Yikes, like it or not, 2018 is pretty much over with. Where did the year go?! I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting, like I’m sure many of us do toward the end of a year. I thought it would be great to end the year discussing some areas on how to not only get started off on the right foot in the new year, but also to make sure you are feeling inspired and ready for whatever 2019 has in store for you and your business.
The overall theme of this guide really centers on time ...
1. creating more time; and then
2. refocusing that newfound time into a couple of areas which will lead you to more success in 2019.
And also, just so I don’t forget, I hope you have a wonderful new year’s holiday as well!
OK, let’s get started!
Creating More Time …
Managing Your Time Effectively.
Looking back on 2018, do you believe you managed your time in a way that actually created more time? That’s kind of a confusing question, right? But I believe that if you manage your time strategically, you can actually create more time. This involves reviewing all of the tasks and projects you typically take on and then looking where you can save time or streamline certain processes. You can then reallocate the time you saved into areas that will empower you to be even more successful: continuing education, developing new products and services, self-care, etc.
Do you have a few tasks or projects that seem like they take too much time or require a lot more of your attention than others? Have you thought of doing things in your business differently? Things that could possibly save you time and energy, but you are hesitant because of your habits of doing things certain ways? With these questions in mind, I invite you to think about a few of those tasks and projects, especially ones you need to do often, and see if there are any ways to optimize your time by either simplifying or streamlining. For example, do you go back and forth throughout your day between tasks, projects and responding to emails? Does this lead you to feel like you are unable to stay focused on one or the other? It’s so easy to be pulled in multiple directions as an entrepreneur but remaining focused is a must.
And this brings me to my #1 tip with time management in mind: time blocking. This means that you should take a look at your day and figure out when you are most productive. You designate that block of time for tasks and projects that need your full attention. During this time, you do not want to be multi-tasking or allow any distractions. So, instead of being reactionary throughout the day with your email or social media, I recommend that you optimize your day by planning ahead and allocating enough time per project or task. Even if that block of time finishes and you are not yet finished with the specific task or project at hand, I still recommend that you refocus your attention on what you are supposed to be doing next - not just keep working on the same task. This will keep you moving forward and more productive, versus allowing yourself to get bogged down.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” - Paul J. Meyer, Author and Personal Development Coach
Getting and Staying Organized.
As an entrepreneur, it sometimes feels like there are a billion tasks that I need to get done in any given day. So, what do I do? I take a deep breath, pour a stiff drink and try again tomorrow. Ah, don’t I wish? Instead, I’ve made it a habit to make a few different lists which typically consist of daily tasks, a monthly overview, and another for creative ideas and thoughts that I do not want to forget. For the daily tasks, I write down the top three, four, five or six things that I need to get done on that specific day. You can create this list the night before or first thing in the morning. If you create your list in the morning, I recommend that you do so before you check your email or check-in on social media. Why? I believe it is extremely helpful to have control from the beginning and not allow your to-do list to depend on technology and what others are telling you is important. If urgent client or customer concerns arise, you certainly can adjust your list.
What do you do if you are overwhelmed?
Or you get sick?
Or your computer dies?
You decide on the one thing that absolutely needs to get done and you focus on that, and only that.
Or, you bite the bullet and take time off.
Also, don’t be afraid to put everything on your calendar. Yes, everything! Not only does it keep you organized and on task, it also reduces stress because you will not be worried about forgetting anything important. You can even schedule yourself a couple of five- or ten-minute breaks that you need to take throughout the day to simply clear your mind or for when you are transitioning to other projects and tasks.
Adding onto having a clear mind ... I also think it's helpful to have a clear desk or work space as well. Being organized and having a clean space is not only aesthetically pleasing, it truly helps you stay on task and saves you time. If your email is organized, then you will not need to spend extra time looking for a specific email. If your desk and workspace is organized, then you will not need to spend those extra few minutes looking for a specific contract, form or notes.
“Stop waiting for the perfect time to get organized. Take this moment and make some progress.”
- Heidi Leonard, Professional Organizer
Ideas on Where to Refocus Your Time …
Enhancing Your Brand Identity.
How are you feeling about your brand lately? More importantly, how do you feel about what your brand is conveying to the world? Maybe you are wanting to focus more time in the new year on improving your brand’s visibility. Wherever you are at, keep in mind that in order for a business to excel, your brand should be designed and expressed with these three things in mind: what your actual service or product accomplishes, how your service or product helps others or makes the world a better place, and who your service or product helps. Your brand is not just the face of your business, it’s the story that your business tells.
To inspire you a bit, and maybe get back to the basics of branding, here are some words that could be associated with a specific brand identity: trustworthy, creative, bold, respected, sustainable, luxurious, innovative, classic, intelligent, suspenseful, confident, entertaining and calming.
What do these diverse words all have in common? They are descriptive. And when one of those words is used to describe a particular business, they also create a picture of what that business does. The job of a brand is to relay that picture and also tell the story of the business. You see, your brand is more than just your logo. You want your business to be known for the value it provides, for its messaging, its content marketing, and also the customer service and client care it provides.
Related to the design of your brand, how do you want potential clients and customers (and people in general) to feel when they see your logo? Or your website and/or blog design? You definitely want to showcase your personality and mission, but you also want to be sure that your brand stands out (generates interest) and is relatable (appeals to your target audience). I recommend that the look of your brand stays consistent whether digitally, in print, via email marketing, on social media, and on your website.
