I was sitting at my desk… the chair was broken and squeaking every time I moved, my pen was annoying me and I was just plain grumpy! I had so much work to do but all I wanted to do was go take a nap. Needless to say my productivity was suffering in that moment. Sometimes our workspace affects our productivity… heck sometimes it is a productivity killer! Now that we are getting into a new autumn routine it might be a great time to evaluate your work environment. In working with my clients over the years I have come up with 3 things that effect productivity the most – Environment, Equipment and Emotions.
Environment: Take a look around… what is distracting? Is it a squeaky chair? Is it clutter? Is it too hot or cold? It is too light or dark? Are your kids interrupting you? The list could go on and on. The environment you work in can make a huge difference in your productivity. Take a minute now to look around… what is distracting you? Find it, Fix it and see if that helps your motivation level. I recently decided to change the décor on the top of my desk as well as purchase a room dividing screen. The screen give me an additional level of privacy and blocks my view to the rest of the house. The top of my desk went from a view of the router and paperwork and dust… to motivational painting, sculptures that mean something to me and pretty things to look at that bring me joy! I am now super excited to head to my desk to work! I feel like it’s a grown up and efficient space now! Oh and I also bought a new desk chair… no more squeaking and memory foam seat! Oh yeah!
This year I renovated the top of my desk… I removed all paperwork and electronics and replaced them all with things that brought me joy and peace. What do you think?
Equipment: This is one that is overlooked. The little things grate on us without us even knowing it. I have a favorite pen. If I have a lot of writing to do it is important that I have a comfortable pen, that I like the way it writes and glides across the paper, and that the point thickness is good for the way I write. For me I love fine tip pens… medium pens make me crazy! What kind of notebook do you like? Spiral bound, composition style, tablet? It does make a difference. How about your computer… Is it slow? Is the keypad comfortable? Can you read the letters on the keys? Is your chair comfortable? One of my client’s was working hard to finish a book she was writing and was not motivated to write at all. In one of our sessions I said, “Tell me about the pen you are using.” She promptly told me she hated it and the notebook she was using. I encouraged her to change it. Well what do you know… al of a sudden she began writing again! It is not always that simple, but it is a good place to start if you are not getting the results you want!
Here is an example of the pen I chose for my promotional materials… I love the color, the grip and the way it writes!
Emotions: How we feel definitely affects our level of productivity. This is both what is going on in our lives as well as our behavior patterns. Extroverts don’t do well working in isolation. If you get your energy by being around other people try working an afternoon at the local coffee shop or find a shared workspace. Sitting alone in your office hours on end will be draining. If you can’t go someplace where people are… put something on in the background or invite you child to read in the room with you while you work.
Another part we overlook as entrepreneurs is to take breaks. Set a timer and take a 10 minute break every so often. Walk outside, get a cup of your favorite drink (mine is a Chia Latte from the Proximity Café here in Pottstown!), journal, listen to a favorite inspirational song, do some yoga or meditate. Remember to recharge when you can so you have the energy and focus you need!
It was November of 2013. I had opened the doors to Innovative Coaching services just 4 short months earlier. Things were moving along and I was learning a lot each day about being a Solopreneur! It was a Tuesday… November 12th to be exact. I had gotten the mail and found a letter addressed to “The Legal Department of Innovative Coaching Service”. I said out loud… “Oh isn’t that cute someone thinks we are big enough to have a legal department!” I chuckled and opened the letter. My laughing quickly turned to panic and I admit… tears! I was being SUED for copyright infringement of a photo I used on the blog portion of my website. (The Blog had been written and posted way back in JUNE!)
Of course I called my attorney, which began the months long process finally ending in a settlement of a reduced fine, yep… a fine plus now attorney fees to boot! So what happened?? It is a case of “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” I THOUGHT I was searching for “FREE” images when I used Google Image search. Turns out the image may be free… but you may need a license to use it. There are also people out there who plant seemingly “Free” images then hire an agency to follow it’s “rights and recovery”… in plan words… these images are planted on the internet waiting for someone to use it… they hire college students to troll the internet to “find” them… then sue people for using them without permission or the proper consent. It’s a legal loop hole that makes them thousands, sometimes even millions!
It was a horrible experience so when it was all said and done I asked my attorney and numerous web designers how I can protect myself from that happening again. The only REAL way is to ALWAYS take and create your own images. ALL of them! You can either get pretty good at taking creative photographs or you can hire a photographer to help you create stock photos for yourself. You can purchase pictures online, BUT I warn you to be sure you have the proper licensing for distribution if you plan to post it on your website or blog. My suggestion is to hire someone you trust to take relevant picture for you! If you need referrals just ask! I know a ton of Fantastic Photographers… even some who specialize in stock photos!
