How you can wear multiple hats yet still avoid distractions and ineterruptions at work

It is estimated that out of every hour people spend 20 minutes on unplanned interruptions. These interruptions at work are costly, especially as changing from one type of task to another takes time to reset your mind. The time it takes to reconstitute your focus after the interruption can last longer than the interruption itself.

do not disturbSwitching gears from one type of a task to another and back again diminishes your effectiveness and velocity with which you work. This is true of all types of interruptions, including email, phone calls, and social media. So how can someone who wears multiple hats avoid multitasking at the wrong times and instead keep their focus and get their jobs done. Here are a few tips.

Turn it Off!

Many interruptions come in the form of email. Email interruptions are especially problematic. If you’ve ever been around an open jar of candy, you know how you might intend to only have one, but before you know it, you’ve eaten half of the jar. Email is the same way. You may think you’re just going to look at one unopened email that just came in, but in reality you’re more likely to look at another email, or check Facebook or start to browse the internet now that you’re looking at your computer screen. The best way to combat this is to turn it off all together. Designate certain times of the day for emailing and catching up on social media. The rest of the day you should keep it off. To this end, there are a few tools to help you keep your focus.

Online distraction busters

Self-Control an app to prevent you from straying from your work by temporarily blocking internet access to sites you put on a blacklist, some ideas might be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest!

Isolator helps you concentrate by covering up your desktop and all its icons so that you can just focus on the task at hand.

Freedomlike other apps in this space, Freedom prevents you from going on the internet. Unlike some of the other apps, Freedom makes it harder to cheat, as if you want to override the program, you’ll need to reboot your computer.

Change your work hours

Go into the office early and leave early or go in late and stay late, if being their earlier or later when fewer people are there makes it easier for you to focus. However you do it, set aside some hours for uninterrupted work. Let people know if they need you, your “office hours” begin after a certain time.

Apply yourself to the situation

Sometimes all you need is a little awareness and willingness to take care of the situation. Now that you know that interruptions are not always a necessary evil, nor are they a sign that you are important and busy, but instead they are undermining your effectiveness at work, pay special attention to finding that uninterrupted time. Silence your phone. Turn off your email. Close your door. Ask people to hold their questions until a certain time. When unavoidable interruptions do happen, do all you can to keep them brief. Don’t invite the person interrupting you to sit down, let them know you are in the middle of something and only have a couple minutes and can help them more later.

Over time you may find that all the interruptions aren’t as urgent as the person interrupting thought at that moment. By stopping yourself from constantly tending to false urgent matters, you can instead focus your attention on the important tasks.

Automating administrative tasks

Our own application, SimplifyThis was built with productivity in mind. Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis — two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business. 

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How to Overcome Busyness and Perform at Your Best in Business

Are you looking to put an end to madness of overwhelming busyness in your life? In this video Why Smart People Under Perform, personal development trainer, Web TV host and author, Marie Forelo speaks to psychiatrist, author, speaker and ADHD expert, Dr Ned Hallowell about the perils of over-busyness. In it, Dr Hallowell offers five tips for overcoming overwhelm and performing better.

Get clear on goals

This step is usually at the top of any prescription for productivity. Goal setting is one of the surest ways of cutting out what isn’t important so that you can focus on what is important to you. If you’re new to goal setting, learn what SMART goal setting is. Dr Hallowell suggests setting 3 short-term daily goals every day. In addition, set three medium term goals – these are your weekly and one to six month goals as well as three long term goals – six month to one year goals. Every day work on your three short term, three medium term and three long term goals. Working with goals like this:

  • forces you to prioritize
  • prevents you from trying to do too much at once
  • keeps projects and your day from becoming a jumbled mess

 Avoid “screen sucking”

According to Dr Hallowell, the common tendency to check email, lose track of time and then get stuck at your computer for an hour or more is stopping you from being your most productive. Like a jar of candies sitting open on your desk, checking email is hard to resist, and checking just one email is hard to stick to. Dr. Hallowell’s recommendation? Set aside time to check email and browse the internet and then, gasp, TURN. IT. OFF.

