Excuse me, you have a little something in your teeth…

small business goal settingHave you ever come out of a meeting, or the end of day and caught yourself in a mirror and realized that you have a piece of schmutz in your teeth, or your cow-lick is asserting its personality again?  We have all had that moment when we think “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME?”

As small business owners we can spend so much time in the tasks that we forget what our goals are.  If only gauging how well we are running our business is as simple as looking in the mirror!  When it comes to taking your business to the next level, a level of self-awareness is required to assess the needs of your business and how your management style can be maximized for growth.

Take a look at your business and your strengths and values (and be honest about it!). Determine what makes sense for you to do and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of.

To identify exactly what you need, do the following for one work-week:

  1. As you go through each workday, write down the daily tasks that you dislike doing (or, put another way, make a list of the things you do last because you keep putting them off)
  2. Write down all the projects you’ve “had on the back burner”; those projects and tasks that never seem to get done week after week, month after month.
  3. Write down all the things you spend too much time doing (why are you really in the office all the time?).
  4. Write down all the things you wish you had more time to do.
  5. Write down all the tasks you must do as a business owner.

Ask people you know to work through this with you as they may provide a different perspective. There might be metaphorical spinach in your teeth that they are begging for the chance to tell you about!

Don’t think about how much it will cost or how long to get these resources in place.  Just think about you for now and ask yourself what you need to do in order to move your business forward.

Need help?  Click here to get my free e-book to help you gain clarity.

 

Unplugging: the new necessity

balance work and personal lifeIn a previous blog post, we discussed un-plugging from the virtual world including from media, and from work, as I do in the summer to take some much-needed time off at a cottage in the remote Quebec countryside for a week of peace and quiet.  Upon my return, everything is still functioning, even though I’ve taken a full week to un-plug.

This year though, COVID came for me just prior to leaving so I didn’t do much more than sleep. Usually, though, I spend the entire week reading, knitting and writing. I love to kayak on the lake in the mornings when the water is still. It’s very peaceful and lets me just think about things without all that daily noise in my head. Some might say that I’m downright lazy during my week off.  Is that okay? Yes, it certainly is because I deserve it. Do I miss technology when I’m at the lake? No, because I don’t need it there.

For those that are making the attempt to relax and take a break from work and media, but don’t want to travel, a ‘staycation’ may be an option. Whether by themselves or with family in the house there are a variety of ways to relax such as spa-at home days, reading, creative projects, music, further learning or games. No matter what the relaxing activity there are plenty of ideas out there to get the staycation started!

While the suggestions below may require some online research to get started, once the information is found, there is a choice to shut off this technology or enjoy it depending on the person. Maybe they are a true “no tech staycationer” or maybe they “un-plug” while playing online games, watching movies, listening to music and so on.

In the spirit of getting the staycation underway, here are a few resources if you are not sure what to do:

Want to relax in your personal spa?  The PennyHoarder has some fantastic ideas for creating materials for a spa at home and as a bonus creating some of these can be considered a little project!

Do you have a creative side and would love to work on something, but are not sure what? DIY Projects has a few ideas to check out. Maybe you just want to enjoy art or music from home, but don’t have access to great works of art or music. Check The Guardian’s list of virtual museums and art galleries, Billboard’s and Glamour’s lists of virtual concerts and performances. Even orchestras have live performances online as listed on classicalfm.

Do you just want to learn something to keep your brain moving or perhaps you miss the library completely?  There are a number of open university courses out there to get you thinking and OpenLibrary is an excellent online library if you are just looking for something to read.

Or maybe you want to get up and get moving, take a look at Runtastics 28-day at home workout.

It doesn’t matter how you “un-plug”.  What matters is that you bring yourself to a place of relaxation and contentment, while staying safe.

The Value of Black Goo

I was in denial. My driveway needed re-sealing for quite a few years and I was really hoping the night fairies would come and do it for me. Alas, no. A couple of summers ago, I thought I’d do it myself: get the bucket of black goo and the roller from the DIY store and spend time in 35C heat rolling said black goo on  my 2 cars wide and 2 cars long driveway. I never quite got around to it. I’m not a procrastinator but somehow I always managed to justify my lack of dedication to this part of home ownership.

