Do you ever read those articles about people who get up at 4am, run 10 miles, meditate, create a new business product and look absolutely gorgeous before their kids are even awake? Apparently this is the reason they’re so successful.
Well here’s my version.
My alarm goes off at 7am and I eventually stagger downstairs to put on the kettle. I take a pot of tea (and some breakfast) back to bed and throw a sandwich and drink in the direction of my daughter’s room as she’s even worse in the mornings than I am.
Once I’ve drunk the 2 pint pot of tea I start to feel human so my next task is to decide whether to go for a run. This decision making process goes on until I run out of time.
After I’ve kicked the children out of their beds and off to school, I check my diary and realise that what I thought was a coaching call by phone is actually a video meeting so I throw on some suitable clothes and do a 30 second makeup job on my face. I have a post-it note on my laptop reminding me to smile for my audience. It does the trick and I soon feel genuinely cheerful. It helps that I like my job.
Fortunately, by now, my brain is sufficiently rehydrated that I’m able to get some decent work done throughout the rest of the day but, rest assured, my morning routine is nothing like the gods of industry. And, while there is definitely room for improvement, I’m actually quite happy with my slow start to the day.
What’s your morning routine?
Interruptions can be a real pain when you’re trying to get on with the real work or the sort which requires concentration.
Here are a few ideas of how you can reduce, or at least manage, your interruptions:
- Calendly is my best friend. Linked to my diary people can book phone calls at a convenient time. No more of those emails backwards and forwards trying to find when everybody’s diaries are free. The first tier of Calendly is free.
- If you have a PA or receptionist then give them clear instructions for managing your phone calls
- If you’re on your own then invest in an answering service. We use Answer IT who will either take messages or put through calls like your own receptionist. They can even manage your diary. You can divert your phones to them whenever you need to focus.
- Turn off your notifications or leave your phone in another room. Yes, I know you’ve been told before but actually do it please.
- A default diary makes it much easier to control your week. I block time out when I need intense concentration.
- If you have a team then an open/closed door can be a good indicator of when they can and can’t interrupt you
Try one or two of these suggestions and let me know how you get on.
People often ask me how much they should be charging. What they’re thinking of is the market rate and where they sit on the sliding scale of value.
But it is also worth thinking about what you want/need to earn for yourself.
- How much do you want to take home after tax each month?
- Multiply by 12 to find your annual requirements.
- How much profit do you need before tax? For quick calculations like these I usually work on 30% for tax/NI for sole traders or corporation/dividend tax for limited company shareholders.
- What are your overheads? I use a lot of software to automate repetitive parts of my business so mine might be higher than a business which does everything manually. Add these costs to your profits to find out the turnover you need to generate.
- Now work out how many hours you want to work a week. When my kids were small I worked an average of 25 hours a week to build my accountancy business.
- How many weeks holiday do you want each year? How many weeks will you work?
- Multiply the average number of hours per week by the number of weeks you want to work to give you your annual working hours.
- How many days a week will you work on your business? The sort of time that you can’t charge to clients such as strategy, management, marketing, networking, CPD. I spend a lot of time generating content in the form of books, talks, courses and free webinars so only 2 days a week am I actually earning money from all that content. This means that I’m only charging 2/5 of my time.
- Now comes the big reveal: divide your required turnover from (4) by your working hours from (7) and then multiply by your chargeable fraction from (8). This will give you your minimum hourly rate.
- Now sense check whether you are worth this amount. Do you need to cut your costs, cut your personal income, or increase your hours? Can you pay for a little automation or manpower which will increase your costs but free up your chargeable time?
- Once you’ve set your minimum hourly rate and you are sure that it is realistic then you should be very strict with yourself about NOT undertaking any work that generates less than this rate.
You can, of course, set up your own spreadsheet but if you’d like a copy of mine then please contact us via our form with ‘HOURLY RATE’ in the title. It’s free and will save your precious time!
Some people struggle for ideas for their business. They have read so many books and been to so many talks but they don’t have time to implement everything or don’t know where to start.
I’m a bit like this. The ideas make it as far as my ideas folder but sometimes don’t go any further. In all honesty some of them probably don’t deserve to go any further as they were bad ideas in the first place. But it isn’t just a waste of the money and time that I spend reading/listening/watching, it’s the lost potential for a fabulous business.
The best way I found to get out of this dilemma was to work with a business coach. Yes, I know I’m a coach myself but I still work with a coach for exactly the same reasons that you may need one.
- She helps me see the wood from the trees when I’m too busy
- She is a critical friend who will challenge me when necessary
- She has experience in my industry so is great to bounce ideas off
- She helps me to plot a clear path and turn my ideas into an action plan
- She (metaphorically) kicks my backside to get things done before our next call
- She helps to celebrate as she know how much work really went into those “overnight” successes.
Anyway, a big thank you to my coach this week as we’re set to launch the ‘ScaleUp Blueprint’ course and my ‘Growing by Numbers’ book moves further along the publisher’s pipeline.
