A Season of Stress

December, ironically enough, is Stress Free Family Month.  So today I thought I would share 3 tips for easing the stress in your life.  They will take a little work to get into practice on, but once you’ve gotten into a rhythm you’ll find you’re all less stressed.

1-a calendar: I don’t know how many families I talk to that don’t use a calendar and wonder why their lives are crazy.  Not writing down commitments and plans means that other people don’t know and therefore can blame you when you expected them to remember something or be somewhere.  Yes, you can use an online or app calendar, but I also advise a physical one that everyone can write their stuff down on for all to see in a central location at the house.

2-weekly family meeting: yes, these can be painful.  It’s hard to convince the whole family to sit down at the same time and discuss the upcoming week.  But if you take just 30 minutes each week to sit down as a group and discuss what is on the calendar and schedule for each person that week and who will be responsible for transportation, who will be getting/making meals, when people are working, things people want to attend, projects coming up etc., rather than having issues mid-week with things you’ll be able to figure it all out ahead of time.

3-food: for this there are two suggestions.  First to make a meal list for dinners that upcoming week, and second to do all of the food shopping on one day, not a little bit each day as needed.  Yes, this takes time again to sit down and plan things out.  But taking the time to make a dinner menu schedule and a really good shopping list means that you’ll not be running all over getting supplies and you’ll not be feeding your family not so good dinners.  The first couple of weeks will be more difficult, but once you get the hang of not shopping each day and planning meals ahead you can ease a lot of stress.

What about you?  What are your tips for having less stress in your family?

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Under Pressure

If you’ve been following the news in the USA and around the world at all lately, there are many tumultuous situations going on.  The US government shutdown, boats sinking, wars, people kidnapped, the list goes on.  A little closer to home parents are heading in for parent-teacher conferences, seeing some of the early grades of the year and almost done with fall sports.  At any time we’re under a lot of pressure from work, school, family, friends and relationship, not to mention the pressures we have no real control or influence over like the government or weather.  Pressures like these not only affect you but they affect your kids as well.  When you’re stressed out that stress easily transfers itself to your kids since they’re more sensitive.  That’s not to say they should be sheltered from stress and pressure until they’re teens; they should be aware of stress and how to deal with it.  Today I thought we’d review just a few thoughts on dealing with pressures and stress.

1-realize that sometimes it will be too much to handle.  You don’t have to be picture perfect all the time.  If people accepted that sooner we’d all be more able to be ourselves.  Which would mean less pressure to be perfect, more understanding when things do get screwy and healthier relationships all around.  When we accept that sometimes life will be too much we can let go of some of our fears around how we show up in the world and how others see us.  We will screw up.  It’s a fact.  How we handle things as a result of the screw up says a lot about our character and who we are as people.

2-know you don’t have to handle it alone.  I would never run for a political office, but if the people in government started talking and working together instead of trying to one-up the other person, I don’t think we’d be in this situation in the first place. No one person could rule the world, so why do we insist that we can handle everything all by ourselves?  The second we turn to someone else for assistance we’re not giving up our power, but rather gaining more power than we could have by ourselves.  We can’t always be right, nor can we do everything the best way possible all by ourselves.

3-communication is key to handling pressures effectively.  While animals may be able to grunt and fight their problems out, most of the time that’s not going to help us find solutions to the pressures.  Yes, we do need to get the physical emotions and feelings out and physical activity is a great way to do that.  But the problem won’t be solved by a 10 mile run or fist fight.  Nor will a screaming match do anyone any good.  When you sit down and truly discuss the situation and possible next steps instead of yelling or just giving up you’re choosing to create a better future.

These 3 keys will not only help you better deal with stress, they’ll give you the tools to help your kids deal with and learn from your stress as well.  Kids will always be affected by our stress, but they don’t have to be traumatized by it.  What do you do that helps you handle pressures and stress?

