How To Put The Boring Stuff on Auto-Pilot

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Life is short.  You don’t want to be bogged down by having to spend all your time paying bills, cleaning your house, managing your finances, and grocery shopping.  In this article you’ll discover five simple strategies to put the boring stuff on auto-pilot.

GROCERY SHOPPING

Grocery shopping is surprisingly time-intensive when you consider the time it takes to drive to the store, make your selections, pay at the checkout, pack your bags, unpack your bags, sit in traffic and so on.  A much more efficient solution is to order groceries online.  You can automate this process, by setting up a repeating list of regular items, which you can then add to at will.  This way, you know you have the boring basics taken care of but can still feel free to choose exciting treats for the week ahead.

BATCH COOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

Whilst food and cooking can be a passion for some, a lot of the time, particularly during the workweek, it is a laborious chore that isn’t about taste and creative expression – it’s about quickly putting something together as a result of being famished or time starved.  

A great solution, is to batch cook your meals in advance; as an example, you make a large portion of Spaghetti Bolognese at the weekend, that can then be stored in an airtight container such as a foodsaver bag that can be refrigerated or frozen – so, you can have a tasty and healthy meal ready in minutes.  This is a much healthier and cost effective option than to use ready meals, or rely on take-aways.  It may feel restrictive at first, but you can supplement the meals with tasty recipes such as this simple avocado toast.

CLEANING

Okay, not everyone can afford a cleaner but when you consider how many hours it can take to actually clean a house, it really isn’t many – the time intensity can be found more in organizing and sorting.  Therefore, it’s possible that you could pay a cleaner for just two hours each week and know the basic household chores will be taken care of.

AUTOMATE YOUR FINANCES

It can be very simple to systematize your finances.  A good idea is to set up your bill payments so they all leave your account on the date you get your first paycheck of the month (e.g. the first of the month).  Similarly, it would be a good idea to set up an automatic saving plan that also comes out on the first of the month – you could even divide this into specific sub-savings accounts.  This way, you know that your core financial priorities are taken care of, and whatever is left from your paycheck, is free to consume as you wish.  Not only will this save time but it will also save a significant amount of stress.

AUTOMATE YOUR BUSINESS

If you are a business owner, then you can use automated tools like Mailchimp, Buffer, and ThePaystubs.com to automate common tasks like email follow up, social media postings, and pay slip processing.  You may wish to consider taking advantage of the trend in outsourcing, where a lot of the more mundane tasks are outsourced to a virtual assistant, or even hire a more specialist virtual assistant, to help with more complex (yet boring) tasks such as accounting.

Outsourcing 101: Everything You Need to Know

Collaborative post – may contain affiliate links

An increasing number of businesses are choosing to outsource today. As businesses grow, owners delegate certain tasks to external professionals to help them get ahead. If you are at this stage at your business, you may be searching for a bit more information about the outsourcing process and what to outsource. This post reveals everything you need to know.

What is outsourcing?

Outsourcing is a rather broad term. In general, it means assigning a task that would typically be performed in-house to a firm or individual outside your own office. Outsourcing can take many different forms, including the following:

  • Using online services for one-off tasks
  • Using work-from-home contractors and virtual assistants
  • Working with an agency to help you locate the best outsource contractors
  • Contracting with outsourcing firms that provide a wide selection of services
  • Hiring speciality independent contractors to perform tasks that your current staff do not cover

There are no restrictions regarding the tasks that can be outsourced. Everything from social media marketing and technical support to human resources (HR) and accounting can be outsourced.

What are the benefits of outsourcing?

There are many benefits associated with outsourcing, so long as you go about it in the correct manner. This includes the following:

  • Cost savings – One of the main reasons why a lot of business owners outsource is to save money. This is because you pay for what you need when outsourcing, which can sometimes be cheaper than the cost of taking on new staff or training your existing employees.
  • A specialist service – You can take advantage of expert knowledge to ensure a task is carried out to the highest standard. If you run a pet store, for example, it makes sense to outsource your marketing to a firm or individual that has the specialist skills to give your pet store greater visibility and attract more customers.
  • Develop internal staff – Rather than your staff focusing on tasks that do not fall within their specialism, they can focus on skills that will benefit your business and your bottom line.
  • Risk management – Inconsistency and uncertainty can occur when there are periods of high employee turnover. Outsourcing can help to bring a level of continuity to your business while reducing the risk that would occur due to a substandard level of operation.
  • Staffing flexibility – You can easily adapt to cyclical or seasonal demands thanks to outsourcing, as you can bring in added resources as and when you need them.
  • Focus on core activities – Focus on what your business does best! By outsourcing important business activities that are not your main area of specialism, your team can re-focus without sacrificing service or quality in the back-office.

