THINK SMALL FOR 2016: FIVE TIPS TO KILL PROCRASTINATION

At the New Year many of us reflect on the previous year and set goals for the next 12 months. Most of the time, these goals are BIG. And that’s part of the problem.

Of the 45% of Americans who set New Year’s resolutions, only 8% successfully achieve their goals.  Most goals are so vague and generalized they’re unattainable. 

For example, this is a list of the top 10 goals Americans set at the beginning of 2014:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get Organized
  3. Spend Less, Save More
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  5. Staying Fit and Healthy
  6. Learn Something Exciting
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Help Others in Their Dreams
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend More Time with Family

This 8% success rate (or 92% failure rate) is why one of my mottos for 2015 is, “Think Small.”

I’m not saying that I don’t want to achieve big things. Quite the contrary. But I’ve found that the most effective path to achieving big things is through focusing on the small ones.

You do this by taking the big goal and breaking it down into the small steps required to achieve the big goal.

5 TIPS TO HELP KILL PROCRASTINATION

  1.  Get specific. Don’t say “lose weight” or “earn more money.” Get specific on your goal: “Lose one pound a week,” or “Increase earnings $4,000 a month by finding and working with two new clients monthly.” Specific goals. Specifics make it doable!
  2. Break it down. Once you have the specifics, you can easily break down the goal into small, actionable steps. What do you need to do to achieve your goals? If your goal is to lose one pound a week, what will you need to do to alter your diet and exercise habits to achieve this? If your goal is to find two new clients, what steps do you need to take to make that happen? The trick to this step is to break each part of the process down into the smallest steps possible. This is amazingly effective in helping reducing overwhelm and procrastination – the two main contributors to failed goals.
  3. Map it out. Once you have written out the action steps necessary to achieve your goal, map out the order in which the steps must be completed. Then map out how long it will take you to do each task and how much time you are going to devote to the different tasks each day and each week. This will require some estimation on your part. You may not know how long each task will take. Make your best educated guess and go with that.
  4. Schedule it. Now that you have your list of actionable steps, the order in which the tasks need to be done, block off time on your calendar specifically to work on these tasks. Consider these time blocks nonnegotiable. Treat yourself and your business like you would a high-paying, priority client. Don’t reschedule on you!
  5. Do the things. Take action and do the things that are on your list in the time you allotted.

If you find yourself procrastinating, try breaking your tasks down into smaller pieces. Remember that procrastination isn’t a logical response, it’s an emotional one. And as you break your tasks down into smaller and smaller step, you will be able to transition out of an emotional response of stress and anxiety and operate from a place of focus.

Follow these five steps and get big results. Remember: Think Small in 2016.

AFRAID OF SUCCESS? 5 STEPS TO HELP YOU DO IT ANYWAY

Fear. It’s a normal human emotion and a primal physical response to danger. Fear can help you survive a potentially life-threatening situation, by releasing adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that push your body to fight or flee. Check out this explanation of what your body does when you’re afraid:

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But our bodies aren’t always able to discern the difference between an actual threat and a perceived threat. Did you know the common fear of speaking in public, glossophibia?  Many people actually fear public speaking more than they do death.

So what do you do when your fear gets in the way of stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals, to grow your business, to take that next step toward greater success?

You should do it anyway.

What do I mean by that? Well, in my experience I’ve found that we always have at least one choice. Regardless of how terrible and oppressive your situation may be, you always have a choice. And that is what you choose to think. Viktor E. Frankle writes of this in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” where he relates his experiences in the concentration camp Auschwitz in WWII.

This is one of my favorite passages from the book:

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

If there is something in your life that you’re afraid to do, whether it’s a phone call, a project, a dream you want to achieve, it’s okay if you’re afraid. But after all the excuses and rationalizations, and no matter how hopeless it may seem, you still have a choice. That choice is to do it anyway. To do it afraid.

That sounds much easier said than done. Let me explain how I’ve learned to do it anyway.