Customer Service Superstars

This week in the USA we’re celebrating something I know you love: customer service!  That’s right, they’ve gone ahead and set aside a whole week each October to recognize how important customer service is.  I hear a lot of groans over the web, and a bunch of sighs too.  I know business leaders have been speaking up about the importance of customer service for years, it has been a buzzword for many years as well, often becoming a source of frustration and annoyance for people.  Let’s get a few obvious points out of the way, and get to a few thoughts to apply.

Obvious but Necessary:

-Every business has customers so every business should have customer service.

-There are many ways to provide customer service like social media, blogs, email, phone, Skype, face to face etc.

-Everyone can provide better customer service.

-Customer service can make a terrible product bearable, and ruin a good company.

Food for Thought:

-Customer service comes in many forms, a phone representative letting you know they don’t sell a product anymore provides customer service, someone fixing your washer provides customer service, and even someone giving you directions while you get a morning cup of joe provides customer service.

-Sometimes customer service means going above and beyond, other times it just means being there when someone shows up, calls or emails.

-Customer service means standing behind the products and services you offer and doing your best to always provide satisfactory answers to customer questions, even if it takes a little extra work on your part.

-Customer service is an evolving activity of participation from you and the customer.  As you assist more and more people it will become easier to assist others with frequently asked questions and issues as well as the more challenging ones.  And, you will gain a reputation for being a friendly and helpful company.

-True customer service is a commitment.  You’re choosing to show up in a friendly and helpful way to people who may not be having their best day ever and treat them with respect, courtesy, patience, and honesty.

-Do your best to not hassle or further frustrate your customers in your attempts at customer service.  Getting their name and life story isn’t always necessary nor is asking them to jump through hoops to be assisted.

-Most people just want to be heard.  A huge part of customer service is listening to what people are telling and asking you.  If you’re hearing the same issues or suggestions over and over it may be something you want to change or add to your services and products.

What will you do this week to provide better customer service to your customers and potential customers?

Making Peace

One thing that’s missing in most homes is peace.  We’ve let our lives get so cluttered by the stuff that we are blessed with in 2013, stuff which is admittedly often cool.  We’re living in a time when many people have what they need, and can get what they don’t have.  Yet we still have struggles in our lives, so at some time it must be acknowledged that the possessions don’t bring us the peace that we thought they could.  It’s not impossible to find peace in this life, but it, like most good things, takes time and effort.

Make the effort: we live in a world of instant things, instant food, instant movies, instant knowledge, so it’s not surprising that we often struggle with the concept of things taking time.  In the situation of making peace at home, the extra effort is not only worth it, it’s necessary.  You and your partner, you and your kids, no one will have peace if you’re all ignoring each other or so overbooked that you don’t have time for real relationships.

Make the time: a good relationship takes time to develop, and time to be kept solid.  It’s been said that you’re a reflection of the people you spend the most time with, and your relationships will prove how you spend your time.  While you may not see a relationship with your work, it will be evident that that’s how you’ve chosen to spend your time if your other relationships are falling apart.  I understand that some people are difficult, really I do.  But what most people don’t understand is that with effort and time those relationships could be significantly improved in most cases.

If we really want to be our best, be successful and have less war, fighting and unhappiness in our lives, it has to start in our homes.  Unhappiness there spills over into the other areas of our lives poisoning them too.    To get started bringing peace into your home it has to start with each of us realizing where we’re screwing up.  Once we’ve accepted our responsibility and role in creating discord, we can apologize and being righting our actions and attitudes to create the foundation for peace.  Will you join me in bringing peace to homes and relationships around the world?

Let’s Relax

We all live busy lives, which means it’s more important now than ever to schedule in (if necessary) time to relax and unwind.  So I thought today I’d give you some simple ways to relax alone, with your partner and your family.

-playdough (good to work out the frustration)

-painting (soothes the nerves)

-chalk on the driveway (you’re out in nature and getting creative)

-partners massage (who doesn’t like a good massage?!)

-bath or shower with candles (alone time was never so good)

-book quiet time for everyone (a book is a great way to relax and maybe learn something too)

-movie night (no scary stuff, remember we’re relaxing)

-get takeout for a picnic at a nearby park (nature, food and good company)

-candles/scents (our senses pick up on our surroundings and impact us)

-plants (help make fresh air and cheer up the space)

-sunlight (get outside and work on that tan!)

