Category Archives: Entrepreneur Hacks

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

Help Your Goals Survive The New Year With Flexibility

With all the important plans you made to make you this your best year yet,  one of the most effective ways you can help to realize your goals is to have built-in, supportive flexibility in your life.

Think of this familiar scenario: Most gyms see a lot of money come in during the first month of the  year, because a lot of people sign up to lose weight and get fit at part of their resolutions. Those aren’t bad goals at all,  but a common observation shows that most enrollees peter out over the first eight weeks of their membership.  Many sign up, but not all follow-through.

There could be all sorts of reasons for dropping out: People couldn’t adjust to the regimen they picked for themselves. They develop an injury from over-training. They get discouraged. There is a conflict in their schedules and they can’t keep up regular visits… so they do a slow fade.

Not showing up to exercise is just an example of the ways our goals fall off to the wayside, but you can already see where the weak spots are in the previous example. An inability to adjust, failure to adapt, pushing too hard too fast, taking on too much too soon…To help your plans survive past the first month or two of the new year  and reach fruition– you need  to factor in flexibility.

Building your flexibility
Let’s go with imagery:  You need flex so you can absorb shock and bounce back. Working within too rigid a structure, you can shake apart or break down after exposure to repeated blows of  stressful events. When you are flexible, you can bend, you can lean over, you can bow– but not break or snap, right?

You anchor those flexibilities to something solid: a structure, a routine, or a schedule.  You  deliberately make space so you can move. Continue reading Help Your Goals Survive The New Year With Flexibility

Do You Think Your Soft Skills Need Work?

When people start planning to add value to their skill-sets, what are the things that first come to mind?

Training and certification, qualifications and degrees can show up on the list, but what’s becoming more and more regarded as equally vital now are the intangible skills that help leverage group and personal strengths and make a good organization great. And whether you call them interpersonal skills, having high emotional intelligence, or plain people skills, these ‘soft skills’ are increasingly valuable today.

What are soft skills?
Soft skills are the personality traits and interpersonal skills that directly affect the way you interact and live with other people. They are rooted in who you are and how you move in the world and in your communities.

Internal soft skills are what you possess, intrinsically. They’re what help you direct the way you approach and understand things, and how you take action in your life. They are skills like:

  • Critical thinking/problem solving, and perceptiveness
  • Resilience and perseverance
  • Emotional management
  • Growth mindset

External soft skills are the ones you use when you’re with other people. Interpersonal soft skills are vital in maximizing your impact in a work group. For example, take the following:

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Effective communication
  • Self-Promotion and networking
  • Conflict management
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Negotiation skills

 

When people think of improving their skill-sets to build more value, their usually  focus on hard skills like learning particularly desirable programming languages, or spreadsheet mastery, or earning  widely recognized high-impact, industry-specific certification.

More and more though,  soft skills  like adaptability,  self-motivation, leadership, and having a growth-mindset are showing themselves to equally as valuable, and can actually provide more of an in with people and organizations.

See, if hard skills get the door open, soft skills helps cement the invitation. If hard skills provide the value, soft skills help sell it.

Continue reading Do You Think Your Soft Skills Need Work?

How To Develop A Mobile Mindset

When it comes to reaching your market, there all sorts of tried and tested methods available, with new ones making their way down the pipeline every month. We have the internet and assorted social media platforms, and we can reach our markets via  visual, audio, and textual content on various mobile devices.

With all the tools we have at our fingertips, it would be easy for businesses  to assume that they can continue as they’ve have been doing and they’ll be set  for the future, but that kind of thinking simply isn’t going to cut it.

We have increasingly found different ways to talk to each other and store, transmit, and share information.  The last 3 generations alone have witnessed the evolution of technology on an accelerated scale: from room-sized computing machines to tiny smartwatches, from vinyl records to digital music files, and from rotary telephones to smartphones that can also function as a mobile office.

We learned to think differently  with  the technology we have.
The word  “mobile” can just be taken to mean ‘movable.’ Agile. Portable.  Go back again to the evolution of tech:  desktops to laptops to tablets, rotary dial up, to cellphones, to smartphones…there’s a trend. Think smaller screen-space. Think lighter.

Now we need to think differently from the technology we have.
Being mobile friendly isn’t just resizing the screen for regular-sized computers and shrinking it down. It’s seeing and presenting information in a different way. The mindset here is a whole way of presenting interaction. And it is a mindset — you’ll have to consider being as clear and concise as you can be in the limited space you have to work with.

This is something that asks for design skills and contextual presentation. For example:  how much information can you present and still be understood? How can you make the move from big screen to small screen without losing your website’s branding?

