Time Management 101: The Falsity of Busy

A few years ago I had a dentist appointment. I’m one of those very few people that loves going to the dentist. That’s probably because I don’t have any cavities and haven’t had any major dental work so all I ever get is a cleaning. I was chatting with the hygienist while she cleaned and when the dentist came in she asked the same question that most people ask, “How’s it going?” I gave my standard answer...

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Overwhelmed Much? 3 Strategies That Help Simplify

I was going through some of our blog posts recently looking for a post to maybe repurpose for a client that needs more content and wanted something different from their normal topic. I came across a post I did about a year ago about how running a business is hard. It was a pretty good post if I do say so myself. It struck me at how we (B&A) are in a different place in the business but at the same time in the same place. Because running a business is hard. Still.

One of the key things that post talked about was being transparent with the business and letting people see behind the scenes, good and bad. So much good has happened over the year and we have amazing clients that we are doing amazing work for and that’s all fabulous. But with all that good comes being overwhelmed sometimes. It made me think about how overwhelmed I can get and my reaction to overwhelm is to be tired. All. The. Time. Tired enough that a few weeks ago I blew off work in the middle of the day (I apparently called in sick) and took a nap. And then felt guilty about it. And then I was overwhelmed by the guilt, hence more tired and then overwhelmed even more. And it all turned into a vicious cycle. Now, what kinda crap is that?

There are so many things in my business that contribute to this overwhelm. Too many emails, perceived client demands (that I probably make up in my head), to-do lists, social media, social engagements, setting goals, meeting said goals, success, failure, meetings, strategies, business models… Should I keep going? Did I mention too many emails? This is the vein of my existence yet the goal of my ego.

Enough Already!

I’m over it. The being overwhelmed. I’m guessing you are too. Let’s all make a pack together. We are going to implement these 3 simple steps in reducing our overwhelmed brains that will also help reduce all this crappy stress.

  1. Unsubscribe from Emails: All those emails that you get that you save for later, skip over or delete altogether. Get rid of them altogether so they don’t even hit your box. I sign up for these guys all the time with all the good intention of reading them and then I just don’t for whatever reason. I’m really bad about saving them because I’m going to read them later when I have time. Reality check: I never have time. I’m not saying get rid of all of them. There are a few that I religiously read every time they hit my box. Here are a few that I read and highly recommend: The Middle Finger Project (warning if you like sugar coating don’t bother), Melissa Cassera (I totally have a girl crush on her) and Tara Gentile (she just knows her shit and like Star Trek). I do watch Marie Forleo and Carrie Green’s videos because that’s easy for me to listen to in the car. We sometimes send out emails and you should keep on that list really ;). Sorry I had too, it’s in my contract.
  2. Hire an Assistant: Or a cleaning lady, or a copywriter. Whoever it is you need help from. You guys all know Jenn around here. She writes for this blog and helps me exponentially. She runs all of our social media (among a lot of other things) and that was the best decision I ever made. Because now it actually gets done. Period. Best. Decision. Yeah, your going to have to pay for it and sometimes money is tight. I totally get it. I’m in the spot a lot. But trust me when I say you need help. You need someone that is going to do that crap you don’t want too or don’t have the skills to do. I totally have the skills to run our social media, I just don’t want too. So, I either pay someone to do it for me or it just doesn’t get done. I’d rather it get done. If you need help with something, get it. You don’t have to go with the most expensive option just something.
  3. Take the Nap: And don’t feel guilty about it. That’s just down right ridiculous. I tell people all the time there is no such thing as a marketing emergency. No one is dying because your sales copy isn’t whipped out in 10 minutes. I have learned that I’m a late afternoon and early evening worker. I get more creative work done between the hours of 4pm and 7pm than I do all day. Those are my writing and graphics hours. So if I try to do it in the middle of the afternoon and I’m overwhelmed or tired I’m just going to have to re-do it again because it’ll be crap. I might as well take a nap and do it right when I’m more refreshed and in my zone. That’s just me. I find everyone is different and your best times might be early in the morning (I still do have a conspiracy theory about morning people but I digress). Find your zone and then just take a nap already if you want.

What do you think? Will these tips help with our overwhelm? What are some of your strategies to not feel so overwhelmed all the time? Obviously, email overload is the big one for me but what is your hot button? Leave me a comment and let’s work on reducing our overwhelm together.

