When Years Pile Up – Does It Paralyse Or Energise You?

Posted on April 20, 2014

Jennifer

It was my birthday last week. I started my 50th year! Oh yes, 49 years have rolled upon me and I’ve hardly noticed. My first reaction was “Oh my goodness, how the hell did I get there so quickly!” Then I felt the panic. I am getting old. I started to over-analyse myself. My body type is changing. That strong physical structure appears softer and harder to maintain. The greys are appearing fast and furious, and the odd facial hair has now made itself known. I sink into panic… What shall I do!

Then my resistance side kicked in “Wait one second Jennifer” I tell myself, “stop and think, look at all the years of experience and knowledge, and the achievements and failures you have gathered along the way. That is a wealth of information, a blue print of YOU. What are you going to do with it?”

I appreciate that 49 years old is significant to me, and to anyone who eventually hits that number. But rather than panicking or feeling sorry about the things I really can’t change, I’m going to enter my 50th year planning for the life I want from now on. The way to do that is to re-do My Life Matrix, the tool we use at DrivenWoman to define the life we want as a whole.

And as you know, when you share your goals and dreams with others it makes you accountable to them and gives the universe a chance to help you. Therefore I will share my plan with you and let you be my coach. I invite you to comment my plan and to share any information that might be helpful to me in my journey.

My Life Matrix written on 16.4.2014 (my birthday)

lifematrix

First box: My children

I want to create an environment that will make them become more independent. They are 13 and 9 years old this year and big enough to do more chores. The fetching and carrying all the time has to stop. I’ve taken over-servicing my children as a sign of love, but there are other ways to love them and it also takes away their opportunity to learn to be more independent, which eventually they will have to do. I can’t carry them forever.

I also need a better support team. One babysitter is not enough, I need five to have a bullet proof system as relying on one person only is merely an excuse not to do things when she can’t show up. This will help me stick to my schedule, and unless the house is burning down I should be able to stick to all my appointments and reach my personal development goals.

Second box: My Career

I have achieved a lot over the years, 2 Olympic Games, Gladiators TV show, Gladiator movie, running a Sport management company, and now I’m going to set the world on fire with DrivenWoman women’s proactive network.

I’m going to list all the opportunities I would like to experience from now on, and I will go for them even if I get a slap on my face and get rejected. I’m not afraid of failure. I will simply cross off failed attempts from my list and move on to the next, as my list is endless. There is so much in life to experience, to learn and to achieve. My list includes phone calls and meetings with individuals way above my calling. But I’m not afraid. It’s important I recreate my talents for my own personal growth. I need new influences and thus I’m going to surround myself with people I can truly learn from.

Third box: Relationship

This one is tricky. I have been single for over 8 years now with the odd short fling along the way. I have always been very protective over my girls, but now I am ready to settle down and allow myself to become a woman again. I want to appreciate my needs and to be confident that I can get the right Husband. Yes, I have written a husband, not a partner, as I have never been married so I am going to name it and claim it.

Fourth box: ME

This should really be my number one box when I think about it…

I may have been blessed with good genes but just rushing through the door without a double take is clearly over. Whether I like it or not a little more TLC is needed! I want to be well groomed and I will invest the time and effort needed. I toyed with the idea of going grey naturally, hmmmm that’s not going to happen for now!

I’m going to invest more time on Miss Stoute, including: beauty, nutrition, workout and dressing up. I’m going to come out and really be seen and counted for in social events.

To do all this I’m valuing my time and taking my own medicine from DrivenWoman time management tips. I will simply be crushing those Time Robbers!!

Because I know my self-worth. And I’m so worth it.

I want to open the door and step in, bold and tall; rather than go kicking and screaming with resistance, disappearing into the sidelines feeling sad for myself for getting old or for the choices I’ve made.

I am so thankful for everything I have required so far and I want to show the universe that I am thankful and that she has taught me well. I’m expecting more from the universe too, but I’m also ready to give back so much more and help others.

I’m getting ready for my big 50 next year. And when the day comes I’ll be ready to welcome my next 50 years with open arms.

~ Jennifer

Ps. Please comment and share your thoughts on this. It would mean a lot to me. I’ll take your feedback as the best birthday present you can ever give me.

Batching – And Why Walking Over Legos Can Help To Maximise Your Potential

Posted on April 14, 2014

batching

I was recently interviewed for Marie Claire for ‘Techniques To Maximise Your Time – And Your Potential’. The article touches a very important point. If you don’t maximise how you use your time, you won’t be able to see what you can do at your full potential. We sometimes think we are not capable of doing something, but the fact is that we haven’t really tried and the reason we are under-achieving is not due to our capabilities but to the way we waste our time. Procrastination and laziness can really hold you back from reaching your potential.