Here are some productivity tools to help you do this. Self-Control is an app that allows you to block yourself from email and websites for a period of time that you actually need to focus on different activities. Read about ten more tools for better attention and focus!

Don’t over-commit yourself

Many busy entrepreneurs and small business owners have the tendency to say yes, perhaps a little too often. This can result in you taking on projects that you fail to do your best on. Or it can result in spreading yourself too thin. To combat this productivity-killer Dr Hallowell suggests that you “reset your default response from yes to let me get back to you.” That way you can think about it, and for projects you don’t have time for, you can let people know that you don’t have the time to do the project justice. But it starts by catching your knee jerk yes.

Find more of Dr Hallowell’s tips in this video below!

Automating administrative tasks

Our own application, SimplifyThis was built with productivity in mind. Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis — two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business. 

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The Final Phase of Getting Things Done (GTD)

This is our fifth and final post covering productivity coach,Tiago Forte’s Skillshare class, Get Stuff Done Like A Boss: Design Your Workflow and Double Your Productivity in 21 Days. His class teaches the Getting Things Done (GTD) method of productivity. We’ve been following along the video tutorials, to aid in our own organization and also to be able to share with you some of the important aspects of GTD.

Stairway to heavenIn this final post we’ll cover what GTD founder, David Allen, calls the critical success factor to GTD — the weekly review! And lastly we’ll wrap up by summarizing Tiago’s final video lesson on doing things.

But first, if you haven’t already, catch up on our previous posts:

  1. An Intro to Getting Things Done
  2. Closing Open Loops
  3. Processing You To-Do’s
  4. Organizing Tasks

The Weekly Review

The weekly review is what David Allen calls the critical success factor. The weekly review is what it sounds like — dedicated time for you to sit down with yourself and your task manager, calendar and notebooks and review all that you have accomplished in the last week, what was left undone, and in general, where you are with all you have to do to accomplish your goals. The weekly review is important for three main reasons:

  1. Preventing your mind from taking back the job of remembering
  2. Giving you an elevated perspective and helping you tie up loose ends
  3. Giving you space — there is no way to regroup and re-prioritize while in the thick of battle

Now that you know why you do a weekly review, here is what you do in your weekly review:

  • Gather and process all your stuff
  • Update your containers
  • Review your system
  • Get clean, clear, current and complete

For more clarity on what this looks like, do try Tiago’s class. He provides this weekly review checklist — which I am writing here for my own reference until I remember it. Every week be sure to:

  • Empty your mind of open loops — read about how to here.
  • Collect calendar open loops for the past two weeks — look back at your calendar to see if there’s anything you need to follow up on.
  • Collect calendar open loops next four weeks — look ahead in your calendar to see if there’s anything you need to prepare for.
  • Review your “waiting for” list — we cover the “waiting for” list here.
  • Review projects list
  • Review finances
  • Be creative and courageous — take some time to think of new tasks and projects from a creative point of view.
  • Review overall productivity system — make sure your system is working for you, make it better, if its not.

A few things Tiagio suggests you do every day (again, here for my own reference, and yours):

  • Look at you calendar
  • Clear desk/inbox/notebook
  • Clear computer desktop
  • Clear downloads folder
  • Clear email inbox
  • Process your task manager inbox
  • Review the “next actions” listed in your task manager and decide on days tasks

Tiago goes on to offer guidance and a checklist for a monthly review, too. Pro tip: create a ritual and habit around your reviews, so that you are more likely to do them.

