Being Comfortable With Downtime

tea and tissues

Tea and tissues have replaced writing lately for Straight Shooter.

The Straight Shooter blog has been a bit quiet lately as I have been required to bring my Work/Life Balance Action Plan into play.

I have spent the past two weeks nursing sick kids – and feeling pretty ordinary myself – due to an annoyingly persistent cold virus that has passed from one family member to the next.

I haven’t written anything in over a week, communication with business contacts has ground to a halt and my energy is still lacking.

In the past I might have let this predicament get me down. But now I know I just need a plan – and a small attitude adjustment – to get things back on track.

You see this year I have specifically made changes in my life so that I can be with my kids when they are sick. In the past a sick child was all it took to topple our delicately balanced and seriously overloaded weekly schedule. On finding a child that was just too sick to send to school, my husband and I would quickly discuss which of us had fewer meetings and/or more personal leave owing to determine who would begrudgingly stay home that day.

Now that I have started Straight Shooter and I am working from a home office, I am available and happy to step up and be nurse whenever the need arises. I feel very fortunate to be in this position. It is a relief to all of us.

So these days, stopping work to deal with a sick family feels like a manageable part of the bigger plan. This is a good thing – comforting in all senses of the word.

How do you deal with unexpected downtime in your work? Let me know what works for you by leaving a comment below. 

Now that I am back at the computer, stay tuned for more posts later this week.

The Magical and Wonderful Powers of a Blank Piece of Paper

freeimage-4816466-highA blank piece of paper can solve all the problems and mysteries of the world. Well, in my little world at least, it is a trick that has certainly worked wonders. In business and for personal matters, when things seem cluttered or decision making is difficult, a crisp, white, blank piece of paper seems to save me every time. A blank piece of paper can magically make the impossible seem possible. With that one clean piece of paper, you have a chance to take back control or a moment to start over.

You know the feeling, don’t you? You sit down at your desk and survey the scene. You phone is blinking with unanswered messages, you are drowning in email backlog, your calendar seems to be double-booked until Christmas and the piles of files resemble a fortress, protecting you from anyone who tries to enter your office to discuss anything that might require you to do any more work. When everything seems urgent, where on earth do you start?

When you are overloaded and busy beyond measure, this is exactly the time you need to stop, breathe and map things out. I know it seems hard to believe, but give it a try. Get some paper and a pen, find a quiet place away from distraction and then just think. Start writing or drawing or mind mapping. Write lists or schedules or ideas. Scrawl down a bunch of swear words if you think it will help. Lay it all out on paper. Transcribe what is going on in your head.

The next step is to start to make connections to find a way through your thoughts. Perhaps use a different coloured pen to literally draw circles and connecting lines across the page. Alternatively, write positive words or ideas to counter any negative thoughts or number each line in order of priorities. Turn the mess on the page into a plan to move forward. Acknowledge the issues then focus on the solutions. Flip the page over and write up some simple resolutions or action points that feel manageable and achievable.

I’m sure psychologists would have some specific medical terms or titles to describe this process, but I just call it Thinking Time. People who work with me would often see me steal my preferred A3 sized paper out of the photocopier draw (I can never find the stash in the stationery cupboard). I find my best Thinking Time happens after lunch. I try to find an empty meeting room or close my office door. Using a red pen I just sit and think and sort my thoughts. I find a 20 minute session is usually enough to get some clarity and confidence about what needs to happen next.

While Paper Power is brilliant in times of stress, it is even better if you use it regularly each week or month to keep things on track and maintain a positive outlook.

We used this technique with our overscheduled son this week. We could see he was cracking under the pressure of school and sport and high expectation – mostly of himself. He was tired and generally unpleasant – far from his normal state. We started with a blank page on the table and together added activity after activity until he could see his packed weekly schedule laid out in black and white. He could visualise the peak times and appreciate the gaps – precious space and time to relax and enjoy just being a kid. The perspective was valuable and provided immediate relief to us all.

The power of the magic blank page cannot be underestimated. Try it today.

What methods do you use to find order and see clearly in work and in life?

Just 1 Percent

tn_timingThe way I see it, with every excuse you make about marketing, you are giving away a little bit of control of the future success of your business. You are divesting the potential of all of your hard work. I mean what is the point of working so hard to build a business, if you are not doing everything possible to tell people about it.

So today I’m hoping to give you a wake up call. I want to convince you that even if you only have a small amount of time – and even if your marketing budget is non-existent – you can create habits to actively marketing your business and share your story.

Let’s start off with talking about time. Sure time is a limited resource. I haven’t come across an app yet that has found a way to squeeze more than 24 hours into each day – but I’m sure it’s not far away! Until this is available to us, we are stuck trying to fit too many things into too little time. So when faced with this, how can you carve out time to focus on marketing?

Let’s start with baby steps…

I want you to do a calculation. Work out how many hours you work on average each week. Then work out 1% of this time. For example:

40 hours per week or 2400 minutes x 1% = 24 minutes

This 1% is how much time I want you to spend on marketing this week.

Using the example of 24 minutes across a whole week – what could you achieve?

Here are 10 suggestions
:

  1. Phone a customer or contact you think might be a good target for more business and just have a chat
  2. Map out the key points of an article on a topic in your area of specialisation
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile
  4. Hold a short meeting over coffee with 3 colleagues to ask them what they are working on and discuss cross-referral opportunities
  5. Research and register for a networking event relevant to your industry
  6. Review your customer or client lists to see if you can think of new ways to get to know their businesses better
  7. Set up a meeting with one of your key clients and ask them to show you around their operations
  8. Find an article that may interest your customers or contacts and email a link out to them
  9. Send a birthday card to a long-term client
  10. Refer an opportunity to a business contact or colleague – what comes around goes around.

Any of these activities has the potential to bring more work into your business or – at the very least- to raise your profile in the minds of your contacts or customers, reinforcing who you are and how you can help them.

It doesn’t have to take lots of time or money, but a little bit of marketing can bring great results.

What did you achieve with your 1% of time? Let me know by leaving a comment below.