My Top 5 Productivity Tips

As a working mum, my time is extremely precious and I’m always looking for productivity tips to help me keep hold of my sanity. Well for most of the time anyway. There are a ton of productivity and efficiency gurus out there who are way better at this stuff than me, but I have found the following approach helps me to stay on track.

  1. Make Lists

When I have lots and lots of things going on, it can be difficult to keep track of what to do when. The result is that more often than not, nothing gets done at all and I feel super unproductive and overwhelmed. There are tons of productivity apps out there that come really highly recommended https://www.wunderlist.com being one of the most popular. However, I’m a pen and paper kind of gal and have therefore taken quite a liking to the Bullet Journalling approach. You can find out more about it here http://bulletjournal.com/

2. Save the best until last and do the worst first

Sometimes it’s not the array of tasks that suck up our time, it’s the extensive procrastination that we’re all guilty of at one time or another. When we put off something that we really don’t want to do, we dilly dally around (or as I like to call it, faff about) with really unimportant stuff, almost finding false reasons to delay doing the job we really need to do.

3. Don’t put things off

Similar to the previous point and we all do this one at one time or another. My favourite is the quarterly accounts in the office and my ironing at home. By the time I finally muster up the urge to do either (usually the threat of the taxman or having nothing to wear does the trick!) I have a huge backlog to get through that means other important tasks get left behind. And so the other backlogs build. And then the circle of not being able to plan your time effectively due to external pressures takes effect.

4. Work with your energy not against it 

I am not a morning person. Ever. It takes me a good 2 hours and several cups of coffee before I am all over getting things done. By 2pm, the post lunch snooze slump hits followed by the 8pm post dinner (and sometimes wine) energy boost. Some suggest that leaving complex tasks for when you have an energy low can revitalise you. That does NOT work for me. I’m all about getting things done when I feel I am fully functioning at my optimum. Just to re-iterate, never book a meeting with me at 2pm.

5. Tidy House/Desk = Tidy Mind

I know I know, such a cliché but so true. Although we live in a digital world, the nature of my business means that I am surrounded by paper constantly. And I can tell you, it’s sometimes a challenge to see over the top of it, never mind keep on top of it. However, when my workspace become smaller than a 15cm ruler squared, I know its time for a sort out. And it feels so good when my desk is clear again.

 What time saving and productivity tips help you keep on top of things? I’d love to hear from you! x

 

New Baby New You – But What About Your Old Job?

My latest series of blog posts are something of a reflection back to see how far I’ve moved forward. I’m currently 2.5 years into parenthood and although you don’t get the kudos of a 50 mtr swimming badge equivalent, I do think my arm bands (or water wings if you’re stateside!) have definitely come off. Well most days……..you know, not including the ones with the 3am wake up calls or when you find last months snack down the back of the sofa. I digress.

When I initially had my child, I was very keen to use my allotted 10 ‘keeping in touch days’ with my workplace. Then the thought of travelling my old commuter journey of 30 miles with a newborn kind of put me off a little bit for a month or two. Then another month. Then another. 6 months in and I found myself on a Maternity workshop for women like me returning to work. One lady was actually a good 6 weeks into her return to work. And frankly she was knackered. And emotional. And I’ll be honest, not a huge advocate for getting back into the fray. This was obviously when she was able to look up from her laptop and participate in the workshop. That’s not a criticism, she was doing exactly what I was doing pre-maternity leave. Battling the constant influx of emails, managing her ‘BAU’ (Business as Usual for those less familiar with the irritating acronym only corporate speak) along with working on managing projects to stretch her competencies and tick a few extra boxes at performance review time. Whilst this may all sound a little negative, back in the day working on adrenalin, coffee and a burning desire to succeed could be extremely satisfying. It’s just not as much fun on 3 hours sleep and with the knowledge that when you get home, your other job then starts.

I was advised by the workshop business coach who candidly told me that when I was at work I would feel guilty for not being with my baby. And when I was at home I would feel guilty for not being at work. Erm, hold on isn’t this supposed to be a supportive environment to smooth the way to our transition as working mums?

