Summer of Change

Summer is a great time to work on change with your kids and family. Why? Because most of us have lighter schedules that allow for taking a little time off to do those big projects, weather that allows both indoor and outdoor activities and plans to be done, less things on the schedule and more opportunities to put in a little time each day to work on those changes, and an abundance of people home from college who can watch the kids if you and your partner need to work independently of the kids on something. It’s not always easy to work on change, but having the abundant resources that the summer provides to work on changes does make it a little easier and remove many of the excuses you’ve been using to hold yourself back.

Why work on changes? Because whether it’s the mile-long to-do list that you’ve been adding to for too long, or the stuff that’s just sticking around bothering you or holding you back, neither is good for your family or you personally. If you’re familiar with the concepts of Feng Shui, the law of attraction and the laws of abundance, they also speak to the importance of having a space that allows you to think, grow, love, create and prosper, which aren’t things you can do if you’re feeling pressured by that to-do list or all the stuff just hanging around.

Also, if it’s on your to-do list it must be there for a reason. Sometimes we do put things on there that we think we’re supposed to put there, but most often it’s stuff that really does need to be there, even if we end up doing the lower priority stuff first because it’s less intimidating, or less of a commitment, or less of a change.

So what are the big changes you might work on this summer? Organizing clothes, organizing the kitchen, organizing the garage/shed, cleaning up the outdoor areas, organizing the office, changing diets/eating habits, increasing exercise consistency, setting aside consistent time for personal development, making more consistent time for your partner and/or kids, reducing your bad habits (including overspending, too much TV, too much junk food, not enough sleep etc.) or even job searching (or starting a business), just to name a few.

What will you (finally) work on this summer?

Processes and Procrastination

As we head towards the end of another week you may be thinking about what you can toss onto the piles on your desk or mark so that you deal with it next week and not today or tomorrow.  I’m familiar with the process, everyone does it to some extent. And to some extent it’s necessary to do because there are only so many hours in a day and while you may have something sudden and time-sensitive come up today, you may not have that tomorrow and be able to deal with things from today tomorrow.  The danger comes in when you never get to “tomorrow” and you keep having to put out fires and deal with emergencies today and never get to that other stuff you keep putting off.

The good news is that a portion of what you keep putting off can be handled by someone else.  You can get someone else to file the papers or place/pack orders or refill supplies or input data to a spreadsheet or program or app.  The bad news is, as you probably guessed, they can only do so much as they are not you. All that help is great to a point, then you have to step back in and choose or approve purchases, reply to clients, or confirm the data.

But what it comes back to is that you need to stop and realize that there’s a problem and you’re tired of seeing the problem day after day and not being able to do what you want to with or about it.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the software, program or procedure that you do things with/through.  Maybe it’s creating a schedule and following it 95% of the time.  Maybe it’s just hiring someone to help out a few hours a week (on either the personal or the professional side).  But I believe that for many of the things that we’re putting off, there’s a simple solution that can make it much easier and much less painful to do the job and get it done quicker and with the results you’re looking for (or at the very least results which is something you didn’t have before).

If you’re struggling with the never ending search for tomorrow in your work or home, I encourage you to take an important first step before the end of the week.  Maybe it’s reaching out to an organizer or coach like myself who is local to you and getting the conversation going.  Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes to investigate other program/procedure options.   Maybe it’s sitting down with your team and talking about who’s doing what and who would rather do what and who can help you clear things off your plate (making things easier for everyone).   What will you do?

Filing System for Success

One of the challenges that all business owners face is organization. With Organize Your Files week this month I wanted to share some insights to organizing your files and keeping things as straight as possible to make it as easy as possible to run your business, keep track of your finances and clients and work and get back to the good parts of running your business as quickly as possible.

Organization starts with a plan. Do you have a plan for what you do with documents you download, print or receive in the mail (virtual or physical)? If you don’t have standard operating procedures for how you deal with your materials pretty quickly you’ll become overwhelmed by them and it will be very difficult to catch up.

Once you’ve got a plan you have to consistently implement the plan. Plans, ideas and concepts are all great, but implementation is the key to success, especially when it comes to organization. Some things you can get away with organizing on a weekly or monthly basis, other things should be organized on a daily basis. Knowing the volume of different types of information and documents in your business will allow you to come up with an appropriate schedule.

