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Your holiday is over and you’ve got to go back to work. You resist, don’t want to.  If  your work place is your home office, you wonder if anyone would notice if you didn’t do much for a day or so?

Of course, you could try to catch up once you feel a little more inspired. That’s exactly how I often feel after a holiday. You are so relaxed and chilled out and want the feeling to go on forever.

Even when  you have an important deadline coming up and a high workload to go with it, you figure that your work will make you the opposite of relaxed and chilled out. And perhaps you don’t really want to go there.

That happened to me too once. And then, two days later, not only had I tackled a long to-do list, including a whole long list of emails and a great number of calls, I had caught up with my social networking sites and made some important decisions in between.

After resisting on day 1, I ended up at my desk for 12 hours (not non-stop I hasten to add), enjoying my work against all the odds! I was totally focused too, got so much done and each accomplished task felt really good.

Here are a few tips you may wish to try if you feel reluctant about starting your work.

  • Make sure you write a task or to do list, and prioritise the items on it. It’s no good having jobs, projects or tasks in your head, where they can often cause more anxiety than necessary.
  • Use the timer trick to get you started. Plan to do 5 or 10 minutes on a particular task and before long, you’ll notice you don’t mind carrying on.
  • If you don’t want to use a timer, having a visible clock in your office may be OK. The best ones are the ones with an audible tick- they remind you that time doesn’t stand still.
  • After working for a couple of hours, make sure you have a break. Have a hot drink, stretch your legs, open a window, read a paper. 10-15 minutes should be fine.
  • Getting back into work mode after a break can be hard, so I do something that I enjoy – reading and updating one of my social media sites for 10-15 minutes (keeping an eye on the clock). This also makes me feel connected to the outside world. If you don’t do social networking, then why not make a call to a colleague instead?  Always keep an eye on the clock though.
  • Never ever be tempted to multitask thinking you’ll be quicker! Don’t have social media sites open in the background in order to go back to them from time to time. Single tasking is key to higher productivity – cutting out interruptions gives you higher levels of concentration. Task switching can not only be hard on the brain but will lose you time as your brain takes time to adapt to the different tasks.
  • Getting a difficult job out of the way first, will feel liberating and your work will flow much easier afterwards. Again you can use the timer method to get into the task.
  • At the end of the day, update your prioritised list for the following day, as it will help you to switch off!

What else has worked for you that you could share with our readers?

Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced trainer, mentor and business & blogging coach. She helps busy passionate solopreneurs build a thriving small venture by being more visible and focused on what matters to them. Sign up for her free ‘Passion to Profit’ ebook at http://www.successnetwork.org.uk

(PS the above post was first published in 2010)

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It is that time of year again when, depending on your industry, business either speeds up or slows down and many business owners prepare to spend special time with family and friends.

For those of you who are experiencing a slowdown –  you may be forgiven for wanting to go into hiding.

Indeed, a client asked me the other day whether it’s worth going to networking events in the festive season especially as nobody makes decisions at this time of year.

For me – whether it’s quiet or busy- this is the season to have some fun and meet people!  My diary has filled nicely with leisurely one-to-ones and seasonal events that replace the formal networking events.

Christmas Lunch

I tend to spend more time and money on networking at this time of year than at any other – why, you may ask?

I find that this is the one month where people seem more relaxed and happy to get to know each other in a less work-oriented atmosphere.  This represents a great opportunity to join in, particularly for those who don’t usually enjoy networking.

I have learnt over the years that networking in a social way at this festive time will pay real dividends in a few months (maybe even as soon as January!)

So if you’re considering slowing down your networking this month – especially if your diary is also crammed full of family commitments – please think again.

Don’t write this time off just because you are too busy – try to think of new and imaginative ways to put yourself out there.

And another myth I’d like to dispel for those of you who are wondering, please don’t write off this month for social networking either.

Not everything stops and not every decision maker takes a digital break over Christmas, even if it may seem that way to you.

If you want to connect or stay in touch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and all the other platforms will be there to serve you, as usual.

Some of my best leads and referrals often come from being visible and eager to connect with people during traditional, and supposedly quiet, holiday periods.

If you would like to keep a step ahead of your competitors, always try to be flexible, and open to new ideas and new ways of doing business. You never know, this could be your mantra not just for the festive season, but for the whole of next year!

Ute Wieczorek-King | Success Coach, Trainer, Mentor, Blogger & Owner of Success Network. Ute helps busy women to be visible, focused and profitable in business. Connect with Ute via Twitter, or Success Network Recipes on Facebook. Or sign up to her monthly newsletter on the Success Network website.

