Back To The Drawing Board

Okay. You reviewed your performance for last year. You went over what planned changes went right,  which ones fell through, what surprises happened, how you handled them, and worked through the new things and experiences you were presented.  You want to do a better job this year. Going from the top-most level and branching down (and outward):

What are your core goals?
Where do you intend to focus on personally and professionally? Think of the “Four Burners theory.” There are things you can only do yourself if they are to be done, and if you want them done, then they have to be high priority, e.g, you must willingly give these items the attention, actions, and time they demand.

Then there are things a little lower on the list and stuff you can push around, delegate, or outsource. These are the items you fit around your Very Important Priorities.

Think about how you handled things last year. Where did you experience the most discomfort? How were you surprised? What are you going to do with the new layers of experience you gained getting through these rough spots? How are you moving forward?

How do you want these core goals done?
What are your standards for “done?” Your answers determine when and how will you know to stop working, which are very important factors in making consistent, sustainable progress. Being stubborn about ‘how’ can act as a straight-jacket for when life throws you into a corner. When you build some margin into your plans, and have back-up options in place,  the peace of mind this  gives helps you recover faster when you encounter delays and sudden changes of circumstance on the way.
Continue reading Back To The Drawing Board

Enjoy The Quiet

The ribbons and gift-wrapping have been cleared away, and the kitchen and the dining-room table cleaned up. Hopefully you’re all enjoying the lull of The-Day-After-Christmas. Whether you’re sleeping off the big meal from last night or  simply savoring the quiet, in  just a few short days, this year will be over.

Kind of dizzying, isn’t it? Where did the time go? Seems like it was just two months ago that you were making plans to make 2016 your year, and boom —  2016 happened. Hard.

Now we’re almost done and here we all are, looking around at our lives. Where are you now? How are you doing? How far have you come from the start of the year? How much do you want next year to be better? Are you ready?

Take a good look at who helped you through, and don’t forget the people you helped, too. Give yourself credit for pushing through and making it. There may have been times you broke down and you had to crawl until you could get up, but you made it. You made it here, now. And for that, you get to stand at the start of a whole new year.

Maybe you’re already in the thick of carrying out the plans for making next year your best one yet. Maybe you’ve decided not to harp so much on getting everything done and made a resolution to pare down and focus on what really matters to you. Whatever you’re planning, whatever your goals, we here at Jrox.com wish you all the hope, success, and joy in all your endeavors.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Break It Down Again: Coming Soon, A New Year

How are your plans for next year coming along? Hopefully you’ve had some time to yourself to sit away from the holiday rush to work on them.

No pressure from this corner of the internet, really. And don’t beat on yourself if you don’t have next year’s goals written down and printed out in monthly and quarterly break-downs. We each have our own way of preparing for the future. We do what we can, when we can, especially when everything else going on right now on is tugging at our shirtsleeves to give them our attention, since ’tis the season and all.

A memory can make you grab pen and paper to remind yourself what to pay more attention to, and you have your trusty little notebook right there with you. Or maybe you catch your goals on the fly and capture the snippets with the note-taking apps or voice recorder on your smartphone — and your notes are happily synced across all your devices.

Perhaps you’re the type to open your day-planner and see neatly written notes and highlighted reminders already in place — and aren’t you glad Past-You did this for Now-You to rely on?

Block out quiet time for yourself : Planning for a good year is important, vital, and urgent for your own personal and professional fulfillment. Make sure you won’t be disturbed, since planning can have many moods.  There are serious ones–contemplative, sombre, and sometimes heavy with regret and intent. There are relaxed moods, which are open spaces for your idle day-dreams and thoughts to meander in. There are playful moods, where the sky’s the limit; no shame in dreaming, eh? There’s brainstorming, and asking questions, but in the end, there must be a plan. And if you want to plan better, you need to go back and review.

“X marks the mistakes.” What were yours this year?
Three things that can get us in trouble, and probably have in the past, are unrealistic scope, unrealistic deadlines, and unrealistic expectations. Continue reading Break It Down Again: Coming Soon, A New Year

Step By Step Into A New Year: Setting The Stages For New Growth

There are four stages that mark one’s growth in competence — like a ladder of skill — according to the ‘conscious competence’ learning theory:

Unconsciously unskilled
At any beginning, nobody knows what they’re doing.
We don’t know the skills that we don’t know, or that we need to learn them.
As rank beginners, we can look around, and then, we copy. We can copy without understanding. That’s what kids do when they start out to write, right?

Consciously unskilled
This means we know that we don’t have these skills, but we can practice so we can get better at them. Once we get copying down, we refine through practice and trial-and-error.

