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Be More Productive- Don’t Read This Post

I said don’t read the article! Even though the title specifically says, “don’t read this,” you still clicked on this link. As a matter of fact, the title and picture probably even made you more compelled to spend your valuable time reading this.

One of the great things about having high speed internet at our fingertips is that we have access to seemingly unlimited resources and information. One of the problems is also that we have access to seemingly unlimited resources and information. What I mean is that it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the data constantly surrounding us. According to Mashable in one day, enough information is consumed by internet traffic to fill 168 million DVDs. Each day two million new blog posts (including this one) are written- that is enough posts to fill Time Magazine for 770 years. In addition 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook and 864,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Want more of these crazy statistics? Check out the full Mashable article here. (But don’t get sucked in too long!)

Even if you start with the best intentions, it is easy to get sucked into a black hole of content. Maybe you begin your day with checking out the local headlines, then you see a related article that seems interesting, then a video pops up that can show you how to grow your businesses and 45 minutes later you are watching funny cat videos. Sound familiar?

As someone who loves learning I know firsthand that it is easy to convince yourself that reading that one extra article or viewing that one more training video or attending one more webinar will give you the coveted information you need to get the upper hand on your competition.

However, the truth is it isn’t more information that will give you a competitive edge, it is more action.

I finally had enough of the information black hole and decided to make a rule for myself. I could read an article or watch a video, but could not move to the next until I did some kind of productive action from it. For example, if I read an article on how having a complete LinkedIn profile was important, I would review my LinkedIn profile and make updates as suggested before I could read another. Same with videos or any other information consumption. This helped me really get full value out of each article or piece of information instead of just reading and quickly moving onto the next piece of content. If you find yourself getting lost in a sea of information, this might be a good tip for you to test out too. Here are two ideas to help you take action right away from this article:

– A similar kind of time suck of information can be the numerous subscription lists you need to sort through in your inbox. Checkout Unroll.me to see a full list of everything you are subscribed to and delete what you no longer need. I did this and found I could delete over 200 lists that I had added my name to over the past several years! The free program helped de-clutter my inbox and free up some extra time when sorting through email.

– Another app for you fellow information lovers is pocket which you can get for free here.You can put articles, video or other content into your pocket app from your web browser, email, phone or with hundreds of other apps. Basically, if you come across a cool piece of content, but don’t have time to check it out now the app stores it for you to view later. This is awesome if you don’t want to read something immediately, but don’t want to forget about it. Plus, you can always have a queue of content you want to check out on any device you want!

– Lastly, before you click onto another article, video or piece of content take action NOW!

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know how you avoid the information black hole and strategies to balance learning with doing. Do you have any other apps or tricks that work for you?

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5 Business Tips You Can Learn from Whoopi Goldberg

This past weekend I was watching one of my favorite old movies- Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie here is a quick summary. A lounge singer in Reno, Nevada (Goldberg) witnesses a crime and is put into witness protection program where she poses as a nun in a convent- totally believable. The church is in a rundown neighborhood and has minimal attendance and involvement with the local community. Somehow the nuns find out she has a “background in music” and she is given the task of taking over the struggling choir. After adding some hip hop flair to their musical arrangements, new and younger crowds start attending church and the nuns become much more involved in the community to help their parish grow. In the end the church has a huge new congregation and even receives a visit from the Pope!

Check out one of my favorite scenes here.

What does any of this have to do with business? Among other things like “dating a known gangster probably won’t end well,” there are also a few good business takeaways from this story.

1- Don’t ask for permission- act first and then ask for forgiveness if it is needed.When the choir performs the first “nontraditional” rendition of a song the head nun is enraged that she was not consulted and did not give her permission to move forward with the idea. However, if Whoopi would have asked- the answer probably would have been “no.” She took action on the idea and it lead to good results. The priest of the church was impressed and excited to try out the new ideas. In your business don’t be afraid to follow your gut on ideas. Don’t let people stop you before you start. Take action and if something doesn’t work out as planned you can usually recover and apologize if needed.

