Series Posts: Beyond

The 2 Laws of Time Management: Time Blocking

The 2 Laws of Time Management: Time Blocking

Beyond • April 3, 2015

In my last post, I discussed the Action Priority Matrix as a solution to discovering which of your tasks had value and which didn’t. The Action Priority Matrix also considered the level of effort required per each value item, so that moving forward you can filter future tasks into each quadrant. Getting into this habit at the start of each day, or at the onset of a project request, can really help you determine which efforts are worth your time – and which are time wasters. “Chunking” Your Schedule On the subject of time wasters, the second law of time management is known as “time blocking.” Time blocking involves dividing your day into chunks so that each chunk of time accounts for a high priority task that needs your attention, with some lesser frame of time remaining for smaller, lower priority tasks. The chunks of time also account for interruptions and phones calls, along with any meals that would be taken. It’s also recommended to have a small window of time that has room for flexibility. If someone asks for help, drops in, if you’re asked to take on another task or if you’re called to make time for a meeting – then there should be a dedicate small window of time everyday where you can make these accommodations while still respecting your prime working time. The Myth of Multi-Tasking Another reason time blocking works is that it counters the myth of multi-tasking. As more and more experts are finding out, multi-tasking doesn’t work. It doesn’t allow you to focus the level of attention you need to perform well; it triggers an increase in errors; and it adds to the stress of the individual. Your best work is done when you’re allowed to focus on something fully. When you’re allowed to focus your time and energy on a singular task at hand, you’re also able to get into the rhythm of the project – or the flow as many have called it. What We Can Learn From Children at Play Think of children at play, drawing or building as they always do. You don’t see children multitasking – switching between building an epic Lego fort or drawing from inspiration. They focus on the task at hand with complete concentration. The result is something that has the best of them put in; it is a reflection of their complete focus and the highest quality work they can do. Your work should be the same. Why One Rule Doesn’t Fit Them All Time-blocking takes discipline and time to master, but try to start practicing it today. Think of what tasks need your attention the most and where they fall into the Action Priority Matrix. Time management is also a very personal thing. Some of the heralded techniques you’ve heard won’t necessarily fit everyone. That said, these two laws of time management are universal. Once you’re set up to think in terms of the AP Matrix and you’re able to create blocks of time in your schedule for specific needs, you should then prioritize your day based on those two factors. You may also find that you can modify these laws to suit your needs, for example, by setting 4 hours in your day for major projects, and one hour each for the other three quadrants and then one hour for lunch or interruptions. What I Realized When I Applied These Laws to My Own Schedule In reflecting on these laws, I’ve realized that my mistake was allowing a lot of “fill ins” into my workload, and making the mistake of giving those fill-ins a higher priority on the task list because I was mistaking them as “quick wins.” That said, I also realized that this pattern of behavior kept taking time away from major projects, and that even though I had scheduled chunks of time for them, the lesser fill-in work or thankless tasks took priority – because again, I mistook them for high-priority quick wins.


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The 2 Laws of Time Management: Action Priority Matrix