There are some sites that are 100% free. As long as you read the fine print and can ENSURE you are using them up to the terms intended… maybe give it a try. I must admit I am a little gun shy even with those sites!
My new plan when I am not feeling creative is to browse Google images and find one I like… then recreate it! I am not a perfect photographer, but it sure beats getting sued! So I encourage you… take a moment to check your website… take down any images you don’t OWN or own the rights to distribute. I don’t wish that letter on ANYONE!
When I was growing up my mother would tell my sister and me many stories. As an adult and mother to my own kids now, I find myself remembering and sometimes retelling the stories I once loved to have told to me. One of my favorites was the house with the Golden Windows. It is a story about perspective and appreciating what you have when you have it. It can also be about not comparing yourself with others… I found this version of the story online… tell me what you think you can learn from it…
(This is actually a picture of my neighbors window I took to remind me of MY golden windows)
The House with the Golden Windows
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a simple, small, and shabby-looking house. When she would be outside playing in the yard, she often glanced over the fence and across the valley and noticed a large house high on the hill. This house had “golden windows” that glistened every time the sun shone on it and the girl would dream about how lovely it would be to live there instead of in the ordinary house like hers.
A few years later, when the girl was a little older, her mother gave her permission to ride her bike a little further up the street. She rode up the street, across the valley, and up the hill until she reached the house, with the golden windows, that she always admired from the distance.
As she dismounted from her bike, gazing at the house, she was a bit disappointed in what she saw up close. The house was abandoned and dilapidated. The front yard was surrounded by weeds taller than her and the “golden windows” were actually plain and dirty, reflecting only the neglect of the house.
Feeling so sad, she didn’t go any further. Heartbroken over the false illusion of her dream house, she mounted her bike and headed back to her house. As she glanced up, ahead of her in the distance, there was a sight that really amazed her. Across the valley on her side of the valley was a little house and the windows glistened just as golden as the house she was just leaving. It was the sun shining on her little house.
It was then that she realized, she had been living in her “golden house” that she always dreamed of from afar. But her house was filled with love and care. It wasn’t abandoned like the house she often dreamed of someday having. Instead, everything she dreamed of was right there in front of her. In reality… she WAS living her dream!
MORAL: Things aren’t always greener on the other side. The way we view things aren’t always how they really are. We need to appreciate the things we are given and make the most of it.
We often compare ourselves and/or our businesses to others. We are often comparing apples to oranges or our own challenges/weaknesses to other’s strengths. When they look at us… they see the golden window too! In the summer months when things tend to slow down and become more relaxed it gives us time to criticize and compare. I challenge you to instead revisit and reevaluate what you are doing. What is working? What isn’t working? Take the time to live in the moment, dream, create, and change things up. Ask someone you trust to tell you what they think of your business or what you are doing right in your life. Then remind yourself that you ALREADY have golden windows! How will you let your golden windows shine??
Snow Day! Yeah! Oh wait… I have to work and now the kids are here ALL DAY… Sound familiar? Well here on the east coast and in 24 states across America, we are having what I hope is Mother Nature’s last blast of winter “fun”. So, that means many of us are working from home today. I thought I would share some tips on how to keep the day productive.
Snow Day Tip #1: Create a NEW to-do list just for today. You can think of things that need to get done that do not involve clients like social media, blog posting, business finance, updating your marketing plan… etc. The list should be kept short if possible… use today to have a slower paced day yet include something that will really make you feel accomplished.
Snow Day Tip #2: Sit down with the kids and let them know you are working… if they are old enough, you can even show them the list of tasks you need to finish so they can cheer you on and support you through it. It is good for them to see you working!
Snow Day Tip #3: If you do need to do client outreach, be sure to do that FIRST before the natives get restless! Let them know mommy/daddy needs about 20 minutes (or however long you need) where you cannot be interrupted… Dust off an old favorite movie, a board game or pull out the cookbook and have them choose something they would like to learn to cook. Heck send older kids out to shovel! Show them a signal you can do without words to show them you cannot be interrupted. I put 2 fingers up to my lips as in “shhhhh” then blow a silent kiss. When you make the calls… It is also a good idea with some clients to just address the elephant in the room… many will have kids home so in the beginning of the call, just mention it… “Oh by the way, if you hear some background noise, I apologize… after all it is a snow day and the kids are home. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.”
Snow Day Tip #4: Have some way to separate the area you work and the rest of the house… this can be a door or a screen. Here is a picture of my screen.
When my family sees this up they know I am working and have to assume they need to be quiet. This also keeps me from being distracted by what is going on around me as well.
I have a 3 part blog that addresses tips to work more productively from home. You can find them here:
Enjoy this winter wonderland today! Let me know what questions you have!
Many of my clients first reach out to me thinking they have a time management problem. Once we have our first session we almost ALWAYS find that it is something else.
