycles because business owners don’t know how long things take them to do.

They get stuck in the cycle of drumming up business and then having so much work that they can’t keep up… Then they’re left with no time to do marketing, sales and follow-ups calls, until they hit the next bust cycle.

This happens because they:
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  • don’t know how long it takes to get a new client
  • don’t know how long client projects really take to be completed
  • don’t factor in how long ‘marketing activities take to kick in’ and they wait until clients have dried up
  • don’t schedule weekly time in their diaries to do the important money-making activities in their business.

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Business owners who start tracking their work hours are normally shocked by how little time they spend on high impact activities that make money or move the business forward.
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EXAMPLE:

Let’s say you want to sign up 1 new client per week.
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1. Is that a realistic goal for your business and the industry you work in?

In some industries it can take 8-12 months to sign up a new client which means you’ll need to work this into your strategic planning for the year. On the other hand, you could have a business where 100 customers a week is the norm.
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2. Do you know which 2-3 activities will bring in a new client/customer each week for your business?

This is not about trends or what works for other people, it’s about what works for you.

Is it: Paid online advertising like Facebook Ads, phone calls, your Instagram account, building relationships with the right suppliers, your online or brick and mortar shop, speaking at events, print advertising or even radio/ TV advertising?
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3. How much time do you need to devote to these activities every week to be successful?

Well that will depend on how long it takes you from start to finish to sign up new clients – is it 5 hours, 3 days, a week or perhaps 8 months? Your approach would be very different for each.

These are the things you need to know if you want to stop the boom and bust cycles in your business. So where do you spend your time at work – is it on firefighting, admin, managing staff, operations, procrastination or business development?

Let’s find out.

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Track Your Time At Work 

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THE EXERCISE
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Tracking your time for a week but ideally one month will help you understand:

  • how you use your time at work
  • when you’re most productive
  • how ‘dead’ time zones occur and how to fix it.

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You might think you’re working as productively as you can, but many factors influence the time we take to do something e.g. energy levels, illness, stress, the environment, willpower and of course interruptions.
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Do you know how long it takes you to:

  • make follow-up calls with potential customers who previously requested information or quotes
  • contact existing clients for referrals
  • prepare and send out a quote or proposal
  • create a marketing email to clients
  • prepare for and have a client meeting?

Make it your mission to find out this week.

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THIS EXERCISE WILL PRODUCE SURPRISING RESULTS:
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#1 Start today and have a look at currently scheduled activities in your diary for the day + week.

#2 Edit each calendar entry for the week by adding how long you think the activity will take you to complete e.g. Meeting with Edward (150 min or 2hrs 30min) – include preparation time, travel time + actual meeting time.

#3 Decide how will you track your time e.g. pen + paper, excel spreadsheet or time tracking app. Don’t spend hours researching all the time management apps available, it defeats the purpose!

Keep it simple by downloading our time tracking template (in Excel) or sign up for the free version of Toggl or TrackingTime.

I personally use Toggl and it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and get started. It tracks activities in real time or if you forgot to start the timer, you can later add the time manually. Both desktop and smart phone versions are available.

#4 Track your time daily for at least one week to get a grip on your time patterns. Work in 30 minute increments.

Don’t get hung up on tracking exact minutes when you do it manually – rough estimates are fine. You might be off by minutes but certainly not hours, which is still better than not tracking your time at all.

#5 At the end of a day compare what you’ve planned to do and the time you’ve allocated for the activity VS what actually happened.

Now we can start making informed decisions and tweak your behavior daily for better results.

 

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EXAMPLE TIME TRACKER IN EXCEL

 

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 PICK UP THE TRENDS

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Once you tracked your days for about a week it’s easy to spot trends in how you spend your days.
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CLARIFYING QUESTIONS

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By looking at your results over the last week:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with the way you spent your time?
    (1 = lowest, 10 = highest)
  • Where was time wasted? 
    (note the times + the specific activities)
  • When were you super focused and got a lot done in a short period of time?
    (note the times + the specific activities)
  • How much did you stray from your planned activities?
    (hardly at all, only a few times, all the time)
  • What were the main causes for this to have happened?
    (distractions, firefighting, admin, staff, operations, procrastination)
  • Which activities didn’t get done at all?
    (reasons for this)
  • What will you start doing next week?
    (changes to improve)
  • What will you stop doing next week? 
    (changes to improve)

Answering the above questions will help you become aware of your energy cycles and the tasks you love to do and avoid to do.

This will help you to plan your days around your most productive hours where you do your best work in the shortest period of time and help you start noticing the tasks you dislike doing or procrastinate on doing.

