There’s a huge misconception about balance and life — especially when you own a business (or two). We believe that balance means that all things are of equal value, meaning we should have an equal time of work and play. Instead, for work/life balance, we should be using a different definition of balance: a condition in which different elements are in the correct proportions. This misunderstanding of balance leads us to spend 8 hours a night sleeping, 8 hours a day at work (minimum, if you’re lucky), and the remaining 8 hours doing tasks like eating, exercise, personal time, and spending time with family. We see those 8-hour blocks of time as balance, but we’re missing one huge thing: quality.
When you think about the quality of your life, where does work fall? Likely, somewhere behind family and health, and possibly behind experiences. Our work/life balance doesn’t really fit with the personal importance of each element of our life. Most people, especially business owners, short change their priorities for more work — and this not the best way! So what can we do about it?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve cracked the code for how to add more hours to your day so that you can do it all, but I haven’t. I wish I could tell you that I’ve found a realistic way to cut your work in half so that you have more time for other things, but once again, I haven’t. I can, however, tell you that balance does not mean that all sides are equal, and I can tell you ways to build in more time for things that matter.
Prioritize your work activitiesYou’ve heard time and time again that you need to have a daily task list. You’ve heard that you need to put the most time consuming and easily avoidable tasks first. There is so much advice about how to prioritize your daily work schedule, but few talk about passion. What are you passionate about? What is the reason you started your business? Was it to post an update to Facebook every day? Likely not. When you find tasks like these that you dread, or are time-consuming, outside of your area of expertise or passion, or just plain drain you, delegate them.
About 9 months ago, I realized that I was using too much of my work time doing administrative tasks that didn’t add to the company’s bottom line, that I didn’t enjoy, and that kept me from taking on more clients. I remedied that by hiring a part time virtual assistant. The time I save by delegating work that needs to be done but not by me, adds to my quality of life and minimizes the time I spend doing tedious work. Financially, it’s beneficial because I regained a few billable hours to my week which far outweigh the cost of hiring someone to do the tasks I don’t enjoy.
Prioritize your healthThere was a ridiculous article I read a few weeks ago, explaining all of the things that so-called experts tell us we must do each day to live a healthy life. I’m sure you’ve read how much time you’re supposed to exercise, and what you should be eating, and how sitting is killing you. Yesterday, I read that sitting for 2 hours negates 20 minutes of working out. If that’s correct, then the average employee who sits while working needs to combat that with 80 minutes of exercise (on top of your already busy day).
I fall into that idle employee, but I decided to make a few small changes that help me stay a bit more active. When I can, I work at a standing desk. I thought I would hate it, but I actually enjoy it. When I sit, I use a Yoga ball or stabilizing stool. I raised my computer up so that I wasn’t hunched over all day. Being a consultant, I spend a couple hours daily on my phone. Instead of sitting, I pace. I walk from room to room, back and forth, taking notes when I need to. These small changes mean that instead of sitting for 8 (or more) hours at work, I sit for 2–3, with frequent breaks.
Prioritize your mealsBreakfast is normally grabbed quickly, and lunch is normally something revived in the microwave. I enjoy cooking and typically cook every dinner we eat in a given week. As much as I like to cook, and more so like to eat healthily, this is an area that is time-consuming. Grocery shopping, food prep, and meal planning are important, but as my time feels more and more crunched by outside obligations, fast food and convenience items creep in. Instead of planning a weekly menu, I recently decided to try a meal service. Each week, I receive the ingredients (portion controlled) for 3 meals. Allowing this decision to be made for me frees up not only meal planning and prep times, but it also frees up mental space, allowing me to feel more relaxed and less rushed.
For breakfast, lunch, and snacks, my meal prep time saves the day. Breakfast is typically a protein shake or green smoothie. Having everything portioned out ahead of time in appropriate size containers takes away any excuse that leads me through the McDonald’s drive-thru. Lunch consists of grilled chicken, fresh veggies, a piece of fruit, and some sort of dipping sauce, like ranch or Asian peanut sauce. One day a week, I prep all of the chicken for lunch, then freeze whatever I won’t use within a couple days. Each day at lunchtime, I replenish what I used from the freezer. Snacks consist of sliced salami, cheese, and veggies. Planning ahead of time and taking the excuses out of your meals makes staying on track a lot easier.
