Do you carry a condom on a first date?

I don’t know about you but I use social media for networking rather than selling. Like face to face networking I like to take my time to get to know somebody and find out what interests we have in common, exchange a little bit of information about our respective businesses, and to see whether we actually like each other. I’ll then arrange to meet for a coffee if they’re nearby or if we’re going to be at the same business event.

The other form of networking I’ve been doing recently is internet dating and, rightly or wrongly, I follow the same sort of format. I get to know somebody online before meeting up to see whether we get along in real life.

But both forms of networking have pushy people.

Linked In has the annoying people who connect with you only to try and sell you something, or to persuade you to give up your valuable time for a “free” software demo (hint: my time is a limited resource so it has a value). The online dating arena is full of people wanting to promote their “assets” by sending photos or wanting sex before you’ve even met for that first coffee.

Whether in business or dating, timing is everything. Please take your time to get to know people and don’t assume that people want to see the whole package before they have got to know you. A good relationship is worth investing a bit of time up front.

Are timesheets useful?

Anyone who had to do timesheets in an accountancy firm probably remembers how much time they spent/wasted recording their time to the nearest 6 minutes. Then trying to make sure that the hours balanced. What did you do with the extra hour you worked but didn’t get paid for? And what about the 7 hours on the job that was already over budget? And then being beaten with a big stick (not literally) for dumping everything to admin.

Most businesses, with the notable exception of lawyers, now charge fixed fees rather than hourly rates so timesheets are rarely used for billing. So, what purpose do they serve?

They are a mine of management information.

That over budget client was undercharged for years because nobody was honest about how long the job actually took. One staff member took twice as long to do jobs as another because they hadn’t been trained properly. And the amount of time genuinely spent on admin justified investment in some automated systems to speed things up.

So, what is the compromise?

We keep timesheets to the nearest 15 mins with the exceptions of phones calls and ‘quick’ emails which are recorded as a minimum of 10 minutes because of the disruption to other work. If I do some work on the train to a meeting, then I may double record the time as part of the meeting time AND the job I worked on on the journey as otherwise it would have had to be done in the office.

This means that I know roughly how much time (our most expensive resource) is spent on each job so I can ensure that our fixed fees cover this as well as a share of the automation and overheads. What I really need is reporting by exception. What jobs are taking significantly longer than expected so that I can see what the holdup is and how to improve. This doesn’t need 6-minute reporting. And it doesn’t need a timesheet balanced to the official working day.

Before implementing timesheets think about WHY you want them and make sure that they will give you the information that you need. You may find that the recording process doesn’t need to be too onerous. I use the Xero project app on my phone, but Toggl is another free resource.

How do you work smarter?

There are all sorts of ways to work smarter rather than harder. I usually speak and write about systemising, automating and delegating work but you can achieve a whole lot more just by organising your workload better.

I run two businesses, Hudson Business Advice is my coaching/training as well as speaking and writing but I also run Minerva Accountants which is much easier to systemise with predefined processes for preparing accounts etc. I therefore use two different systems to track my workflow and deadlines as my brain can’t hold everything that I need to know.

Accountancy Manager is great for a highly systemised business with known inputs, outputs, and a clear process. It’s good for tracking deadlines and uses  templated emails at each stage of the process. There are other good systems available but this one suits Minerva best.

For my main business I have fewer standard processes but more individual interactions so I use Active Campaign to add notes and actions relating to each interaction. This business revolves more around people than processes, although I do have standard procedures for as much as possible.

I also use a third system, Trello, to track ideas and project work as well as my household and family tasks. (I will get around to resealing the bath one day!) I can have either a whole Trello board or a list on my main board to ensure that no idea is lost.

So, three systems to manage the three different parts of my life and also a vague attempt to separate them. I prefer these to paper because I can access them from any of my devices which are all backed up to the cloud.

What systems do you use to manage your to do list and ensure that you don’t forget anything?