How do you decide what to outsource?

The key question… should you outsource that or is it better to continue handling it in-house? There are a number of key questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you should outsource something.

  • Will you save money by outsourcing? The first thing you need to do is spend a bit of time working out your finances. You need to determine what is the most cost-efficient route to go down. It is important to consider costs as a whole; don’t merely look at the startup costs. Outsourcing can often be a bit more costly to begin with, yet it is usually cheaper in the long run. This is why it is a good idea to calculate the costs over a period of a year when comparing the two so that you can get a good understanding of the true cost of both options.
  • Is it distracting your employees? Are your employees spending more time on the task in question that they should be? If you find that your core activities are suffering because your employees’ attention is elsewhere, it is time to start thinking about outsourcing. This will enable your staff to focus on doing what they do best.
  • Do you need a one-off service or will it be on going? This is one of the important questions you need to ask yourself. Does this part of your business require constant attention? Is it a one-off task? Or will you only require people during certain months of the year? This will help you to determine whether outsourcing is right for you. If it is a one-off task you are dealing with, outsourcing is often best. For example, if you require legal services for a case that has been made against your business, this isn’t something that happens every day, and so it is certainly better to enlist the help of professionals. This site explains more about seeking outside expertise for such incidents. On the other hand, if this is an on-going task, for example, bookkeeping or accounting, you may want to consider keeping it in-house. This is so long as it is not distracting your employees, as per the former point.
  • Does the task demand specialist skills? You need to discover whether specialist skills are required for the task. For instance, if you are going to start a marketing campaign, and your team does not have any training or experience in this area, you may want to consider outsourcing. After all, the success of your service or product will heavily rely on how it is marketed, and so it is important to get it right. You don’t want to risk your product being a flop because of an amateur marketing campaign.

Before you get started…

Before you get started, make sure you carry out the following steps…

  • Make sure you put together thorough mock-ups – People are going to be fives times more likely to respond to you if you are clear about your requirements. Of course, your requirements may change over time, and this is completely fine. However, you do need to be clear about what is necessary so that you and the professionals you are conversing with are on the same page.
  • Know your budget – The next thing you need to do is determine how much you can afford. You will be able to narrow down your search more effectively if you know your budget.
  • When do you want to start – In most cases, the answer to this question will be ‘yesterday!’ However, it is important to have a good think about when you do really need to start the project. Service providers will often pitch to you depending on the availability of talent within their teams.
  • Deadline – It is also important to determine when the tasks need to be completed by. Do not enforce a strict deadline for the sake of it, as you could end up alienating some of the best candidates. However, if you do have a strict deadline and you cannot budge, make sure you are upfront from the very beginning.
  • Your necessities – You should make a list of any of the necessities you have, i.e. those qualities that you simply won’t budge on. For instance, you may require specific experience or you may want a service provider that is local.
  • Understand your priorities – Last but not least, you need to understand your priorities. Figure out what is important to you, be it scalability, security, budget, timeline or something else.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding the process that is entailed when outsourcing, as well as how to decide what areas of your business to outsource. You can now start looking for the best service providers for the tasks you have ready to be completed.

The Ultimate Work Productivity Hack

There’s no substitute for hard work, but what if I told you there’s a hack to it?

Similar to athletes you and I want to “get in the zone” at work, but believe it’s not controllable.

It is.

Productivity is traced back to mental capacity and energy, but there’s a biological trigger for that: exercise.

Specifically: morning workouts.

Before complaining you’re not a morning person, listen to this: moderate to high workouts release endorphins which not only make you feel good, but boost your mood and energy for up to 12 hours after.

That’s why you’re in a better mood after it’s over and why working out at night before sleeping is counterintuitive (unless you want to stay up late).

Working out first thing in the morning (before breakfast) not only gets your body, but your mind right. Unless you slept less than 5 hours, worked out for the past 3 days in a row or are recovering from an injury disregard how unmotivated you feel. Get up and go to the gym (focus on how you’ll feel after).

Once you’ve completed it, take a shower and eat breakfast. Now your window for optimal work is open.

Take for instance my weekly workout schedule:

Morning workouts: Sunday, Monday and Thursday 7:30 – 8:30 AM

Basketball: Tuesday and Friday 6:30 – 7:30 AM

Rest days: Wednesday and Saturday

This gets me showered, eaten breakfast and working by 9 AM.