Whilst I appreciated the coach sharing her honest perspective, that session ended up being a huge factor as to why I decided to take the step to do something different and get off the corporate treadmill. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked for some great companies and people. I’ve travelled the world and had experiences that I couldn’t have imagined thanks to the jobs I’ve had. But that wasn’t necessarily what I now wanted at that particular stage of my life.

I mean, as if life wasn’t turned upside down enough by the arrival of an entirely new human being, why not shake it up a little more and take a completely different professional journey? I must have been mad!!

I like to think daring, inspired, motivated and determined are more accurate descriptions perhaps. And a little more generous perhaps. Everyone takes different routes after having a baby, my it certainly changes a persons perspective whether you want it to or not. So why am I telling you all this? Well because one of my big ideas is to share the resources, experiences, ideas and inspirations that have helped guide me on my journey so far in the hope that they may help you a little on your journey. You can do this x

Maternity Leave is Over – To Work or Not To Work?

So you’ve had some time off with your baby since he or she emerged into this crazy world during maternity leave. You’re getting the hang of breast feeding, formula feeding, weaning, sleep training, early mornings, teething, dribbling, nappy changing, messy play……..the list goes on. When your bundle of love arrived, not only were you faced with keeping an actual human alive but you learned how to navigate baby groups, coffee shops with a pram and the trauma of that first use of a public changing facility. After the use of many a Dettol wipe of course.

You made it! You got through those first few weeks and months of maternity leave.

You survived. Hey, I’m guessing you did pretty well actually. But let’s not get all cocky now, oh no. Because now you have to face that other looming life question, what about that thing I did before baby – you know, the work thing?

Whether you need to return to work for financial reasons or because it’s a good chunk of what you consider to be your identity. Whether you choose to take a different job for flexibility or say ‘ta ta’ to the world of work entirely, it’s a bloody big decision.

Before I had my son I was working for a large international financial services business. Oh yes, check me out, the ‘career girl’. Kind of. I’m not sure I was ever comfortable with that particular label but for some people it seemed to fit fairly well. The combination of a demanding role, pretty competitive peers and a long commute made me question whether I wanted to stay on that particular treadmill or take a leap of faith and try another one. The subject of me joining the family business had been discussed A LOT! In fact, I’m pretty sure I managed to glaze many a pair of eyes with that particular procrastination. And having a baby it seemed was the push that I needed.

It was in no way an easy decision. When I was unexpectedly signed off work at 34 weeks pregnant, I actually cried. Yep, I really did love my job that much. I didn’t leave because I hated what I was doing. I left because it didn’t quite fit with the person I had become anymore. That and the role I was offered on my return wasn’t entirely game changing, but that’s for another blog post!

What influenced your decisions about ‘the work thing’ post maternity leave? Did you ease back into your previous role or take an alternative route?

I’ll be talking about ‘keeping in touch days’ and my reality of work post maternity leave – what was your experience?

x

The New Tupperware Team Leaders – The Rise of the Mummy Blogger

When reading about the mummy blogger movement which has exploded in recent years, I have heard many references such as ‘the modern Tupperware team leaders’ and I can’t decide whether it amuses me or frustrates me.

Don’t get me wrong, having had past experiences in the world of party planning businesses back in the day, it’s not that I find the comparison derogatory in any way as in fact I earned a nice bit of cash from Virgin Vie (what did happen to them?) thank you very much. It just seems to be a lightly veiled pat on the head kind of comparison. You know ‘Awww, how nice she does that to earn a bit of spending money’. Hmmm, not sure many mummy bloggers start of in this time consuming world for a bit of spending money. Perhaps to pay for the swimming lessons, school trips, holidays etc. Spending money, what’s that??

For me, the rise of the blogging mummy appears to be a sign of something much more significant. That women are creative in stretching their own abilities and are capable of achieving great things. Back in the pre-internet era (anyone below the age of 20 may need to google this historic period in time) women used what resources where available to them to satisfy their entrepreneurial spirit and yes, that included the classic Tupperware parties, Virgin Vie (god bless all who sailed in her) and Anne Summers – is that one still going? The digital world has certainly created more opportunity to no longer be constrained by company structures and direct selling. The digital world is a little more subtle than that in terms of earnings and revenue. The digital world takes creativity, resilience, technical ability and, above all, the passion to create something unique.

