All posts by Jrox.com

Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

At the first, second, and third look, a business is in it to make money.
If it’s not making money,  then it’s an exercise in frustration and a money-sucking black hole at worst, and an expensive ‘hobby’ at best. A business provides services or products to consumers in return for money. Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the business of selling goods and providing services using an online platform, i.e the internet. That’s why you’re here.

So yes, you got into this wanting to make money . And somehow you are making money.  After keeping good records and getting updated licenses and permits and whatnot, how do you do? Do you lie awake at night worrying about how to make your mailing list grow? Do you wake up worried about making your bottom-line? Is your free time occupied with scribbling out plans with words like leverage, maximize, sales funnel, and  optimize?

When this kind of financial pressure makes you micro-focus on the numbers, you lose sight of several important things in the whole equation.
Yes, you do need to keep good records and updated permits and licenses and whatnot.
Yes, you do need to work on growing your mailing list. That’s all just good accounting and legal practice, and business sense.
But focusing on the bottom-line frames your business solely in terms of numbers. In doing so, that sort of gently moves out of focus the prime movers in the business.  And who are those? You, for one, and your customers, for another. Lose sight of either, you  can go off track.

Focusing solely on the point to get the money is missing the other points. Continue reading Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

Breaking Down Your Big Picture

Imagine a mosaic.

A mosaic is a picture or pattern that is built, piece by piece, from small broken pieces of material like glass or tile which are set in mortar.  Historical records and restored ancient architecture usually show mosaics were mainly used in decorating walls, floors, and ceilings — although mosaics today aren’t just restricted to those areas, or those materials.

Helpful examples:

Now, what do mosaics have to do with running a business?
Continue reading Breaking Down Your Big Picture

Stay On Target: Planning For Business Growth

In a recent article, we touched on what you can do to make the most of your goals for this year. The sum of it, roughly speaking, was this:  Specificity and clarity —  applied to means and methods — practically guarantee a smoother journey.

You break down an over-arcing goal in stages to make it more specific and time-bound, and then break those stages apart in smaller steps. This helps guide you to make consistent, sustainable, and steady progress, and is also great help for when you feel the monotony wearing you thin.

  • You feel lost? Refer to your project ‘map’ to re-orient and guide you.
  • You can’t quite focus or decide on what to do? Just look at the next step to take.
  • You feel down? Look at the work you’ve already put in towards your goal. You are working on your dreams. Keep going!

Essentially, with this system you’ll be setting yourself up to win. Regularly, and in small ways.

Let’s say you want to do a better job — how do you plan on going about it? You want to keep your skills updated and sharp — how are you going to do that?

It’s like using the method, “Don’t break the chain.” Come up with a clear, specific goal and work it backwards.  You  write all the steps down, and every day you take a step. Just one.

We also touched on other things like:  Focus your energies on what would simply not happen without you.  Find sources you can trust, find mentors, find or create a focus group.  Test things out by making  small bets.  Test, try, work at it. You can only go so far with theoreticals. You have to do the actual work to learn first-hand.  Broaden your experience, and keep learning to think for yourself.

Continue reading Stay On Target: Planning For Business Growth

Rethinking “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

Here are a few questions for you:

  • Did you make decisions about what exactly are your hard targets to accomplish this year in advance, or do you often resort to planning on the fly?
  • Do you go through how a plan — in its entirety, stage by stage– will align with your goals before you push through with it?
  • Do you track the results of your plans, whether they’re marketing campaigns or productivity schedules?
  • Do you track any changes you make to your plans when you encounter issues that make these changes necessary?
  • Over the course of the past year, did you feel that you were getting better at looking ahead (forecasting) and  mentally preparing (visualizing) for the things  coming your way?
  • How good would you say you are at visualizing and preparing for execution and assessment?


The popular advice when it comes to executing plans is, “Ready, fire, aim.”

The belief  behind this advice says that speed is essential, time is precious, and each miss gets you closer to the goal.  The caveat asks you to dig deeper at the supporting structure behind this set-up and see how it applies to you in the field, not in theory.

There are tons of advice out there for entrepreneurs. But you need to be sharp about which advice is reliably useful to you and the issues you encounter.  Personalization, in this case, also applies to you, and not just your customers: Take what you can use and leave the rest.

“Ready, fire, aim,” may not  fit the way you choose to work. It can conflict with your personality, or your chosen methods, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What works for you, works. As long as you focus on staying on-target, you’ll be good.

Other considerations.
What is your budget, say, for ‘misses’? Not just in financial terms, but in labor and time, too?  How close do you need to be to the goal to count the attempt as a hit or a miss?

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
Bruce Lee

Continue reading Rethinking “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

How To Deal With Self-Doubt

Being an entrepreneur is like setting out on an adventure with no clear map, and no one right way to get to where you want to go.