Writer’s Block is a B*tch

If you’re reading this, then Hallelujah! It means I was able to get past my weeklong writer’s block and figure out something worth writing about… I think.

We’ve all been there, whether it’s the college paper due the next day, the proposal you promised your client by the end of the week, or even composing your grocery list as you sit in your car in front of the Harris Teeter. There’s a lot of noise in that brilliant mind of yours. However, there’s an extreme disconnect with your mind and your fingers as you type. In fact, your mind is screaming, “WE CAN DO THIS!” but somehow your hand freezes up and Googles Grumpy Kitty.

You look around, hoping that maybe that picture on the wall or the person walking by the window will send your mind into creativity overload, causing you to finish your entire week’s worth of work in one afternoon. Wouldn’t that be nice? Joke’s on you. 

Fifteen minutes later you decide to take a laundry break and throw a load into the wash. Thirty minutes later you’re still stuck, so you go for a walk convincing yourself that “fresh air” is what your mind needs. After the walk, you sit back down and work on something else. Not whatever has a deadline quickly approaching, of course, but rather the document that is due at the end of the month. This cycle continues on for a couple hours, sometimes days. You start to stress out because you haven’t gotten anything done.

Hold on…yes you have. You’ve done laundry, exercised, and possibly cleared some time toward the end of the month for a beach day. Go you! The high from this realization boosts your mood and before you know it, your writer’s block is gone. You know what else is gone? That deadline you were stressing about. Why? Because you’re awesome and overcame the writer’s block. Maybe, jusssst maybe, writer’s block is a blessing in disguise. 

How Does It Happen?

It never ceases to amaze me how I can walk into my office at one of my clients with a desk piled high of stuff that they have gathered throughout the week; mail, receipts and whatever they think I should have or to take care of and by the end of the day my desk is clean. I walk in feeling overwhelmed and somehow leave with a clean desk. How you ask? That is a question I get a lot because time management is always a hot button with everyone. I’m amazed myself some days how I stay organized all the time and keep your desk clean.

I can’t really explain it. I start with the mail and I just work my way through entering bill to be paid and paying bills that are coming up for the week. I guess I have my own systematic way of working through everything. I can’t explain it to you and it probably wouldn’t work for you. When it comes to organizing I am a believer that you have to find your own system that works for you. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. The reason for that? My brain doesn’t work the same way yours does. I think very analytically and look at everything as a system. You may not think that way so my system won’t work for you.

The first step in getting organized is to find your natural organization style. Mine is analytical and then visual. I think in numbers and then I need to see those numbers so I like to think about the system and then create it visually. I go into my clients and start with the mail. I get rid of everything I don’t need and then put everything else into different piles. I move onto entering bills into my account system and then onto paying bills. Everything goes onto a to do list and I cross it off as I finish. This may not work you but it does for me. What is your personal organizational system? Are you analytical or visual?

How Do Rock Stars Stay Organized?

Its finally here! This week - the Most Influential Women in Business Luncheon. It feels like it would never get here. I have been waiting for this for 2 months now. The accumulation of the last 2 months all comes together this week. I have the Most Influential Women in Business Luncheon (if you haven't gotten your tickets you need to get them here - it promises to be a sell out) and I have the new board member orientation for My Sister's House AND I have my first board meeting with Charleston's American Marketing Association (did I mention that I'm taking over as the Programming Director for the AMA? Oh, yeah, that's going on too). So how do I find the time for all of this? This is a question that I get asked a lot and I recently did a presentation on Time Management at the Center For Women so do you want some of my best tips?  Sorry I don't have any. Just kidding. There are days where I'm not sure how I keep it all going either but here we go.

1. I know my organization style. I can hear you thinking it - what does that mean? That means that I know that I have an analytical mind and I keep track of things very methodically and use technology to keep it all organized. I have a philosophy that there are 2 ends to the spectrum of organization - one is the analytical and other is the visionary. Analytical organizers are those that are very methodical and process oriented. Many times these are those people that are accountants or data driven people. Visionaries are those that are creatives or artists if you will. You know, graphic designers and marketing people. We all fall somewhere within the spectrum and I'm close to the middle but probably lean heavily towards the analytical end of things. I do have tendencies to be visual meaning that I like to write things down and use a paper calendar but generally I use the calendar, address book and tasks on my computer and phone to keep up with everything.

