Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Creating Your Productive Environment

It's your first moment back at your desk after the annual meeting. The telephone is already ringing, 314 email messages lurk in your inbox, the staff meeting starts in 20 minutes, and your coffee just spattered on something marked "Urgent." You look up at that ticking clock, feeling smothered by all the demands on your time and attention. Everywhere around you are papers and projects you need to work on. You look at a framed statement on your wall. "Have nothing around you that you do not know to be useful, believe to be beautiful, or love." You sigh, remembering that you wanted to live and work that way, but something always gets in the way.
You get to your meeting on time; continue successfully through your day, and driving home you think back on the challenges you are facing. You ask yourself, "How do I get into this clutter mess so frequently? I'm not a disorganized person, and most of the time I accomplish the work I need to do - but all those piles of paper are so frustrating!"
After more than 25 years of working with people from every profession, region, age and outlook, we can assure you that there are four distinct clutter categories, each with its own strategic solution. It is likely that you are affected by each of them. Those categories are:
SITUATIONAL Situational clutter usually arises from specific events. You are engaged in a project that generates a temporary mess - like a meeting, crisis, deadline, annual report or new initiative. This is a natural and normal part of life and work in a complex, sped- up world.
To conquer situational clutter, recognize its temporary nature, set an end point by which it will all be cleaned up, and move on with your life. One meeting professional marks time on her calendar equal to one day of "reentry" time to restore order, for each day she has been away. Another schedules a temporary employee to assist him every two weeks. He delegates tasks to this "partial assistant" that would have been assigned to the person whose job got cut in the last downsizing.
EMBEDDED Embedded clutter reflects years of accumulation and benign neglect. The longer you have lived or worked in a specific setting, the deeper the layers go. Many people report that an extended campaign to banish embedded clutter takes at least one month of focused clean-up activity for each year they have been in the setting. Naturally, if you are getting ready to move, you may have to do the job in a few weeks. So you put everything in moving boxes and promise yourself you'll organize everything when you get settled.
To conquer embedded clutter, set starting and ending timeline goals, arrange incentives or support along the way, and plunge in. One manager reports, "It's like going on an archeological dig going through these old documents. There are at least 14 years worth of layers of material in the files and even in the closet. I almost wish I had time to create an archive, but I'm just impatient to get it all done. By setting a realistic timeline I could hold on to the goal that it would have an ending date."
IMPENDING Impending clutter is everything around you that is sitting in a pile while waiting for you to make a decision about where it needs to go. It's the stacks of mail, leftover project materials, stuff you heap on the credenza waiting for someone to take it to the storage room. Again, these pre-clutter piles and stacks and clusters of stuff are a normal part of working. But they become dangerous if neglected for long. Clutter is contagious. Order can also become contagious.
To conquer impending clutter, create and follow systems to clear all flat surfaces at least once a week and be sure that everything has a place. Remember the Hemphill principle that CLUTTER IS POSTPONED DECISIONS. Have the courage and discipline to make the daily decisions that prevents clutter comeback.
INVITATIONAL Invitational clutter is the most invisible and therefore the most dangerous. This is clutter you generate unintentionally by operating in today's society. These are things you "invite" into your setting without considering whether they still have value for you. This may include any magazines you no longer read, unwanted catalogs that seem to just keep coming, a surplus of small gifts people give you because they know you like roosters, promotional give-aways from the last three conferences, stuff-of- the-month items you "don't have time" to cancel.
To conquer invitational clutter you first recognize your role in creating this excess. Second, clarify what you do and don't want in your ideal setting and stop opening yourself to the invasion of anything that no longer matches your vision. Third, purge your current excess, cancel subscriptions, get off mailing lists, announce that your rooster collection complete. Get rid of the candy jar that "invites" people to stop in for a few minutes of distractions and calories!
Once you identify the different types of clutter and consider strategies to conquer or prevent them from intruding on your day, you move toward creating your personal productive environment - where everything you do or need to do is supported by everything around you and nothing extra weighs you down.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tips For Managing Your Network

Are Post-it? notes, business cards, and message slips littered across your desk, stuffed in pockets, and jammed into drawers? Do you have a dog-eared Rolodex? Are your competitors listing your missed opportunities? Do you frequently promise yourself "Someday I'm going to organize this mess!" - but the day never comes?
Would you like to turn your clutter into relationships that lead to money in your bank account? If so, read on!
As a child growing up on a farm in Nebraska, my father taught me "Half of any job is having the right tool." An essential tool for any real estate agent is a system for tracking people. Your contacts, whether they are potential buyers, or business service people who can quickly solve an emergency prior to closing, are the heart of your business. The care you give them can mean the difference between mediocre survival and wild success -- and a lot fewer headaches!