About a month ago, a young man from 2 streets away knocked on my door and told me that he had a new business re-sealing driveways for the summer. He was studying accounting at university and thought this type of business venture would help him in school. (Great idea!)

I asked him how much to do the job and he said $195 tax in. I had to think about it – that’s quite a bit of money just to roll out a bucketful of black goo. I looked at my dismal driveway and thought woefully how long I had been putting off the task. I called him back to say that I would take him up on his offer. We scheduled the work for the following day.

My hero came over close to supper time the next day and while I was preparing the meal, I checked in on the progress by periodically going back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. The first thing I saw was him power spraying all the weeds out from between the driveway and the curb. I didn’t even think of that. The next trip to the living room I saw him power spraying the entire surface of the driveway. I would have swept the driveway; I didn’t even think of power spraying it. Then he taped off the entire perimeter of the driveway so that no black goo would get on the lawn. After that, he manually filled in all the cracks and holes (there were many). Only then did he roll out the black goo.

By the time he finished, that $195 was the best money I ever spent for value of work. Not only did he save me the labour of doing that type of work in the summer’s heat, he also provided value because he knew what he was doing. He’s done a lot of driveways and has a level of expertise that I will never have (nor wish to have). Sure, I could have done it, but outsourcing this task yielded much better quality results and freed up my time. Now I have this task off my to-do list.

There is value in everything we do, both personally and professionally; our expertise in what we do daily provides value to others.   What do you need help with in your daily life?  In my view, it’s worthwhile seeking out resources to help you get things done, things that you don’t know how to do, or have no wish to learn how to do, and free up your time on what matters most to you.  Agree? Disagree?

Masters As Teachers

Many organizations start with a great idea that will change the world and, through time and effort, they will evolve to be the best in their field. Though you might not think of it these terms, but what they’re doing, what they’re actually reaching for, is “mastery”.

You know this, because you have steered your non-profit through adversity and success, put in the hours of work, training, research, and sweat to make a difference. I don’t have to tell you that becoming the ‘master of business’ requires hard work. Malcom Gladwell would tell you that it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to master a skill.

Imagine watching the best Formula One driver, or the most incredible ballerina. They make their chosen trade look so easy and accessible. It is only when you attempt to duplicate the complex beauty of the Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy (reported to be one of the most difficult roles to dance) or harness 1000 horsepower around a turn pulling 3 G’s in a Formula-1 car, you realize that just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it is.

And that may be true for something like ballet or the violin where the skill is quantifiable. Becoming a master of your non-profit or association is much more than “time in” on any endeavour.

As I look around there are any number of organizations providing services to their members, value to their donors, exposure to their sponsors in any number of ways. What separates the successful from those who have become a master at their industry is a gritty combination of discipline, hard work, humility and generosity. Most of us would agree with the first three, but generosity?

There’s an old adage, “if you want to learn something well, teach it to someone else”. In order to teach well, it requires that you face your presuppositions about things, unearth those ideas that you didn’t even realize you believe. Being the master of any subject (even one that you invented) requires you to be able to objectively look at whatever you’re doing and seeing ways it can be improved. To teach someone else what you know requires a certain generosity. After so many years of ‘doing you’, that can be difficult, but that generosity has the reward of unearthing flaws in your system in order to improve them, and you cannot master what you think is perfect.

Now expanding on the generosity of teaching and of talent development, you gain the opportunity to:

  1. Invest: You are investing time leading to growth as an organization and investing in another person. How great is that?! Can you imagine if Bill Gates just did it all himself without bringing in a team? Bringing in others to be a part of your team grows your organization and its mandate.
    2. Discover Improvements: By letting others in on your system of doing things and teaching them how to do what you do they may discover and share new ideas and improvements you had not initially thought of. (another ‘set of eyes’ is always a good thing)
    3. Trust and Grow: By trusting your team to deliver, instead of always just yourself, you free up time to do more and expand.