Doing Things

Here we are at the end of the class, and just the very beginning of your new way of living and working. In this final phase, Tiago reviews how to decide what to go about doing. As he points out, you will need to decide, what to o now. According to him, the answer to that depends on four things:

  1. Context –what you can do. This can include what tools do I need to accomplish this task and what tools do I have available (i.e. do you need your laptop, but only have your iPhone with you?)
  2. Time – what you have time for. How much time does it require and how much time do you have. Use small pockets of time to accomplish small tasks.
  3. Energy – what you are up to doing.  Don’t waste times of high energy by doing tasks that only require a small amount of energy, and don’t waste low-energy points by doing nothing when you can do a low-energy task.
  4. Priority – what is most important. Priorities change often. If you find yourself constantly doing “high-priority” tasks, ask yourself if you’ve moved into crisis-response mode. Remember, GTD is meant to keep you out of crisis response.

Filter your to-do’s through the four criteria above, and do tasks that match your energy, available time, priorities and context and soon you will find you are getting things done!! As the book and Tiago’s Skillshare Class both promise. 

 

Organizing Tasks the GTD Way

Getting Things Done (GTD) is the now famous productivity method created by David Allen. Learning and following this method has made life less stressful for many entrepreneurs and small business owners. It takes a little work up front to get yourself set up, but it’s time saved in the long run. If you find yourself forever under a pile of unmanageable to dos this may be just the method for you. To learn GTD, you can get the book, you can hire a personal coach, or you can do like us and sign up for productivity expert, Tiago Forte’s Skillshare class, Get Stuff Done Like A Boss: Design Your Workflow and Double Your Productivity in 21 Days. For a preview of what to expect in the class or to brush up on the principles of GTD, here is a review of phase three of Tiago’s class — organizing tasks in a trusted system.

But first a recap. So far in this series we have:

  • Gotten all of your should do’s, need to do’s and want to do’s out of your head (where they drag down on your focus) and put them into a task manager. GTD refers to this step as closing open loops.
  • Next we processed all of those to do’s by separating the actionable items from the non-actionable items then putting them into the appropriate collection containers (we used ToDoist and Evernote). We also made actionable items less vague and overwhelming by identifying the next physical action and listing those.

These two steps have set you well on your way to a more productive way of working and living. Now we will continue to organize all your projects and responsibilities and set up one streamlined system for managing your time and all that you need to do.

Organizing your actionable items

The idea here is to organize your actionable items in a way that allows you to keep focus on both the actionable steps you need to take as well as the big picture. We start by creating a few folders.

workflow diagram

The Getting Things Done workflow diagram

Project folders. Again, working in a task manager (I use ToDoist) and with Evernote – basically a web based filing cabinet for all of your notes, and reference materials – we organize all of our to do’s by creating project folders. Your project folder is a stake in the ground for each project you are working on. That way when you are working on the small next physical action, you also keep sight of the big picture. After all, it’s easy to get lost in all those little to dos and forget your ultimate end goal. So go ahead and set up your project folders.

Waiting on folders. Some items on your to do list, will require input from someone else. Before you can take the next step you need someone to do their part. All of these types of things you’ll want to label with the word “waiting.” Keeping all of these types of tasks organized together will help you to keep tabs on people you need to follow up with.

Someday folders. This folder is where you will put all of your reference materials and to dos for things that you will do at some later date. Consider this the folder of big dreams. Giving those dreams a folder to live in will help you to accomplish them. It will also get them off of your immediate to do list, which will soon be filled with just actionable items.

Calendar. Only put time-specific items on the calendar, but do put them on.  Due dates, appointments. Be sure to put them on a calendar. You probably haven’t made it this far in life without using a calendar, but if by some chance you managed to squeak by without regularly using a calendar, now is the time to start. Use a web-based one (Google Calendar is a good option) that synchs across devices – your computer, smart phone and tablet if you use one.

Organizing for inaction – stacking your notebooks

As Tiago points out and as you may well know, just because it’s not actionable doesn’t mean it’s not important.  Keep reference notebooks – do it online with Evernote, or even if you have physical notebooks, however you do it, do keep your reference materials organized.

