Category Archives: How-To’s

YOU: Taking Care Of Your Biggest Asset

Aside from the daily operations that business-owners and entrepreneurs need to handle, there are a lot of things that can interfere with the overall health and stability of your enterprise.  What this post will focus on are the business-related things that can affect you —you— personally: these are things like stress, balance, health, burn-out, and time-management.  We’ll also discuss support strategies that can help you handle these issues you and your business will gain from the positive effects.

Take care of your health.
In the start-up stage of a new business, you can easily be  pulled into a whirlwind of planning, adjusting and execution. It’s exciting. It’s challenging, and it definitely stretches your boundaries.  Once you get used to it, it can become a habit , even when the business has stabilized and is doing well.

This habit  can also let you lose sight of taking care of your own physical health as you spend the majority of your time and energy focusing on the business, and that’s a mistake you cannot afford to let slide.

If you don’t take care to rest, encourage, and replenish your reserves, the stress and exhaustion can affect your reaction time, your judgment, and the clarity you need to make good decisions. If you keep tiring yourself out, you will eventually run yourself down, and that’s not good for anyone.

Being and keeping in robust physical health enables you to stay sharp and focused, able to bear the strain longer and recover from stressful events faster, and gives you the  stamina to keep running the business. You need a clear head and a healthy attitude to lead, to work, and to carry out your vision. A healthy body helps you in keeping both. Without health, your business will be a poor consolation, and an even poorer substitute.

You are, ultimately, your best investment. The business is  an extension of you, but it’s not you, understand? Take care of  your health.

Don’t let business demands turn you into a pod-person.
It’s very easy to slide into workaholism without really noticing. A small emergency here, a  little dispute there…from putting out small fires you can slip into the mindset of 24/7 vigilance, and let the business take over all of your time. What happens next? Continue reading YOU: Taking Care Of Your Biggest Asset

For The Worst-case Scenario: Do You Have An Ops Manual?

Have you ever thought of what would happen to your business if you were suddenly taken out of the picture? And that morbid thought doesn’t even touch yet on what would happen to your family.

Not to be a drag, but part of business continuity planning is thinking of worst-case scenarios so back-up plans can be established, and well,  the sudden loss of the business owner certainly qualifies.

That’s where a well-thought out operations manual — the combination detailed instruction manual and Bible of your business– is priceless.

The ops manual can help keep the foundation, processes, work and structure of the business steady and strong even without you. On a much brighter note, if your business grows so successful that you can sell it,  the ops manual would still be an integral part of your business’s success, and a necessary component of the transfer. And if you need a vacation, or have to take on a sudden trip to the hospital, the people left in your stead can readily cover for your unavoidable absence.

An operations manual simply explains how your business works.
It details all the aspects of the business (operations, finances, production, etc.) as well as covers the information that’s needed to make it– and keep it– running smoothly. Even the details like the account numbers for utilities, or contact numbers for your  CPA, or lawyers, and your suppliers, etc. The ops manual is a controlled, concise data-dump of every detail of your business.  The business is your baby, the ops manual is your guide to taking care of that baby.
Continue reading For The Worst-case Scenario: Do You Have An Ops Manual?

How to Ease Your Everyday Pressure

Pressure is inescapable now. We’re  still have only so many hours in which we can act, but the demands on our time are endless.  One simple distinction that can help us put things in a more helpful light is this: Learning to perform under pressure isn’t the same thing as reducing the pressure we feel during the daily performance.

Time collapsed. Due to the the leveling of borders brought about by always-on connections and electronic tethers, we jam more and more into a finite box measuring 24 hours. We need to sleep, eat, and take care of ourselves and the ones who matter to us as well —  sooner or later something’s got to give, and until then it’s our nerves which bear the strain of it all. That’s why the chief pressure point is how to deal with pressure:  what can you do to lessen it, to de-pressurize without further harm to yourself or others?

Getting better at doing the job isn’t always the perfect solution, either. Usually, the reward for doing good work is more work.