Article Marie Claire: Techniques on how to maximise your time, and your potential

Article Marie Claire: Techniques on how to maximise your time, and your potential

Maximising our time doesn’t mean you should function life a machine for the full working day. Just imagine if you’d work at your full potential for two hours each day. Doesn’t sound like a big ask, does it? Imagine you’d use that two hours a day to work on your dream or to create a side project that could over time become your second income. Imagine if you’d do something that would make a difference for just two hours a day!

Sales and marketing guru Perry Marshall says 20% of what we do yields 80% of the results. This applies to everything in life, not just business. I’ve tried to become very aware of this principle and bake that 20% – ie working at my full potential – into every working day. In essence it means I’m dedicating two uninterrupted hours doing things that are going to change my future outcome.

What should you work on to change your future outcome?

Practise becoming aware of your choices and make sure you work on things that will change your future.

This concept applies whether you enjoy your current career or not, if you are at home with kids or if you have a business. We must ask ourselves every day – are we working on things that are going to make us happier, healthier, and richer in the future.

So what do legos have to do with this?

Quite a bit!

I suppose if you don’t have kids the concept of legos on the floor is unfamiliar, but you can replace it with any everyday chore at home or in the office. Emails. Meetings. Company gossip. Parent-teacher-association meetings. Buying birthday presents to your kids’ friends. Any mundane task.

One of the best techniques to create that two hours is to ignore things that are not critical. I simply ‘walk over legos’. I work from home so there is a great temptation to keep picking up toys and clean the playroom every day. I don’t. I tell my kids to do it, and when it’s not done, it’s not done. I simply don’t care. If I’d keep picking up lego I wouldn’t get my own stuff done. Simple.

Instead I batch.

Once a week there is a massive effort to put the house in order. Pick every single lego. Arrange all toys into their correct place (cars in the car box, characters in the character box and so on). Same goes for all other tasks. I allocate one hour each day to get through my emails and that one hour is not in the morning when I’m most productive. I simply check any urgent messages and leave the rest for the afternoon.

Same goes for meetings. I batch my meetings into Tuesdays and Thursdays when I’m in London. Seldom a meeting is so urgent that I’d change my weekly schedule for that.

I batch my shopping. I batch buying presents for my kids’ friends. I do one massive Amazon order about twice a year and have a box full of appropriate toys and birthday cards. Think about it. How many times have you done a mad rush into the stores in the last minute to get something for a party? How long does it usually take? 1 hour? Multiply that with 30 birthday parties and you’ve lost almost four full working days in a year!! It takes me 3 minutes to get my kids ready for a party.

It was Tim Ferris who introduced me to the concept of batching. If you haven’t read the ’4-hour work week’, I warmly recommend it. (Our review of the book is here.) Tim has also compiled a comprehensive list on batching in his blog.

Batching requires some planning. Here’s to get started:

1) Make a list of all the things you can batch.

I batch the following:

- food shopping, clothes shopping, kids’ presents shopping, kids’ clothes shopping (all online)

- travel planning and booking

- emails, meetings, social media activity, blogging

- banking, paying bills, planning finances

- work, focusing one part of a project at a time

- meeting with friends, phone calls

2) Batch batches together.

I often double batch all home related ‘batches’, such as food shopping (online), buying presents & clothes (online), planning travel (online), planning school activities (online) and do them all in one go.

3) Allocate 30 mins to 1 hour slots for each batch in your calendar.

You should try to minimise the time you allocate to non-critical things in order to maximise the time you can allocate to things that matter.

4) Make sure you complete

You must make sure you finish the whole batch in one go, otherwise you loose time in re-starting and trying to remember where you left it last time. Doing an unfinished job means you will end up doing it again and spending twice as much time on it!

5) Create your own metaphor for batching

Mine is ‘walking over legos’. This helps me to remind myself to focus on what matters. Legos don’t matter.

What’s your metaphor?

Hope this concept helps you to get more done this week – and put more of your potential into good use! Do share your tips on batching, or any other efficiency tips you use to get stuff done.

~ Miisa

What Does Your Success Look Like

Posted on April 7, 2014

success dream

There is a feeling of frustration women feel trying to figure out what they are passionate about. You want to find that one thing that makes you jump out of bed with excitement every morning. That one thing that keeps you eternally motivated to work long hours. That one thing called ‘purpose’.

This is something many women struggle with. We read self-development books. We listen to Tony Robbins and Oprah. We attend talent analysis sessions. We mediate. We go for long yoga retreats. We dedicate a lot of time and effort to discover what would make us more fulfilled in our work.

Unfortunately it’s not enough to discover what you are passionate about and what you enjoy doing. You also need to say out loud how ambitious are you. You need to be ready to define what your success dream looks like?

Want your own limousine with a driver? Want to be financially independent? Do you see yourself as a successful business owner? A celebrity? Living in a big house? Speaking at TED conference? Known as the expert in your industry? What ever it is, it’s important to visualise it.

Here’s my story.