I think women have always had a flair for maximising all of the resources available to them in order to create opportunities for ourselves and for our loved ones. But it has moved forward in terms of creating further intellectual challenge. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone can create a successful income earning blog. So perhaps the Tupperware comparison is a little tongue in cheek as we are no longer looked down upon and patted on the head. Instead we are looked up to as a force to be reckoned with.

Women everywhere who are burning the midnight oil tap tap tapping away, I salute you! x

 

Shiny Object Syndrome – 5 tips

I’ve seen the reference to ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ all over the place recently and it’s certainly something I suffer from. I don’t mean from an ‘I must buy that fancy new kitchen appliance that I shall use once” i.e. the breadmaker, nutribullet……who, me? But seriously, I think it’s more from an information overload perspective.

We now find ourselves surrounded by marketing and media at every turn thanks mainly to the power of the iphone. Anyone remember when mobiles first came out, we thought it was just wild to use it as a phone but also send a text message, like that was EVER going to catch on. Hmmmm.

Well, although this new media world brings a whole world of freedom and a sense of escapism, it isn’t half a ginormous distraction not only from a personal perspective but as a business owner.

Hours can be completely lost checking out twitter feeds or linked in profiles as you flit between emails and writing that proposal that needs to go out by Friday gets relegate to midnight on Thursday. The latest Google search news interrupts my document production time (I’m in legal services by day!) as I think that perhaps we too should write a blog post about that thing that I briefly saw on that Linked in post from someone – cue wasting 20 minutes finding something that is probably irrelevant and also just not that important. Do NOT even get me started on You Tube – that sucks up time into some crazy vortex of business motivational speakers and make up tutorials that I will never properly remember when attempting a ‘cat eye’ whilst having a toy car thrown at my head by my 2 year old.

I’ve had a think about the 5 things that I’m going to try and do to avoid this distraction cataclysm that eats into my productivity – you might want to give them a go and let me know how you get on;

  1. Mono-Task & Focus

Forget all this multi-tasking nonsense. Yes, as women we can naturally think about what’s for dinner tonight whilst conducting a client presentation and messaging your friend about the much needed Friday night out. Focus on what you’re doing and you’ll be more effective, finish to a higher standard and in less time

2. Be Present

Whilst I’m busy juggling multiple tasks, I often miss what’s right in front of my nose. Clients subtle cues about their concerns, my son slightly worried about where his favourite racing car has gone. Life in general.

3. Reflect

Review the day. Often we’re achieved more than we realise and by acknowledging this, we can create a sense of satisfaction that may limit the need to search for more.

4. Time Management

Ok, I’m not suggesting I can for one minute cure my you tube addiction over night and nor should I. Sometimes we use this information searching quest as wind down time which is great. Just time limit it so that it doesn’t take over

5. Complete a task in one session

Sounds simple? As we flit between medias, we take much longer to complete individual tasks and probably to a lesser standard. Have a go at completing a task from start to finish without interruption and see how it makes you feel. Even better, make it something that you’ve been putting off for ages and give yourself a well earned pat on the back when you get it done.

Will be great to hear how you avoid distractions and increase your productivity! x

 

 

You Baby Me Mummy

5 Tips to Stay Motivated When You’re Self Employed

It can be pretty exciting when you take the leap to being your own boss but when that initial start up process is over and you find yourself up and running, maintaining drive and momentum can be pretty challenging at times. Here are a 5 tips to stay motivated when you’re self employed;

1. Avoid the drift

Plan your day setting clear goals and tasks to achieve or you may get to the evening and feel you’ve simply drifted through it. Small wins count too such as tidying your workspace or finishing some accounts admin that you’ve been putting off.

