Why do we procrastinate? Four ways to help get the thing done.

Why do we procrastinate? Four ways to help get the thing done.

Let’s talk procrastination.

I procrastinate and risk admitting that to possible clients, but I like to be honest. However, I will quickly say that I don’t procrastinate website projects. When I have a job to do, I buckle down and get it done. What I do procrastinate in are things like chores, taxes, and this blog. I’m not entirely sure why I procrastinate in writing blog posts, but I do. It could be because I’m busy building websites, tending to my personal life, or have this deep, existential fear of writing that harkens back to high school research papers. So instead of actively writing, I create reasons not to do it.

Work with it.

I’ve decided to spend a portion of 2019 figuring out ways to stop procrastinating the writing of my blog. Whatever the reasons, I need to just let them go. Let those reasons pass unless of course there’s something that requires immediate attention. That can’t be helped, obviously. But I’m talking about those lame reasons like, “I’m too tired. I can’t think. There’s always tomorrow.” That can go on and on for days. Thinking about it more, I realized that maybe it isn’t so much about stopping procrastination, but working with it instead. So what would that look like?

Start with why

Why does the blog post need to be written? Why does that closet need to be organized? Why do the taxes need to be done? Well, the taxes are obvious, but start with asking why these things need to be done. Be fair and list good, positive answers to these questions. Having those answers gives a more concrete reason to do the thing. It gives more substance to the importance of the task and why it would be important to get it done. Why the blog? Because it helps share ideas and knowledge, could help someone else, and will provide brand recognition and an audience.

It doesn’t need to be completed right now

There’s always tomorrow, right? This probably seems counterintuitive to combating procrastination, but step back and look at the whole project. Realize the whole thing doesn’t need to be done at this moment, today. Thinking like that can only make it all the more overwhelming. Break the project down into smaller, bite sized chunks that can be completed over time. Seeing and completing those bite sized chunks gives a positive boost that the project can be completed. Today, I’ll write two paragraphs of the blog. Tomorrow I’ll write two more and so on until the post is complete.

Give it a deadline

Deadlines can really help kick things in to gear. Whether it’s three days, a week, or the end of the month, having a deadline helps the mind realize, “okay I’ve got this thing to do and it needs to be done by next week. I better get to it.” Being realistic helps as nothing is worse than giving a huge, daunting project only a couple of days to finish. Unless there is a specific reason, give the project some time to slowly simmer. There’s no reason to burn through it. That only creates more work like burnt sauce at the bottom of a pan.

Set actionable steps

Tying into deadlines, breaking the project down into actionable steps that lead to the end goal makes it a lot more manageable. As each step and goal are reached, it will get more encouraging to complete the project. The steps can be visualized on a checklist or mind map that get crossed off as they’re completed. One thing that I’ve done for my blog is to create a list of blog posts I’d like to write about. I carry this list with me and add to it as I think of topics. I then pick a topic and spend some time doing additional resource and note gathering. Then I set that deadline and figure out the steps it’ll take to get there. Say that I’ve given myself 7 days to complete a blog post. Day 1 is a couple hours of additional research and notes. Day 2 is spent writing 2 or 3 paragraphs. Day 3 is writing paragraphs 4, 5 and maybe 6. Day 4 is finishing any additional writing and editing. Day 5 is actually a rest day. I like to step away and come back with a fresh mind. Day 6 is final edits. Day 7, publish the post. Success! All of the steps I write down and cross off giving me a sense of accomplishment.

Get it done.

Working with procrastination instead of fighting it has so far helped me. I have to take steps or else I get overwhelmed and let the excuses take over. So take this idea and go out and get that thing done. I’ll part with one final bonus tip; reward yourself! Whether it’s at project completion or after each step, treat yourself to something as congratulations on a job well done. I’m off to get a slice of pie…

What have you been procrastinating to get done?

8 Tools That Will Help Your Small Business Succeed

Eight tools that will help your business succeed.

In this article, I’m going to share the tools I use to help in the day to day operations of my business.

Whether you’re just getting started or you have some time under your belt, you know there are a lot of tasks to running a business. Sometimes things are forgotten or you’re glancing at your bank account thinking that’s good bookkeeping, or worse, you’re still writing passwords into a notebook (yikes!). Let’s look at some tools that you should start using to streamline your business practices.