I’ve always eagerly read all ‘How I Did It’ stories by women entrepreneurs and ripped out those pages from magazines. I never thought I had a role model, but all these years I’ve looked up to women who have build remarkable, branded consumer businesses. Marcia Kilgore (Bliss Spa, FitFlop), Chrissie Rucker (The White Company), Sarah Blakely (Spanx) .. and the list goes on.

I always had this desire inside of me, I just wasn’t brave enough to admit it. I had been building my career for external validation, but not for my own success dream. I used to filter my choices through the eyes of others because I wasn’t ready to look carefully enough to discover what I really wanted for myself.

Saying out loud what you want is like a turbo engine to your goals. It’s important to know what you are passionate about and what your core talents are to start working on something you actually care for. But unless you are able to imagine what success looks like for you there is a risk you will not be moving forwards. And when you know your level of ambition, you can pick any of your interest areas to focus on, and build something really successful.

Sounds simple. Well, it isn’t. Figuring out your talents and values is much easier than saying out loud what you want.

Why?

Because with announcing your dreams comes a risk. What if you don’t make it?

What made our ‘aha’ moment to start DrivenWoman so powerful was that two components came together: a full understanding of what we were passionate about and clear articulation of our ‘success dreams’. Simply discovering what we were passionate about wouldn’t have been enough. Admitting what we actually wanted in terms of success was the catalyst for unstoppable motivation to make things happen.

Saying out loud what you want your success to look like is the scariest thing you can ever do. Why?

It makes you extremely vulnerable. By exposing our dreams we take the risk of being ridiculed and criticised by others. What if we don’t make it? And what if our dream sounds silly to others?

This is the biggest obstacle that holds women back. We are scared to expose our dreams!

You want to be validated. You want to belong. You want to conform. You don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. (Yes, having big dreams often hurts those who strive for nothing.) You want your husband to agree with you. You don’t want people to think you have lost your mind.

But if you will expose your dreams, they will.

There will be people who will say you can’t do it. People who don’t think you have deserved to be successful. And there will be people who will think your idea is crazy. And people who will judge you for dreaming so big. The fact is, there will always be people who will disagree with what ever it is you say you want.

It’s the shame that stops you in your tracks. You know it’s well possible you won’t reach your goal. But the devastating thing is the fact you choose to feel the shame before even trying!

Every woman has the answer inside of them. Deep down we know what we want but we are too ashamed to say it out loud.

No yoga retreat or talent analysis is going to deliver the answers. We must find the courage to look inside and find what it is we are looking for. It’s ok to be ambitious! Once you articulate your success dream you will be surprised how much easier it is to start prioritising your work. Which one of your talents is most likely to get you there?

Understanding what you love doing is great, but it’s not enough. It’s more important to understand what success looks like as there will be many alternative routes to get there!

~ Miisa

 

Why Mother’s Day May Ruin Your Life Balance

Posted on March 30, 2014

All aspects

I have slightly mixed feelings about Mother’s Day, which we here in the UK celebrated yesterday. (Even if you don’t have children yet, keep reading. Nobody tells you this at the prenatal courses!) Why? Perhaps because I never saw myself only as a mother. Did you ever feel the other aspects of you were neglected, by you or by people around you, after you became a mother? Did you ever think your whole personality was sucked out and is now tightly stuffed into a nappy or a school bag?

It’s only now, 5 years after I had my twin boys, I can fully reflect on the shock of becoming a mother. I’m not going to list the exhaustion and physical ruin that motherhood does to you, we’ve all been there. I’m talking about the loss of identity. It’s only now I can fully admit how stressed I was, not because of the demands of motherhood, but because I was struggling to re-establish all the other aspects of being me that I had lost when I became a mother.

The business woman was gone, she completely disappeared from the face of this earth for many years. The sexy girl in fishnet stockings – what happened to her? Or the funny friend that could drink red wine until the sun came up? All those lovely aspects of me disappeared. And the stress that followed has done some lasting damage.

What aspect of your personality did you loose? Did people around you start to put pressure on you to act in a certain way now that you were a mother? Were there things that you were supposed to enjoy just because you had become a mother? Were there things that you weren’t allowed to do anymore? Did you throw out fishnet stockings and all-nighters with friends from your repertoire?

I started fighting back. I didn’t want to loose all the aspects of being me. I didn’t feel complete just being a mother. I didn’t think motherhood should destroy the life I had, it should complement it. And the biggest learning for me was that you can’t just add the other aspects back as they were. You have to learn to re-build them into your new everyday reality. But build you must if you are to keep your sanity in the long run.

Mother’s Day is a great invention. It reminds the society about the work and endless nurturing that mothers do. In our household I don’t let my husband arrange any celebrations, however, for one single reason. I’m not his mother. I’d like him to celebrate me as a lover, a friend, a fun person to hang out with, and a person he can share his parenting tasks with. But not a mother.

It’s easy to forget all the aspects of being a woman once you have children. You don’t even realise your relationship is drifting apart because running a family and having a job makes life so overwhelming. You spend less and less time caring for yourself and doing things that matter to you. And have you really had any time for proper ‘me’ time and self-growth for many years?

