Get To It Now

Get To It NowSo I decided to get hair extensions.

I got them in Toronto, which is a few hours drive from where I live.

I got them in Toronto because, surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be anywhere reputable close by. There were a few seedy Craigslist style places, and a ton of people who only had Facebook pages instead of websites. Businesses that don’t have websites give me the heebie jeebies, so I decided to go to Toronto and let the grown-ups have my money.

In Toronto, there were many options. They had websites. They had newspaper coverage. They had active social media profiles. They had… wait for it… pictures. (Of both hair, and of the place I would be taking my hair. I know. Madness.)

Anyway, awesome. I get extensions. They cost $450. I go back in two months to get them redone.

Hey, kids! Let’s play math!

Okay, boys and girls. If I get these done every two to three months, and I do it for two years until my real hair grows out, can anyone tell me how much I will pay these people?

You there, the keener in the front.

“Between $3,600 and $5,400.”

That is correct!

Now, can anyone tell me what we call that number?

You, in the leather!

“The lifetime value of a customer?”

Bingo.

Now, let’s make things more interesting. Can anybody take a guess at the approximate referral value I would have? How much they can reasonably guess I would give them in referrals?

Anyone?

Come on, anyone? Keener girl?

“Um… a thousand dollars?”

Not bad. Not a bad guess at all.

We can actually assume I’ll give approximately the same amount in referral dollars as I do in my own dollars. So we’ll say I’ll give $3,600 to $5,400 of my own money, and another $3,600 to $5,400 of other people’s money over the lifetime of my relationship with that vendor.

That means that, if I stay alive and happy, I will be ultimately worth between $7,200 and $10,800 to this establishment.

Where the comedy becomes a tragedy

Let’s flash forward to today.

This morning I decided to go to the beach after work.

I opened up Google maps at my office, which I never do.

Guess what I found!

There’s a hair extensions place!

Next door!

Guess what else!

It’s one of the places I decided not to go with because they didn’t have a website!

I drove several hours and slept in a hotel to get these things and there is a hair extensions place next door to my office.

What this means to you

The doubtless lovely and well meaning people at the local place have probably been telling themselves for honest-to-God years that they “have to get it together”. They’ve probably been telling themselves they “have to get to that”… “that” being a website, a sign, a flyer campaign, a photograph, a portfolio, a call to the local paper and/or a business card at the coffee shop.

I understand. I get it. I do. But my ten grand goes to the people who already got to it.

We all have something we’re meaning to get to, me included.

There’s a lot of money on the line. Get to it now.

13 Effortless Productivity Tips To Keep You Sane (And Profitable)

13 Productivity Tips and HacksProductivity tips are generally things that make me want to poke my eye out with a spoon. “Start early!” “Have all your notes in one place!” “Set SMART goals!” Thank you, productivity gurus, the world is slapping their foreheads saying “Oh gosh! How could I have missed that one!”

Obvious advice, like “Eat less and exercise”, does not help the majority of us who are frazzled, ADD, and not looking forward to major life or habit change. If we know what we should be doing and we’re not doing it, there’s a reason. One that a therapist, rather than a productivity coach, is more qualified to help with.

Therefore, for your reading pleasure, I submit to you a baker’s dozen of truly useful productivity tips that don’t require major lifestyle/personality transformations. Do the ones that look easiest to you, and I promise you that good things will happen.

1. Batching tasks will make them significantly easier.

Take something you do repeatedly (blog posts! newsletters! emails! laundry!) and do MORE THAN ONE units of these things in a row. If they’re small, do a bunch at once. If they’re bigger or creatively taxing, try two. They will go faster and as you get into the flow of things, and they will lose some of the Big Scary Dread that you have associated with them.

Answer one email? You might take you 20 minutes on it. 10 emails? That might only take you 45. You’re in a groove. Batching = easier and faster for YOU.

2. Timeboxing will speed things up for you.

“Stuff you have to do” generally fills the amount of time you feel like you have to do it. (That’s why you can do a fantastic job of cleaning when you realize your mother-in-law will be over in 45 minutes, and sweet nothing when you have all day.) When you sit down to do a thing, give yourself a countdown timer. Watch how you get faster and distractions don’t pull at you.