Keep a notebook for each project and each area of responsibility. If you recall from an earlier post, areas of responsibility are ongoing responsibilities unlike projects which are time bound. Create two stacks of notebooks – one for projects and one for areas of responsibility.

Optionable stacks:

A few notebooks that are topic specific – called resources.

A stack for projects that are finished or inactive – called archives.

Automating administrative tasks

Our own application, SimplifyThis was built with productivity in mind. Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis — two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business. 

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Now that you’ve been introduced to the GTD productivity method, and you’ve gone ahead and put that long list of things you need to do into a container, now it’s time to actually process the items on your to do list.  In his Skillshare class, Get Stuff Done Like A Boss: Design Your Workflow and Double Your Productivity in 21 Days, productivity coach Tiago Forte offers the following guidance for processing your to do list.

calmThe first step for processing your to do list is to ask yourself a series of questions about each item that you’ve listed in your task manager:

  • What is it?
  • Is it actionable?
  • Is it valuable?
  • What is the next actionable step?

Three options for non actionable items

First we’ll take care of the non-actionable items. There are three things you can do with the items that aren’t actionable:

  1. Put it in the trash – throw away things you won’t need to de-clutter your environment. One of the main places you’ll probably look to do this is in your email inbox, but it also includes files on your computer and errant papers on your desk.
  2. Put it on a someday/maybe list – the things you may want to do someday (i.e. plan your dream vacation), but that aren’t actionable right now, should go into a someday folder in your task manager (ToDoist is one possible task manager).
  3. Reference – things that are valuable but are not currently actionable. These items will go in a reference folder. Consider using Evernote for setting up your reference folders.

Now your to-do list is a little more actionable. Which is the point, to get yourself ready to take action.

Options for actionable items

Now that you’ve weeded out the no-actionable items and put them into separate containers, now you can begin to process the actionable items on your to-do list.

If you do decide an item is actionable, the next question you ask is what is the next physical action?

In practice it is hard to think of the very next thing you should do. As Tiago points out in his class, most people’s to do lists are made up of very vague tasks that are intimidating because each task is actually made up of several tasks. By focusing on just the very next physical action you make the tasks very much more achievable.

If you’ve been following along in this series, your next step is to re-write all of your open loops as a next physical action. Here’s an example, I’ll use my self as an example. Having recently moved to a new state, I need to get a new driver’s license. Reason might lead one to believe that get California driver’s license should be on my to do list. But in actuality before I can get my license, I have to study for the test. And before I can study for the test, I have to pick a study guide. So, I would re-write the open loop get drivers license,  to be find study guide for California driver’s test. Make sense? Now, rewrite all of your open loops as a next physical actions. If this all sounds very promising, but you’re not fully following along, try Tiago’s Skillshare class, where he breaks it all down in video tutorials. Also, if you haven’t already, read post one and post two in this series.

Making project lists

One potential downfall of focusing on the next physical step is it becomes easy to loose focus of the big picture. To prevent this, create project folders in your task manager (for me, ToDoist).

You will also create folders for things that aren’t projects, but rather are areas of responsibility (these are items you tend to on an ongoing basis). Tiago explains it this way: Projects have goals and are time limited. Areas of responsibility have ongoing standards to be maintained and are indefinite. Health, finance, relationships are a few areas of responsibility.

Now, in your task manager, file each task in a project folder and then file each project folder in an area of responsibility folder. Now, that is serious organization! Now you have an organized, actionable to do list that you can really work from!

A few tips:

When processing your open loops consider these three rules:

  1. Process top item first
  2. Process one at a time
  3. Never put anything back into inbox. If you don’t have time to make a decision, then you shouldn’t look at it.

One place this type of processing will come in extremely handy is in your email. Many people’s email is an unmanageable mess. Apply this process to your email by following these steps:

  1. If its not actionable and not valuable, delete it immediately
  2. If you may want to do it someday, send it to your task manager
  3. If its non actionable but its valuable, file in reference
  4. If its actionable, send it to your task manager

Process on at a time, in order, and we must make a decision before moving on to the next one.