2- Doing what you have always done just because you “always have done it” is not a good reason. The church was failing because the people in leadership held their positions for many years and were not willing to try new things. Even though attendance dwindled and their methods didn’t appeal to younger generations, they stayed the course because it was what they had always done. It is important to once in a while take a step back and say “if we were to start this organization again today, what would we do differently.” As people and technology change, make sure your business moves forward with it and doesn’t get left in the dust.

3- As your clients get older, it is important to bring in younger generations. When there were scenes of the congregation, it showed mainly an older demographic. When the church changed their ways to add new, younger sounding music and got more involved with people in the community- younger people started to attend the church services. Whether you like it or not, your clients and your leadership team are getting older. Make sure you are planning now for the future of what your business will look like. Is that utilizing new marketing avenues? New messaging? New training programs to get emerging leaders ready? Continue to look on the horizon of how to best attract and retain top clients and staff or else your business will be as empty as the church!

4- Use people’s strengths, but work as a team. In the choir there are many different voices and strengths. Before Whoopi took over as the leader, everyone was going their own way. Some voices were too loud, some were too soft to be heard and some just didn’t belong at all. In your business, take the lead on projects and learn to use everyone’s strengths to the advantage of the group. When everyone is working in harmony (pun intended) you will have the most success.

5- Sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. In the beginning of the movie, the nuns are not allowed to go and actually interact with the community because it is “too dangerous.” Whoopi encourages them to get out and meet the people of the neighborhood, build relationship and give hands on help whenever they can. Today with all the easy access to technology it is easy for us to sit behind a computer screen and never interact in person with our clients and prospects. However, building personal relationships is more important than ever. Get out to networking events, take a client or prospect to lunch or put together a team to volunteer in the community. The more people see you truly care and are willing to help however you can, the more likely they are to want to build a relationship with you and your company.

Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or comment below to let me know how your business is staying on the forefront of new trends and ideas to continue being an industry leader and retain top talent.

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5 Surprising Business Lessons from Homeownership

About four months ago, my husband Matt and I bought a house in a short sale. It was on a one acre lot and had lots of potential, but needed work. No one had lived there for over a year and the people who were there before hand clearly didn’t take much pride in keeping up the interior of the house or the large amount of landscaping. Since Matt is a great handyman and we both like a challenge we decided to go for it and see if we could uncover our very own diamond in the rough. The process has been both rewarding, and at times, frustrating. Since I always try to find learning lessons in every situation, I want to share with you the top five business lessons I have learned since becoming a homeowner.

Focus on one thing at a time. When we first moved into the house everything was a mess inside and out. Everywhere we looked was a new project. At first we would do one thing in one room then jump to a project in the yard then back inside to another room. We got frustrated and overwhelmed because we never saw any definitive progress. This can also be a problem in your professional life. At times there can be so many different projects underway or so many new ideas pulling you in new directions you don’t focus enough on the most important tasks or opportunities. Take time to analyze everything you have going on and what is truly the most important. Focus on those items one at a time instead of trying to multi-task and move too many items ahead at one time. You will see much better results.

You don’t always get what you pay for. One thing Matt is much better at that than I am is doing research and finding the best value for a purchase. I am guilty of sometimes just assuming the most expensive option or option that shows up first on Google is the best choice. In reality, we have found there are huge advantages to doing your due diligence and researching different options. Higher price does not necessarily mean higher quality. If you put in the extra time in the front end, you will most likely save money and find higher quality products and services.

Sometimes you need to get down and dirty. In the long list of projects for the house there were plenty of things I enjoyed doing- picking out new paint colors for each of the rooms, buying furniture and seeing things come together.However, therewere also plenty of projects that I dreaded like scrubbing out our spider filled garage and hand picking rocks out of the muddy landscape. Unless you are going to hire out the work, you need to stop whining about it and just get it done. No one is going to care more about your projects than you. Take pride in the details- even the dirty ones. Maybe no one will know all the hard work that went into your great final project, but you will, and sometimes that is all you need.