Sure, there are probably books, how-to guides, videos, blogs, and related stuff available on-line —  with billions of webpages out on the internet there’s oceans of data and advice you can try trawling through — but to establish your own particular business, with you at the helm, means that you actually make your map as you progress on your journey.

  • You can study, but you have to learn on your own.
  • You can copy, until you get enough experience to make your own riff, and enough courage to put yourself and your work out there.
  • You can follow, until the times comes for you to break away and  run your business your own way.

And it can be a nerve-wracking process.

The thing is, entrepreneurs are still people, serving people.  And people? Well, we’re a messy bunch. We can be full of doubt as well as dreams, and we often wrestle with ourselves as we go after our own goals. Sometimes, we’re the one’s in our own way.

How Do You Deal With Doubt?
If you’ve seriously considered venturing out into entrepreneurship, or are already on the rough and uncertain path to building your own business, you’ll understand that it’s a frustrating and tiring journey,  to say the least. Some days it can feel like all you’re trying to to is fix one mistake or another, or backtrack and wonder how to correct your course. while anxiously looking for some signs of wheat to do next. Continue reading How To Deal With Self-Doubt

How DIY Doesn’t Mean DIAY (Doing It All Yourself)

Working smart is one of the keys to creating a good living, and so is working hard. One pitfall to look out for is thinking that working harder will help you solve everything thrown at you in the course of running your business.  For your own sake,  don’t try so hard at trying that you get in your own way (advice that relies on the Taoist concept of wu wei — more on that in a little bit.)

A ‘Renaissance man’, as we understand the term, is someone who’s good at whatever they turn their hand to, and that basically encompasses everything, if you go by the definition given by the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Seeing as the phrase was coined in the 1400‘s, however, six hundred years has still not been enough to take this ideal to its logical conclusion. See, the times have very much changed.

Look at how much the sciences, arts, and humanities have expanded and deepened in all that time. Leonardo Da Vinci is a popular example of genius, and honestly, people with creative brains like his are statistical outliers.

Given today’s demands for specialization, it is very rare to find actual ‘experts-in-everything’. The bulk of people with notable successes can come from backgrounds out of the norm, or have been relentlessly putting in the work over a long  time — and then were discovered as ‘overnight sensations’.

And whoa, but isn’t that image exciting? Isn’t it seductive ? To think,  with just a little more push, you could be a sensation yourself.

 

The phenomenon of ‘overnight successes’ can often overlook years of work, or the set of circumstances that made these people successful (luck, family background, wealth, opportunities, etc).  But true renaissance men (in a non-gendered blanket term) today? Still statistical outliers.

The image lingers because it’s so compelling — think of John Wayne and the “Lone Cowboy’ hero image , and throw in the Lone Ranger too. And oh, hey, bootstrappers. The people who built empires out of their garages.

Stories like that are inspiring. We can dream big while we’re plugging away at our projects.

And sometimes trying to fulfill our dreams by following the old scripts can make us sick. “Going it alone,” and “doing all the things!1!1”, and putting letting rest, re-connection and recreation down by the wayside is like pouring out your energy on barren ground, and leaving no reserves.
Continue reading How DIY Doesn’t Mean DIAY (Doing It All Yourself)

In Cold Blood: How To Deal With Procrastination

Sometimes, when faced with unpleasant task that have to be done, the best way to get it done it is to just push away the unpleasantness you feel and do it. Like holding your breath when you have to take nasty-tasting medicine: you need to take it, you don’t want to do it because of the taste, but you do it anyway. And then it’s done.

Now, there are a lot of things we can feel ‘icky’ about. And sometimes — well, a lot of times — those feelings help paralyze us into not doing anything at all. By actively feeling them, we can blow the negative feeling out of proportion so they block the energy we need to get things done, and then drain that energy so nothing gets done. That’s why avoidant behavior is seen to be unproductive.

In a business, being non-productive is a liability. Procrastination is a solid example of how putting things off can hurt us. We push things off, we forget, we lose focus —  and small things can turn into large problems. How do you deal? identify the contributing factors.

Indecision.
It doesn’t help that the internet gives you access to massive repositories of data and countless options. Paralysis by analysis, anybody? You want to make the best way to fix it– whatever  ‘it’ is?

There are  specialized forums, customer reviews, and whitepapers. There  are first-person videos, how-to’s and comparison charts. You could dip a toe in that pool and not come up for air for days. You can lose time, lose perspective, and have your judgement affected by the sheer amount of data thrown at you.