Prioritize your family lifeIt’s easy to get caught up and stressed out in work life. It’s easy to be “off the clock,” but still feel like there’s more you can get done if you just do a little work in the evening or on weekends. With running two companies, I definitely feel like I can capitalize on my relaxation time in the evening by doing work. What I realized is that by not shutting off my work brain, I was shortchanging my family. I wasn’t present in their needs and wants. Instead of giving them my full attention, they would get less than half my attention as I typed or read away on my laptop. Instead of enjoying my time away from work, I was trying to fit my family in around work, not the other way around.
Lately, I set a quitting time. What I’ve realized is that a lot of the tasks that I thought were crucial to my success were time fillers and wasters, and rarely added value to my business. I also realized that as a partner and mother, my time with them is limited. In a little over 7 years, my son will be off to college. I want to have a relationship with him while we are under the same roof, and more importantly, I want to build a better relationship with my partner, because while my son will temporarily live with me, my partner will be here long after, and we need to have a good foundation. Instead of focusing on fitting in work in the after-hours, I focus on fitting in games, conversations, and being together.
Prioritize your sleepWhen faced with a 24 hour day, with not enough time to get things done, many people cut sleep first. Reducing your sleep, however, reduces every aspect in your quality of life. A lack of sleep ruins your focus, making you less productive, and more likely to waste time and get less done in your work life. A lack of sleep makes it less likely for you to get up and keep moving throughout your day, making you more likely to shorten your lifespan, among other health-related issues. A lack of sleep makes smarter choices less likely to happen, especially when they’re food or drink related. A lack of sleep makes you short and irritable with your loved ones, hurting feelings and relationships. Sleep is crucial to your success at every level.
What are your favorite steps when prioritizing your day?
Like this article? You might enjoy The Better Way to Waste Time. Click here to read it now!
I remember the day like it was yesterday, not a few decades ago. I walked into a room of strangers, a mix of 5-year-olds like me, plus their parents and our very first teachers. I remember feeling scared, overwhelmed, excited, but unsure. I didn’t know a single person besides my mom, and she’d soon be leaving me. I clung close to her side, observing the others and waiting to see what happened next.
There were two kindergarten classes in one room, and eventually, we were being called name by name to be sorted into our groups. I remember hearing the name “Nicole” , and walked hesitantly to the front of the room. There, I found two other confused little girls, also named Nicole. Turns out, I wasn’t the right Nicole, but in that moment, I found a connection with the other two, and we all became each other’s first friends.
Fast forward to a few years ago. A lot had changed, but I was in a similar situation. I had recently moved to a new city and was trying to find connections for my business. I didn’t know a single person, and prior to then, didn’t need to market my company locally to find business. For the first time in several years, I felt like I did that first day of kindergarten.
I walked into a local chamber of commerce meeting with hesitation, fear, and angst. Once again, I didn’t know a single person, but I did know that I needed to make allies, friends, colleagues, and customers. One stone-cold fact kept glaring at me: I didn’t know how to network.
Over the years, I had forgotten the one basic key to networking: find common ground.
I found that avoidance had become my go-to mechanism, but I was no longer in a position to resist that practice of introducing yourself to strangers. I sat, observed, and approached very few people during the business card exchange. I asked questions and tried to be confident, despite being terrified. I felt like that 5-year-old little girl again.
The next time, I decided to find shared experiences and make connections. I made it a point to remember names and specific information about the person, then recorded it in my Outlook contact list and information. At each meeting, I briefly connect with those I know, connect them with others, and connect with new people with ease. Each time, it grew a bit easier and easier to do.
Networking is scary — but we were able to do it in kindergarten and didn’t die.
I’m not a networking expert, but since that event a few years back, I have learned a thing or two about networking myself and my business. I still walk into a room with hesitation and fear, but that quickly subsides as I remember what I need to do, and the things I’ve practiced. A commonality is the simplest way to connect with someone new, then it’s up to you to build a meaningful connection. Getting over the fear of meeting new people gets easier with time.
Do you ever find yourself with a hole in your schedule that isn’t quite large enough to fill with something productive, so you pull out your cell phone and idly full your time by checking your Facebook feed? I hate to tell you this, but you are wasting time the wrong way.
I get it. I’m guilty of this too — whenever I find myself with unplanned extra time, I typically pull out my phone. It’s a hard habit to break, but there are far better uses of your time between tasks and appointments that four games of Bubble Shooter. According to a Nielson report in 2014, Americans over 18 use apps on their phone for an average of 43 hours and 31 minutes each month. That’s nearly two whole days, and is a lot of unproductive down time spent on things that don’t benefit your life.