Copyright 2011-16, Ute Wieczorek-King

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This morning, I approached the main road near my house during the busy rush hour. I was in a hurry, and wanting to do my usual right-hand turn, my heart sank as I got closer. The traffic in both directions was almost at a standstill. With everyone in a rush, I knew that waiting for two nice drivers to create a gap in the traffic might be a waste of time.

Then, just before feeling disheartened, I decided to approach the junction with the thought that someone would make a space for me. And this is exactly what happened, the instant my car stopped at the crossing.

Image Quote Positive

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. (Henry Ford)

It is so easy to forget that you actually have a choice about what you think in any given situation!

But being positive isn’t always easy!

To be fair, even I sometimes find it challenging to stay positive during particularly stressful periods or when suffering from the hormonal ups and downs midlife women can be prone to. And often, before you know it, your negative thoughts have become regular visitors.

In my experience, it requires quite a bit of effort to stay positive when you’re under pressure, but persistence and regular practice do pay off in the long run.

So what can you do?

The first step is in realising and monitoring your natural thought processes. Sometimes our thoughts appear in what we say in passing to a colleague. For example, have you ever caught yourself thinking or saying things like:

“They will be too busy and won’t want me to call today”
“They won’t pay me”
“I’ll mess up this presentation”
“I won’t get any business from this meeting anyway”?

Thinking in this way will inevitably affect your confidence and can prevent you from taking the positive action your business needs right now.

So before attending an event or starting a challenging task today, don’t just jump in. Instead, take yourself through a little prep task first.

If going to a networking meeting or event, either stay in the car or find a quiet space for a couple of minutes so you can become aware of your thoughts. For example, if you notice that you’re thinking that nobody ever wants to talk to you, or is interested in your business, decide which thought or approach would suit you better:

“I will ask the organiser to introduce me”
“I will approach just one person”
“I’ll ask them questions and show that I’m interested in them”

Making a choice can be quite difficult at first, as your negative thoughts will keep bobbing to the surface like apples that have fallen into a bucket of water.

So at first you might find it helpful to say your new thought out loud. But if you’re with people and speaking to yourself feels odd, take your phone and type the new thought as if you were sending someone a text message. Or you can write it in a small notebook. This way, no one will know!

The simple act of hearing your own voice or seeing your thought written down may help to plant the idea and get you used to thinking differently.

As the author Jodi Picoult said in her book My Sister’s Keeper, “If you tell yourself you feel fine, you will.”

PS. Why not share a tip below that works for you?

About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King provides business & blogging support for passionate midlife women who want to be more visible, focused and profitable. Get Ute’s business tips on Facebook or visit the Success Network website to receive Ute’s free “Passion to Profit ebook. You too can take your micro-business from good to great!

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imageTime or should I say lack of time can be major issue for busy women who run a small business from home. No matter how good your intention to make time to improve or grow your business, it’s a sad truth that most of us are extremely busy already working on an ever-growing list of tasks.

Another sad truth is that no-one will achieve success in business simply by working hard on their actions and putting in long hours.

In any case, your own definition of working hard might not be the same as a successful entrepreneur’s idea of working hard. Her focus may be on making good strategic decisions whereas yours may be on juggling client work, marketing, finance and administrative tasks, looking after sick children, older relatives and supervising the builders.

All in a day’s work you may think. Many women accomplish such a lot, don’t they? But at what price?

What not to do

I once wrote a post about the importance of showing your business who is boss. A person in charge of their business will happily spend time managing and working ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ the business.

The thing is, I didn’t always know that. A couple of years after starting my first business I found myself fire-fighting like crazy. I just couldn’t figure out what to do first – everything seemed equally important.

Why was that happening to me?

I had started my first training business because I loved my profession (teaching) and helping people to learn. And like many women I know, I wanted more time for my family and have a better quality of life too.

But somehow all this didn’t start to happen until I decided to take charge and stop letting the business run me.

Why effort alone doesn’t work

Having worked with lots of start-ups over the years I know that my own start-up story isn’t that unusual. Many people believe that sheer effort, persistence and hard work will lead to the results you dream of.

But sadly I have seen people work hard like this who experience a form of ‘burnout’. This can happen when the passion you may have had for your business has disappeared leaving you to feel drained disillusioned and stuck.

You may even believe that you’ve failed or that your business idea or model will never work.

Did you have any idea before you started how much goes on behind the scenes of a business that helps to make it successful (in whichever way you define success)?

Maybe you had an inkling but thought the only way is to push yourself harder to try and make sure it works?

Overworked people frequently find it difficult to see the ‘wood for the tress’ and make time for the things that matter.

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If you have a problem with taking time out whether for yourself or the business, please be careful.

It is not that difficult to get to the point where taking a complete break from the business seems like the only option.