What morning workouts also unlock is your optimal working hours: when you’re the most alert and productive.

Since early morning exercise triggers it mine is: 9 AM – 3 PM.

Take it a step further: I do my best (alone) work 9 AM – 12 PM, so 12 – 3 PM is normally reserved for meetings, phone calls, video chats, etc.

I can get stuff done before 9 AM if I run ahead of schedule, but normally after 3 PM my focus drops considerably (use this time after for less-brainpower tasks such as: checking emails, planning your next day, etc).

Factor in I want to go home to see my family, but still this was true ever since sticking to a consistent workout schedule. The actual times will vary based on your lifestyle, yet the important point is to recognize the catalyst: morning workouts.

You and I tend to separate physical, emotional and mental states, but they are deeply connected. If you have time, read Harvard Business Reviews’s The Making of a Corporate Athlete. It completely changed my outlook on work.

Finding your optimal work productivity is simple: workout first thing in the morning and reap the benefits immediately after.

How to Diversify Your Career (Like Your Portfolio)

Financial advisors will tell you never put all your eggs into one basket.

Brilliant advice, but why does it need to stop there?

Having one source of income is risky.

If you’re working corporate and get laid off/fired you’re in trouble.

If you’re an entrepreneur/freelancer and lack predicable paychecks you’re screwed.

You and I have been told to choose something for your career then focus all your time and energy there, but what if that isn’t great advice?

What if I told you can have both? (have your cake and eat it too!)

There are pros and cons to choosing working for someone else vs. working for yourself, but if you manage your time right and stay organized there’s no reason you can’t sustain two or more options.

You may be hesitant to monetize your passion, which is fine, but is there another side project you can earn money from?

If working a salaried position within a company, “full-time” needs to be defined up front (ask in the interview process). The scary part is once you’re on salary you’re not being paid for the hours worked, but essentially based on the needs of the company (translation: overtime is not optional or compensated for).

Remember full-time is technically 30 hours and if you’re dealing with a startup you can negotiate this ahead of time. In fact it’s refreshing that most people working in startups actually encourage you to have side hustles.

Google made “side projects” cool by promoting 20% time. Employees get 20% of their work time to spend collaborating with others trying to create new products/services. Now everyone doesn’t work for Google or a company of that stature, but we all have the same amount of time in week to use accordingly.

For instance if you’re working a 9-6 job plus have a family, set aside a few hours a week after putting the kids down to draft out and test your ideas. If you’re single or dating, you really have no excuses.

Maybe you’re waiting for permission or inspiration, but like most things in life consistent practice brings results. Ask most successful entrepreneurs how many times they failed and the number is far greater than those who haven’t tried.

In the gig economy your “job” will change more frequently so if you’re not learning new skills or polishing your current ones, you’ll be left behind.

My point is don’t rely on one source of income to sustain you. In a fast-paced, changing world it’s better to have options in case something doesn’t pan out the way you anticipated it to. Life comes at you fast. Be ready.

Diversify your career. You have a better chance of succeeding that way.

Why Most Managers Fail

Are managers born or made?

The politically correct answer is made, but there are certain traits that can’t be taught.

To better understand what a manager’s role entails we’ll use the image above to guide us. Disregard the industry (information systems), but focus on the three levels: operational (technical), tactical (management) and strategic (executives).

Managers fall in the middle category which places them as supervisors of the technical workers (catalysts of the employee-customer transaction).

Why most managers fail is because they don’t realize promotion equates to learning a different skill set.

Let’s say your company makes widgets. Technical workers get better at their job when they figure out how to be more efficient (increasing productivity). But when a technical role shifts to a leadership role, it doesn’t matter how well you were able to produce widgets anymore.

Your job as a manager is to lead people who make widgets. A subtle, but powerful change that most companies overlook.

The same skills that made you a great widget maker do not translate to being a manager. If you’re trying to out-do your subordinates you’re not actually fulfilling your new job duties.

A manager’s responsibility is to oversee, support and make his/her workers under them better. This takes skills such as: motivation, empathy, time management, conflict resolution, etc.

Managerial duties are vastly different than technical skills.

Can they be taught? Yes, but the real issue is most managers weren’t hired for their leadership abilities, rather their technical prowess.

In my last role this is where my boss failed. She believed telling me what to do and keeping me on a short leash was her job. Instead what she lacked was listening skills, innovation and vision to name a few.

My message to managers is this: clarify what is expected of you.

Using a sports analogy, most managers want to be all-stars (individual high performers), but what your organization really needs from you is to be MVP (making your teammates better around you).