So how do we get organized? You may want to create inboxes, both physical and virtual, where you quickly categorize things to be dealt with all at one point in time during the day or week, or it may work better for you if you file things as they come in. Personally I find filing as things come in a distraction and interruption to my work, so I have boxes (physical and virtual) that I stick stuff in to be filed at the end of the day/week/month, for example paid bills, bills to pay, items to shred, things to keep for ideas or clients, and things that need to be done. It takes seconds to put things in a temporary home and that allows me to get back to work quickly and take care of properly filing when I’m not needed with clients or during non-traditional work hours.

The next step is more permanently addressing things.  Have overall categories and more specific folders within the categories to organize things as is most appropriate.  Things that you have a large volume of files for should have many more specific folders to help you manage the clutter like leadership, marketing, and legal/taxes, while things like potential art and decorations for your offices will have a one general folder and no sub-folders since you won’t access it as often or have as much to put in it.

Once you’ve got your filing system set up you have to implement and keep up with the filing.  This is where the specific folders make things much easier for both filing and finding in the future because you won’t have to search for things or go through files of papers before finding things because you’ve got a great system.  If your organization system needs work make time for it this week. You’ll be glad you did in the future.

Strategies for Success: Organizing

Today I want to talk about a success topic that is very important but many people don’t like to think about or actually do: getting organized. Being organized means you save a ton of time trying to find something or get something from an employee or partner, and means you don’t have to sort through a bunch of stuff before you find what you’re looking for. The two principles we’ll go over today can be applied to lots of different types of organizing but I’ll include some examples that will be specific to things that often need organizing.

How do I know when to get rid of stuff?
This is one of the biggest questions most people have and because they can’t come up with a good answer they don’t get rid of anything. Paperwork, especially tax and legal related should always be checked with a legal professional before you get rid of anything. Some things you’ll want to keep forever, like house/property sale paperwork, other things can be gotten rid of within a year’s time or even sooner, especially if you have a digital copy. Clothing and other home goods items should be kept if you like them and if you use them. Don’t hold onto them if you don’t foresee yourself wearing/using them in the future or haven’t worn/used them in several years’ time and don’t see that changing in the near future, or if it would be cheaper to just buy new ones when you finally decide you want them. Oh yeah-as far as food goes, if it looks moldy or tastes stale get rid of it.

How do I know what to get rid of?
Duplicates are one good way of making that decision. There are a few things you need duplicates of but for the most part duplicates aren’t necessary, whether we’re talking papers, clothes or other items. Many people have duplicates of papers because they can’t find the first 6 copies, hence the need to get organized in the first place. Unless it’s a clothing item you wear a lot there’s no need to have duplicates of it, variety is good for you! The other thing to consider is something we talked about with the first point: how long has it been since you used/wore it? If it’s been years there’s no reason to hold onto it, it’s just taking up valuable space.

No, I’m not encouraging everyone to get into the “tiny house” movement (I couldn’t do it), but I know that when I’m organized, the clutter is gone and everything has it’s place, the world feels a little lighter, a little brighter and I feel a little freer to accomplish things and set goals because there are less things distracting me or calling for my attention.

Planning for Problems

As a business coach I talk with lots of business owners who are struggling. Let’s face it, depending on the day any of us could be struggling with something, whether it’s a frustrating customer, a product failure or a timing snafu that screwed with our marketing, plans or productivity. So the struggle is something that we all face, it’s not unique to just those of us who have physical businesses or are trying to succeed with an MLM. The thing that frustrates me most with business owners I talk with, as well as life coaching clients, is that more often than not there were plenty of red flags that showed up and were ignored and now they’re falling off the cliff without a parachute and expecting a miracle.

This month as we talk about health it’s important to recognize that health is done by sticking with healthy habits or changing bad habits into good ones. We’re not perfect, so more often than not we have work to do when it comes to our habits, and it’s not realistic to assume that we’ll ever attain perfection and not have things that we’ll have to work on.