How to take control and pave the way for success

All successful people invest time in themselves as well as in their business and this seems to be a key aspect that differentiates them from less successful people.

Of course it may seem completely counter-intuitive to spend time on you or your business particularly when you’re in the middle of a super busy period.

But I hope these amazing benefits will convince you:

  • You’ll know what REALLY matters in your business and can do more of what works – e.g. the high impact tasks – whilst also letting go of low impact, time wasting activities.
  • You’ll feel more focused and make fewer ad-hoc decisions in your business.
  • Taking time to think gives you time to plan. A clearer direction stops you from getting caught in the day-to-day stuff and keeps you in touch with the big picture.
  • You’ll unravel the causes of overwhelm,  take action accordingly and feel much calmer.
  • Finally, you’ll feel a lot less like an overworked employee and more like a business owner in charge.

Success!

So why not schedule two time slots in your diary right away? One for you and one for the business!

Just remember that if you are not making time for you or the business, then you won’t be making time for success…

IMG_6665Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced trainer, mentor and business coach who specialises in helping busy women be focused, visible and profitable in business.  She blogs regularly here as well as at http://www.successnetwork.org.uk and http://www.attractreaders.com and has written hundreds of free articles for women in business.

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The following is a guest blog by Trisha Mentzel who owns B2B Event Management

I often wonder if other people had a clear cut idea after leaving school what they wanted to do. Was your school good in assisting in career choices?

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I went to a small private school where we had no career advice. I only knew at the time that I wanted to further my education and ended up at Teachers Training College as at the time I did not think I would get the A levels to get into University.

As it so happened I could have but do not regret going to the college I attended at Oxford where I met and am still in contact with many students of that time who are close friends.

I feel sorry for students today who leave college or university with debt hanging over them. I remember money was tight being a student but then we did not have very high expectations regarding how we lived or socialised.

After 4 years I left with a B Ed degree which I am most grateful to but never went into teaching as it was then very difficult to get teaching jobs. How much the world has changed!

I do think it is so important to be able if possible to follow your passion, and try and work in that related field. We spend 36+ hours a week working and how depressing it must be not to enjoy or feel that you are making a contribution to your employer or the work you are involved in.

My passion was and still is horses. When I left school you either were bright enough to become a vet or good enough to be a professional rider in various equine sports. The other option was to work as a groom in whatever equine establishment.

I decided there was not enough money in being a groom and preferred to try and get a better paying job and then spend some of that money riding horses for my pleasure.

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How wonderful it is to see all the different types of jobs you can now chose in the equine field. It’s great to have the choice but also with that comes the responsibility to make the right decision.

I must say that my career path was very haphazard not planned but developed due to circumstance such as job redundancies and then having to find another opportunity.

Still I cannot complain as I have enjoyed all the various jobs I have done from working as an au pair/governess in Canada to working in a café/pub while I was trying to get started.

At one point I was an air hostess, (I still love travel) a customer liaison officer training the legal profession on photocopying machines, a customer relations representative for computerised legal accounting type recording systems, leading into marketing roles for IT companies.

I eventually ended up running my own business planning and managing events which I love despite the stress involved.

I just hope that young people starting out today may have a better idea and goal as to what they would like to do in their working life.

But, then again, as my own meandering career path shows maybe it doesn’t matter as much as we think?

As long as we have the chance and opportunity to also follow our passion and dreams, and earn a decent living in the process then at the end of the day maybe it’s more about the journey than the destination?

Trisha Mentzel is an experienced International Marketing and Event Manager who runs B2B Event Management. She specialises in cross-functional marketing, event planning and delivering large corporate conferences, exhibitions, seminars, product launches, road shows and meetings around Europe. Her clients include the British Council and businesses based in the Home Counties and London.

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achieve new goalsWouldn’t you just love to set new business goals knowing that you will succeed easily?

But all too often our new goals fall by the wayside at the first hurdle. Failing to achieve goals at the beginning of the year is very common and can be the result of trying to pack too many new goals into an already jam-packed agenda.

There may be an expectation that simply working smarter (or being more productive) will help you to do and achieve much more in the little time you have.

What’s wrong with working smarter?

The secret is usually not ‘working smart’, but working smart on the right things.

Applying Pareto’s Principle, which is also known as the 80/20 Rule,  this means focussing 80 percent of our time and energy on the 20 percent of the work that really matters.

Applying this rule is easier when you know what you spend your time on, and can let go of anything that doesn’t contribute to your overall effectiveness.

What do you need to stop doing?

It is strange how we sometimes continue to do something that may not actually help us.

How often do you get distracted by the phone or the internet and social media sites?

Or attend the wrong networking events for the wrong reasons?

