What is your target?

June 30, 2010

If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere… else.

I was listening to a conference call this week, and the issue of having or nor having a strategic focus came up. Another call was about how many of us are not targeting the right potential clients for our businesses. This topic seems to be coming up a lot lately. Whether it is the strategic focus for the business or for the marketing or for the target client or whatever…

What is the resistance to taking the time to get very VERY clear what the target is (strategic focus), and where the target is (market)? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I have this nailed quite yet either. But I am actively working on distinguishing my target market. And I am crystal clear where I intend to go with my business.

Seems like we are afraid to really get very specific about who we want to work with, and who we will serve the best. So, we cover it up by saying ‘everybody’ or ‘anybody’ could use our services. Really? Anybody?

While that may be technically accurate, I doubt that we want to work with ‘anybody’ or ‘everybody’. Personally, I have a pretty clear idea of the types of clients I won’t be working with. And that is where I began when I was defining who I would work with.

It’s as good a place as any to start. And, the more clearly I distinguish my perfect client, the more that type of client shows up. Rather than shrinking my options, getting very specific is opening me up to options I would not have considered before.

Give it a try. If you don’t know who your target is – try coming up with a list of who your target isn’t.

Remember, without a target (a destination), it doesn’t matter which direction you choose.

(c) 2010, Terry Monaghan

Want to use this article in your ezine or website?
You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, a free weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at http://www.TimeTriage.com.

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Is an empty inbox even possible?

June 23, 2010

Did you know that studies indicate most of us in business are spending up to 3 hours a day just trying to deal with incoming email? This time doesn’t include doing any of the work associated – just trying to get through the inbox. And if your email pushes through to your BlackBerry or iPhone it can be even worse!

3 hours a day equates to over 19-1/2 weeks a year – just trying to get through the inbox. No wonder it seems to be so overwhelming.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is just insane. I remember when I first heard those statistics. I realized that I was not spending any where near that amount of time dealing with my email, and I didn’t think I was the only one. I went on a hunt to identify what others were doing to manage this, and found we all had something in common.

It’s no big secret – we had all established a process and protocol that we use to manage our email. This process and protocol has just a few parts to it. And, if you implement even one of the steps, you will see an immediate result.

Here is my six step process:

  1. Establish protocols. When will you check your email? How quickly will you respond to incoming email? Make no mistake, if you don’t establish your own protocol, one will be established for you by default. The default is what we now have – 3 hours a day (or more) treating email as if it were some form of instant message, and allowing ourselves to be continually interrupted by incoming messages.
  2. Set up some rules to divert email you don’t need to see immediately. I have rules that move newsletters into reading folders, and other rules that move messages sent to a particular email account (yes, I have more than one) into its own folder. So what actually ends up in my inbox is already somewhat sorted.
  3. Turn off the feature that automatically checks for email every 5-10-15 minutes. (That is the push.) Instead, pull the email in to the inbox at the time you set to check your email.
  4. Turn off that shadow popup (or sound) that notifies you of new mail. Studies indicate we get interrupted, on average, every 6-8 minutes throughout the day. And, it takes us up to 10 minutes to re-focus on the task we were working on when the interruption occurred. That math doesn’t work! So, eliminate the interruption.
  5. Process your inbox systematically. I like to think of the inbox as a place where items land and the action is to sort. The inbox is not a place for things to live. The goal is an empty inbox at the end of each sort. Here are some sorting criteria that work well:
  • Read and delete (you don’t have to do anything else)
  • Read and respond (simple acknowledgment or one line response)
  • Read and schedule for future action (including delegating)
  • Read and file

I said six steps – so what is the last one? Stop treating email as if it were instant messaging. We have developed a culture that treats email as if it all required an instant response. Stop! You can put an automatic response on your email that alerts people to your rules and protocols. This will manage their expectations regarding when you will respond and can give them a way to contact you if something needs to be dealt with quicker. Trust me, they won’t get upset, and you won’t receive five more emails asking why you didn’t respond to the first one.

This is what you can expect: As I write this, I average around 250-300 incoming emails every day. I check the email generally twice a day – in the morning, and towards the end of the day. Each time, I spend no more than 30 minutes (and usually quite a bit less time) sorting, responding and scheduling action. Then, I turn it off till the next time.

A few years ago, I took a vacation to Ireland with my brother and sister. Every hotel we checked into had computer access. My brother and sister were checking their email every single day. I didn’t. I was on vacation. Instead, I had already scheduled my first day back as a catch up day. I came home to 894 new emails in the inbox (many others had been diverted). After two hours, every single one had been read, sorted, and scheduled appropriately. And I was caught up on what had been happening while I was away.

Give it a try. It works every single time.

(c) 2010, Terry Monaghan
Want to use this article in your ezine or website?
You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What, a weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results, then get your free tips now at http://www.TimeTriage.com.


Solutions to managing overwhelm

June 14, 2010

In my last post, I listed some of the major factors contributing to the pervasive sense of overwhelm most of us are struggling with. To review, some of the major factors were:

  • Looking for things
  • Your email
  • Interruptions
  • Meetings
  • Poorly defined processes

All of which was sucking up more than 100% of our time! And creating an unwinnable game in an unworkable environment.

