Category Archives: Advice

Help Yourself: Resources For A Healthier Entrep

The background issue in running your own business is that it can take over the rest of your life, and even affect your way of looking at the world. Customer fulfillment, logistics, marketing, publicity….the calculating mindset  needed to juggle all those things  focuses on what gets the most bang for the buck.

When that kind of hyper-focus slowly spills over to the rest of your life, some things drift to the periphery and languish on the sidelines. They don’t seem urgent, they’re not a problem for now, and you got more pressing things to attend to, right? Right. And so you go on.

That is, until the niggling signs surface. Having a touch more irritability. Being a  little bit more snappish. But of course, who wouldn’t be, if they woke up with back pain. And maybe achy fingers, too. And the tired eyes? Well, that’s just part of the job, right? And if you want to sleep in on the weekends to recover, your friends and family will understand. You’re tired. You’re not up to seeing them right now.

And so, part of what suffers can be your health and your relationships. Part of that can be the rest of the life you’re living right now. Look at the entire picture, and not just the specific sections that take up your time. We’re talking about taking a 360-degree look-around here — something we need to do every once in a while to recognize our bearings and truly take note of where we are in our lives.
Continue reading Help Yourself: Resources For A Healthier Entrep

How To Clean Your Mental Gutters With Mind-mapping

Running a business doesn’t mean that you have to have it on your brain all the time. Too much work causes a life imbalance, and no matter what living you choose to put your hand to, first and last, you’re still a person with 24 hours in a day who has to sleep, at a minimum, at least seven hours of that to maintain some minimum standard of health. The other seventeen hours, you can choose to fill as you see fit — hopefully in a healthy way.

All work and no rest makes for a sick you, and no business will make up for that. Not only do you have to think about the health of your business, you also have to mind your physical, mental, and emotional health. One very helpful way to attend to all three is to use mind-mapping to help you get out the issues that plague you and address them.

We wrote about mind-mapping years ago in “Mapping For Mental Clarity.” When your mental inbox is over-flowing, mind-mapping essentially helps you clear it out and set a course of action to manage your to-do’s.

Mindmapping can help you:

  • Clear your head by letting you get out everything that’s been weighing heavily on your mind.
  • Generate and capture ideas while brainstorming choices, counter-moves, and possible options.
  • Plot out possible future moves by organizing ideas and passing thoughts that may be the seeds of something good.
  • Plan your actionables so you can get what you want, and get to where you want to go.
  • Plan around a goal and help you plot out the actual steps you need to take to achieve that goal.

Continue reading How To Clean Your Mental Gutters With Mind-mapping

How Using SSL Protects Your Website

If you keep your browsers up to date you may already have run into warning messages when you try to go to unsecured websites.  For example, in Firefox the message is: “Your connection is not secure.” In Chrome it’s: ” Your connection is not private,”  and these messages are followed by  a possible explanation of why your browser is blocking you from going to the website you just tried to reach.

Now, you could brush it off as a mild irritant in your browsing routine, but the implications for your business are much heavier and far-reaching than you’d think. As a casual visitor to someone else’s website, those messages may not worry you that much, but if you’re on the other side of the table, you absolutely need a secured website when you have an online business. That’s where SSL comes in.

Get a basic overview here:  Google Chrome to start marking HTTP connections as insecure (PC World)

Here’s why SSL is important: In essence, it adds another layer of security and legitimacy over the operation.

  • It adds an extra layer of protection especially when you process sensitive, critical personal and financial information on your site — of course, encryptions protecting sensitive and critical financial information on the server side is also a must.
  • It provides extra reassurance to visitors and customers that your website has protection in place when it’s collecting any kind of sensitive data like log-ins and passwords, and credit card information.

 

Something else that your visitors may not have considered is their own browser personalization (whether desktop or mobile app). Plug-ins are also evolving towards greater security,  and your visitors may have ones that will block them from accessing your website for security reasons. Assuring them your website is secure can only be backed up by solid proof:  Using an active SSL cert.

The push is increasing internet security wherever possible due to the continuous evolution of hacking methods. Phishing, malware, holding information hostage… we have a lot to worry about,  and on an industry level, the people responsible for updating our browser engines are doing their part to help, and thus the warnings.

To protect your site  and anyone visiting  it, get an SSL certificate. Continue reading How Using SSL Protects Your Website

Read Easier Online: Eye-care For Busy People

Whether you think, you know, or you don’t mind that you’re spending too much time on the internet, don’t forget to take care of your eyesight.

It isn’t just reading that we’re talking about here. In the normal course of being online you can expect to browse and read for information, and then there’s also responding to things like posts, emails, and IM’s. And for business,  there’s also writing reports and things like preparing presentations, verifying information and the like.

Viewing, reading, and writing — whatever you do with all the time you spend online, you’ve probably experienced the following symptoms from over-use.