Or plan to start work early knowing that’s when you’re most productive but somehow struggle to get out of bed?

Most of us will be unproductive at some point – we are human after all.  For example, in my early days in business, I frequently didn’t plan or prioritise my daily tasks, which led to a fair amount of fire fighting, and sometimes even missing deadlines.

In the last couple of years I have ditched all those interesting but somehow ‘unnecessary’ projects!

I’m a bit of an innovator and my passion for new ideas can make me want to get involved in everything interesting that comes my way. Then before I know it –  ignoring my gut instinct – I feel resentful when I ran out of time for the activities that really matter.

Not saying YES to all these tempting new projects felt uncomfortable to say the least. I thought I might get bored. But the opposite happened to me.

Ditching unproductive tasks as well as bad habits and behaviours can be very satisfying as you are able to give even more quality time to what really matters. And the rewards may surprise you!

 

What will you say NO to?

This year, why not say ‘No’ more often and allow yourself more time to do what you know will make an impact in your business?

Maybe you want to have more personal time for yourself as well, something you value very highly?

If you are ready to say NO to something, then two techniques can really help you:

  1. Ask yourself, ‘What’s really in it for me?’  Answering this question will help you to discover whether what you are planning to do (or not) has any really benefits for you and your business.
  2. Reward yourself every time you manage to ditch an unproductive activity and do something more productive or meaningful instead. Without a suitable reward it is unlikely you will feel motivated enough to create a new habit. And you will probably go back to your old habits very quickly. Rewarding yourself is, therefore, very important.

So, what business activities, temptations, habits or behaviours will you say NO to this year?

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King helps female midlife entrepreneurs to be visible, effective and profitable in business. Sign up to her monthly newsletter on the Success Network Website to receive a free ebook that shows you how to make a living from your passion.

 

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Three years ago I compiled a blog called “How not to fail in business”, with useful tips from some of my Inner Circle members how to survive the recession as a solopreneur.

During those tough years most of us with established businesses had to adjust our approach to getting and keeping clients. You just couldn’t take anything for granted.

And it seems you still can’t three years on! That’s despite the fact that the economy appears to be improving.

But spending is not yet back to pre-recession times and many business owners are still feeling a little cautious. Even consumers must be wary as the seasonal sales show – here in the UK they seem to be starting earlier every year!

So whether you run an established solo-business or a new start-up, you probably want to know the best ways to win and keep new customers … and naturally keep your existing ones too.

Here are five useful strategies

  • Avoid undercutting your competitition

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that whatever you offer, your customers are bound to be able to find cheaper suppliers.

Please don’t ever let that put you under pressure to reduce your fees! Be confident, stick to your pricing and focus on making sure you really know and understand your customers and their needs.

That way you can be sure to deliver something that’s 100% relevant to them and they will value that!

  • Research what else clients might need

Do this at least once every year and set some time aside to think about all the options. The summer period (or the end of a year) can be a perfect time to do your research.

20130405-124223.jpgWhen your service is always fresh, innovative and up to date, you make your offering potentially more desirable than your competitors’ and it will be highly relevant too – whatever the state of the economy. (Being innovative has worked well for me for over 20 years!)

  • Try different ways to grow your business

Two great ways to get more work and grow your business are to either identify new offerings for current clients or to sell more of your current offerings to a new target audience.

This can be especially worthwhile when potential customers in your new market are willing to pay appropriate or higher fees than customers you currently sell to.

  • Care about your customers … and care some more

Every week I hear stories of business owners who have lost business. Sadly they often realise too late that they should have communicated better and more regularly with their customers.

The solopreneur businesses I see flourishing are the ones who do that really well. They talk to their customers and listen attentively too.

So try to fully understand what your existing customers really want, then go the extra mile in order to provide added benefits and greater value.

Whether the value is in how you deliver or how you maintain the customer relationship after delivery, it can help to differentiate you from the competition. And it may then also lead to new referrals and new business. (There are several added bonuses here!)

  • Make the payment process really easy

This is such an easy but often over-looked way to add value. For example, you could break big projects into manageable and affordable chunks (where applicable), and work with stage payments – a method often used by web designers.

Several of my solopreneur clients have adopted this approach, much to their customers’ delight!

Offering different payment options can be useful too – for example, don’t refuse cheques, credit card or PayPal payments because they are costly or inconvenient for you.

By understanding YOUR customers’ preferred choice of payment you will make getting paid much easier which may also help with your cash flow.

So, I’ve shared with you five important strategies to help your solo-business win and keep customers and … ultimately… thrive!

What are yours? Why not share your ideas in the comments below?

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd. If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

PS. The above is an updated version of a post first published here in 2013.

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