Did you take the hard road or the easy road?

I just got off the phone with one of my Business BFFs. She is the one who invited me into her circle of Business BFFs to begin with and since then I have created my own circle of business owners that I go to for strength and guidance. She and I have had some similar experiences in our younger years and have come here to a common ground of working with women in heart centered vocations. I was getting the easy road or the hard roadready for bed and started thinking about our conversation and my mind started wandering back to some decisions I made as a young woman, recently home from my Army training and working in the real world. I had decided that having a job in a union was better than going to college, so I quit school. I all of a sudden had this urge to confront my younger self and tell her what a stupid and selfish move that was. I was convinced that she had taken the easy road and that I had to pay for that decision for the rest of my professional life.

Then I stopped, I saw the young woman for who she was… She thought she was making the right decision, based on what she had been raised to believe. She wasn’t a bad person. She just didn’t have any real goals or direction. She was like a leaf in the wind, landing wherever the wind blew her.

I believe we all have a personal journey to get where we are meant to be. Mine took me in a very round about way, meeting all kinds of people that I needed to meet. I experienced things that I had to experience to be of service now. It was this journey that helped me learn to see the good in almost everyone. This is a skill that is so valuable to me now as a coach. I can see the good in the young woman driving a forklift instead of studying computer science. I will thank her tonight when I meditate, she chose the hard road that has led to my beautiful life.

Why being mindful can change everything

joy-jarI received a “Joy Jar” this past weekend at a retreat I attended. The weekend getaway is called the Joy Source Weekend put on by Julie McGrath and she organizes it every year. I will be going back and I hope you will join me! But I digress… My first gift from the jar were the words, “Be Mindful”. Last week I was just thinking about how saying I am a mother sometimes doesn’t feel real. That probably sounds strange since I work from home and when my kids are not at school I am at their beckon call. I thought about this some more. I realized that I do many of my parenting duties without thinking or paying attention, like being on autopilot. Oftentimes I am thinking about the workout I am going to do after supper, the project I should do after the kids go to bed or some other unrelated thought.

The Joy Jar made me realize that the experience of parenting would be so much more rewarding if I was truly in the moment when I made the children lunch or read a book with them. When I am doing these simple, repetitive activities I am thinking about what I need to do next or the next 5 things I need to do and this task is just standing in the way. On some occasions I have been really “there” but not consistently.

I love youThis week I took the jar’s advice. Tuesday, while I was making the kids their lunches, I wrote notes on their sandwich bags with blue sharpie. That afternoon my son handed me a tiny heart with the words “I Love You” written on it as soon as he got off the bus. I opened it and smiled and thanked him and he said, “I wanted to tell you I loved you too, just like you said on my sandwich bag.” I have tears in my eyes as I write this because it really didn’t take me any extra time to be in the moment that morning, but it made an impact on his day and mine.

Trust me, I am going to find other ways to be mindful this weekend. Please comment with your mindful experiences!

4 Time Management Tips for the Work at Home Mom

time-managementWhen I first started working from home I can remember wondering if I would have the discipline needed to be productive and profitable. The challenges I faced managing my time were unpredictable. Until you actually do it, it can be hard to account for all the situations that will pop up. Some of us may have been accustomed to working in offices where work time was work time, break time was when you surfed the web and did personal things and quitting time was when you shut down your computer and left it all behind until the next work day. In some cases we were single and the evenings and weekends were all ours. Time management, who needs it?

If you are going through the transition to new business owner from office worker, here are a few tips to help you to manage your new workday, which you may find is a bit longer and not always well defined. If you are also juggling new mom responsibilities some of these tactics may have to wait until you get used to your new 24 hour schedule that you have almost no control over at first.

#1 –  Set up hours of operation for your business. You may have started your business for the flexible work hours and ability to spend more time with your family. This can be achieved; the secret is in setting boundaries with your clients, your family and yourself. Whether you enjoy working 9 to 5, 11 to 7 or in chunks of time throughout the day, make sure you know when you are working each week. Encourage your clients to set appointments instead of calling on a whim, this will help you plan your time. Let older children and spouses know your schedule, and ask them to respect your work time, just like if you were in an office away from home. This may not be how you pictured flexibility, but the more structured you are with your time, the more flexible you actually are.

#2 – Take scheduled breaks. Since the nature of our work is computer based, it is VERY easy to find ourselves in internet Neverland. To avoid this common pitfall, have time scheduled into your day for personal internet activities. For instance, it may be easy to quickly go online and pay your credit card bill, but sometimes this seemingly innocuous activity leads us down an hour long bunny hole. By planning your breaks and even setting a timer on your phone or computer if needed, you accomplish that important personal task and get back to work in a timely manner. Its much more fulfilling than wondering why you didn’t get anything done on your to do list.

#3 – Limit phone meetings. Carefully consider each phone call on your calendar and decide which ones are necessary and which ones are not. Try scheduling reoccurring calls every other week if possible or shortening them to a ½ hours instead of a full hour. Reaching out to other work from home colleagues is very rewarding, perhaps you could schedule these catch up calls during off hours.