  • Dry, ”sandy’ feeling eyes.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Difficulty focusing.
  • Eye irritation and redness.
  • Headaches (Throw in neck and/or back-pain)

Related series:  You and Your Computer
Information: Computer Vision Syndrome (American Optometric Association)

This article will  show you what you can do to create a better, healthier reading experiences online under the headings of  brightness, formatting and content length. Included are certain browser plug-ins and programs — so play it safe and  back up your profile in your browser of choice before making any changes. Continue reading Read Easier Online: Eye-care For Busy People

How To Make A Self-Care Program To Combat Stress

Stress is epidemic, and science has already supported what millions have experienced for themselves under stress. Stress can make people sick, and it can kill.  From hypertension to heart attacks, from frayed tempers  to burn out, from fuzzy concentration to gnawing back-pain, stress can overload us physically, mentally and emotionally.

Stress is an inescapable part of life, but we don’t have to live helpless before it. There are definitely factors outside of our control when it comes to living with stress, so that just means we can focus on what we can do in order to  help ourselves. No one can afford to be ignorant when it comes to self-care about dealing with their stress. When we take accountability at a personal level, we decide for ourselves what no one else can or will, and that action by itself is of great help in getting our strength back.

Knowledge is power, and  we need to be more aware of what situations can contribute to stress, and how stress creeps up in and makes us ill. We can use that knowledge to prevent that from happening and be able to take care of our selves when it does.

Stress can come from feeling we have no control, comfort, or choice. By learning about stress, and applying that  awareness to action,  we take control and open up more choices for ourselves to address  the cause and relieve the pressure, creating better situations for ourselves. Continue reading How To Make A Self-Care Program To Combat Stress

Screen Out Stress: Block Out The Pings

Do you remember reading about the Pavlovian response?  It’s named after the scientist who essentially conditioned his dogs to salivate on demand.

Ivan Pavlov’s  experiment went like this: He made a sound before mealtimes to signify that the food was coming, and when it did, his dogs salivated. When they became accustomed to the sound that signified the food was coming, he kept the experiment going with the sound, but not the actual meals, and his dogs continued with the learned response. Sound equals food, so they salivated.

From that kind of reward association, we can now get an idea of how we get trained to our own reward situations. From that, you can get a  glimpse of how we can get conditioned to act in certain situations, even without a ‘reward’ at the end.

What we are exposed to, we can get used to.  When we get ‘rewarded’ for doing things a certain way, we get habituated — again, conditioned — to responding that certain way. Expectations are set and we grow into responding quickly.

When you are use to the speed of response given by today’s technology, you can get habituated to responding immediately. Pings, pop-up messages, signals… when these register on your radar, you are alerted.

What happens when you are alerted continuously though, is that your brain can become overworked trying to sort out and prioritize all those incoming demands for your attention.

We can set certain rules and filters in email, of course. That’s what they’re there for.  We can set up voice mail as well. But these strategies are external, and don’t really touch on the internal and mental toll it takes to recognize, prioritize and respond to all these demands on our time.

  • Haven’t you ever felt a sinking feeling in your stomach when you see the total number of unread emails in your inbox and the priority folders in it? Or see the number of messages blinking for attention  on your answering machine?

When you are habituated to compulsive update checking or responding, your brain’s internal alert systems are overworked. Focus is affected because the stimulus –pings, dings, pop-ups, rings— can keep coming and while you consciously try to keep you mind on the thing in front of you, your brain can’t help but keep registering the pings on your radar.

You pay for it: In split focus, or frayed concentration, in spilled energy mopping up after each ping, and a sinking feeling you’re not really attending to the important things  in your days and in your life, since you’re basically on-call, all the time, for all the things coming in. Continue reading Screen Out Stress: Block Out The Pings

Procrastination: How To Pay Double Interest For Your Time

Procrastination is what happens when intention and ordered meaning is obscured by immediate feeling.
But you already know this, right?
On an intellectual level you understand that there is something you have to finish, and your feelings are like tiny howler monkeys, screaming in your ear and pointing you in the direction of something else.

You can’t pull yourself into the thing you’re supposed to be doing.
You’re meh on that.

These emotions of the moment take your time away from you, and stop you from getting things done that will help you. It’s like there’s a swelling pressure in your head that directs your attention and impulses to other things.

In the long run, when you indulge your feelings now you stress out — and pay for it again in exhaustion, squandered options and missed opportunities afterward.

  • You worry about the stuff you’re supposed to be paying attention to.
  • You worry about not having done it yet.
  • You worry about the after-effects — of work you haven’t done and still aren’t doing.
  • You worry about all the hard work you have to rush to get it done.
  • And in the meantime, you see other opportunities that you can’t take because you’re so busy trying to not-deal with whatever it is you’re putting off.

Result: you’re driven into deeper dithering. You pay for it now (in stress and time) and you pay for it later (in wasted opportunities).

That’s double interest. A credit card with rates like that would be dead in the water, but when it comes to time, your time, it’s okay?

You put things off until the opportunity expires. You don’t work. Things don’t get done. Nothing important for you happens. And for no good reason other than a massive cloud of meh obstructing your vision. Then what happens?

  • You forfeit long-term gains for short-term relief. Add the incidences up over time, the cost can be crushing, because you’ve paid in slices of your life that you can’t ever do over, but can regret plenty.

