I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Rewards and acknowledgements

I spoke at a workshop this morning on goal setting – we worked on SMARTY Goals, business values and setting challenges.

As part of setting goals and milestones, it is important to notice the work you have done and the progress made even if you haven’t fully reached the original goal (as Melissa, wrote in her blog, aim for the moon as you’ll at least reach the stars.) Having small rewards for yourself is one way to acknowledge what you have done, which makes it easier for you to move on and do the next step, and the next, and the next…

Rewards can be anything that you gain pleasure from (booking a massage, eating a doughnut, taking time to read a book, buying a book or magazine, seeing a movie, taking your family on a picnic, sitting in a spa, and so on.) You can keep the reward to yourself, too, so don’t worry about what anyone else would think of the reward.

My guidelines for rewards are:

  1. make it a reward for you, not your family or coach or whoever
  2. make the reward match the goal in size – a doughnut for a year’s worth of hard work is not much reward, but a two week beach holiday is probably a bit over zealous to reward sending out one newsletter!
  3. if you promised yourself a reward, make sure you get it when you’ve earned it
  4. keep a reminder of the reward with the goal – maybe a photo next to your computer, light a coconut candle to think of a tropical holiday, or stick a car key on your mirror

And don’t be afraid to share your achievements with others, either. Even small achievements can be shared and acknowledged by friends, people you network with or a coach.

How often do you reward reaching a goal? Do you give yourself acknowledgement of work you’ve done and how far you’ve come, even if it wasn’t actually a goal?

Boundaries between home & work

In a traditional job setting, the difference between work and home is fairly clear and easy to see – until you start bringing work home anyway! But when you run a business or have a remote job, it can be harder to spot the difference – and harder to manage things.

Of course, the big question is HOW to manage time! I think the simplistic answer is to set boundaries to maintain control.

From talking to various people, I see two main groups of at home workers – those who get distracted from work by the need to tidy the kitchen, hang out the washing, vacuum the floors and so on, and those who work a lot and find it hard to manage much of the house stuff at all. Which group do you fit into? I have no trouble (well, generally speaking!) getting on with work but end up working too hard and letting the housework slide…

Here are some of my ideas on creating boundaries between business and home, but I’d love to hear your suggestions, too…

  • physically separate your working space from your living space as much as possible – if you are sitting in your work space, don’t do home things and vice versa. My article, separating your home office, may give you some new ideas
  • separate phone lines if you can – then only answer the business phone during business hours, and the home phone during personal hours. Before you assume this is too expensive, consider a VOIP phone as this is much cheaper than renting a second landline
  •  tell clients your expectations/limitations – for example, “We work 10 to 4” or “we don’t answer phone calls in busy periods”. Kylie of Tilda Virtual went further and actually sacked a client to gain back control of her business and family boundaries!
  • set clear business hours and stick to them most of the time – if clients see you work outside those hours, they will start expecting you to do so. If you do work out of your usual hours, make it clear it is unusual or mask the fact – sometimes I work late at night but program the email to go to my client the next morning so I am not advertising the fact of when I did the work.
  • if possible, use a different email address for friends and family than for business. Set up filters for incoming emails and just concentrate on business emails during business hours.
  • learn to say no to clients or extra work – or at least say it won’t be done straight away. Know how much work you can deal with in a day/week and refuse to overload yourself
  • if you have people visiting you during the day, try putting a sign on the door that says “Business in operation – please call back later for a personal visit” so people can see you are serious about your business hours. If you want, you could leave a pencil and notepad by the door so they can leave you a message

Sometimes it seems impossible to make those boundaries, but the reduced stress and lost time is well worth the effort. Good luck with it!

Use your words and time wisely!

Sharing salaries…

It’s one of those questions we don’t usually ask, or answer – how much do you get paid? I’m not going to discuss whether that’s good or bad, or even why it may be the case, but something on the news last night made me think of it.

Apparently, a 16 year old boy was offered a job in the USA for $400,000 a year, which he turned down as he wants to stay here with family and friends. What I find interesting is how everyone found out about it.