Will putting all your focus on just one area of womanhood bring good results to the very area you want to excel in? Being just a mother and neglecting all the other areas you used to enjoy will end up in a disaster. Over time the relationship suffers, work turns stressful and dull, and your body tells you it’s ready to give up.

A day after Mother’s Day celebrations I think we mothers should schedule celebrations for all aspects of being a woman, the woman we want to be. Pick up your calendar and mark down The Lover Day. The Friend Day. The Fun Person Day. The Best Friend Day. The Intellect Day. The Business Woman Day. The Sports Personality Day. The Healthy Woman Day. The New Me Day. The Self-growth Day.

What ever you want to be, put a day in your diary now to invest in it. To celebrate it. To get excited about it. If you don’t allocate time for doing changes, nothing will actually happen. Creating time and taking action are crucial!

And because being you should be as important as being a mother, the new celebrations should be shared with your loved ones to help them understand how important it is for you to be you.

~ Miisa

How To Stop A Vicious Cycle Of Not Finishing

Posted on March 23, 2014

not finishing 2

It took me 4,5 years since leaving my big corporate job before I figured out what my next big project would be. I started various projects which never saw a light of day. One idea was a holiday rental business, then a website for people who love postcards and finally a celebrity branding company. I spent a lot of time and money on all of them. I had meetings. I met people. I made phone calls. I had websites designed. You name it.

Was all of that effort completely wasted? Perhaps not. When we look at anyone who’s started a business or successfully completed any big project it always seems like they just landed on an idea and that was that. Finished, done. Effortlessly. Well, I can tell you that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Most projects require many iterations, or massive pivots, before they become a reality. Often there are many different projects started before finding the one that actually makes you so excited that you simply can’t stop.

But what if you are stuck in the cycle of starting and stopping? What if you constantly make yourself busy with various projects and struggle to get none across the finish line? At some point it becomes a huge time waster rather than a useful search for your next big ‘thing’.

The following tips will help you to assess and break out from the cycle of starting but never finishing:

1) What stage of life are you at?

There is a big difference between starting something and realizing it’s not for you, and repeatedly starting similar projects you never finish. If you are searching for your passion and don’t quite know what should be your next career move, as Steve Jobs said in his famous speech at Stanford “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. ”. However, if you have discovered what you want to do, say ‘become a travel blogger’ then there shouldn’t be any excuses not sticking to your project and seeing it through.

2) Identify what triggers ‘this is not for me’ decision

If you are repeatedly quitting similar projects, try to identify what triggers the feeling. Is it an external impulse or is it something you talk yourself into? Try to identify what it is and then seek a remedy. If you run out of stamina, suffer from self-doubt, or lack support from people around you, find a group that gets excited about your idea and can help you over the bad patch. If you hit a wall when certain skills are required, try to be honest about it. You can learn new skills or work with people who can help you.

3) Pay attention to what excites you

It’s good to open many doors and explore different avenues. However, starting and stopping doesn’t bring you any information if you don’t dig deep enough. When you land on something that excites you, keep digging, even if the idea or topic would be completely outside of your current area of expertise. however, finding something that excites you can be quite scary. I remember when we came up with the idea of setting up DrivenWoman I was frightened. This wasn’t in line with anything I had done before. But I kept ‘digging’ and never had a problem with starting and stopping again.

4) Differentiate between ‘test & fail fast’ and ‘throw in the towel’

It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between ‘test and fail fast’ and ‘giving up too soon’. Especially if you have a business idea you are trying to get off the ground, it’s guaranteed you will hit some rocks. Try to evaluate if the set backs are due to unrealistic plans or lack of market demand for your product or idea, or if there’s something you ought to learn before you can become successful. We hit obstacles building DrivenWoman all the time, but we immediately look at the mirror and ask ourselves “What can we learn from this?”.

5) Complete a very small project

One major problem with not finishing what we start is we initially take on too much. Break down your ambition into a smallest possible project – such as starting a blog rather than starting a website – and finish it. You can always add and improve it but you get a satisfaction of finishing something.

6) Don’t beat yourself up

Give yourself a break. We women tend to be so harsh on ourselves. So what, you started seven novels and didn’t finish any of them, yet. It’s possible there’s a reason you had to write those seven ‘drafts’ and it’s the eight one that will be a huge success. (If you’ll finish it.) God knows how many ‘drafts’ J K Rowling wrote in the seven years it took her to finish the first of the Harry Potter novels ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’!

7) Don’t be afraid to share your unfinished project

I think this one is the real winner. We women tend to think we have to finish our project to absolute perfection before we can share it with others. We are often soooo afraid of criticism. Hey girls, the news is, we must learn to be less protective of our ideas if we want to succeed. Showing your work to other people in its infancy will do, at least, two things. Firstly, the universe can’t help you if it doesn’t know what you want. When people know what you are working on they will be able to point you to the right direction. (I would have never met Jennifer if I kept protecting my idea!) Secondly, if you are open to little bit of feedback you can actually improve your idea, and increase the odds it will be a success.

