Time Wise Clients

One of the things I’m probably a little too uptight about is time. More specifically, my time! I hate wasting time or letting my time unnecessarily be eaten up for no apparent reason. And where I struggle a lot with this, is with clients.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s always beautiful and sunny that makes people in Los Angeles want to linger longer, share more stories and squeeze in another joke.  I don’t know, but whatever it is, I have seen hours of my time slip away because of side conversations and random randomness.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that the best way to keep a client is to build a relationship with them .  And because I travel to my clients, this is is always done in person for me.  With that being said, so many of clients get a little too comfortable with me and our conversations will digress onto other topics unrelated to the business at hand.  And what happens?  2 hours just turned into 6.  Not very responsible, I’ll admit, but the reward — if we’re looking on the bright side of things — their business and referrals.  Some of you may say, well in that case, go ahead and give them 6 hours.  But the truth of the matter is, I may keep their business and earn someone else’s, but 6 hours (which is 25% of the day) doesn’t leave much time for other important things.  What else could be just as important as a client?  Uh, other clients?  Working on the business?  Tweaking my marketing efforts?  Sleeping?  Just to name a few.  And if I give a client 25% of my day, then I’m allowing that person to only monopolized my time, but also my business.  And one of  the first rules I learned about being in business was never let one client dominate your business to the point they are your business.  Because when they leave, so does your business.

But I’ve gotten better with managing my clients on my schedule.  Because I have to responsible for my time, even when they’re unaware of it.  And it’s made a huge improvement, because now I can better assess where and how to spend my time with them when I’m done meeting with them.

  • For starters, I tell them before we meet what time I have to leave.  That way they get an idea how much we’ll be spending together and better helps them organize their questions for that meeting.
  • I set my alarm.  Oh, hell yes, I do.  It’s rude. It’s loud. And disruptive.  And that’s the point.  When I say I need to leave by 3;00pm, I need to show them I mean it.  So the alarm goes off as an audio reminder.  They still have questions?  Email them to me.
  • And since I brought it up, I make email the first point of communication.  Let’s meet for the pertinent stuff, email all the other, please. That way I break the habit of having to meet for every little whim.
  • Keep in-person meetings down to once a month, if necessary.  I tried this with one client, and it went over superbly.   For the secondary meeting, we held a Google HangOut session which shaved off a total of an hour from our normal meetings and I loved that. Not too mention, gas is still over $4 for gallon here in L.A.  Let’s save the road trips for something more meaningful, right?

It was suggested to me to charge for in-person meetings to deter those clients who feel they need to meet all the time.  I’m not comfortable with that yet, but there may come a point sooner or later.  I figure if someone’s paying for my services, I’m not going to nickle and dime them along the way.  No one enjoys that and very few, if anybody, returns for that kind of abuse.  But I’ve found the strategies mentioned above very helpful thus far.  I get my time back.  And that’s what I really wanted.  Yes, I want to meet with my clients — work in the business — but, I also want to be able to work on the business.

 

 

Labor of Love

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend.  It’s nice to get some down time and do — nothing.  It’s even better that there’s a whole national holiday dedicated to NOT working.  But while you were putting up your feet, flipping through channels or chilling out in the backyard, I hope you also took some time this weekend to reflect on the labor of love you’ve been working on so hard.  Your business, dream, goal — call it what you want.    Did you give some real thought to where your business is going?  What you could be doing differently — better, even — to improve some of the inefficiencies that are creating obstacles?  By chance, did you take this Labor Day weekend to think about the labor you’ve been working on and building?

Much of the time, our down time is just that — down.  Productivity is down, effort is down, connecting is down.  Down on our list of priorities.  Every so often, we need a break and any time we get one, we take it.  But are we letting our down time drag us down?  Just because we get a break doesn’t mean we need to break the momentum.  Even when we’re taking it easy for a couple of days, there’s a lot we can still get done so that when we’re ready to pick things back up at our usual pace, we can do so effortlessly.

Plan – we should also be planning, creating outlines, mapping out timelines and working out budgets.  It doesn’t require a great deal of intensive energy but it can get much of out of the way.