The question of success comes in with when there’s something wrong, and in our reaction or response to it. Do we wait for all systems failure or do we make the time on a regular basis to tend to things so that it never ever gets that bad? I believe in yearly, monthly, weekly and daily maintenance rather than waiting for stuff to hit the fan. By preparing ahead of time, planning my day/week/month/year out, and leaving room every day for issues that pop up as well as personal time, I’m not facing an unmanageable struggle when bigger issues come my way and force me to move things around by a day or two. But it’s only because I’m prepared personally, financially, relationally, and business-wise that when issues happen I’m not usually dealing with as big of an issue, and I’m more capable of dealing with them if they are.

Your business and your customers depend on you to be on top of things. One of the only ways this happens is if you’re prepared and working ahead rather than catching up. You’ll accomplish more and feel better about yourself, your life and your business and be able to better serve your customers when you take the time to anticipate the issues and have fall-back plans for if they do appear.

“…that it is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.” Richard Whately

What’s Your Plan?

Something that makes or breaks many of my clients is organization. A big reason so many people struggle is because of their lack of organization. It usually gets to the point that they’re completely overwhelmed and have no idea whats going on or how to fix things before they realize they need help. The good news is that most people are able to be very fulfilled, happy and successful once they’ve gotten a little organization under their belt. The bad news is that some people miss out on the fact that the organization is what got them to that point, and that without it they would return to their disorganized and frustrated state, which is where they typically end up again. So today I thought I’d share 4 important pointers about being organized.

Have a plan. This is the step that many people don’t start with. They just jump in, do all they can and gather what they think is necessary and run back to put it all together and then realize they have no clue where the instruction book is. It turns out they didn’t bother to really think things through before they got going, and not having a solid, well thought out plan meant that they weren’t going to get where they though they were going without a lot of extra spending, worry, hassle or frustration, unless they were really lucky.

Plan for changes. This is the second thing that usually messes people up. When they are so caught up in their plan being the only plan and having to be followed exactly, precisely and without deviation, they struggle most to incorporate the issues and complications that get thrown at them by the world. You have to leave room in every step of the plan for changes.

Plan time to keep things organized. As I already mentioned this is one of the steps people forget. Leave things a mess for too long and you’ll realize that they don’t clean themselves up or fix themselves. No, you need to plan time into each week for neatening things up, checking things off your lists and making sure that you’re on task and on target to not only have your business or work plans go according to plan, but have a home life that’s going the way you want it to as well.

Which brings us to our last point: plan for fun. Yes, I’m completely serious. We all need to do a better job of planning fun, relaxation, joy and friends into our lives. We’re focused on success and making the world better, which is great, but you’ve heard the saying “all work and no play makes you dull.” Not only is this true but without play we’re not as productive either.

So this weekend I encourage you to sit down and take stock. Are you frustrated because you’re swimming without the proverbial paddle? If so, start making some plans or ask for help.

3 Directional Questions for Success

Last week I shared some thoughts on how you can grow and improve your business this spring.  Following that this week I have been thinking about next steps.  Sometimes we know when we’re ready for next steps, other times we move to next steps way before we’re ready and sometimes we have no idea what the heck is going on.  If you feel like you’ve got so many plates in the air and are trying to align all things to make your 2014 spring a success, I thought we’d look at 3 questions this week that should be considered by anyone, whether you’re a single entrepreneur or you run a 100+ person company.

1: Is everyone in the organization clear on our overall direction? (Am I clear on where my business is headed?)

2: Is everyone clear on our highest present priorities?  (What are my priorities today, this week and this month?)

3: Does everyone see how their contribution fits into the big picture? (Am I making good contributions to the business?)

The power in these questions is that you’re not only considering what is being done but the impact of what is being done.  But more than that, it also helps you discover some of the things that are or aren’t working with your employees, or even with your customers.  For single entrepreneurs, when you consider these two things together you can choose to outsource some of the stuff that isn’t your biggest and best contribution to your business.  For businesses with employees, when people can’t see the big picture, when people don’t understand why what they’re doing matters today or in the long run, it becomes work instead of passion or pleasure and company culture can suffer greatly.

If you’re struggling or wondering why business isn’t growing and going like you want it to, these are just 3 of the questions you need to ask yourself.  Answering these 3 questions can immediately tell you why your business is headed in the direction it is and the things you need to start working on immediately.