Password Managers

Let’s start with that password notebook… toss it! No wait! Not literally. Once you get started with a password manager and input all of your passwords into it, then shred and burn that notebook. A password manager takes all of your login credentials and puts them into one, organized place. It then hides all of them behind one master password, the only one you need to memorize. When you are creating an account with a new website, the password manager will also help in creating a password. Not iLoveCoffee, that’s a terrible. It’ll create one of those 18 character alphanumeric monstrosities you’ll never remember. And that’s the point. You’ll save it with your username and the login URL of the website in the manager. When you return to the site and need to call up your credentials, you’ll simply open the app with your master password, copy the password you need, and paste it into the form. Voila! You’re logged in.

There are a handful of password managers out there, but I recommend LastPass. It is easy to use, keeps my logins organized, and even provides a secure place to keep sensitive notes.

Bookkeeping Solutions

Let’s face it, keeping the books is not fun (unless you’re a bookkeeper). Receipts get lost, bills are forgotten, and you have no idea where your money is going. Not to mention, you have nothing ready when tax time comes making it difficult to file them. It would be nice if we could all afford a bookkeeper when starting out, but often small business owners need to don the bookkeeping hat and get down to it. There are a lot of solutions out there and I recommend consulting your accountant first. Quickbooks and Xero are the heavyweight champions, but when starting out you might be able to get away with something a little smaller and more simplistic.

I recommend starting with FreshBooks. It is hosted securely online, so you’ll have access to your books no matter where you are. It allows you to scan in or save receipts and attach them to transactions and they even have an invoice system to easily send to customers which can be paid online.

Email & Document Hosting

In this day and age, mostly everything is done online. A lot of customer communication is handled over email and using a good system for that is essential. One thing that is equally important is moving your communication away from personal email addresses and using a professional email specific to your business. On the same note, keeping all of your documents in a central location can be difficult. Especially when it comes to producing those documents in a word processor or spreadsheet that you can’t access unless you’re sitting at your desk. Well, there is a solution that can handle it all!

Enter, G Suite. This is a product from Google and for a low monthly fee, you get email, cloud storage, document producing apps, calendars, and plenty more. For some reason I didn’t sign up for this when starting my business, but I wish I had. You should and you won’t regret it.

Thought Organization & Task Management

There are times when you need to get your ideas or thoughts down on paper to help you plan. Wrapping your head around your operations can sometimes make you dizzy. Having standard operating procedures in place is important, but maybe you don’t have them written down or you need to refine them. Or maybe you have a new product, service, or even a blog idea you need to hash out before getting started. That’s where these next two tools really shine!

Trello is a vision board, brainstorming tool, task manager, project manager… you name it tool all wrapped into one awesome interface. Starting with a virtual board, cards are created under categorized lists. The cards can be dragged and dropped from each list. For example, I often have To Do, In Progress, and Complete lists that I drop task cards into as I move along the project. Each card can be further customized with comments, attachments, checklists, and due dates. It is an amazing tool and I cannot recommend it enough.

The next handy tool for this category is Dynalist.io. As the name suggests, it is a dynamic listing tool. Basically you  can create ordered, bulleted lists with nested items. Its interface is very minimal and clean, allowing for maximum efficiency in creating organized lists. The lists and bullets can all be minimized or expanded as you create longer and longer lists. There are also many formatting options, each with keyboard shortcuts.

Customer Relationship Management & Email Marketing

I combined this category because CRM and email marketing go hand in hand. Some tools even offer both in one convenient package. A good CRM will help you in organizing your customers, their information, and your communication with them. It will also help you handle your current projects with your customers and where you are with them in the project timeline. Some CRM services will even help with automating your processes and communication. It is essential to keep track of your leads, current and past customers.

The big daddy CRM that I recommend is ActiveCampaign. It will actually handle marketing including email, sales, communication, automations, and really everything you need out of a CRM. However, this one may be overkill if you’re getting started and don’t need something so heavy. In this case, I recommend Capsule CRM. Capsule is light weight and offers a lot of features and functionality in their beginning, free tier. It may not have big automations or email marketing services, but it can definitely help in handling all that customer data and your projects.

Email marketing is one of the best and most basic ways to promote your business. It is also important for current or past clients in that it keeps your business top of mind, especially if you offer ongoing services or upgrades. A consistent email campaign will help not only communicate your brand, but can also add value if you tie in blog posts or shared articles that might interest your customers. Its the gift that keeps on giving to your business.