Sometimes we must first waste our time before we are ready to pursue our dreams. We need to see what doesn’t work before we know what works for us.

However, if you find yourself in a negative cycle of starting and quitting, try to break out of it as not finishing what we start is the greatest of time wasters.

~ Miisa

Increase Productivity With A Spring Clean

Posted on March 16, 2014

time robber_closet

Social media. Pointless TV. Endless telephone calls. Time wasting meetings. Over analysing your previous actions. Procrastination. Anxiety. Spending time with bullying underminers. You think you caught them all. Oh no, we haven’t even scratched the surface. Time wasters are still running loose, hiding in surprising places and lurking in behind closed doors.

What you store in your house and in your body is more important to productivity than we’d like to admit. In this blog post I want to talk about the self sabotage we do to ourselves by keeping too much stuff and eating wrong food. Oh yes, some of the nastier time wasters are hiding in your fridge!

I started cleaning up my diet 3,5 years ago. I’ve always had a relatively healthy diet, but I became aware of the time wasting qualities of certain foods, namely white sugar, white wheat and additives. The problem with modern supermarket food is it resembles nutrition only vaguely. Highly processed food contains chemicals, growth hormones, and flavour enhancers. It’s pumped up with sugar and trans fat all of which our body can’t really process. And things we can’t process, are bad for us. Toxic food in our bodies is no different to toxic relationships in our lives – it clouds our vision and weights us down.

For me, first went white sugar and white wheat. Very soon followed E-numbers and anything processed. What I’ve experienced is increased energy levels, clarity of thinking and more positive feelings towards my future outcomes.

Bad food ‘clouds’ your life with unnecessary layers. It makes us lagartic, tired and unhappy. How can you work on your goals and make your dreams happen if you feel lazy and generally bad? Days become filled with the necessary rather than the important.

Bad food robs our time in surprising ways:

- Feeling tired and on a bad mood, get nothing done and ‘bad mood’ becomes an excuse for not doing it today.

- Feeling guilty of eating crap.

- Anxiety from dieting, switching diets and jo-jo eating.

- Food as instant gratification separates us from our real goals. Work towards your goals to creates real satisfaction.

- Constantly thinking about food, rather than things you should focus on.

But how to approach bad diet without creating even more anxiety and stress? Diets tend to be guilt trips at best and in my experience, seldom produce lasting results. Pressure to ‘eat healthy’ or ‘not to eat certain foods’ may be overwhelming so framing your mindset differently is a good idea. Watch Gretchen Rubin‘s (the author of Happniess Project) two minute video clip tittled ‘Free From French Fries‘ to see what I mean. When you stop thinking about food, you free your mental space and start focusing on the things that actually make a difference.

We all know something about healthy eating but it pays to investigate what is good for your body and become a more mindful eater. FoodMatters is a great source for information on how to eat clean.

Another closet that may need cleaning is the wardrobe. It’s amazing how we can accumulate ‘stuff’ and how over the years it starts to weigh us down. Clothing, as food, offers instant gratification. When we go shopping we get a feeling of a new beginning, like a new sweater from H&M was going to solve all our problems!

Old stuff creates anxiety and uses up our energy:

- You can’t find anything, time wasted looking for stuff.

- Difficulty to make decisions, ‘what to wear’ becomes impossibly long conversation with yourself every morning.

- Feeling guilty, because you know you should clean up and trow things out, and the thought of knowing drags you down.

- Clothes you can’t use anymore remind of old thinner self. This creates guilt (must go the gym!) and anxiety (will I ever look like I did 15 years ago…).

- Clothes that need repairing create stress because it’s yet another thing on your to-do list.

I prefer less ‘stuff’ in my life. I’ve been fortunate to move house every 18 months on average since I left my parent’s home in mid 90′s. It didn’t seem like a blessing at the time, but I’ve become very unattached to stuff over the years. Throwing out old things makes me feel lighter and when I wake up I’m filled with positivity and want to to out to conquer the world. I used to think “Perhaps I will use this one day, I better keep it.” or “This is broken but perhaps it could still be used for something.” Now I have a rule of no broken items or things I don’t use in the house. And if I catch myself using the word ‘perhaps’ I know what to do. I’ve met a time robber!

Let’s clear out one thing this week. Just one closet. Or go a week without one nasty in your food (white sugar or white wheat). Drop one thing to make your life cleaner and lighter. Start small, make it an experiment and see how it feels at the end of the week.

And please do comment, and come back after the experiment! We are curious to hear if it works :).

~ Miisa

Ps. This is part of The Great Time Robber Hunt -series. Next week we are going to tackle a real monster of a time waster.