The 2 Laws of Time Management: Action Priority Matrix

Beyond • April 2, 2015

I’ve read just about every time management article I can get my hands on. However, by far the best two pieces of advice came from an internal meeting that I had the opportunity to sit in on. Despite what you may have otherwise heard about time management, or have tried yourself, the two most important ways to understand time is through (1) the Action Priority matrix and (2) time blocking. Arguably stemming from Eisenhower’s “Urgent/Important” principle, the Action-Priority Matrix (AP Matrix) forces us to evaluate the task at hand. Eisenhower had said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” The AP Matrix takes it a step further by guiding you on how to respond to tasks based on a quadrant system. (I) The top left quadrant is for “quick wins”; (II) the top right is or “major projects”; (III) the bottom left is for “fill ins”; (IV) and the bottom right is for “thankless tasks.” Vertically, the quadrant moves up toward increased impact, starting at the bottom from “low” and moving up to “high.” Horizontally, the quadrant moves across from left to right, starting at the bottom left from “low” and moving across to the right to “high.” The AP Matrix is designed to guide you on decision-making as tasks and requests from clients or co-workers trickle in. “Quick wins”, for example, are things you can quickly act on to achieve a “win” from a client. The client recognizes it immediately and is pleased with it. “Major projects” are like marathons – a lot of work but worth it with a long-game in mind. “Fill ins” are something that really just anyone can do and it just needs to get done, and “thankless tasks” are tasks that need doing but which really aren’t going to be rewarded or even recognized in some cases. A simpler way to view the Action Priority Matrix is to consider each quadrant simply in terms of impact and effort: Quadrant I: “Quick Wins” - High Impact, Low Effort Quadrant II: “Major Projects” - High Impact, High Effort Quadrant III: “Fill Ins” - Low Impact, Low Effort Quadrant IV” Thankless Tasks” - Low Impact, High Effort When you can see the level of impact vs effort involved, you get a better idea of the value of each quadrant versus the investment required of you. So the next time a tasks comes in, a client requests a project, or a co-worker drops something on your lap, think of each one and decide where in this quadrant that request falls. If it’s a quick win, then work to knock it out quickly. You always want a win since it’s something that has a high value with little investment or effort required. If it’s a major project, then schedule that project and create milestones to help you reach your goal. Major projects can become tricky; it takes a lot of your investment and clients don’t see the value until the end. Having a wait a long time to see a win can be challenging for many clients, and make them reconsider your value or decide to throw something else on your workload because they feel they’re not getting results – or at least they’re not seeing them yet. To prevent any hesitation on the part of the client, and to keep control of your workload, try sharing milestones for larger projects. This way the client has an idea of what to expect throughout the process and can see you making incremental wins toward the larger goal. As far as “fill ins” go, it’s a waste of your time to do it yourself unless you absolutely have to. It’s best to give this task to someone else. Delegate it to an intern or outsource it if you can. Finally you have the “thankless tasks.” These tasks need to be done, they’re often time consuming, and they’re thankless. The trick to dealing with quadrant IV is to avoid these tasks all together or to find a way to move it out of this quadrant so it has value.


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MAMA for the Mommas Across the Globe

MAMA for the Mommas Across the Globe

Beyond • March 31, 2015

Stephanie Bowen is the Senior Communcations Manager at Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), an alliance that sets out to communicate with new and expectant mothers in developing countries via cell phones. Their efforts have helped reduce the death rates in both mothers and their children. It\'s an incredible organization doing amazing things and their efforts have helped women in 54 countries around the world. Listen and enjoy.


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Check-in by Benchmark Events

Check-in by Benchmark Events

Beyond • March 27, 2015

You can often tell how well run an event is by how the check in process goes. Long lines are one thing ... and sometimes unavoidable. However, keeping things organized and efficient can be the difference in keeping your event attendees happy and a full on meltdown before they’ve even gotten through the doors. Benchmark Events can help you with every step of your event, from conception to execution ... and beyond, but today we’re going to focus on that check in process. Specifically, I’m going to tell you all about the Check-in by Benchmark Events app. For both iPhone (and iPad in 2x mode) and Android, Benchmark Events offers an app to check your guests in with ease ... right at your fingertips. You can view and check in guests as you scroll through your list of attendees or use the camera to check in guests with our barcode scanner. Use as many devices as you’d like too or designate one device for VIP check in and the others for your other ticket types. The list updates in realtime, so you’ll be warned if anyone tries to use a fake or duplicate ticket. Too excited to wait until your event to begin using the Check-in by Benchmark Events app? You can monitor your registration and tickets sales for your events on the app as well. Easily do that on the go, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of your events. So, on the day of your event, or before it, have a couple extra employees working the event download the Check-in by Benchmark Events app. That way, if things start to get chaotic at check in, you can have them come help move the line along. This will help the attendees excited about your event stay that way.