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WHAT TO DO NEXT
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  • Create blocks of 1-4 hours of uninterrupted work-time every day around your most productive hours.  Use this time to focus on high level business activities that bring in money, tasks that require problem solving or creative output and important meetings.
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  • Leave low level activities that require less intensive focus like admin or website updates for low-energy times.
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  • Identify major distractions (staff walking in with questions), unplanned crisis (IT failure) and time-wasters (checking social media) and create processes or systems to help you better manage your time.

Once you start recognising and replacing bad habits, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to your working week, your levels of happiness and to your bottom line.
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QUESTION:
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What was your biggest realization when you started tracking your time? Leave your comment below.
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#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

6 Bad Habits That Kill Your Time Management

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As people, we have good intentions but temptations, short attention spans and bad habits get in the way of our time management and overall business and life success.

// Have you ever been a diet but ended up eating a tub of cookies + cream ice-cream (my vice) on the first night?

// Have you ever signed up at the gym and then found a good (normally work-related) ‘reason’ not to go?

I have… and it’s the same in business…
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We have good intentions BUT bad habits keep us from being productive, more organised and getting things done.

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And we can only improve our bad habits once we’ve identified our blind spots.

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“Live less out of habit and more out of intent.”  

~ AMY RUBIN FLETT

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6 Bad Habits That Kills Your Time Management

The first step to discover which of your bad habits are killing your time management, is to track your time at work for a few days but ideally for 1-2 weeks to pick up trends and repeat offenders in your habits.
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Use a simple time management tracking system to track your days in 30 minute increments e.g. 

1. pen + paper

2. an excel spreadsheet (download ours on this page) or

3. a time tracking app like Toggl or TrackingTime.

I personally use Toggl; it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and get started.

It tracks time management activities in real time or if you forgot to start the timer, you can later add the time manually. Both desktop + smart phone versions are available.

For instructions and the full exercise to track your time at work, see the blog post I wrote here.

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Once you start tracking your time, you’ll quickly discover where you leak time, energy + money… every day.

And like most business owners you might be shocked by how little time you spend on high impact activities that move the business forward.

Here’s an example analysis of a business owner’s day with an explanation of the six most common habits that kill your time management and productivity.
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BAD HABIT #1 – OVER-SCHEDULING WITH NO BUFFER TIME

In nearly every incident described above, a failure to allow sufficient time to get things done will severely hamper your business’ success, your health, your integrity and client relationships.

No other habit ruins your day and time management quicker than not planning enough time between appointments.

It’s like dominoes falling with a knock-on effect on your day that can’t stop e.g. doctors’ practices running late, and once the first domino fell it’s a run-away train you can’t stop.

Life will happen – from traffic jams, accidents and sick kids to a coffee spill on your shirt. Be prepared and plan your days better to stay in control and keep your stress levels as low.
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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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If this happens often, start scheduling buffer time before and after each meeting + activity.

Allowing 30+ minutes before and after appointments will help a great deal with unforeseen circumstances like meetings running over, traffic jams and presentations or computers not working.

Scheduling extra time will significantly lower your stress levels, make you a happier person and help your time management immensely. You’ll move from an overflowing calendar to one with breathing space.

Luckily it’s also easy not to waste any time while waiting for someone else as most applications are cloud-based, so you can:

  • check your email
  • login to accounting or project management software and update tasks
  • listen to a webinar or podcast
  • post to social media
  • do planning or
  • simply sit and enjoy a coffee.

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BAD HABIT #2 – CHECKING EMAIL FIRST

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It sounds so obvious but checking emails first thing in the morning or when you get to the office, is very bad for your time management.

In this example, the business owner didn’t factor email checking into the initial plan but gave in to the temptation, and they were already running late.

If they didn’t check their email, the staff meeting would’ve started on time and possibly ended on time too.

It also sets a bad example for your team when you seem to care more about your emails than keeping an appointment with them.

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Remember, what you see in your inbox dictates what you do next NOT what you planned to do.

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Non-urgent emails are a dangerous distraction and it’s also one of the most difficult temptations to resist once you’re in your inbox.

Low-level emails steal time from high level money-making activities like supporting your team, keeping organised and on time, reducing office stress and solving customer problems you get paid to do.
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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT

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  • Decide on 2-3 dedicated times to check your email during the day and do not check it in between e.g. 8am, 12pm and 5pm
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  • Add a notification to all your outgoing email to inform the sender by when they can expect to hear back from you
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  • Include instructions on what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency
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  • Learn to delegate email checking to staff or a virtual assistant who can scan your email and only let you deal with the important issues
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  • Set up standard email templates so your staff or a virtual assistant can easily answer various email inquiries correctly and up to standard
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  • Ruthlessly unsubscribe from and delete non-urgent email.

