Five Simple Ways to Keep Your Business Afloat This Summer

Five Simple Ways to Keep Your Business Afloat This SummerTravel, visitors and camp, oh my! I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it difficult to do anything more than absolutely necessary in the office these days. It seems there is always something more enticing than my computer. And the motivation I was filled with in January has fizzled to a desperate attempt to do as much work as possible before noon so I can hit the beach or the pool with the kids.

After I’m finished beating myself up for feeling like a slacker, I remind myself that this is what I signed up for. This is what I wanted when I decided to go into business for myself and work from home. I wanted the flexibility to work my schedule around other things in my life – like my family. I wanted to call my own shots and control my own workload. So instead of feeling guilty for not accomplishing extraordinary feats in my business this summer or crossing a thousand things off my “to do” list, I’ve decided to embrace the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of being a mompreneur.

But that doesn’t mean I’m putting business on hold until September. I’m just finding ways to be more efficient and prioritize better. Here are a few strategies I’m employing this summer to ensure smooth sailing for my business while I’m focusing on family a little bit more:

Five Simple Ways to Keep Your Business Afloat This Summer

1. Put first things first. I’m on a mission to become a Time Management Ninja! I ask myself, “What are the things I absolutely, positively have to keep doing in my business?” Then I carve out time – even if it’s early in the morning – to make sure those get done first. I feel a sense of relief once the necessities are finished and then I can decide to move on to additional work – or take the rest of the day off to play!   

2. Give each goal a deadline. It’s easy to put off larger projects in the summer when my calendar is a little more open and the temptations and distractions are a little more alluring. The only way I know to combat this situation is to give myself a specific deadline. If it’s a big enough project, I give myself smaller deadlines along the way. This helps me prevent procrastination and overwhelm. [Read more...]

7 Steps to Setting Better Boundaries When You Work From Home

Setting BoundariesMoms who work from home do not lack ambition. We do not lack creativity. We do not lack intelligence, discipline or vision. Some people might say we lack time, although we have the same amount of hours in a day as anyone else. But we are missing something crucial to our success – effective boundaries.

We are in desperate need of a gatekeeper — that wonderful person who protects you from interruptions and distractions and keeps you focused on your most important tasks. I remember being envious of senior level executives in the corporate world who had someone to answer their phones, check their email, schedule appointments and clear their desk so they could solve problems and create solutions. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have that kind of assistant in your home office?

For most of us, that’s a pipe dream. We have to be our own gatekeepers. And it can be particularly challenging when we spend most of our day shifting from “mom” to “business person” and back again. We love both of our jobs and it’s difficult to keep them separated. Our minds are divided and our hearts are torn. But there are some strategies we can put in place to set better boundaries when we work from home.

How to Set Better Boundaries When You Work From Home

1. Establish regular office hours. Even if you have to change them every week, it’s important for everyone to know when you are working and when you are not working. Too many moms try to “squeeze in” a few hours of work when it’s convenient but there never ends up being a good time for it. So be intentional about when you plan to work.

2. Identify dedicated office space. I love those photos of women working on their laptops at the beach but somehow I just don’t think I’d get much accomplished if I took my office to the beach or the pool or the playground. I’m the kind of person who is sensitive to my environment. I like an organized desk and familiar noise-free surroundings. So I do most of my work within the four walls of my home office. It’s the best way for me to set a mental and physical boundary. When I cross the threshold into the foyer, I’m no longer at work. Even if you don’t have a separate office with a door, try establishing a designated space for work – and use that space for nothing else but work.

3. Communicate clearly. It’s not enough for YOU to set boundaries, you also have to make sure those around you know what to expect. Talk with your children about rules for picking up the phone, answering the door, keeping the noise volume down, playing on your computer and entering the office without permission. Discuss your office hours with your husband so he knows when to expect you to be available for him (hint, hint: you might need to have this conversation if he’s upset that you spend every night on the couch with your laptop while he’s trying to enjoy downtime with you). Let your mom know that you can’t chat for an hour every day while you’re working (then give her an alternative time to talk!). Tell the ladies in your small group that you won’t be able to grab coffee spontaneously but that you can’t wait for the next regularly scheduled meeting. And by all means, kindly inform your friends, your sister and your neighbors that while you love their children you are not available to babysit during work hours. [Read more...]

The 10-Step Spring Cleaning Plan for Your Business

spring cleaning[This post originally appeared over at Market Mommy - the one-stop marketing resource for mom entrepreneurs.]

If you’re finished washing windows, cleaning closets, organizing the garage and spreading mulch, then I’ve got another job for you. This one involves a lot less elbow grease and a little more brainpower, but I think you’re up to the task. I’m talking about doing some spring cleaning on your business. It’s the kind of cleaning that doesn’t smell like lemons – but it will leave you feeling energized and excited about your work. 

Here are (in no particular order) 10 simple tasks that will help renew your clarity and passion for your business. I would be lying if I told you I’ve done all of them in the past few weeks. But I can truthfully say that I’ve done them all in the past. Pick two or three that are calling your name and see if they help you create a fresh start.

10 Simple Ways to Spring-Clean Your Business

1. Air out your file drawer. Is it time to go through your paper filing system and create some breathing room in those drawers? Toss out anything you haven’t touched in a year – or store it in the attic if you need to hang onto it. Give yourself room to add new files and welcome new clients and projects into the business. While you are at it, throw away any business cards you have shoved in your desk – scan them or manually add them to your contact first if you want to keep them.

2. Create a clean slate and reprioritize your projects. If you are even slightly organized you probably made a list of projects, goals or tasks for the new year in January. We’re three quarters of the way through the year so it’s a great time to revisit that list and assess your progress. Is there anything you can cross off the list? Are there new projects you want to add? How can you make time for the most important items on the list?

3. Clean up your website. My website can become more cluttered than a mudroom on a snow day if I let it go. Now is the perfect time to review your site and see what you need to clean out. Is there too much going on in your sidebar? Do you have too many plugins or widgets slowing the site down? Are there 404 errors and redirects that need to be fixed? Does your backup system work?

4. Take a fresh look at your leads. Is your prospect list growing a bit stale? It might be time to review what’s working when it comes to bringing in new business. Write down the names of your last 20 clients or customers…then take a few minutes to figure out how they found you. If you own a brick-and-mortar business or an e-commerce site you may want to do this as a survey at check out. Analyze the results and identify the most effective lead generating strategies for your business. Then focus your energy on doing more of what’s working and less of what’s not working.

5. Let go of your old excuses. While you’re scrubbing the baseboards and clearing the cobwebs of your home, you might want to examine the dirt and dust that resides in your mind as well. I’m talking about the fear, doubt, guilt, envy and worry that you have allowed to take up residence in your heart and soul. Try journal writing to get clear on what’s holding you back right now and use this time to be honest with yourself and create a plan for letting go of whatever is not working for you now. [Read more...]