What are your favorite ways to relax?

Stressed by Success II

Last week Wednesday we talked about how you, the business owner, can get past the stress that success (or lack thereof) creates.  You can read that blog post here.  Today we’re doing part 2 and discussing some of the things you can do to bring your business to health and life again.

Hire a business consultant: a consultant can point out some of the biggest issues in your business that are causing you to lose money.  You may know some of the issues plaguing your business, but often it’s necessary to hear them from an outside source to motivate you into action and do something about them.

Update your website: Today I heard a commercial on the radio about how some business owner didn’t have a website and when he made one, his business doubled.  I’m always amazed when I hear that people don’t have a website, even a simple one.  In today’s advanced state of technology it’s possible to have a cheap website that’s decent, or even a free one that’s nicer than some others out there.  If you don’t have a website you’re missing out on the opportunity to show up in searches on Google with your competitors.

Update your marketing plan: if you don’t have a plan on how you’re reaching new customers, and how you’re reminding your existing ones to come back and visit, you’re probably feeling lost, and probably not doing the right marketing or maybe not doing any real marketing at all.  Your business depends on your marketing online and offline as well as the word of mouth of your customers.  If you don’t have a plan on how to do the marketing or how to encourage your customers to spread the word, you’re missing out.

Check your services/products: another major reason your business may be struggling is because of what you’re offering. If you’re selling vinyl records, and have been since 1950, you’re struggling because some 90% of the population aren’t interested in them anymore.  If you look at some of the businesses who have failed lately, like Borders, you’re missing out on moving with what people are buying.  No, you don’t have to succumb to every trend, but you can’t sell products and services that hardly anyone wants to buy, unless the money is there to support that, like buying official Batmobiles or Jurassic Park movie props.  As long as you know there’s a solid, strong, market out there for what you’re selling, you can keep selling what you have been, but pay attention to customer requests as they’ll let you know when you need to consider changes.

If you’re dealing with personal or business stress within your business, I invite you to visit my website and get my free guide to building a better business (along with my free weekly business growth newsletter).  You’re not alone in your business, nor do you have to deal with the stress that comes with running a business alone.

Stressed by Success I

We’ve finally reached a new month and hopefully the miracle of spring.  This month one of the things we’ll be focusing on is health and being healthy.  The thing that I never cease to be amazed by is how many people and businesses are essentially unhealthy yet they manage to function.  You’ve witnessed lots of significantly overweight people, significantly over budget businesses, very sick people because of the choices they made in life, or businesses not coming close to clearing expenses.  These businesses and people, with the exception of significantly overweight people, may be hiding their symptoms and the truth about their status, but deep down they know whether they’re healthy or not.  Maybe they’ve just lost control, or maybe they were never very healthy to begin with.  Whatever the situation, there is hope!   Today we’re beginning with some tips for helping the people behind the businesses get back on track, next week we’ll come back with part 2 with tips for businesses.

Pay attention to your body: We’ve gotten good at ignoring our bodies and what they try to tell us.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to meditate for hours to be able to listen to your body.  You’re probably familiar with that gut feeling, as well as the signal that you’re hungry.  Both of these are signals that indicate your body wants to tell you something.  Other signals could include leg cramps, headaches, and stomach troubles.  These could indicate you’re not eating the right stuff to support your very busy schedule, or you’re not getting enough exercise to keep your body in shape.

Feed your brain: your brain is very important to running your business (and life) successfully.  You need to be reading educational books ans articles about your industry, business and leadership.  It’s also great to listen to audios and podcasts on your ride to work, and attend seminars that will help you improve your business and stay current. It’s equally, if not more, important to limit your exposure to negative news, bad TV and people who always discourage you.