Coming up next, taking action! 

Your 2014 Mobile Strategy

It’s a common visual all across the civilized world, people gazing at screens hypnotically, so lost in a digital haze that they are oblivious to their surroundings. Not surprisingly, this 24/7 engagement with technology translates into massive profit potential for businesses of every size. In fact, with mobile retail sales generating over $34.2 billion last year, appealing to smartphone and tablet users is crucial for businesses.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons via Flickr

But devising a mobile strategy can be difficult, as the market changes rapidly. Below we’ve pulled together our top tips for 2014 mobile success.

Prioritize Mobile Usability

First and foremost, it’s important that you give careful thought to the functionality of your mobile web presence. While devices may be smart, they aren’t yet capable of automatically adjusting content to fit mobile screens. This creates a real problem for businesses that treat mobile usability as a mere afterthought. For example, a study by Google found that 57% of consumers won’t recommend a business that performs poorly on their smart device.

A common route taken by many companies is to have a desktop site and a mobile site. For instance, if you visit bestbuy.com through a smartphone, you’ll be instantly redirected to the mobile friendly m.bestbuy.com. However, this does mean that you’re required to maintain two separate websites. A more cohesive strategy is to have one, responsive website. A responsive site is based on fixed grid points, which automatically resize to fit a smaller screen.

When deciding between two separate sites or a responsive site, be sure to evaluate the needs of your customer base and weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Make Users Feel Secure

Although smartphones are popular all over, people still feel a bit uneasy about making mobile purchases. According to a 2013 study of smartphone and tablet users, 66% of consumers attempted to make a mobile purchase but abandoned the process before completion.

Such a high abandonment rate is due largely to a poor user experience and lack of comfort with sending personal data through a mobile connection. In light of this, it’s important for small businesses to take security seriously.

The first step in making users feel secure is to ensure the check-out process is quick, streamlined and painless. If your shopping cart is slow and buggy, for example, a person might fear their card is being charged twice for the same item. To alleviate anxiety over billing glitches, ensure every facet of the sales funnel is mobile friendly, and if you wish to go one step further, consider creating an app that is designed specifically for handling mobile commerce. Most importantly, don’t forget to remind people that your brand prides itself on keeping sensitive information secure.

Local Advertising

Increasingly, mobile devices are being turned to for time-sensitive and location-specific research. (E.g., if your car breaks down, you’re likely to grab your phone and start Googling the nearest tow truck).

Because of this, smartphone and tablet users are projected to receive 88% of all local PPC advertisements by 2016. Furthermore, as GPS tracking becomes the norm, mobile consumers are beginning to appreciate the relevance of these ads, causing them to be clicked on three times more than those displayed on a PC.

Use Mobile Apps to Build Brand Loyalty

Regardless of your budget, a number of great options exist for reaching out to consumers through mobile applications. Ideally, an app will creatively leverage a device’s capabilities in a way that provides real value to the customer. For example, mobile apps are perfect for loyalty and referral programs.

Instead of handing people an easy to lose rewards card, offer the option of having a smartphone app keep track of earned points. Likewise, customer referral programs transition beautifully to mobile applications, providing people incentive to spread the word about your brand through social media and text messages.

Utilize Mobile Offers

Digital coupons are another effective, inexpensive way to capitalize on the popularity of mobile devices. By urging people to sign up and receive special offers via text message alerts, you’re able to build brand loyalty, drive up revenue and stay relevant in their minds. Besides saving trees and reducing your advertising budget, a mobile coupon has the added benefit of being redeemed ten times more than its paper predecessor.

While many small shops simply require showing promotional texts to a cashier, larger brands attach bar codes and pin numbers to each message for added security. Whatever method you go with, just make sure the process requires little consumer effort.