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BAD HABIT #3 – UNPRODUCTIVE MEETINGS

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In the above example, all the meetings overrun that day which definitely indicates a bad habit, and nothing kills time management and productivity like long and unproductive meetings.

The example meetings could have overrun for a number of reasons:

  • They started late and therefore ended late
  • They didn’t follow an agenda
  • There wasn’t a time limit set at the beginning of the meeting
  • A lack of preparation – things that could have been sorted via email or other means was left for the meeting.
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Once you start tracking all the time around a meeting it’s easy to see how expensive meetings are in terms of cost per hour and how little time in a day it leaves for productive work that matters.

This includes: meeting preparation time, the actual time spent in a meeting, travelling time to and back from a meeting and emails around the set up.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABITblog-image-key-ideas1
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Try the following tips to have more meaningful meetings:

  • Determine the importance of all meetings
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  • Determine the duration of the meeting ahead of time
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  • Decline ad hoc, last-minute meetings without an agenda and reschedule to a time that suits you better
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  • Allocate days of the week to have all your meetings
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  • Try ‘walk + talk’ or standing meetings – it keep things short and fresh air is good for creativity and your health.

It’s said that the Queen’s weekly audience with her Prime Ministers throughout the years have always been between 20-30 minutes – if a country’s issues can be discussed in such a short time, I guess the rest of us have no excuse!

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BAD HABIT #4 – NOT GETTING THE RIGHT HELP

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Spending time on any issue outside of your zone of genius when you’re already running late, is silly and a waste of precious time.

You know yourself better than anyone, so when ‘it’s not your thing’ stop thinking that ‘poking around’ will help to fix the issue.

Immediately ask yourself:

// Do I absolutely need to do this right now?

// Is there another way of solving this?

// Who do I know that can help me?

In this example, preparing for the client meeting without the presentation would have been far more beneficial to the business than wasting 20 minutes, getting stressed out and not doing preparation.

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Practicing your sales pitch always trumps a having presentation to win and keep business.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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  • Check presentations on different technology at least 4 hours to one day ahead of meetings
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  • Get an expert or (tech-savvy) team member to create and load presentations, is a must and a huge time saver
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  • If you have to choose between preparation + presentation, ditch the presentation and practice your pitch + listening skills
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  • Always delegate specialised issues to experts!

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BAD HABIT #5 – SKIPPING MEALS

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In this example, no time was lost but running a successful business requires you to be healthy and energetic, which you won’t be if you continue to skip breaks and meals.

Sugar levels and energy levels drop dramatically and it’s normally your clients, your team and family who suffer the most from mood swings and added pressure when you’re off sick.

Looking after yourself is key – factor it into your time management for the day.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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  • Don’t skip meals and breaks – they make you more effective and productive
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  • Always keep snacks in your office or car for unforeseen circumstances e.g. raw nuts, protein bars, protein shakes, fruit etc.
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  • Stay hydrated with water (not coffee!) to keep your brain in peak functioning condition
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  • Take regular breaks – 5-10 minutes for every 50 minutes of work e.g. stand up, stretch, stand outside, walk around the block.

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BAD HABIT #6 – NOT CREATING PROCESSES

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Things change and we need to stay on top of changes to keep our clients happy and our businesses profitable.

We need a process to help us stay on top of things and in communication with our clients.

// How do you let clients know you’re running late?

// How do you ensure they get the message?

// How do you ensure you or clients don’t miss out on important developments when you’re not in the office or have time to check email?

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Create a process to keep communication flowing.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
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  • Tell people how you preferred to be contacted (call, email, messenger, text) with a message regarding urgent issues that need immediate attention
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  • If they can’t get hold of you, tell them to what to do next e.g. call the office and leave a message with a staff member or an answering service if you don’t have staff. Document the process and leave copies with all relevant people.
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  • Use driving or travel time for client calls or call-backs to stay up-to-date and save time. It’s also a great time to catch up with suppliers, family and friends.
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Clearly the poor business owner in the example had a terrible day filled with stress, frustration, anxiety and disappointment. By the end of the last call they are completely drained after a long day of stress and no food.

They were rushing all day and didn’t give anyone their best, including themselves. Now the last domino will fall with partner and/ or family demands waiting for them at home.

If this sounds like some of your days, it’s time for a change.

Better planning and the discipline to execute the plan will help you break these bad business habits once and for all.

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QUESTION:

Which of these six bad habits is the main culprit in killing your time management and productivity? Leave your comment below.

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#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

Business Performance Review

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On a scale of 1-10*,  how happy are you with consistently reaching your business goals?

*1 = lowest, 10 = highest

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More importantly, do you know what to change to improve your results by 1-2 points in the next 90 days?