Having said that I 100% believe that scheduling is important and can be done wrong if not careful. Are you focusing on Income producing activities (IPAs)? If not you are leaving money on the table. Getting those Income producing activities first will set the tone for the day. One of the tools I use is the 6 Most Important Things List.
Prioritizing your work and putting the income producing activities first will help ensure you are not pushing papers all day. What activities create the most income for you? Is it making calls, holding appointments, selling something or working on a marketing project? Each business is different and there are seasons. My recommendation is for you to sit and make a list of how you make actual money in your business… If you sell a product, set a goal to sell 1 or 2 first thing in the morning. If you offer a service, set up a selling appointment first. Try it for a week and see if your bottom line increases.
Share with me what your income producing activities are… if you don’t know… let’s talk! It could be that you are leaving money on the table!
You may have heard my story before about running. If not here’s the short version… In 2009 I was told by 3 doctors that I would never run again. I had the beginnings of stenosis of the spine, “crunchy” knees due to 5 surgeries from an ACL injury in High School and I was overweight. I am the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something I am going to prove you wrong! So I began to lose weight and then in January of 2010 I started the couch to 5K program. Long story short I ran my 1st 5K on April 10th 2010 and continued to run races until my ultimate race in October of 2011… The Hershey Half Marathon!
There will always be people who tell you that you “can’t” or you’re “crazy”, “stop “dreaming”… I’m here to tell you that you CAN, you’re NOT crazy and NEVER stop dreaming! I first heard this poem at a Mary Kay event probably around 1998… I still love this poem and I hope you enjoy it! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
The Race by Dr. D.H. “Dee” Groberg
“QUIT! GIVE UP! YOU’RE BEATEN!” They shout and plead,
There’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.
And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene.
For just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; now I remember well.
Excitement, sure, but also fear; it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope. Each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son.
And each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.
The whistle blew and off they went, young hearts and hopes of fire.
To win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
And one boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the lead and thought, “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd, he fell flat on his face.
So down he fell and with him hope. He couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell, his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done – behind a bit, that’s all,
And ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself to catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quite before with only one disgrace.
I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
That steady look that said again, “Get up and win the race.”
So, he jumped up to try again. Ten yards behind the last.
If I’m to gain those yards, he thought, I’ve got to run real fast.
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye.
There’s no sense running anymore – three strikes and I’m out – why try?
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had flew away.
So far behind, so error prone, closer all the way.
I’ve lost, so what’s the use, he thought, I’ll live with my disgrace.
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low. “Get up and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win the race.”
With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said, “You haven’t lost at all,
For winning is not more than this, to rise each time you fall.”
So up he rose to win once more. And with a new commit,
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been.
Still he gave it all he had and ran as though to win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he’d rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.
They cheered the winning runner as he crossed first place.
Head high and proud and happy; no falling, no disgrace.
But when the fallen youngster crossed the line, last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, unproud;
You would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his Dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me you won,” his father said, “You rose each time you fell.”
And when things seemed dark and hard and difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy – helps me in my race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and down and all,
And all you have to do to win – is rise each time you fall.
“Quit!” “GIVE UP, YOU’RE BEATEN.” They still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says, “GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”
If you read my social media or blog posts regularly, I am sure you have heard me talk about comfort zones before. My tag line is “open the door to empower your future!” When I say “Open the door”, I mean the door to your comfort zone. I practice what I preach! I find some way to step out of my comfort zone weekly if not daily! I am always trying a new networking event where I don’t know anyone or driving to a place I have never been before. It is usually something mildly anxiety filled… except when I travel to NYC!
I have been to New York City a lot for leisure, but that has always been on an organized planned trip and with family or friends. I have travelled to a few times this past year to visit my business coach. I first travelled there for business in July of 2014, again in December of 2014, and again this past Wednesday. For some reason going for business makes me so nervous. I don’t know if it is worrying about being late, going alone, or getting lost… I just get very anxious at the thought of going to NYC. My friend Emi travelled with me this time as we were attending the same event.
We started our day before the crack of dawn leaving our houses by 4:30 AM! We drove to NJ to catch the NJ transit. All was going well when we heard “Penn Station next stop” So we started to get off but I quickly realized this was not New York Penn Station but NEWARK Penn Station! My first thought was… OH MY GOSH we got off at the wrong station… I proceeded to push everyone out of my way to get back on the train! Not how I usually behave but I was in a panic! We get back on the train and someone was in our seat! AHHH! We scurried to 2 open seats. I just stared at the tickets in our previous seat wondering if I should have grabbed them. I sat there thinking, “who names 2 stations the same 1 stop apart??!” Then the conductor comes by and asks us for our tickets! YIKES! I stammered… “We were sitting there and got off at the wrong stop…” he saw the panic in my eyes, chuckled and moved on. He must have thought “Rookies”! Whew, crisis averted! Emi and I decided we were just on an “adventure” and boy was I glad to be with her on this adventure and not alone!