I find it hard to believe that the company contacted the media and said “we offered him $400,000” I mean, that sort of announcement can’t be good for them – it shows them being rejected (even if through no fault of theirs) and may cause problems between staff who aren’t being paid $400,000!

I know I’ve had jobs where I didn’t want others knowing my salary – largely because I didn’t want them to get into ‘why does she get that much?’ or ‘but I should get more than him!’

A 16 year old earning so much also makes me wonder about his expectations. I am not making comment on his ability in any way or whether or not he deserves such a salary, but $400,000 is such a lot of money to start a working career with! Where does he go from there?

I see some value in young people starting with small jobs so they learn the value of earning money and getting a realistic view of the working life. It’s not so much the $10 an hour as learning their time is worth something and that it takes time and hard work to increase their pay rate. And learning how to use and  manage that money is also important.

Saying no…

Did you know that you are allowed to say no sometimes? Even to new clients or a long standing client, it is acceptable for you to say no – politely of course!

It is a little silly, but I was reminded of this through the Rat in the Hat! Melissa Khalinsky often uses children’s TV shows to point out business lessons, and in one of her blog posts, she shows how Rat is quite the entrreperuner.

Melissa wrote “Don’t overextend yourself – this is something Rat does often in his quest to meet the needs of everyone on Cuddles Ave. Unfortunately Rat doesn’t know how to say no ” and I had to nod in agreement, both for Rat in a Hat (yes, I’ve watched him, too!) and for many business owners I know.

As a small business owner, it is hard to turn down a client – there’s that little fear that maybe this was the last work request you’d get for 6 months so how can you afford to not do this project? Or maybe it is a fear that saying no will make that person hate you and bad mouth you to other potential clients?

But let’s look at it the other way:

  • if you take on too much work, you will end up doing inferior work for a number of clients, thereby damaging your good reputation
  • if you continue doing too much, you will burn out and really not be able to earn anything for 6 months
  • if one client has found you and asked for a quote, it is likely others can also find you next week and next month
  • a well managed ‘no’ will leave the client feeling positive about you even if you couldn’t do their work – they may try you again another time, or at least tell others you acted professionally
  • do you really think your clients have the time and inclination to bad mouth you just because you couldn’t work for them?

I will cover the various reasons for saying no, and how to say no nicely in the next few blog posts. But for now, just take on the belief that you can say no and the world (or your business!) won’t end!

Work/life balance…

time vs money scalesA survey conducted last year by a software firm called Reckon indicated that over 50% of respondents judge their success by having a life/work balance rather than high profits (as preferred by 33% of them.) The survey questioned 1300 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) across Australia.

In comparison, a survey by the Business Mums Network, also last year, discovered that nearly 65% of respondents (mostly micro businesses run at home by mothers) started a business to be with their children and 44% started to earn money.

In both cases, it appears that small business owners are interested in a life/work balance, including more family time, that they believe is available as employees. Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008 (released last week) indicates that employees have reduced their working hours in the last 6 or 7 years (41.4 hours per week in 1999/2000 and 39.4 in 2006/07)

The Reckon survey also pointed out that 18% of SMEs found the accounting aspect of business to be holding them back from success (that is, accounts take up time that could otherwise be used for family time) and 17% found a drop in personal drive to be limiting.

What do you think? Do you run a small business for control and life balance, or primarily for profits? Is there a certain aspect of your business that you find particularly difficult or time consuming?

PS A new survey is currently underway to find out how small/micro businesses view their finances. It will be interesting to see if the micro business responses again differ from the SME responses.

Writing from home

Writing and children are my passions so running a writing business at home while also being a mum is an obvious solution for me.

Watching a friend look for a new job recently, especially as she may have to move interstate to get a great job, has reminded me how much I value working from home.

  • I don’t waste time commuting to the city
  • I don’t create any polution travelling to work!
  • I control my hours and days
  • I can say no to clients or projects if it suits me
  • I can go on excursions and help at school – which I enjoy and consider important, but it also gives me a mental break from writing which actually helps me write better!
  • It’s a good excuse to not do the dusting every week!
  • I don’t have work colleagues distracting me as I write – I can sit for hours uninterupted (as long as the kids are at school!) and concentrate on writing

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