You can choose at any time to do things differently and start hitting your goals for the quarter. You’ll achieve this through doing a business review which will give you clarity, help you with planning and then it’s about taking daily prioritised action.
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A Business Review is super important because it:

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  • Gives You Control + Peace of Mind
    A large percentage of business owners don’t have a clear picture of how well their business performs at any given time. What you don’t know about your business is a blind spot that keeps you from reaching your goals.
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    A business review look at the facts and will show you the level of efficiency the business is performing at and if you need to make any adjustments to reach your goals.
  • Helps You to Work ON Your Business
    We all get caught up in the day-to-day running of a business and that’s why you need a chance to lift your head, reconnect with your vision and see the bigger picture. It’s like zooming out on a Google Earth map.
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    Zooming out will give you a helicopter view of where you’re at, if you’re moving in the right direction + how far you have to go. Small tweaks on a consistent basis in all business areas are the key to success.

 

business-strategy-flow-diagram

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The aim of a business review is to perform a health check and take your business’ pulse as it is, right now.

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BUSINESS AUDIT + VISION REVIEW

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The first section of the review is about assessing your current situation, looking at your vision and deciding how you’ll get there.

Questions To Consider:

  • What’s your 3-year business vision?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What are your 3-5 main main goals for this year?
  • What worked well for you over the last 6 months?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What resources do you need to succeed? (staff, training, systems, equipment, cash flow)
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MARKETS + PRODUCTS REVIEW

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In this part of the review you’ll look at who you serve, what you offer and how profitable your products/ services are. Then you’ll look at how to improve your results over the next quarter.

Your marketing plan will outline your target markets, positioning, customer demographics, message, offering, marketing strategy + tactics.

Over the years, I’ve found very few business owners who have any marketing plan whatsoever and it’s key to your success.

Without a plan, you’re bound to fall prey to the bright shiny object syndrome, waste money on strategies that won’t work for your business and make other marketing mistakes.

  • How effectively are you matching your products/ services to your customer’s needs?
  • How effective is your marketing? (leads coming in + conversion rates)
  • List your best performing products/ services – what percentage of revenue are they responsible for?
  • Can low performing products/ services be improved or phased out?
  • Products/ services costs – direct costs, overheads, brainstorm ideas to lower costs, negotiate better deals with suppliers
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MONEY/ FINANCIAL REVIEW

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If you’re using accounting software like Xero, MYOB, Cashbook Complete or Quickbooks all your financial reports are in one place and it’s easy to print out or view them online. Or contact your bookkeeper for up-to-date information.

Business Numbers To Review:

  • Budget
  • Targets vs Actual Revenue generated
  • Costs/ Expenses – keep costs under constant review
  • Profit
  • Cash Flow
  • Borrowing – credit available, loans
  • Growth/ Investments
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BUSINESS OPERATIONS REVIEW

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Operating your business in a short-term reactive way costs you time and money in the longer run and isn’t sustainable when growing the business. A clear strategy will guide you in your overall decision making process and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Technology

  • In which areas of your business do you use computerised systems to be more efficient?
    (cloud applications for storage, remote back-ups, to work from anywhere + increase productivity)

 

Processes/ Systems

  • How do you manage repetitive tasks in the business?
  • Is your marketing + sales process documented?

If not, start the documentation process through outsourcing or record the process on your phone and send the audio file to be transcribed.

Continue to add instructions to the document every time you do the task, even if it’s one sentence at a time.

 

People

  • Do you have the right team (management, staff, suppliers, outside consultants) in place to achieve your goals?
  • Do you personally have the skills you need to succeed e.g. leadership, sales, IT, HR?
  • Are you clear on which tasks to delegate and outsource?

 

Productivity

  • Which tasks are most time consuming?
  • Which tasks generate the highest income?
  • What are the lowest income generating (but necessary) tasks in your business?
  • How productive are you (working only on high level activities) vs busy (working on tasks you’re not good at or where you can hire someone at $20 p/h to do the task)?
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Success is a few simple disciplines practiced every day;

while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.

~ JIM ROHN

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QUESTION:
Which area of your business will you focus on most in the next quarter? Leave your comment below.
#smallbusinesssuccessskills

 

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

3-steps-to-effective-delegation

 

If you’re rushing every day to get it all done, falling behind on project deadlines and still have an ever-growing to-do list that keep you busy in the office till after dark…

… then it’s time for the D-word that let most business owners break out in cold sweat… DELEGATION!

The biggest problem I see with most business owners I work with is that we’re capable, resourceful control freaks who can do too many things well enough to get by…

It’s is a deadly combination for anyone trying to master delegation, because we’ll look at a task and think:

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This task will take me at least two to three times as long to explain it properly to someone else, so why not just do it myself? … and I bet the person won’t do nearly as good a job of it as I would!”