When I feel overwhelmed, stressed out, exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, I know that’s a cue for me to narrow my focus. Sometimes life is too much and unfair and ridiculous. But for now, it’s the only life I’ve got so I’d damn well better do something with it. So that’s what I do. Something. One thing. Here’s my process:

1. Grab a notebook. When I’m really overwhelmed, I need a pen and paper. But if a computer works for you, open a Word document and get ready to write.

2. Brain dump. It’s very helpful if you’re able to get everything that’s spinning around in your head causing you to feel overwhelmed down on paper. So write/type out a list of all the things that you need to do.

3. Prioritize. After you have your brain dump list, it’s time to sort through it and divide your tasks into categories. The categories I use are: Urgent, Semi-urgent and Wishlist. Go through your lists and separate the tasks into these three categories based on their urgency and deadlines.

4. Narrow it down. After prioritizing your lists, it’s time to get realistic. And this is where you get to make the best use of your only non-renewable asset: time. You only have 24 hours a day, just like everyone else. So look at your most urgent tasks and the amount of time you have for the day or week, and then decide which of those urgent tasks you can get to work on today.

5. Choose one thing. I confess, I’m a to-do-list junkie. I love these lists, and I write things down I’ve done that weren’t on my list just to get the satisfaction of marking something as done. I also am a recovering perfectionist with extremely high standards for myself. But I’ve realized that I have limits. And I can only do my best at that moment with the resources I have. And that often involves just choosing one thing from my list and getting that done. With all the things I need to get done written down on paper, I’m able to see what absolutely needs to get done in order for me to progress. I don’t have to dedicate any brain space to remembering all the other little things that also need to get done because it’s all written down on paper.

These five steps help me organize the chaos inside my head so I can focus on just one thing. Even if I’m petrified to do that one thing, if I know that is the only thing I need to do in the next hour I know that is the only thing I need to do right now. And I do it afraid. And then it’s done. Yes, life is hard. It’s often very hard and seemingly unfair. Tragedy and heartache may strike. Things out of your control may turn your life upside down. You can’t control that. Like Frankle and his fellow prisoners at the mercy of their captors in Auschwitz, we can’t always control our external environment. But you always have a choice. A choice in the attitude you will assume and a choice of the one thing you can do right now in your life.

If there’s something you’re afraid of in your life, I challenge you to try these five steps and see how much you can get done when you give yourself permission to do it afraid.

Do you agree or disagree with “do it anyway” perspective? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment and share below.

10 TIPS TO CONQUERING DAYS WHERE NOTHING GOES LIKE YOU PLANNED

I wrote a really great post this morning to share with you. My fingers were flying on the keyboard. I threw in some case study examples to prove my points, a video and even  a couple of pithy analogies (of which I was quite proud).

Then I encountered (dramatic pause with scary background music): technical difficulties. I clicked save on my post, and a popup window from WordPress notified me that I was no longer logged into the website. My heart sank. Of course the avalanche of computer-related snafus waited for a day when I’m working under some tight deadlines.

I may or may not have uttered a few choice words that I wouldn’t want my kids to hear.

I had to walk away for a minute (more like 30 minutes).

This was not the first (or last) of the technical difficulties I experienced today. This was particularly frustrating because I had made a really great detailed to-do list last night to ensure a hyper-productive day today.

I tried to rewrite the post, but my brain just not cooperate. So instead of a post about how your life and business can benefit from ditching customers and products or services you don’t really need, you get this:

10 Tips to Conquering Days Where Nothing Goes Like You Planned

1. Take a breath. This is the first and most important thing. Always. Get some oxygen. Your brain needs it. Trust me.

2. Take a walk. Fresh air. Movement. It will help you blow off some steam and clear you head.

3. Check your perspective. While your walking, take a moment and remind yourself of your big picture objectives. It may be hellish right now, but today is just one of many that are necessary to get you where you want to go.

4. Watch a funny video. Now that you’ve got some oxygen pumping to your brain from the breathing and fresh air, help your brain produce some endorphins with some all natural, fat-free, calorie-free, MSG-free laughter.