Going back to learning how to write, it means hours of inculcating fine motor skills and muscle memory practice until we arrive at a  recognizable, readable script. In the process, we learn to associate what we’re doing to the meaning behind the activity.

For example, in learning to write we trace letters and numbers in the process of learning to connect the scribbles on the paper to the understanding that precise scribbles mean letters and numbers, and letters in a particular order can spell out the word ‘cat’ or ‘box’ or ‘ball’, or numbers  and other things, like ‘5 apples.’

Consciously skilled
We know that we have these skills, and we can deploy them at will.
At this level, what we practice can become habit. Going back to hand-writing, whether we’re used to printing block letters, or can write in cursive, we can write easily and fluidly.

Unconsciously skilled
We put so much practice in this skill, it just comes naturally to us. At this point, we don’t have to think much about hand-writing and can write legibly while doing yet another task. And at this level, we can teach others.

Going to another example: Can you remember learning how to walk?
Conscious memory may help you there, although science and personal experience can clash as to how much toddlers and babies can remember of their earliest years. But from where you are now, can you remember?

If you can’t, have you ever witnessed a very young child learning how to walk?

They quiver and shake after they’ve hauled themselves up, hanging on for dear life to the side of the crib, or clutching their parent’s fingers.  They  keep trying: they overbalance, under-balance, fall forward and back and sideways and collapse — and then take their the first toddling steps.

Give it a month of watching them speed-crawl, and before you know it, they’re walking. They don’t care how goofy they look or how many times they fall down –as soon as the tears dry, they keep going. They’re purely focused on themselves.

Now what’s the difference between learning things as a kid and learning as an adult?
Sadly enough, sometimes it’s harder:  We’ve been exposed to more. We’ve lived longer,  and all our experiences affect the way we see ourselves, and how we see the world. So maybe there’s embarrassment at the thought of not-knowing something other people do.  Or shame at the thought of, “I should’ve known this already.” Continue reading Step By Step Into A New Year: Setting The Stages For New Growth

Flawed Design and Gracious Recovery: How Colette Patterns Fixed Their Oversight

Everybody makes mistakes. The real lesson reflects in how you deal with yours, and what you do to help yourself and anyone else affected by them. For this article, we’re touching on what happened after one business  realized that one particular product they’d already  shipped out had issues.

Colette Patterns is a popular website among dressmakers and sewists in the DIY crafts and hobbyist market.

The business, established by Sarai Mitnick in 2009, sells dressmaking patterns — and among their many relationship-building activities, hold sew-alongs with their followers,  doing the sorts of active communication you would expect of a company whose market is composed of people who like working with their hands — mainly DIY-enthusiasts, ranging fron beginners to expert sewists.

By giving their customers a chance to show off their work, talk to their peers about their processes, share and commiserate over their sewing flubs, and by providing an open platform for discussion, critique, and exploration, Colette has established a very good customer base.

They also do solid cross-promotion with their various partners, affiliates, and brick-and-mortar crafts stores, as evidenced by the many articles in their blog and in their online magazine, Seamwork.

Like proud parents with their children’s drawings and a big refrigerator door, Colette also has  galleries where subscribers can send pictures of their finished works, and host sewing challenges as well as having “featured seamstressess” pieces showing the many varied people who used Colette patterns.

They let people take an an inside look at their workings and see how things get done in the Colette Studio.

They also keep updating their tips on building a personal wardrobe.

They also solicit input and stories from their readers, conducting “Sew-alongs” whenever new patterns go out so people can follow step-by-step and see how it’s supposed to be done.

All these areas of sharing and interaction with their market has resulted in a vibrant community for Colette. They have 15,000 followers on Twitter,  16,000 on Pinterest, over 40,000 on  Facebook, and 55,500 on Instagram. Colette Patterns built a solid  support system in their niche with their  fans, followers, and customers  from all their consistent hard work.

A while back they posted an announcement to their website regarding a mistake in a new pattern that had already been selling for a few weeks, in response to feedback about the results of the patters from sewists who used it. Continue reading Flawed Design and Gracious Recovery: How Colette Patterns Fixed Their Oversight

Defining Good Work: Are You A Good Worker?

“What is the value of keeping on doing good work?”
It’s a simple question that has a lot of weight behind it. What’s good work anyway? What with all the promises and get-rich-quick schemes out there, all the hype and hoopla in marketing and advertising, all you need to push your products and services is to sell the sizzle, not the steak .  To answer the question you need to break it down.

“What is the value?”  – Assigning worth.
How much is your product or service worth to your audience, your customers, or your  market?