No, the pressure that we want to alleviate is the one that comes from the heavy weight we look to bear every day, without any seeming relief.   It’s like a mad Greek divine tragedy: Atlas was made to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, while Sisyphus was sentenced to roll a boulder up a hill and then watch it go back down, only for him to repeat the cycle again. Every day.

Practicing mindfulness and mastery  can help us to perform better under pressure, but we need to learn to concentrate reducing the daily emotional and mental pressure as well. Both skills are needed to make the best use of your powers and time without burning out, breaking down or flying apart. Continue reading How to Ease Your Everyday Pressure

Sweep Your Way to An Easier Workload Tomorrow

  • “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today!
  • “First things first.”
  • “If you don’t have the time, make the time.”

What does time-pressure, GTD and prioritization have to do with house-cleaning? Stay with me.

Unless you’ve been raised completely unaware of one of the most basic of household chores, to get a really clean floor, you need to sweep before you mop. In this metaphorical scenario, sweeping is preparation, mopping is action, the clean floor is the finished, desired goal.

Get it? Not yet?

Okay, say you want really clean floors. Maybe your in-laws are coming to your new home, or you’re planning an open house to show it off to prospective buyers, whatever. You just want a really nice, clean floor. For purposes of this exercise, you don’t have carpets. For those, there are vacuums.

  • You get stuff that’s not supposed to be on the floor, off the floor. Clothes, books, gear, whatever. Off, back to their proper places, all of it off.
  • Then you get out the broom and start sweeping out from under chairs, tables, and sofas. You capture the small debris and the fuzz-bunnies.
  • You then work your way out from all the corners of the room, sweeping towards the center, and end up with a collection of dirt that you sweep up into a dustpan. You throw that stuff away into the garbage can.
  • You can prepare your preferred cleaning solution, diluted in water, to use with the mop.
  • Then you get out the damp mop to make sure you get the really small stuff off the floor — schmutz, ground-in dirt, dried-up spills, tracked-in street-crud etc.
  • You mop. If you’re the really, really picky sort, you mop with cleaning solution (twice) and do a final mop up with plain water.

Boom, clean, fresh-smelling floors.

Continue reading Sweep Your Way to An Easier Workload Tomorrow

The First 3 Steps To Starting An Online Business

One of the biggest obstacles to starting your own internet venture is the inability to get started. You very likely have a clear financial target in mind: You want to make money with this business, and to a secondary extent, you don’t want to lose all the money you currently have trying to get it up and running.

What can really gum up the works are all the possible solutions you can come up with as to how, what, where and why the business will succeed. The choices are endless, and their possible combinations, near-infinite. You can’t quite settle on just one or two choices to consider, you keep rating and ranking and comparing choices —right into paralysis. Why?

Because it’s easy to dream big. Dreaming is free. Joint ventures. Teleseminars. Blogging, maybe, hopefully, towards an eventual book deal. Money, fame, authority.

The images are so seductive, so shiny, that we can spend hours immersed in what-will-happen-when-I-get-rich. In the blink of an eye, we’re at the grand finish. We have a thriving, successful e-business.

And without any solid, real plans to explain how we got it.

Dreaming is free, and the problem is when you come up against the reality of the things you need to do to actually start. Faced with too many choices, we can fall into the trap of endless comparisons, cost-to-benefits ratios, etc. and never really start.

So here’s a simple plan to start an on-line business: Continue reading The First 3 Steps To Starting An Online Business

How to Deal with Distractions At Work

Distraction, procrastination and time-sinkholes comprise the terrible trio of the epidemic afflicting today’s working population.

Individually, we are pressed for time, scattered in our focus, and always trying ‘just to catch up.’ Collectively, we dribble away millions of man-hours of labor and lost productivity, and are left with an exhausted, anxious and fed-up work-force.

What can you do — on your own terms — to turn things around?