5. Make a list. When plans go awry, I make lists until my hand cramps. When I get frustrated, I break my lists into smaller, more bite-sized tasks. This helps me get ultra clear on what I need to do to regain lost momentum.

6. Prioritize. Big picture in mind, you’ve got to decide what you absolutely must complete today. Decide what doesn’t matter.

7. Ask for help. If you can’t get it all done, ask for help from someone on your team, a friend you trust or an outside resource. There’s always a way to get things done. Sometimes you have to be a little more creative to reach a solution, but the solution always exists.

8. Keep breathing. Really. It’s important.

9. Remember to eat and drink enough water. It’s amazing how your brain shuts down when you get hungry or thirsty. Even if you’re just sitting at your computer. Thinking is a lot of work. Don’t skip meals. Keep a water bottle next to you.

10. Do it anyway. Yes, it sucks. Sure, it’s not fair. Yeah, it always happens at the worst possible time. At the risk of sounding heartless: so what? What are you going to do about it? Your decisions and actions when shit hits the fan are what will set you apart from everyone else. So do it anyway.

I could have spent a lot more time whining and feeling sorry for myself. I could have walked away and ignored my computer and my work for the day. Instead I selected what I really wanted from the day. I decided to do it anyway.

Plot twist! Time to move on!

BUSINESS TIPS: ARE YOU SACRIFICING PROGRESS FOR PERFECTION?

Sacrificing progress for perfection will deal a death blow to any business.  Sometimes you need to let let good enough be good enough, even if it isn’t easy. Let me ask you a question (I promise, it’s related to the topic at hand): What problem is your business best suited to solve? And how can you draw your customers’ attention to your solution to their problem?

If you can get your customers to focus on your solution and how it will make their lives easier/better/happier, then your customers won’t even notice superficial flaws in your business. Customers will remember you for solving their problem. And you can continue tending to the other details as your business grows.

Check out Colgate’s 2012 ad campaign to promote its dental floss:

 

These images are highly effective in drawing your attention to the problem that the dental floss solves. The images are so effective that you don’t notice some pretty big (intentional) photoshop flaws: an extra arm, an extra finger, a missing ear.

Take a moment and consider your business. Are there some things preventing you from launching a new business, releasing a new product or making the next move to grow and expand?

Don’t get me wrong. Details are important. Quality is important, too. But so is getting started and building momentum. If you refuse to back out of your driveway in the morning until you know that the roads are perfectly paved and all stoplights are green, you will go nowhere.

If you feel yourself getting stuck because things aren’t “just right,” ask yourself whether perfection is costing you progress on your path to profit. As Roy H. Williams would say, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly…at least until you learn to do it better. Besides, people will respect you more if they know you have some flaws.

So go ahead and do that thing that’s been holding you back. If it’s not perfect, do it anyway.

HOW TO USE GOLDFISH TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

Projects that require intense focus and concentration can be exhausting and frustrating, especially if you’re frequently interrupted by text, email, phone calls, other projects and duties.

Multitasking has been shown to kill productivity. Instead of getting more done, multitasking (or more accurately, switch-tasking) trains your brain to focus more on distractions. If you regularly switch-task, you decrease your ability to focus until your attention span rivals that of a goldfish: a whopping nine seconds.

You can use the goldfish as inspiration to increase your productivity with a few tweaks to your work flow. Here are  steps to get started:

  1. Define the project. Get specific and break down into the smallest steps possible the project you’re working on.  This is a secret weapon against procrastination. You want each task to be small enough so that it takes you approximately 25 minutes or less. If a task takes longer than 25 minutes, look for a way to break it down further into even-smaller pieces.
  2. Prioritize your tasks. Review the steps in your project. Identify bigger tasks that take 25 minutes. Write them down in the order in which they need to be completed.
  3. Make a Goldfish List. Remember the nine-second goldfish attention span?  What I call a Goldfish List serves as a proactive distraction and gives your brain a break from intense focus. Identify the smaller tasks and create a Goldfish List, made up of  smaller tasks that you can get done in 10 minutes or less, tasks that are quick, easy and require little focused thinking. Intentionally creating these breaks helps you avoid switch-tasking. You’ll be able to get the little things done without interrupting your focused work time.
  4. Break your day into 40-minute blocks. For each of your work hours, write down one 25 minute task followed by 10 minutes’ worth of tasks from your Goldfish List. Give yourself at least five minutes to stretch, grab a drink of water and take a bio break.
  5. Use a timer. Silence your phone, turn off your messaging notifications, shut down all unnecessary programs on your computer, set your timer for 25 minutes and GO! Get as much as you can done in that time. Take a quick 5-minute break. Come back and set your timer for 10 minutes and get as much done as you can from your Goldfish List.

This is a simple process: Define → Prioritize → Make a Goldfish List → Schedule → Do it.

Give it a try and let me know how it works.

A Writer’s Worst Nightmare: 5 Reasons to Back Up Your Files to the Cloud

It’s every writer’s worst nightmare: lost work because a computer is on the fritz. Losing work can be maddening, whether it’s a result of software such as Word or Pages locking up or the entire computer crashing beyond repair. You can protect yourself. Thanks to the technological wonder of cloud computing, you can back up your files to the cloud through various servers, making it possible for you to access files anytime, anywhere.

Last year, in fact, I learned how beneficial cloud computing can be. I was in the middle of a big work project. Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, critical deadlines. One afternoon my son accidentally tripped on my power cord, ripping the plug from the side of my computer. The delicate internal power connection was severed beyond repair. I now had about an hour to get all my work backed up before my battery (and computer) died for good.

My heart sank. Panic began to set in. I called a tech-savvy friend and asked her what I should do. She advised I back up all my files to a cloud backup provider called Carbonite. So I did.

Once I got a new laptop, I was able to easily install all those hours of work within about 15 minutes. It was amazing! A deep, dark writer’s depression was avoided and I was able to get right back to work without missing a beat (except for the moment of silence I took to mourn the loss of my beloved and now defunct laptop).

In case my own story hasn’t convinced you, here are five more reasons to use a cloud backup service:

  1. It’s easy. Really, it is. Carbonite automatically backs up files every 24 hours, running in the background as your computer hums along. Once your account is set up, you don’t have to plug in an external hard drive or remember to initiate a backup.
  2. It’s wherever you are. Whether you’re working at home, in a coffee shop or abroad, the cloud is there, keeping your files instantly accessible 24/7.
  3. It’s cheap. Carbonite starts atas little $59 per year. That’s less than $5 per month. Consider how much you make per hour. A cloud backup service quickly saves you its annual cost by saving you the time and agony of re-doing lost work.
  4. It reduces anxiety. Crashing programs and computers will no longer be such a big deal. You will have peace of mind that your files are safe and secure in the cloud, and can be retrieved at a moment’s notice.
  5. It will save your butt. When working on projects with tight timelines, you don’t have time to start over from scratch the night before a project is due. Cloud computing will save you the agony of last minute panic of lost data.

Regardless of what type of computer you use, eventually you’re going to run into technical difficulties. But those glitches don’t have to cost you the stress of lost work. Whether you opt to try Carbonite or another online backup service, get something. You’ll thank me later.

Writing Tips: Five Steps to Saving Your Work (and Your Sanity)

Crashing hard drives, software glitches and other technical difficulties. Whether you’re a writer, an accountant or web designer, computer problems are horrible. But not insurmountable. There are measures you can take to reduce lost work and save your sanity.

One such sanity-saving measure I recommend is to use a cloud backup service such as Carbonite. Excellent as it is, Carbonite does have limitations. I discovered one last year when I was working on a big project for a client.

They day before the project was due, I spent over eight hours typing away on my laptop. I was on a roll! About 10 minutes before I was ready to pack up and go home, my sizeable Word document had a major malfunction. My screen went from displaying the words I’d been typing to nothing but 0’s and 1’s. I’m pretty sure some choice words escaped my mouth when I realized that my work had disappeared.