Takeaways

As a society, we are more connected than ever, and if your brand wishes to remain relevant, it must engage with consumers through every available medium. Although 61% of small businesses currently lack a mobile strategy, eventually that resistance will cost you customers. With social networks and mobile devices fusing together and Google Glass hitting shelves around the world, businesses that fail to embrace a mobile Internet landscape may run the risk of being crippled by it.

Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis – two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Streamline administrative tasks and convert more site visitors to customers with SimplifyThis.

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How to Manage Your To Do List with GTD (Closing Open Loops)

Now that you have decided to try the GTD method to increase your productivity, let’s get started with the first step, collecting everything you have to do in one list.

todoistFirst, a quick recap. Getting Things Done (GTD) is a productivity method designed by David Allen. A main premise of the method is that stress is a result of mismanaged internal obligations. These internal obligations include anything you think you need to do, ought to do or should do. In the GTD method, these obligations are managed through a five phase process that includes:

  • Collect every single thing you have to do on a list
  • Process each thing on the list by the desired outcome and the next action to do it
  • Remind yourself of all the things you need to do with an organized system
  • Review reminders on a regular bases
  • Do the actions

Collecting your to do’s (closing Open Loops)

For a walk through of the first step of the GTD method, we recommend productivity expert, Tiago Forte’s Skillshare class, Get Stuff Done Like A Boss: Design Your Workflow and Double Your Productivity in 21 Days. You can take his class for just $29.

According to GTD founder, David Allen, “Most people’s productivity system consists of incomplete lists of unclear things.” The operative words here are incomplete and unclear.

To get started with an effective productivity system, we’ll start by tackling the issue of incomplete. The first concept to understand is the role of “open loops.” Open loops can be understood as an open program draining your psyche.  Tiago puts it this way, think of your mind as a focus tool, not a storage tool. When you have an unending stream of to-do’s or unmet obligations running through your mind, you’re actually draining your ability to focus. Therefore the first challenge of GTD is to get all of your to do’s out of your head.

Getting your to-do’s out of your head

Now, in all likelihood, you have made a to-do list before. Maybe you even make them all of the time. What’s the key here, how will this to do list be different? This list will be different in that it will be exhaustive. No to-do will be left behind. This includes items big and small, no task is too small to go on the list.

The reason it is essential to have your list be exhaustive is that if it is not exhaustive then you will not trust the workflow you create. If you do not trust your list, then you will automatically start to use your mind as a storage tool, leading to the same old problems of lack of focus and overwhelm.

So step one, get rid of the incomplete. This sounds easy, but actually can be harder than you imagine. It will require commitment and determination, an absolute refusal to store to do’s in your head.

How to capture open loops outside of your head

The key to getting open loops outside of your head is to create collection containers. Tiago does a great job describing this in his class. Collection containers can also be understood as inboxes. Collection containers can include:

  • paper trays
  • notebooks
  • apps
  • voice recorder

No matter what collection containers you use, there are three rules to follow:

  1. every loop must be captured
  2. use as few collection containers as you can get away with
  3. you must empty all on a regular basis

Creating your containers

Tiago recommends a few tools including Things for Mac (paid). Working on a PC, I used another one of Tiago’s recommendations, Todoist (instead of Things for Mac) and I absolutely love the program. To get started with your to do list choose one of the tools above, or another task manager.

As Tiago suggested, I started with a list of 40 to 50 items (48 to be exact).

Start by adding the open loops floating around your head. Tiago suggests some additional places to look for open loops:

  • wallet
  • backpack
  • drawers
  • pockets
  • desktop – physical and computer
  • shelves
  • cabinets
  • bulletin boards
  • garage
  • storeroom
  • computer
  • documents/downloads/home folders
  • dropbox
  • stickie notes
  • voicemails
  • text messages

In my personal experience, completing this first step proved to be revolutionary. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s amazing how quickly you can start to overcome that feeling, by simply getting it all down into one definitive list. As a regular list-maker, I can say doing this in a task manager as opposed to keeping a list on a piece of paper makes a big difference. So go ahead and get stated by checking out Todois or Things for Mac. If you have another task manager that you prefer, tell us about it in the comments!