Are you looking to take back those precious hours? Here are some better ways to waste time:
Get in the habit of carrying a book with youA 2001 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that those who regularly read are 2–1/2 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Reading not only improves knowledge, but it also can help to improve your memory, reduce stress, and give you improved focus and concentration. As Groucho Marx put it, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Carry a notebook and penDid you know that writing daily can boost your immune system? In 2013, a New Zealand study found that writing reduced stress and helped healing after monitoring a ground of individuals who underwent medically necessary biopsies. A separate study found that writing helped with asthma, AIDS, and cancer patients as well. Help your body efficiently overcome both physical and mental trauma by putting pen to paper instead of poking at your phone.
Do nothing at allSpending down time meditating benefits your body and mind in many ways. It encourages a healthy lifestyle and helps you to practice self-awareness. Another great benefit of meditation? It slows adding by creating more grey matter, or cells, in your brain. A Harvard study found that meditation also lengthens the markers on your chromosomes that show your biological age.
Fill your free time with fitnessWe have all heard that sitting is the new smoking — our idle activity is slowly killing us. Instead, get up for your few free minutes and get moving. Squats, burpees, Yoga, or a quick trip around the block can help. In fact, you can help combat the midday slump without the addictive addition of caffeine by getting your heart pumping, even for just a few minutes. Quick workouts also drastically improve your mood.
Getting unhooked from your cell phone habit will improve your memory, decrease Alzheimer’s risks, reduce stress, improve immune functions, increase lifespan, boost your energy, and make you happier. Instead of tuning in to your mobile device, tune out and take back your free time.
I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love how easy it is to do this and that, and be constantly connected to everything at my fingertips. I love that technology gives me the ability to do my work from anywhere. I love that within a few minutes, I can reach out to hundreds or thousands of people all at the same time across multiple channels. I, however, hate what technology is doing to business communication.
Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to “talk business,” you had a few options: write them, call them, email them, or talk to them in person. Most business communication was clear: if the need was immediate, you’d track someone down or give them a call; less immediate, then you’d write an email or letter.
Now, you have dozens of ways to communicate with clients, coworkers, or the community-at-large, and inside all of this noise, communication has become…less. Less formal. Less documented. Less structured. Less professional. Less personal. At any time, you can Tweet, Snap, Scope, Slack chat, text, or Facetime someone. At any time, you can switch from one established method to the other, communicating with your audience from platform to platform.
Businesses are having a harder time communicating effectively with employees, customers, and divisions. With each new and growing business, communication becomes more and more inefficient.
I have a confession to make: I do not set limits with clients on how to communicate with me, even though I feel like I need to. As a coach/consultant, I like to think that I’m accessible to anyone throughout my workday. I think that needs to change — for myself and my business — and for yours. Limits on how to communicate help to weed out issues and designate importance. Limits on how to communicate makes it easier to follow-up or remember where information you receive comes from. There have been many times where a client will text me a link or a phone number instead of emailing it. I have received numerous Facebook and Twitter direct messages containing an answer to a question that originated in email. And I am completely to blame for not teaching my clients how to communicate with me.
How do we break through the noise of constant communication?
Does your company need help with organization, productivity, or streamlining communications? Contact me here!
Originally posted on www.startupwithnicole.com on August 25th, 2015.
Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.
Several years ago, I started my first day as a new temp job as a receptionist for a Japanese automotive company in Metro Detroit. The learning curve was huge — my work experience at that point was limited to child care and fast food. This was my first “big girl” job, and I wanted to be great — even though I knew it was “temporary.” I had to learn who worked in what department and what paperwork and phone calls went where.
But one thing was noticeably missing: a Marketing Department.
I brought this to my superior’s attention, wondering out loud if the marketing was handled from the corporate office in Japan, when he said something that stuck with me: “There is no marketing department. Marketing is everyone’s job.”
Marketing is everyone’s job.
After nearly a year working there, that is what stuck with me. It stuck with me when I left that job to take a job in a marketing department for an architecture firm. It stuck with me when I changed my college major to marketing. It stuck with me when I decided to start my own company and focused my business on marketing. It sticks with me today as I coach start-up businesses or help businesses in crisis — marketing isn’t just the job of a single department — it is everyone’s job.
There has been a lot of coverage across the internet about the importance of having the right business values and mission statements. One thing that seems to astound me is the lack of marketing goals company-wide in these statements. When a company builds this idea into the basis of their company, everyone owns it. When it’s shown more than it is said, the company is successful.