Know when to bring in an expert. Luckily for me, Matt is really handy. He can fix just about anything and if he doesn’t know how he can learn from a quick Google search and watching a few YouTube videos. In many ways this is a great trait, but other times it can be a set-back. Let me explain. As I already stated our house has seemingly endless projects. Matt is one guy. Learning new skills and trying new things takes time. Completing tasks takes time. I wanted certain projects done in the house before we both turned 90. I had to convince him that just because you “can” do something doesn’t necessarily mean you “should” do something. Your time is also a resource and cost for a project. You need to factor in that cost and decide when it might actually be more cost efficient to hire someone who has the expertise in a certain area and can bring faster and higher quality results.

Patience is a virtue. This is easier said than done and I have learned this lesson more than ever with our home. Great things don’t happen overnight. Whether than is fixing up a house, building a business or growing in your career. Enjoy and appreciate the process. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Action Items

– Make a list of your priorities and get the most important tasks completed first, even if they aren’t your favorite thing to do.

– Do your research on an upcoming purchase. Is there a vendor or company that can better fit your needs? Is there a more cost effective option that will give you the same results?

– Complete a project you are dreading- it gives you a sense of accomplishment and character!

– Consult with an expert on a project you are stuck on or that you need top notch results for, even if you don’t end up hiring them their feedback and suggestions can be very valuable.

– When you are feeling discouraged about slow progress on a project, take a step back and look at what you have accomplished so far. Focus on how far you have come, not how far you still need to go!

Shoot me an email at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com and let me know what business lessons you have learned from being a homeowner or, on the flip side, from renting.

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You’d Never Guess This Component of Success

On May 9, 2014 I did the scariest thing I have probably ever done. I got married. To anyone who knows me personally, this sounds especially crazy because Matt and I had been happily together for over six years and lived together for three. We were already practically married and in recent months I was less than discrete about the fact that I wanted to get engaged. Finally the day came that I had been anxiously waiting for, he planned a thoughtful and romantic proposal and even had a surprise party waiting at my friend’s house to celebrate after I said “YES!” I was thrilled. Without getting too gushy, Matt is the perfect man for me- caring, hardworking, thoughtful and much more. Overall, I had no doubts he was “the one.”

 

But, a few weeks after the excitement from the engagement had settled, something strange started to happen. I started getting really scared. I started questioning things that I already knew the answer to or that had never even crossed my mind previously. Can I really be with one guy for my whole life? What if in ten years I get bored? What if in twenty years we have an argument so bad I can’t even look at him anymore? What if, what if, what if. My mind spun around these questions all day and night and it was affecting me negatively both personally and professionally. Why at one of the happiest times in my life was I having such anxiety about something I had known for years I wanted to do? After weeks of thinking, reading, journaling and discussions with family and friends I realized the reasons why. The first reason was that I was making a large commitment that I took very seriously. The second was that I was not in complete control of the outcome. And lastly, it meant things were changing.

 

What does all of this have to do with business? Just like deciding to get married, there are a lot of things in your professional life that you feel to your core are the right thing to do, but for some reason fear is holding you back. Those voices of doubt from the back of your mind start sounding louder. Can I really start my own business? Do I really have enough expertise to make this business decision? What if I fail?

 

If you read interviews from elite performers in any field, whether they are new to the public eye or veterans in their craft, most have one thing in common. They get nervous. Even when you are at the top of your field there are going to be opportunities and situations that arise and will make you scared and question whether or not you are prepared. Being afraid doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong, in fact when dealt with the correct way fear can be helpful. In order to move forward in your life, career, or business taking risks is essential to success. There is a saying that says “Do something today your future self will be thankful for.” All great things start out a little scary. Remember that nothing is as scary as staying in a situation where you no longer belong. Take the leap of faith and you will be amazed at the outcomes. Next time you start to you feel nerves starting to take over quickly go through this three step process:

 

1- Acknowledge your fear. Being afraid isn’t a weakness, it’s natural. Dig deeper and ask yourself why you might be feeling this way.