Enjoy life: a big key to success and dealing with stress is making sure you have some measure of variety in your life.  If you’re spending all your time on business, you probably are missing out on living and loving.  It’s important to get outdoors and get fresh air, laugh with friends and family, and build relationships that support you and make you feel good.  Adding these activities and pursuits that may seem frivolous are actually very important to your health and ability to put the energy and passion that’s necessary back into your business.

Without you your business would not be as successful as with you.  So making sure you’re healthy means you’ll be able to fully support your business and your life is very important.  What do you do to support yourself?

Energy for Living and Loving

One thing I love is the enthusiasm that kids bring to the table regardless of what’s going on.  Yes, sometimes that enthusiasm gets overwhelming and you wonder if they’re ever going to calm down.  But as you probably know, it’s harder to be that enthusiastic as you get older.  How can we as adults capture some of that enthusiasm for ourselves?

1-spend time with kids.  Yes, this sounds obvious to the parenting community, but I’m sad to say I meet many families that don’t spend much time together.  But if you really want to be a great parent and you want to feel as good as your kids seem to, spending time with them is a great way to do it.  The only technicality to mention here is that texting on your iPhone while the kids play in the adjacent room isn’t really spending time together, nor is fighting, arguing, or stuffing your faces with food before you run out to the next appointment.  There has to be laughter, fun, talking (not yelling), games and activities.  Maybe you’re making a mini-pizza snack together and then watching an hour of TV together, and reading a few books before bed time.  Maybe you’re taking a walk on a hiking trail one Saturday morning.  The point is you need to make time for each other, and quality time at that, to be gifted with some of that enthusiasm.

2-relax.  We’re super busy as adults these days, working multiple jobs or putting in extra hours just to make ends meet so we can feed our kids.  This is an unfortunate trend that has trickled into just about every home and has interrupted many families and romances.  How many times have you said to a family member “oh, something has come up…” in the past month?  If you take time to relax and aren’t constantly on the go, your body will naturally have more energy to help you live and feel better.

3-do fun things.  No, I’m not accusing you of being boring!  I’m saying that sometimes we forget to have fun, as caught up in TV, problems and work as we get.  It’s important to have a hobby or plan for at least an activity/night out every 2 weeks, minimum once a month, that can let you focus on the fun of being alive.

4-eat right.  You’ve probably heard it before, but what you eat has a lot to do with how you feel.  Eating right is mostly about eating in moderation.  Yes, some things are really not good for you and should be consumed infrequently, but for the most part, you should just eat smart.  Fill your body with what makes it function well.  You’ll know what works for your body as you try different, healthier, things.

What helps you get going each day, and what can you do to have more energy?

Success Stress

April is, among other things, stress awareness month.  It’s a time for us all to reflect on the stress in our lives and do something about it!  Yes, I’m making an assumption that you’ve got some stress in your life, and as a fellow business owner, I’m thinking that even if things are going well for you, you’ve got some stress in your life.

Here are my recommendations for reducing stress in your life.

1-accept that you’re stressed
Sometimes it’s difficult to even admit that we’re stressed.  We’ve got so much going on, so much that we’re responsible for, that it can be hard to even admit or see that we’ve got some stress.

2-discover what stresses you most
Once you’ve accepted that you’ve got stress, take time to figure out exactly what stresses you.  Is it marketing, billing, emails, networking?  Figure out what stresses you out, because from there you can…

3-make a plan to deal with the stress
It’s not enough to accept that you’re stressed and figure out what stresses you, it’s important to make an actionable plan to reduce the stress.  Come up with ways that you can either outsource, work out, motivate or reduce the things that stress you most.

4-ask for help
This is one of the most crucial parts.  If you can’t ask for help you’ll never be able to really reduce your stress.  I don’t just mean getting a VA (virtual assistant) or someone to help with the business, I mean asking for support from a friend or family member who can help you with learning how to relax.

5-increase the fun in your life
If you’re stressed you’re probably not having fun.  Make fun a part of your daily schedule; whether crafting, playing ball with your dog, reading books with the kids or something else.  Whatever you enjoy most needs to be part of your life frequently.

What stresses you most about your business? Sharing your struggle can help other business owners accept their stress too.