If your business is brand spankin’ new or perhaps your brand is getting a bit obscure, make sure that you are increasing your brand’s visibility and awareness, but do so strategically. You may be wondering, “How do you do this?”
This is easily accomplished by showing up where your ideal audience shows up and providing content that is filled with value. For example, if you know you need to be more visible on social media, I recommend that you have social media business pages on platforms that your target audience also frequents. Then regularly provide relevant and engaging content on those platforms (and in social media groups that make the most sense). This will drive shares and reactions of your content, help increase your audience/followers and grow your authority in your niche. Your audience will recognize your brand more and more but only if you continue to show up and provide value.
I drilled down on How to Strengthen Your Brand in a blog post earlier this year. Yet another reminder that it’s almost 2019! I still believe that consistency and cohesion are vital factors when establishing your brand identity. Consistency leads to recognition and recognition leads to trust.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
- Seth Godin, Author and Entrepreneur
Self-Care that You Need and Deserve.
Self-care has been getting plenty of attention lately and I believe it’s with some merit. Basically, I translate self-care to mean keeping in check with your physical, emotional and mental well-being. We all get busy and it can be hard to slow down and REALLY take care of ourselves. I am ending this blog post with self-care because after discussing time management and organization, self-care fits right in. In other words, it really should be a daily-priority and we never should feel guilty about time blocking to take care of ourselves. We all can get stressed and overwhelmed from time-to-time.
For the new year, an easy way to be prepared for those really hectic and stressful days is to have an action plan. Try making a list of 5 to 10 things that you can do to help yourself out on those days. Here are a few ideas to explore and help you get started:
- Take a break from technology.
As an entrepreneur myself, I feel the almost constant pull of having to be “plugged-in” and monitoring everything going on in my business. My clients’ businesses. My email. My social media. The analytics. And so on … Because of this, I recommend taking a break whenever you can and that makes sense. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes. One easy way to accomplish this is by taking a break from technology (your laptop, phone, etc.) while eating your meals. A couple other options are to not start or end your day with your phone or laptop. Give yourself that well-deserved chance to “check-out” so you don’t feel like you are constantly needing to be tied to your devices.
- Be Active.
I really think that being active can mean so many things. Maybe you are the type of person that enjoys working out for at least an hour a day. Or maybe you’re the opposite and you either do not enjoy typical exercise, or it can be hard to fit it into your schedule. Either way, being active can have many benefits especially if you spend the majority of your work day sitting at a desk or in a car. According to WebMD, sitting down too much can increase your chances of developing a variety of health risks from heart disease to dementia. In this case, you should consider getting up and moving around or stretching for a bit every hour. Or maybe even incorporate standing at your work area (consider getting a desk that raises or create your own).
You can also try fitting in small stretches of exercise into your day if you are feeling overwhelmed. Adding in a couple 5 to 10-minute walks or other types of exercise seems a lot easier to accomplish than working out for a straight full hour.
- Keep Your Stress Level in Check.
Having a stressful day from time-to-time is unavoidable. So, here are a few ideas in case you are thinking that you could use some tips on how to combat stress, or at least tailor a new reaction to it.
- Consider meditation or deep-breathing exercises, also known as “finding your Zen”. Even if it is just for five minutes - focus on your breath and be mindful that you are exhaling completely as well.
- Start journaling or writing down all of the things on your mind. Just doing this for a couple of minutes a day can help clear your mind and then get on with the rest of your day.
- Chat with a close friend or like-minded individual; even if it’s just a quick meet up for coffee.
- Re-visit being active. Some find it helpful when they are feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed to take a quick 10-minute walk to clear their mind and re-focus their energy temporarily.
- If you have a hobby, be sure to make time for it. And if you do not have one, consider finding an engaging one that gives your mind a break and encourages you to be happy focusing on something other than your work.
Self-care can mean something different from one person to the next. And sometimes it’s not easy to take the time to focus on yourself when you are having a busy day. However, sacrificing your health and well-being is NOT a precursor for your business to be successful. Self-care is easy to implement and to manage when you allot time for it. So, go ahead and start, especially if you are new to creating time for self-care … Block time for that 10-minute meditation, 10-minute walk around the block, or schedule a weekly time for your favorite hobby.
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
- Eleanor Brown, Novelist and Speaker
Final Thoughts ...
The beginning of the new year is certainly a time that many of us start setting new goals or making those timeless New Year’s Resolutions. As entrepreneurs, sometimes it can be hard to find that switch to shut off our minds from our business, even for a few minutes. Our personal lives tend to blend quite a bit since technology allows us to be tied to our business 24/7. We often want to invest all the extra time we get our hands on back into our businesses. However, taking a balanced approach between managing your business along with your personal life is also important. Afterall, you cannot run your business if your health is suffering or you are lacking the energy to do so!
If you focus on taking care of both your business and yourself, you will not be disappointed. Focusing just as much on your health and your mental and emotional well-being, will only have positive effects on every aspect of your life. And, your business will reap the benefits as well!
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
- Edith Lovejoy Pierce, Author
If you found today’s blog post informative, I would be very grateful if you would help it spread by sharing it on social media or emailing it to a friend. You never know whose life you might change. Also, have any topics you’d like to hear more about on my blog? Feel free to drop me a line or post your comments on Virtually Untangled’s Facebook page. Thank you!