So pick your head up off the desk. Below are some proven strategies to allow you to wrangle that overwhelm into a more manageable state.

What can we do?

So, what can we do? I am going to give you some simple solutions to address each of these areas. While they are simple, they are not necessarily easy to implement – but any one of them will produce a measurable result immediately!

Get organized

What can you do to reduce the time you spend looking for what you need (the document, the file, the phone number)? Get organized. Set up your physical space to work. Close your eyes and picture your primary work space. Got it? Good. Now, let me know – is it set up in such a way that it invites you in and allows you to get real work done? Or is it set up in such a way that it compels you to run screaming from the building? Or somewhere in between? The easiest way to do this is to work with someone else. Let’s face it – if you knew what to do to get organized, you would have already done it. And, I want to clear up one thing here – having a neat office does not necessarily mean you have an organized office. Some of the most organized people I know have untidy offices – but everything has a logic to it, and they can find what they need exactly when they need it.

Establish a process for dealing with your email

Set a specific time each day when you check your email. Turn off the function that pushes email to your computer or smart phone. When it is time to check, pull all the messages into the inbox.

Go through and sort everything in one pass. Don’t try to sort some and work on some – for now just sort. Some quick sort criteria –

  • read and delete (you don’t have to do anything else)
  • read and respond (simple acknowledgement or one line response)
  • read and schedule for future action (including delegating)
  • divert – create a rule to automatically sort it into a separate folder (newsletters, etc) that you can access as you have time

Shifting from checking your email every 3-7 minutes throughout the day to checking 2-3 times a day alone will free up two hours of time, on average, immediately!

Stop treating email as if it were a form of instant message!

Managing interruptions

Dan Kennedy says ‘if they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you.’ Consider tackling your most important task of the day before you check your email, and your voicemail. Don’t be afraid to close your door (and put a sign on it if you need to) so you can focus on your work. The world won’t end if you let your phone calls go to voicemail. You can manage people’s expectations by recording a clear message letting callers know when you may be returning calls, or setting up an email auto-response that lets people know how often you will be reviewing messages – so you won’t get 6 messages asking why you haven’t responded to the first.

If you may only have 45 minutes of productive time in the day, why not get that 45 minutes in and your most important actions done first thing – before anyone has a chance to interrupt?

Meetings

What is the intended outcome of the meeting? Can it be accomplished with a phone call? If so, then do that and save yourself a lot of time. If you must have a meeting be certain there is a clearly stated outcome, an agenda and a firm starting and ending time. And create clear action items coming out of the meeting. A meeting that doesn’t produce action items was probably not necessary.

Ineffective processes

Don’t be afraid to ask ‘why’ when you find yourself wondering if the way something is being done makes sense. Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better, simpler way to get the same result? Are we using our technology to the fullest? Often, we are too involved in what we are doing to step back to see if there might be a better way. If you find yourself operating over top of a sense of frustration and anxiety, you may want to take a step back and look at what is being done and how it is being done to see if you can tell where it has fallen apart. An outside pair of eyes is great here, too.

In summary, the keys to managing overwhelm are taking back control in those areas that you actually can control. You can set boundaries. You can schedule your time. You can plan your work. You can establish processes and protocols for how things get done. And you can recognize that we have created an environment where it is just not possible for one person to get it all done. So, choose what you will focus on (and choose what’s most important to you), and move forward.

To your success!

Terry Monaghan

Want to use this article in your ezine or website?

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What a free weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results then get your free tips now at http://www.TimeTriage.com.


Are we crazy to feel so overwhelmed?

June 10, 2010

Anyone here ever feel overwhelmed? You are in the right place.

In today’s fast paced world of business and technology – everything that was supposed to be making life easier seems to be conspiring to swallow us whole! Between smart phones, email, instant messaging, social networking, running a business, running a family, running errands – it is hard to remember sometimes about having a life!

Everyone feels overwhelmed and stressed out from time to time, and our current way of working doesn’t help. Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling stressed it is just a short hop to feeling overwhelmed, and you seem to be unable to even think? Well, science is on your side (or against you, depending on how you want to look at it). We evolved with the ability to focus on one thing, while blocking out most of everything else. Women have a higher capacity for maintaining some awareness of everything else – and we call this multitasking. I think it is more multi-awareness, but back to the point.

When you are overwhelmed – you actually lose both your ability to focus and your ability to block out all other stimuli. So – everything is happening at once, and you are aware of it. Total overload. You can’t focus on even one thing to pull yourself out – have you ever noticed that? No wonder we feel like we are running in circles as fast as we can, getting absolutely nowhere!

In this presentation, I will bring to light some of the realities of our current situation. We are going to examine the biggest impediments to our productivity. I am going to give you some statistics about it, and show you exactly why we aren’t crazy to feel so overwhelmed and stressed out.

It’s not all bad news, though. I will also be touching on some innovative solutions that will make a real, measurable difference – today! Finally, I will leave everyone with a simple process guaranteed to free up around 2 hours a day. What would you do with an additional four months of productive time each year?