I spent a fruitless two hours attempting to recover my document. But it was gone. Since Carbonite was set to back up at 10:00 pm that night, nothing I’d done that day had been saved to my cloud account. Eight hours of intense work were gone. Between the hours fiddling with recovering a document and alternating between rage, frustration and despair, my workday was shot.

So inspired from this maddening occurrence, I developed my 5-Step File Backup Protocol:

  1. Autosave. Go into your settings in Word or Pages (or other software) and change your auto save options to save every one minute.
  2. Save your documents hourly. Resave your document as with a new name every hour. Here’s my file naming system: DocumentTitle-[date]-[time]. If my computer or software does crash, I only lose about an hour’s worth of work at most—much better than a whole day’s work!
  3. Time Machine. If you’re on a Mac, use this feature! I purchased a portable external hard drive for my laptop. Then, using the Time Machine Editor app set Time Machine to backup your documents hourly.
  4. Keep another file in the cloud. Carbonite’s online backup system is set to back up just once a day. As I learned, a lot can be lost before the next scheduled backup. Check out DropBox, a file-sharing system in the cloud. Save a copy of your document to Dropbox in addition to your other. You’ll be able to access your files from any computer with Internet connection. DropBox has various rate structures depending on how much storage you need (most simple Word documents don’t take up too much space, so you probably don’t need to pay much.) Another place to store files is Google Drive, which is free. It appears next to your other file extensions when you save something, and as you save a file to your computer drive, you can save another one equally to Google Drive, whose documents exist just for you in the cloud. As most of you already probably have a Google mail account, setup is pretty seamless.
  5. Email documents to yourself. If you’re traveling or don’t have access to another external backup system, email your documents to yourself hourly – and if you have more than one account, like most people, do, email your documents to both of them. A colleague emails his documents to his Google mail, which is forwarded automatically to his Mac mail inbox, so he always has two copies saved. Should anything happen to your computer your document will be readily retrievable from any computer with internet connection.

I’ve found these five steps tremendously beneficial, and well worth the extra effort. Do you have a file backup method that works for you?

Build Stronger Relationships Using Your Ears

Is there a reason you have two ears and only one mouth? The late Stephen R. Covey would say there is.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

You’ve done this, haven’t you? Admit it. In conversation with someone you stop listening because you’re focused on what you’re going to say next. I’ve done it myself often.

Some would say Stephen Covey had a natural gift for listening with the intent to understand. Whether he’d developed a natural talent or he’d acquired this skill, Covey was able to do more than be a good listener—he taught other people the same skill, including me.

In reading Stephen Covey’s books I learned to be a better listener. That skill has paid off exponentially. There’s something deeply powerful about listening with the intent to understand. It’s been an amazing tool in my life, helping me connect with other people on a deeper level.

Whether you’re speaking with a client, a friend or even a young child, listening – really listening – to what the other person has to say is a nearly foolproof way to build and maintain meaningful relationships.

Here are five steps that can help you, too:

Step 1: Stop Talking. This is the most important step. In order to start listening, your mouth has to stop moving.

Step 2: Maintain eye contact. Put your cell phone down. Turn off the TV. Ignore all the other distractions including the random person who just walked in the room. Maintain eye contact. Give the other person your full, undivided attention.

Step 3: Act interested. Body language is a big part of listening. Lean in. Nod your head when you agree with a statement. Empathize with the other person.

Step 4: Don’t interrupt. Even if you strongly disagree, resist the temptation to butt in and voice your opinion. Let the other person finish and allow that person his or her own point of view.

Step 5: Ask Questions. Ask for clarification, more details or an example. Questions are a great way to let other people know you’re actually listening and thinking about what they’re saying.

Apply these five steps in all areas of your life and see what happens. Effective listening has been just one lesson from Stephen Covey that has changed my life. While Covey’s passing has left a vacancy in the hearts of many, his legacy of leadership and kindness has left the world a better place.