Automating administrative tasks

Our own application, SimplifyThis was built with productivity in mind. Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis — two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business. 

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Entrepreneurs, stop spinning your wheels with this productivity method (GTD)

Most entrepreneurs who run their own businesses have had the experience of falling into a seemingly never ending loop of crisis response. You come in to work in the morning and almost right from the go you’re dealing with a constant stream of urgent matters.

HamsterEmails, phone calls, complaints, urgent requests from clients, employees, partners and vendors. You’re in response mode. Dealing with situations as they arise. This way of working comes at a cost. There’s the frustration that comes with knowing that you’re not doing your real work – the creative or strategic work. You’re not using the entrepreneurial part of you that started a business in the first place. The work you’re doing, in fact, is a distraction from the work that will help you to really move your business forward. At times you may feel really, really busy, yet at the same time, you’re not really getting anywhere. Sound familiar? Let’s face it, much of the time, you’re spinning your wheels. It happens to the best of us. Here’s how to stop.

Intro to GTD: Getting Things Done

You may of heard of GTD. It’s a decades-old productivity method and a best-selling book created by renowned management consultant / executive coach David Allen. What makes it unique is an emphasis on relaxation or stress-free productivity. Learn more about David Allen and Getting Things Done by visiting the website. While GTD is considered the “gold-standard” in organizational productivity, in my experience, it is particularly useful for creative and entrepreneurial people – independent artists and small business owners. Anyone who has to balance the real work of creating with the daily work of running their businesses.

In a nutshell, the solution to the overwhelming, crisis response hamster wheel situation described above is to automate as much of your workday as possible. With more of our day automated, we can focus more of our energy on the high-value creative tasks. This automation is achieved through five phases of the GTD system:

Learning more about GTD

Over the next few blog posts, we will cover GTD and how you can use this method to increase your productivity. While GTD is widely taught, and you can learn about it through seminars, one-on-one coaching and other venues, we’ll be looking at productivity expert, Tiago Forte’s Skillshare class, Get Stuff Done Like A Boss: Design Your Workflow and Double Your Productivity in 21 Days, to help us, help you with GTD. If you like what you see here, try the class for just $29.

Automating administrative tasks

Our own application, SimplifyThis was built with productivity in mind. Take appointments directly through your website with SimplifyThis — two in one appointment scheduling and invoicing software. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business. 

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Social Media Marketing: The 80/10/10 Rule and The Four Types of Communicators

This is part of a 6 part series covering social media consultant, Laurie Hurley’s Skillshare class, Create Sizzling Social Media Content in 5 Easy Steps.

social media audienceIn her video tutorials, Laurie, who is CEO and founder of her boutique firm, Social Networking Navigator, helps newbie social media marketers to develop the online presence of their dreams.

So far we’ve covered:

Now, we’re ready to move on to actually creating your social media posts! In her class, Laurie covers two concepts relating to creating posts. Understanding these two concepts will help you to create the most effective social media posts:

  1. the 80/10/10 rule
  2. the four types of communicators online

Following the 80/10/10 approach

Now that you know your audience, and you have ideas about the types of content you will share, it is time to think about writing your posts. In general, social media marketing is about sharing information with your audience. This is done in an educational way, as opposed to a sales way. The aim is to provide value to your audience. It’s about sharing your expertise, for the benefit of educating people. This in turn will help you to build a relationship with your audience. Setting the stage for sales. In thinking about what you will post, Laurie suggests following the 80/10/10 rule.

80% of your posts should be educational. This means sharing your very best tips, tricks and techniques. You are coming from a place of giving and being generous with these posts, and they will help you to build thought leadership.

10% of your posts are all about you. Knowing that as a small business owner, you are your brand, share a little bit of yourself. Decide ahead of time, what aspects of yourself you will share. Connecting with people on a human level will help you to build your fan base. Sharing your likes and interests will help you to connect with like-minded individuals.