So, what are the biggest impediments?

Looking for things

Do you have any idea how much time you spend each day just looking for something you need? Could be a file, a phone number, a document – doesn’t matter. Studies indicate that we spend, on average 45 minutes every day (or 9% of your workday) – which adds up to about 6 weeks. Six weeks just looking for things.

How many of you found yourself thinking you would take a vacation if you just had the time? Well – here’s six weeks.

Trying to get through your email inbox

Another time/productivity impediment is going through your email inbox. How many of you have more than 100 messages in your inbox? More than 1000? More than 5000? Does it just make you tired to even think of it? Based on a series of surveys done in Fortune 500 companies, experts have estimated that the average businessperson is spending up to 3 hours per day just trying to sort through the incoming email. This doesn’t include doing any of the work – just trying to sort through it. So, if you do the math – 3 hours a day, 50 weeks a year – (let’s tell the truth, many of you check your email even on vacation) – so 52 weeks, adds up to 19 ½ weeks every year just trying to sort through your email.

So, we are already up to about 26 weeks of the year – used up looking for things, and checking our email, and we haven’t begun to do any work yet.

Allowing interruptions

Yet another behavior that will negatively impact your capacity to be productive is allowing interruptions. Statistics indicate that on average we can be interrupted at least once every six to eight minutes, and it can take us up to 15 minutes to bring our focus back to whatever we were working on when we were interrupted (if we can even remember what it was). Let’s look at that – we get interrupted every six minutes and it takes 15 minutes to bring our focus back. But before we can bring our focus back to the task at hand, we will be interrupted again. This doesn’t work, does it? The first interruption can derail your entire day. Has this happened to you?

Meetings

And one final productivity killer for many people is meetings. How many meetings have you attended where you realized that the entire thing could have been handled with one or two emails or a short conference call? Or, you were in the meeting for 1-2 hours and absolutely nothing got done? Depending on where you are in your organization, it is entirely possible that 30-90% of your time could be spent in meetings.

Another study of Fortune 500 executives revealed that many of them felt lucky if they had between 28-45 minutes of productive time each day. Time they could use to focus on their most critical areas.

Processes

Where does that put us? So far we have accounted for over 100% of your time, and we haven’t gotten any work done. And, we haven’t even spoken about those processes that seem to take far more time and effort than needed to produce the result.

Unwinnable game

As far as I can see, we are playing an unwinnable game, in an unworkable environment, and we really do not have any time left! Given those circumstances, I believe we are already amazingly productive. The tragedy, of course, is it takes us 8 hours to manage to accomplish that 45 minutes of true productivity each day.

What can we do? Solutions in part two…

Terry Monaghan

Want to use this article in your ezine or website?

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Consultant, coach, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur, Terry Monaghan, publishes Now What – a free weekly ezine for entrepreneurs and professionals who want to double their productivity, improve their performance, and have a life! If you’re ready to jump start your performance and your results then get your free tips now at http://www.TimeTriage.com.


Delegating (or, I need more clients!)

June 2, 2010

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “I know I need to delegate some of this stuff, but I can’t afford to do it right now. I need more clients first.” – I would be a very rich woman.

Look, I get it. Cash flow is tight. Every cent is going back into the business. Credit is so tight you are even putting in your own money to keep going from time to time. Taking on an extra expense makes no sense.

But let’s really look at it. You are working your heart out in your business. You spend your days networking, working with clients, developing relationships, getting your job done.

And you are spending your nights and weekends doing your bookkeeping, keeping your papers filed, sending out invoices, typing cards into the database, creating your newsletter, sending thank you notes, making phone calls, and on and on and on.

And if you are not spending your nights and weekends that way, you are worrying about all that stuff needing to get done, and feeling guilty and overwhelmed, and thinking you are a hopeless case because you are so far behind on that.

If you remember to have lunch it is only because you scheduled a lunch meeting. You have given up on having a full night’s sleep. And you can barely remember what a day off feels like – it has been so long.

And you are convinced everyone else is doing it better.

You are already working at or over capacity. And yet, you think that “if only I could get some more clients – then I would be able to get some help.”

When, exactly, are you going to work with those new clients? You have no time!

You think you need to increase your capacity for serving your clients before you increase your structures. But, you have no additional capacity. And you will have no additional capacity until you revise your structures!

One hour of work by a good virtual assistant, or bookkeeper, or intern will usually give you back 5 hours of your own time. (Both the time it takes to get the task done and done well, plus the time you spend worrying about it.)

I remember when I hired my first part time assistant. I was really worried about being able to afford her. I initially committed to 10 hours per month of her time, and I put that amount of money aside. My deal with myself was if I didn’t generate at least enough work to cover her time, I would not continue.

I don’t know about you, but paying someone $25, $50, even $100 an hour (for an expert) in order to have 5 to 10 more hours in my day or week is well worth the effort. Every single time I have expanded my underlying structures my business has increased exponentially!

Right now, for every dollar I pay a virtual assistant or other team member, I am making back about 20 times that in increased business. So now, when I really want to increase my capacity for new business I look at what else can I delegate?

Works every single time.

(c) Terry Monaghan 2010


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