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And this type of thinking is exactly why most business owners work longer hours than they ever have in a job and they end up overwhelmed, frustrated, disillusioned and burnt out.

The ‘let me just do it myself’-mindset enslaves you to your business.

Delegation is one of the hardest things to master in your business but it’s also one of the most rewarding and freeing things you can do for yourself and your business, because it will help the business grow + keep you sane.

Mastering the art of delegation will free up your time and give you space to think, plan, implement and actually spend time on money-making activities instead of low level activities that keep you busy spinning your wheels + stuck in the weeds.

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“Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
~ JESSICA JACKLEY, CO-FOUNDER OF KIVA

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No one wakes up one morning and start recruiting or outsourcing tasks. Like most things in business, delegation and building a team are processes that take time to develop.

The delegation process involves various decisions, preparation + systems to work effectively before delegating your first task.

In this post, we’ll focus on the preparation needed for effective delegation.

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3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

alicia-menkveld-point-1

TRACK + MEASURE

Do you know how you spend your time each day?

I’m NOT talking about the few things you schedule in your diary…

No, I’m talking about all the unaccounted hours where we’re really busy but can’t say what we’ve been busy with at the end of a day or week. Those hours that seem to slip away unnoticed and unaccounted for…

Unless we are super clear about what we spend our time on every day, we’ll won’t know which tasks can be delegated and who we need on our team of in-house and outsourced staff.

When you track your time, for at least a week but ideally a month, you’ll easily be able to spot your time wasters like a few ‘quick’ website fixes or ‘quickly’ designing graphics in Canva.

Perhaps for you it’s ‘quickly’ fixing your IT issues, doing all the marketing yourself or spending hours to find the ‘right’ image for your social media post?alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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Start today – track + document:

  • Every single task you do in your business for a few weeks including ‘quick’ fixes, meetings, training, planning, client work, etc.
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  • The time it takes you to complete each task from travel time, lunch time (or lack thereof), how long meetings + calls took, etc.
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  • Via paper, with an Excel spreadsheet or using a free online tool like Toggl. I explained the tracking exercise in detail, here.

Tracking how you spend your time will help you realize how effective you are in your business and whether the bulk of your time is spent on money-making activities or low-level, routine activities that could be automated or delegated.

Assuming you work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with a revenue of about $100K per year, an hour of your time is worth at least $48 p/h.

Ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, making me money and worth $48p/h?

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If you’re spending a huge amount of hours searching for images, going to and fro to set up meeting times or returning phone calls and fix IT issues, it’s a sign that elimination, automation or delegation is needed in your business.

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KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK:

// Which tasks/ activities can I completely eliminate from my schedule?

// How can I automate routine tasks?

// What can I delegate?

That’s the order: Eliminate, Automate + only then do we Delegate.

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alicia-menkveld-point-2

DOCUMENT IT

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We certainly hope for the best, but what happens if the bus hits you on your way to work?

  • Can a team member or any other person walk in + run your business?
  • Are your business processes recorded?
  • Are your business systems clear + easy enough for someone else to follow?

If you answered No to the above questions, it’s time to get things out of your head and onto paper before you can even begin to think about delegation.

Remember, not even the most capable or highest qualified consultant/ employee in the world can read your mind or be expected to do a good job without access to the right information!

That includes clear objectives, super clear instructions, recorded processes + the responsibilities and timelines for each task.

Most business owners are quick to complain about incompetent staff, and yes sometimes we get a bad egg, but in my experience a lack of clear instructions + a lack of systems and/or processes account for up to 80% of project misunderstandings and work that business owners feel are ‘not up to standard’.

Yes it will take a few months to set everything up + train people to do the tasks correctly, but the reward is your freedom… to grow the business, to take a holiday or to spend more time with your partner, your kids or causes close to your heart.

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EFFECTIVE DELEGATION IS ABOUT:
  • being clear about the task + what the end result looks like for you
  • documenting the way you want the task done and specifying the templates or tools to be used to do the task
  • effectively communicating your expectations + giving clear instructions to the person who will do the task
  • being available to help where it’s needed and to make time to review the work + give feedback.

.alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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  • If you come across an undocumented process in your business, start today!
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  • Open a Word document, name it + write down the first few steps of the process
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  • Schedule a deadline to complete the document if it’s only you in the business OR flesh out the details every time you do the task until it’s complete
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  • If you have a team, nominate the person responsible for completing the document + set a deadline
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  • As the business owner or manager, schedule a date in your diary to review + tweak the document.

For a detailed blog post about creating business systems, click here.