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Benchmark Email Highrise Integration

Benchmark Email Highrise Integration

Beyond • March 26, 2015

It’s a competitive market out there for email marketing. With different softwares, social media platforms, UX designs, CRMs, etc to choose from, how do you know which ones are the best at what, and most importantly, which specific one is most fitting for you and your business? As we know, there is no one-size-fits-all program or integration. As saturated as the market is, with 20 different versions of the same thing, the upside is that there is always that one program that works best for you. Case in point, let’s take a look at CRM. A customer relationship management is an absolute must-have if you want to run a successful business. Without one, your business is only reaching halfway to its potential. As of right now, there are over 40 CRMs but there is one that is most suitable for you if you are starting a small business and want a fast and simple program. Highrise CRM is one of the newer CRMs to come onto the scene, but has already been highly rated on several review sites and consumers for being geared towards small businesses. As opposed to its peers, Highrise has a simpler interface so anyone with little to no CRM experience can easily maneuver around and get manage your customers and all their activities. Another plus is the Highrise allows you to customize your own fields, which allows to you save unique data to each customer’s profiles. A modest but solid CRM software like this is a great start if you want to start seriously managing your business. More attributes of Highrise spoken by the public is that they found it is easier to follow up on leads and improves on how the support team handles customer service. Of course, other CRMs deliver a wider range of functions, but sometimes what we need is a basic and no-fuss system. Highrise fits the criteria as a basic tool with quick implementation. At the same time, Highrise also offers extras and add-ons that will boost your business, such as the Benchmark Email Highrise integration. With this, you can add your contacts from your Highrise account into your email list, with no setup required! Log in to your Benchmark account Under the Lists tab, click on Create New List Choose the \"Import Contacts from a File\" option and click Save & Add Contacts Click the \"Click here\" link under \"Upload Your File\" Click the Highrise logo Input your Highrise Site Name and API Token Click Connect to Highrise


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5 Reasons You Should Outsource Your Content

Beyond • March 25, 2015

One of the smartest things I’m seeing more and more companies do is to outsource their content. They may have a great in-house writer, but there’s a realization of and appreciation for the time it takes to craft a really great piece of content. When evaluating whether you should shift content out, consider the following compelling value-driven reasons. Getting a New Set of Eyes When you’re outsourcing your content, you’re relying on an outside agent being able to understand, interpret and convey your product to the public. This means a few things, but first and foremost it means getting a new set of eyes on what you’re trying to sell. If a writer, for example, can’t make heads or tails of what you’re doing or has difficulty conveying value, then that should be a red flag that you’ve got a hole in your ship that needs plugging. Clear communication is key to effective sales and if the professional you’ve hired to sort this out for you fails to understand what you’re selling, then you need to step back and re-evaluate your product. Speaking Like the Commoners This one is especially true if you’re in an industry that’s highly technical or academic, but in which you need to appeal to a general public. Here, the problem with keep the needs in-house means that you’re likely to slip into language that’s not comprehensible to your audience. That language is likely either too technical, filled with jargon that only you would understand – or it’s too high-brow. However, this rule also holds true if you target demographic are millennials, which means you should outsource content so someone who can speak like them, with their slang, and who is up to date with trends. Create Your Voice This great tip comes from Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. In a Salesforce blog titled “When Should Your Small Business Outsource Content?” Deborah writes, “You can make a point to seek out one writer or one outside team to work with that will take the time to find and create your company’s voice.” She recognizes that outsourcing might be pricier in some cases depending on what you’re looking for, but these are professionals that can do what an in-house person might not be able to do for you. I would also add that the job of a great writer is being able to find that voice and develop it, and that these great writers will often prefer to work on a contract basis than coming in-house. Bottom Line Dollar Value If your talented in-house writer is doing all the writing, then when are they able to strategize for big picture goals? Further, your brilliant in-house writer is only one person, which means they can only produce a limited amount of in-house copy for their 8 hours on the clock. The rule holds true for both small companies and larger ones. However, if you take a great writer and task them with the job of being a content ring leader, then you’ve got a powerful asset working to get you other assets. So, the role of your in-house mastermind writer should be to recruit and manage a team of writers, strategize content, and make sure every piece of content that comes in or goes out is up to par with their standards. And since they’re a great writer, you know they’ve got this covered. Now, rather than one great writer producing a limited amount of content, you’ve got a team of writers contributing toward increased productivity and efficiency.