In today’s world, where buyers have made 60% of their decision prior to talking to a sales representative, businesses need to be more aware of how their company is perceived. If a potential client finds out about your company from a file clerk, you want their experience to be positive enough that they consider your company. When they Google you and come across the VP’s LinkedIn page, you want them to feel the company. Your Twitter postings should fit the values, mission, and marketing plan. This idea is less about marketing to your customers, and more about building brand recognition through every employee.
How do we move forward?
Marketing departments are still necessary for developing and implementing the marketing plans for the success of the company. Web, print, social media, trade shows, networking — all of these are still vital for a company to succeed, but the voice of the company, the culture, the persona recognition — these should be owned by everyone.
How do you incorporate marketing in your company?
Would you consider taking a holistic approach to marketing?
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn on August 12th, 2014.
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicoleroyer
Accountability. No one wants to hold themselves accountable, but everyone else should be. And you are the only one who can pave your way to success…or failure.
So why aren’t you holding yourself accountable for your own success?
There are 4 fears that cause a lack of accountability:
Fear of failure –Are you so afraid of failure that you cannot hold yourself responsible or liable for your own actions? Do you lack trust or faith in yourself? Fear of failure is a deep imbedded, nagging thought that can stop us before we even start a task.
Fear of success –Some of us are afraid of what would happen if we are successful. Will we be able to keep up with family obligations? How about a social life? Will you be more scrutinized if you find success? Fear of success is just as debilitating as fear of failure.
Fear of being thought of as a fraud –Impostor Syndrome impedes success. The fear of being seen as not qualified enough by others, or not feeling like you know enough yourself can cause stagnancy. Even when you have an MBA and 12 years experience, you can feel like you aren’t enough of an ‘expert.’
Fear of not being taken seriously –Ideas and products die before they are even launched due to the fear that others won’t understand or see value. People are afraid to talk about their business plans or ideas, thinking that they’ll be laughed at or ridiculed.
And all of these fears can be cured by one important resource: your business coach.
A business coach listens. A business coach leads. A business coach gets you from the current level, to the next, by teaching you to hold yourself accountable.
Clearing the 4 fears: failure, success, Impostor Syndrome, or not being taken seriously, all happen with the right coach. There will be a future post about finding a business coach and what other added benefits they add, but for now understand that before you start that next business, launch your next product, or decide to jump ship from a corporate life to an entrepreneurial one, check in with your coach.
Success is waiting — and it’s not terrifying. It’s attainable. Build your support network, and include a coach!
This article was originally posted on www.startupwithnicole.com on August 4th, 2015.
How many steps does it take from pen to paper to publication?
One? A few? Too many?
I have a confession.
I edit my content…to death. I pre-write, then I write, then I edit, then I edit again, and again, then I pass it off to someone else, then I edit again and then, maybe, it’s done. This whole process happens in normally a day, two tops. Or, at least I used to. Then I got smart.
I heard some great advice in a podcast (The Solopreneur Hour #117) that if you want to be a better public speaker, you should study comedians. While I use this methodology for speaking, it also transfers well to writing. One lesson has really stuck lately — your first draft sucks. Tweak it over time. Then, when you’ve dispersed it enough, throw it out and develop new content. It’s helped me to stop my edit-to-death step that comes after creation — instead, I’m letting it develop and editing it a little at a time as it goes.
While I’m not altogether giving up on editing, I’m taking it more as a long process instead of a hack job. I pre-write a few bullet points. Then, I write, whether it be an article, a blog post, content for a marketing piece, or a presentation, and then I let it sit. I’ll browse through it and tweak obvious errors. I’ll pass it along for feedback, then respond to the feedback. I’ll let it sit a bit longer. I’ll look for ways to enhance the piece, and if I can’t, I stop trying. I’ll throw it out to the public and let them comment. And then, if I feel that the message is good, I leave it alone. I write my blog posts a couple weeks ahead so that I have time enough to fix what needs to be fixed, but I no longer fixate on fixing everything…to death.
I realized that writing is not a sprint to the finish, it’s a marathon.
You have to pace yourself. You have to prepare for the long haul. If you’re spitting out perfect content in the first go, well, you’re amazing. But realistically, your first piece needs work. Sometimes a lot of it. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t need to be red-penned to death. Most of the time, it just needs time.
Do you pick your pieces down to the bare bones, or do you fluff it up?
I try to land somewhere in the middle. Content matters, but how it is delivered is obviously important. No one is going to be interested in a story or presentation that is just bullet point information with no depth; but on the same token, readers and listeners don’t want to be walked through every single thought, emotion, or action that you, the writer or presenter, has. Get to the point in a meaningful way.
How do you determine when your piece is finished?