Usually when we make goals we assess our time commitments and the weight of goals.  Colin Powell’s “40-70 Rule” (Lesson Fifteen here and explained a bit more here) gives a ballpark figure on how much data you really need to make a tough decision. Less than 40%, you don’t have enough to make a well-informed choice. More than 70% means you’d taken up too much time.

More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. You need to be nimble — you can’t  move fast when you’re busy weighing yourself down with data.

High emotions.
We can think more clearly before the actual commitment pressure is on–  a cold look, not a heated glare, so to speak. This helps you dispassionately assess what needs to be finished. Finished, not ‘in process’.

Pulling the trigger is easy when emotions aren’t clouding your judgment.  A rather cold-blooded, image, yes, but it does get the point across. Make the plan in cold thinking, pull the trigger even when —especially when — you don’t ‘feel it’ at the time you are supposed to act.

Now, how did procrastination ‘pay off’ for you in the past? More likely:

  • It increased the intensity and the level of your stress.
  • Added the number of  open loops fighting for your attention.
  • Added guilt, ate at your self image, and reinforced a negative one.
  • Gave you _more things to worry about, like additional fall-out and possible areas for screwing up.

 

This is trading in short-term relief for longer-term discomfort.
You already know this.
You also know you just want to get things done and over with so you won’t have to worry about them anymore– leaving you free to go and do stuff you like and want and look forward to doing.
The shadow side of ignoring stuff is that it’s like crawling  under the rock of misery and staying there since it’s so familiar it feels like home.

Resistance is the silent killer of momentum.
You have enough small stuff to capture your current attention, those small things become hooks that you catch on. They latch onto you and slow you down with ‘false dilemmas’

For example: cleaning papers in your office, whether on your desk, or filed away….somewhere. “Do I need this? Can I still use this later? I have to decide now? Maybe I have to keep this for tax purposes?”

And before you know it, you’re sitting on the floor with yellowing papers strewn out in ‘To-be-classified’ piles instead of actually getting the clutter out

‘Fake dilemmas’  are artificially inflated busy-work. Sure, you can attend to them but the net gain to your end-of-day productivity is negligible.

“But I  need to make the most out of this decision.”
No, you don’t. There are things that definitely need to be optimized, but these things are distinguished by their value and pay-off. Give the heavy stuff their due, not the light stuff.

“I need to get New Thing before I can start New Endeavor.”
Assess your resources.  Can you make do with Old Thing with New Endeavor to start with the New Habit or New Process?  Sometimes getting new stuff can keep the happy, but happy fades and you still have to do the work. And with business, keeping track of expenses is a good thing.

Don’t fall for the belief that New Thing will revolutionize your life and make New Endeavor an cinch. Work needs to be done, and if you can make do with your resources, cool.

It isn’t the newness of tools that get the work done, it’s what you know you will do with the tools you have. Try to make the new thing work with what you have, where you are. Unless you have very industry specific tools, the habit of practice comes from action and presence. It’s not always contingent on new stuff

“I want to do good!”
Yes, but you won’t do good right off the bat. It’s perfectly acceptable and expected to suck on the first few attempts or sessions. Waiting until you’re good without practice is impossible. A nice daydream, but impossible in real life. You don’t get to perfect on the first day, you just have to get it done for today. And that should be your  finish line .

This thing you’re putting off is important enough for you to plan and execute with the aim of getting it done. You don’t get it done now, you’ll still be the person to deal with it later, or tomorrow.   Plus,  the weight of disappointment and the blow to your expectations and self-esteem for not having done it will be the interest.

When you’re calmer, think of what situation or event triggers you most often.
You don’t want to do A Thing.
Why not the Thing?
Why anything  but The Thing?

Emotion is blocking you and your mind seizes any available outlet to explain why you don’t — won’t– do it.
Like, you could get a better outcome if you do a little more research. So you do that instead.
Or, you might need these files for tax purposes so you’ll sort them out later.

Where and when do you put off things the most?
Like any doctor, take historical data. Where have you screwed up by putting things off for so long they mutated and bit you on the ass? Filing important papers? Following up on projects? Where?

Be honest here, anything you hide will just fester. The areas in your work where you slack off may have secret minefield that you have to deal with, or else trip over at crucial moments .

The nature of your complaints can show you a connection you may have not been able to see, and show you a picture you might not want to face. You still have to — if not now, when? Until it’s too late (again)? How will you pay when that happens? In missed opportunities? In a missed-out life?

Bulling through is still reliable when doing so gets the job done.
— Do the task, being as present as you can.
— Remove temptation — use Leechblock, close the door, make sure you have a glass of water, and had been to the bathroom.
— Plant your as and begin until you finish. Not-feeling-it can fade away when you push through the I-don’t-wanna phase and find the groove.

