How A Simple Handwritten Calendar Helped Me Defeat Overwhelm

There was a time I could simply never get ahold of my calendar. Commitments entered into a calendar would never be noticed again. Digital reminders were excused and promptly forgotten. I couldn’t even tell you what day of the week it is, let alone the date.

I tried digital calendars. Some paid, some not. Eventually, Google Calendars made the most sense for us. It’s shareable which means I can delegate the task of entering appointments to all concerned. But still, I needed more help when it came to keeping the calendar in view. Once an app is closed, it’s out of sight and… out of mind.

weekly-hand-drawn-calendarOne year, I started drawing out my calendars by hand. I would start each week and month with a hand-drawn calendar in my journal. Nothing fancy. Just basic grids. Then my commitments were written in by hand. Here’s what a week spread looks like.

In this day and age, it sounds so silly to do that. Starting out, I did feel a bit of a fool. But one Sunday evening, while I was laying out my calendar while watching TV with my husband, it clicked.

Writing down all my commitments by hand actually helped eliminate overwhelm. First, it helped me remember them better. There are lots of studies indicating the connection between writing something down and retention. That was definitely true for me.

Second, the act of setting time aside to do this, helped me think through each day and how I was going to manage the day. For example, if I have several commitments that day, I would go through in my head and envision how the day would go.

What can I fit between this appointment and that? Can someone else do this so I can have this on my calendar? Or, this is a shorter work-day which means I must finish XYZ the day before and so on.

It is said, that athletes often envision themselves reaching the winning line, and that convinces them they are already winners long before the race begins. It’s the same here. By visualizing your days, they automatically become less stressful. You feel more in control and you’re more likely to have a good day because you’ve already laid it out in your head.

You could argue that a digital planner can do that too and you’d be right. It all boils down to whether you can make it work. I found digital planners too easy to set aside. I had a tendency to add to the list but never sitting down long enough to review it. And that is the key…

120816-how-a-simple-handwritten-calendar-helped-me-defeat-overwhelm

The review.

If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s the power and tremendous value in the review process. No matter what it is you have in mind. Long term or short term goals. Weight loss, being more mindful, being a better boss etc. If you don’t review, you don’t know how far you’ve come, you don’t know how much further you have to go and you don’t know how to fully maximize your days. Handwriting things slows you down so you can that.

That’s why I started publishing a printable planner for bloggers 9 years ago. When I started, I still wasn’t completely sold out on pen and paper. As I grew, learned more, and am not fully committed, I’ve tweaked the planner each year into a significant tool to help bloggers achieve their goals.

The best thing is, the planner is 100% FREE. Claim yours today.

3 Reasons Why You Should Build Your Website With WordPress

3-reasons-why-you-should-build-your-website-with-wordpressIf you didn’t already know, WordPress powers more than a quarter of all the websites on the Internet. There’s a reason why and if you are still on the fence, here’s why you want to use WordPress.

Abundance of Help

Because of its popularity, you can find all sorts of help on WordPress. Free discussion forums, tutorials, virtual assistants, and developers. Plenty of people out there providing help or some sort of service related to WordPress.

If you are the DIY-er, that means you are rarely without guidance. If you prefer to outsource, guess what? There are plenty of people who are familiar with it and can work on it for you. This means you don’t have to train them. That is a bonus.

The last thing you want is to pay someone to learn how to use an obscure software. I’ve been there and done that. It kills your momentum and happily gobbles up your profits.

Beyond that, many popular web hosting companies today support WordPress. The more your host understands your software, the better off you are.

Highly Customizable

Apple used to have an iPhone commercial that said, “There’s an app for that”. Well, with WordPress, the same is true. Just about anything you want to do on your site, there’s a plugin for that.

What this means for you. You rarely need to hire people to create custom solutions for you. Bottom line, you spend less creating that solution and you don’t have to maintain it. That again saves you money in the long run.

Ownership

This is so important. There are many all-in-one services out there. You host with them, use their software. They may even be easier to use. But when you want to migrate after you have outgrown it? Perhaps not so easy.

These services may tell you that your content belongs to you. That may be true, but what they don’t say is, they may not provide the tools to export your content. In short, they try to lock you in. It’s more common than you think.

According to one developer, a client tried to move away from one such service. The site has years of content, both text, and pages. Turns out, the service would only allow her to export textual content, not their images.

