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How to Head Off Small Business Fear in This Economy

How to Head Off Small Business Fear in This Economy

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    This is a scary time. Everyone you know knows at least one person who has gotten downsized and new jobs are scarce.  People are scared to start businesses and they’re scared to invest in their existing businesses right now. Part of it is that in an economy like this, mistakes are even more costly than before. And part of it is that people are just plain scared to lose anything right now. What you need to know is that the surest way to lose and make mistakes now is to NOT invest in your business. The only way to win right now is to face your fear and keep moving forward in the right way. Today, I’ll give you a few suggestions for how you can move ahead and steer clear of costly mistakes.

    As with everything else, realize that the current economic conditions are temporary.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The first thing to do is remember that economic conditions like we’re currently experiencing are temporary. Virtually every financial expert and publication has said that the recession won’t last forever. So when you start to experience fear about the economy and what it means for you, first and foremost, realign your thinking so you’re thinking about it as a temporary condition that will eventually resolve itself.

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    Keep investing in yourself and your business.

    In this economy, a lot of business owners are cutting corners. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who are cutting out key professionals, reducing their marketing budgets, and eliminating continuing education. What these business owners fail to realize is that it’s absolutely crucial that you continue to invest in yourself and your business to keep things moving in an upward trajectory. But be smart and invest in the right things. This leads me to my next point.

    Cut costs, but cut the right costs.

    When you cut costs, know which costs to cut. Analyze your business expenses and make sure you’re tracking everything. Look for ways to save. For example, if you’re low on printed material like your marketing flyers or business cards, you may be able to find a printer that charges less, but offers the same quality as your old printer. This extends beyond products you use for your business. Examine your business relationships. Are there some service providers you aren’t happy with? Now’s the time to make a switch to someone who will provide you with better service at a better rate. In this economy, you can get great service at a much more affordable rate than ever before. ..and you should.

    That said, don’t cut the essentials! You need to continue learning and improving your skills, so cutting back on continuing ed is a mistake. You don’t need to go to every workshop and seminar, but you shouldn’t eliminate these opportunities to learn, network, and increase your visibility altogether. And don’t start doing your own graphic design or having your son’s best friend design your web site. Cuts like this can result in catastrophe — web sites that don’t function properly, brochures that look unprofessional, and the appearance that your business is small-time, unsuccessful, or fly-by-night. And none of these are words you want applied to your business.

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    Learn from Pareto.

    Another place you can save in your business is by applying Pareto’s 80/20 principle to your client list. The 80/20 rule says (in a nutshell) that the bulk of your business comes from about twenty percent of your client roster. That means you may be expending a great deal of effort and expense marketing to and serving the eighty percent of your clients who aren’t producing very much of your income. So why not go through your client list and do some weeding? You’ll save money in marketing costs and you’ll have more time to cater to your most-productive and profitable clients.

    Another way to implement Pareto’s 80/20 rule is to look at your current products and services. Which twenty percent of your products and services generate eighty percent of your profit? Concentrate on improving those and developing more products and services like them. You may even eliminate the products and services that aren’t generating enough interest.

    Marketing, marketing, marketing.

    One way you can guarantee that your business will fail is if no one knows you exist. So don’t stop marketing your business to save money. That’s the wrong cost to cut. Instead, keep up your marketing efforts, but like your client list, examine which efforts are providing the biggest pay-off. Cut back on the ones that aren’t bringing in clients and beef up the ones that are drawing attention. And, consider implementing more PR methods into your business so you can garner some good press for free.

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    If you’ve been using direct mail as a marketing tool, check the quality of your list. How long have you been mailing marketing materials to people who haven’t responded? Pick a cut-off date and eliminate anyone who hasn’t responded since that date, and you’ll dramatically reduce your printing and postage bills without losing the people who actually respond to your marketing efforts.

    Once you’ve got ’em, wow ’em.

    It won’t do you much good to acquire clients if you can’t serve them and serve them well. So once you’ve drawn them in with your PR and marketing, you’d better make sure you wow them. It’s about more than doing a good job. It’s about doing a great job. Deliver at least on time, if not early. Delight, surprise, and overdeliver. Make sure your clients and customers know you appreciate their business. Always thank them.

    Also, survey the clients who’ve stayed with you for a long time. Find out what you’re doing right and amp up those efforts. And find out what you could do better, and improve on that, and you’ll see your client retention rates improve even more.

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    Save money by hiring experts.

    Hiring the right experts can actually save you money in your business. Imagine all the mistakes you’ve made in your business history. Recall all the professionals you hired who didn’t work out – the web developer who charged a ridiculously high fee for every single update, the assistant who didn’t do her job, the graphic designer who charged you a fortune for a logo you now hate. Remember how much each of those mistakes cost you? Hiring a business consultant who has a Rolodex of professionals who can do that work at the highest quality, but at reasonable rates, can save you a lot of money in the long run, and in the end, the savings more than offset the price of the consultant. Plus, that same consultant can help you avoid other, costly errors, and make suggestions for other ways to optimize and save.

    But beware: “consultants” are a dime a dozen out there. So find someone you can trust and someone who can really deliver, otherwise you’ll spend much more than you’ll save.

    In this economy, it’s only natural that there’s a lot of fear. But knowing it’s temporary, conducting your marketing in the smartest way, continuing to invest in your business in the right way, and building a team of experts who you can trust to deliver can keep your business growing and minimize your fear. Stay strong – this won’t last forever!

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    Published on January 16, 2019

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

    You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

    You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

    That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

    Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

    1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

    Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

    We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

    To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

    At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

    The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

    2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

    Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

    The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

    In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

    It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

    It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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    So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

    • Are you a great strategist?
    • Are you an effective planner?
    • Is Project Management your strength?
    • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
    • Are you the ideas person?
    • Is Implementation your strength?

    Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

    3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

    One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

    Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

    Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

    Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

    4. Take Time for Planning

    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

    One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

    You can take the time to think about:

    • What’s the purpose of the project?
    • How Important is it?
    • When does it need to be delivered by?
    • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
    • What are the KPIs?
    • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
    • Who is working on this project?
    • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
    • What tolerances can I add in?
    • What are the review stages?
    • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

    Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

    5. Focus on Priorities

    Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

    Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

    One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

    1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
    2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
    3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
    4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

    James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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      The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

      If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

      If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

      6. Take Time Out

      To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

      If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

      Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

      In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

      Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

      Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

      I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

      Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

      If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

      8. Stop Multitasking

      Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

      So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

      When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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      If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

      9. Work in Blocks of Time

      To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

      I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

      Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

      Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

      Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

      Then take another 10-minute break.

      Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

      By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

      10. Get Rid of Distractions

      Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

      “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

      Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

      If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

      11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

      You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

      Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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      Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

      12. Take a Time Audit

      Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

      Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

      You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

      Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

      Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

      At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

      If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

      13. Protect Your Confidence

      It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

      When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

      Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

      When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

      Final Words

      A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

      The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

      If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

      Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

      Reference

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