There are many services out there that can help with email marketing, but a great one to get started with is MailChimp. MailChimp helps you build professional looking emails and automate your campaigns. You may find you like it so much and its powerful enough that it will grow right along with you.

Blogging

Besides email marketing and social media, blogging is a great way to further promote your business and drive traffic to your website. While blogging about your business and what you do is great, your website is actually for your customers. Try blogging topics that will interest and help your targeted niche. Link an article on social media and the traffic to your website will most certainly increase. A good blogging tool will allow you to write your articles within the system, have formatting tools, and allow you to schedule your posts.

The best way to handle your blog content is through WordPress. It not only runs your website, but it displays your blog like a champ. In fact, WordPress started as a blogging platform and has since scaled to the largest content management system hosting 31% of the web as of this writing. This website and blog is proudly run on WordPress.

Now go after the world!

These tools will most certainly help you and your day to day operations with your business. They’ve helped me immensely and continue to do so every day. I hope to one day hear that these tools have helped your business grow exponentially. If you have some tools you’ve been using, which tools have you used and recommend?

3 Common Misconceptions About Building A Website For Your Small Business

Three misconceptions about building a website for your small business.

Building a website can open up many new opportunities for you and your business! Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions out there that might be causing roadblocks in your goals. Without a website for your business, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to advertise your products or services and to reach your audience. If you’re delaying a website build because of these misconceptions, let’s put them to rest!

The Misconceptions

  • You need to know how to code
  • You need a large budget
  • You need a web designer

You’ll find that while these three misconceptions are helpful, they aren’t needed to get your first website online.

Let’s start with the first one; knowing how to code. It is helpful to know how a website functions at a basic level, but it isn’t necessary in building your first website for your business. It takes many hours to learn to code and let’s face it, you have better things to spend your time on. There are many tools available that help side-step the need to code and get your website going.

If you think you need a large budget, you really don’t for a first website. It is one of the best investments for your business and your first website can get away with a less expensive option to get it started. When business begins booming now that you’ve expanded your online presence, you can then look at expanding your budget and scaling up for bigger and shinier things.

While a web designer can be indispensable for your business goals, you don’t need one to get started. In your business’s infancy, you probably haven’t needed the expertise of a bookkeeper and have been getting along with doing the books yourself using software. The same can be said with a web designer. You might be able to get along with some sweat equity and spend time with website building software.

Get Started

Now that we’ve put these misconceptions to bed, let’s look at the options available to you and some of the steps you should take.

Website Builders – These are services that provide software or ready made templates to get your website up quickly. Some of the options are:

Steps To Take

  1. Secure your domain name. This is what you type into the browser ending in .com, .org, or .net . Your business name should be your first choice in a domain name. I recommend using Google Domains even if your website building service offers domains. This way, when you’re ready to move away from that service and grow your website, you won’t need to go through a transfer process.
  2. Setup your email. Now that you have a domain, give yourself a more professional appearance with an email address using your business name. Instead of businessowner@aol.com, you will have businessowner@mybusinessname.com. I recommend using Google G Suite for your email services. They offer a lot more with your account than just email as well!
  3. Compile your content. Whether you use a website builder or hire the services of a web designer, you’ll need to have your content prepared. Your website is really for your customers, so write your content for them. Follow the old school Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Who is your audience? What are they coming to your website for? When are you open/available? Where are you located? Why are you in business? How can they reach you/buy your product/engage your service?
  4. Then, get to building that website!

Do’s and Dont’s

Do get started. Don’t miss out on larger markets by not having a website. You can always start with one option and upgrade later. The important thing here is to just get started!

Do get creative. Don’t get too creative; no wild colors, gaudy graphics, or comic sans. Have a look at some other websites for inspiration, especially those of your competitors.

Do use a website builder service. Don’t expect too much from it. They are very cookie cutter for a reason; to get you online quickly.

In Closing

As you did for your business, do your research for your website. Check out all the options and pick the best one for you in this moment that will allow you to get your business building its online presence. It is an investment that will bring great returns.

Finally, if you do get in a bind, you realize you don’t really have the time, or you find out that building a website is not your forte, do contact a web designer or consultant. Don’t put it off or you’ll miss out on some great opportunities!