3. Top-down your email to get it done faster.

That feeling you get when you look at your inbox and don’t know where to start? Welcome to decision fatigue. When you’re sitting down to do email, start at the top and work your way down, or start at the bottom and work your way up. Decision fatigue goes away, and more emails get responded to.

(Note: If you have a time-critical email, like responding to a request for work, you can cherry-pick that first. Just go back to top or bottom when you’re done.)

4. Time logs will automatically boost your focus.

“Where did all the time go?” is a cliché of a question. BUT IT IS NOT RHETORICAL. Seriously, track your time, even for a day. Scribble down “Started email at 9:42” and “Finished email at 10:33”.

Do this a few times, and you will quickly self-correct 90% of distractions, because you will realize they are going to show up in your log.” (The other 10% of distractions you will happily be accountable for, and be glad you did them.)

5. “Pass-backs” will get your inbox down faster.

For some reason we collectively got it in our head that we had to reply to everything in every  email at once, and turn ourselves into knots figuring out what people mean when they’re vague.

There is nothing wrong with addressing one point in an email and asking a question about the other one(s). That passes it back to the other person, and gets it out of your inbox, and you still get credit for replying.

This is especially useful if you have a lot of emails to get to at once, or some require really long answers. You can split the work into multiple sessions.

6. Single-tasking will boost your productivity instantly.

Multi-tasking works well for a very small number of situations. Listening to language training or audio books while you’re taking a walk, for example. You don’t have to think when you walk, so you can use your brain for the audio.

But if you have to actively use your brain on two things at the same time, it’s never a 50-50 split. Blah blah blah science, the upshot is that you actively get worse at just about everything when you multitask.

Just focus on one thing at a time, and you’ll probably cut your task time down 30 to 50% immediately. If you internally complain about not having enough time, this is potentially the best thing on earth you can do to change that situation.

7. Pick one objective to make tasks faster and easier.

There was this guy a few thousand years ago who said you couldn’t serve two masters at once. You’ve probably heard of him. Totally into productivity, that guy. The more objectives you try to pack into a task, the harder it feels and the longer it takes.

Write a blog post that’s witty AND insightful AND data-driven AND between 750-1000 words AND perfectly SEO-optimized? That’s a lot of work. Pick one objective instead, and your workload is now a fraction of what it was before – plus, it’s easier.

Showing up on social media today to be super helpful AND make new connections AND promote your new class AND reply to everyone who replies to you AND look like a hotshot? That’s a lot of work. Pick one objective at a time. Look how easy it gets. You can use all that time you freed up to hop on social media again later and target one of the other objectives.

Further reading: Management by Objectives, or How To Win At Fruit Ninja And Business

8. Make “weird time” your free virtual assistant.

Keep a running list of little things that you have to do (book tickets to a movie, draft a blog post, proofread a document, put a new profile picture up on Facebook) and have it to hand.

Your days are filled with little 5 to 15 minute chunks of time that you don’t realize you can use. Waiting in line, being on hold, sitting at your computer like an idiot waiting for someone to BRB in a chat window. You can probably nab 2 or 3 hours a week of little-things-you-never-get-to just by having this list handy.

9. Pick “next actions” to move projects along faster.

Picture the next time you’re staring blankly at the wall thinking “I don’t know where to start.” Now imagine you had a perfectly reasonable list of very-next-actions for every project you’re working on.

Inbox? Answer Bill’s email.

Blog? Pick the title of your next blog post.

Website? Call a photographer and get prices for headshots.

Webinar? Buy a microphone.

There is always a definable next action for whatever you’re working on. (If it feels like you don’t know where to start because you could be doing a dozen different things to “get a webinar going” then pick any next action. It’s better than the nothing you have now.) Having a next action means you will always know what to do next. No more wall-staring.

10. Prep your next tasks to make them easier to start.

Starting things is always the hardest part (hence, why we don’t do lots of stuff). A big part of why starting is hard is because after the starting you have to do it all. Not the most fun. But! If you kinda-start them and then bail, your brain will believe the hardest part is done and that what remains will be easier.

(There is science to back this up, but I’m not interested in looking it up and linking to it. Besides, that would just give you a distraction. I care about your productivity, truly.)

Tell yourself “All I have to do right now is title this blog post and open a document” or “All I have to do right now is begin this email with Hey Kate, I’ve got some bad news for you” or “All I have to do right now is write the name of my webinar on a piece of paper and make a mindmap with three empty circles”.