  • First, take rightful ownership of your time.
  • If you’re working for someone, they’re paying you for results.
  • You discipline yourself to get those results with the least amount of strain or stress you can, you’re half-way there already.

Get to those results, and you control the time you save yourself, for yourself. Look out for number one, that’s the ticket. They get their results, you get your control and ownership of that freed time — to live your life, you know?

You keep training yourself to manage your energy and time, to approach work with a calm and clear head, you cultivate a habit that will help you handle stress in a healthier way.

Result: You will still possess your time, it’s really a matter of training yourself to see how to partition it clearly to get the best results for yourself.

 

How to turn things around.

Be ruthless. Workplace pressures are difficult to influence. Unclear and haphazard business practices, a negative work environment, co-workers who don’t pull their own weight… there will always be things you can’t quite screen out at work, but what you can do is use the pressure to focus on what is in your power to change: your mind-set and your attitude. That is where everything starts — in your head.

In your head, you can imagine your actions and responses. You not only think, but predicts, assess, plot, and practice.

See, reactions happen in reflex. Something happens, you react.

Responses are thought out. Something happens, you take even a few seconds to breath and think about what is happening and how best to handle the situation, and you respond.

Planning and preparing ahead are vital, because it’s usually the small, regular irritants that suck us dry, and the rarer out-of-the blue events that can derail our day. Prepare ahead of time.

If you know what’s distracting you and you don’t do anything to deal with them, all the bitching in the world won’t change a damn thing. You have to take an active role in dealing with the things you don’t want to get the things you do want. No one else will do it for you. Continue reading How to Deal with Distractions At Work

The Difference Between Professionals And Amateurs

The question is old, and the answers are too, just varying with time and culture. The Greeks preferred to live a life of leisurely exploration of the mind, looking down on labor as necessary but beneath them, while in Indian culture work belonged to the first half of life, the next half meant for pursuing generosity and enlightenment.

In the hard-hitting Western culture, work is mostly about money: earning it, going after it and making more of it. That’s why when you ask what the difference is between a pro and an amateur, the most obvious answer in America is: “One gets paid, the other works for free.”

Aside from getting paid, what else marks the difference?

  • Pros do the ground work long before they need to roll things out. They keep their skills fresh, updated and relevant to the times.
  • They focus on the bottom line because they know it’s an important marker of their effectiveness, and as the result of their labor, they want it to count for something, in both financial reward for themselves and its utility for the people it’s meant for.
  • They know the value of their work and set its price accordingly

Pros and amateurs can possess the same basic knowledge in how to do what they do, but knowledge of the process does not equate to doing the work.

Professionals do the work, which includes reading the fine print, delivering what they promised, and keeping business relationships cordial, respectful and strong.

 

The uncertain economic climate has driven hundreds of thousands into a near-permanent state of anxiety and faith in a bleak future. While we’re told to “Keep going! Take charge!” going full-steam ahead won’t take us anywhere good without a definite direction, the experience to weigh choices under stress, and the discipline to handle the unknown.

Taking control helps alleviate anxiety because this time you are choosing the consequences of your actions. It’s no longer a question of If-this, Then-maybe. It’s “I choose this, this is what I’m going for.” Professionals go for it. They take calculated risks.

 

Everybody starts out as a novice. The fastest and most basic ways to learn is to copy someone who already succeeded at doing what you want to do. When you can do that well enough and understand the reasoning (the how’s and why’s) behind the process (the skill), you push yourself to go beyond the basics.

You go beyond the guided learning stages to develop a riff of your own. That development process asks you to accept that you’ll make mistakes, and that those mistakes will grow your experience more than rote study.

The biggest difference between amateurs and people who are good at what they do is that amateurs primarily think of what’s in it for them. The professionals go beyond that simple mindset and push themselves to provide things that are unique, valuable and useful for the people and the market they’ve put themselves to serve. Professionals get out of the way of The Work. Continue reading The Difference Between Professionals And Amateurs

Keep Your Work Satisfaction Up With Small Daily Victories

Have you ever watched “Office Space”? What about “The Office”, in either its British or American incarnation? Popular movies and television shows like these source a lot of their material from real-life workforce experiences and complaints, and in the very best human tradition, what we can’t change, we make jokes about. After all, laughing beats crying any day.