The ‘yes’ detox

Posted on March 9, 2014

time robber no_yes

Would you like to speak in our conference?” asks the voice on the phone. I’m easily flattered and usually eager to put myself forward as doing things like this makes me look successful and important. But the caller is interested in what I used to do, not what I want to do. However, for a long time I kept answering ‘yes’ to requests that stroke my ego even when it was not ideal use of my time in the light of my goals.

When you are facing a request from other people it’s often easier to agree and go along with the proposal than to say ‘no’. As a result you end up agreeing to bake a cake to the school bazaar, you promise to help your friend move house and you fill your calendar with social events with old friends you don’t even like that much any more.

When we spend our time doing things other people want us to do we often neglect our own goals. Time passes and we feel puzzled as to why we haven’t moved even an inch with our own project.

But saying ‘no’ to our friends and family, even to our clients, is hard.

Especially we women tend to think we are the facilitators of all the relationships that go around. We also think if we say ‘no’ we will miss out on opportunities or hurt people we care about.

In fact, there are surprising number of reasons why you may end up saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’

- Perhaps you feel flattered some needs your help or invites you to a party.

- Maybe it makes you feel useful.

- Perhaps you seek others’ approval to your personal choices.

- You may feel it makes you look important and busy.

- Perhaps you are looking for the magic pill that has all the answers for you.

- Sometimes it’s simply the easiest way to end a conversation.

- Or you think person talking at you is somehow superior or has more authority than you, and thus you put up with him wasting your time.

Saying ‘yes’ ends up being the biggest time robber in our lives. It’s like sugar or alcohol, it gives you instant fix, but makes you feel bad after a while if you’ve had too much of it. But what it does in reality is steal your opportunity to do  what matters to you and push your own project forward to create something bigger!

I’m going to go on a ‘yes’ detox. You can call me the ‘no’ woman this week!

So don’t be offended if I don’t agree to your proposals, if I don’t come to your party or help you choose wallpaper to your new home. It’s not because of you, it’s because of me – I have to protect my dreams.

~ Miisa

 

Increase productivity by adapting an ‘opportunity cost’ mindset

Posted on March 3, 2014

currency2

Do you remember the university times when money was often tight and any spending was measured in the drinks you could buy in a pub? I used to prefer parties to spending my money on anything sensible and always calculated an opportunity cost in a ‘currency’ of entry tickets or white wine.

I’ve used the same principle to improve my productivity lately. I assign an opportunity cost to my time. What else could I be doing instead?

When we were getting DrivenWoman off the ground (well, we still are) I started calculating the time I was able to save from mundane daily chores, unnecessary meetings or evening entertainment in units of time spent on building our social media presence. Social media updates don’t require a lot of time per activity, but you need to keep at it if you are to get any results.

I’d try to squeeze out small 5 to 30 minutes chunks of time through out the day and asked myself…

Would I put on make up and do my hair just to drop off my kids to school? No, I’d rather spend that 10 minutes scheduling tweets for DrivenWoman.

Would I watch TV in the evening with my husband? No, I’d rather spend that 1 hour to build DrivenWoman’s followers on Twitter.

Would I schedule a meeting allowing the usual 1 hour? No, I’d rather allocate 30 minutes and spend the remaining 30 minutes on designing DrivenWoman Facebook updates.

After a while this got a little stressful as I was on social media all the time, so I grew out of this short term ‘currency’ but it helped me to identify my time wasters and to adopt a more productive mindset.

Many people don’t take time robbers who steal 5 minutes at a time seriously. 5 minutes here or there. Doesn’t make a big difference, right?

You must start valuing also the small pockets of time. When you add up all the non-critical tasks you end up with a big chunk of time you could have spent advancing your dreams!

It doesn’t matter what activity you pick as your opportunity cost. Give yourself a preferred task that is easy to pick up where ever you are and start regardless of how much or little time you have to spare.

For this system to work you have to be aware of your likely time robbers. (TV, phone, procrastination, shopping..?)

Pick an alternative activity that is useful for your project or goal, and is easy to switch to.

If you are likely to sit in a car for long periods and usually fill the time by speaking on the phone with people, then perhaps you can down load a couple of useful Podcasts you can switch to.

Be prepared. Have your alternative activity set up and at hand.

If your time waster is online window shopping, assign yourself more useful websites where you can learn things that advance your project or goal. Have the alternative websites ready in your ‘favourites’ bar and as soon as you catch yourself wasting time online close the tab and switch to a more useful site.

Let’s make every minute count!

~ Miisa

Everything you need to know to get started on social media

Posted on February 28, 2014

mummyblogger2

Jo Middleton aka Slummy Single Mummy aka @mummyblogger started blogging in 2009. She originally wanted to showcase her writing talent, which according to her wasn’t that much at the time. She didn’t have a degree in journalism, nor did she have much experience in writing. She had done couple of breast feeding articles for a small publication targeted to mothers. But she was enthusiastic and wanted to learn more, so she started a blog.