.alicia-menkveld-point-3

 PEOPLE + TECHNOLOGY

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Now that we know what to delegate and we’ve put processes + systems in place to assist the delegation process, we can finally look at who we need on our team + what technology we can use to manage our projects better and streamline our communication with the people involved.

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PEOPLE

Your people needs will largely depend on your  business needs, the stage your business is in + the longer term vision you have for the business.

When tracking your tasks you possibly noticed several hours wasted on trying to fix a website problem or creating a graphic for your social media. Perhaps you noticed that you never get time to do any marketing or planning.

If the time waster you noticed is something that cannot be eliminated or automated, it’s time for delegation.

You can:

  • hire an employee
  • outsource work to an independent contractor like a consultant or virtual assistant
  • or you can use a combination of both options for different types of work.

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I like to use different experts for specific things in my business e.g. Facebook Ads or Bookkeeping, and I want to be location independent, so I only use independent contractors in my business.

I always outsource to my weaknesses or dislikes:

  • I don’t like bookkeeping, so I outsource it
  • I’m not great at doing my taxes, so I have an accountant
  • I can spend hours wondering what to post on social media, so I outsource it
  • I cannot design logos, so I get a graphic designer
  • I dislike cleaning but love a clean organized home, so I get a cleaning company to do it for me.

If you’re not sure, remember to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, making me money and worth $XXp/h?” (whatever you earn per hour). If the answer is No, it’s time to delegate.

Although none of the people I mentioned above work exclusively for me, I still refer to them as ‘my team’ because they know my business, perform tasks the way I do it in my business and add tremendous value to me and my business.

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TECHNOLOGY

Technology will greatly simplify the delegation process and help to streamline communication between team members.

These days, technology can be used for nearly everything from file sharing, online appointment scheduling, project management and online training platforms to bookkeeping, invoicing and databases or CRMs (Customer Relationship Management Systems).

Technology will assure that each team member, whether in-house or remotely, has access to the same information in real time.

Here’s only a handful of example options of online software:

  • Accounting Software like Xero / MYOB
  • File Sharing like Dropbox / Google Drive
  • Appointment Scheduling like Acuity Scheduling / Appoint.ly / 10to8.com
  • Project Management like Asana
  • CRMs like Insightly / Capsule CRM / Zoho / Infusionsoft

Technology will drastically improve clear, consistent communication, effective delegation + help you build a team culture of collaboration and open sharing of information, even if team members are in different locations.

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alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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  • Analyze the time + task tracking exercise to see in which areas of your business you need delegation right now
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  • Work out if you need in-house staff or independent contractors
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  • Get clear on the tasks to delegate or outsource that will deliver the highest ROI (return on investment) in the next 3 months
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  • Choose the technology options that are right for your business to help you manage your tasks + teams effectively.

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QUESTION:

Which three tasks will you delegate first if you had someone ready to take them over right now? Leave your comment below.

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#businessconfidence

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.

business-performance-scorecard-preview

ON A SCALE OF 1-10* HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR BUSINESS RESULTS?

(* 1 = lowest, 10 = highest)

Score your business against the 7 Signs of a High Performing Business to pinpoint problem areas.

Learn how to optimize your business to improve your revenue + results this quarter.

.

GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.

3 BARRIERS TO BEING PRODUCTIVE

3-barriers-to-being-productive

 

When you look at your calendar what do you see? I’m sure there are client calls and meetings, project deadlines, perhaps a team meeting, new inquiries to deal with and maybe a few supplier-related activities.

Do you see any dedicated blocks of time scheduled in for the important but non-urgent business activities like strategy, planning, marketing, sales, team training, product development, finance + admin?

It’s so easy to stay busy, fighting fires and ticking things off your to-do list but can you show any real accomplishment that added value to your business by the end of a day or even a week?

Busy work involves switching often between tasks and although it might feel as if you’re getting a lot done, research has shown the exact opposite.

In fact, a study by Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan’s Brain Cognition and Action Laboratory concluded that by switching tasks often we lose 40% or more of our productive time per day.

The reason we don’t get to the productive work isn’t because we’re not trying or because we don’t have enough time, it boils down to a lack of planning, processes and a lack of discipline.

Let’s look at how we can overcome these three barriers to productivity.

3 BARRIERS TO BEING PRODUCTIVE
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POOR PLANNING + STRUCTURING OF DAYS
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Better planning and execution is key to being more productive and getting stuff done. I talk about quarterly and weekly planning and execution in more detail here.

Create blocks of 1-4 hours uninterrupted productive time every day to work on what matters.