(*Originally published on www.BeneathTheCover.com)

Writing Tips: 3 Reasons to Write Daily

Ray Bradbury had a gift for shifting perspectives. Some considered his writing to be radical, but that difference made him one of the most celebrated 20th-century writers.

He lived and breathed writing. Bradbury wrote daily, even after he suffered a stroke in 1999. Two weeks before he died, he published an essay for The New Yorker about his inspiration:

Soon after, the creative beast in me grew when Buck Rogers appeared, in 1928, and I think I went a trifle mad that autumn. It’s the only way to describe the intensity with which I devoured the stories. You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.

When I look back now, I realize what a trial I must have been to my friends and relatives. It was one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another. I was always yelling and running somewhere, because I was afraid life was going to be over that very afternoon.

The essay continues on as he writes, quite movingly, of being in thrall to beginnings, endings, to stories. To writing.

Here are three reasons you should emulate Ray Bradbury and write every day:

  1. Practice—Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Writing daily is a habit that will change your life (and possibly even the world).
  2. Clarity—When you put words to your thoughts, you’re forced to clarify what you want to communicate. This learned clarity in communication will benefit you in all aspects of your life.
  3. Legacy—If you have a blog, if you write a book, if you put pen to paper and share your thoughts with the world, you will leave a piece of you behind that will exist in perpetuity. One paragraph, one sentence has the power to dramatically impact the lives of others. Share your message and leave the world a better, brighter place.

I have a favorite Bradbury quote:

“You must write every single day of your life…You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads…may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Your message doesn’t have to be bright and cheery to make a difference in the world. Bradbury’s wasn’t. But you do have to write your message down if you want to share it.

Follow Bradbury’s lead. Fall in love with writing, with books. Write every day. Set a recurring appointment in your calendar. Commit to a friend to keep you accountable, but write daily—even if it’s for five minutes.

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Kirsten Nelson.

About Kirsten

Hi! I’m Kirsten Nelson. I get to spend my days helping business owners avoid the common pitfalls of “shoot from the hip” marketing campaigns.

Purpose, direction and focus are essential ingredients to both professional and personal success. And I love helping business owners connect these three ingredients.

A Seattle transplant from Idaho, I work as a marketing consultant, copywriter and ghostwriter–I love geeking out in the world of business and entrepreneurialism.

When I don’t have my nose in a book or face in a spreadsheet, my two boys and my orange cat Elvis (he’s a hunka’ hunka’ purrin’ love) keep me challenged, happy and growing. I’m a learning junkie who loves working with entrepreneurs and business owners.

Some More About What I Do

I specialize in helping business owners and entrepreneurs with passion and a message to clarify objectives and create a solid plan of action to achieve business goals. My favorite part of this process is helping business owners get to know their ideal customers/clients better: what makes them tick, what keeps them up at night, what problems they face.

My background is in business administration, finance and marketing. But my real passion isn’t life from a cubical–it’s working with clients and helping them find words to powerfully share their messages. After graduating from Boise State University, I ditched the 9-5 routine for motherhood and entrepreneurialism. As a copywriter, ghostwriter internet radio show host and international speaker, my strengths range from writing and editing to website optimization and social media marketing.

Because of my incurable addiction to learning, my insatiable curiosity has led me to clock over 10,000 hours in personal research and extended education in human behavior and it’s many applications in business, marketing and life. This hefty cache of gleaned knowledge serves as quite the powerful toolbox in helping clients (like you) understand your ideal customers and crafting messaging that converts.

My clients often tell me, “I don’t know how you do what you do, or even what it is that you do…but it WORKS! But it’s so much more than marketing advice, to-do lists and awareness campaigns!” (This usually makes me blush and grin from ear to ear). While I’m not going to give away the particulars of my secret sauce, but the gist of it is, I get people. And I care about them, too.

I’d love to hear from you! Let’s connect and see how I can help you reach your business goals.