Sure, WordPress is not perfect. No system on the planet is. However, it is the right answer for most use cases. That is close to perfect in an imperfect world.

How To Find Time To Share Spectacular Content

how-to-find-time-to-share-spectacular-content

After I shared a simple method for keeping your social media streams busy, I was asked on Twitter by @sliceworks,

Yeah, but how do you solve the problem of finding time to share all this content?

That is an excellent and very valid question. The simple answer to it is,

  1. Scheduled times
  2. Let it occur naturally

Scheduled Times

Let’s tackle this one first. This all boils down to my complete belief in the Slight Edge or the Compound Effect. The premise is simple.

Do something small every single day

You’ve heard of it before. People tell you massive action = big results. While I do not disagree, I think the problem comes when we think massive action = massive leaps. Not at all. Most times, success and big results come in the massive number of small leaps and sometimes steps vs leaps.

Massive action ≠ Massive leaps. Massive action = Numerous small jumps

Now that I have laid that foundation. What does this look like? Very simply, 15-20 minutes of scanning your subscribed feeds each day. Find something you want to keep? Don’t save it. Send it to Buffer. That’s it.

What if I don’t have another 15-20 minutes?

Are you sure? Here are where those 15 minutes could be lurking:

  • Lunch time – though I do it only when I am alone. Not when eating with others.
  • Waiting for the doctor/dentist/appointments
  • Waiting to pick up your kid/spouse/whomever
  • In the bathroom (Yes! I know you are giggling but hey, it’s a pocket of time 🙂 )
  • Waiting for public transport
  • Waiting for food to cook
  • When you are in a long line at the store
  • Waiting on a prescription

I think you get the idea. Did you notice something recurring in that list? Yes. The keyword is waiting. Every time you find myself waiting for something or someone, that’s the perfect time to pull out the phone – no, not to check Facebook – to find content to share silly!

Letting It Happen Naturally

Now on the 2nd method. What do I mean by this? As mentioned in my last post. No matter what your business is, there are certain types of content that attract you naturally.

Let’s say you are a productivity coach. Maybe you spot a gorgeous planner while you are out in town. Perfect opportunity to snap a photo and… you got it. Load it to Buffer!

Then, while on Facebook, you notice a post about how to keep your energy up during the day. You read it, like it and you… yup. Add it to Buffer. Facebook is super smart at showing you stuff they think you might be interested in. Might as well use it instead of feeling used.

These are things that you don’t have to find time for because you are already doing them or noticing it. The trick is remembering to share it. I admit, that took me a while to get the hang of. I have to train myself to share when I find myself saying “Oh that looks interesting” or “That’s so cool!”

The tools you need here are simply Feedly and Buffer. That’s it. You can get more fancy if you want but I found fancy often complicates matters. And when you complicate stuff, you are less likely to do it. This works for me, and I hope for you too. Let me know what you think.

One Simple Trick To Keep Your Social Media Profiles Hopping

One Simple Trick To Keep Your Social Media Profiles Hopping

Are you caught in the constant struggle to keep your social media profiles updated? I know the feeling.

That’s why my social media accounts have languished for years. When I have more time to devote, there are spurts of sharing and engagement. When I don’t – which is most times – well… you can imagine.

I wasn’t ready to give up though and recently started simply sharing 6 items every day. The results have been quite interesting. On Twitter, I went from these figures in March:

Twitter analytics March 2016

To this in July – the first full month I started consistent, daily sharing.

Twitter analytics July 2016

What I’m after are impressions, mentions and profile visits. It looks like I got what I wanted there. A nice side effect to sharing lots of other people’s content is, when you share a good one of your own, it does not look too spammy and it actually gets more attention. That’s what happened on Facebook for me.

Yeah, but how do you solve the problem of finding time to share all this content?

First “secret” I’d say is getting a Buffer account. You could use other scheduling apps of your choice. I simply like and use Buffer.

Next, instead of finding time to share, a small shift in perspective – use social media as a bookmarking tool. Here’s what I mean.

There’s so much amazing content out there, sometimes you find them while you are researching something else, and you don’t want to get sucked into reading. Other times, the content is so huge, so meaty. There’s no way you can consume and put into action the suggestions in one go.