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Radha Muthia: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Radha Muthia: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Beyond • March 24, 2015

Radha Muthiah is the CEO of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Working with the UN Foundation, they strive to save lives, better livelihoods, empower women and to protect the environment by putting clean and efficient cooking solutions in households across the globe. Among many other topics surrounding their mission, Radha discusses the for profit model of giving aid.


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Seven Ways to be an Awesome Communicator: Part 2

Beyond • March 18, 2015

In part one of this two-part series on awesome communication, I discussed the first three traits of effective communication: clarity, concise and concrete. Stemming from a communications training on the 7 C’s of effective communication, based on a Mind Tools training, we continue with the other 4 ways to get that much better at getting what you need and what you want through effective communication. The fourth component to being an awesome communicator is being CORRECT in what you say. Being correct grants you authority and stability, but being correct is about so much more than just that. It’s about understanding whether or not people have the same level of knowledge and experience as you do – which ties a bit into the first component, clarity. Ask yourself whether the technical terms you use fit your audience’s level of education and knowledge. If not, then there’s a good chance that you’re losing your audience’s attention by either being too high-brow or too low-brow. Being correct also creates a framework for any communication piece. For those who struggle with communication, it’s helpful to think of it in terms of a school paper. When you were in school, you had to write papers that had a structure identifying a purpose, supporting statements and a conclusion. The same holds true for your professional life. Your communication should identify a purpose, then supporting statements, and then a call to action or necessary deliverables involved. The fifth component is COHERENCE, which is really about being logical. Even the best communicators can fail here when we’re stressed and overworked with very little time. The most obvious evidence here is when our communication, either verbal or written, comes across like a stream of consciousness rather than something that’s correct and has a clear purpose. The sixth component is COMPLETE. Ask yourself whether your audience has everything they need to be informed and (if applicable) take action. This sixth component is particularly important during meetings where it’s more difficult to track communication. As a rule of thumb, every meeting should be wrapped up with a verbal assessment that summarizes key points and identifies deliverables. The same should also be sent via email post meeting so it’s a clear written record that can be referred to at a later time. It’s also a COURTEOUS thing to do, which is the seventh component of awesome communication. The moral of the story when it comes to effective communication is to see whether your message, be it one line or one paragraph, meets the key criteria of communication. Of course, this is tougher to do when you’re using a slogan. In a case like quick messages and tag lines, the most important elements are to be both concrete (useful) and coherent (pushing a call to action). Remember that any piece of communication is about generating movement. Whether you want someone to side with your argument or take action to pick up the phone or make a purchase, you need them to act. Showing both value and purpose is how you’re going to achieve that every single time.


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Seven Ways to be an Awesome Communicator: Part 1

Beyond • March 17, 2015

This week, I had the privilege of listening to a great Mind Tools based presentation called the 7 C’s of Communication. The value of that presentation wasn’t so much in the individual components, but rather in the conversation that stemmed from the team based on the presentation. The first component is CLARITY. Of course as everyone knows, it’s important to clearly communicate your idea. What most people don’t consider is that doing this means not throwing out ideas that deviate from your message. So when you have something to say, whether it’s an email communication or a verbal message, be sure that each point relates to the next. No matter how great it sounds, if a specific point doesn’t fit in with your core message, then just save it for a more appropriate time. Your core message should also be about just one or two key messages. Each piece of communication should have a limited number of messages so that you’re not cofounding the reader or listener. Ideally, you want to limit it to one message at a time, but that’s not always practical. Another part of being clear in communications is making sure your recipient doesn’t have to read between the lines or make assumptions about your message. Sometimes, assumptions are made by both you or your recipient, especially in cases where your audience isn’t exactly on the same level as you. For example, ask whether there are any cultural implications? Also ask yourself if your audience has the same level of industry knowledge/terminology as you do? If not, then you need to scale up or scale down as needed. The second component is being CONCISE. Being concise is about sticking to a point and keeping your message brief. Copywriters (and now even fellow tweeters) are familiar with the rule of word limitations. As a copywriter for example, trimming the fat off copy to make it within like 150 words or so, really helps get to the point precisely and without filler language. Case in point, see the copy below as an example of why you want to be brief and how you can trim fat: The reason why you want to get to the point quickly is so that you can better motivate your reader to make a decision that much more quickly. You want to get to the point quickly so your reader can make a decision quickly. The tricky thing about being concise though is about whether or not you want to repeat the message. The rule of thumb is no; you don’t want to say the same thing twice. However, I’d say that when there is a message that requires a lot of information, it’s always a good idea to restate the important action item at the end and underline it. Underline important pieces of information helps draw the eye to what really matters - especially in email communications. The third component is my favorite, and it’s all about being CONCRETE. When your message is concrete, your audience has a clear picture of what you’re telling them. You’re offering them laser-like focus and a solid message to act on. But a concrete message isn’t just about facts; it’s about pairing facts with emotions that leads people to care because they find value in what you’re saying. If you can emphasize the value component - in anything from a slogan, to an elevator pitch, to a website – you’re almost guaranteeing your success to get others to initiate action.