Periods and menopause – for the men

These are often seen as women’s issues but, as about half the workforce are female, they’re things that employers need to know, whether they are male or female.

By the time women are old enough to hit the workforce they should be able to cope with their periods but some women may suffer quite debilitating pain or heavy flow that will affect their work for a few days each month.

Employers can help by:
• Being aware
• Allowing flexible working
• Allowing home working
• Running meetings to time. How many women have been sat waiting to dash to the bathroom when a meeting is dragging on?
• Being a little more sympathetic on the bad days and save the horrid jobs for another day unless it really is urgent (we’ll still get it done as we are professionals, after all)

Menopause is something else that hits women differently around ages 45-55. There is a period of peri-menopause prior to periods actually stopping when the body does strange things and sleep can often be disrupted.

Employers can help by:
• Being aware
• Allowing for different ventilation in different areas for those hot flushes and for variations in uniform if necessary
• Allowing flexible working
• Allowing home working
• Being a little more sympathetic on the bad days and save the horrid jobs for another day unless it really is urgent

For more information then Lauren Chiren over on Linked in does some great training for men as well as women. She’s a professional whose life was set back because she didn’t recognise the symptoms of her early menopause and now she is raising the profile of the topic so that others avoid the same problems.

Chairing effective meetings

We’ve all been stuck in ineffective meetings. They overrun on time, one person dominate the conversation and the wander off topic.

Whilst we can’t always control other people’s meetings (other than by being a considerate attendee) we can control our own.

Here are a few tips for chairing effective meetings:

  • Circulate a clear agenda including timings
  • Circulate any papers and other information beforehand. A couple of days before is best as, if you send things out too early, people set them to one side to read later and then forget
  • Only invite the necessary people, you can send minutes to others
  • Take contemporaneous minutes so that they can be circulated straight away rather than trying to find time to write them up afterwards.
  • All actions should be assigned a clear name and due date
  • Start the meeting on time. Respect the time of those who have made the effort to turn up on time rather than waiting for somebody who can’t be bothered. If you have a reputation for starting promptly most people will make more of an effort
  • If you need more time to discuss and item then schedule a separate meeting
  • Control the personalities; silence the overtalkers and encourage and listen to the introverts.

How to manage a 25 hour working week

Initially I chose a 25 hour working week in order to fit around my small kids. These days they’re teenagers and (in normal times) busy with their own lives but I still continue to work shorter hours because, as the advert says, I’m worth it. But it’s not just me who is worth it, we all deserve a decent work-life balance.

It’s up to you whether you structure your time into fewer days a week, or 5 shorter days, or any other work pattern you fancy. Personally I prefer shorter days because I notice myself getting less effective as the day goes on.

Writing my first book made it quite clear to me that I have peak creativity and mental energy for about two hours per day. This is the time for tricky jobs or the really good quality stuff that moves my business forwards.

After that I switch on to less demanding jobs, the bread and butter of what I do.

Finally I move to admin and emails.

I flex the time to suit myself and I particularly like to take time to have lunch with friends or for language or singing lessons. This leaves the evenings free to focus on family. At the moment I’m using the time to get out of the house in daylight hours to get some exercise and increase my mental wellbeing.

Next week I’ll write about how you prioritise the work you do. (Or, if you’d like a hand to build a business you love, just book a chat about how coaching can help https://calendly.com/hudsonbusiness/consultation )  

4 hour work week

Have you read the book ‘The 4-hour work week’ by Timothy Ferris?

I read it a few years ago thinking that it would help me to run my business more efficiently in just 4 hours a week. Whilst it does have lots of efficiency tips for any business, it was built around the idea of building a business purely to earn money to finance a lifestyle. While this may be your objective too I was disappointed that there was no thought of creating enjoyable work or focus on serving a client’s needs. 

If you haven’t read the book then I can recommend it as it certainly gave me a few ideas that helped me to run a business I loved in a 25-hour work week, and I believe we helped our clients and their businesses too.

https://amzn.to/2Pa5yrC