Tip #1: Today's mail is tomorrow's pile. Forget about your past failures. Start over! Choose a contact management system that will work for you, and enter the very next contact you get. Refile names from the old system as you use them. When you've exhausted its useful information, throw it away, or just put it in some less accessible space if the mere thought of throwing it away gives you heart palpitations!
Paper vs. Electronic Before the days of computers, the most sophisticated way to manage names and numbers was a Rolodex. Some people still feel more comfortable with a piece of paper than a computer screen, but serious business people are recognizing and appreciating the increased capabilities of an electronic system.
The biggest advantage of a traditional paper Rolodex is that it allows you to file business cards as soon as you receive them, without having to transcribe the information elsewhere. (If you choose this method, use a 3"x5" size, so you can staple or glue business cards right on the Rolodex card without having to cut it down. In addition, you will have space to write notes about the contact such as where you met, pet's name, or who gave you the lead.)
The biggest disadvantage is that you have to determine how you can file the lead so that you can find it again. If I file the lead under the last name - what happens I can't remember the name? Or what if it is a couple - and they have different last names?
The Power of Technology Unlike a paper system, technology allows you to organize data so it can be retrieved in a variety of ways. You can enter whatever kind of information you want--name, title, address, phone, fax, who introduced you, customer history, and so on--and to search, sort and retrieve it by whichever criteria you choose.
Contact manager programs, such as Outlook, Day timer, and ACT! combine database sorting with a calendar and word processing capabilities. You can use your contact manager program to retrieve every contact you have in a specific geographic area. For example, whenever I take a trip, I do a search by geographic area. Some of my most exciting and rewarding experiences were a result of that electronic search. In addition, you can write personalized marketing letters and speedy thank yours -- and easily print out envelopes and mailing labels. While you may use such programs only on your desktop computer, you have other powerful options.
If you travel with a laptop, you can use transfer software, such as PC Anywhere, to synchronize the information in your desktop and your laptop. Portable electronic organizers let you take your names and numbers (and frequently your calendar) with you. They range from the size of a watch to a small pocketbook. The simplest model stores a few hundred names, while the most advanced stores thousands of names and has word processing capability that allows you to create documents. With synching capabilities included in many, you can send and receive files to and from your computer, while some even have e-mail and fax capability. Many clients, who were never able to use a calendar or contact system successfully, consider products such as Palm Pilot their saving grace!
My favorite new tool: Card Scan. In a few minutes, it enables me to turn a pile of business cards into valuable, searchable data. No more racking my brain about where I got that pile of business cards in the rubber band on my desk!
A WORD OF CAUTION: A variety of circumstances--some explainable, some not--can cause any technology to fail. A backup system is priceless insurance for your real estate business and your peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Keeping Up With Online Business Reading

It can be a major source of frustration trying to keep up with all of the business-related information, newsletters, updates, offers and so on that land in your email box. And although there may be no perfect way to ensure that you can read everything you want to and need to in order to stay current, while at the same time preserving enough time to do the work you need to do to keep your business functioning., I have found a method that cuts down on the worst of the time wasters and streamlines the remaining reading.
1. Weed it out - Anytime I find that I am not getting full value for my time from a newsletter, ezine or other informational email source, even though I may be getting some good stuff, out it goes. Chances are that I am either getting or can get the same info through another, more ROI-positive source.
2. Save it for a specific time - I used to waste hours a day stopping to read business-related newsletters and ezines as they came in or as I ran across them. Now, I put aside one day to read it all. This day is set aside solely for reading informational business mail (not client mail) and for a few other business activities that need focused attention. I don't schedule other business on this day, unless it is unavoidable. This way, I can get caught up and handle all necessary responses without feeling like I'm neglecting my "real" work.
3. Scan, cram and scram - This is the biggie for saving time. Learn to read for overall content and not for word-by-word absorption. This isn't deathless prose, folks, so there's no need to suck it in like some unearthed lost volume of Hemingway. Scan any headings or sub-titles, ignoring completely what you don't need to know, and then scan-read the content of what you do need quickly to get the gist of the message. Only spend time on intense focused reading if the concept/content is difficult (yet vital) or supremely interesting and important. (If it's just interesting, but not important, you can always read it some other time when you have a few minutes free.) Once you've gotten what you need, save only the emails that you absolutely need for reference in an email folder and delete all the rest.
A secondary aspect of this step is to copy, paste and save content that you know you will need eventually, just not right now, instead of giving it immediate attention. Such information includes things like a link/resource list for later reference or a great idea that you know you'll need next month when you begin that new marketing campaign - or just general interest stuff that doesn't need immediate action but would be helpful, useful or just plain enjoyable to read at some point. Paste this copy into a Word document (don't forget to leave the attribution and copyright info in case you ever need to cite the work for any reason, or want to see more stuff by the same author) and put it into the appropriate folder on your hard drive. I have several folders in my business files for things such as marketing, client-related info, industry-related info, and so on. Every so often, on a slow day or when I have to wait around in the office for some reason, I go through them to read what's there and weed out what I no longer need.