For example, this one right here from AppSumo. This type of content I have to digest bits at a time. Instead of bookmarking and returning to it later, I chose to share it. I do this for every piece of content I find interesting and want to return to later.

Of course, you want to take into account if that would interest your followers. For me, 90% of the time, the answer is yes because of the content and sites I choose to visit.

All this is very natural. For example, if you are selling nail tools and embellishments, you’d probably be following nail blogs, watch nail art related videos etc because you are naturally attracted to this type of content.

When you think bookmarking instead of intentionally looking for content to share, you’ll fill your Buffer queue a lot faster. And, your own social media feed becomes useful to yourself as well.

[Book Review] Sell With A Story

In the past, my experience with story-selling books and courses have not been great. This could be my own mental block. In my mind, you’re either a story-teller or you’re not. And, I think it’s not that easy to teach people to become story-tellers. It’s a challenging skill to master.

As you can imagine, this made me quite skeptical when I got a review copy of Sell With A Story by Paul Smith. This is not Smith’s first book on using stories. He also authored Lead with a Story and Parenting with a Story, but I’ve read neither. This is my first introduction to his books.

Overall, I enjoyed his writing style. Simple and easy to follow. I also loved the format of the book which is more like a workbook. There is “homework” at the end of each chapter which is very helpful. I appreciated the many examples and how he lead me through the methods of identifying what’s a story and what’s not. It was clear, and it clicked for me.

Then I got to the part where we were to create a short, concise story to introduce ourselves and what we do. Oh boy! This is a challenge because I do so many things. I’ve always failed at creating an elevator speech. Plus, my feeble attempts using a story as an introduction always seem to drag on.

The example he used to teach how to create this intro story is super helpful. Using that, I believe I now have a simple, direct and short intro story. It’s still a little rough at the edges but definitely a lot easier to tell people what I do without their eyes glazing over. Because… you know, tech tends to do that.

The target audience for this book is sales professionals. Not so much digital marketers, or entrepreneurs. Still, I found it pretty helpful to craft easy to understand, engaging stories in explaining complex things. I think it can be quite helpful for writing blog posts too.

The book is scheduled to release September 2016 but you can get a copy now.

6 Reasons Why Outsourcing Hurts For You And How To Get It Right

6 Reasons Why Outsourcing Hurts For You And How To Get It Right

Everybody tells you. Don’t do everything. Outsource it. Get someone to help you. Focus on what you do best. They are right! But every time you try, you end up with:

  • A design that is completely different than what you imagined.
  • A project that seem to require more money at every turn.
  • Someone who disappears.

Sound familiar? There are some rotten workers out there for sure. I’ve hired freelancers since 2006. I have experienced every one of those and more. It is not easy to admit but these are the lessons I have learned.

Reason 1: Not Defining Scope

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, scope is the extent of activity. It’s the range of operation. Some jobs are easy.

With other jobs like building an e-commerce store, the scope can be a little fuzzy. You might have heard people complain about their designer trying to nickel and dime them.

That does happen. But when I talk to people, usually the problem comes right down to the absence of scope.

Let’s take the example of building an e-commerce store. Like a builder, the designer can build you a lavish home, or a small cozy cottage.

Let’s say you ask them to build a cottage. Throughout the process, you make additions and changes. With each change, the builder needs extra time, more labor, or different materials. He may even have to knock down a wall and rebuild to accommodate your changes. Your builder bid on your contract based on a much different house. It’s unreasonable to expect them to absorb the difference.

The same happens when building an e-commerce store, or any project. What you should do is take the time to write down how you envision the store to be like, and what features you want it to have. Then communicate this in simple language. I find bullet points help a lot.

If you have seen this at another store before, give them the URL to that store. Create videos and take screenshots what these look like.

Once both have reviewed and agreed upon the project details. Let them build it. Don’t go changing things around. It’s OK to make small modifications to language, colors and maybe even layout. But within reason.

You can ask for milestone check-ins so you can take a peek at 20%, 40% completion and so on. Just be realistic. Don’t lose your head if you don’t see something at 20% when it’s scheduled for 80% completion. In the early stages, what you are looking for is whether you are headed in the right direction.

Reason 2: Unrealistic Expectations

Here’s a complaint I heard recently. Someone wants an image created for a blog post. She wanted a cat, wearing a vest and a purple hat jumping up and a text she provides on it. What she got was a stock photo of a jumping cat with her text on it.