Brainstorm – this is much like planning, except without the organization.  Brainstorming is the collection of ideas and thoughts before we’ve had a chance to comb through it and nit-pick over every detail.  Maybe there was something we wanted to introduce into our company but have been so busy to give it a second thought.   Now we can.

Read – we don’t always have time to stop and read the latest reports, findings or articles related to our industry.  Our down time is the perfect time to catch up on all this and see what the experts and other business owners are saying.

Wander – as in, let your mind wander.  Sometimes a little ol’ fashion daydreaming is just the right amount of inspiration we need to spike up our motivation and vision.   Daydreaming is a time killer when we’re busy.  But not when we’re doing nothing!  So let’s indulge ourselves.  What else can we create?

The next time you get some down time, use it wisely.  See if you can couple day dreaming with channel surfing or reading with sun-bathing.  You never know when inspiration will strike, so make a little time for it.  After all, it’s not work, it’s a labor of love

Make Monthly Resolutions

Happy August 1st!  There’s actually nothing special about August 1st.  I mean, it belongs to a few people as birthdays and anniversaries.  MTV launched its first music video back in 1981 (and shortly put a stop to that with reality TV shows).  Germany declared war on Russia during the start of World I and a few emperors and kings lived and died.  Again, nothing too special.  And that’s probably the problem.  We wait all year long for the start of a new year to make a resolution we’ll carry out for the rest of the year only to find ourselves falling short in the middle of February.  Are we over ambitious?  Under-prepared?  Maybe.  365 days looks like enough time to get the things we want and need done.  Over the course of a few months, however, things gets forgotten, lost, misplaced and gave up on.  But what if we made a resolution once a month instead of once a year?  Would we find ourselves more likely to be successful in our endeavors and keeping those resolutions?  Yeah.

Please don’t confuse ‘more likely’ with ‘hell yeah!’  Taking a 365-day calendar and chomping down to 12 30-day periods is more manageable to get things in motion and completed.   Again, there’s no magic formula for success, just a bit of hard work, sacrifice and time management.  Consider this the physics of business.  And surprisingly enough, you’ll find reaching deadlines and goals much more attainable when you give yourself less time than more.  Why?  Procrastination.  The more time we have to do something, the more likely we’re gonna put it off, and probably till the last-minute.    But if we take some of that time away making our deadlines sooner, we’ll act more quickly (ideally).

But so often we’re over-the-top, overly ambitious big-picture people.  Hell, we’re in business, we’re always looking at the big picture.  But the big picture can be too big at times, too much to digest all at once.  And without admitting it to ourselves, we take it all on and fail.  Not because we suck, but we because we took on too much.  We try to swallow everything in one sitting instead of taking bites periodically.

Make monthly resolutions.   Commit yourself to handful of tasks that need to get done and a few that will progress your efforts without trying to take on the whole enchilada.  Write them down as list and check them off throughout month.  Whether you plan to increase you marketing efforts by increasing your marketing budget, tackle it in bites.  Instead trying to get 10,000 new visitors to your website a year, try getting 100 new followers or likes or comments a month instead.  The idea isn’t to low ball yourself, but make it possible to carry out the things that matter most to your business in the long run.  You’ll find that at first your aim seems smaller.  But the arrow is bigger.  And as you find yourself able to routinely take on these monthly resolutions, you can begin to widen the aim.

Make a resolution this month.  Think of five things your business needs to get done and out of the way so that you can focus working more on the business than in it.  You got 30 days.

Are You Another Multi-tasker?

