I’ll be honest. I didn’t realize it been 20 years since I started working for myself until I saw it on LinkedIn. In that time I’ve worked with a wide variety of brands, projects I never would’ve anticipated, with different types of companies, a myriad of personalities and work styles, and ever-changing technologies.
Here’s a list of 20 life lessons I have gained from my years of owning a business that can be applied to so many part of life.
- Partner with smart, reputable, trustworthy colleagues, vendors, and clients.
- Targeting customers remains the same, even if the technology has changed. The hype may get an initial response, but it’s the quality that keeps people coming back.
- Be honest.
- When you end a project, always try to do it with a handshake. You just might meet that client again working for another company.
- Keep learning.
- Be curious. I ask a lot of questions, and it often inspires further conversation.
- Actively listen. Take a breath. Then respond.
- Read a few days worth of your emails before you send them out. Are you sending them out with a positive tone or starting off all your emails with the negative? (I literally changed my email tone after monitoring them about 10 years ago).
- You will make mistakes. Admit it when you do.
- If you are stuck, walk away. I resolve a lot of issues when I shut my computer and go for a walk.
- It’s okay to say no to a project, especially when your gut tells you to.
- Check your emails at specific times each day. Otherwise, shut it off. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be without the distractions.
- It’s easy to get comfortable working alone. Face-to-face meetings can inspire change and a new direction.
- Have a schedule. I find that time blocking my day (Using the Best Self journal) has improved my focus and productivity immensely.
- Try something new.
- Keep reaching. What’s your goal?
- Most people really don’t like networking events. Do it anyways; set a goal beforehand. Someone may become a future colleague or customer.
- Be flexible.
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone to clarify, if you don’t understand.
- If you are bored on a regular basis, it might be time to change what you do. Or how you do it.
And remember that if you have a stressful phase, sleep on it, as a fresh day and mood awaits you.
The journey continues.
The last month I have spent a lot of time reflecting, prioritizing, and slowing down.
I had surgery for a torn rotator cuff and bicep right before Christmas. Four weeks later I’m still in the sling and expect to be for several more weeks. I can type and write again with both hands, but the recovery process is exhausting and painful. I need to be much more organized to accomplish my daily goals, both professionally and personally.
Here are a few ideas that have helped me stay on track. Hopefully, they will help you increase your productivity each day:
- Block your time every day, Create a schedule for your entire day. This can include time for projects, creativity, meetings, lunch, working out,etc. You will be amazed at how being held accountable for your time decreases the wasted space. I was already on my second 13 week Best Self Journal, which had already started to transform how I approach each day. (More on this in a future post, after I finish my second journal).
- Schedule more challenging projects for when you are most productive. If you do them in the morning, then you avoid the procrastination bug in your mind until that work is done. And if you need extra time, you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
- Check your email just a couple times a day, at set times. It will allow you to focus on your current work. A University of California at Davis research study shows that it can take up to 25 minutes to refocus your attention every time you get interrupted. That’s a lot of time! The other advantage to this is that people learn to become accustomed to your response time.
- Make a list. Whether you do it in a daily journal like Best Self, Evernote, or a notebook— or any combination of these— keywords can remind you of the small tasks that you might forget to do.
- Pick up the phone— set up scheduled or standing call times. On complicated projects, I find that one 10 minute call can resolve an issue quicker and with less frustration than 20 emails.
- Take a break. Research shows that you should take a break between projects, to eat, to work out. I often find that while away from my desk I have my most creative ideas.
- Show gratitude. Expressing thankfulness at the start and end of each day Is a positive and expanding force. It makes us remember the small moments.
I’ve have consciously practiced each of these ideas over the last month,. I find that each one has helped me be more productive, proactive, mindful, and satisfied at the end of the day. I hope to continue to engage in each of these practices throughout 2018, not just while I’m in recovery.
The journey continues. Cindy
Posted in Business, creative process, Planning, Success, Thought Leadership
- Tagged best self journal, inspiration, organize, prioritize, productivity, slow down, work, work day, work hacks
I recently had the privilege of moderating a webinar on How to be Successful in Tech/ Marketing Tech. Geared to women, the event was hosted by BrightTALK. The 3 panelists were Liz Bullock Director Digital & Paid Media at Rackspace, Isabelle Dumont Head of Marketing at BlueTalon, and Aya Fawzy, now Director of Marketing at Skedulo.