These various blocks of uninterrupted time should ideally be allocated to the important drivers that will move your business forward, like:

  • client work
  • creative work
  • thinking time
  • planning + strategy
  • marketing + sales
  • staff time e.g. mentoring, progress catch-ups and training
  • admin e.g. finances, emails + phone calls.

By allocating dedicated time blocks for different activities, we won’t worry about missing things and we’d be less tempted to check things as they come in and stay in reactive mode.
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NO PROCESS TO STAY FOCUSED
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A process is simply a predefined way of doing something, it’s simple with easy-to-follow steps. You have a process for making tea or coffee, or putting the rubbish out.

Now it’s time to create a process to help you stay focused during your blocks of uninterrupted productive time when you work on activities that will move your business forward.

1. Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time

Schedule uninterrupted time in your diary every day and make it a non-negotiable appointment with yourself – see Point #1.
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2. Remove Bright Shiny Objects

  • Ensure you have everything you need before starting your uninterrupted productive time e.g. note pads, pens, reference guides, financials, client files, refreshments and set an egg timer/ phone alarm to track your time
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  • Turn off your phone, close all internet browsers and remove clutter that might distract you
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  • Let people in the office know how long you’ll be unavailable and appoint a person-in-charge to deal with emergencies
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  • Only have the document(s) you’re working on open in front of you. If you need to check something, make a note and do it after the dedicated time has ended.
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3. Be Smart

If you struggle to say no to temptations and notifications, try the SelfControl app on your computer that blocks distraction websites for a set period of time.
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4. Stop Worrying

  • Set-up a permanent email notification to let people know the times you check your email in a day e.g. 8am, 1pm and 4pm and when they can expect to hear back from you. It’s about setting expectations and communicating clearly.
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  • Provide an alternative way of contacting you in the email for real emergencies e.g. a mobile number or calling the office.
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When you respect your own time, other people tend to do the same.

Clients don’t have a problem with processes – they have a problem with their expectations not being met and vague communication.

Be clear at the start of a business relationship or new project about how things will work, agree deadlines upfront + provide regular status updates to stay productive and exceed your client’s expectations.
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 LACK OF DISCIPLINE
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Self-discipline is a learned behavior which requires practice and repetition. It’s like any learned skill e.g. confidence, learning a new language or playing the piano.

The right mindset and the discipline to keep a routine are two of the most important qualities needed for sustainable long term success in all aspects of life + business. They are also two of the hardest things to master.

When we try something new and fail, we tend to beat ourselves up about it. This makes us feel crappy about ourselves and what we’re capable of doing, which in turn could lead to more failure.

Here are a few ideas to help you when establishing new routines.
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1. Acknowledge That It Will Take Time

Change is not easy because our brains love operating on auto-pilot.
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Be prepared and know that it will take time for new habits to ‘feel right’ and become natural. Help yourself by creating a process to remove temptations + distractions – see Point #2.

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.2. Reward Yourself

Keep yourself motivated by scheduling rewards along the way e.g. plan ‘me-time’ into your weekly schedule and stick to it!
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Do something you love in that time e.g. a hobby, reading a book or sitting next to the river.

It’s your reward for working hard, making changes + building a great business.
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3. Forgive Yourself + Move Forward

There will be setbacks. Expect them, notice them + learn from them.

Ask: “What’s the learning opportunity in this?” 

Dissect the hiccup, forgive yourself (you’re still learning), tweak your plan and move on.
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Busyness is a disease that keeps us from working on the difficult-to-do but high-value activities in our business like planning, creating systems, building a team or doing marketing + sales.

Start saying Yes to being productive and focusing on activities that will move your business forward.
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QUESTION:
What do you do to overcome busyness and be more productive at work? Leave your comment below.

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#businessconfidence

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.

business-performance-scorecard-preview

ON A SCALE OF 1-10* HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR BUSINESS RESULTS?

(* 1 = lowest, 10 = highest)

Score your business against the 7 Signs of a High Performing Business to pinpoint problem areas.

Learn how to optimize your business to improve your revenue + results this quarter.

.

GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.

Bad Business Habits (Part 1) Multi-Tasking

multi-tasking-is-killing-your-business.

We went into business to be our own boss, earn more money and have the lifestyle we only dreamed about while working for someone else. However, most business owners I speak to complain about:

  • working longer hours than they ever imagined
  • always having a fire to fight
  • worrying where the next customer and dollar will come from
  • missing out on events and having very little to no free time.
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I find that it’s our bad business habits that get in the way of having a successful business and one of these bad habits is multi-tasking – a huge business and productivity killer.
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CHASING TOO MANY RABBITS 

Does this sound familiar? You’re on a client call and it’s been going on for a while so you text your next appointment to let them know you might be 5 min late.