So while you’re changing the world, be generous, develop your talent base and grow!

 

The Good, the Not that Bad and the Manageable Side of Remote Work

If you’re one of those lucky workers out there who has found a place that suits you, whether it be in-office, remote or a hybrid of the two, congratulations! Having a place that you feel productive, content and comfortable can allow your talents to flourish and let you be your best is not always easy to accomplish.

I’ve operated my remote support agency for nearly 18 years.  It took me a while to get used to working from an office set up in my personal space.  I did eventually get used to a concept called ‘boundaries’ and now I wouldn’t work anywhere else.  I’m the most productive in a quiet environment with no distractions.  But that’s me; you will likely have a much different set of working environment needs than I do.  And that is totally okay.

Having to live with a global pandemic these past almost two years has forced everyone to re-examine how and where work is completed.  We’ve had to go that extra step and actually ask employees (rather than presume) what environment would help them be the most productive in their job.  We’ve had to cross the line between a person’s personal needs and their work needs, and instead of saying in the interview ‘this is what you’re required to do, when and where’, we now ask in the interview, ‘what environment are you able to provide these deliverables?’ In this article, let’s look at the good, the not so bad and the manageable side of being a remote worker.

The Good

Forcing everyone to work remotely, especially last year, has helped us learn more about ourselves and what working environment we thrive in; doing so has also shown us what working environment we do not thrive in.  This in itself is a great learning point and also shifts the relationship between employer and employee; just by asking what would help their employee get through their workday and by putting a telework agreement in place, tells the employee that their employer trusts them to complete their work, without being monitored. This alone can be a much-needed motivation boost. The remote worker may feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work knowing that they are in control, leading to a boost in productivity. Productivity can also result from the ability to work at a flexible schedule, taking advantage of more productive periods of the day rather than being in an office from 9 to 5 and being ‘on’ all the time.  More ‘points’ scored there!

Some remote workers find they have a better sense of well-being with no commute to provide an extra source of stress, eating home-made lunches instead of office take-out and perhaps taking some of the old commute time and turning it into a work-out or walk.  Even more points! 

The Not So Bad

If working remotely suits you, as with any job, you need to be prepared. This includes making sure you have the proper tools to be a productive, content and comfortable worker.  Working in a traditional office comes with many things that the worker is not responsible for providing, so it is important to understand what you will provide.  For example, you may have a desk and chair at home somewhere, high speed Internet and some software.  You need to ask what your employer will provide at their cost or pay you for, e.g. they may now reimburse your monthly Internet bill.

The Manageable

For all of these wonderful benefits of being a remote worker, there are some pitfalls that are important to address. While technology issues and a shortage of physical supplies or equipment may prove challenging, the solution for these is a simple fix, purchase or pick up from the office. However, there are some challenges that take a little bit more work and a little more effort to start some good remote worker habits.

 Managing procrastination, distraction and time are key to get you in the best situation to be successful. Yes, it is true that these are also needed in the traditional office, but these things are even more important when you’re working remotely. Working in a traditional office when distracted or under the curse of procrastination can be managed easily as there are other people around you still working which can give you that little extra push to get back on track, but when you’re alone this is more of a challenge.

Either way, creating work habits that are conducive to getting the job done but leaving it when the work-day is over is incredibly important in being a successful remote worker. Consider having a closed office, letting family and friends know your work schedule (a.k.a. those ‘boundaries’), and having a good pair of headphones to cut down on noise will all help.

It’s likely that the time between work and home have now blended together, so leaving the home tasks for after work and leaving the work when it is time to take care of personal tasks can help (and stick to it!). For more ideas on dealing with distraction, flex-jobs has a quick list of solutions.

For further insights, purchase my new e-book ‘Humans Working Remotely: Guiding Success for the Current Future’. It’s available to purchase here: https://virtualworks.ca/product/humans-working-remotely/