The creation of the presentation still fascinates me–that 4 women who never met could collaborate from across the country to create the flow of the presentation, slide decks, and drive the conversation with insightful questions asked by the attendees.
The speakers think it’s an opportunistic time to work in tech. 1.1 million NEW tech jobs are expected by 2024, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. However, women comprise only 27% of the Tech workforce.
I hope that some of our experiences and ideas can help increase your influence in this lucrative field, or as you pivot to a tech career:
- The digital arena is the great equalizer in the tech arena, since women are almost as fluent on digital platforms as men, according to an Accenture 2016 study. Be active on the digital platforms that are used in your industry, from Snapchat to Pinterest to Twitter.
- Increase your social outreach by keeping your own profiles active on LinkedIn, Twitter if you use it. We all found that most of our opportunities come from others in our digital work circles, so this electronic networking can be invaluable.
- Be active in associations and online groups. Continue to gain knowledge from attending webinars, local events, taking extra classes and/or getting certifications from reputable organizations.
- Having both formal and informal mentors can help broaden your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you admire to ask them to work with you in various work areas. Change out your mentors on a regular basis, to learn from a variety of people.
- When work is very busy, make sure to focus on the projects that bring the most return.
- Stretch yourself when new job opportunities appear. Lean In says that women often don’t apply for a job unless they have 100% of the skills asked for. Men will apply when they only have 60% of suggested experience.
- If you work for yourself–or are negotiating for a new job– pricing yourself can be difficult. Value your time and knowledge fairly. Remember that companies will never tell you that you are pricing too low!
- Know your non-negotiables during the interview process.
- When in meetings, women are often the minority. You should be engaged in meetings; this includes offering valuable insights, not offering to get coffee or take notes.
- Block time on your calendar to read, learn, or grow in technology and your field.
You can listen to the presentation in its entirety here.
We all think that the attitude to jump in and try, to push ourselves, to change courses if needed is the way to be successful in the Tech world now and in the future.
So, reach for that new job, and learn along the way.
The journey continues. C
Posted in career, Collaborate, Speaking, Thought Leadership, Women in Business
- Tagged BrightTALK, collaboration, improving job skills, job success, opportunity, Speaking, success, thought leaders, Women in Business, women in tech, women in technology
I have been a consultant for 18 years. Long enough to know some people roll their eyes, think I only work 2 hours a day, or can make my own schedule around my favorite TV shows. Wrong!
I am a business owner whose clients depend on me to achieve our set-upon goals. If I didn’t work diligently, honestly, and flexibly, I would not have some clients for 10+ years. Yes, still take the time to search out new and exciting projects.
As an audience development/marketing/database management consultant (the role changes with the project) on a daily basis I have to:
- Get work done on schedule.
- Listen to my clients’ needs, sometimes helping them to articulate their goals.
- Regularly communicate project status and ideas to current clients. Also attend in-person and phone meetings.
- Be vigilant to make sure that my customers respond to emails and phone calls, so projects don’t stall.
- Know a variety of vendors my clients can work with—email providers, telemarketing, database management, email, auditing firms, copy writers, others I can partner with on certain projects.
- Stay involved in the marketing industry by reading, attending events, and doing.
- Have experience working with different social media platforms.
- Keep abreast of changing rules impacting outbound and inbound marketing emails ie. CAN-SPAM laws , telemarketing, BPA, USPS with regards to mailing periodicals.
Plus, there is ongoing work to do to keep my business running:
- Have trusted professionals who help me with design work, accounting, legal, and financial issues.
- Seek out new prospects, put together proposals as requested. Revise pricing for current clients as projects change.
- Keep my blog updated, to communicate my business knowledge and perspective to clients and prospects.
- Keep up with billing, processing payments.
- Handle marketing, create a new logo and website.
Every year I think I learn to run my business more effectively. This year, for the first time, I have followed the lead of successful business owners and set aside weekly time on my calendar to focus on growing and honing my business. It’s too easy to spend all day on project work, not focusing on the business. This set-aside time has made me more efficient, given me some new ideas to try this year.
The balance of client-related work vs. running the business is delicate, yet important to manage. So yes, I am a consultant. And a successful business owner. And proud of both.
The journey continues.
Posted in Business, Consulting, Customers, job responsibilities, Thought Leadership
- Tagged balance, business, business development, client, consultant, consulting, customers, manage, running a business, work