Then leave it ‘till tomorrow. It will get the task started, and leave you with an open loop that will make it seem like you are not starting, but continuing. This works. Seriously.

11. Check and answer email at set times to keep your sanity.

One thing I heard recently regarding email is “Don’t open an email if you can’t respond to it.” That sounds great in theory – and probably is good advice 90% of the time – but it’s not practical. There are lots of emails I want to open and NOT respond to until I’m damn good and ready.

However! If you pick a few times of day to check/answer your email and stick to them, two things will happen.

First, you will start instantly loving your life more. Always-on email is brutal to the psyche. You will cherish the fact you are not in the inbox like you would cherish fresh air after they let you out of San Quentin.

Second, you will begin to get better at answering email, because you will begin to hate going back into the inbox. You will get email over with as fast as possible, because you finally have time to do all the things that email has blocked you from doing so far. It will become like a perfunctory visit to a relative you do not like. Quick, polite enough, and with no emotional investment.

Pick 2 or 3 times of day that will be your “email times”. Anything that is not that time is YOUR LIFE. The door is locked from the inside, darlings.

12. Set a closing time to get twice as much done.

Also in the “get your life back” department is setting a closing time for your office, virtual or physical. If you are done by X time, and you are DONE, then it’s amazing how much more stuff gets crossed off the to-do list.

Half the reason you don’t get as much done is because you are allowed to cheat.

You’re allowed to let work spill over into areas where it doesn’t belong. You’re allowed to tell the people in your life “I need to work late tonight because it’s busy” (rather than “I need to work late because I screwed around all day getting distracted and don’t want to admit it.”) Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that.

Accountability means you start saying “Crap, if I want to get this done, I gotta get it DONE.”

You are a very, very smart person. If you set a closing time, you will get much better at what you do, and you will make more money. I’ve never seen anyone fail at this.

13. Pick your “first 3 things” and watch everything get done.

Raise your hand if you have ever heard someone say “You need to pick your most important three things every day and do those first” and wanted to retch. yes, I’m seeing the hands now… good, good, a lot of hands. I figured.

Here’s what I notice. Lots of people say “I can’t do that! I have like 10 things I want to get done every day!”. That’s cool, I get it. Those same lots of people very frequently say “OMG! The day’s over and I didn’t really get ANYTHING on my to-do list done!” (Raise your hand if you say that more than you’d like.)

Ok, so no “Big 3” list = 0 things done. Last time I checked, 0 things is smaller than 3 things. So you’d actually be better off going with the 3.

The truth is, here’s what happens. You pick your 3 Most Important Things for Today, and then you put other stuff out of your mind and DO them.

Then you realize there’s still a lot of day left, so you make a new list of 3 things. Then you focus and do them. It’s not uncommon to get far more than 10 things a day done that way. And 10 is way bigger than 3.

Productivity does not have to be the 9th Ring Of Hell.

If you are an entrepreneur, chances are high that you have some level of ADD. That’s why you have entrepreneur superpowers – you can make mental connections extremely rapidly and do things other people can’t do.

But if you’re finding hard to focus, move forward confidently, and get stuff done, you need ADD-specific solutions (even if you don’t really have ADD).

Major lifestyle change, while helpful in the long term, won’t exactly help you get more of the important stuff done this week.

These 13 productivity tips will.

They’re easy. You can do these with almost no effort at all.

So pick a few and start doing them.

And click one of those share buttons down there if you’re feeling generous. Spread the word. :)

Want more posts like this? Sign up for the IttyBiz newsletter to have them sent to you automagically.

Do You Really Have To Do ALL The Marketing Things?

too-many-choicesFrom the Ask Naomi mailbag:

Hi Naomi,

You don’t know me, but my boyfriend is a reader of yours and he suggested I reach out to you. I’m overwhelmed and I need help.

He said you have some posts on how to manage all the things you’re supposed to be doing. Not like, productivity. More like, all the directions you’re supposed to be going in at once. I have all these people telling me I need to do ALL THE THINGS (FB, Instagram, Twitter, blogging, paid traffic, list, content marketing, etc, etc) in order to succeed and I don’t know how you manage to do all that and sleep.

In short, “argh argh, there are too many things, all the things, all the people say I should do everything argh thud wibble”

I’ve Googled and my Google Fu has come up empty. Can you help?