Managers need to be self-aware about what they can and cannot do. The quicker you realize that, the more effective your company will be moving forward.

The 1 Word That Changes Entrepreneurship

The difference between failure and success as a business owner can be minuscule.

Being an entrepreneur for 10 years I’ve had to learn a lot of hard lessons, but one concept has been clear-cut lately.

Systems beat sweat.

That doesn’t contradict hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, instead it signals that “smarter” refers to systems when it comes to efficiency.

The simple shift from “my” business to “the” business can be the difference between being profitable and a hobby.

A lot of entrepreneurs describe their business as their baby (as did I) which can be a huge mistake.

If you watch a lot of business shows on TV like The Profit, Shark Tank & Restaurant Startup the common theme you’ll see is a clear system in place. The term scale is thrown out like common lingo meaning to strategically plan for exponential growth.

For myself I didn’t embrace this theory early on because my reasons for owning a business had more to do with flexibility than money. If you fall more into the lifestyle entrepreneur category like me, scaling is still very important.

Most people who leave Corporate America do it because they want to be their own boss. What you don’t realize is you’re leaving a systemized company that has already figured out how to scale. Besides now figuring out how to make money, the challenge of creating a repeatable, predictable system falls on you.

Once you start looking at your idea (pre-business) as a business, not your business, it becomes less personal and more objective. Ever wonder why it’s easier to give advice to other business owners than to your own? It’s because it’s not yours!

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be invested and passionate about your business, but less attached and more determined to make it run without you.

Successful business owners almost seem a bit detached from their business and that’s actually healthy. They are more focused on strategy and automation than having their hands all over it. In fact, similar to most authors, once you start a business there’s a good chance it won’t be your last (regardless of the success of failure of one).

Serial entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. It’s being obsessed with ideas and figuring out how to monetize them. I can’t say I’ve figured it out, but it’s a ride I hope I never get tired of going on.

One word makes all the difference.

Corporate America’s Missing Ingredient

empathy

There’s something missing in Corporate America, but it’s not what you think.

Technology gives us the opportunity to work remotely and scale businesses.

Outsourcing labor multiplies growth while saving massive amounts of time.

Investors provide the resources to transform a hobby into an empire.

But the one thing that retains the top talent worldwide is: empathy.

In a broadcast-driven society, rarely do people put themselves in other’s shoes.

Managing egos and customizing messaging is the difference between success and failure.

Here’s why:

Even with the best technology you still need people to run it. Salaries are competitive, social impact is rampant and perks are plentiful. Therefore how you treat people defines their company loyalty.

Take for instance managers. The top reason most people leave their jobs is because they feel disrespected or undervalued. Simply viewing the impact of your decisions from the receiver’s point of view makes all the difference in the world. Most managers are ill-equipped to lead others. Just because you’re a great widget maker doesn’t translate well to a manager of widget makers.

Empathy is a learned skill (although it can be argued some have a higher ceiling than others). Kids are taught at a young age to think about how their actions affect others. Somewhere between preschool and adulthood that lesson is forgotten. Money and power corrupt our ability to serve.

Personally I’ve witnessed many conflicts started because of a failure to empathize. The same reasons countries go into war on a macro-level happens to co-workers at a micro-level. Stress has a tremendous drain on productivity and the majority of it can be avoided by showing empathy.

The downgrade of soft skills will only continue to get worse and at the core of the deterioration is a lack of empathy.

Empathy is not something HR can teach or a motivational speaker can inspire you to do. It takes making a commitment to servant leadership. Stop thinking positional leadership puts you on top. Instead understand supporting others from beneath actually pushes them to reach their fullest potential.

Will you do your part?

The 1 Thing You Have To Give Up To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

thing-1

Your relationships.

Anyone who has been a successful business owner has sacrificed their personal life at some point.

I’m not against working hard, but at what expense?

I hear a lot of 20 somethings say they want to focus on their career then get married and start a family in their 30’s. Well guess what: relationships don’t grow on trees nor come without a cost – mainly time.

It’s the same reason why most celebrities and professional athletes aren’t able to maintain a strong family unit because they’ve chosen to put their careers in the forefront and their relationships outside of work on the back burner. If you’re fortunate enough to have a selfless spouse who can hold the house down while you’re away then it can work, but that takes a special individual to put your needs before theirs.

When I look back on my career as a full-time entrepreneur I realize why I never met my own lofty expectations: I put people before profit. It’s your choice which one you choose, but rarely can you pick both.

I had too many boundaries in place to go “all-in,” therefore I would work up to a certain point, but cared about my lifestyle more than my possessions.