 

2- Access the fear. What is the worst that can happen? Is your fear rational or unreasonable? Is there a Great White Shark swimming towards you or might your ego just be bruised if something doesn’t go as planned?

 

3- Re-frame and Take Action. If your fear is purely insecurity based, re-frame the scary situation as an exciting opportunity and take the leap of faith!

 

By implementing this strategy, I was able to overcome my fear and am proud to announce I am the happiest I have ever been as Mrs. Jenna Atkinson! Now it’s on to the next challenge…

 

Your Fast Track Action Items:

 

– Take the next step on a project or idea that you feel you might not be ready for.

 

– Create a Pinterest board, journal or Word document (whatever works best for you) of positive affirmations that you can reference when you are starting to feel doubts about moving forward.

 

– Find someone who has overcome the fear you have and ask to talk with them about how they got past nerves they had and what the results have been.

 

Email me at my NEW email address jennaatkinson1@gmail.com and tell me about something that has been holding you back and how I can help you take the leap!

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Networking Sucks

Yes, I said it. Networking sucks – or at least what a lot of people think of when they hear the term. “Networking” has become a buzz word in business and in many cases, a word that makes people cringe. Thinking of a big, intimidating room filled with strangers having forced and awkward conversations is not what most people consider to be an inviting and enjoyable time. But, when you look past the term and get to what the word truly means, networking is essential for success. Networking is simply building relationships with people. Creating win-win relationships will help you become more successful in your career and life.

Here are a couple tips to get you started for successful networking:

Walk Before You Run

Think of networking as creating win-win relationships, not the stereotypical conference room or bar filled with strangers. Start by building on existing relationships. Ask for introductions to people in your network’s network or for suggestions as to what meetings or events have been beneficial for others. When you attend larger gatherings, it can be helpful to attend with someone who can make initial introductions to get you started.

Give ‘em WIFMs

Many people approach networking thinking about what new contacts can do for them, when in reality, you will be much more successful if you look for ways you can help others. Be prepared with an arsenal full of items to answer a new contact’s question “What is In it For Me” or “WIFMs.” Offer up an invitation to an upcoming seminar or social event. Recommend a beneficial book or article. Offer to make an introduction to another contact in your network. If you put the other person first, it will help build the foundation for a solid win-win relationship.

Start with a Plan

One of the main reasons networking can seem intimidating is that the term is very broad. Start by setting specific goals focused directly on this aspect of your business. How many networking contacts or events will you commit to per month? How many lunch meetings with Centers of Influence or referral sources will you set up? What amount of new sales do you want to realistically generate from referrals this year? If you have specific objectives in mind before you get started, you can more efficiently find contacts and build relationships with the people who can help you reach those goals.

Make it a Priority

Building meaningful relationships takes time. Be honest with yourself about how much time you are willing to dedicate per month to reach your networking goals. Once you set a reasonable amount of time that fits in with your schedule – stick to it. For me, things aren’t real unless they are on my Outlook Calendar. Schedule your networking events, meetings and follow-up time on your calendar and make those commitments as important as those you make to clients.

Have a Follow-Up Strategy

One of the most important steps to successful networking is follow-up. Make sure to follow up with all new contacts, even if you might not have a specific business purpose in common at the time. Every relationship matters and you never know who might be able to help you down the road. Deliver any additional materials as promised; there is no quicker way to lose credibility than to not follow through on what you have offered. A handwritten follow up card can also be a quick and easy way to differentiate yourself in the market!

So no, networking doesn’t really suck; if done correctly it can be one of the fastest ways to reach higher levels of success for you and your organization. These are just a few tips to get you started, but there are plenty of other great ways to build win-win relationships.

What is your best networking or relationship building technique or strategy? Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com or post in the comments below.