First lesson: you don’t have to be a professional writer to start a blog. If there is something you’d like to write about, just start. Don’t worry if it’s not a global success right away – we promise it won’t be. Just write for fun and for yourself, and if it turns into something more, then great. To become a good blogger takes time and there is only one way to do it – you have to write a lot.

18 months ago Jo had 7k followers on her Twitter account. She decided to push it to 10k by the end of 2012 and one hour before midnight on New Year Eve she achieved it. How? She found followers by following people who followed someone similar to her. To boost her efforts she used ’JustUnFollow‘ which lets you see who doesn’t follow you back. The way to do it is to follow a bunch of people, then wait they follow you back. If they don’t, you have to unfollow them. If you follow more people than you get followers you will get stuck at 2,000 and Twitter won’t let you follow more people.

When she reached 10k followers on Twitter she decided* the sky is the limit. And now she’s got over 43k followers. Why this is important? She gets 30% of her web traffic (and ultimately sales) from Twitter.

*) Like anything in life, all we need is a decision. The rest is work.

Lesson no 2: Anyone can build a huge following on Twitter. You don’t have to be Aston Kutcher (though it helps). It takes constant effort and time, but it’s not difficult.

Lesson no 3: If you are building a business, any business, it’s important to grow your following as it is your own media channel. Only it’s FREE. If you build a targeted and loyal audience and create high quality, interesting content for them, they will come look out for you and will become your advocates ultimately recommending you to people who might be interested in buying from you.

You have to be somewhat open on social media. It’s like any interaction with people. If you go to a party and stand in the corner sulking it’s unlikely you make lots of friends. But if you have something interesting to say, you expose your personality and you are professional, friendly and helpful the chances are you will make lots of contacts and friends on social media.

Lesson no 4: You gotta show your personality and expose something about yourself if you want people be interested in what you are saying. Don’t take yourself too seriously, relax. You are not the centre of the universe (on-line or off-line) and showing a little bit of who you are will not hurt.

If you want to become a blogger, it can be daunting to create a presence when there are so many big bloggers and corporations with huge resources they can throw at the quality of their content. As a single person blogging after work it’s simply impossible to compete with their technical quality, thus you should focus on the relationships you can build with your audience. To build a relationship, this goes back to the previous point, you have to show your audience who you are. Would you talk to a person who was wearing a mask?

Lesson no 5: To build an audience as an amateur blogger you should focus on building relationships with your audience.

Who is your audience? The exercise we did was to cut out a picture of the person you are talking to from a magazine. We gave her a name, an age, how many kids she has (or none), where she lives, what kind of husband she has and what is her favourite past time.

Lesson no 6: Knowing who you talk to is the most important thing before you can start building an audience. Have a picture of her next to your computer and talk to her. You want to help her solve her problems or get her excited and passionate about things.

joanna

Example: FINSK Shoes. Don’t sell her shoes, solve her problems. Joanna from Finsk gave her target girl a name: ‘Olivia’. She’s 30 years old and has two kids aged 2 and 7. Her worry is that her friends who don’t have kids are still having fun and appear far sexier and fashionable than her. FINSK shoes can solve that problem! This is the starting point for content creation.

Lesson no 7: What to tweet or blog? 
- Help people, solve problems. Share resources and articles that are relevant to your target market.
- Show something behind the scenes. If you are making something, show people where you get the ingredients or tell an interesting story about people working with your product. Reveal the personalities, locations and details about the process how your product is being made.
- Make them excited and passionate about you and/or your product. Show your own excitement and passion.
- Use images, they get shared. Use pictures to lighten up your blog or stand alone in a tweet with a good caption.
- Links to good quality pages and content make it more likely people share your tweets.

Twitter
As you build your following you should create lists. If you follow 1,000 people it’s impossible to see what the people you really want to hear from are saying. You can create lists based on the type of content such as ‘Startup info’ or based on who’s tweeting ‘DrivenWoman members’.

HootSuite
To manage lists and to follow #hashtags (which are discussions on a particular topic such as #startups) you can use HootSuite where you can see many different streams in the same view. HootSuite is also great for scheduling content.

BufferApp
You don’t have time to be posting high quality Tweets all the time. However, as it’s your advertising media, it might make sense to have tweets spread out through out the day to remind people what you have to say. Buffer lets you create time slots in advance and then when you find or create content it will schedule that content for you so it gets spread out during the day.

Twitter vocabulary
Retweet (RT) = when someone ‘retweets’ ie shares your tweet on Twittter. You can retweet people by pressing the ‘retweet’ button below a tweet. If you retweet from a different program (such as HootSuite) letters RT may appear. RT is a shorthand for retweet. You don’t have to add it manually, unless you have a specific message such as ‘Please RT this article.‘ People are 18 times more likely to retweet you if you ask. However, don’t use their goodwill to sell your product. Ask them to spread your passion or mission or if you genuinely need help.
Direct message (DM) = You can send Direct messages on Twitter to people who follow you. Those messages no one else can see. You still have to stick to 140 letters.
@someone = When you put someone’s ‘twittter handle‘ in the message you can make sure they will see your message. Everyone else can see it too. However, if you put their ‘twitter handle’ at the very beginning of the message then only people who follow you both will see it. It won’t make it private as it will still be seen in your profile feed.