#4 – Tracking your time. Of course we all track our billable hours, unless we charge package pricing. The practice of taking an inventory of your time can be an eye opening experience. Sometimes things we think take a long time don’t and vice versa. If you are struggling with getting it all done, you may want to try this exercise for a week. Have a piece of paper out and when you start a new task, write it down along with the time you started, when you finish write that time also. Do this with everything, from customer projects, your social media posting and newsletters to putting in a load of laundry and folding the one you take out of the dryer. You will get a very good idea of how you are spending your day both the good and the bad uses. Quickly you will see how your time can be used more efficiently, just by realizing how long things REALLY take to complete.

Adopting good time management practices is a life long process. When we seem to have our schedule just right something changes, like summer vacation, and we have to shift our activities. Instead of setting out for instant perfection, try making weekly changes and then sticking to them. You will soon find it pays off with peace of mind and improved profitability.

If you think you are right, maybe you are

GW-DalaiLama-purposeI attended a really great workshop recently that helped me to hone my values, purpose, mission and goals a bit more. I don’t feel that these things are a “set it and forget it” type of activity. Just like the airplane that must constantly be reassessing its direction to get from point A to point B, we must also see if we are heading in the direction we want. So many things happen to us each day, we learn new things, we acquire new insights from people we meet and we gain new perspectives from the world around us. So of course its necessary to reassess our direction. What would be the sense of even trying to learn new things if we didn’t want to apply them?

Back to the workshop, I shared my purpose with the group and the facilitator. If you don’t know anything about me let me share this, it can be a bit difficult for me to speak up in a group and become instantly vulnerable. One more thing about me, I am a high C on the DISC Assessment which means I have to be pretty sure of my answer before I send it out there, unlike some other people who can share unfinished thoughts with the world and ask for feedback. One more background note, this is a business goal setting workshop. So the purpose should be aimed at my business.

My purpose was this:

To help women entrepreneurs achieve their dreams while providing a fantastic childhood for my two sons.

He liked the first part, but suggested that maybe the second half was just my job as a parent. I thought this was funny, because he also said, our purpose should be what gets us up in the morning, and something we would defend at all costs.

I politely took his advice, but deep down I was not done with this line of thinking. I know that one of the major reasons I started my own business, which let me tell you isn’t the easiest path, was so I could be here for my children when they needed me, but also when they don’t think they do. I always make my choices based on what is best for my family, not always what will make me the most money. My business has had to live with my family commitments, my family has not had to put up with my business needs.

I was glad that the facilitator challenged me, because it made me commit even further to this value and reassess if I was truly walking the talk. I was proud to say that yes, I am. I have volunteered for every in school event that has come up. My kids know that I think school is important and I am a part of if whenever I can be. I have not sent my kids to school sick so that I could work, and I completely sympathize with the parents who have to do this. Am I the perfect parent? NO WAY!! But I am happy with the parent I am and that I continue to become.

So back to the workshop, in the eyes of men (the facilitator was a man and there were many more men in the group) being a good parent is just part of their job. For a women, that may be a HUGE part of why they do what they do. So, I have not changed my purpose, I feel it is right. Anyone else care to challenge me?

The Top 3%

I had an epiphany this morning. On the back of my business cards I have a message printed that reads “97% of American’s don’t write out their goals… Join the 3% of people who are achieving GREATNESS!” and I include 3 lines for people to write out their goals. Well, yesterday I attended the MA Conference For Women like I do every year.

2014-12-04 08.34.39-2This year I had a booth and it was not in the best place, it was very hidden, but I was a late entry and I accepted that. I was positioned at one of the two entrances of the grand ballroom where breakfast and lunch was served and the keynote speakers presented. Seemed like a great location at first… but I noticed as the sessions let out that no one was interested in the booth right outside the door, they were checking their phones for any missed messages or chatting with their colleagues about the speakers. As they all rushed off to the next session I watched them. 10,000 women from all walks of life. Each with their own priorities, missions and life styles. The majority of them had jobs, many with the huge companies that support the conference through sponsorships. The security of having a job with a large company was enough for most of them. For some it was not, many I talked with felt there was something else for them but they couldn’t put a finger on it.

This morning I was planning my day, something Brian Tracy said I should have done last night, but better late than never. I looked at the list of my fellow exhibitors. There were probably 400 or so, I would say less than half were solopreneurs like myself. There were about 100 speakers.

I went into my kitchen and noticed my 1st grader had left his homework on the table. The homework that was due today and that he had worked hard to complete. I didn’t have a second thought, I put on my coat and drove to the school to drop it off. One of the reasons I wanted to start my own business was for this reason, to put my kids first.

While I was in my car on the way back from school, I started thinking about the 300 women out of 10,000 who were in action yesterday, really putting themselves out there. I was one of them. I was one of the 3%. See what setting goals can do?

Personal Goal Setting

I believe that setting goals in your personal life is super important. How we do in our business or career life has everything to do with how successful we feel as people. Remember, you are not defined by “what you do”. What you do is just part of who you are.