This post isn’t to mock those who have made it big nor is it putting those who are relationally-focused on a pedestal. It’s my observation of over 10+ years of reading, hearing and witnessing first-hand what it really takes to live the American Dream.

If there’s an understanding in terms of priorities that your career is first then those associated with you have to abide by it. Of course hard work alone doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it you don’t stand a chance.

The realization I came to is: people are most important to me.

When I first started my business I had financial goals in mind that I hit quickly, but over time I realized to reach the next tier I’d have to sacrifice the relationships around me. Since I wasn’t willing to do that, the numbers of hours I dedicated reflected in the amount of the paycheck (or lack thereof).

Fortunately I married someone who shares my values. I love that she is raising our two kids at home until they are full-time at school. We can make it on a single income because we live lean and value our time together the most. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy, but you do need to allocate a great amount of time to others.

It’s up to you to decide what currency is most important: time or money. Once you do, it’s easy to know where you should spend your energy.

Why Industry Experience Is Overrated

previous_experience

If you think you didn’t get hired at your last interview because of lack of experience, you’re wrong.

Lack of experience is a strike against you, but if that employer didn’t see potential beyond your resume you wouldn’t even have an interview in the first place.

Your resume is like a Driver’s License. It qualifies you for the job, but you have to prove your value to the company in-person.

In fact sometimes industry experience can be a bad thing. For example if you were at your previous job for 10+ years and didn’t know anything else, how adaptable and flexible can you really be moving forward?

In my current role as a Faculty Manager for an online test prep/academic tutoring company I was on the outside looking in. The tutors I manage remotely know way more about the SAT/ACT than I’ll ever care to know. So when asked if I had any experience in the education space during my interview, I responded by focusing on my strengths for the position.

Since I am managing tutors, not teaching students, I talked about leading people. As for former youth pastor I dealt with parents of teenagers (most clients are high school students). As an entrepreneur I am organized and specialize in time management (managing programs and learning the system is 50% of the job for our tutors). Knowing the technical skills of high school academia is irrelevant for me. As long as I can prove I can get the results from the tutors I add value to the company.

My situation may not suit yours, but my point is simple: know thyself.

Self-awareness is the most important trait of any leader. Know what you’re great at and also what you suck at. Most jobs ask you to multi-task, but within those responsibilities there are priorities. Nail those and now you have leverage.

Selling yourself is having confidence in your abilities and knowing who you are. Every time you decide to pivot careers you’re at the same place. You will switch careers frequently for the rest of your working life so get used to it.

An employer notifying you didn’t get the job because of lack of experience is a scapegoat. What they really meant is they don’t have the confidence that you can get the job done despite experience. If you understand that going in, you’ll focus less on what you don’t have and leverage your strengths to the fullest.

Don’t use lack of industry experience as an excuse. It’s only one if you choose it to be.

Why You Shouldn’t Set New Year’s Resolutions

new-years-resolutions

With the start of a new year, resolutions come to mind, but come mid-January (or February at the latest) you’ve already broken your promise. Why is that?

Resolutions, similar to goals, are set up to fail from the start. Here’s why:

The main reason why accomplishing your goals have such a low success rate is because even the best effort doesn’t result in perfection. This isn’t a scapegoat for not trying, but rather working the odds in your favor.

New Year’s Resolutions can be compared to starting a new business. The failure rate within the first 3 years is 80%. Now 3 years is longer than one month, but the concept is the same. Resiliency and patience are hard to come by. Call it a result of our fast-paced society, but we suck at waiting for results.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but making behavior changes is hard work.

If you’ve ever set a goal and failed at it, you remember the feeling. You’ll do whatever you can to not revisit that feeling because its debilitating. Hence the reason why we avoid goal setting in the first place.

Instead shift your focus to creating good habits. Not only are habits better than goals, but they are process-oriented meaning progress is the desired outcome not perfection.

For example: losing 20 pounds is a goal while living a healthy lifestyle is a habit. You may lose the weight (doubtful), but chances are you’ll gain it back and then some shortly after. But if you decide to workout 3 times a week (on average) and cut your weekly sugar intake not only will you lose the weight, but it’s a sustainable change because you give yourself grace for special occasions.

It’s popular to set New Year’s Resolutions in January because the calendar is a trigger for fresh starts. Beyond that there’s not a real good reason why then is the best time.

When you want to fix or achieve something following the the right process is almost more important than the desired outcome. At it’s core nothing is wrong with goals, but if you want to set yourself up for success in the new year focus on habits and the results will come in time.