2. Prioritize. What are the top 5 things you have to get done today and what really can wait? I'm not giving you permission to procrastinate but there are some things that just can wait until tomorrow. Making time for yourself and rewarding yourself for a job well done should be the sixth thing on your list to prioritize because if you don't then tomorrow it will be even harder to be motivated.

3. Do what you say and say what you mean. A lot of my organization skills come from my mom because she was a full time mom and real estate agent and she was very adamant about the house being neat and told me and my younger brother all the time to put our junk away or she was going to throw it away. One day, I did not heed the warning and left my homework on the kitchen table and had to explain to my teacher the next morning that my mom tossed my homework away and I needed more time to turn it in (that didn't go over so well). If you don't do what you say and say what you mean, no one, including yourself, will take you seriously. My mom not only kept herself organized by doing this but she made me more organized, which I'm sure wasn't an outcome she anticipated but benefited us both.

We can't actually make more time so we have to find ways to manage it better and these are just a few of my top tips that help me in my personal and professional life. With everything going on in my life I have to keep organized to meet all my obligations otherwise I let someone down hence just letting myself down. Organization may come to me a little easier than most but we can all make a few little changes to get on the road to managing our time better.

Reward Yourself

I'm a big believer in diversity. Diversity in your financial portfolio, diversity in your marketing plan, diversity in your social networks, etc. Which leads me to diversity of points of views and in honor of this diverse thinking I'm turning over Bartleby's Blog this week to Kelsey Dunn, B&A's first intern. I view this blog as a real life learning center and as cool as I am I feel we can learn from many different people in our lives and I want you to learn from others outside of me. As a B&A Intern, Kelsey has learned a lot about small business from me over the past few weeks but I have learned a lot from her as well on how to be a better teacher and delegator. Diversification! So without further due please welcome Bartleby's first guest blogger, Kelsey Dunn. (Applause!!)

You work hard.  We all know it.  Like the infamous saying, “work hard, play hard,” I’ve learned that a balance is absolutely necessary.  I recently graduated from the College of Charleston, with a double major, and I did it in exactly four years, while working full time.  The last semester was incredibly challenging for not only academic assignments, but also on my ability to find time for myself.  For the most part, I closed myself off from the world, put my head down and focused on my work until it was time to hit the pillow.  I may not have played hard by any means, but I still had ways to reward myself for completing an assignment or getting through a busy work week.  Facebook was my answer for everything.  I allowed myself to get on facebook for 10 minutes after I got through one of many tough assignments, otherwise I was forbidden to peek (torture, I know).  But by developing this strategy, I solved all my problems.  Not only did I avoid the distraction that Facebook is so well known for, but I was also motivated to finish the task as soon as I could.  Then, since I could not attend many social events with real people in real outside places, I was able to still communicate with friends, catch up on being nosey, and see through pictures that there’s a world I can rejoin after I achieve my degree.

You may be at the point in your career where you think there’s just no time to get side tracked and have time for yourself. Rewarding yourself for hard work and completing tasks keeps you motivated and refreshed. Be a little more selfish, you deserve it.  Find your 10-minute method of relief, whether it’s a phone call to home, checking out what new clothes are online or walking your pet.  Whatever it is, take a break, remove yourself from the pressures, and then return to your work with the end goal of another reward.  If you prioritize correctly, you will find yourself building a structure to get more tasks done and really enjoy the result.

I know Ronii is a believer in personal rewards and wouldn’t mind me sharing with you a trick of her own.  At the end of the day, Ronii’s inbox will be empty, because she would like to reward herself with a cold beer.  Her ability to promptly respond and manage the growing number of daily emails is an accomplishment motivated by her own enjoyment after it is done.  Ronii’s strategy allows her to keep a focused workday, followed by a reward for how much work she rocked out.  Then again, we all know Ronii deserves a beer, regardless, for her achievement as one of the “Most Influential Women in Business” nomination.

So, let’s just think about what reward works for you.  No on likes a cheater, so finish your tasks then indulge.  Or else you will be multitasking, and doesn’t that just take longer? 

That’s all for now, I’m treating myself to a movie before bed.