Finding your personal relaxed best.
Have you figured out your personal rhythms yet? People have an optimal time for when they are relaxed and yet alert, so they can be fully present and immersed in what they do. Planning your  work for the best time that you  can do that work is a rare and treasured skill.

It takes testing, awareness, tracking, and knowing your productivity cycle: whether you’re a night owls or morning lark or somewhere in between, or needing the morning to gradually ramp up your processing power, etc.

What circumstances help you focus? What helps you brainstorm?
Find that spot, look at the circumstances that make it: a quiet room, closed doors, noise-cancelling headphones or your favorite inspirational, calming, or energetic playlist — whatever makes your environment conducive to get you into the flow.

Work at a coffee shop. Work in the library. Just make sure that what you’re doing is actually the work you’re supposed to be doing, and not just busy work, which is a stand-in for the real thing.

The point is to get this done so you can leave it behind.
The point is to close this loop so you can take the next step.
The point is to start so you can stop when you’re done.

Procrastination is a common habit, and a maladaptive one. It will take uncommon work and discipline to fence off and box in, as we are still only human, and sometimes, we need to have the freedom to put things off.

When you know you have a good handle on the things that are important to you, you can take that time. Until then, getting things done even when you don’t feel like doing them is one work approach that is sure to keep you on the right track.

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What To Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At Work

You can generally depend your business to have a particular rhythm to it, once you’ve been at it long enough. Sure, there are the kinds of businesses where you can’t really have the same day-in, day-out predictability of so-called desk-jobs, but even then, when  you’ve gotten the hang of stuff, you develop the kind of insight and mind-set, and prepper skills that helps you handle the ups and downs that come with your chosen field.

In emergency situations, you may even had the foresight to have laid out back-ups and alternative, just in case. In the immediacy of things when surprises, mix-ups, or emergencies happen, you’d do well to practice on-field triage: attending to the salvageable and savable while assessing the ‘least injured’ — and checking the irrecoverable just to make sure.

Triage helps when you’re in the crunch. In non-crunch time, disciplined ‘triage’ is simple prioritization skills:  You do the important and helpful, and drop the unimportant and seductive. This lighter-hearted ‘triage’ can help you especially when bad days happen. Continue reading What To Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At Work

Deep Thinking And Your Chosen Path

Think of the following sexy, sexy business phrases: positive leverage, maximize gains, optimized performance, superior ROI, positive strides, minimized risk and overhead. Guaranteed returns.

Have they sparked excitement? Did they perk up your interest? Are you willing to do the real work of thinking out the best possible future reality for yourself and then do the work necessary for  these events to come true for your business?

Or have you been turned off by hitting Business Buzzword Bingo with all these arguably hackneyed corporate cliches?

Your reaction depends on  the emotions that you felt in response to these words.  If you’re interest, you stay on the page. If you’re not, you probably just close the tab. Right?

If you automatically brush things away because ‘everyone knows they’re all BS anyway‘, then maybe you’re letting old habits and patterns of thinking steer you in a direction you don’t really want to go. As  someone who runs a business, that kind of automatic brush-off can blind you to possibilities. There’s a big difference between filtering information and rejecting information right off the bat.

It all starts from the inside, so you need to go deep. Continue reading Deep Thinking And Your Chosen Path

Putting In Deep Time

When it comes to getting things done, don’t just think contemplate.

  • The essence of time-saving productivity tips generally boils down to putting in the time now to save time ahead.
  • The core of the GTD mind-set is getting the right things done in the time given — “right” varying with the criteria you use.

While no one can actually save time as if it were money in the bank, we can use time towards our own advantage — especially when we’re prepared to go up against our own selves.

Here’s the way it usually goes:

  • You block off time to think about certain important matters. In that time,  you make your assessments, assigning certain weights and priorities to certain activities.
  • You weigh, you prioritize, then you start weeding.
  • You lay out the plan over a  certain time period to make order out of these various obligations and responsibilities.
  • You clear the way to a good work-week ahead, or break down a n important project over a month so you won’t tax yourself too much.

Helpful articles: Start Early and Finish Early

Come go-time, something comes up that you just have to attend to, and other things fall off the radar — important but not urgent things.
The action seems to have lost its importance.
You can’t see the point in attending to them. Or you don’t feel like it right now.
And so on.

Helpful article:  Make It Easy on Yourself

You put in the time to do less of the non-important things, so you do the more (and most) important things first, even if it means chipping at these things a little at a time, day by day. You think ahead so you can arrange how to spend yourself  — your energy, your presence, and  your focus — on the high-value targets in your scope.

And then you get bored. You get distracted. You wander off-course.

In the aftermath of the things you did and did not do, you ask yourself. “What was I thinking?” So here’s a tip to help you away from asking that question so much.
Continue reading Putting In Deep Time