2. Get the boring stuff out of the way and focus on the good stuff

Don’t put off those tasks that you hate to do – they just become a monkey on your back. Whilst you probably set up your business in order to do something you love, it’s a fact of life that running a business still involves some tedious tasks that are best to get out of the way so you can really focus on the fun stuff.

3. Be clear about your goals

Be honest, do you really want to be the next Richard Branson or really are you quite happy with a lifestyle business that suits your needs emotionally and financially? Once you’ve worked some of that out, write it down. You can then break it down from high level stuff into manageable tasks to get you on the road to where you want to be.

4. Network

Don’t put pressure on yourself to only make connections that will generate business. When you work on your own, it can be a fairly solitary existence if you don’t get out and about to have some face to face interaction. I’ve met my key suppliers at networking events and you never know, you might actually meet some new friends too!

5. Remember the Dream

Why did you set up your business in the first place? When the good times are rocking and the money is rolling in, complacency can embed itself in your day to day. You might actually sometimes feel a little bored. Equally, when things are looking a little tight and getting those sales in is tough, you might feel like giving up. Don’t let yourself do either. Remember your vision for the life you wanted to create when you started your business. Keep your passion and purpose in the forefront of your mind.

 

“Begin with the end in mind” .

 

Why Not Give It a Go?

It’s the night before an exam that I’ve been studying for over the last few months. Feeling irritable. Why do I put myself through this? Well, being something of a life-long learner, I guess it goes with the territory. I’m my own worst enemy really and I guess essentially, pretty nosey – I just need to know how things work.

I’m sure there’s quite a few of us out there, you know, busy professionals with young families who just have oh so much time to squeeze in several hours of study a week and put ourselves through the mill every now and again when dreaded exam time comes around.

On this particular occasion, I’ve been working on a subject which is pretty dry. I’m being generous with that description. It’s really dull. I’m more of a big thinker than a detailed logic kinda girl (my husband would back be up on the lack of logic element). But I have to think of the wider picture with this one. It’s an area that will really help my credibility in the current industry I’m in from the perspective of others. From my own perspective, it will help me to believe in my own credibility.

I’ve never really been hugely competitive with other people, whether personal friends or professional peers. However I have always been pretty competitive with myself. In some ways, that’s been a great asset as I’ve pushed myself to try things out of my comfort zone and achieve stuff that I may not have otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to win the nobel prize or bring about world peace but in my little part of the universe, I have had the attitude of ‘why not?’

Let’s also get this straight though, I’m not so adventurous as to say ‘why not just bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge?’. But perhaps we don’t have to complete such hair raising adventures to feel a little bit like we’ve done ok. We’ve done ok for giving stuff a go. Stuff that may not be adventurous or high achieving at all to others. But stuff we can be proud of and own, just for ourselves.

So, after the labourious study, the painful repeated calculations (wish I’d listened more in maths at school) I’ll be giving it a go tomorrow. After all, why not?

Working Wednesdays – Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Check out the super-serious title to this post – sounds rather formal doesn’t it! Well, I’ve been reading a lot about promoting your business as I work within a small family business myself and we tend to find ourselves in something of a cycle. We pitch and promote for business, get super busy, forget about the promotional bit, go quiet and then start marketing again.

‘Peaks and troughs’ is an understatement! So I’ve been having a look at some of the top tips that are out there in cyberspace and the key one for me is continuity and consistency. If our marketing activity is inconsistent, how can we expect our business to be anything but?

I also found the following great points on www.businesszone.co.uk

  1. Use Integrated Marketing

Jolly good, what’s that then? Well, if you only write letters to your customers, try hooking up with them on social media and tweeting as well. There’s no single recipe for success so vary your communication tactics.