And it’s not just procrastinating on the little things that bite you in the ass. It’s pulling back on the big things because you’re scared and they matter to you too much. Small things lost may tick you off, but big things lost can break your heart.

You’re afraid you’ll never be able to measure up, or deserve it — why even try? — so you bury yourself in the small stuff to feel busy and accomplished.

Here are a few things I found over the years that helped me get in gear and beat this bad habit: Continue reading Procrastination: How To Pay Double Interest For Your Time

A Few Thoughts On Taking Time Off

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin

Over the years, I noticed a few things when it came to taking some time off:

  • I often have to encounter something I can’t stop, change or affect in order to rest. For example, when I get sick, it’s about the only time I set aside time for myself –and more often than not, I have to talk myself out of powering through it and cross off one more thing on my To Do list, in fear that the world will collapse if I’m not there to handle it. Ever do laundry when you’re running a fever and your head is so clogged you can’t even breathe through your nose? I don’t recommend it.
  • I feel anxious and think that I may be missing out on something important. Cue repetitive checking for new email and updates. Cue refreshing every half-hour or so: “Just 10 more minutes…there might be an upda–oh, score!”
  • I feel like a slacker, and that I’m squandering time and opportunities — I mean, I can be making something great here! I could be doing something more important. You know, something!

Basically, when I try to relax, I fall apart. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Right?

Pressure can be deviously comfortable that way. When you’re used to living with it, you can feel quite out of sorts when it’s suddenly removed. Sometimes that dislocation manifests itself in the oddest ways. Like planning and saving and looking towards a vacation, and come the time to take it, you schedule in everything because dammit, you are going to enjoy this break even if it kills you. (Again, that can’t be just me.) So here’s the rest of what I learned when I tried really, really hard to relax and failed. Continue reading A Few Thoughts On Taking Time Off

Use Your Inventory To Maximize Your Business Know-How

Inventory can refer to:

  • The list of merchandise or material held in readiness (storage) for delivery or distribution, as well as the actual units themselves.
  • It can also refer to the ongoing record of any units held in stock.

When approaching inventory as a business tool, you’ll see it’s a numbers puzzle: you need the context, the data and the experience to make sense of the pictures that come out from those numbers and columns, and accurate, timely inventory-keeping gives you the following advantages:

You know when you’re running low, or running high.
With a record you get historical data. You can compare and contrast the figures from year-to-date, or week-to-date, for example, so you can discern trends emerging or reappearing, and start thinking things out when the numbers seems to be showing you a different picture from what you reasonably expect this time around. You have an idea about what’s been going on, and how much has changed or not compared to a week, a month or a year ago.

  • Why are you running low, and will this be likely to happen in other areas, or is it happening already? Why? What caused it? If you’re running low here, does this mean that the item in question is a hit with customers — and you can pre-order more — or were you not able to stock up properly the last time?
  • What are the reasons for these changes? A delay in shipping? Switching to a new supplier?

The answers to the questions that come up help you do better next time. Any information you can use to make your business better, use it.

By tracking your inventory, you keep on top of the situation.
Knowledge is power. Accurate, timely information in the form of inventory tells you how much you have to work with at any given time.

  • You don’t run out at a critical point. You have an advance warning system to tell you what needs attention when.
  • You can batch orders and in the process save money on delivery costs, as well as have some reassurance that you’ll get what you need when you need it.
  • Just-in-time production helps on shipping and storage costs — you skate on the edge of overstock, you pay for the storage and the shipping costs to get it in, but it’s not making money for you sitting idle. What if you have only what you need, only when you need it? (Building in acceptable leeway, of course.)

Continue reading Use Your Inventory To Maximize Your Business Know-How

6 Money Management Tips For Your Online Business

When it comes to brick and mortar stores, every business owner, prospective or otherwise, has a lot of expenses to consider.

For the store itself, you can take rental costs — if you’re not buying outright — and the utilities. Factor in any renovations needed, plus there’s also stuff like property and fire insurance, applicable health permits, local government permits and the corresponding taxes, etc.

Then there are also the physical assets used in the business: aside from raw materials, there are the tools and any machinery used in production, which also come with their eventual depreciation.

Adding employees means allotting money for compensation and benefits, plus health insurance and any government-mandated pension plans, which are also included in the cost of running the business (overhead). That’s a lot of slices in the budget pie.

In an online business, you can bypass a majority of these bills. Because it’s a virtual enterprise, you can run one out of your basement, your garage, even your living room or a closet.

You’ll need reliable equipment, but most everything else can be outsourced like data storage, website design, virtual assistance and even administration. There’s no real need to buy the latest thing only to see it depreciate in value after only so much time.

In running an e-business, things get really different because of its very nature. The first and most basic requirement is a computer and a reliable (and fast) internet connection.

Anything you want to do, whatever it is you want to build, is based on having these things — whether you’re selling something (being a merchant and an e-store proprietor), having someone else sell something for you (affiliate management), establish a presence or a brand (blogging and social media), again, your most basic tools are a reliable computer–with good backup, don’t forget — and a steady internet connection. Continue reading 6 Money Management Tips For Your Online Business