A great way to start out on this adventure is to write your personal mission statement. What are your values? For example are you committed to family first, career advancement, health and well being, to be kind, or generous? The list of possibilities is huge, but pick 3 top ones. From you values create a one sentence statement about how you want to live your life or what you would like to be your legacy after you are gone. An example may be, “I will live my life in such a way that my family knows I cherish them, my friends know I appreciate them and the business world looks to me as a mentor.”

Now, from you personal mission statement you can begin to set goals to help you achieve that aim. Make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).

Talk to you tomorrow!

The Importance of Clarity

GW-tracy-targetI love listening to anything Brian Tracy has to say. It is hard to believe that this super, successful man came from very humble beginnings and was actually a high school drop out. By being extremely curious about what makes some people successful and some failures he found the answers. One of the answers he found was goal setting. Mr. Tracy teaches that not only must your goals be laid out in such a way that they are crystal clear, but that your thinking must be clear of negative emotions that may hamper your progress.

I recently read this example in Success Magazine that suggests we have a lot of control over our emotions. Two people in two separate cars are sitting in traffic. One person is steaming mad and can think about nothing other than how late he is. The other person decides to take this extra time to listen to audio books, since there is nothing he can do about it. You can see from this example that when we take a deep breath and remove negative emotions from the picture we can achieve so much more. Guy number one probably just increased his chances for a heart attack and guy number two may have had an aha moment that changed his future!

Our amazing subconscious mind has the power to help us reach our goals very efficiently, almost without us even knowing it. That same subconscious mind can also keep us stuck. Our subconscious believes everything we tell it. If you continuously say, “I cannot afford it” then guess what, you can’t afford it. Mr. Tracy says that wealthy people dwell on financial freedom while poor people think only of what they don’t or can’t have. We attract what we think about. By thinking positive thoughts we are going to get positive results.

I will probably refer to Brian Tracy again during this series, I admire his simple, no nonsense approach to being successful.

Finding Your Why

finding your why mark twainOkay it is December 1st and we have 31 days until January 1st. So I decided to get all you last minute goal setters ready for the new year. I believe it is not too late to set some fabulous goals and start 2015 off with a bang!

Over the course of this month I will be posting everyday. Some posts will be inspirational, some will be resources to help you in setting your goals and some will be stories or advice from people who know about goal setting and achieving.

Today I want to talk about YOUR WHY. This is a tricky one. When most people think of setting their goals they overlook this one valuable requirement. Your goal has to fit into your life’s purpose, or chances are it won’t happen.

Important things to note when looking for your why…

  1. Your Why is not the same as your what. Your what may be losing 25 pounds. Your why goes deeper. I want to lose 25 pounds because I haven’t worn skinny jeans since I had my children. I would feel great about myself if I could do that.
  2. Your Why is not always politically correct. Don’t feel bad if your why is not “to contribute to world peace”. Your why is personal and it may include other people. It may not.
  3. What do you Desire? Desire gets a bad wrap in our society. People sometimes swap the word desire with sex. You may desire sex, that’s not a bad thing, but desire is more. Desire is what makes life worth living. Without desire you probably wouldn’t even bother going to work in the morning. What do you desire? That is going to get your closer to your why.

I hope this is helpful. Please take a few minutes right now to write down YOUR WHY and YOUR DESIRES. You will be glad you did.

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Stepping out of the comfort zone, the story of my pressure cooker

learning curve pressure cookerI bought a pressure cooker about 7 years ago, against my mother’s advice. She tried to convince me that I was too busy to can vegetables and didn’t need one. I always maintained that she was worried I would blow up my house. So of course I went ahead and after opening the box and reading the instructions learned I couldn’t use it on my glass top stove. Instead of returning it, I put it back into the box and stored it. When we moved to our current house a couple years ago I took it out of the box and put it in one of my kitchen cabinets, but have yet to find time for a garden, hence no need to can vegetables. Long story, short, today I was compelled to pull out the scary pressure cooker and make a beef stew. I had planned on making a beef stew for dinner, but forgot to put it in the crock pot earlier in the day. When I got home from visiting my mother (hmmmm, seeing the connection?) I did not have the 3 hours I needed to make a proper beef stew on the stove. So, I got up the courage to first find the pressure cooker, then search the web for instructions, which is quicker than trying to locate the instruction manual in my house.

I quickly read the instructions jumping from safety precautions to beef stew recipe and back and forth and jumped in. I cannot remember the last time I was so stressed out! I turned on the stove and stood about 10 feet away from it all tensed up, looking for steam escaping, rereading the instructions and FAQs. I called my mother and father while it was “jiggling” away and my father told me there was no way it would “blow up”. So I relaxed a bit. After 15 minutes I cooled it down, opened it and added the veggies. This time when I turned it back on I was like an old pro. I only stood back 5 feet but actually took my eyes off it after the first minute.

When my stew was done the meat was so tender and the vegetables perfect, the broth was a bit lacking in flavor though. I have found a new way to cook meals faster and more energy efficiently and it only took me 7 years to get up the nerve to try it. I couldn’t help but relate this to learning new things in business or stepping out of my comfort zone to speak with people I don’t know yet. Once I do something for the first time, I wonder why it took me so long to do it. So from now on, let’s stop letting fear keep us from advancing. Let’s take our rightful place among the brave and start stretching our comfort zone!