2.  Send a second offer to your customers immediately after a purchase

If your customer has just purchased an item/service from you, seize the moment and send them a note (a letter or email) thanking them for their business and informing them that they can take advantage of a special discount on their next purchase.
3. Send newsletters
Finding new customers is great, but what about keeping existing customers? Use newsletters to focus your marketing on past customers. If printed newsletters are too expensive, consider an e-mail newsletter sent to people who subscribe at your website.
4.  Get blogging
You know the drill with this one, its a low cost way of re-engaging existing clients as well as attracting new ones.
5. Update your website
We did this one for our business earlier this year and it certainly caught the attention of our core market. In fact this very blog itself will be getting a makeover in November so watch this space.
Its a tough old world in business and sometimes you just need to hold your nerve and think logically – ask yourself, why would I buy something from my business?
I would love to hear about what has worked when marketing your businesses and why!

Making Things Happen

So as I continue on the huge learning curve that is running a business, I’m tackling the first major challenge. Just for context, some of you may already know that instead of returning to my corporate career post The Nippers arrival, I joined the family business. I’m not going to lie, its still a big adjustment every day.

Having found that there is a requirement to wear a different hat pretty much every minute of the day i.e. ordering office suppliers, pitching to partners, fixing the photocopier (again), the current challenge is generating business. Historically our little firm has done exceptionally well on client referrals and repeat business. But that can only take you so far I guess and add the fact that there is now another household to support, we need to take some structured action in the form of a scary word starting with M.

Marketing.

I’ve been doing a little research and it seems there are LOADS of people out there that can help. Great. However, a large proportion of them require LOADS of money. Not so great. So I’m trying to work out how much we can do ourself and how much we’re going to need some help on. First things first, we need a plan and I’m aiming for it to cover off the following

1) Conduct an overall assessment of what we have in terms of marketing materials

As with most businesses, ours has evolved over time so we’ve ended up with good content split over a hotchpotch of designs and format which means no recognisable branding or easy point of reference for the client

2) Set our Goals

We really need to get this pinned down before we drift along and find ourselves……..well, right where we currently are

3) Define our target audience

We can’t be all things to all men (or women!). We really need to identify who is going to gain the most benefit from our product offering and ultimately spend money with us.

4) Tactics, budgets and resources

Essentially, what do we want to do, what can we actually do and how much time do we actually have to fit this in with our day to day operations. Sales channels, costs and the anticipated return on these investments all needs to be mapped out.

5) Evaluate and Change

If something works, do more of it. If something doesn’t work, bin it. Simples.

Right, we have a structure to get this thing going now I just need to put some specific content to it and hold myself accountable. I just need to fix the photocopier again first!

“There are three kinds of companies.
Those that make things happen.
Those that watch things happen.
Those that wonder what happened…”
Marketing Management by Philip Kotier

Overcome Office Politics and Be The better Person

No matter how large or small your workplace, regardless of how many people you work with and at what level, office politics can be the drain down which innovation, creativity and self confidence descends.

It seems that studies have shown that 18% of people’s time is spent resolving conflicts amongst employees……I suspect it’s much more when you add in the gossiping, ego trips and competitive negativity that drains energy and resources.

I found some good tips on deltatoolbox.wordpress.com that you might find handy too:

1. Stay positive!
Positivity is like a magnet for even more positivity – be it people or opportunities. Smile in the face of chaos!

2. Choose your words wisely
Negative remarks will be remembered for much longer than positive ones

3. Listen well
You’ll only gain more knowledge as a result

4. Don’t sling mud!
As the title of this blog suggests, be the better person!

5. Don’t burn bridges
Trample on the people who have helped you climb the corporate ladder at your peril!

6. Networking is key
This includes within your organisation but don’t forget that there’s a big wide world out there.

7. Salute the general
Showing respect for the boss’s position and authority demonstrates your professionalism

8. Stay on top of your game
Update old skills and learn new ones constantly to maintain your value in the workplace.

9. Display grace under pressure
In my view, certain situations require an expressive response but on the whole, maintaining your ‘professional face’ and letting things go will probably help your sanity too.

10. Avoid the office gossip,
If someone is talking about another person behind their back, chances are they’ll be doing the same about you.

Above all, recognise office politics for what it is – insecurities, egos and status battles. Be the better person and rise above it – hold true to your values and play the long game of achieving what it is that you want most to succeed at………….though if you knew what I know about the person standing at the photocopier right now………. 😉