Manage Flitter
If you want to get even more sophisticated with your Twitter usage you can find out when your audience is online with Manage Flitter.

Twitter analytics
To see what is working and what your audience is responding to you have to set up an advertising account with Twitter. Just by buying £10 worth of advertising gives you an access to your Twitter analytics and shows you what people are clicking and retweeting.

Facebook Pages
Making content contagious on Facebook is getting more and more difficult. Not everyone who follows your Facebook Page gets to see your content. An algorithm called EdgeRank calculates how many people see it based on how your followers react onto your content (Likes and Shares). It can be an uphill struggle to build audience in Facebook and you may be better off focusing your limited resources (=time) to Twitter or Pinterest.

pinterest

Pinterest
If what you do is very visual (yoga, shoes, cake pops) you may get very good results on Pinterest. Also there you have to build your audience but it’s much easier than on Facebook. You can build ‘boards’ which will be there for everyone to see even after a while, unlike on Facebook where your content disappears into the livefeed.

Blogging/website platforms
WordPress
Wordpress is possibly the most popular of the blogging platforms. You can create your first blog for free with a domain name containing ‘wordpress’ in it. To upgrade you need to buy your own domain name (you can do it via WordPress). To go pro get hosting from companies such as GoDaddy or Uk2Net.
Tumblr 
Also a popular blogging platform, though more visual, generally considered less ‘credible’ but more cool.
Disqus
Platform for building communities around your topic. A good blogging platform that encourages commenting.
Wix
You can build your free website here. It’s very easy to use and you can also add a blogging component to this. If you need a webshop WiX offers a plug in solution for that too.

And finally, the most important lesson of the who session: Just get started and experiment. That’s the only way to learn social media - or anything in life!

~ Miisa

Ps. Before you go, I follow a great blog and podcast called The Fizzle Show. They help to get your head around blogging and other topics relating to getting turning the ‘thing’ you are passionate about into a real business.

The every day time robbers

Posted on February 23, 2014

timerobber

The second season of House of Cards, the Netflix phenomenon, is out and I face a problem. Can an ambitious entrepreneur afford to watch 12 episodes of high quality entertainment? Apart from occasional news, I currently consider TV my enemy, a box that would happily rob my time and prevent me from doing things that actually matter.

But it’s not just TV that’s robbing my time. I noticed the other day that I had a typical girl moment. I was staring at my wardrobe and spending half the morning trying to decide what to wear that day! I caught myself in that moment and gave my self a good talking to. “How can you let such an unimportant decision steal your valuable time?” And don’t get me wrong, I care greatly how I dress. But to get stuff done, one has to make such decisions in a split of a second and accept an occasional fashion mistake.

My boys started school in September. My first instinct, and that of most mothers, was to engage with all the possible activities that the school offered to parents. To be involved with my kids’ schooling, right? Thankfully I soon noticed that most activities were actually a real bunch of time robbers and had very little to do with the success of my children. How could I build a business, write this blog post or learn new things if I was hanging out at every school ‘cake morning’ or a ‘pub evening’?

A phone call from a friend, I can’t possibly call that another time robber or can I? The truth is that in order to get things done during the day and to spend time with my family in the evening I only speak with my friends occasionally and only call them when I’m in a car. (Oh yes, I have hands free.) I don’t want to neglect my friends though, but rather than letting that phone call turn into a gossip hour and to realise that all of a sudden my whole day is gone, I rather see my friends for a proper dinner and try to see a couple of good friends at the same time.

Then there are even nastier, every day time robbers, such as procrastination, indecision and lack of priorities. Sometimes we can think about our project for days, perhaps months, without doing much about it. We don’t know where to start so we don’t start at all. It’s the worst of the time robbers in real action!

I’ve started a time robber hunt. I ask myself “Is this what I’m doing really going to MAKE A DIFFERENCE?” and if I get a yes, I’m spending my time wisely. I look at the following areas:

-       advancing my goals and dreams

-       quality time spend with my family and friends; and with my kids I ask myself if I am being the kind of role model I want to be

-       improving myself and learning new skills I need to move forward towards my goals

-       taking care of my mind and my body (this includes having fun and relaxing)

The above thought process puts pressure on the quality of everything I engage in from business meetings (no  useless meetings) to entertainment with friends (life is too short for a bad wine, or company). But is there a possibility I could categorise watching House of Cards into relaxation? I suppose there is as long as I don’t make it my lifestyle.

Will you join me in the Great Time Robber Hunt? If we women make our time robbers visible it is easier for all of us to catch them, one by one. That’s the goal. Let’s bring them out of the woodwork!

I’d love it if you would share below your time robbers! Which time robber will come out as women’s biggest enemy?

~ Miisa