10% of your posts can be dedicated to sales. This is something of a soft sell, tell your fans about offers to buy your products or services. Remember to include a picture, a price, and most importantly a like back to your website, or wherever you actually sell your products (i.e. Etsy, etc.)

The four types of communicators

Modern psychology dictates that there are four types of communicators online. Understanding how each receives and processes information will help you to speak to people on their terms. In her class, Laurie gives viewers the exercise of writing one social media post four different ways, to speak to each of the communication types. The four types of communicators are:

1. The factoid. This person wants just the facts, they analyze information using numbers and percentages and make decisions with their heads, not their hearts.

2. The caretaker. This person puts others before anyone else and wants to be sure everyone is happy. To speak to this person, show them how they can help other people.

3. The free spirit. To speak to this whimsical, laid back person, appeal to their emotional side, and infuse light humor when appropriate.

4. The no nonsense type. This person thinks he already knows everything and works from a prove it to me point of view. To communicate with this person use a straight forward approach and avoid any fluff.

To learn more about communicating with these four types watch Laurie’s video, The Four Communication Styles.

New to social media marketing? STEP THREE: Research your competitors

This is part of a 6 part series covering social media consultant, Laurie Hurley’s Skillshare class, Create Sizzling Social Media Content in 5 Easy Steps.

keyword researchIn her video tutorials, Laurie, who is CEO and founder of her boutique firm, Social Networking Navigator, helps newbie social media marketers to develop the online presence of their dreams.

So far we have covered:

If you haven’t been following along, then read both posts above and then come back here for post three in order to learn the real meaning of R & D in the social media world.

Now, for STEP TREE, researching your competitors online.

Borrowing social media ideas from your competitors

As an entrepreneur you probably understand R & D to mean research and development, an essential part of starting a new business. As Laurie points out, in the social media world, R & D takes on another meaning: Rob and Duplicate. The word rob in this context does not mean plagiarizing or infringing on copyright laws, that type of activity is a fast road to nowhere, not to mention against the law. What it does mean though is you should know your competition and what they are doing online so that you can borrow from their ideas and make them your own by putting your individual spin on them. Laurie provides these examples of ideas that you might borrow:

  • sharing customer testimonials
  • using pictures and graphics of your product/service
  • posting pertinent articles or blogs relating to your industry
  • having a “theme” day, like Throwback Thursday or Feel Good Friday
  • conducting surveys online

How to research your competitors online with the best free tools

The first step in identifying what your competitors are doing online is to get an accurate read on who your competitors are. The best place to start this research is to conduct keyword research. Here’s a brief overview of how to conduct keyword research:

  • Make a bulleted list of word people use to find your business online
  • Run your keywords through a free keyword tool. Try one (or all) of these: Wordtracker, Seobook, Wordstream.
  • Using the tools, see what words fare best on search engines.
  • Google your best keyword options and see what companies show up for those words.

Taking these steps should help you to develop a list of your competitors. Knowing who your competitors are is essential. Once you know who they are, you can see what they are doing in their public streams. Visit their social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and wherever else you find them. You can usually figure out what social networks they are on by visiting their websites and looking for the social media follow icons.

For a more thorough description of keyword research, read our blog post: The Importance of Keyword Research and How to Do It Yourself.

Connecting with competitors on social media

Though it may seem counterintuitive to some entrepreneurs, Laurie and other social media experts recommend connecting with your competitors on social media. This means, Like their Facebook pages, Follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their blog, etc. You may perceive this to be a type of cyber stalking, but as Laurie and others point out, it’s not at all unusual to connect with your competitors online. For one, you never know what types of partnerships can come out of connecting with competitors, and two you are showing them that you believe in abundance in the marketplace and that there is plenty of business to go around. In addition, you will see what they are posting and what kind of content they are sharing, and this should spark some ideas for your own content creation efforts.

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