We finally get to the correct stop and decided to get Starbucks for the 1 mile walk to the workshop site. I have my Grande Flat White in hand ready to start walking. I turned the GPS on my phone to pedestrian and we set out… of course we walked the wrong direction at first but I redirected us and we were on our way… 5 minutes into the walk I realized I was squeezing my cup so much it was spilling all over me! UGH! A slight panic attack followed, but I finally got that under control. We arrived safely and on time… only took me about 20 to 30 minutes after that to calm down fully.
I don’t know if it is the rushing, the sheer giant size of everything, the honking, the lights, the chance of getting hit by a car or taxi at every corner… I am just not a city girl… BUT I KEEP GOING! I step out of my comfort zone into massive discomfort to grow myself and my business. I keep showing up even when I don’t want to! As a matter of fact, I am going back this weekend for TWO days! I doubt I will like it, but it is important for me to keep doing it! So tell me… where are YOU stepping out of YOUR comfort zone… go ahead… open the door… let the empowerment begin!
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Before each laser coaching session, my coaching clients are asked to fill out a Session Prep Questionnaire to help us zero in on where our focus should be for that session. One of the questions is, “What action/changes are you ready to take now?” I often get the answer… I’ll do anything! Only to find when we come up with some ideas they also come up with excuses as to why that won’t work. Well, that only works once with me… I nip that in the bud right away. You have to get uncomfortable to grow! That’s why they are called growing “pains”! I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and “try something on” for a week or 2. Find ways to develop baby steps to ease into the changes where you can. You will most likely find that the expectation was worse than the action. Are you buying into the excuses… it cost too much, I don’t have time, I could never do that, I don’t like the phone…
How long are you going to let the excuses stop you from reaching your greatness?? Get out of your own way and just do it! If you need to, find an accountability partner or coach to help you and support you through it! Say you will do whatever it takes and mean it! It takes practice, but when you push yourself, reach and stretch amazing things begin to happen. Tell me what you have been putting off. Will you do whatever it takes?
I remember as a kid I had one of those Magic 8 ball toys. You know the one… it has that multisided cube-like thing floating in the blue “water”… you asked it a question then flipped it over for an answer. This was THE hottest thing to help a pre-teen predict the future or make a decision… “Should I wear my “Jordache jeans”, “Forenza Sweater” or “Swatch Watch” to the dance on Friday?” (Ok I’m sure I just dated myself!) I remember sitting in my bedroom with my best friends asking question after question. It was a lot of fun, but we soon found out it was just “fun” and not reliable at all! Now we are all grown up, and we need more than a magic 8 ball to make decisions.
As an entrepreneur you will have a LOT of decisions to make on a daily basis. Are you a decision maker? If you want to be successful in business you need to be! When faced with a decision there are many ways to handle it. You can do some research, ask a friend for advice, make a Pro/con list, and on and on… But ultimately the bottom line is… you must make a decision! Sitting on the fence is NOT comfortable! I have been there. In the past I have been faced with a big decision and dragged on and on… it can get exhausting!
I’m not saying you should rush into decisions, but I do encourage you to take a look at what is holding you back from making a decision. Is it a lack of information? Has someone burst your bubble? Most often it is simply FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). I LOVE to work with decision makers! Best of all… when you do make a decision you can see how it goes and make a NEW decision with more information! What decision will you make today? It just could be the one that makes ALL the difference!
We have all heard the quote by Albert Einstein (or Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain or Rita Mae Brown) where he states … “The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. Having a background in psychology I understand this really isn’t the “true” definition of insanity, but it sure does bring up a great conversation point! When you are trying to improve or change but don’t change your actions the results can’t come to fruition. Are you living this definition in your life or business? Are you trying to grow or change your life or business in some way but keep thinking the same thoughts, setting the same goals, making the same plans, doing the same things?
Often times we are stuck in a routine or afraid to make the changes necessary because they carry some risk. What if I fail? What if I don’t recoup the funds I have to put out to try? What if I actually succeed? Gasp! More importantly… what if I don’t know HOW to change? I invite you to take a good look at what you are doing. What pops into your head as something you have avoided trying? I challenge you to go for it! Step out of that comfort zone, Feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY!
Start small… Pick something to change… Set a NEW goal, make a new plan, DO IT, then evaluate the results. Figure out what worked, what didn’t, make some tweaks and do it AGAIN!
I work with clients on a daily basis helping them NOT live this definition and find growth in leaps and bounds! If you need help let me know! I’d be happy to help you too!