New-think: You respond to changes, not merely react to them.
Technological advances and the internet helped use do certain things faster: communication and business have shown the biggest changes, and now the trend isn’t stopping. The impediment is not in the technology, but in the mindset of the people most in a position to leverage it for their own purposes, which in our case, are entrepreneurs and business owners.

We have our specific markets.  We have our ways to reach them, whether it’s ads, newsletter, RSS feeds or a website. And now the mobile trend is going strong and growing steadily. We can use this momentum to teach ourselves to think differently and move with the changes.
Continue reading How To Develop A Mobile Mindset

Strip The Noise From The Signal

When it comes to making good choices, we all want to know the facts before we decide. The sheer amount of information available out there, however, often makes it harder to do so, and our  brain’s own hard-wired responses to data can often work against us.

Issue one : We have too much information readily available.
We are overwhelmed with information we are simply not physiologically equipped to handle fully, or well, in such large volumes.
Goals: Cut down on the volume of  information, and go for relevance, quality and timeliness.

Issue two: Our brain’s pattern-recognition functions often makes for unconscious bias that can lead to faulty assumptions.
Goals: Recognize and be aware of your own personal biases so you can make checks  and balances for them in the decision-making process. This means practicing an internal system that pushes for clarity, relevance and timeliness in decision making.

Dealing with this two-fold problem means  approaching the problem from two fronts. One, devise means and ways to cut down and filter the data you need to make decisions, and two, recognize how you can be fooled by unconscious biases and have strategies in place to get make sure you stay on track, on target, and on time.

 

Now, being good in business can be attributed to a myriad number of factors, chief among them, timing, risk-taking, fore-sight, and sometimes, sheer luck. The pressure is always present to make the best choice for the next step, and that means looking at the information needed to take the next step. You want to make good choices, you’ll need information.

With the internet, however, we run into problems of scale and and of understanding. Continue reading Strip The Noise From The Signal

Four Bits of Advice To Get Through Rough Times

Well, we haven’t done this in quite some time now, what with being so busy with multiple projects, and it’s nice to take advantage of slow moments and check in with one another — or at the very least, sit a spell and check in with ourselves. So….how have you been doing lately?

And please, don’t go with the generic, “Oh, fine. Well, so-so, same as everyone else. Could be worse.”
Or the “Woow, superbusy, doing everything, really, you know?”
Or the “Maaan, I’d love to chat, but I don’t have the time to share everything, gotta go.”
How are you doing, really?

Try to recall what happened just in the last 30 days. The year hasn’t been going well for many of us, if the news in anything to go by. Even if you try to avoid the broadcasts just to keep some sort of peaceful, low-key mental zone to rest in, there’s always the internet,with its breaking news, social media and minute-by-minute updates to tell us all about the bad things happening in the world.

Check the article trends in the headlines of your favorite portal sites. You may remember seeing topics like: top 10 mistakes in picking a college major, or how to make enough money to retire, or tips on being able to work long enough to do so.

Go on to the news sites, there are wars, natural disasters, epidemics, graft and corruption, protests, riots….it’s a wonder we can sleep restfully at all with all the madness happening around the world.

Then there’s your own internal strife. Business is going down, what are you going to do about it? There’s not enough time to do all the things you need, what do you do about that? There’s not enough of you to go around, if you could only clone yourself…

Your worries chase themselves in your head, like rats in a maze. Things are moving faster than any one person can understand or can handle, and the world feels like it’s breaking down. The pressure is insane. How do you elbow out some breathing room in all of that? Continue reading Four Bits of Advice To Get Through Rough Times

Don’t Forget To Develop Your Soft Skills

Have you ever stopped to consider that working on your own soft skills can help you work better with other people?

As common as it is to feel to stressed at work –at your worst times you can feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world (and then some) on your shoulders — it helps to re-balance your perspective by stepping out from under the cloud of doom over your head, and looking at the whole context of the situations that are pulling you down.

  • Do you feel that there are people at work are gunning for you?
  • Are you having problems communicating clearly with your partners and co-workers?
  • What about your customers? What are the common threads in the kind of feedback you’re getting from them?

The cult of the self.
Let’s be honest, what with the on-going trend of personal marketing and personal branding, it’s very easy to be lead onto the fast-lane of self-promotion, where you show the right image and display the right credentials and so on, but step back from the frantic construction effort and think. Personal branding, presenting the right image– this is all right and good in an online market where image accounts for a lot, but in interpersonal relationships –in dealing with people — how are you up close and personal? Continue reading Don’t Forget To Develop Your Soft Skills

How To Handle Low Energy Episodes

Let’s talk about low-energy days.