RJ

Hi RJ!

Ahh. Well, good question. Hmm. Your boyfriend is quite correct. That is the sort of thing I talk about.

However!

I have looked through 6 pages (aka 60 posts) of my own website and even I cannot find anything that meets this description. Therefore, I now give up in defeat. Apparently both he and I believe I have said things on this topic, and neither you nor I can find them. I shall therefore channel my inner W.C. Fields and say, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

Having said that, I do have some thoughts.

Stop listening.

Simply stop listening.

You see, there are three types of people who give out free, tactical advice on the internet.

Camp Number 1: “I succeeded this way, therefore this is the way to succeed.”

These people achieved whatever they have achieved via one means only (Instagram, say) and therefore are going around saying, “Instagram is the way!”

These people are not simply wrong, but stupid and blind to boot.

They either think the other ways don’t work, or only work as auxiliary strategies, or they don’t even think about them at all because, well, Instagram. It’s the way.

Their cognitive bias is so overwhelming that they ignore all evidence that suggests there are those who have succeeded via any other means.

Camp Number 2: “I will gain something by telling you this is the way to succeed.”

These people may or may not have achieved anything, via this means or any other. But there’s some financial (or social) gain they receive from promoting an ideology. Let’s pretend it’s Instagram again.

There are many ways to gain from promoting a method.

There’s the most direct financial compensation, which might be selling their own product about how Instagram is the grooviest.

There’s indirect financial compensation, which might be making affiliate money promoting somebody else’s product about how Instagram is the grooviest.

There’s future financial compensation, through the law of reciprocity. If I promote Suzie’s product, Instagram Is My Homegirl, Suzie may repay my kindness later.

There’s even the social gain from being an affiliate or advocate of a product or ideology. I promote Suzie’s product and gain standing in her little tribe of disciples.

People in this camp may or may not be malevolent. They may or may not also be in camp number 1. Regardless, they’re too biased to listen to.

Camp 3. “I get there are many roads to Rome, but I will happily teach you the road I know.”

These people are the ones you want to listen to.

They’re not saying Instagram is the way. They’re saying that Instagram is a way, and they’ll teach you if you want it.

This is how most online guru types start out. They really just want to help. But over the years, many come to the conclusion that if they’re not loud and obnoxious and channeling their inner Donald Trump, nobody pays attention. So gradually, nice people who just want to help become irrational, camp number 1 screamers.

(If you find a teacher you like in camp 3, give them money and good feedback. Hopefully they’ll stay nice.)

The first two camps make up the overwhelming majority.

Your experience is a common one. You’re not alone. This comes up a lot.

The thing to realize is that your experience says “all the people say I should do everything”, and I validate that experience. You’re right. That’s what it feels like. There are a lot of people, and they’re all shouting and cajoling, and you’re hearing 100 different things you should be doing.

This is true. But if we look a little closer, we realize that each individual person is generally only shouting about one or two things. This person’s yammering about FB ads and webinars, and this person’s on Instagram, and this one says search, and so on.

If, instead of looking at them as “all the things you should be doing”, you look at them as salespeople selling you their food at a carnival, it becomes a very different situation.

What you actually have is a large group of people shouting, “Buy funnel cakes!” “Buy cotton candy!” “But a corn dog!” “Join PETA!”

Nobody’s saying you have to eat all of them. Each of them just wants you to choose their thing.

It’s the same with marketing strategies, tactics, and ideologies.

In that situation, you go away to a quiet place and narrow down your options. Narrow your options to one or two or three palatable ones that feel like they might be fun and won’t make you go thud.

Then, if you want, go to the people who are shouting about those things and listen to them, or possibly buy their products.

Ignore everything else.

There are some exceptions, certainly. Depending on your line of work, being utterly pathetic at something may be conspicuous, and you may want to remedy that, but that can usually be achieved by hiring something out. But that’s usually just an appearance issue. You won’t actually lose money because you’re not on Twitter. You might look like an idiot if you haven’t been there for three years, or you only show up when you’re launching your latest WhizBangTM. But if you don’t want to do Twitter, don’t do Twitter.

And don’t listen to people who are so blind they honestly think they know the only way. Throw eggs at these people.

Hopefully that helps a little. If nothing else, it gave you something to read in the midst of the thudding.

1 2 3 78