Then an email notification pops up so you decide to quickly check it that out before you need to wrap up this call and go….

But there’s silence on line… because the client is waiting for you to respond to their question. Oops! Has this or something similar ever happened to you… because it has certainly happened to me!

More frightening… studies have shown that people distracted by incoming emails or text messages (multi-tasking) have seen a 10-point drop in their IQ, which is more than twice the effect of smoking weed!

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“You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.” 

~ GARY KELLER (Book: The ONE Thing)

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THE COST OF MULTI-TASKING TO YOUR BUSINESS
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The problem is, that by doing several things at once, we trick ourselves into thinking that we’re getting more done when in reality, study upon study has shown that our productivity decreases by at least 40% or more while we’re switching tasks.

That’s because we’re not actually multi-tasking – we are simply switching tasks – and while we’re shifting from one thing to another we lose time in the process.

After many studies, researchers have concluded that on average it takes 12 minutes before you get back into a state of flow once you stopped working on something. For more complex tasks, it can take up to 24 minutes to get back to your state of flow.

Let’s put this in perspective… if you switched tasks 5 times in an hour, and on average it takes 12 minutes to get back into a state of flow, you wouldn’t have done any productive work in that hour because you were multi-tasking! e.g.

  • you work on a client project (task 1)
  • an email notification catches your eye so you check your email (task 2)
  • while you’re doing that the phone rings, so you take the call (task 3)
  • you get back to answering that email (task 4)
  • you decide to get a coffee or check your social media before getting back into the client work (task 5)

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Poof! One hour of potential productive work gone… Can you business afford these distractions?

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HOW TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY

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As business owners, we’ll always be juggling various roles, tasks, projects, deadlines and ideas at the same time… perhaps it’s lots of client calls, employees interrupting you or maybe you have various client projects on the go.

But unless you find a better way to work, you’ll end another day, week or month disappointed with your results. 

You’ll wonder why you haven’t reached your goals and why there wasn’t any time for marketing or making more sales… again!

Luckily all isn’t lost! Here are a few ways to stop multi-tasking and be more productive.
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alicia-menkveld-point-1a

FOCUS

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Many business owners are stuck in their busyness instead of getting on with business.

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A lot of business owners aren’t very productive or highly leveraged in what they do in a day. If you want to reach your goals, stop multi-tasking and start focusing on the high-impact activities that will bring in money and create leverage in your business.
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NEXT STEPS
  1. Decide on the quarterly goal that will drive the biggest growth in your business
  2. Break the main quarterly goal down into monthly + weekly tasks and activities
  3. Schedule daily/ weekly progress check-ins with yourself and/or your team to ensure milestones are reached
  4. Say No to every invite, activity or distraction that won’t help you to achieve this goal
  5. Stop being reactive – do the work that will grow your business first before you do anything else – and stop multi-tasking.
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CLARIFYING QUESTIONS:blog-image-key-ideas1

  • Where is my biggest opportunity for growth right now?
  • What is my ONE main goal for this quarter?
  • Which activities can I do today and this week to help me achieve that ONE goal?
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e.g. a Product Launch

  • Annual Goal: A main goal could be to generate $50k from a new product this year
  • Quarterly Goal: Launch the product in 3 months’ time
  • Main Activities: Finish the product >> market the product >> launch the product
  • Tasks for the Month: Create Module 1 + 2, create a sales landing page + shopping cart, create ads, post on social media, etc.
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In this example, the main rabbit is to launch the product, but there are many moving parts (activities + tasks) that need to be completed for the launch to actually happen.

The example above is only a glimpse of what needs to be done for a product launch.

That’s why it’s crucial to stay focused, stop multi-tasking and say No to any other distractions like new marketing tactics or revamping your website while you’re working on catching that ONE rabbit.

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alicia-menkveld-point-2a

KNOW YOUR DISTRACTIONS

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Over the next 30 days
, identify when and how you tend to keep yourself busy and distracted when you’re trying to do important work.

Come up with a few simple steps you can take when you catch yourself being distracted or multi-taking, so you can quickly get back to the tasks that will make the biggest difference in your business and to your bottom line.

Work on developing your self-discipline and the habit of catching only one rabbit at a time. It’s not easy, as I know so well, but I promise you it will make a world of difference to your business!

You’ll stress less about missing deadlines and start making consistent income because you’ll focus weekly on income-producing activities and not only when you run out of business.

You’ll feel more organised and in control of your days, and you’ll make things happen in your business at a pace you’ve never experienced before – you’ll experience tremendous growth and satisfaction not only in your business but also in your life.

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Starve your distractions. Feed your Focus.

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QUESTION:
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What is your Top Tip for staying focused during the day on one task? Leave your comment below.
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#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.