Granted, the designer could have warned her an image so specific would be hard to find. He could also have told her they use stock photography, but he’ll try to find one as close as possible.

On the other hand, it’s Fiverr. You cannot expect custom photography for $5. Not even $20. At those rates, you can’t expect people to spend countless hours to find the picture either.

What the buyer expected for $5 or $20 was a job that easily costs 1000 times more. That’s unreal and not fair. What should you do instead? Find a professional photography and pay them their asking price to get the exact shot you want.

Or, relax your expectations. A lot. Chances are, the vest and purple hat have no impact on your sales. Go after the things that do. If the image looks nice enough and isn’t offensive, run with it. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Reason 3: Unreasonable Deadlines

On the heels of unreasonable expectations is crazy deadlines. First, telling your hire you wanted that yesterday will not motivate them to work faster. It only breeds resentment. Also remember, outsourced hires are not your employees. They can decline your job.

Short deadlines are sometimes inevitable. Things crop up and in some industries like website recovery, short deadlines are a norm. Most service providers have a rush fee add-on. If something is urgent, pay them for it. If you can’t afford that, extend the time.

What happens when you are always working with short deadlines? Then what you have, is a project management problem. Tackle that first. Then, work on outsourcing.

Reason 4: You Are A Poor Paymaster

This shouldn’t even be on the list. But it is because too many clients do not pay their hires, let alone pay on time.

If you worked for someone and they never paid you on time, would you continue working for them? I think not.

Oh and don’t haggle after the fact either. When a project is finished, pay them the agreed upon fee. Nit picking on a small pixel out of place, or asking for a discount because of something insignificant reflects poorly on you.

Besides, outsourcers talk amongst themselves. Word gets around. Good people don’t work for poor paymasters. If the only people you seem to be able to hire are mediocre people, maybe it’s because you don’t pay, or pay on time.

Reason 5: You Are Not Consistent

Do you run out to find a new graphic artist every time you need a new image? Or do you have an artist who has worked for you for years and gets every graphic task you need?

If you get someone new for every job and every task. This hurts you. Getting people up to speed on your business is a costly affair.

A regular hire already knows your business. They know your likes and dislikes. They know your habits, your workflow, your outlook. Because of this, they actually become faster and more accurate and over time, cost you less.

What you should do is find the one who works well with you. If possible, they should also enjoy working for you. Once you do, keep them busy.

Reason 6: Poor Leadership Skills

At the end of the day, outsourcing is a lot about leadership than you think. Too many entrepreneurs come into the picture with the posture of a “boss”. I sit here above, giving all the directions, you do the work.

Whether you say it or not, this kind of attitude comes through. Even online where nobody sees you. It comes across in the tone of your emails, and the deadlines you give. It comes across when you hover over projects, and when you negotiate every hour they clock.

Learn to be a good leader. Give praise and recognition where due. Thank them. Again and again. Never underestimate the power or that. Be humble. Learn to be thankful for their service and not pay lip service. Your hires know when you are not genuine.

You need them as much as they need you. Sure you can always hire someone new but remember reason #5 above. Getting people on board is costly. If you are at all concerned about your bottom line – and you should be – keep new hires to a minimum.

Finally, just because you don’t hire the right person the first few times is no reason to stop. It can take a while to find the perfect fit. Don’t be afraid to let people go if they aren’t, and do it fast, but keep looking.

[Book Review] Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers

We’ve been very fortunate to receive a copy of Tim Hughes and Matt Reynolds’ book, Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers

Overall, I was a bit disappointed. It is likely due to my failure to fully understand who the author is talking to, and it is not for someone who operates an online business and already familiar with the ins and outs of using social media in your own business. That said, who is this book for?

Sales professionals. Particularly those who operate in offline, not-so-connected industries, and more specifically, those in B2B.

Even so, that’s a wide brush. If you are one of those sales people who are savvy and comfortable with content marketing. If you know and understand all about influencers. If you have your own following and a strong personal brand and comfortable talking (not selling) to people on social media, then this book is not for you.

I do think this is a great book for someone who is rather new to using social media and content as a sales tool. Not necessarily new to social media itself. If you have been selling the old way for a while and want to leverage social media, this is for you. If your social media posts are awkward or lack a conversational tone, this is a great book to get you and your company moving in that direction. Pick up your copy here.

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