One of the outings that we are allowed each day is to take some exercise. Here’s a reminder of why we should be doing this anyway, but particularly now.
– Physical health
– Mental health from exercise and being outside
– Endorphins; a legal high– Looking better will increase your confidence
– Good core body strength allows you to walk, talk and look more confident
– Helps reduce high blood pressure
– Gives you a change of scene
– Clears your mind to focus on work better
– Stretches the body after being hunched over a desk or slouched on the couch for far too long
Most of my work is done remotely already. My courses and webinars are online and my coaching is by telephone (have a look and see what is available on the website if you’re interested but that’s not the purpose of this email).
Some businesses are already using Zoom or something similar but here are a few tips for those just starting.
- Log in beforehand and play with the software
- Test camera
- Test microphone
- Log in 5 minutes beforehand and check camera and microphone
- Keep mic on mute when not speaking
- Minimise background noise by closing your door and bribing any children. If you’re likely to struggle with bandwidth while working from home then ensure that nobody else is streaming videos or music
- Software picks up sound from one speaker at a time (your background noise may force the main speaker onto mute)
- Dress appropriately for the meeting. Dress codes may be less formal when working from home but think about what you’re wearing for your meeting.
- Remember that you can be seen even when not speaking
To be professional:
- Place your camera at a flattering angle. Slightly above you is best. If you are looking down into the camera you may provide an excellent view of your nostrils and multiple chins
- Have good lighting on your face. Cheap photographic lights will do the job but experiment with what you already have
- Make sure that your background is tidy. Green screen effects may be fun but they’re not great coping if the “edges” of your head/hair move and are fairly disastrous with curly hair like mine
- An external mic will give much better sound quality. Being close to you it cuts out background noise more efficiently
- An external camera may be better than your laptop one but start with the lighting.
I’m going to make some slots available to help people tweak their set up and have a play online so let me know if you’d like a 30 minute session this week. So far I’ve helped a professional speaker, my Spanish teacher and a piano teacher to try to keep their businesses going by moving to online.
Masterminds can be really good. I belong to one for my speaking. We are all at about the same stage in our speaking careers but with different business models. At the moment we are all learning and sharing what does and doesn’t work and why. It is really helpful and costs nothing, but we don’t have all the answers and we all have a long way to go.
But I’ve just been selected to speak at a very prestigious event later this year (more later when I’m allowed to talk about it) which could really make my speaking career. None of my peers have the experience to help me. So I’m about to invest several thousand pounds in a speaking coach who will help me to refine both my content and my delivery to make the most of this 30 minute opportunity.
So, whilst masterminds can help with regular, day to day support it still takes an experienced coach/mentor to push on towards excellence.
As the business owner you are expected to look after everybody else from clients to staff and even fill in and unblock the drains if required. But who looks after you? As a nursing mother I remember being told to look after myself or I wouldn’t be able to look after my baby. Sometimes what feels selfish isn’t selfish so here are a few ideas for looking after number one.
- Make sure that you’re eating properly. Even when busy try to stick to healthy snacks. Working from home I try to make sure that I plan my lunch in the morning so that I have no excuse to drift down to the fish and chip shop.
- Get a good night’s sleep. I don’t know about you but I can’t function without sleep. Driving when tired can be as dangerous as driving after a few drinks.
- Get some fresh air each day and whatever passes for sunshine. There’s vitamin D to be had as well as just feeling good. Even if it’s just a walk around the block in your wellies (rubber boots for any non-Brits reading) and waterproofs.
- Have a hobby and make time for it. These should bring you peace and joy or just a distraction. I have a season ticket for Bristol City which isn’t always joyous but certainly stops me thinking about work when I have to focus on willing the ball into the opposition’s net.
- Build in rest days. Especially if you’re an introvert who needs to recover from the energy expended in social interactions. I try to book a day off after any conference although it’s easier said than done.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. People are probably not looking at you as much as you think they are.
- Forgive yourself your mistakes. Yes, spend time putting it right and working out how to prevent it happening again but, after that, put it back into its box.
- Learn from your mistakes. If we’re going to make them we may as well get some benefit.
- Forgive others. Why wouldn’t you?
- Take risks and don’t fear failure. See points 6-8.
- There is a season for all things. It is ok to move on when things are no longer working for you.
- Value people above things. Easy for somebody who moved house every 6 months and so has minimal possessions but do focus on the people in your life.
- Help others but don’t be a doormat. It is ok to say “no”.
- Celebrate your successes. It will help you to remember them in moments of self-doubt. I keep a list of all my successes for when I feel that wave of Imposter Syndrome.
- Don’t worry what people think about you. As long as your conscience is clear you don’t necessarily have to justify your words or actions.
- Be yourself. If you’re young you may still be figuring this one out but don’t worry, that’s normal.
- Learn how to argue properly. Listen as well as speak and be prepared to change your mind.
- Surround yourself with good people who will encourage you to be your best self.
- Surround yourself with good people but understand that they probably have weaknesses too, you just can’t see them
- Feel free to break these rules. Just because people put me on a stage doesn’t mean that I’m always right!