You know what happens. They have dips in energy, anywhere from feeling a little blah or under the weather, to actual mental fuzziness and blanking out on important stuff.

Often these dips manifest as the flickering attention or fractured focus we get in the afternoon — usually after we tried to get by on caffeine-drips and convenience food eaten desk-side earlier in the day  just so we could cram in all the stuff on our to-do lists.

Low energy manifests in many ways.
Physically, when it comes to posture we can revert to a certain ‘slackness’: slumping or slouching. There’s a sense of fatigue, listlessness and generally feeling “off.”

Mentally, low energy affects how you think: like experiencing the inability to focus, or to hold a coherent and cohesive working idea for a sustained period. You skip from idea to idea without settling on what’s important. Thoughts slip out of focus. The more you try the harder it gets, like trying to hold on to water –or nailing jello to the wall. You can’t concentrate for all the ‘static’ going on in your head.

Low energy can result in slowed reaction times and less comprehension. It isn’t a coincidence that accidents happen a lot more when people are tired, and that we make more mistakes as well.

These dips and slumps in our energy levels can come up like a sudden squall, leaving you feeling like a puppet whose strings have just been slashed. They can slowly creep in and envelop you without you noticing until it’s too late, you’re already foggy and can’t decide what to do first, or next, or at all.

For example: You made plans last night, prepping for today. The list is right there in front of you, but your energy level is somewhere around your knees, your mind feels like sludge, and somehow your give-a-damn’s malfunctioned while you slept and right now, sitting at your desk and looking at what you need to do today, you just can’t care. You’re barely there.

What can you do? Continue reading How To Handle Low Energy Episodes

Rediscovering Your Purpose In Work

Imagine a 3-question pop-quiz:

  • (Daily) What are your responsibilities as a business owner: Hah. Many.
  • (Longer-term) What is your responsibility as a business owner: To ensure the success of the business.
  • (Lifetime)What is your main focus as someone living in this time, in this era, in your culture, doing the things you do?

These questions may seem kind of unconnected, first asking about the business then becoming sort of metaphysical, but in light of all that we’ve seen happen when the internet (and the new communication technologies that followed) revolutionized the ways we can talk and share with each other.

We’re always connected, and yet feel disconnected at times.
We share a lot of our lives online, but feel like nobody really knows who we are.
And sometimes we feel there is more for us to do ‘out there’, yet we feel aimless, detached and unmotivated ‘in here’ (points to self).

 

The cost of doing something with intent is becoming lost in it. As paradoxical as it may sound, we often look for Big Things for ourselves: a cause to devote yourself to, something bigger than you. A vocation, a calling, a reason for being. We want to lose ourselves in a grand undertaking–and in doing so find our reason for being here.

We are also afraid of getting lost — which is why we do so much stuff, to prove to ourselves and others that we got things going on. Important things, you know? We’re not aimless drifters. We get stuff done.
We also burn out, or get bogged down. Continue reading Rediscovering Your Purpose In Work

Finding the Right Metrics For Your Success

  • When you find yourself breaking even for the first time since you started your business venture, does that mean you’re doing well?
  • If you receive fewer customer complaints this month than last month, does that mean you can relax?
  • When your click-through rate rises after a new site design, does that mean you can go through with the new marketing scheme and thoroughly overhaul your processes?

When it comes to making anything a success — your business, your work, your projects, yourself, the question itself, “How do you measure success?” just opens the door to an overwhelming number of choices.

Success is a complex event, and is made up of many factors. Focusing on just symbols or thresholds for success, when you’re running a business  there are three kinds of markers right off the bat.

  • There are financial markers: I will be successful when I’m making enough money at my side-venture to leave my main job. I will be successful when I’m making $100,000 a year.
  • There are physical markers: I will be successful when I have expanded my operations to 5 new locations within the year.
  • There are emotional markers: I will be successful when I can stop worrying about making this business get off the ground.

In the question itself, “How do you measure success?” the parts “You” and “measure” should be pointed out as critically important.

For you to really feel the success, attaining it should be personal to you: there are too many accounts of people who, after looking back at their ‘successful’ lives and realizing they fulfilled the goals they were expected to have, were left feeling bereft and like personal failures when they realized those goals weren’t really their goals, they just sort of… slid into them.

In this vein, you need to dig deep and find out what matters to you enough that you would freely put in the labor for it, engaging and wrestling with all the details and activities involved in making the work a success. A success stands out because it demands more from you. Continue reading Finding the Right Metrics For Your Success