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Why #TheDress Went Viral and How Brands Cashed In

Beyond • March 12, 2015

This week wars broke out over the color of a dress from a Scottish wedding. Some saw it was gold and white, others as blue and black. #TheDress became an instant hashtag and the subject went viral. The question I want to answer for you is, why did this post go viral and not anything that you might have done? Trigger a Response The best social shares are those that trigger a response, asking something along the lines of do you prefer “A or B,” for example. In a fast-paced world where we’re dealing with thousands of bits of information a day, we want our engagement opportunities to be quick and meaningful – and we want to have a voice. Make it easy for people to get what they want by setting it out plainly. For richer content in industries that find it tough to simplify messaging, you can steer content around statements that are going to be either strongly supported or disagreed with. Piggy-Backing off Genius Had #thedress been a post by a scientific publication or organization, it would have been brilliant. Give the people something easy to grasp on to, something to trigger a response, and then follow up with how this is scientifically explained. In fact, plenty of scientific publications did just that with the highest grossing social shares topping well over the 300k mark for one group that decided to follow up with a video explanation rather than just a textual one. Sure they may not have thought of the idea, but they successfully piggy backed off of it just the same and that’s totally fine. People, already curious about the dress, are going to want to follow up and find out why people are seeing it two different ways. And therein you have a naturally audience. The rule applies to any news item really; you may not have come up with it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run with it. Jumping in on the Conversation Kate Taylor of Entrepreneur writes a great article that gives some examples of the way brands were jumping in on the conversation. She notes that it’s not just about tweeting about the dress, but about steering the conversation so that you’re socially and trend-savvy, but still focused on your product and market. For brands, this meant picking a color combo and showing their own corresponding product. Specifically, check out the example she shows for Pizza Hut vs. Dominos. The former nails it by showing a golden white cheese pizza and going with that color scheme, while Dominos awkwardly shares a picture of pepperoni pizza and follows that up with, “…it’s actually red and white.” Awkward indeed. Dominos’ social share doesn’t work (and receives 20x fewer shares than Pizza Hut) because they weren’t on cue. We’re talking gold/white or blue/black, don’t add other colors to the mix – and by doing so you’re unnecessarily confound a very simple conversation, which was the reason it went viral in the first place. Taylor also noticed that surprisingly, companies are who affiliated with a millennial market weren’t quick to jump on this band wagon. She writes, “It\'s worth noting that the chains most frequently linked to \"millennial\" customers, including Shake Shack, Chipotle, Starbucks and Taco Bell were, as of 10:45 a.m. ET, free of tweets regarding the dress debate. The most important take away is the need for all social media strategies to have a responsive strategy to time-sensitive viral posts. You need to be able to adapt, quickly and well, in order to truly be socially engaging and on cue. As Jodi Phillips, VP of Media Strategy at BLinQ Media says it, “While viral moments can’t be planned for, retail brands should always be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities….Having a content strategy that plans for reactive right time/real-time moments is important.”


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