You may scoff at all those over-the top infomercials where people flap, flail, and screw up such simple actions like opening a jar, only to have Today’s Magical Doohicky save them for only three easy installments of 19.99 each —  but did you know that the infomercial market is worth billions? Yes. Those cheesy shows and demos are part of an industry and a very healthy market worth billions of dollars. Just because you can’t see it from where you’re sitting –probably on the couch– doesn’t mean the market isn’t flourishing, or relevant.

Informative link: The Economics of Infomercials

What’s more, the home-shopping and TV shopping market measures in the billions too. From cookware to jewelry cleaning, from skincare to household appliances, the home shopping industry is just another parallel market to internet commerce. For businesses selling products in both arenas, the similarities are many, and the work required to succeed is as demanding. You may just have passed one off as a silly series of hard-sell skits, but the market is there and it is huge. You just didn’t see it. Continue reading Defining Good Work: Are You A Good Worker?

The Case For Not Doing Everything

There are things you do as a matter of necessity when you run a business. Things like filing and paying business taxes, following up with clients, networking with peers, renewing licenses, ensuring your data is backed up and your website is running optimally, and so on.

Then there are things you do as a matter of preference. Stuff like checking email first thing, or scheduling calls at particular blocks of time,  or putting in brainstorming sessions in at a coffee-shop just to get out of the office mindset. Maybe you shifted to a dual monitor set-up, and it worked wonders with your coding, or perhaps you made your own hotkeys to save time on repetitive tasks.

Whatever tweaks or set-ups you make to make your life run more smoothly,  you  know you’re not alone in looking for the sweet spot. An entire industry has grown out of the productivity movement. Life-hacks, apps, methods — whether you use bullet journals, kanban,  the urgent/important  matrix, GTD — all of these things grew out of the need to determine and make the most productive use of our time. It’s our modern way to take control and make sense of all the stuff that goes on in our lives.

Not all methods work right on the first go though, which is why we can take a lot of time tailoring and testing them to fit our own needs and circumstances. Part of the problem stems from mixing up our goals with the various set-ups we use to get to them.

Helpful article: “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.”James Clear

Just as one size doesn’t fit all, chosen methods won’t mean squat if they don’t help make measurable positive changes in our work flow.  With testing and tweaking, we can use an assembly of specific practices swiped from various methods — as long as they work. And work well. Continue reading The Case For Not Doing Everything

Are You A Digital Hoarder?

Whether your business is big or small, there are some things that will remain the same:  One, in running it, you’ll need access  to a large amount of various information and electronic data. Two, you need help in staying on top of the data you already have and handle what keeps coming in. Three, you can have trouble getting rid of data that you don’t or can’t find useful.

Here’s the background to why even the thought of getting rid of things (including data) hurts, and a few suggestions on how to handle too much information. Continue reading Are You A Digital Hoarder?

Get Your Product Out The Door

When you’ve been an entrepreneur long enough, one thing is for sure:  you have to ship or die. Whatever product or service you offer, as long as there’s a viable market for it, you’re in business.

You stay in business as long as you keep producing or serving to meet the demand that identifies your particular market, whether it’s left-handed scissors, specialty wax seals, or antique car detailing. And if you truly are fully engaged with these things, and get to make a living out of that engagement, then more power to you.

There is a caveat, though.

“Follow your passion,” overlooks the goal of your work.
It’s easy to overlook that the root word of ‘passion‘ comes from the Latin for ‘suffering.’ Following your passion is easy to say; it’s just three words anyway, but the sentence doesn’t cover  what happens after, and that’s where many people stumble. Pipe dreams die easily when you apply hard logic to them, and for many who prefer the dream, they can come unprepared for the hard work of making it into a reality.

See, the hard part is that some parts of the dream won’t make it, so you need to let them go.

“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” – Erica Jong, author

 

Now, let’s take about productivity, and how it ties in to “ship or die.”

One idea  you have to learn to relinquish is the thought of a perfect product. If you have trouble releasing a product to face the public, have you ever really tried to answer the question, “When will it be good enough?” definitively? Do you have a protocol for bug fixes and releases, but have a habit of  being slow on the actual launching? Continue reading Get Your Product Out The Door

Top Tips To Getting New Customers

When you are faced with a jaded audience who’ve been informed of every scam on the planet, have been burned by bad customer service, and know horror stories of substandard products and service contracts from hell, what can you do to keep drumming up fresh business in the form of new customers?

You start with a clean slate.
Running an online business is hard work, and part of that is developing foresight and proactiveness. You think of the most possible and probable issues coming down the line and take the steps to prevent them from happening, or work to weaken their impact.

One way to do this is to treat each visit or customer interaction as a start to something good.  You can’t go into a business automatically distrusting the people you’re planning to serve — that’s crazy-making. Continue reading Top Tips To Getting New Customers