Using this 3-step process, I find that I can whip through the average newsletter/ezine in about 5-10 minutes or less, depending on the amount of content and that content's importance/interest to me. Since I am able to keep my ezine load down to a manageable number and my list is constantly tweaked for the greatest value-to-time ratio, I get well-read in a reasonable period of time without feeling like I am eating up valuable work time that should have been spent doing other activities.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tap the Ultimate Source of Abundance

Corporations ignore consumers’ real needs…Company leaders engage in questionable business practices…Business owners and employees do work they don’t enjoy simply to pay the bills…such is the state of today’s business world.
The key to bringing the world back to life will also bring you abundance in your business. The world needs people who are vibrantly alive and ready to build a new kind of business. We need businesses that express our missions as human beings and make a contribution to the planet – and thrive in the process.
You will create a magnetic attraction when your vision, your values, and your vocation are perfectly aligned. When planning a business, very few people take the time to look inside, to align their unique natural gifts, talents, and desires with the product or service their business provides.
Answering the following questions will help you attract abundance through your business. When you have done this, you will thrive in ways you cannot imagine.
1. Why do you do the work you do?
Most owners are in businesses because they saw an opportunity or because they have some professional experience they can conveniently sell. Their business is simply what they do and does not necessarily reflect their greatest talents or passions.
However, if you take the time to examine your gifts, your talents, and the particular message you have for the world, you will discover inspiring ways to earn money by sharing those talents. When your business expresses who you are, clients instinctively recognize that you are sincerely and personally committed to their happiness and success. No one can fake true concern.
2. With whom do you want to work?
Most business owners have customers or clients they dread dealing with, yet they continue to do business with them month after month. Whether you realize it or not, your customers know what you’re thinking about them.
Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest for you to be proactive and “fire” clients who are not a good fit for your business. This will free you to focus on the people you care about. When you do business with people you like, they will naturally bring out your best work and inspire you to become better at what you do. Your better efforts will attract more perfect customers who will inspire you further. From there, your ability to thrive is unstoppable.
When the right prospective customer crosses your path and you can clearly and simply describe exactly what they are feeling, they are captivated. They feel understood and validated, and they will trust you to take care of their concerns.
3. What do you do for your clients?
Generally speaking, a customer’s primary concern is to find someone who can solve their problem and make their pain stop. Therefore, you need to see your business from your customer’s perspective.
For example, instead of saying, “We provide accurate, professional bookkeeping services,” say, “We make sure you have the precise financial information you need, when you need it.” Rather than making a statement of fact, such as, “We are attorneys who specialize in small businesses,” present your service through their eyes, as in, “We take the mystery out of protecting what you’ve worked so hard to build.” Make a list of the benefits your customers will receive as a result of working with you or buying your products. Make sure each one is stated in specific terms a client can identify with, and then market this to your customers.
4. How do you set yourself apart?
Becoming an expert in your field is the best long-term way to attract abundance. You don’t need to have all the answers to be an expert; in fact most experts rely on many other professionals in and out of their field. What makes you an expert is your will, your drive, your passion, your confidence, and your ability to create solutions for your customers’ needs.
Remember, people draw conclusions about things and about each other within a matter of seconds. You may have 20 seconds to convince a potential client or customer that you are the solution to his or her problem. After that, you become lost in a current of information overload. So set yourself apart from the crowd, and watch your business soar.
5. The Final Key To Building an Abundant Life: What Permission Do You Need To Give Yourself?
You already know deep down what you want to do. You have an idea what changes you need to make in your business. You know what’s not working.
You may be holding yourself back from taking the actions you know you need to take. Somewhere in your subconscious you may be following harmful “rules” you’ve made for yourself. You may believe you don’t deserve wild success. You may believe that work can’t be fun. You may believe that you owe it to those around you to maintain the status quo.
When you identify your restrictive beliefs, you can decide to let go of them. Be truthful with yourself. What permission do you need to give yourself to make all of your dreams a reality? Some examples may be: “Fire (or hire) those three people,” “Take only the jobs/assignments that I would enjoy,” or “Make more money than anyone I know.” Be specific.
The Sky is the Limit
You now have the tools to develop a business strategy that capitalizes on your unique abilities and interests. Since many people are unable to objectively observe themselves, if you have difficulty answering any of these questions, brainstorm ideas with a business partner or a business coach. This is important, because the sooner you incorporate these abilities into your business presentation, the more prosperity you are able to attract. You will know what you have to share with the world, and this knowledge is your single most powerful wealth-attraction tool.
Any of your competitors can read the same business books and articles you do, but none of them can duplicate your heart and soul. Find the right answers to these five questions and you can be certain your prospects will say, “I have GOT to work with you!”