In real-life however, using just humor to survive working in a less-than-stellar environment can only take you so far.

Two big factors in that contributes to dissatisfaction in the work place is happiness and productivity, and they’re linked. It’s easy to admit to an idle fantasy of being paid to do nothing, but from many accounts shared online, jobs where you finish early and then spend the best part of the working day staring at the walls (or playing Solitaire), or being drowned in relentless waves of paperwork, or working on projects that get nowhere, are wearing on the soul.

As seductive as the fantasy is, the truth is that we’re not really made for scut-work. Past a certain age, our own development pushes us to find meaning in the work we do, pride in it, and no small sense of satisfaction in work done well.

When you are proud of and satisfied in the work you do, you are driven to keep that streak going. And continuing this happy event contributes to your own success:  we all want to know that our time, our efforts and our energy were well spent.

One of the ways we can get in the way of our own steady string of accomplishments is the lack of commitment. Sure, it’s nice to to be appreciated. Recognition and respect are great extrinsic (that is, external) motivators, but where it counts is the inner driving of our hearts. That’s where intrinsic factors come into play.

Things get stale. You do the same things over and over, getting the same acceptable results, but, and say it with me, ” [your] heart’s just not in it anymore.”

You just do the work on autopilot and your mind wanders onto other things, the way it’s wired to do when it it doesn’t find new stimulation. Our brains do that…and this phenomenon can work against your progress if you don’t fight it.

Given that the enemy lies right in your own head, finding the reserves to commit to daily skirmishes with work-connected boredom can be quite hard. What can you do? Continue reading Keep Your Work Satisfaction Up With Small Daily Victories

Set Yourself Up For Success

Setting yourself up to succeed
When you read the following sentence: “I was framed,” what do you imagine?

Something criminal going on, right? There’s this poor guy going about his business, when all of a sudden, he’s taken in by the authorities because all the evidence points to him as the perpetrator of a crime. Exciting to watch on TV, but nothing you’d want to go through in real life…

Or would you, if it means success?

 

We’re not advocating criminal acts here. We’re just asking you to think of frames differently.

  • Picture frames showcase and pull attention to the picture they hold.
  • A framework makes the support for something, a structure, an outline.
  • To re-frame something means to present it from a different perspective.

So setting yourself up –to win, to accomplish things, to get done what you want to get done, mind you– shouldn’t be that hard to wrap your brain around, right?

  • You act and provide reliable evidence to prove that you were responsible for getting something done.
  • Do that repeatedly, you establish a pattern.
  • Build reliable patterns, you have a framework of positive habits that support you on your way to your goals.
  • Build the strong internal structure to support you in you choices. Make the external changes to manifest your will. Frame yourself to succeed. It sounds a little clunky, but can you dig it?

Continue reading Set Yourself Up For Success

Save Your Brain: Use Routines

19 April 2013, by A. Cedilla

It’s funny how hearing a little soundbite on the TV about presidential fashion can turn into an in-depth analysis on the power of routines.

I mean, President Obama always wears classic suits when he attends official functions, and yet I never really noticed they were always blue or gray. Intrigued, I looked it up online:”Obama, style, blue suits.”

The search lead to to a Vanity Fair article from where I take the following quote (with emphasis added):

“The president does pick out his own clothes. But the president tells Lewis he sticks to wearing blue, gray and black suits not out of a lack of style or adventure, but to save his mind for other decisions. The president laments the fact that his life no longer has any spontaneity, but says he’s adapted. “My wife makes fun of how routinized I’ve become,” he says. “It’s not my natural state.”

Here’s this one passage as well:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” Continue reading Save Your Brain: Use Routines