Multi-tasking has to be one of the most unpopular and overused buzz words in business that it borderlines on annoying.  Check that, it IS annoying!  And yet, everyone multitasks in some fashion or form, we all do it.  Some say that multitasking can be good for us as long as performing learned activities that do not require our frontal lobe.  Others say, it’s detrimental to how are brain operates causing us to be overstimulated, overworked and no where near as productive we think it makes us.  Whether we agree or disagree if multitasking is or has been beneficial in our lives and work, we all have our reasons why we try to do as much as we can at one time.  Here are some of my reasons:

  • I want to maximize my hours
  • I want to get as much done in the day so I can spend my evenings how I like
  • Some tasks are so simple, I feel I don’t need to wait to do one first and the other later
  • I want to make the following days easier or at least, not as exhausting
  • I need to
  • I have so much going on, that if I wait till I’m done with one project, I’ll never get around to starting the others
  • Why not?
  • Sometimes I forget things even when I write them down so I try to do them when the notion comes across my mind
  • Everyone else I know multitasks and it doesn’t seem to be bothering them (you gotta love the peer pressure answer)
  • There’s not enough hours in the day
  • This task/assignment/ project/ report/ presentation/ brief is due tomorrow/ this week/ soon/in the near future and I need to get it done
  • I don’t think of it as multitasking, I’m just knocking things off the “to-do” list

Am I right or just fooling myself? What are your reasons for multitasking?  Wish you could do more of it?  Or less?  Do you think you’re more productive juggling multiple things at a time?  Do you even know the difference?  Have we as a people (particularly in the US) become so overstimulated that we’ve overlooked multitasking as just another thing we’ve incorporated into our lives?

Meet Less, Produce More

I hate meetings.  I have no problem admitting that.  There is something about organizing your staff or team of people together to talk about where you all are  that just drains the life out of me.  And I’m aware that there are meetings that are necessary, even crucial for business.  Meet-n-Greet meetings — meeting prospect clients for the first time, hiring a new staff member or independent contractor, getting word and advice back from that Venture Capitalist — those are pretty important.  And let’s not forget closing a deal and negotiations, I’ll meet for those too.  But what about the other mindless meetings we think we need to have?  With technology being available at the stroke or swipe of a finger, why are we still meeting (in person)?

Every time I’m part of a meeting, I think about all the other things I could be doing instead.  So right off the bat, I’m already distracted and unfocused because I’m thinking about how else I could be spending my time.  I’m also brave enough to admit that my attention span is short*.  The first 30 minutes of any meeting, I’m hanging on every word and taking notes.  Once we hit the 45-minute mark, okay… my thoughts begin to wander off, but I rein in back in.  God forbid we go over an hour ’cause then and I’m just scribbling whatever on whatever, updating my calendar and making a shopping list for the grocery store.  And the sad truth is, that happens more often that not.

I understand some people feel the need to meet, but what for?  Are your meetings equal to your efforts when you’re working?  Or do you think they are?  Think about what you could actually being doing instead of having that meeting.  Save your meetings for occasions like:

  1. When a VC enters or exits the picture
  2. Your company is changing structures or size
  3. A last-minute/ urgent change where all hands on board are needed (but even this can be done via phone)
  4. Titles and positions are changing
  5. Your company is facing some kind of lawsuit or liability issue

When you feel the need to reach out and touch someone who doesn’t apply to the aforementioned items, consider all the hand-held ways you do so with:

  1. Gchat – Whether you want to voice or video your conversations, simpler and free (or any instant messaging app)
  2. Skype – Although, I personally don’t like their lock-in-you-policy, you can make WiFi calls and connect to whomever
  3. Texting – A quick and shorthand way to get your message across instantaneously
  4. Emails – I absolutely love emails because it allows whomever to send whatever they need to you with whatever attachments needed.  In other words, emails =GOOD!
  5. Calling – Nothing is easier than picking the phone and just saying what you need to say
  6. Virtual Meeting Sites – Like GoToMeeting that can accommodate larger groups of people and invite guests (like webinars)

 

Hold off on “need to have” meetings for those dire situations where it calls for in person interaction.  Otherwise, befriend your smart phone, tablet or laptop.  These are on-the-go devices that allow you to keep in touch in real-time rather than waiting for those weekly/monthly meetings to say what you have to say.   Think of the time you’ll save on travel, location, snacks and goodies if you kept your meetings to a minimum.  Not to mention, you won’t have people, like myself, spacing out.  Think about what could get done in the same amount of time you spend talking about getting stuff done.   This is when working smart comes into play.

(*I hang in there a longer than an hour for meetings, in case you were wondering.  But there are those moments I want to nod off.  I know you know what I’m talking about!)